I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
If we are to continue building an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and people who come here legitimately to play by the rules and contribute to our society, we must ensure that it is balanced and sustainable, and that net migration can be managed. When properly managed, immigration enriches this country, as we benefit from the skills, talent and entrepreneurial flair that people bring to our society. But, as I said in my recent speech, when net migration is too high, and the pace of change is too fast, it puts pressure on schools, hospitals, accommodation, transport and social services, and it can drive down wages for people on low incomes. So we must achieve the right balance, rejecting both extremes of the debate, from those who oppose immigration altogether to those who want entirely open borders. That is why, since 2010, we have worked to build an immigration system that works in the national interest, one that is fair to British taxpayers and legitimate migrants, and tough on those who flout the rules or abuse our hospitality as a nation.
Over the past five years we have taken firm action to reform the chaotic and uncontrolled immigration system we inherited, and to ensure that people are coming here for the right reasons. We reformed the immigration rules for migrant workers and students, while continuing to welcome the brightest and the best. We have struck off nearly 900 bogus colleges since 2010, and at the same time we have seen a rise of 17% in the number of sponsored student visa applications for universities and a rise of 33% for Russell Group universities. We transformed the immigration routes for migrant workers and introduced a cap of 20,700 for non-European economic area migrant workers, and we have seen an increase in sponsored visa applications for highly skilled workers. We reformed family visas, to prevent misuse of that route, and we have made sure that people can financially support family members coming to the UK. We have also protected our public services from abuse by making important changes to the way people access benefits and the NHS.
It will not have escaped the House’s attention that the Home Secretary has struck a markedly different tone in her opening remarks this afternoon from the one she struck at her party conference in Manchester last week. The change in tone is very welcome, but she said at her conference, in contrast to what she said just a moment ago, that the overall economic benefit of migration is “close to zero”. Can she today give the House some evidence to back up that claim?
Nice try, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should read the speech I gave last week, as he would see that I am saying exactly what I said then. In that speech, I also quoted the many reports, from the OECD and others such as the Migration Advisory Committee, that have made that judgment in relation to the economic benefit of migration.
The Immigration Act 2014 put the law firmly on the side of those who respect it, not of those who break it. We made it easier and faster to remove those with no right to be here, streamlined the appeals process in order to curb abuse, and restricted access to bank accounts and rental properties for people here illegally. Thanks to our reforms, more than 11,000 people who were in the UK illegally have now had their UK driving licence revoked.
New powers have already enabled us to deport more than 1,000 foreign criminals, requiring them to make any appeal from outside the UK after they have left. More than 8,000 proposed marriages have been referred to the Home Office, with 120 of them being identified as shams. More than £100 million has been injected into the national health service as a result of the new immigration health surcharge. Those achievements are helping us to build an immigration system that is fairer, stronger and more effective.
How can the Home Secretary describe those things as achievements when she has so lamentably failed to keep the promise that she made at the election before last, which was to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands? The figure has in fact gone up to more than 330,000.
I can easily describe those things as achievements. They are achievements that the Labour Government, which ended in 2010, signally failed to secure. That Government did nothing, for example, about people coming to use the health service and then failing to contribute to it. We have changed the rules and more than £100 million has been injected into the national health service.
Does the Home Secretary not recognise that this is a nasty, punitive Bill that will inevitably risk yet more racism and discrimination and undermine the social cohesion that she says she cares about? At the very least, will she guarantee full financial compensation to anyone whose livelihood is undermined by action taken by immigration officers that later turns out to have been falsely and wrongly taken?
I will tell the hon. Lady what impacts on social cohesion. It is when our constituents see people here in this country illegally and able to continue to be in this country illegally. It is fair that we deal with those who abuse our system and who do the wrong thing. It is fair not only to people who have been born and brought up in the United Kingdom, but to those who have legitimately migrated to the UK, have played by the rules and have done the right thing.
On my right hon. Friend’s particular answer to that question, the problem is that it is very difficult for someone to see that a person is an illegal immigrant. What they see is someone who is different. Does she not accept that, within this law, there is the potential for discrimination to be increased if this is pursued too aggressively?
I recognise the concern that my hon. Friend shows in relation to these issues. He has taken a particular interest in matters relating to immigration, but I will repeat what I have just said to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas): it is only fair to people who come here, who make their contribution to our society and who play by the rules that we take efforts to ensure that those who have no right to be here and who are abusing our systems are dealt with appropriately. That is why it is important that we have taken action on things such as access to bank accounts and driving licences.
I sat in this Chamber for 13 years while a Labour Government were producing Acts time and time again. One thing that one learns in this role is that, in the immigration arena, one has constantly to be looking to see that the system is what it should be. There were some things that we were not able to do in the last Immigration Act that we are now able to do in this new Bill.
I am sure that my hon. Friend will try to catch my eye later on. I will make a little more progress if I may.
I referred to our achievements and said that they were helping us to build an immigration system that is fairer, stronger and more effective, but if we are to ensure that we can protect our public services from abuse and that the system works in the national interest, and if we are to tackle the illegal labour market where vulnerable people are often exploited by unscrupulous employers and subjected to appalling conditions, then further reform is needed. The new Immigration Bill will help us to do that in a number of ways.
Part 1 is about tackling illegal working and preventing the exploitation of workers. The House will appreciate that illegal working is one of the principal pull factors for people coming to the UK to live and work illegally, but those who do so are particularly vulnerable and can find themselves living and working in dangerous and degrading conditions. The illegal labour market can also depress or hold back pay and conditions for the local sector, and undercut reputable businesses. Increasingly, we are seeing labour market exploitation becoming an organised criminal activity, and it is clear that Government regulators responsible for enforcing workers’ rights are in need of reform.
In June 2014, the independent Migration Advisory Committee called for better co-ordination between the various enforcement agencies so that employment rights can be enforced more effectively. Members of this House have pressed that issue on many occasions. In our election manifesto, we committed to introducing tougher labour market regulation to tackle illegal working and exploitation. This Bill will allow us to do that. It establishes a new statutory director of labour market enforcement who will be responsible for providing a central hub of intelligence and for facilitating the flexible allocation of resources across the different regulators. In addition, this morning we published a consultation on the future of labour market enforcement, and I will place a copy of it in the House Library.
I welcome these measures to crack down on exploitative and illegal working—they are wholly admirable—but is not the easiest way to deal with illegal migration to say to someone when they first arrive in our country without the right papers, visa or permissions that they should leave then and not give them entry?
My right hon. Friend is right. If somebody is admitted at the border, or is found at the border without the right papers, without their visa and without the right to be here in the United Kingdom, they may be turned around and returned to the country from which they have come. As he knows, if somebody is able to come into the country by other routes and get here illegally, identification is rather harder.
What we must do in this country is get better at removing people when we discover that they are here illegally. What frustrates my constituents and their Member of Parliament is that the appeals process can go on for year after year. People have worked out that, once they have arrived in this country, it is very difficult for us to remove them.
My hon. Friend puts his finger on an important point. We have already been able to take some action in this area. We have reduced the number of appeals routes, from 17 to four, and, in the previous Immigration Act, we took some action with the “deport first, appeal later” arrangements, but that was restricted to a particular category of individuals. We will extend that in this Bill. Once again, we will ensure that it is easier for us to remove people who have no right to be here, without them having this continuous process of appeal after appeal.
One major achievement of this Government is the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. As that was her legislation, the Home Secretary will know that it had specific defences for those who had been trafficked into the UK as a result of slavery. Will those defences be carried through in this Immigration Bill?
The defences that we have written into the Modern Slavery Act will still apply. Indeed, there are other areas where, if we take action in relation to abuse of certain parts of the system, that defence and that issue of trafficking will continue to apply. I spoke last week of using the so-called Spanish protocol. For example, if someone comes to the United Kingdom from another European Union country and tries to claim asylum, the claim would initially be determined as inadmissible, but if there were evidence that someone had been trafficked, we would look again at the issue. Certainly, we will continue to have defences for those who have been trafficked.
I was talking about the establishment of the new director of labour market enforcement and the consultation document we have issued today. Once we have considered the responses to that consultation, we will strengthen the Bill further.
The Bill will also allow us to make illegal working a criminal offence. That will not only make Britain a less attractive place for people to come and work illegally, but will provide a firmer legal foundation for seizing earnings from illegal working as the proceeds of crime. Most employers obey the law, but we believe that a number of employers are deliberately turning a blind eye and not checking whether their employees have the right to work in the UK. That is not acceptable, so we will introduce tougher sanctions for these employers and make it easier to bring criminal prosecutions against them. We also know that a significant proportion of illegal working happens on licensed premises. Measures in the Bill will ensure that those working illegally or employing illegal workers cannot obtain licences to sell alcohol or run late-night takeaway premises. Immigration officers will also have new powers to close businesses where illegal working continues to take place.
There will be joint accountability to Secretaries of State—to me, as Home Secretary, and to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. That is important, because some of the operation on labour market enforcement takes place in the Home Office through the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and some through bodies in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, so there will be a joint reporting mechanism.
I have raised this matter with the right hon. Lady during Home Office questions, and it concerns fishing boats, particularly on the west coast of Scotland. Those on the boats, and the communities and I, welcome migrants who come to work. Migrants have been deported against what we feel are the community’s wishes and the wishes of those on the boats and the migrants. Migrant workers come here to work for a short period and get the money, and they usually go back to the Philippines and west Africa to work. What will she do to ensure that the community’s wishes are respected? Can we have a situation like that in Switzerland, where visas are spread through the cantons? The Scottish Government want to enable people who are wanted in Scotland to come to work in Scotland, but the argument in England is somehow stopping that, damaging our economy and tying up fishing boats as a result.
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the operation of visa arrangements for the United Kingdom enables people who fit the requirements—for example, as a tier 2 worker—to come to the UK. However, on illegal working, there are parts of the fishing industry in which we have seen examples of people effectively being trafficked into slavery. It is important that we can undertake the enforcement needed to protect those people and identify them.
I think I have answered the hon. Gentleman’s question, and I did say I was going to make some progress after I had responded to his intervention.
We have already begun to target illegal working through a co-ordinated approach that brings together agencies from across Government to prevent illegal working in high-risk sectors. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration met industry leaders from the construction industry this morning to identify how we can work together to root out that particular problem.
Part 2 of the Bill is about access to services. We will tighten up access to public and other services to protect them from abuse by people who are here illegally. We have already introduced a requirement for landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants. It is only right for people to be able to access private accommodation if they are in the UK legally. That is only fair on people who play by the rules, who scrimp and save to buy their first home, and who come here legally and work hard. I hope that that is a point on which all Members of the House can agree. That is why we intend to roll the requirement out across the UK. However, the immigration status of a current tenant is not enough to allow a landlord to regain possession of his or her property. The Bill will remedy that legislative gap and make it easier for private landlords to evict people who have no right to be in the UK.
We will also create new criminal offences to target rogue landlords who repeatedly fail to carry out checks or take steps to remove people who are here illegally. Let me be clear that this is not about asking landlords to become immigration experts. Those who want to undertake simple steps will have nothing to fear and will not face prosecution or penalties.
We will also build on our measures to prevent people from driving while in the UK illegally. Historically, it has been far too easy for people illegally in the UK to obtain a UK driving licence and that is why, as I mentioned earlier, we created new powers under the 2014 Act to revoke UK driving licences belonging to people who were here illegally.
Many of us live in areas, such as my constituency, that are already highly diverse. People who are foreign-born and black and minority ethnic residents of very long standing are disproportionately likely to be in the private rented sector. Can the Home Secretary assure me that the proposals do not act as a discriminatory measure against those people or prevent landlords from letting properties to those who are quite legitimately entitled to be here but who do not have the necessary proof? The Residential Landlords Association is deeply worried, so why has she not published the assessment of her own investigation?
We will. We made it clear yesterday during Home Office questions that we will ensure that evaluation results are published before the debate in Committee, so that people will be able to see what is happening. I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady that people in particular communities are perhaps more likely to rent than to buy or to be able to afford to buy their own properties. It is absolutely right that we should have a vibrant private rented sector, but it is in the interests of those who are here legitimately for places to be available for them that are not being taken up by people who have no right to be in the United Kingdom. That is what our Bill is doing.
I am very grateful to the Home Secretary. She will appreciate that a private sector landlord can have no knowledge of when a college has been deregistered by her Department and therefore when a tenant who is a student might be here illegally after the 60-day period has expired. That means that many landlords in student-dominated areas will be reluctant to take on tenants who have names that they regard as possibly foreign. That is the sort of discrimination that concerns many people in my area.
As I said earlier, we are not expecting landlords to be immigration experts. The Home Office has set up arrangements to provide the helpline and advice so that it is simple for landlords to contact the Home Office and get the information that will help them make a judgment.
I mentioned the measures on driving licences earlier, and the Bill takes them a step further. We will create new powers to ensure that revoked licences are taken out of circulation and to strengthen the consequences for people using revoked licences. We will also make it a criminal offence to drive while unlawfully in the UK and we will provide a power to detain and forfeit vehicles used in the offence.
We will further restrict access to banking services. Under the 2014 Act, we took necessary steps to prevent people in the UK illegally from setting up current accounts with banks and building societies. The Bill will expand on these measures by creating an obligation for banks and building societies to carry out periodic checks on the immigration status of current account holders. When an account holder is identified as in the UK illegally, following a court order the account can be frozen or closed by the bank or building society.
Parts 3, 4 and 5 of the Bill are about removing from the UK people with no right to be here. Immigration officers already do an excellent job of enforcing our laws and where appropriate removing people who are in the UK illegally, but we must do more. The 2014 Act shows that “deport first, appeal later” works when foreign criminals make human rights claims. Our manifesto committed us to extending that to all human rights claims. The Bill will now deliver on that commitment, allowing us to remove people with no right to be in the UK before they can appeal, provided that does not breach their human rights or cause serious irreversible harm. The Bill will also ensure that when foreign criminals are released on bail, we can satellite tag them so that we know their whereabouts, and thus better protect the law-abiding majority.
When people have no right to be in the UK, we expect them to leave, but some people are being sent the wrong message. The Bill reflects the Government’s commitment to providing support for destitute asylum seekers in line with our international obligations. However, those with no right to be here are expected to return home and the Bill will restrict the support we give to people who are here illegally.
Part 6 is about protecting our borders. It is imperative that we have control over our borders and know who is coming into the UK. Through the Bill, we will give our Border Force officers additional powers to intercept vessels at sea.
I applaud the Home Secretary’s responsible measures in the Bill to control migration and I am sure that they will be widely supported throughout the country. Given that almost half of those settling in the UK last year were from the European Union, how can she achieve control of our borders without provisions in the Bill to control EU migration, notwithstanding our EU treaty obligations?
If I had been asked to put a bet on the subject that the hon. Gentleman was going to raise, I would have placed it on EU migration. As he knows full well, the Government have already taken some steps to reduce the pull factors for migration from inside the European Union through changes that we have made to the benefit system, and we have already set out further changes to the benefit system that we are looking to make in that regard.
Through this Bill, we will give our Border Force officers additional powers to intercept vessels at sea, as well as impose greater penalties on airline or port operators who fail to present passengers to immigration control. We must act now to prevent the unprecedented levels of people smuggling that we have seen recently and stop people unlawfully entering the UK—
I am going to make some progress.
Not only is border security crucial for immigration purposes, but it serves a vital public protection purpose protecting both the British public and people making treacherous journeys to reach UK borders.
Part 7 is about the language skills of public sector workers. At present there are many customer-facing roles that do not require the jobholder to speak fluent English. Where communicating with the British public is a vital part of the job, fluent English must be a prerequisite.
I am going to make some progress.
Through this Bill we will legislate to ensure that that becomes a reality. Today we have published a consultation on the code of practice that public bodies will have to comply with, and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
Part 8 establishes a new immigration skills charge for businesses bringing workers into the country. Currently, many businesses are hiring workers from overseas, rather than taking the long-term decision to train our workforce here at home. We need to discourage a default position of looking overseas to fill the skills gap, and the Bill will remedy that by introducing a charge for employers recruiting from outside the European economic area, which will encourage businesses to source skilled labour from the domestic workforce. The funds raised from the charge will contribute to training domestic workers and, in particular, to funding apprenticeships.
Fixing the immigration system cannot be done overnight. Despite the positive progress that has been made over the past five years, the system we inherited was riddled with problems. We must act now to stop rogue landlords and people smugglers exploiting vulnerable people, to protect our public services from abuse and to ensure that people with no right to be in this country are not allowed to extend their stay. This Bill will build on the progress made through the 2014 Act, ensuring greater fairness for British citizens and legitimate migrants, and making sure that the law comes down firmly on the side of those who abide by our laws and play by the rules. I commend the Bill to the House.
I beg to move,
That this House, whilst affirming its belief that there should be firm and fair controls on illegal immigration including new immigration enforcement powers and immigration status checks on current account holders, and particularly welcoming proposals for a Director of Labour Market Enforcement and to strengthen sanctions to be applied to employers of illegal workers, declines to give a Second Reading to the Immigration Bill because the measures overall in the Bill will not decrease illegal immigration, will reduce social cohesion and will punish the children of illegal immigrants for their parents’ illegal immigration, because the Government has failed to publish the report on the pilot Right to Rent scheme in the West Midlands which could cause widespread indirect discrimination and because the Bill enables the Home Secretary to remove from the UK migrants who are appealing against a refused asylum claim before the appeal has been determined, notwithstanding the slow appeal process and the high error rate in Home Office decisions.
Let me start by setting this debate in an essential and important piece of context and with a point that the Home Secretary skated over at the start of her speech: the most recent evidence is clear—immigration provides a net benefit to our economy. It is not, as was claimed last week, “close to zero” but, according to authoritative and independent research, can be quantified at around £25 billion. That migrants contribute more to the public purse than they take out is a simple fact that cannot be repeated often enough in debates such as this. Similarly, in the NHS, we are far more likely to be treated by a migrant than to stand behind one in a queue. The culture and identity of our country—for centuries an open, outward-looking, seafaring nation—has itself been shaped by centuries of inward immigration, and it is all the richer for it.
When I was on the Home Affairs Committee a few years, I put that very point to experts and I was told that nobody had ever worked out the costs of migration—the costs of providing health care, education and all the other public services that people take for granted—and done a proper cost-benefit analysis. Therefore I should like to know where the report that the right hon. Gentleman refers to comes from.
I can refer the hon. Gentleman to it. It is research carried out over a number of years by Imperial College, and I will be happy to send it to him. I suggest that he should perhaps spend more time looking at the evidence about immigration, rather than resorting to rhetoric, as I know he is wont to do.
All of that having been said at the beginning, the nature and scale of immigration to the UK has changed in the past decade, particularly since the expansion of the European Union into eastern Europe. Anyone who spent any length of time on doorsteps in the first half of this year cannot dispute the fact that immigration remains one of the highest concerns of the public, and the truth is that public and political debate has failed to keep pace with public concern, resulting in a feeling that the political class is out of touch.
May I take the shadow Home Secretary back to academic evidence about the impact of immigration? Given that the labour force survey by the ONS in July found that 75% of eastern European migrants were in poorly paid work and that they were more likely to access benefits, can he point to any specific empirical data which support the concept that east European migrants do not have an impact on low wages, depressing them or pushing them down?
I shall come on to that. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] It is a fair point and I shall come on to it. May I again refer the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to the research? The UCL Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration talks about the positive economic benefit of migration overall. He needs to concern himself with the evidence before he intervenes in the House.
As I said a moment ago, the House has not kept pace with public concern, and as I said in my speech to the Labour conference, I want to change that. People listening to debates in the Chamber or in the media will often hear politicians and business leaders make the point that I made at the beginning—that immigration provides an overall net benefit. Although this is true, and to take the hon. Gentleman’s point on board, what such broad statements fail adequately to acknowledge is that the effect of immigration is not uniform across the country, but that it has a differential impact in different areas.
Some of the most rapid changes have been felt in the poorest areas and former industrial areas away from the big urban centres. In my constituency, immigration has had an impact on job security, wages, access to housing and public services, but Parliament has been far too slow to acknowledge and act on those concerns. The danger is that that creates a vacuum and allows myths to flourish.
The right hon. Gentleman says that Parliament has been slow to accept that immigration can have an impact, particularly on people at the lower end of the income scale, driving wages down, and it can have an impact on public services. For the past five years, I and the parties in government have been saying precisely this, and the Labour party has been objecting and opposing that.
I am afraid I have to point out to the Home Secretary that she was not entirely factual at the Dispatch Box this afternoon. She said that the previous Government did nothing to restrict access to the NHS by illegal migrants. As Health Secretary I brought through measures to restrict access to the national health service. What I am setting out in my remarks today is a balanced approach, which she failed to do in hers. I recognised at the beginning the overall benefits of immigration to this country, but I am acknowledging that there are specific and legitimate concerns that need to be dealt with, because a failure to do that creates a vacuum and allows myths to flourish.
Given that, the right response is certainly not to respond in kind with rhetoric, but instead with practical and proportionate measures to restore public confidence that our system and our rules are both firm and fair.
Will my right hon. Friend expand on how many prosecutions there have been in relation to minimum wage regulations and so on in areas of migration where there is clearly an issue in relation to the depressing of wages? How proactive have the Government been when employers have not adopted best practice?
There have been barely any prosecutions because the Government have cut the resources devoted to enforcement. I welcome the Home Secretary’s proposal to create a director of labour market enforcement, but will she ensure that that director, whoever he or she is, gets to grips with the problem that my hon. Friend has just raised?
The shadow Home Secretary is completely right to say that the costs and benefits of immigration are not shared across the country. Communities such as ours do not attract many millionaire American bankers, French City traders or German hedge fund managers; we have a completely different sort of immigration that puts pressure on public services. Does he agree that the benefits must be shared equally across the country to enable such communities to provide the housing, employ the teachers and all the rest of it so that we can cope with those pressures?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The challenge is to capture the benefits and then have rules that make immigration work for everybody. Let me give him two practical suggestions that I have put forward. First, I believe that we need changes to the EU free movement rules, as part of the renegotiation talks, to stop the undercutting of wages and protect the going rate for skilled workers. Secondly, I believe that unspent EU structural funds, which this Government are not drawing down, should be made available through a rapid migration fund to areas, such as his and mine, that face the biggest pressures on public services, for example to employ extra primary school teachers and GPs. At the moment those areas get no help in dealing with those pressures, so no wonder they feel neglected.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman saw yesterday’s edition of the Financial Times, which mentioned refugees—we know how some people react to refugees. It stated:
“By streaming into Germany, but not into other eurozone countries, the refugees”
will contribute to
“an improvement in Germany’s relative competitive position”
over the next 10 to 20 years. Refugees and migrants benefit the economy, the country and all of us.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Overall, refugees tend to be younger and not to have dependants. Consequently, the figures I gave at the beginning, which show that they net contribute, rather than take out of the public purse, must be borne in mind when we engage in a debate of this kind.
I will make some progress before giving way again.
As our reasoned amendment makes clear, we are prepared to support practical, proportionate and evidence-based measures that will achieve the stated aims of tackling illegal immigration and illegal working.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his generosity in giving way to me a second time. He refers again to the fact that he quoted the net benefit of migration in his speech. In 2014 the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, when looking at the fiscal effects of immigration to the UK, estimated that migrants contributed around £25 billion to the economy between 2001 and 2011. However, looking at all the migrants who had arrived since 1995, the estimates produced by that organisation suggested a net fiscal cost of around £114 billion. There is some evidence for the right hon. Gentleman.
I am afraid that the right hon. Lady has not learnt the lessons of her experience in Manchester last week, when she made a number of assertions without having the evidence to support them. She has got the evidence that overall there is a net contribution—she just quoted it. She, more than anyone else in this House, should stick to the evidence at all times and not resort to rhetoric.
I will give way in a moment, after I have made some progress.
I have said that we will support measures to create a director of labour market enforcement, building on legislation passed by the previous Labour Government, particularly the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004. We also support many of the measures set out in part 3 of the Bill to improve enforcement and equip immigration officers with all the necessary powers to do their difficult job in a more complex and changing world. I am pleased to see the Government acting to address the weak points in the UK border, particularly at smaller regional airports and seaports. We support the measures set out in part 6 to tackle problems before people arrive in the UK by extending the reach of the Border Force into UK territorial waters.
The right hon. Gentleman made a very interesting point when he accepted that EU migration was causing problems in the labour market and difficulties with wages. He said that we should limit or change free movement. Can he just flesh out how he thinks we should limit free movement, because I think I would be with him?
When I mentioned that, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), I said that we wanted measures to protect the going rate, and then I heard noises from the Government Benches. Where were they when we were trying to get through the agency workers proposals and the posted workers proposals? If Government Members now support putting a floor beneath all British workers, that is a major conversion, but one that I welcome. Let us have a renegotiation that strengthens the workers’ rights provided by Europe, rather than stripping them away. These are the changes that I want to see. Let us protect the wages of electricians and plumbers. Let us not allow them to be undercut by agency workers who come in and are employed on the minimum wage, beneath the wages of the skilled workforce. If we can agree on that ahead of the EU referendum, that would be a major positive consensus that we could take to the British public.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I agree with much of the sentiment behind his remarks this afternoon. However, I recall during the general election campaign catching sight of the Labour party website, which appeared to be selling mugs stating, “Controls on immigration”. Is this another example of a Labour U-turn, or is he in a full 360-degree spin on this issue as well?
I am not responsible for all Labour party merchandise. I did not purchase one of those mugs and I am not particularly proud of them. However, if the hon. Lady is saying that there should be no controls on immigration, I am afraid that we will have to part company on that, because there do need to be firm and fair rules to ensure that our immigration system works in the public interest.
Does my right hon. Friend share my astonishment at the figures the Home Secretary quoted, because included in the figures that she quoted as costs were what most of us would regard as the investment in the education of children in this country who will in due course be productive in the labour force? To count that as a cost, rather than an investment, rather biases the figures in her favour.
I was surprised. A fact-check was issued on that very point, and it is quite clear that the central estimates in the paper by UCL’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration suggests that European immigrants have made a net contribution of around £20 billion, and immigrants outside Europe make a small net contribution of around £5 billion—[Interruption.] The Home Secretary seems to dispute this, but she got into trouble last week because she did not have balance in her speech. If she is not careful she is going to develop a reputation for lacking balance on this issue.
No, I am going to make some progress.
The other measure that we support in the Bill is the requirement for all front-line public service staff to speak fluent English, which of course is a sensible proposal. However, I believe that, in legislating on these matters, we all have a responsibility to bear in mind at all times that this is the most difficult and sensitive of policy areas. Unlike other issues that we debate in this House, this one has the potential to cause real harm and strife in our communities.
We will support the Government when they get the balance right, but I want to be clear about what we will not do. We will not support legislation that is introduced in haste or that is not backed up by clear evidence. That is the problem with the Bill. Parts of it appear to have been drafted on the same beer mat and in the same pub as the Home Secretary’s speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester. It is legislation driven by a desire to be seen to be doing something and to get headlines.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that international student numbers should be removed entirely from net migration figures, because otherwise we risk losing key international talent as well as undermining many local economies, such as Brighton’s, that depend on them to a great deal?
I think that is where the Home Secretary is beginning to cut an isolated figure, as she did last week at her party’s conference. I understand that her own Cabinet colleagues are making the same argument to her—the Chancellor of the Exchequer got dangerously close to making the same argument on his recent trip to China. The hon. Lady is right. If we are looking for an area where there is economic benefit to the country in the long term, it is absolutely that of welcoming to this country students who will then commit themselves to the country for the rest of their working lives.
The critical response to the Home Secretary’s speech last week did not come just from the usual suspects on the Labour Benches. The Daily Telegraph called it
“awful, ugly, misleading, cynical and irresponsible”,
while the Institute of Directors, no less, dismissed it as
“irresponsible rhetoric and pandering to anti-immigration sentiment”—
serious words. They were not alone. The public can spot any attempt to play politics with this issue from a million miles away, and that is why the Home Secretary got the reaction she did. She claimed in Manchester that immigration was undermining social cohesion. I put it to her that legislating in haste without clear evidence and bringing forward half-baked, divisive measures is far more likely to do precisely that.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about immigration, but the Leader of the Opposition, his boss, has said that there should be no borders in this country anywhere—forget the European Union. He said during the Labour leadership contest that we should have open borders. Does the right hon. Gentleman share that view?
I stood alongside him and he said no such thing, so I will move on from that pointless intervention.
A number of organisations—Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Justice, the TUC and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants—have expressed serious reservations about the Bill. They believe it could damage social cohesion, force children into destitution, undermine efforts to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery, erode human rights and civil liberties, and lead to widespread discrimination.
Let me take those issues in turn, starting with the potential for discrimination. Clause 12 in part 2 amends the Immigration Act 2014 to make it a criminal offence for a landlord to rent premises to an individual with no immigration status, punishable by five years in prison. The measure is intended to underpin the national roll-out of the Government’s right to rent scheme, as the Home Secretary said. I am not against asking landlords to carry out reasonable checks of identity documents, as they already do, but there are a couple of points to make. First, landlords are not border or immigration experts, they are not trained in reading official paperwork from around the world, and they are not experts in spotting forged documents, so on what basis are we planning to outsource immigration control to them? Will not the regulatory burden that this will impose on landlords be way beyond the capacity that many can manage? Secondly, given all that, is it really proportionate to threaten them with jail, and will not that have a major impact on the housing market and the way it works?
The House will recall that in the previous Parliament the Government tried to bring forward the same proposals, but given the huge implications, not least for private landlords, they were forced to back down and pilot them. A commitment was given to this House that the findings of the pilot would be presented to us before the Government proceeded any further. That was the commitment given by those on the Front Bench. We learned yesterday that that commitment will not be honoured. Although the Home Office has conducted its study, it will not present its findings until the Committee stage. That is not good enough. This House should not be in a position where it is being asked by the Home Secretary to vote tonight on measures that could have a huge impact in every constituency represented here today without evidence for what those measures might do. It is not just a discourtesy; it is downright dangerous. She is asking us to be complicit in legislating in haste, and this House should have none of it.
Let me explain why. We know that right to rent could cause widespread discrimination, not just against migrants but against British citizens. In the absence of the Government’s study, an independent survey was carried out by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. It found that in the west midlands, the pilot area, 42% of landlords said that right to rent had made them less likely to consider someone who does not have a British passport, while 27% were now more reluctant—as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) has said—to engage with those with foreign accents or names. Those are very serious findings. Why on earth is the Home Office not presenting its own information to the House so that we can establish whether it is correct?
The shadow Home Secretary will know that my constituency was the first in the UK to have more people voting at the last election who were born outside the UK but now had the right to live and vote here. The panic that these measures is causing among landlords in my constituency, and the fears that they have because of the uncertainties of this Bill, will mean widespread discrimination for incoming students and other people who landlords fear may get them into trouble. They simply will not rent these properties. That is a major problem for this Bill and for good community relations in this country.
The JCWI believes that the figures I quoted are likely to underestimate the scale of the problem because of the nature and timing of the survey, but also because the problems are likely to be magnified much further in London, where there is a much bigger private rented sector and many more migrants. It says that
“these proposals will only…deepen the discrimination”
that already exists against people like those in my hon. Friend’s constituency who are seeking a tenancy.
When is the Home Secretary going to publish these conclusions, and why are we in this position today? In failing to produce the evidence, she has simply not made the case for the measures that she wants the House to vote on tonight. This is a major change in the law and she has not made the case for it.
Thankfully, the days when landlords displayed unwelcoming notices in the windows of their lodgings are gone, hopefully for good, but these document checks could legitimise a new wave of discrimination which, by being hidden, could be far harder to challenge. Only last week at the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister highlighted how young people from black and Asian backgrounds face discrimination when they send out their CV, purely on the basis of their name. He was right to do so, and it was refreshing to hear it from a Conservative Prime Minister. But if he was really genuine, this question follows: why is he legislating to create exactly the same situation—the same everyday discrimination—in the housing market against people with foreign-sounding names? If he really believed what he said, he should ask his Home Secretary to think again.
Let me turn to employment—another area where there could be major unintended consequences if the Bill passes in its current form. I said earlier that we support measures to tackle illegal working that build on the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which I helped to take through as a junior Home Office Minister, but we have major reservations about the new offence of illegal working in clause 8. In the words of Justice, “it is unnecessary and risks undermining important efforts made over recent years to address issues such as trafficking and modern-day slavery.”
Justice does not believe the assurances that were given to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) by the Home Secretary. The sanctions that could be applied to an individual range from confiscation of wages right up to imprisonment. Justice says:
“Fear of prosecution and imprisonment is likely to deter the vulnerable, such as trafficked women and children, who are working illegally from seeking protection and reporting rogue employers and criminal gangs.”
What evidence can the Home Secretary give the House to show that that would not be the case? More broadly, this new offence will merely strengthen the arm of unscrupulous employers and reduce the likelihood of any employee coming forward to report them. For that reason, rather than tackling illegal working, is not the Bill likely to have the opposite effect and potentially increase the size of the black economy?
May I push the right hon. Gentleman’s party colleagues a little further? When campaigning to change the worst bits of this Bill—and there are some really dreadful bits—will they include the provision of guarantees whereby those who are trafficked as slaves through human trafficking and end up in the United Kingdom are given the same defences as those who are protected under the Modern Slavery Act 2015? Those defences must be replicated in this Bill. Will he confirm that his party will support those changes?
Justice does not accept the assurances that were given by the Home Secretary. I can therefore tell the hon. Lady that we will co-operate with her in Committee, if she takes part in it, to get those assurances into the Bill, because she is right to call for them.
Let me turn to human rights and civil liberties. The Bill extends the power of the Executive in a number of troubling ways. Part 4, as the Home Secretary said, proposes a major extension of the “deport first, appeal later” approach from foreign national offenders to all human rights claims. What case has the Home Office made to persuade Members that it can safely be given such sweeping powers? It has hardly covered itself in glory over the years with the speed or quality of its decision making. Let us remember that this is a Department that today has a backlog of over 300,000 immigration cases—a Department where up to 50% of the initial decisions that it makes are found to be wrong on appeal. With these figures in mind, are we really ready to give the Home Secretary much greater powers to remove migrants before their appeals have been determined? Again, the Government are asking us to legislate before the impact of the last extension has been fully evaluated. The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that, by denying people the ability to be present at their own appeal, the Bill is potentially in breach of articles 6, 8 and 13 of the European convention on human rights.
I ask all colleagues on both sides of the House to think, before they vote tonight, of the genuine cases they have dealt with and the people they have got to know at their surgeries whom they have rightly helped to stay here in challenging a Home Office decision. They should think of them before they legislate to allow people in a similar position to be removed without being able to attend their own appeal.
I can give my right hon. Friend exactly such an example. One of the many cases my office is dealing with at the moment is that of a Sri Lankan Tamil whose application has been refused and who bears the mental and physical scars of torture. His application is now on appeal. If the Home Secretary’s proposals had been in place, he would already have been returned to Sri Lanka, where, given the human rights situation there, his life would potentially be at risk. I cannot support those measures and I do not understand how the Home Secretary can propose them.
I think that in their heart of hearts a lot of Government Members are not able to support the measures, because they have seen in their surgeries cases similar to that mentioned by my hon. Friend. They will know people who would have been deported if this Bill had been in place and who would not have been able to exercise their legitimate right to be present in person at their own appeal. That is why my hon. Friend is right to say that this is wrong.
The Bill also extends the power of the Executive to override the independent decisions of the first-tier tribunal with regard to immigration bail. It also allows the Home Secretary to impose bail conditions, including Executive electronic tagging. That raises important issues about the rights of people in our judicial system, and it could undermine the independence of our courts. Again, what confidence has the Home Office given us that it can be trusted with those powers? There is evidence that, under the coalition Government between 2011 and 2014, £15 million was paid out in damages for unlawful detention and abuse of the powers the Home Office already has.
Personally speaking, in my view those people and children should not be in detention. We need to take a look at how this country has approached these issues over a number of years. I would be happy to work with the hon. Gentleman on a cross-party basis, to address those issues. That is what we should do.
My final concern with the Bill relates to vulnerable children. [Interruption.] These are important issues and the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) would do well to listen to them before rushing into the Lobby to vote for the proposals without any evidence to support them.
Clause 34 proposes to remove support from families with children. Let me be honest—that was piloted by our Government, but it was rightly abandoned because of the effects it had. In a parliamentary debate in 1999, when those provisions were suggested, it was said that
“all children on British soil should be given the same protection…no child should go without protection…We are concerned about the welfare of children, who should not suffer under any circumstances, whoever their parents are and whatever their basis for being in the country.”—[Official Report, 16 June 1999; Vol. 333, c. 418-421.]
Those are fine sentiments, and they came from the then Conservative Opposition. I say to Government Members that what was right then is right now. No child should face destitution in our country, whoever they are, wherever they come from.
One of the most powerful moments in the Prime Minister’s conference was when he talked about his response to the photograph of Alan Kurdi. It was powerful because it spoke to our common humanity and our instinct to protect children, whatever their circumstances. That is why the Bill is not supportable until those measures have been dropped.
In conclusion, the House will notice that we have not gone down the route of outright opposition in framing our response. As I said at the beginning, there are measures we support and we have set them out in our reasoned amendment. However, when balanced against the other concerns that I have highlighted in my speech, the scales tip towards preventing the progress of the Bill.
If the Government are prepared to change the Bill to address the fundamental problems I have outlined, I would be prepared to reconsider our position. As long as they stay in, however, we will take a stand against them for what is right and for what we should represent as a country.
The truth is that the Bill is driven by the wrong motive—a desire to be seen to be doing something, to generate headlines. That is the problem that lies behind it. Such is the scale of the Government’s failure on immigration, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North said, and such is the size of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality, that they are now resorting to ever more drastic, desperate measures to give the impression of action.
The Government promised to cut net migration to tens of thousands. It currently stands at a record 330,000 and there is no evidence to suggest that anything in the Bill will bring that down. There is evidence, however, to suggest that it could cause real harm in every constituency represented in this House.
Government Members might be happy to legislate without evidence, but we will not follow them. We will give no support to a Government pandering to prejudice and legislating in haste to make Britain a more hostile and unwelcoming country. That is why I move the reasoned amendment standing in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. If it falls, I will ask the House to oppose this unpleasant and insidious Bill.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) on his new role as shadow Home Secretary. I also congratulate the Government on introducing this vital Bill and pay tribute to the Home Secretary for her courage in the face of the bien pensant commentariat and the liberal elite. What she did last week was articulate the views of millions of people, including many in my own constituency.
I welcome the Bill, especially those measures that will have a significant impact on illegal working and on illegal immigration in relation to the housing sector, particularly the right to rent. I am puzzled by the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks, because surely he can see that such housing proposals will ameliorate the sometimes pitiful condition immigrants find themselves in as a result of rapacious slum landlords. He does not seem to recognise that.
The Bill also specifically establishes the common sense premise that it is we—this sovereign Parliament—that should ultimately be responsible for who comes to our country, not some supranational body such as the European Union. Frankly, if it is good enough for the Germans to casually disregard the Schengen agreement in an emergency, we should at least, in a measured, reasonable and moderate way, be able to make our own policy.
That is a fair question, but it is way above my pay grade, so I will move swiftly on. I will, however, touch on those issues later.
The fact is that the Labour party has not learned any lessons. It has collective amnesia about what happened on 7 May. The reason it got only 232 seats is that very many of its bedrock, blue-collar supporters did not trust it on immigration and decided to elect other people—or, indeed, to vote for a party such as UKIP—because they trusted them more. That is lamentable, but that is what happened to the Labour party, although you would not think it to listen to them.
The Government also have a very strong mandate to introduce this Bill, as a result of an overall majority. It is certainly the case that, for the first time in probably 25 years, immigration is the No. 1 issue for voters. According to an Ipsos MORI poll at the end of September, it is more important than the health service, the economy, jobs and the environment—56% of people said that the No. 1 issue was immigration.
At least the former shadow Chancellor had the good grace, at the 2014 Labour conference, to apologise for the big errors that were made under the Labour Government, particularly in respect of the free movement directive. What I found positive in the speech of the right hon. Member for Leigh is that he is prepared to look at the directive’s impact on certain areas, whether Leigh, Dudley North, Peterborough or other parts of the country.
Goodness knows, we have to address this matter because it is a major issue of concern. In my constituency, unrestricted immigration, largely under the Labour party—to the extent that 34,000 national insurance numbers were issued to EU migrants between 2004 and 2011 in a city of 156,000 people—has had a big impact on the delivery of core public services such as housing and health. We have a primary school places crisis in my constituency because of the sheer weight of the number of people coming from the European Union. Yes, we welcome people who are hard-working, decent, civic-minded and law-abiding and who will accept our British values, but we cannot cope with unrestricted immigration. In that respect, this Government are doing exactly the right thing.
As the right hon. Gentleman and the House may know, on 31 October 2012 I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill to disapply the European Union free movement directive 2004. That was not a Europhobic response of closing the doors; it was about nuancing and finessing the free movement directive—the pull factors—as has been done in places such as Spain, which has suffered from the problem of 50% youth unemployment. Unfortunately, the Government did not take on board those arguments at the time. I commend them for now doing so. We should establish the fact that we believe in the free movement of labour and people; yet I do not think that it is unreasonable for us to make a value judgment on the people we want to come to our country. The free movement directive has not been nuanced in the way it should have been.
No evidence has ever been produced—both Migration Watch and Balanced Migration have made this point several times—that immigration is necessarily “a good thing”. There is no evidence for that. There is perhaps no evidence that it is a pernicious or bad thing, but there is certainly no cumulative evidence, in terms of the delivery of public services, that it is a good thing. If I take only the issue of low wages, it is obviously the case, as is proved by what data there are, that although immigration may not drive down wages, it certainly restrains wages at a certain level for indigenous workers, particularly low-skilled people or those with no skills and young people.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the UCL report mentioned by the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) came from a university that has lobbied heavily for more immigration, presumably so that it can make money and line its own pockets from people coming here? Is he aware that the conclusion to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was based on one of various different scenarios and that the figures have been taken apart, as I have already found out just by looking it up on the internet?
I think that was the CReAM study, but it was certainly not the cream of the crop because it looked at the most optimistic scenarios and its methodology has been disputed by many other academics.
We simply cannot countenance a net migration figure of 330,000. Migration Watch was criticised some years ago for predicting—accurately—that 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians would come to this country. As I have already mentioned, they have a higher preponderance to become benefit recipients. That may not be the case for all non-EU migrants and for first-stage EU migrants—those from France and Germany—but it certainly is the case for second-stage migrants. Why would it not be the case, given that wages are demonstrably much lower in places such as Romania and Bulgaria than they are in the UK, so they get paid less than other people while working here and they claim more?
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I must make some progress.
There is a problem and it must be looked at. Let us consider schools: three in five schools will experience capacity problems by 2018. There are major issues in Peterborough, as I have already said. Some 68% of primary school pupils in my constituency do not speak English as their first language. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it inevitably has an impact on attainment given the resource implications for teacher training and for getting teachers with the right skills. Actually, when a Polish child speaks good English, they flourish, for instance in science and maths, but that is very difficult without specific help.
In 2013 it was estimated, I think by the Department for Communities and Local Government, that it cost £140 million a year to provide translation and interpretation services. That is a major issue, and I have already mentioned healthcare and housing.
No, I do not have the time, and you are looking at me in an admonishing way, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I just say two things? If I were to bring out my inner Marxist, I would say that of course big business, such as that represented by the Institute of Directors, wants to continue to import low-paid workers to drive down costs—bears do their ablutions in the wood, the Pope is still Catholic, and big business always wants people to come into this country and outprice indigenous workers—but would that big business concentrated more on apprenticeships, long-term planning and training.
Finally, let me say that I wish the Prime Minister well in his work towards finding a settlement in his negotiations with the European Union, but it is massively important that the centrality of the free movement directive is at the heart of it. I tell the House that pocket-book issues—people’s jobs and future, and prosperity and growth—are important, but if people feel that there will ultimately be an irrevocable cultural change in their country that they can do nothing about, they will vote to leave the European Union. He must be very mindful of that.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your indulgence. We have a lot to be proud of in this country in relation to the work we have done for genuine asylum seekers, as a beacon of hope across the world and as the No. 1 country in the world for soft power, but that is not the same as tacitly agreeing with, doing nothing about and turning a blind eye to illegal immigration. This is a good Bill that is long overdue. It is supported by my constituents and the British people. I wish it well, and I will support it enthusiastically tonight.
Order. Before I call the SNP spokesperson, who will not be subject to a time limit, I must say that 33 Members wish to speak in the debate, which means that after he sits down there will be a limit of six minutes per speech. With that in mind, I call Stuart C. McDonald.
I, too, congratulate the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) on his new role. I agree with much of what he said. We on the SNP Benches acknowledge, are proud of the fact and prefer to emphasise that people who choose this country as their new home make a tremendous contribution to our public services, our economy, our culture and, most importantly for many of our citizens, our family lives.
From our point of view, the Bill does not deserve a Second Reading because—it is important to put this on the record—we regard the Government’s net migration target of tens of thousands as entirely unhelpful, as well as utterly unrealistic, and the Bill will bring its realisation not a second closer. Indeed, I genuinely doubt whether any member of the Government thinks that that target is achievable. That is why it is fundamentally dishonest to continue to go through the motions of pursuing it. A target that is virtually impossible for the Government to deliver can only further undermine public confidence in government and in immigration control. A Bill designed to pursue a bad target is likely to lead to bad law, and so it is with this Immigration Bill. In a sense, this is immigration theatre: the Government want to be seen to be doing something, so they go through the motions of yet another Immigration Bill—and to hell with the consequences.
That is our starting point in considering the Bill, and although that is clearly one of the key issues we need to address, the other issue that all hon. Members must consider, regardless of whether they agree with us about the net migration target, is different. For even those in the Chamber who want immigration to be cut back need to ask themselves: what will the Bill achieve in reality, where is the evidence for that and what will the cost be in terms of civil liberties, human rights, the rule of law, community cohesion and the other aspects of life in this country that we hold dear? Regardless of one’s starting point in this debate, when those simple tests are applied, the Bill fails them utterly. It therefore does not deserve a Second Reading.
The Bill fails those simple tests because if it is to be effective and achieve anything, it requires effective Government agencies. Is there any area of policy where the Government have proven less effective, reliable and up to the job than immigration? John Reid described the immigration directorate as “not fit for purpose” in 2006. Just two years ago, the Home Secretary said that
“the performance of what remains of UKBA is still not good enough.”
She described it as a “troubled organisation” that
“struggles with the volume of its casework”.
She criticised its IT systems and its reliance on manual data entry and paper files. She said:
“The agency is often caught up in a vicious cycle of complex law and poor enforcement of its own policies”.—[Official Report, 26 March 2013; Vol. 560, c. 1500-1501.]
She abolished the UK Border Agency.
Are we really to believe that UK Visas and Immigration is now so well organised that we can feel comfortable providing it and its officers with swathes of new powers and responsibilities, while sweeping away its accountability to courts and tribunals? The Home Secretary may be formidable but, with respect, she is not a miracle worker. Another round of viciously complex legislation is the last thing we need, as anyone who deals with UK Visas and Immigration, including hon. Members, will surely understand.
The Bill also fails the tests because to be effective it will rely on civilians, including landlords and landladies. We are setting off down a road of amateur immigration control, as if we are to become a nation of immigration officers. Again, anyone who deals regularly with immigration work, including hon. Members, will be well aware of what a complex issue this is. It is not one in which it is appropriate for amateurs to be involved in enforcement. As with decisions of the Home Office, we search in vain in the Bill for proper rights of appeal and redress against amateur enforcement decisions. Indeed, judicial scrutiny of evictions is torn apart.
The Bill fails because it is not based on evidence of what is effective in ensuring that immigration rules are complied with, as the shadow Home Secretary said. The clearest example, which he set out, is the so-called right to rent provisions. The House was assured by Ministers that the right to rent legislation would remain light touch and be tested thoroughly, with the results of the tests being used to inform further development. Yet here we are, several months after the Prime Minister announced its roll-out, with proposals to move away from the soft-touch approach envisaged by hon. Members. The House is yet to see the results of the Government’s pilot scheme. I agree with the shadow Secretary of State that that is a most unacceptable way of treating the House.
What was the point of the Government consulting on asylum support, when the Bill was published just a week after the consultation closed, without any Government analysis of the responses, let alone a reaction? Much of the evidence that is available on employment, right to rent and asylum support suggests that the Bill will, in some respects, make immigration control more difficult by driving people and families away from regular contact with immigration authorities. This is a politically motivated, rather than evidence-led, piece of legislation.
The Bill not only fails the tests but becomes dangerous when we consider the costs that will come with it. Even if it might somehow shave a pitiful few thousand off the net migration figure, what price are we paying to do that? The effects of the Bill should appal traditional Conservatives. It will tie up landlords and landladies in immigration red tape and put them at risk of prison sentences. It will arm immigration officers with broad new powers. Most fundamentally, it will strike a significant blow against community cohesion.
The Home Secretary spoke about community cohesion last week, yet her Government’s explicit and almost dystopian goal is to create a “hostile climate”, as if we can hermetically seal off the bad migrants, while the rest of the multicultural UK goes about its business as usual. That approach reached its lowest ebb with the horrendous “go home” vans, which illustrated the key point that the hostile climate that the Government seek to create affects all of us who live in it.
Will my hon. Friend join me in commending the work of the integration networks in cities and communities across Scotland? During the recess, I visited the Maryhill integration network, which does a huge job in helping people to adapt to Scottish society. The stories that I heard from immigrants and asylum seekers there would be enough to make anyone weep. Ministers ought to meet the integration networks to experience at first hand the issues that face asylum seekers in our country.
I am grateful for the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman has introduced his remarks and for what he has said. He talked about right to rent. Does he agree that, in the absence of any evidence from the Government on the pilot, we have to accept what has been produced by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants? As I said in my speech, its findings are extremely troubling. If we accept those findings, it is impossible to support the Bill tonight because of its potential to cause widespread discrimination against British citizens too.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I, too, have read the JCWI report and will refer to its findings shortly.
In summary, the Bill pursues the wrong goals by the wrong methods and at tremendous cost, so we should decline to give it a Second Reading.
I shall outline briefly our views on the key clauses and my hon. Friends will expand on those views in the course of the debate. Not wishing to be relentlessly negative, let me turn first to one part of the Bill that is positive. We welcome the provisions at the start of the Bill that will establish a director of labour market enforcement. We have questions about resourcing, powers and whether all the necessary agencies will be involved, but the principle has our support. We agree that the focus of our attention should be on employers who exploit undocumented labour to the detriment not just of undocumented workers, but resident workers who are competing for jobs and businesses that comply with the rules.
The SNP spokesman is right that there should be a greater emphasis on employers who employ illegal immigrants, but does he accept that even the powers that the Government have at present are not being used against employers? Looking at civil penalty notices, less than half have been paid, a third have been written off and the rest remain unpaid. There does not seem to be enforcement against employers even under the legislation that is available.
Once again, I agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman. It has been a habit in the field of immigration to take the approach that if at first you don’t succeed, legislate and legislate again. We need not constant legislation but to use the powers that the Government already have.
The Government must focus on enforcement. We agree that we should look again at further sanctions for those who exploit undocumented labour. We will therefore look sympathetically but carefully at the wording of the proposed amended criminal offence for employers.
We have significant concern about the proposals to criminalise undocumented workers contained in clause 8. The notion of criminalising a person for working is controversial, especially given that prosecutions are already possible for breaches of immigration law under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971, as the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) said. The problem is an absence not of criminal sanctions but of proper enforcement measures by Government agencies. We believe strongly that the speculative possibility of shaving a small amount off the net migration target will be outweighed by the significant danger highlighted by organisations that work with victims of trafficking, and that some of the most vulnerable workers will be put in an even more vulnerable position. The Home Secretary and the Government have done good work on trafficking, slavery and exploitation, and it would be sad if that were to be undone by pushing exploited workers even further underground because of the fear of criminalisation. If that is the effect, such measures will make immigration and labour market enforcement harder rather than easier.
Another area where dangers outweigh speculative benefits concerns the right to rent provisions. The shadow Secretary of State referred to the helpful study by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. Its findings are absolutely stark, and include poor compliance and widespread ignorance among the unfortunate landlords and landladies who are supposed to police the right to rent. More significantly, those findings suggest that landlords are—perhaps understandably—less likely to consider someone who does not have a British passport, which includes more than one in six of the UK population. There were also increased feelings of discrimination among people who have been refused a tenancy. We therefore object strongly to these proposals as they can only exacerbate such problems. We are equally opposed to the fact that the new more punitive measures—and indeed other measures on licensing—can be extended to Scotland by subordinate legislation without full parliamentary scrutiny in this Chamber, and without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, where decisions on housing should be made.
We have serious concerns about part 3 of the Bill which, in combination with other measures, would deliver a stunning extension of powers to immigration officers and others who are not part of the police force, and not trained or supervised accordingly. Although we intend to support the reasoned amendment, we have some difficulties with this area, and it would be useful if, when winding up the debate, the spokesperson for the official Opposition said a little more about what new enforcement powers they want.
The Bill provides immigration officers with significant new powers to enter premises, search, seize, retain and arrest, and all in the face of serious reported abuses and evidence of the inefficient exercise of existing powers. We agree with Amnesty International that
“the Home Office should be concentrating on improving its performance with the powers it already possesses rather than being handed still more powers”
and we would require the Government to make a strong case for each new power before we could support them.
Equally troubling new powers are provided to the Home Secretary on bail conditions, which we believe undermine the authority of the independent tribunal. We saw in September that there is widespread cross-party support in this Chamber for changes to immigration detention, but those are not the changes in the Bill. That cross-party support included demand for a 28-day time limit for immigration detention. If the Bill receives a Second Reading, we look forward to tabling an amendment that will include such a time limit, and we will happily work with others to secure that.
Continuing the trend towards a limitation of appeal rights, part 4 of the Bill provides for a sweeping extension of powers to require people to leave and appeal from abroad should an application for an extension of leave be rejected. Let us remember that huge numbers of these appeals are successful, yet they will become infinitely more difficult if appellants are moved hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from their lawyers and their appeal hearing—an unfair immigration trial in absentia. UK citizens will be affected, because if this issue principally concerns family life appeal rights, that disruption will be to family life with those British citizens—families will be split apart; valuable jobs and support will be lost.
Finally, we object to the fact that “destitution” is once more the immigration policy of choice in part 5 of the Bill. We share the concerns of British Red Cross that the provisions in this Bill, including an end to section 95 support for families with children who have exhausted their appeal rights, will force families with children into destitution and put them at risk of harm. Such a measure will also increase the risk of families absconding, and pass a significant increase in costs to local authorities who will still have a duty to prevent children from becoming destitute. The shadow Secretary of State rightly acknowledged a similar pilot project by a previous Labour Government, which found that 35 out of 116 families had disappeared, losing all contact with immigration services. Such measures make immigration control harder, not easier. Again, when the evidence is considered, it tends not to support the Bill.
These are not our only concerns with the Bill, and my hon. Friends will add to my criticisms. Declining the Bill a Second Reading is just a starting point, and the Scottish National party believes that we should be rolling back from the mistakes made by the coalition Government. We should go back to the drawing board to consider how we measure a successful immigration system. At the very least we should recognise that it is utterly inappropriate to include refugees, people’s husbands, wives and children, as well as bright young talent and the leaders of tomorrow who want to come here to study. We should get rid of the so-called right to rent provisions, not back them up with criminal sanctions. We should roll back the financial thresholds imposed on spouse and partner visas that are driving couples apart and creating what the Children’s Commissioner for England has called “Skype families”, and we should end the routine use of immigration detention.
We should address the concerns and challenges that can be caused by migration trends, and instead of scrapping schemes such as the migration impacts fund we should look at improved versions. We should consider schemes that encourage new arrivals to live in those parts of the UK that require them and will benefit from them most, including Scotland. Let devolved nations and regions have powers on immigration.
I fully support such measures.
Finally, we must listen to the hugely influential legal figures who told us yesterday that the Government have got it wrong on the refugee crisis. We must introduce safe and legal routes to the UK, as well as to the EU, through broader and more humane family reunion rules, humanitarian visas and relocation schemes for those already in Europe, as well as resettlement schemes for those still in the crisis area. Those are the steps that we would want an honest, bold and forward-thinking Government to take. Instead, we have a regressive, illiberal, ill-considered and inhumane Immigration Bill that should be denied a Second Reading.
I rise to speak in support of the Bill, which addresses a very serious issue in a way that confronts the facts as they stand.
I have the honour of representing the Folkestone and Hythe constituency, which includes the channel tunnel. This summer, my constituency was 30 miles or so from the frontline of the migration crisis as it confronted the UK. In the camp outside Calais, known as the jungle, thousands of migrants are waiting to enter the UK. The truth about the conditions in those camps is that we do not know who people are or where they have come from. We do not know which ones are legitimate asylum seekers and which ones are not. Of the surveys done by numerous people who visited the camps during the course of the summer and previously—this is not a new phenomenon—it is quite clear that people in the camps are seeking to enter this country without being detected, without papers and without tickets. They are looking to enter this country without being noticed by the authorities, and then to work, live and be accommodated here without being noticed by the authorities. Some are doing this voluntarily, but others are putting their lives in the hands of dangerous gangs who are trafficking them across Europe and into this country, and who seek to exploit them when they are here.
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me more about those surveys? Who carried them out? How many people did they speak to? Did they have a box to tick that said, “I am trying to sneak into your country undetected”? That is what it sounds like to me.
The hon. Lady can look at any number of reports made during the summer by various organisations that visited the camps. Why does the hon. Lady think that people are storming the channel tunnel at Coquelles every night? Why does she think people are storming the port of Calais? It is not because they have tickets, visas and passports to come here; it is because they are seeking to enter the country illegally. In doing so, it is clearly evident they are endangering their lives and the lives of other people who use those services too.
The people in the camps have the right, if they want help, to claim asylum where they are. They choose not to do so. Many people in that position are being exploited by very dangerous gangs who are moving people across Europe. The people who have the most to fear from the Bill are those who seek to exploit migrants coming to this country without papers. Migrants have been told not to claim asylum and that they will be looked after privately and secretly once they get here. Those people are exploited. It is the exploiters who have the most to fear from the Bill.
I very much welcome the work the Home Office has done to try to secure our borders. Much of the Bill deals with the consequences of people entering the country without papers and without the legal right to remain, and what we can do about that. Our first obligation is to protect the border itself. The investment the Government have made, along with the French authorities, in securing our border at Calais and Coquelles is hugely significant and hugely welcome. It has greatly reduced the numbers of migrants seeking to enter the country illegally by storming the entrances to the channel tunnel and the port of Dover. As I said before, that not only disrupts services but endangers their lives and the lives of others who use those services. It must be stopped.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s influence in persuading the French Government to provide more of their own resources in policing that frontier. I also welcome the moves passed recently by the French Senate—they are still going through the French National Assembly—to improve French law enforcement capabilities to deal with people seeking to enter this country illegally by storming the frontier at Calais and Coquelles. It is right that there are proper criminal sanctions against people who seek to use criminal damage and criminal trespass as a means to enter this country. I know, from people who work at Eurotunnel who saw the consequences of the actions during the summer, that those actions were not only highly dangerous but threatened to disrupt and even derail services through the tunnel. That would have endangered the lives of other passengers, as well as the lives of the people committing those actions. It is right to protect the migrants and to protect our frontier, and it is right that these important new sanctions are being considered.
So far the hon. Gentleman has told us an awful lot about the disruption caused by people blatantly ignoring the existing legislation. If people are going to ignore the legislation, making it tougher is not going to help; they will continue to ignore it just the same. What in the Bill will prevent people from trying to get into the UK illegally? Would it not be much better to devote the resources to securing the borders and enforcing the existing legislation, rather than introducing further legislation that will create discrimination in housing and access to other services?
I set out at the beginning of my remarks the important action the Government and the Home Office have taken to try and secure the borders, but there are additional provisions in the Bill, particularly in part 6, such as the extra maritime checks and enforcement. These provisions will give Border Force the right to board and check vessels that might be carrying people seeking to cross the channel and enter this country illegally. It will give extra powers to law enforcement authorities to pick people up and check vessels to see what is going on. That is absolutely the right thing to do.
There are those who seek to provide accommodation to people with no papers and no right to be in this country and to employ them in large numbers, and it is right that they fear the sanction of being inspected, checked and discovered. They seek to exploit people who understand they have no legal right to be here and do not want the authorities to know they are here. They exploit their concerns about being discovered, and the Bill is a threat to those people and the action they would take.
I have very little time and I would like to conclude.
It is the people traffickers and exploiters who have the most to fear from the Bill, and it is right that we give the enforcement authorities the extra powers they seek. We want a robust immigration system where people with the right to come to this country can do so, and we want to open this country to the world. We want to attract new talent and bring in people with skills. That is clear. We want a system where legitimate asylum seekers and refugees are granted safety and refuge, which has been a great hallmark of this country for many years.
We do not, however, want a system where people traffickers and smugglers from around the world can say, “If you get into the UK, you won’t be detected. You can stay and will be looked after”. They exploit people’s legitimate concerns and fears, and the Bill seeks to get to the heart of that. It aims to protect a legitimate migration system and to enhance Britain’s reputation as a country that welcomes refugees and people coming to work here but which conducts proper checks on people to make sure they have the right to stay and are legitimate asylum seekers. The ones who have the most to fear are those who seek to evade the authorities and exploit those who evade them. I ask the House to support the Bill.
The Home Secretary made her notorious speech in Manchester just a few minutes from my constituency. Had she come down the road, she would have seen tens of thousands of people who came under the contemptuous label she uttered this afternoon: “these people”. “These people”, of whom there are tens of thousands in my constituency, originate from south Asia, east and west Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere. We are a city of diversity and integration, and the two go together.
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) referred to Romanians. Recently in my constituency, an organisation has been set up by people of Romanian origin to integrate further into this country. Next Saturday in my constituency, we will be celebrating Nigerian independence day. This is a country of diversity that ever since the Romans has had people of overseas origin becoming part of its functioning. The Bill attacks them. It is an attack on anybody who is not what might be referred to as a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
I got a letter from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs about a constituent who had been asked to clarify his Christian name. To anyone of any intelligence, the man was a Muslim. That kind of approach happens under this Government: it has never happened before, even under previous Conservative Governments. The Bill creates a new subterranean, pseudo police force to carry out Government policy without being members of the Government’s staff.
Landlords have been recruited, whether they want to be or not—the National Landlords Association has issued a document expressing considerable resentment—to impose a law that they had no say in creating. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says that landlords are less likely to rent to those with foreign accents or names, or those who do not possess a British passport. That is my parents. They never learned to speak English fluently; they never got British passports —yet they were part of this country and part of a community. Landlords and bank staff are being turned into Government agents. Under this Bill, we have a new bail system that has nothing to do with judges or magistrates and nothing to do with the law—except the law created by this Government.
The national health service wants to bring people from India to be nurses in Manchester, but they cannot get the certificates because the process is so opaque. People coming here as refugees are scared stiff for their lives—something that, thank God, we in this country are not—and are subjected to all kinds of interrogation.
As well as providing him with a little more time, I would like my right hon. Friend to consider the effect on his constituency and mine of the changes to the immigration rules that the Government want to introduce with respect to earnings. This could force a lot of nurses currently working in the NHS to leave the country. Nurse training has been cut and the NHS is over-reliant on agency staff; now the Government are about to force thousands of nurses to go back. Does he agree with me that we need a rethink and a change of heart on this issue?
When I go, as I no doubt shortly shall, for my flu jab, the person who gives it to me would not be regarded by many people who support this Bill as British, but services are being provided for people in this country. The work situation is going to be made more difficult, with potential employees afraid that they will be prosecuted for recruiting people illegally.
I do not know whether the Home Secretary went to any of the many wonderful Asian restaurants when she was in Manchester. My constituency has a “curry mile”, which is one of the best places to go to in the whole of the world for an overseas diet. I wonder how many of them will be under suspicion by the Home Office trying to decide, minutiae by minutiae, whether people are the “right kind” of British, who seem to be the only kind of British that they want to welcome into this country.
As the TUC says, huge poverty will be created by this Government. The children of asylum seekers will live in houses for which the amount of money being made available is £30 and a little bit more. I am proud of this country; I love this country. I do not know, however, whether the Government who are introducing this Bill love the country that Britain really is rather than the country into which they would like to transform it.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. Like many, if not most, Members, I was acutely aware long before the general election of just how important the issue of immigration had become to the people in this country. Of all the issues raised with me on the doorstep by my constituents, immigration was unquestionably the number one concern, and scenes throughout the summer, across Europe and in Calais, have done nothing but exacerbate that concern in recent months.
Like my right hon. and hon. Friends, I welcomed the reforms brought about by the Immigration Act 2014, but there is still work to be done. My constituents are absolutely clear about the fact that they want us to control our borders, and that includes dealing with those who have already managed to evade our border controls.
While there are, of course, many benefits to Britain from some controlled immigration, we must face the fact that the current levels are unsustainable. It is well documented that mass immigration forces down wages and makes it more difficult for residents like mine to find work. However, illegal immigration is the major source of frustration and grievance for my residents. I therefore welcome the Bill’s attempts to support working people by clamping down on illegal immigration. These measures will help to protect our public services, and will send a message to those who try to exploit our system for their own gain.
There are those who seek to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people by promising them a better life in Britain, but the reality for those who arrive is often exactly the opposite, so I welcome the proposals to introduce new, tougher sanctions for rogue employers. It is right that we make it an offence for anyone to employ someone whom he or she knows, or has reason to suspect, is an illegal worker. We cannot allow ruthless criminal gangs to continue to exploit the vulnerable, or to bring undocumented, even potentially dangerous, individuals into the country. The Bill sends a clear message to those gangs: “You will not win.” It also sends a clear message to potential illegal migrants that it will not be as easy to establish themselves in the United Kingdom as they were promised it would be.
Since 2010 the Government have worked hard to support new businesses, many of which have been set up in my constituency. We should be ensuring that those hard-working, law-abiding entrepreneurs are rewarded. Equally, we must punish those who continue to flout the law by employing illegal labour and giving themselves an unfair and illegal competitive advantage. Illegal labour not only exploits the workers whom it employs, but denies work to UK citizens and drives down wages. Businesses that ignore the law should be closed, and those who run them should be prosecuted, and seen to be prosecuted, for their actions.
Legal immigrants can make, and often have made, an enormous and valuable contribution to our society, but there is no doubt that illegal migration, and even the current levels of legal migration, have an adverse effect on our most important public services. By 2024, if current levels are maintained, we shall have to find an extra 900,000 school places. There is already pressure on primary school places in my constituency, and there is even pressure for schools to be built to provide more places. We already have to build 210,000 new homes every year to keep up with population fluctuations. It is hard for anyone to argue that such numbers are sustainable. It is not bigoted to note those facts; we need a pragmatic solution to the problems.
In Castle Point we have a shortage of housing, a shortage of space for housing, and, most acutely, a serious shortage of affordable and private rental accommodation. Hard-working families must wait for accommodation, sometimes for months and months. They naturally feel that it is just plain wrong if even part of the reason for that is illegal workers taking up private rental properties.
I know that the hon. Lady takes a particular interest in Northern Ireland, and I hope that she will therefore be as alarmed as I am—along with, I am sure, others on these Benches—that part 7 of the Bill, which requires public sector workers to speak fluent English, does not extend to Northern Ireland. The last time I checked, Northern Ireland was guaranteed its place in the United Kingdom by the Belfast agreement. Why should not part 7, which the hon. Lady praises, apply to it?
I apologise for not having picked up on that point, but I am sure we will be addressing it very vigorously through Northern Irish channels.
Creating a new offence for rogue landlords who fail to take steps to remove illegal migrants from their properties will be a strong reassurance to the public that we are doing all we can to deal with what they feel to be a genuine injustice. It will also be a good way to help better establish the true scale of illegal immigration. Estimates vary wildly, but it is clear that the public perception is that it is a much more widespread problem than reported. Therefore measures that make it harder to live under the radar will increase public confidence, which is currently very much lacking. This Government have already made it much more difficult for immigrants to come to this country and immediately have access to our public services and our welfare system. This legislation will build upon those reforms and will strengthen our commitment to ensuring that only those who come here and contribute to our society can benefit from it.
It is a duty of us all in this House to listen to our constituents and try to address their concerns. I have listened to my constituents in Castle Point and they tell me they want something done about illegal immigration in the UK. This legislation will protect our public services, will further crack down on illegal immigration and will limit the access of illegal migrants to essential services. I welcome these proposals and urge Members to support them.
In April 1939, a 10-year-old Jewish boy from a place called Ostrava in what was then Czechoslovakia was put on a train by his mum and teenage sisters. He never saw them again; they were killed during the war.
He was the only member of his family able to leave. He arrived in the UK only able to speak three words of English but became the youngest grammar school head teacher in the country, and was honoured by the Queen with an MBE for his education and charity work. He adopted four children, of whom I am the second, so I know all about the benefits that immigration can bring to individuals, our communities and our country.
I also know that immigration is something many people are very worried about. Research from the Oxford Migration Observatory shows immigration has ranked in the top five issues for many years and has ranked as the top issue for our country in many of the most recent polls. There is no point in mainstream politicians trying to ignore this or refusing to listen to people. It is our job to listen to people on this and come up with fair and reasonable ways of addressing their concerns. It is when we fail to do so that reasonable people with legitimate concerns turn to UKIP or, in the past, the BNP.
So I have worked hard to listen to local people in Dudley and I have held dozens of community meetings over the last couple of years on this issue. The truth is that most people are reasonable, fair and pragmatic when it comes to immigration and other contentious issues. Detailed research from British Future shows most people wanting fair controls on immigration but not a closed border. Mainstream politicians should be working in their communities to come up with fair and reasonable solutions to tackle exploitation, the undercutting of wages or some of the other challenges presented by immigration.
That is not, as some have said, “trying to out-UKIP UKIP”. It is being part of a mainstream Labour party that takes the concerns and worries that ordinary people have seriously. The vast majority of the hundreds of people who came to my meetings on immigration and the many thousands who completed the detailed surveys I distributed agree that we should welcome people who come to Britain and work hard and contribute, and they agree that Britain has always provided a safe haven for people fleeing persecution abroad.
Because of that, I welcome plans to help to train the next generation of skilled workers here in Britain instead of hiring from abroad. Our proposals at the election would have required large firms to take on a local apprentice every time they took on a skilled foreign worker, so I think this should go further, but it is good that some funding from skilled worker visas will now be put towards apprenticeships.
I think that jobs should be advertised in Britain before they are advertised abroad. I also think that if large firms or public sector organisations cannot find people in Britain with the necessary skills and have to employ someone from abroad, they should also have to provide an apprenticeship for a British youngster so that we can train up the next generation of British people as well.
At the last election, we also proposed tougher measures to tackle the illegal exploitation of foreign workers, and the creation of a new Home Office unit to enforce the law, so I support the Bill’s proposals for a director of labour market enforcement and for stronger sanctions against those who employ illegal workers. I have always thought that if you want to live in Britain you must be prepared to work hard and pay your way, obey the law and learn to speak English, because there is no other way to play a full role in British society, so it is right that the Bill will make it easier to monitor foreign nationals who have broken the law and to ensure that customer-facing public workers speak fluent English. Most people will think it is also completely right that the Bill proposes to tackle illegal immigration and its links with organised crime, people trafficking and exploitation, which have a knock-on effect on our communities, on wages and on public services.
As we heard earlier, however, the Government have not yet provided any evidence that the trial of plans to intensify the right to rent scheme, which requires landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants, has cut illegal migration. Indeed, there are worrying signs that it has made it much harder for British people from other backgrounds to find a home. I do not think that reasonable people would support a measure that could prevent British people who have worked and contributed to this country for decades from finding a home just because they have a foreign-sounding name or a different accent.
The Government must go much further to enforce the minimum wage so that unscrupulous employers cannot exploit foreign labour to cut costs and drive down wages. I want bigger fines for breaking the rules, and a ban on recruitment agencies hiring solely from overseas. We should also introduce changes to benefit entitlement right now, instead of waiting for the outcome of the Prime Minister’s negotiations with the EU. There should be a much clearer relationship between benefits and contributions so that people receive benefits if they have worked and paid in for at least two years. Furthermore, there is absolutely no reason why people should be able to claim child benefit for children who are living abroad. People in Dudley also want to see tighter border controls. We proposed to introduce a levy on US visitors to pay for 1,000 extra border guards and to do more to strengthen checks for illegal immigrants in Calais.
I would like to see the Government acknowledge that the costs and benefits of immigration are not shared equally across the United Kingdom. Lots of people have moved to places such as Dudley in search of work and a better life, and they are making a contribution. However, immigration can clearly put pressure on public services such as housing, schools and the NHS. The answer, of course, is to build more housing, stop cutting the NHS and ensure that schools have the teachers and staff that they need in order to cope. That could be funded by the benefits of immigration in other parts of the country. We do not get many millionaire American bankers, German city traders or French hedge fund managers moving to the black country. I would like to see an immigration Bill that ensures that the benefits migration brings to some parts of Britain help to fund the extra housing, NHS staff and teachers necessary to reduce the pressures in communities like mine.
I support some measures in the Bill, but I can think of other measures that would address mainstream concerns about immigration while providing fair, reasonable and progressive ways of doing so. Let us focus our efforts on the unscrupulous employers and organised gangs that bring people to this country illegally. Let us strengthen our border force so that Britain can have confidence that the rules are being enforced, and let us ensure that the costs and benefits of immigration are shared across the country.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), who is the voice of reason in his party. It is also a pleasure to follow my hon. Friends the Members for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) and for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), as well as the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman), who gave one of his inimitable performances a few minutes ago. It is always a pleasure to hear what he has to say.
The Home Secretary made a candid and honest speech the other day. I do not believe that there is anything controversial in stating that every sovereign state should be the sole judge and arbiter of the level of immigration that can be sensibly absorbed and taken care of. The only way effectively to analyse this question is to examine the integration of the migrant communities into Britain and to look at their impact on essential services such as schools, housing and the NHS. Her conclusions were in line with the view expressed by the vast majority of people in this country—that the current levels of migration are totally unsustainable. That is why the UK must address the challenge of completely regaining control of its borders. That means carrying on the policy of strict controls on non-EU migration, but this must be in the national interest—I wish to say something about the nursing profession in a moment. It also must mean Britain looking again at the EU principle of the free movement of people across Europe. I feel that strongly. To my mind, it will be one of the red lines that will come up in the future referendum, and I say that as someone who wants to have reasons for voting to stay in Europe, if at all possible.
Does the hon. Gentleman also have a concern about the 700,000 to 1 million UK citizens who live in other EU countries? Is he suggesting that they should not be allowed to live there and should be forced to come back to the UK, where they clearly do not want to be?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman 100% on that. One must distinguish between the right to travel in the UK and people retiring, and people going to and working in any country they feel like and claiming benefits. This is a huge issue, but it is a debate we cannot have now, because you would call me to order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The Bill contains a number of important measures, and I agree with the Home Secretary that it builds on the coalition’s Immigration Act 2014. I welcome the approach of looking with a relentless focus at the mechanisms of the labour market. In the past, a constituency such as mine, with a large food and agriculture sector, has been plagued by the actions of illegal gangmasters—now licensed under the Gangmasters Licensing Authority—and the unscrupulous behaviour of some rogue employers and rogue landlords. That is why we need additional measures to deal with and clamp down on those residual practices taking place. My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point put it well when she pointed out that there is still some way to go, and we must have zero tolerance towards any malpractice.
In many ways, the Bill is a modest measure and many parts of it are long overdue. I particularly welcome the new powers that are going to be given to immigration officers and the powers that are going to be given to Border Force to target boats in British waters. I find it bizarre that hitherto Border Force has had no power to target boats in British waters that officers suspect of helping illegal migrants enter Britain, and I am glad that that is going to be changed.
As I said, I want briefly to say something about the nursing crisis in this country, not only because I have been in talks with my local hospital, but because I noticed that yesterday Jan Stevens, the chief nurse at London’s biggest NHS hospital trust, pointed out that there is likely to be a real problem in that trust and in other hospitals as a result of the cap being applied. She has estimated that it will affect up to nearly 3,700 nurses working in the UK and will deter others from coming here. She said:
“It would be catastrophic if we had to send all our international nurses home as a result of the cap.”
The Queen Elizabeth hospital in my constituency is excellent, but it faces a number of financial challenges, the biggest of which is the amount of money being spent on agency nurses—that figure is rising very rapidly. I know that the hospital, under the excellent leadership of Dorothy Hosein, the chief executive officer, and Edward Libbey, the chairman, has been making every effort to employ local nurses. They have held a number of events locally, including roadshows to try to attract people back into nursing, but after a great deal of effort they have secured the return of only one local nurse to the hospital. In the past, they have recruited a significant number of EU nurses from places such as Portugal and Spain, but I have to tell the House that this pool of talent is slowly diminishing and they now have to look further afield, to India and the Philippines, where there is a ready supply of nurses who speak very good English, who want to come here and who are properly qualified.
I entirely agree, but it is of no consolation to a hospital in Norfolk that needs to recruit 90 nurses over the next few months to avoid those penal payments to agencies. I agree that this is a matter that the NHS and the Ministers in the Department of Health must deal with. There is a long lead-in time; we cannot suddenly train nurses. There are many retired nurses whom we need to bring back into the profession, but many of them cannot come back, or do not want to come back.
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was at today’s Health questions, but the Minister proudly claimed that he had record numbers of nurses in training. In fact, there are four applicants for every nurse training place in Britain today, and we are training fewer nurses than we did in 2009.
I absolutely take on board what the right hon. Lady says. It is very important indeed that Ministers look urgently and with relentless energy at that problem. If they do not look at it or at the training and the supply of nurses, these problems will continue. In the meantime, I ask the Minister of State to look very carefully at what I have said and tell me exactly what the updated position is of the Migration Advisory Committee. I gather that it is looking at evidence being produced by a number of trusts around the country. If the problem is not addressed, hospitals such as the one in my constituency will be running up debts completely beyond their control.
We are living in an ever more troubled and turbulent world. I do not think that any of us could have been anything but moved by those pictures of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who was drowned along with 12 other Syrians. When I look at the tragedy going on in Syria, I fear that it will be replicated in other countries around the world such as in Yemen and Egypt. Sudan, too, is in a very vulnerable state. I support the vulnerable persons relocation scheme, but feel that it is essential that we target people in country, which is why I strongly favour the idea of safe havens, overseen by the UN and the EU. It makes far more sense to have safe havens in the south of Dimashq and in the al-Suwayda province along the Jordanian border. It is a turbulent world and we face many challenges, but this Bill is a small, but essential step in helping Britain to secure its borders.
I wish to concentrate my remarks on part 1 of the Bill.
Less than two years ago, in November 2013, the Home Secretary said that combating modern slavery was her top priority. It was an aim that won wide support on both sides of the House and it found expression in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, but this Bill risks undoing the progress made with that Act.
I am sure that the Government do not intend to undermine their own legislation so soon after it has become law, but all the evidence shows that the more vulnerable workers are, the stronger the hand of the gangmasters over them and the less likely they are to come forward and report their abusers. So what does this Bill do? It increases their vulnerability and strengthens the hand of the gangmasters. It does that by threatening exploited workers with 12 months in prison if they are deemed to have committed the offence of “illegal working” in clause 8.
Let us be in no doubt: many will think that they have committed that offence even if they have not. Some 78% of those the National Crime Agency says have been exploited for labour in the UK actually have the right to work here as European economic area nationals, but rights awareness among these workers is very low, and options are limited, which allows unscrupulous employers to hold the threat of removal, and now imprisonment, over them—even when it is not a real possibility.
The charity Focus on Labour Exploitation, which works directly with victims of trafficking and of which I am a trustee, has identified three drivers of labour exploitation: the feeling among migrant workers that they deserve less, or have fewer rights than UK citizens; the lack of checks on labour standards in the workplace, from health and safety to minimum wage enforcement; and a fear of officials, especially immigration officials.
On each of the three drivers, the Bill makes the situation worse. First, on the rights of migrant workers, it puts the focus on immigration status as a condition of asserting labour rights. On that note, it would be helpful to hear from the Minister why the definition of “worker” in the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 has not been used. The Bill criminalises the exploited worker who, whether they are committing the offence of illegal working or not, can be treated or threatened by a gangmaster as if they are.
Secondly, on labour market enforcement, it is deeply unfortunate that the review was published only today, meaning that we did not have the opportunity to consider it fully before the debate, and that the consultation will still close on 9 November, not giving adequate time for proper consideration of the proposals. From the quick look I have had at the Government’s proposals, I have found no evidence of the increased resources or powers that are clearly needed for the director of labour market enforcement. Last year, the Migration Advisory Committee powerfully found that
“on average, a firm can expect a visit from HMRC inspectors once in every 250 years and expect to be prosecuted once in a million years.”
Let us be clear that those of us who were calling for an extension of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority’s remit during the debate on the Modern Slavery Bill meant a genuine extension, building on the good work in the sectors where it already operates, and not the pick-and-mix approach with no additional resources suggested by the Bill and the consultation.
The third driver of labour exploitation is the overlap between labour market enforcement and immigration enforcement, which is at the heart of the Bill. The very decision to include labour in market enforcement measures in an Immigration Bill is hugely counter-productive, and the mistrust of immigration officials exists regardless of migrant status. The consequence will be that labour exploitation is not rooted out and that it will continue, contrary to all the wishes of this Government, to be a pull factor for migration.
In May, the Prime Minister set out the need for what he described as the labour market enforcement agency, of which the post of director suggested in the Bill falls far short. He set out that ambition to prevent exploitation and to stop migrants undercutting British workers.
There is one further area of what we might call “legacy work” from the Modern Slavery Act, which is the position of overseas domestic workers. That was being reviewed by James Ewins, but we have heard nothing about it. Does the hon. Gentleman share my hope that we will hear something about that review during the Bill’s passage?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, as he puts his finger on one of the crucial issues in the 2015 Act about which many of us have reservations and which needs to be addressed. That is exactly the point that I am making: unless we give migrants the confidence to come forward and whistleblow on exploitation we will weaken the position and strengthen the hands of the gangmasters. Sadly, the Bill as it stands will fail to meet the Prime Minister’s aspiration to prevent exploitation and to stop migrants undercutting British workers. I genuinely hope that the Minister, for whom I have high regard, will take on board the comments of those of us who worked constructively with the Government during the passage of the Modern Slavery Bill so that we do not undo its legacy.
I am pleased to support the Bill, which will, I know, enjoy the support of many of the residents I represent across Pendle for the range of important measures it introduces and for those that it strengthens. There is, of course, deep concern that our migration system needs to be much better controlled in general and, perhaps above all, there is concern that politicians have failed to get to grips with the scale of net migration. That came across loud and clear on the doorstep during the election campaign, as has been said by many hon. Members.
Therefore I welcome the Bill as part of the Government’s ongoing work to restore trust in politics and to improve our immigration system for those who need it to work, both British residents and migrants alike. Not least, there is a concern about the harm that some migrants suffer when they arrive in Britain, only to be introduced to a life of exploitation and abuse. I wish to focus particularly on the Government’s proposals to tackle labour market abuses and illegal working—issues which, sadly, we have had to deal with in Pendle and across east Lancashire.
On 11 September—last month—one of Britain’s first interim slavery and trafficking risk orders was successfully applied for by Lancashire police and served on a man from Nelson in my constituency because of his alleged treatment of two migrants from Poland, whom he stands accused of exploiting and forcing into servitude. The case is to be heard in court next month so it may be best for me not to comment further until we know its outcome. However, I am encouraged that our police now have these powers given to them through the previous Government’s historic Modern Slavery Act 2015 to protect those at risk from modern slavery, very many of whom will be migrants forced to work or live in appalling conditions for appalling pay, if they are even paid at all. The Bill will help us to tackle such issues further.
Many in Pendle will be surprised to learn that under the current rules there is little to prevent a business found to have used illegal workers from carrying on its business. Some employers will continue to operate their business, and there is a risk that they may still use illegal workers, possibly not detected by immigration officers as they were not present at the premises at the time of the visit. The new powers for immigration officers to close down premises for up to two days, like the closure notices served on premises associated with nuisance or disorder, may often not be appropriate, especially if an employer is co-operating with officials or where it could affect a large number of staff who were working legally. However, these additional powers send the right message and could be useful in disrupting businesses that rely on exploiting illegal workers. Alongside making it easier to bring prosecutions against those who knowingly employ an illegal worker, this puts the responsibility on unscrupulous business owners and employers—exactly where it should be.
I welcome the proposal for a director of labour market enforcement. In 2013 I asked the then Immigration Minister, my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, to set out how many illegal working enforcement visits there had been on a yearly basis across the north-west of England. The answer showed that these visits fluctuate year by year, with hundreds more in one year than in the next. This feast-to-famine approach cannot be the best available, and reports of illegal working in the area I represent are, if anything, increasing steadily. It is therefore reassuring to know that there will be a central point for co-ordination of information and resources if we have the director. Illegal working does not come and go from year to year, so the efforts to keep on top of the problem should not do so either if we are to prevent illegal working and, most importantly, protect migrant workers from exploitation.
I am aware of the criticism that this role will not go as far as a fair employment commission would go, which has been proposed elsewhere. I hope the Minister can address how far the director’s remit should extend and whether it ought also to include local authorities with statutory responsibilities to enforce health and safety legislation and the Health and Safety Executive—a point that has been made by the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and a number of other groups.
The Bill builds on the reforms we have made to the Immigration Act 2014 to tackle illegal immigration from the bottom up. Both across the globe and here in the UK, we see that migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to labour market exploitation, and many find themselves living and working in dangerous and degrading conditions.
The hon. Gentleman made it clear that he will support the Bill. I have listened carefully to his speech and I am pleased that prosecutions are being brought in the circumstances that he outlined. However, some of us are very disturbed that the increased powers to be given to immigration officers under the Bill include the power to strip search for nationality documents. How can he and those who share the Government Benches with him defend that?
I think that the measures outlined in the Bill represent an important step forward. A series of measures have been introduced under this Government, as the Home Secretary set out today. The Bill takes us a step further in the right direction. The people who pay the highest cost and who are the most vulnerable and exploited are the migrants themselves—it is the gangmasters and criminals who are making the money and profiteering —so we must have them at the centre of everything we do. I feel—the hon. Lady might disagree—that the Government’s approach is right. The Bill helps to fulfil the Conservative party’s manifesto commitment to introduce tougher labour market regulations to tackle illegal working and exploitation.
I conclude by briefly paying tribute to Lancashire police for the excellent work they are doing to protect people from the sort of criminal activity I have been talking about. The team is gearing up for its human trafficking week of action later this month, and it is also holding an anti-slavery day over the weekend. Lancashire police are working with immigration agencies to educate businesses that might be linked to illegal employment and to enforce the current rules. I strongly welcome the work of our dedicated police officers and immigration officials. I welcome just as strongly the tough measures contained in the Bill, which are necessary to ensure that vulnerable people in Pendle are protected from exploitation and that those who make use of illegal workers feel the full force of the law.
I think that it is universally accepted that the British people want properly controlled immigration. Their objection is to unfair and uncontrolled immigration. This Bill has been dressed up as a powerful response to that demand for effective immigration control, but it is in fact the opposite; it is a sign that the Home Office has given up on doing its job.
Instead of fixing that which is broken—the ports of entry that passengers go through without seeing an immigration officer; the practice, when police officers intercept people who have been smuggled in lorries, of sending them on their way and asking them kindly to present themselves at the Home Office in Croydon; and even appeals where, having refused an application, the Home Office fails to send a representative to defend the decision—the Home Office has instead allowed terrible delays in listing appeals, resulting in people who have no valid claim to remain here staying longer and putting down roots so that they become more difficult to remove.
The Home Office has rejected calls to extend the role and remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority so that practical action can be taken to prevent labour exploitation in sectors where we know it exists, such as the hotel trade and construction. Instead, it is delegating the problem to us—to ordinary people and not just employers, who rightly should check the immigration status of people who apply to work for them, in order to protect themselves and their customers. Those employers regularly complain to me that the information on the advice line is at best confusing, and at worst wrong.
We are told that there will be an advice line for some of the new groups who will have to check someone’s immigration status. Banks already have some experience, but landlords will now be expected to refer to an advice line in order to spy on the immigration status of their tenants. In effect, the Bill is setting us all up as snoopers on other people’s immigration status. We know that that is ineffective. Of 75,000 allegations to the Home Office in 2013, there were 4,000 arrests and only 1,000 removals. Even privatised Capita, when given 120,000 records of overstayers, managed to persuade only 1,000 to leave.
I have been advising people about immigration status for over 35 years, but I still need to check with up-to-date experts about what some of my constituents’ entitlements are. The Home Office is not providing the tools that would allow citizens to be sure of the status of someone who might seek services from them. The result is unsurprising, and it is confirmed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants report on west midlands landlords: people will just stop taking the risk.
Britain, having been a tolerant and welcoming society in which iconic British successes have often been created by refugees and migrants—businesses such as Marks & Spencer and inventions such as the Mini, which was designed here by an Italian—will become a place where people with foreign names and accents face a kind of pass law system in which, in order to play a full part in society, they have to keep proving their status and the fact that they have rights. The MPs who opposed the national ID card system did so on the basis that it was an infringement of civil liberties. The consequence of failing to introduce such a system is that all of us will have to make these checks, and minorities will bear the brunt of infringements of their civil liberties.
I do not know when the hon. Lady last rented a property or opened a bank account, but when doing so, as British citizens, we are all required to provide information, be it a passport, a utility bill, proof of address or a driving licence, and so on. Surely it is just common sense that when landlords are letting a property these safeguards and checks should be made. They are made on the rest of us, as things stand now.
The point is that if someone has a full British passport, it is very easy to say that they are entitled. The Residential Landlords Association predicts, rightly in my view, that the consequence of this measure will be that people who do not have a British passport, even those who are British—we should remember that some 12 million people in Britain do not carry a passport—will find themselves discriminated against because the landlord thinks that the situation is difficult.
We need to make sure that the only landlords prosecuted are those to whom Ministers have referred, who are sometimes complicit in illegal migration and the exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers. Can the Minister point to a provision saying that only people like the pimps who are exploiting trafficked workers in brothels will be prosecuted but innocent landlords who make a mistake and do not understand the documents will not? I do not believe that this Bill is going to help these women. The clause 8 offence of illegal working will apply to them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) clearly explained. Will the Minister give specific details about what action he will take to make sure that victims who are coerced by others to work are not criminalised by the offence? Will they have a statutory defence under the Bill? We know that the results of the assessment of landlords experiment will not be available until after this debate, but has he conducted an assessment of the impact of these measures on victims of modern slavery?
This Bill is horribly un-British. It gives immigration officers extreme powers without submitting them to abiding by protections like the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—protections that police officers have to abide by. It forces people to appeal from overseas, and by doing so ignores the rights of children who will be separated from their parents. The Children’s Commissioner has said that the current arrangements already fail to meet our obligations on children’s rights.
Overseas appeals will not deal with cases such as the one in my constituency of a husband whose documents showed that he lived in Slough while his wife lived in Bradford, so the Home Office said, “This is a marriage of convenience.” In fact, Slough was the only place he could get work, so he was coming down there to work from Monday to Friday and then returning to his family at the weekend. Without an oral hearing, he would not have been able to win his case. He did win it, and the immigration judge praised him for working so hard to support his family. This Bill is going to lead to un-British injustice, and we should reject it.
I am delighted to speak in full support of what the Government are doing to tackle the problem of illegal immigration, and to put on record my support for every single word of the speech that the Home Secretary made at the recent Conservative party conference. The Government are absolutely right to be doing this. Nobody has any problem with legal migration into Britain; no Conservative Member has suggested that there is a problem with it. Speaking for myself, I am married to somebody who migrated into this country from eastern Europe. My children are bilingual and have dual nationality. My sister-in-law is Chinese. Davies family Christmas get-togethers can be like the United Nations.
This is not about racism or xenophobia at all. Conservative Members are concerned that migration needs to be managed in a careful fashion, and to be legal and controlled. Illegal mass migration is causing all sorts of problems, not just for the UK, but for many of those who have been illegally brought into this country.
Pressure is being put on housing and it is important that we take action against rogue landlords. I remember going out with the police in a part of London—I think it was Ealing, but it may have been elsewhere—and they openly said, “Look at all these sheds that have been converted into accommodation. It’s all for people who have come over here illegally.” It is such a widespread problem that very little is being done about it.
We do not know that, do we? But we will no doubt be able to find out because we are giving people the powers to check.
There is pressure on schools when pupils cannot speak English. There is a cost for translators and the issue also causes problems for the health service. It undermines wages and creates wider public concerns.
I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman say that his children are bilingual. English-language courses are, of course, free. Given that the Welsh language has equal status under the Welsh Language Act 1993, does he agree that the Government should ensure that Welsh-language courses should also be free?
Diolch am hynny—thanks for that—but the hon. Lady is tempting me down another path. I would love to come back to this matter on another occasion, because a lot of money is wasted on translating documents that nobody would ever read into Welsh and not quite enough money is spent on supporting people who want to learn the Welsh language, but that is more a matter for the Welsh Assembly than for us.
I think there is wider public concern about illegal immigration. That concern is too often dismissed as narrow-minded racism when that is not the case. It is reasonable for people who live in established communities to get nervous when they suddenly find that English—or, indeed, in some parts of north Wales, Welsh—is no longer the language they hear on the streets from day to day. In some of the larger cities, people become nervous when they see cultural changes that they cannot go along with, such as women wearing burkas and trailing 6 feet behind their husbands, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. It is no good dismissing those concerns as racism—they are not. I think we are a very tolerant bunch of people in Britain, but all of us, no matter our origins, have a right to assume that anyone who chooses to come to this country really ought not only to respect the language of their chosen country and to learn it as best as they possibly can, but to fit in with that country’s culture and values rather than expect to be able to impose their own cultural values.
I recently visited the “jungle” in Calais, to find out for myself what was going on and to talk to some of the people trying to make the illegal crossing. I have nothing against any of them personally—what they are doing is perfectly understandable—but the Government recognise that they have a responsibility to tackle the problem.
A lot of what I saw is unlikely to be shown on the next episode of “Songs of Praise” when it goes there. Only a small minority of people in the “jungle” actually came from Syria. The vast majority, as far as I could tell, came from elsewhere, including Iraq, Pakistan and even Iran, which is one of the more stable countries in the middle east. I have no doubt that some of them were fleeing instability and war, but Britain will never, ever be able to cope with the number of people who live in countries that have a measure of instability. They include most of sub-Saharan Africa, virtually all of the middle east and a large chunk of Asia to boot. We simply will not be able to cope with the vast number of people who could legitimately claim that they come from a country where there is a certain amount of instability.
Another issue I had was that the vast majority of these people were young men. If they were all genuine refugees fleeing war, where were their wives and children? Why had they left them behind to face whatever it was they claimed to be facing? Others there were perfectly honest. One gentleman from Pakistan told me openly, “I am going to Britain because it is easier to work there and get cash in hand,” and he made a gesture to show what he meant. That is why the Government are right to tackle the problem.
I was concerned that people were living in all sorts of different areas in the “jungle” in Calais: the Iraqis were in one area, the Pakistanis in another and other people somewhere else. I was told by residents of the camp that the reason for that was that it is a very dangerous place after dark and that there is a lot of tension that sometimes results in violence. With the best will in the world, if we try to do what Germany is doing and allow hundreds of thousands of people to come into this country from widely different cultures—including, perhaps, cultures that have been at war with each other—that will cause a major law and order problem. The Germans have already found that there have been outbreaks of violence between Turkish and Kurdish people. We therefore need to be honest about the problems that we face.
We must remember that many of the migrants are making the dangerous journey because they are under the impression that, once they make it into Europe, they will be allowed to stay and nobody can chuck them out. As well as causing problems for other people, they are risking their own lives. Some figures suggest that at least 1% of them die on that illegal journey. They often pay money over to human traffickers. One man told me on film—I have put it on YouTube—that he paid €18,000 to human traffickers to get him as far as Calais. Criminal gangs are making vast sums out of people’s misery and exploitation.
The Government are absolutely right to do something about the problem. I am glad that some of the issues are recognised by Labour Members, although I am sorry that they are not willing to show their support for tougher migration controls in the Lobby tonight. I reassure the Government that not only will the vast majority of, if not all, Conservatives support them, but the vast majority of people in the wider world who vote for all sorts of different parties will also support what they are trying to do.
I will be brief, as time does not permit otherwise, but I want to make three points.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) made the first point very eloquently and clearly. Although I welcome the strengthening of sanctions for employers who employ illegal workers, often in abusive circumstances, I have an issue with the new offence of illegal working as applied to employees. The new offence will serve to criminalise workers for the smallest wrongdoings, while making it harder for bosses who exploit their workforce to be caught and brought to justice. Indeed, as the TUC has pointed out, undocumented migrants are unlikely to report bosses who have exploited them, particularly when they know that they could end up in court themselves.
Rather than helping workers, the Bill means that bad employers could threaten to report undocumented workers if they complain about their terms and conditions. Instead, the Bill needs to provide undocumented migrants with employment rights, which would be separate from their immigration status, so that they can be treated equally. Nothing is gained by forcing already harassed individuals further underground.
Secondly, the measures will restrict irregular migrants’ access to residential tenancies. During the passage of the previous Immigration Bill in 2014, the Government made numerous assurances about the pilot scheme in the west midlands. They stated that it would be fully evaluated and that any lessons learned would be applied before decisions were made about a wider roll-out. However, it now seems that the Government have backtracked on that promise. Essentially, they have denied the House the opportunity of a full and transparent evaluation of the pilot.
Nevertheless, as hon. Members have mentioned, research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants shows that the workings of the scheme are extremely disturbing. Its research shows that the policy resulted in many cases of racial discrimination, including against many BME tenants who have every right to rent in the UK. The evidence also shows that landlords are prepared to discriminate against those with a complex immigration status. Indeed, many landlords have found the whole thing fairly baffling and have undertaken the checks incorrectly. Because of the scheme, landlords in the west midlands have even charged ridiculous amounts for the checks or have raised rents as a precaution.
As if that was not bad enough, the policy seems to have failed in its stated objective of deterring irregular migrants from settling in the UK. Given that evidence, we have to ask why the Government are so determined to railroad the Bill through. I believe that until any study shows otherwise, we should be scrapping these measures, rather than rolling them out nationally. I am sure that the Minister will agree with me that any measure increasing racial discrimination should be opposed.
The third issue, which perhaps causes me the gravest concern, is the failure of the Bill to address immigration detention. The unashamed use of limitless detention by the Home Office for, as Liberty has put it, “administrative convenience” is one of the greatest stains on this country’s human rights record. Many victims of torture or sexual violence are placed in captivity for undetermined lengths of time. It is a bureaucratic nightmare from which there are inadequate avenues of escape.
The Bill was an opportunity to deal with that matter, but, as in so many areas, it fails to address the most fundamental issues. I sincerely hope that the Government will address the issues that I have raised. I urge them to table amendments to do so in Committee.
Finally, I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that he will make Islamophobia a specific crime that will be reported alongside similar crimes relating to religion. I am sure that hon. Members across the House will join me in welcoming that important step forward.
The subject of immigration has created much thought and emotion in my constituency over a long period, whether it relates to EU or non-EU immigration, illegal immigration or refugees and asylum seekers. Often when the subject is discussed, those categories are not separated.
Over recent months, we have seen heart-rending images of people migrating across the Mediterranean and across Europe, risking their lives to flee conflict and conditions that in no way resemble those that we are privileged to have in the UK. The Bill focuses predominantly on illegal immigration and should not be confused with the action that is being taken to deal with the refugee situation across Europe.
There has been a significant increase in net migration to the UK. It is true that immigration has made a positive contribution to our country. We all recognise the benefits that it can bring. However, it is right that the Bill seeks to crack down on illegal immigration and to deter people who do not have a legal right to live in this country from staying in the UK or making their way here without going through the correct procedures to obtain entry.
My hon. Friends the Members for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) and for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) have spoken about the Calais camps. Last week, my hon. Friends the Members for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) and for Gravesham (Mr Holloway) and I visited the illegal camp in Calais with the Bishop of Dover. I wanted to see the conditions for myself and to see what was actually happening in Calais. I also wanted to speak to some of the thousands of young men, who were predominantly from Afghanistan or Eritrea, to find out how long they had been there, how they had got there, why they had left their home countries and why they wanted to come to the UK. While speaking to the inhabitants of the camp, it became incredibly clear that they were making their way to the UK because they had a perception that things would be better for them. Although some were registering with the authorities in France, many were not. Some articulated a belief that there were many more opportunities in the UK, and that it would be easy to obtain illegal work here. The camp is currently estimated to be housing between 5,000 and 6,000 people, and it is suggested that around 100 people a day arrive from across France.
The Bill builds on attempts to tackle illegal working by migrants, as well as individuals who seek to exploit and profit from vulnerable migrant workers. It will introduce tougher enforcement, and make it easier to prosecute employers who ignore the law. It will provide a deterrent to those who wish to stay here when they have no legal right to remain, and it will also deter those who wish to make the journey to the UK with the intention of working here illegally.
In my constituency this summer unbelievable images of a transaction of people were witnessed and filmed by one of my constituents. The event clearly appeared to be part of organised criminal activity, and we witnessed at first hand the exploitation of some of these vulnerable people. I welcome the measures in the Bill. It is right that individuals who have followed the correct procedures to apply for asylum in the UK are supported, but it is also right that asylum seekers who have been refused and have exhausted all rights of appeal should not then be supported by the British taxpayer.
Over recent months the county of Kent has seen a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied minors who have presented themselves. That has put immense pressure on the resources and services of local authorities. I know that local authorities will be nervous about the potential impact of these measures, and of increased pressures that they may place on the county’s resources and those of the south-east as a whole.
I wish to support the Bill because I believe that it goes some way towards tackling the attractiveness of the UK as a place to come to work and live in illegally. It also spells out clearly that individuals who intend to exploit or profit from migrants will be dealt with by these provisions.
I hope the House will indulge me if I display a small measure of weariness in my remarks on this Bill. Since I was first elected in 2001, this is the seventh Immigration Bill to come before the House, or the eighth if we include the UK Borders Act 2007. When the answer has not been found in legislation or regulation, successive Governments have sought to tackle the challenges of immigration through reorganisation.
When I was first elected, entry at British ports and airports was regulated through Customs and Excise. In my constituency three customs officers were stationed in Shetland, but I was told at the time that we did not need officers on the ground because there was nothing for them to do. I now watch with wry amusement as the UK Border Force regularly flies its officers into my constituency to deal with the welcome increase in cruise traffic over the summer months—work that could have been done by our local customs officers if we still had them.
In the early days matters of nationality and immigration were dealt with by the Home Office through the then Immigration and Nationality Directorate. Customs and Excise was split to create the UK Border Agency, but that ran into some difficulty—I will not revisit that grief here—and it was eventually split into the UK Border Agency and the UK Border Force. We now have the further split of the UK Visas and Immigration which is dealing with this issue.
We have had seven, possibly eight Bills, and 45 changes to the immigration rules during the current Home Secretary’s time in office. As a constituency Member, I look at the cases that present themselves in my constituency surgeries. I am afraid I see a situation where the quality of service provided, to us as taxpayers and to those who want to come here legitimately, gets worse and worse. The quality of initial decision-making by entry clearance officers is rivalled possibly only by work capability assessments in terms of their vulnerability to attack on appeal. The length of time it takes for decisions to be made and the number of cases that have to go to tribunals to receive proper consideration seems only to increase. This brought us to the point where, two years ago, it was the Home Secretary herself who identified
“a vicious cycle of complex law and poor enforcements of its own policies”—[Official Report, 26 March 2013; Vol. 560, c. 1501.]
as being the cause of the poor performance of the UK Borders Agency.
Immigration is a complex and delicate area of public policy. It behoves us all to approach it with a measure of humility and to recognise that nobody has a monopoly on wisdom. I strongly suspect that if the answer to the challenge of immigration lay in legislation and regulation, we would have met that challenge years ago. I am certain that it will not be met by leading that debate—those of us in the House must lead that debate—through the promotion of anecdote and prejudice over evidence. In that regard, I deeply regretted both the tone and the content of the Home Secretary’s recent speech to the Conservative party conference.
Simply put, the Immigration Bill is not fit for purpose. The refugee crisis is showing no sign of slowing down and not one of the Bill’s 56 clauses looks at finding a solution or easing the pressure on Europe’s borders. For that reason, my right hon. and hon. Friends will oppose it. More than that, the Bill’s starting point is, as the Home Secretary said in her pitch for the leadership at the Tory party conference, that the benefits of immigration are close to zero. That is wrong. Yes, we need to control immigration and to ensure that our public services can cope with growth, but we must never lose sight of the fact that without immigration our NHS would grind to a halt, our economy would falter and we would be far poorer culturally. The Home Secretary has decided it is better to crack down on appeals rather than to get the decision right the first time, to turn landlords into immigration officers rather than to accelerate the introduction of exit checks, and to make failed asylum seekers destitute rather than to support them to get back home.
Time does not permit me to run over the full range of concerns I have about giving the Bill a Second Reading, but I do just want to touch very briefly on one: the continued failure, as the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) highlighted, to deal with immigration detention. There is no other area where we, as a state, deprive members of the public of their liberty without proper judicial supervision and without limit of time. It is outrageous that no action has been taken on that. That is one of the few reasons why it would be timely to have a Bill of this sort. We are awaiting the outcome of the Shaw review. I would like to hear from the Minister in his reply whether that review will be able to inform the House’s consideration of the Bill as it progresses.
I was very keen to speak in support of the Bill, because I feel it recognises the deep concern the public have over immigration and, most importantly, it sends the message both home and abroad that illegal migrants are not welcome in the UK. If they do come, they will have great difficulty in finding somewhere to live and great difficulty in finding somewhere to work.
Despite those concerns, most people see the benefits of good migration. We need good migration, not mass migration. Good migration is good for the economy, our society and local communities. We need skilled workers and diversity enriches us, but not all immigration is good immigration. It can put a strain on schools, hospitals, dental and doctors’ surgeries and housing, and it can depress wages, particularly for those struggling on lower incomes. It can, of course, also see those migrants exploited. Net immigration, at 330,000, is too high and puts too much pressure on those services.
Over the next 20 years, the UK’s population is due to grow from 65 million to 75 million. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) pointed out that the situation in other EU countries, such as Germany, is entirely different. The populations of those countries are either falling or stable. The UK is a victim of its own success. I welcome the Government’s effort to lower immigration from outside the EU, but those gains have been wiped out by migration from within the EU. I also welcome the Bill because it clamps down on illegal working and illegal residency.
Good migration is good for our economy. We must not deter good people, who are much needed for our high-tech industries, hospitals and hospitality industries, or the students who pay their way and come to our world-leading universities. I welcome, however, the Government action to close 900 bogus colleges since 2010. Business is worried about the changes to students’ access to the UK, but it will adapt given time.
The right to rent is a concern, and I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—estate agency, the ideal preparation for a career in politics. Agents and landlords might be hit by disproportionate sanctions, including up to five years in jail. These are complex procedures. The EU has approved up to 400 different documents as demonstrating a right to residency. We have to support and simplify procedures, or it will effectively lead to discrimination.
As I said, immigration is good for society. We get a fusion of races and cultures living, learning and working together, but I have seen at first hand the effects of unchecked immigration in some of our towns and cities across east Lancashire and west Yorkshire, where communities are divided and people live, learn and work in separate areas. There has been too much immigration and a lack of thought and planning. We must clamp down on illegal immigration, and I welcome the initiative on public sector workers being able to speak fluent English.
In conclusion, we must ensure that our migration is good migration and send out the message that we will not tolerate illegal migration. Employers, agents, our banks and landlords all have their part to play, but the Government must support their efforts with good advice and appropriate resources. The Bill will give us more control and get us back to a sensible and sustainable immigration policy. I will absolutely be supporting it this evening.
I declare an interest: like many other hon. Members, my mother is an immigrant, and one who, like many other immigrants in the UK, has given a lifetime’s service in the NHS.
It is as a lawyer I wish to speak in this debate, however, because I am concerned about the Bill’s attack on civil liberties, the removal of in-country appeals in human rights cases, the Bill’s lack of respect for the rule of law and due process and the shift from judicial to Executive control of the immigration bail system. The independent all-party law reform and human rights organisation Justice, of which I am a member, has prepared a detailed analysis of aspects of the Bill pertaining to the rule of law. I recommend that Members have a look at its full analysis of these matters. Justice has grave concerns about the legal aspects of the Bill, as does the SNP.
I wish to focus on three specific areas: the extension of the enforcement powers of immigration officers; the new immigration bail system; and the extension of the “deport first, appeal later” rules to all human rights appeals. As has already been said, the powers of immigration officers are significantly extended by the Bill. This concerns me for a number of reasons. Immigration officers and detainee custody officers, prison officers and prison custody officers are not part of the regular police force, and they are not trained to the same degree or supervised in the same way. The power granted to immigration officers to enter and search premises without a search warrant solely because they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person in a premises is in possession of a driving licence and is not lawfully resident in the UK is a significant and arguably disproportionate extension of their current powers. Given concerns about the ability of the Home Office accurately to identify who is and is not lawfully resident in the UK, there are obvious risks for both British citizens and legal migrants, as well as illegal migrants, that their rights to respect for their private and family life and indeed their home under article 8 of European convention on human rights will be breached.
Another matter that concerns me is the broadly defined category of documents that immigration officers and other officers are empowered to search. While the power of immigration officers to search and seize these documents has the safeguard that they must not seize documents that they have reason to believe are legally privileged, there is no such safeguard in connection with searches by detainee custody officers, prison officers and prison custody officers when they are looking for relevant nationality documents subject to seizure. That is a grave concern. I believe that before these powers are conferred en masse, the Government need to examine how existing powers are being used and should make the case before Parliament for each additional power that is being sought.
On the bail system, individuals previously granted temporary admission, release or release under restrictions will all be subject to immigration bail. The Secretary of State will be empowered to vary conditions. The Bill will bring many more people within the immigration bail regime, while simultaneously shifting control of bail and restrictions on liberty from the judiciary to the Executive. That will include a far-reaching power for the Home Secretary to place electronic monitoring and residence conditions on bail in all cases. A large number of asylum seekers previously granted temporary admission will now be seen exclusively through a prism of detention and bail, casting aspersions of illegitimacy and even criminality. Those affected are real people. I have constituents in Edinburgh South West who are asylum seekers. They are not criminals who should be subject to bail: they are refugees.
That brings me to the extension of the “deport first, appeal later” rule to all human rights appeals, not just those liable to deportation. It is important to be clear that this rule is being extended not just to illegal immigrants, but to all immigrants, including those who have been lawfully resident up until the Home Office rightly or wrongly refuses their applications. The appeals fact sheet issued by the Home Office makes it absolutely clear that this power will be used to separate families, including parents, from children. That cannot be right. Moreover, if people are “sent back to where they came from”—an emotive phrase—before they can raise their appeal, there will be very real practical and emotional difficulties for them in pursuing that appeal. Again, I urge hon. Members to look at Justice’s detailed analysis of the practical and emotional difficulties that immigrants sent back to where they came from will face in progressing their appeal.
I am conscious of the lack of time I have left. I was anxious to highlight the rule of law aspects of the Bill. For the reasons I have suggested and for other reasons to be advanced by my hon. Friends in the Scottish National party as the debate progresses, I urge Members to decline to give this Bill a Second Reading.
I am pleased to speak about this important Bill, and I look forward to taking a full and active part in scrutinising it as it continues its passage through Parliament. It is fair to say that the Bill has created much debate in all corners of British public life. From non-governmental organisations to the media, we have seen some excellent and incisive analysis of it, albeit some rather less so.
I have received—as, I am sure, have all Members—much correspondence from my constituents about the issue of immigration, and I shall draw on some of it later. I am very proud of the people whom I represent in Gower, given their good judgment and their scrutiny of the Bill, and I am pleased that constituents are playing such an active role in the legislative function of Parliament. It must be borne in mind that the British people voted for the Conservative manifesto and want to see it implemented.
I want to touch on a number of aspects of the Bill. Britain is, of course, an attractive place for migrants to live in. We have a diverse society, and that is nowhere more evident than here in London. However, while it is easy to list the virtues of living in Britain, it has been forgotten in some quarters during today’s debate that many migrant workers come to this country to face horrendous exploitation. They find themselves working and living in degrading conditions that are not fit for any human, and regrettably, as we have seen recently, Wales, which includes my constituency, is not exempt from that.
The exploitation of migrants is becoming an increasingly organised criminal activity, which I witnessed and worked to combat when I was a National Crime Squad police officer, and I commend the Government for their actions to curb that activity. I fully support the measures in part 1 to establish a director of labour market enforcement, who would be required to produce a labour market enforcement strategy and report annually to the Home Secretary and the Business Secretary.
Our manifesto committed us to introducing tougher market regulation, and we must support that. Not one single human life should be put through the ordeal and the conditions that we see and hear of all too often. We, as a Parliament, must make clear that that is simply not acceptable and will not be allowed to go unchallenged. I am pleased that the criminal sanction in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 is to be amended to make it easier to bring prosecutions against individuals who knowingly employ illegal workers when the individual has been indirectly involved in the offence. We must put those protections in place and I applaud the Government for introducing them.
Part 2, “Access to services”, creates four new offences to target rogue landlords and agents who deliberately and repeatedly fail to comply with the right to rent scheme, or fail to evict individuals who they know, or have reasonable cause to believe, are disqualified from renting as a result of their immigration status. That is an important point and it leads us to a wider point relating to the issue of immigration in our society. There is no doubt that that topic has caused schisms in parts of British society, and the debate has raged for years between those who, in some cases, hold widely differing views. What has become clear, however, is that the British people want the Government to act to reduce net migration.
As a Conservative, I should add that it cannot be just the Government who take action. It is also up to individuals, whether landlords or businesses, to act to curb illegal immigration. Although it is, of course, the Government’s place to set the legislative framework, we must also put some onus on rogue landlords and agents who abuse the system. This is not about penalising legitimate businesses or landlords; quite the opposite. It is about helping legitimate landlords if they need help, and about stopping those who abuse the system for their own ends.
I commend the Government’s decision to give police and immigration officers new powers to search for and seize UK driving licences which are in the possession of a person who is not lawfully resident in the UK. The Bill also introduces a new criminal offence of driving in the UK while an illegal immigrant, while courts will have the power to order the forfeiture of the vehicle. However, I find myself agreeing with a point made earlier by the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) about immigration officers respecting the values of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
For 13 years, the Labour Government allowed unchecked and unchallenged immigration. They spoke of acting, but did not give the police or immigration officers the powers to do their job. It was all well and good for that Labour Government to pay lip service to solving the problems with grand but empty gestures and the famous soundbites of new Labour, but there was no action to back up the rhetoric. I am pleased that this Government have taken action and have provided the tools that services need to do the job that is being asked of them.
I want to raise an issue that has concerned some of my constituents. They fear that children will suffer from the withdrawal of financial support from their parents, which could leave them homeless and suffering severe hardship. I am sure that the Minister, who has worked through the Bill extremely diligently, will have tried to ensure that any adverse effect on children will be mitigated. Therefore, I ask him to provide some assurances that this is the case, as a child’s future can be critically affected in their early years and morally we must do everything we can to protect them and give them every chance to lead a full and happy life.
I thank the Minister and his team for their hard work on the Bill. I will be supporting the Government as they take these vital steps on immigration reform.
I will not take my full six minutes. I merely want to touch on two separate components of this Bill: the proposed employment levy on immigrant workers, and the availability of bank accounts and driving licences for failed immigration applicants.
I fear this Bill, and these particular sections, will only fuel the misconceptions that surround immigration. They risk tarring every immigrant with the same ill-informed brush. Worse still, they risk disfranchising many UK citizens, purely on the basis that they may have a foreign- sounding name, a bank account and, heaven forbid, a driving licence and a car. This, of course, may not be the intention of the Bill—I hope it is not—but it is the unintended consequences which concern me, and we in this place should be alive to them.
This Bill creates powers to impose an immigration skills charge on employers for skilled workers they sponsor from outside the EU. I would prefer to call it the “immigrant tax” to be paid by small and medium-sized enterprises, a potentially devastating combination. This provision will deter employers from employing people from outside the EU. We will see genuinely skilled migrants, many of whom might even have a world-class education from one of our universities in the UK or Scotland, slip through our fingers. The message it sends out is clear: immigrants are considered different, more expensive—unwanted. It flies in the face of substantial empirical and personal evidence which outlines the greatly positive fiscal and social contribution immigrants have made to the UK—it is not, as the Home Secretary said at the weekend, close to zero.
I fear we would not have an NHS had this policy been implemented a generation ago. What will the next generation look like? This is unacceptable at a time when the country as a whole should be tasked with innovating and expanding its ambitions. We can only do this if we welcome thinkers and innovators from outside our shores, as well as supporting those inside them.
Earlier this year, I, along with a Conservative Member who is in the Chamber, visited Pakistan and we heard a number of people complain about the visa arrangements and how that was holding back opportunities for students from Pakistan to study in Scotland and across the UK. Does my hon. Friend agree that this part of the policy is very dangerous?
I think it is incredibly dangerous and one of the things that has struck me since I became an MP, with the many constituents who come to my surgeries, is the mess the immigration system is in. Things take too long, decisions are often bad, and in my experience it is vulnerable people who are trying to better their lives who are paying the consequences for this, which I find completely unacceptable.
On the point about the delegation to Pakistan, of course people in Pakistan and here in the UK want a fairer system of immigration. We have to ensure the rules are fair so that genuine students can come and study, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that what we saw previously, with 600 bogus colleges, and people coming here when they should not have and when they did not want to be students, was wrong? The system we are putting in place will address that, so that genuine students from Pakistan can come here and study.
Forgive me for being cynical, but the number given earlier in the debate was 900 and now it is 600. That underlines the fact that there is misinformation; there is no evidence base for this Bill. There is no evidence base for the assertion of 900 or 600. What is the right figure? We need to know the facts.
The opportunities for prejudice and discrimination will be rife as a result of this Bill. It places a duty on banks and building societies to carry out regular checks on the immigration status of individuals and to notify the Home Office when a person becomes disqualified from holding a current account. I have a degree of sympathy with that proposal, on the face of it. A failed immigration applicant should not have access to banking or other services, but I worry about the unintended consequences, not least for our own citizens from other cultures or for perfectly legitimate immigrants. How many failed immigration applicants actually have a stash of cash that would need to be frozen? Would freezing such assets serve any purpose, save that of scoring obvious political points? These provisions could result in serious intrusion into the lives of all our citizens if they were applied in the wrong circumstances.
The Bill also contains the power to seize and detain vehicles driven by illegal immigrants. It provides for the prosecution and imprisonment and/or fining of those who drive if they are illegal immigrants, even if they are in possession of a valid driving licence from another state. Again, on the face of it, that might appear sensible, but I have to ask: do we really have a problem with lots of failed immigration applicants clogging up our streets and creating traffic jams with their cars, or is this just another point-scoring exercise?
How these provisions are to be regulated and enforced should be a matter for rigorous debate in this place. It is clear that the Bill is fixated on reducing the net migration figures, and in so doing—as has been admitted by Conservative Members—reducing the attractiveness of the UK as a place where skilled migration is welcomed. The Home Secretary’s dangerously aggressive speech to her party’s conference was a class act in striking more fear where it does not belong. The Bill will extend that fear to those who might not even have done anything wrong. How many UK citizens with foreign-sounding names will have their lives disrupted and become disfranchised as a result of these measures before we realise that this has been a mistake? I believe that the nut that this sledgehammer of a Bill has been designed to smash will pale into insignificance beside the can of worms that the provisions will open.
Some of the speeches from Opposition Members have done a bit of a disservice to our Home Secretary. I think that history will reveal her to have been an outstanding Home Secretary, given her capacity to cover the range of issues that the Home Office has to deal with, and the immediacy and potency of some of those issues. Those Members have also missed some of the breakthroughs that she has made in identifying issues of abuse, particularly in relation to people trafficking, and of discrimination in relation to stop and search that other Home Secretaries have not addressed. We must put that on the record to balance the argument.
As many people have said, it is undoubtedly true that immigration is the No. 1 issue. It is equally true to say that the vast majority of people who believe that to be the case are not anti-immigrant. However, they have specific things that they want to see in our immigration policies. They want to know that the system is under control. They want to know that the numbers of people coming to this country are reasonable and that our borders are secure. They want to know that the people who come here make not just an average contribution— a break-even contribution—but an above-average contribution to our country. As we have heard from people who are themselves the daughters of migrants, they also want to know that the people who come here will do their best to integrate into the country that they now call home. And of course, they want those people who they believe have no right to be here to leave or to be removed.
As I look through the Bill, I miss the provisions relating to many of those early points. The focus of much of it is on that last point. It says, “Please leave.” It asks, “What can we do to encourage you to leave?” I ask the Minister to listen to what hon. Members have said about the importance of evidence in pursuing the policies in the Bill. If we cannot supply evidence to support the measures we are taking, I fear that some of the negative consequences—some of which have perhaps been presented today with a bit of hyperbole—might indeed come to pass.
I am worried that the Bill focuses too strongly on symptoms rather than on the underlying causes of the concerns about immigration in this country. Our previous Bills have contained a number of measures that have precisely targeted the causes, dealing with bogus colleges, spousal visas and even the English test. I do not see much in this Bill to reinforce my belief that that is a continuing thread of the efforts of our Government’s policies.
Above all, we want measures that deal with immigration but avoid things that are costly, ineffective or unjust. Will the Minister therefore support efforts that would limit detention in certain circumstances? He is aware of a case involving a pregnant women. He wrote to me at the end of last year saying that her healthcare had been adequately provided—he was relying on second-hand advice—but as we found out last week in the High Court that was not the case. Continuing with the detention of pregnant women leaves us open to these sorts of abuses in the future. This Bill is an opportunity to correct that, address the position of victims of torture and rape, and introduce a limit on the period of detention for people who are subject to immigration regulations.
As has been said, this is not just about the extension of powers, but about how well we are using the powers we already have. I urge the Minister to provide more information in Committee about how the current powers are being used and why they are not sufficient. Many of us do not wish to see landlords and business people used as the front line of our Border Force; we are concerned about the potential for them to be criminalised. We are also concerned that as we put further pressure on people’s ability to stay in this country we will drive them to vagrancy and crime. I am sure that is not the intention, but I am also sure the Minister can see the potential for that in some of these measures. We have to get the balance right. The same applies on the issue I raised in my question to the Home Secretary about potential discrimination, which has been widely mentioned today.
My hon. Friend has been taking the issues of immigration and detention seriously, as he has Yarl’s Wood on his doorstep in his constituency, and we have discussed them on many occasions. On detention, welfare and vulnerability, may I say to him that the Stephen Shaw report, which has recently been finalised, is addressing all those factors, and that we will be considering and acting on its recommendations carefully? I hope that gives him some reassurance about the attention and focus we are giving to the issues that I know he holds dear.
That is very reassuring, particularly as it comes from such a capable Minister.
I am used to being a bit out of kilter with the norm of political views about immigration here—it used to be just me and perhaps the former Member for Brent Central and the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). Of course, Sarah Teather has gone on to better things and the hon. Gentleman has gone on to be leader of the Labour party, so I am left here talking from a bit of a different angle from everyone else. The focus of much of this is illegal immigrants, and there is one word that nobody has used about illegal immigrants—compassion. I wish to discuss that.
Whether we like it or not, we are talking today about a lot of the toxic legacy of the Labour party’s lack of control of immigration. When I became a Member of Parliament in 2010, there were people who had been in this country for five, six or seven years when they had no right to be here, and there were children who had grown up in our schools when their parents had no right to be here. People should not blame the Conservative party for trying to clear up the mess that was left, but my party and this Government need to see not only effectiveness, but compassion. What is compassionate about sending a child who turns 18 back to a country that they have never really understood? Where is the compassion in taking money away from someone while they are waiting for their case to be resolved? Where is the compassion for someone who is holding on to stay in this country when they have no right to remain here? Where is the compassion in leaving them for years and just making their life harder and harder in the hope that somehow they just leave?
We can talk about effectiveness, but it is our values, too, as a country that we are talking about. I, for one, want to make sure that the Bills we pass in this country stand up for the best principles of our country as well.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I just have a new favourite Tory in the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller). [Interruption.] I have never had one before. He is my first favourite Tory, which he may come to regret.
I may have been a Member of this House only since May, but even to an untrained eye it is clear that there is no better example of how not to legislate than the Bill in front of us today. It ignores the data gathered from the pilot project in the west midlands. It creates new enforcement powers when previous powers from the Immigration Act 1971 are seldom used, and it shifts the responsibilities of the understaffed immigration officers on to untrained and unaccountable private individuals.
The Bill represents a disproportionate infringement on the rights of individuals, with only a limited relationship between the legislation and its policy objectives. It is of little benefit to the common good; it is, in short, a shambles.
Restrictions on time allow me to focus on only one area, so I want to look at housing. The assessment of the pilot project in the west midlands by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants should act as a massive, shining red light on what is obviously a faulty policy. It identified clear problems with the so-called “right to rent” approach, none of which has yet been addressed by the Government. It also shines a light on the shameful failure of the Government to publish their own assessment of the pilot. They said yesterday that they would publish it before the Committee stage; they should have published it before today. As a member of that Committee, I want an assurance that it will be published in time for me to be able to assess it—in other words, in time for me to be able to do my job properly.
Despite the Government’s codes of practice, which they assured us would stop any discrimination, it is clear from the joint council’s report that there was an increase in discrimination in those areas in which the pilot was undertaken. Some 42% of landlords said that they were less likely to consider those without a British passport and 65% of landlords said that they were less likely to consider tenants who could not provide documents immediately.
The Government are creating a culture of fear. Although landlords do not wish to discriminate, the Residential Landlords Association said:
“Whilst the Residential Landlords Association condemns all acts of racism”—
as it should—
“the threat of sanctions will inevitably lead many landlords to err on the side of caution and not rent to anyone whose nationality cannot be easily proved.”
Clearly, it is fearful that this Bill will force landlords to act in a way that could be racist. What it is also clearly saying is that it does not want to do that, but the fear of being criminalised or even jailed may leave landlords with no other choice. The Government need to listen to their concerns, and if this legislation is not defeated—
Does my hon. Friend agree that the requirement on landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants will surely encourage, even inadvertently, less favourable treatment, possibly discrimination, for anyone who does not look or sound British and also make it disproportionately harder for people to access appropriate housing?
I agree with every word from my hon. Friend. Indeed, it is one of the points that I really wanted to underline. If this Bill does go through, the Government must give landlords the resources they need to understand exactly what is required of them.
On the subject of racism, there is no doubt in my mind that intemperate language and legislation that is based on the presumption that all immigrants can be illegal will increase racism. I have heard many positive things today about multiculturalism, anti-racism and welcoming people who have come from other countries. I invite all those Members who have an interest in this subject to attend the Westminster Hall debate secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), which celebrates Black History Month in October.
In practical terms, this Bill will make it much harder for those legally resident in the UK, originally from elsewhere, to rent a property here. It will leave some with no choice but to turn to unscrupulous landlords, which brings with it uncertainty and sometimes danger. There are also very real concerns regarding the privacy of the individual under this Bill. Those legally resident in the UK will have copies of their personal documentation kept in the hands of unaccountable private landlords for a period of years. As those include bank account details, this poorly drafted legislation also opens up endless possibilities of identity theft and illegal activity. If the Government wish to improve enforcement, why not start using the legislation on the statute book? Why not ensure that immigration officers are properly resourced so that they can do their job?
It is not just about professional landlords. A generation of property owners have bought their council house or their children’s university flat and have subsequently let it out. The Government want those property owners to do the work of trained immigration officials. What happened to the line oft quoted by Tories that an Englishman’s home is his castle? The Bill seeks to turn yon castle into an immigration office. The Bill does not reflect reasonable concerns on immigration but is rather a tokenistic attempt to appeal to a narrow segment of voters, reflected most clearly by the Government’s blatantly unnecessary language proposal in part 7.
Finally, I shall say one positive thing about the Bill. It has managed to unite social landlords, tenants, civil liberty campaigners and anti-racism campaigners with employers, private landlords and many more in opposition to its proposals—[Interruption.] Yes, it has. As we heard today, the Institute of Directors has also attacked the proposal, and the Government would do well to heed those concerns.
This spring, on doorsteps across my constituency, people wanted to have a say on immigration and they wanted to be heard. I welcome this debate on such an important issue and rise to support the Government and the Home Secretary.
We are fortunate to live in a country that has benefited enormously from being a true melting-pot nation, and we speak in a truly global and outward-looking country and a truly diverse city. Students across the world come to our universities seeking the finest education, global investors continue to put their faith in the economic security of the nation and our proud culture of arts boasts the positive values of immigration and true diversity. Famous Britons who were not born Britons—George Handel, Henry James and T. S. Eliot to name but a few—have come here and succeeded, and without immigration we would not have our wonderful Marks & Spencer or the chance to do the “Mobot”. However, our nation’s proud history of immigration is reflected not just by these famous and successful names. Those who quietly toil day and night, providing us with the best healthcare, reflect our history of bringing people in to add value to this country.
Some 11% of all the staff in our NHS are foreign nationals, as are 26% of doctors. It is truly in the fabric of our nation that we are the beacon of opportunity across the world, but it is vital that we do not diminish that record by undertaking a programme of uncontrolled immigration that is neither fair nor sustainable. I do not want to see immigration without the rule of law, nor do I want to see people come to our shores only to be exploited by criminal gangs and forced into poorly paid work.
Migrant workers are often vulnerable and subject to labour market exploitation. I welcome the Bill’s institution of a new statutory director of labour market enforcement and am reassured by the Home Secretary’s opening remarks about the clear reporting structures. The new role ensures that intelligence and resource allocation across the regulators is properly co-ordinated, and the measure sits alongside a crackdown on those who would seek to employ illegal workers. We must be absolutely clear in this House that those who come to the UK illegally should not be working 20-hour days for no pay. It is not fair and it is not right.
I welcome the crackdown on driving licences. Too many tragedies on our roads have happened because of those who have not been checked and who are not regulated and who cause a menace on our roads. I believe that the fluent English requirement is vital for our workforce and to balance the skills gap.
Having worked in road safety, I can tell the hon. Lady that our roads policing units are very keen to make sure that the people on the roads have the right papers and, of course, are driving safely and legally.
It is easy for the Opposition to make wild accusations that the contents of the Bill are wholly negative. They have much to fear because net migration under Labour was more than twice the population of Birmingham and they clearly do not have the right answers. We on the Government Benches believe that immigration should be controlled and not exploited. On the doorstep many of my constituents wanted to see immigration brought down to a reasonable level and we have pledged to do that. The Bill will deliver that commitment.
Our melting-pot nation is a global force precisely because of our diversity. That permeates our history and defines what it is to be truly British. Let us then bring Britain back to being a nation that cherishes its legacy, controls its borders and keeps immigration as a positive force for all our futures.
I welcome the opportunity to engage in this debate. Throughout this afternoon I expected much more heat than light. In fairness, this has been a thorough debate and one in which much detail has been discussed. I am, however, disappointed that in many of the contributions from the Government Benches—the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) is an honourable exception—there has been an unwillingness to hear and respond to some of the concerns expressed in the debate, and an unwillingness to appreciate how consensus around immigration, not only in the Chamber but in the country, would be much preferable to the way in which some Members have engaged.
I am not on the same page as some of those who backed the amendment before us, but I expect to hear an indication from the Minister and the Home Office that in Committee there will be an earnest willingness to address many of the difficulties that arise in the Bill. It is right that Members across the Chamber welcome the suggestion, for example, of a director of labour market enforcement as one notable proposal that is worth supporting.
Politically, there is good reason for us as parliamentarians to make it less attractive for people to breach our immigration laws and come here illegally, but in doing so we must ensure that we do not become unattractive as a people or as a country. Some of the proposals outlined in the Bill would do just that. There has been particular focus on the right to rent, and there is a flaw in putting the onus on landlords particularly. What does the Minister intend “reasonable steps” to mean? How are landlords to satisfy the authorities that they have taken reasonable steps? More importantly, the provision applies not just to those named in the tenancy, but to others in the dwelling. It is a de facto provision that someone could harbour an illegal immigrant and face the penalties for it. That is not only unnecessary, but its implementation will be filled with difficulty.
The hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) disagrees with me about how best we should proceed, but a number of her interventions this afternoon have been incisive. She raised an issue about those trafficked and exploited, in the context of the penalties that will apply to illegal immigrants who are employed. The answer that she got from the Home Secretary indicated that there is already such an offence in the Modern Slavery Act. That may well be the case, but for comfort a particular provision should be inserted in the Bill so that as a Parliament we can reaffirm that should somebody be rescued having been exploited or trafficked in this country, the provisions will not apply. The acceptance of an amendment of that significance in Committee would be enormously helpful.
I was shocked by part 7 of the Bill, which sets out the language requirements for public sector workers, and that is for two reasons. First, I was amazed that the ability to speak fluent English was not already a requirement in the public sector. Secondly, as the hon. Member for North Down pointed out in an intervention on the hon. Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), these provisions will not apply to Northern Ireland. I hope that I am communicating well enough in English this afternoon, because it is the language of Northern Ireland. I think that it is beholden on a one nation Government to recognise that such provisions should apply to Northern Ireland and, more importantly, not to engage in a political exclusion of Northern Ireland. I say that because there is a burgeoning language sector in Northern Ireland and there are politics around that. Two minority languages—Irish and Ulster-Scots—are protected in north-south bodies, but English is our dominant and preferred language, and Northern Ireland should not be excluded from the provisions.
Part 6—I have discussed this with the hon. Member for North Down—deals with maritime enforcement and sets out who will be able to access vessels. It mentions a police constable and an immigration officer, but it does not mention the Belfast harbour police—the private police force that operates in Belfast harbour—who ensure that we can adhere to the provisions in the maritime context. I therefore believe that an amendment to include that police force is worthy of support.
Our view is that the Bill is worthy of progression to at least Committee stage, but I think that the compassion that the hon. Member for Bedford mentioned is incredibly important, and it is something that I would like to see a lot more of.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson). A number of right hon. and hon. Members have made the important point—I am sure that this is neither an intention of the Bill, nor an outcome—about the sensitivity of names with regard to lettings policies. The hon. Member for Belfast East comes from a community where being allocated a house, or indeed given a job, might often have depended upon having a Protestant-sounding or Catholic-sounding name. That is a sensitivity that we should be alert to, as I have little or no doubt Government Front Benchers are.
Let me turn briefly to the reasoned amendment that stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and others. I think that this is the first time I have seen a U-turn performed in an amendment. The first two thirds of the amendment are in full praise and support of the Bill, but then it rests its reason why we should not give it a Second Reading on an argument that a report that is to be published
“could cause widespread indirect discrimination”.
I do not think that that is a particularly well argued point from the Opposition. Given the amount of time that they have spent thinking about their position on immigration, I think that we might have expected a little better.
There are some very nasty people out there in our communities, and they have some very nasty views on this sensitive subject, which I have no doubt they will articulate with force and passion from their armchairs and in the saloon bars. But those nasty views are not put forward in this Bill. The Bill does not try to debate—because this is not the kernel of the argument—whether immigration is a good or bad thing, and it does not seek to further or foster racism or discrimination; it seeks purely to find better ways of defining the legal and the illegal. There is no qualitative judgment on an immigrant community the vast majority of whom play a full and active part in British life and are welcomed to our shores.
When my family and I moved house relatively recently, we were assisted by a very hard-working man from Poland. When he discovered what I did for a living, he quaked and said, “You don’t want me here, do you? I’d better go.” I said, “No, not at all.” It is a helpful irony, in many respects, that we are debating this issue on the anniversary of the birth of Lady Thatcher, who did so much to champion the rights of people from the former eastern bloc to come to the west. That free movement of people is something we should celebrate and support. We must understand, however, that it cannot and should not be unfettered. When I stood in the 2010 election—I fought Cardiff South and Penarth, and Cardiff South and Penarth fought back—established members of the immigrant, but very settled, community in Grangetown and Butetown said to me, “For God’s sake, Governments have to get a handle on this because we are starting to feel anxious. We are starting to feel that the Government have lost the plot.” That struck me as a very forceful endorsement of the main thrust of this policy and this Bill.
I am surprised by Labour’s tone with regard to the main thrust of the Bill in trying to clamp down on illegal working and exploitation. This is a matter of human welfare. We have all heard horrible stories of the terrible conditions of people forced to work in this country because they are here illegally and their existence can therefore be abused. It is absolutely right—I hope that it would unify the House—that we should focus on that and try to correct it and remove it from our national life.
I strongly welcome the proposed appeals process, but it will come as no surprise to the Minister that I, and no doubt many in this House, believe that the Home Office needs to up the speed with which it determines these appeals.
I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast East that it is a surprise that a language requirement has not existed in our public sector, and I very much welcome it.
The hon. Gentleman says that a requirement to speak English when working in the front line of public services has not existed until now. Has he ever used a public service and found that the person he is dealing with does not speak English, because I have not?
It depends at what level. Certainly, within the national health service, you will hear of many patients—constituents in North Dorset have told me this—who often have difficulty communicating because local idioms of language are just missed. To have that core skill—
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds, let me say that I have not yet reprimanded any particular Member for doing this, but now that it has happened several times, I must remind the House that when you use the word “you”, it is in the second person and you are referring to the Chair. It is in primary level 3 English lessons. “You” is the person to whom you are talking, and in here you are talking to the Chair. If you wish to refer to an hon. Member, it is “he”, “she”, or “it”.
Shall we split the difference, Madam Deputy Speaker, and go for “it”?
Given that my part of Dorset has the highest number of retired people in the country, if we pressed everybody of working age into the national health service we would be very understaffed. This issue goes across the country and, indeed, all parts of the United Kingdom.
Provisions relating to private letting and the banks are a key part of the Bill. Yes, some in the affected sectors—plural—may bleat about it, but the Government are placing an important obligation on their shoulders. This is clearly an issue, because previous Governments have tried to address it, but the Government cannot deal with it by themselves; other agencies and people involved in British commercial and public life need to help deal with illegal immigration.
We are fortunate that the two Ministers who will pilot this Bill through the Committee stage—the Minister for Immigration and the Solicitor General—are humane and compassionate individuals. I have no doubt that they would never put their names to something that they thought would result in some of the Armageddon-like scenes suggested by Labour Members. The Bill addresses a pressing problem in a prudent and pragmatic way. It deserves the support of the House.
We have heard much this afternoon about the serious flaws in the Bill. More than anything else, there is a complete lack of evidence for its proposals, and a large number of experts have highlighted their potentially damaging effects. It risks compromising community and social cohesion, putting individuals at risk in the process. I am particularly concerned about the impact of outsourcing enforcement functions to private third parties that are not subject to adequate levels of public scrutiny. Contradiction and conjecture are a recurring theme, and I very much hope the Home Secretary will explain why the proposals have been made when there is no evidence to suggest that existing measures in the Immigration Act 2014 are not working well enough or need to be extended.
Let us take as an example the extension of the “deport first, appeal later” provisions in the previous Immigration Act. They came into force only recently and as yet there has been no impact assessment to determine their effectiveness, but the Bill seeks to widen those powers. I am worried both by the potential consequences of such an approach and by what it implies about the Home Secretary’s motivation.
Anyone who heard the Home Secretary’s speech at her party’s conference earlier this month may share my concern. Despite the stated aim of clamping down on illegal migration, the Bill goes considerably further and extends the principle of “deport first, appeal later” to all immigration cases. Not only is there a complete lack of evidence that that is required, but it signals that the underlying intention of the Bill is to undermine the very principle of freedom of movement.
The Government also clearly stated that they would not go ahead with the ill-thought-out right to rent programme without conducing an evaluation of the pilot carried out in the west midlands. Yet here we are with proposals to extend that programme to the entire country and no sign of any comprehensive evaluation from the Home Office. The hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) made an eloquent argument in those terms.
Moreover, the Home Secretary has failed to absorb the results of the evaluations that were carried out by independent experts. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, for example, found that the pilot forced landlords to make poor decisions and that discrimination clearly occurred against both migrants and British citizens, including making landlords less likely to rent to anyone with a “questionable” immigration status—in other words, as other hon. Members have said, anyone with a name that sounds foreign.
What we do have evidence for is the economic benefit of immigration, including in the form of a warning from the chairman of the Institute of Directors, Simon Walker, who has said that the Bill will turn away
“the world’s best and brightest”.
That is already happening in my constituency of Brighton, Pavilion, thanks to the ongoing changes to the student visa regime.
The latest changes include those to the international English language testing system for eligibility to study. An estimated third of international students who come to study at UK universities could be at risk, along with an estimated 27,000 jobs in the UK. In Brighton and Hove alone, a minimum of 1,000 jobs could be lost, although given that two major pathway providers—Into and Study Group—have head offices in the city, the number is likely to be significantly greater. There is therefore considerable concern about the extent to which international students are being blamed for rising net migration—that is why I want to repeat my call for student numbers to be removed entirely from the net migration figures—and about the fact that many students on tier 4 visas will be criminalised under the proposals if they undertake paid work. The competitiveness of international markets is increasing and we can ill afford to reduce our attractiveness to international talent, particularly as such international students sustain our research output, which supports our economy.
The argument about international students is not only an economic one; it says something about who we are as a nation and what kind of people we think we are. Are we outward-looking, confident and welcoming, or are we fearful, inward-looking people who do not want to make the most of the huge opportunities that lie out there? Once again, the Government are pushing forward with their proposals without any impact assessment, nor do they seem to have any concern for the way in which their misleading and often divisive rhetoric affects individuals.
There is plenty in the Bill to object to, and there are also big gaps in what should be in an Immigration Bill, one of which is clearly the measures needed to tackle some of the problems in our current immigration system. The most notable problem is the Home Office’s long history of poor decision making on immigration cases, as demonstrated by the high rate of successful appeals. My surgeries are full of cases that illustrate the abundant delays in processing.
The Bill not only fails to take steps to improve the situation, but in effect removes the right of redress when the Home Office makes mistakes and individuals are wrongly identified as illegal migrants. The knock-on effects may include wrongfully depriving people of their homes, bank accounts and driving licences. That would be a violation of their human rights in and of itself, but it will be further exacerbated by the changes to the right of redress.
The Bill will also have an impact on asylum seekers. Removing financial support from those who have been refused asylum risks consigning vulnerable individuals to destitution, homelessness and exploitation. Many of those individuals may well have their asylum claim upheld on appeal, but I would argue that the measures in the Bill will push them underground, reducing the likelihood that an appeal will be brought. That will create a wide set of knock-on problems, including for local authorities, which have a responsibility to protect children under the Children Acts. Even if there are strong grounds to refuse asylum, when did we become a country that is comfortable removing every kind of safety net for people who have come here and need it most?
Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker.
My father came to the UK to escape the Kenyan Asian crisis in 1968. His arrival probably saved his life. My mother was recruited in Mauritius as a girl of 18, and she has just passed her 45th year of service as a nurse. More passionate patriots cannot be imagined. It is clear that immigration has brought huge benefits to this country. We have a proud tradition of offering refuge, opportunity and a better life to those who take the risk of leaving their homeland.
I echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) about how compassion is the golden thread running through our approach to immigration. In fact, my parents’ experience has informed my strong belief that the immigrant story is a Conservative story—one of risk, starting from scratch, working hard and living frugally, all in the name of aspiration, endeavour and self-responsibility. That is why I am proud to be a member of the party proposing this Bill, which is aimed at tackling the root problems inherent in the broken immigration system that we inherited in 2010.
Little is more contentious: last year, immigration overtook the economy as the most important concern of British voters. The aspiration to reduce net migration is sensible, and the Bill goes to the heart of the existing problems in our system. It deals with the loopholes exploited by illegal immigrants, meets the need for greater enforcement and investigation powers, and reduces appeal rights to streamline the system.
Before I came into Parliament, I worked as a Treasury counsel, defending the Home Office in immigration cases, and I saw how the system has been improved over the past five years. The Immigration Act 2014 did much to tackle the pull factors that draw people here. It made it easier to deport foreign criminals by enacting the principle of “deport first, appeal later” and ending the abuse of the right to family life.
Prior to the 2014 Act, I saw at first hand how that right was stretched so far as to make it laughable and pitiful. I was involved in a case that involved the removal of a foreign criminal. One would have thought that it would be straightforward to justify the removal of a convicted class A drug smuggler, but because of the huge number of appeal rights, activist claimant lawyers and technical loopholes, as well as the backlog of cases in the courts system, it took nearly two years and thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money finally to persuade the Court of Appeal that the public interest in deportation outweighed the human right to a family life in Britain. Thankfully, the number of such cases is diminishing, as is reflected by the Court of Appeal jurisprudence in cases such as MF (Nigeria) and SS (Nigeria).
I worked on many cases involving sham marriages, bogus colleges and overturned detention decisions. I saw the practical effect of the huge backlog of 800,000 asylum cases on the Home Office. We have brought that number down to just over 20,000.
I have listened intently to the hon. Lady’s interesting speech. With her experience and expertise, can she explain how the provision on strip searching to look for identification and nationality documents can be justified for those who are detained in a removal centre, a prison or a young offenders institution, because I cannot understand why it is in the Bill? Bearing in mind how sensitive the issue of strip searching has been in Northern Ireland, I caution the Government to give more consideration to this very offensive provision.
I was involved in a professional capacity in cases of immigration detention and saw at first hand how limited the powers that were afforded to immigration officers and border control police were. They fell short of allowing them the appropriate powers to gather the evidence to justify a successful prosecution. The facts were plain, but because of those limited powers, it was difficult to gather the evidence to justify litigation. I therefore welcome the increased investigation and enforcement powers for immigration officers.
I have carried out a number of strip searches as a police officer. I assure all Members that it is something that no enforcement officer ever wants to do and that it is only ever done under the strictest of circumstances and with a great deal of respect for the people who are searched. I am certain that that will be the case if it is ever done by immigration enforcement officers.
I welcome that comment whole- heartedly. My professional experience endorses that.
I worked on people smuggling cases. Again, I saw that the regime needed more robust powers in respect of inspection and evidence gathering so that prompt removals could be effected through the right channels.
The new power in clause 30 allows the Secretary of State to cancel what is called section 3C leave. That will go far in widening the removal power when taken with the extension of section 94B of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 in respect of the certification of human rights cases. That will enable more prompt removals after a refusal decision has been made. The absence of an in-country appeal right will remove the opportunity to exploit the appeals process extended to individuals in the UK. A reality of the previous regime was that the extensive number of appeal rights protracted the time that people spent in this country unlawfully.
More widely, we must talk about the impact of immigration. I applaud the courage of the Government in dealing with this matter in a compassionate, proportionate and fair way. The cultural impact of immigration cannot be ignored. The pace of immigration, the damaging predominance of multiculturalism, and the lack of integration in some parts of this country are having a damaging effect on social cohesion. A well-integrated immigrant must speak fluent English because that is crucial for developing relationships and gaining employment, and it connects us deeply with others. I therefore welcome the requirement for fluency in English in part 7 of the Bill.
We as a community of parliamentarians must be more courageous when speaking out about matters of integration and what is happening in this country, and when talking about the challenges we all face. The Bill deals with the problem of illegal immigration and tightens up the problem of exploitation, and that is the only way that we will command more confidence in the system and ensure its credibility. Our country is neither open nor closed, but striking the balance is hard. In doing so, it is perfectly reasonable to introduce legislation that encapsulates proportion and compassion. Speaking as the child of immigrants and the beneficiary of immigration, and as a professional, I commend this Bill to the House.
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate and to speak against what, in my book, is one of the more heinous Bills introduced by this Tory Government, or for that matter by any other Government.
I am proud to make the case for immigration and to remind our international community that they are valued and that we appreciate their contribution to our communities. I know that Conservative Members like to consider issues purely on economic terms, and I could talk at length about the positive economic impact that immigration has on the UK economy. However, the biggest impact that our international community has on the UK cannot be measured purely in terms of economic growth or statistics; the most important impact made by our foreign-born friends can be witnessed in our communities each and every day.
During my research into the impact of the Bill, I met members of the Renfrewshire Effort to Empower Minorities, or REEM. It is a fantastic example of a group of people who are rooted in our community, who serve their members by helping to provide advice and training, and who organise a number of events throughout the year to help to integrate their members with the local population. Such groups internationalise our towns and cities. They help to achieve social cohesion, and they diversify our villages, towns and cities. That is why it depresses me to hear so many Tory MPs lining up to spout rhetoric about the allegedly devastating impact that immigration has on our country.
The problem for the UK Government is that, instead of developing evidence-based policy, they are attempting to create policy that panders to UKIP sympathisers in their own party. The Bill sends a message that the UK finds it an inconvenience that anyone would want to come and work here, and that the British Government want to drive a wedge between Britain and the rest of the world. Those are not my words but those of one of my constituents who is fed up with the deeply damaging and divisive Tory rhetoric, and who has decided to move away from the UK as he knows when he is not wanted.
Let me briefly touch on a number of aspects of the Bill and explain how they will have a significant impact on foreign residents, regardless of whether they are living here illegally or not. The Immigration Minister states that illegal immigration denies work to UK citizens, but one consequence of this Bill—it may be an unintended consequence—is that it will become harder for all foreign-born residents to get a job.
The Bill is targeting small businesses by shamefully using racial profiling and focusing on takeaways and off-licences. Employers will now face criminal prosecution and a five-year prison sentence if they are found to be employing someone whose right to remain has expired. Trying to ascertain someone’s immigration status can be a confusing process, and many small businesses do not have the administrative budgets to be confident enough to check the status of their foreign-born employees. It is not difficult to see that many small business owners will not risk employing someone who is foreign. That is bad for business as they will lose out on recruiting a skilled worker, and it will also be a significant barrier for foreign-born workers who will find it more difficult to get a job.
Not only will members of our international community find it difficult to get a job, but the Bill will also make it harder for them to have a roof over their head. The right to rent provision will encourage discrimination, promote the worst possible practice in housing management and make it harder for members of our international community to find a home.
My hon. Friend is right to say that the Bill could cause discrimination. We have already heard that landlords will be less likely to rent houses to citizens without a British passport. Does he agree that that will cause further pressure on the housing sector? Combine that with the right to buy and the force to sell legislation, and the Government’s rush to legislate in a scattergun approach will cause further problems for housing, as well as immigration.
I wholeheartedly agree. The Bill will create a situation whereby landlords will have to be 100% sure that no illegal migrants are living in their property. Failure to abide by this could result in the landlord facing a fine of £3,000 and a jail sentence of five years. The vast majority of our landlords will not be qualified, or have the time, to distinguish between a legal and an illegal migrant.
I think perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not heard about the difficulties faced by the helplines. More resources are required.
To protect themselves, many landlords will operate a blanket approach and will not take the risk of accepting any tenant who was born overseas or who has a foreign-sounding name. The Bill will also make it easier for landlords to evict tenants who are found to be living here illegally. They will be able to do that without a court order. We should be concerned that that sort of practice could be carried over to other tenants who are living here legally. We do not have to guess, fear or anticipate the problems that the Bill will create for tenants. The Government are, shamefully, not willing to publish their review of the west midlands pilot before pushing ahead with the Bill, but reports from it suggest that the right to rent policy encourages discrimination towards migrant groups.
Part 4 of the Bill is particularly odious. We should be reminded that the immigration appeal route exists for a reason: to correct a wrongful decision. The Immigration Act 2014 drastically reduced the number of appeals available, but the Bill removes them entirely for some people. The “deport first, appeal later” policy that was included in the previous Act led to 230 foreign nationals being deported in the first year of its being implemented. I ask the Immigration Minister to make clear, in his closing remarks, how many of the 230 completed the appeal process.
The Bill will create drastic consequences for all members of our migrant community and it sends the wrong message to the international community about what kind of country we are. The Bill will turn communities against one another, extending the powers of the state to unparalleled levels and creating a big brother society where ordinary members of the public will be expected to act as the UK Government’s very own immigration agents.
In short, the Bill is about pandering to the UK Independence party and the right-wing element of the Conservative party. It is ill-considered, deeply divisive and lacking in compassion and any human decency. It will inevitably lead to increased racism. If the Bill is passed it will not be in my name, the Scottish National party’s name or Scotland’s name. I urge the Government to reconsider.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands).
I have the pleasure and honour of representing the most diverse community in the whole country. Our constituency has representatives of every country on the planet, every language spoken on earth and every religion under the sun. Against that backdrop, one may imagine that immigration is not an issue. It is, however, the No. 1 issue on the lips of every individual throughout my constituency for the simple reason that people are concerned that there is a massive difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration. I am absolutely certain that we need to send the message out loud and clear that people who want to come to this country to work and contribute are welcome. Our public services would collapse without people coming here and giving their service. Our service industry in London would collapse overnight if we did not have proper legal immigration. The reality is that in my part of the world the overwhelming majority of people are working and contributing to society.
There is a clear concern, however. When I was elected in 2010, I was presented with more than 50 pending cases that had not been dealt with by the Home Office for more than 10 years. These were people who had been in the country for 10 years without knowing whether they had the right to be here. Their families had grown up in this country, but they still did not know whether they had the right of abode. We had more than 200 colleges in my borough—I call them colleges, but most of them were little rooms above shops where students would come along, get their papers stamped and then go off and work for cash in local restaurants, takeaways and other facilities. It was clearly a way to avoid our immigration rules, so I am delighted that the Home Secretary and her team abolished those colleges and permitted only legal colleges that actually offer an education.