2. What steps the Government are taking to prevent abuse of the immigration system. (902904)
The Immigration Act 2014 and related changes have expedited the removal of more than 2,000 foreign national offenders from this country and stopped illegal migrants from having access to services such as bank accounts, driving licences and rented accommodation. The Immigration Bill will go further, enabling the seizure of earnings from illegal workers, further penalising rogue employers and extending the deport first, appeal later principle to more cases.
I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but immigration remains one of the top concerns of my constituents. With that in mind, what assessment has the Minister made of the Government’s proposed right-to-rent scheme on those who are here illegally?
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the issues surrounding right to rent, which we intend to roll out nationally next month. It is a matter of ensuring that property is available only to those with a right to be in this country. We undertook an assessment of the first phase of the scheme in the west midlands. That found that the scheme was operating as intended, which is why we are now rolling it out further.
We are certainly looking at several employment sectors that may face such risks, such as construction and care, to which my hon. Friend refers. I have had meetings with representatives from those industries and others to see what further steps can be taken to prevent that from happening, and making sure that employers have adequate awareness of the steps that they can take. We have doubled the maximum penalty for employing an illegal worker to £20,000, and through the new Immigration Bill we intend to tighten those restrictions even further and make it easier to prosecute rogue employers.
May I draw the Minister’s attention to an abuse of our immigration system by the Indian authorities in the case of my constituent, Paramjeet Singh, to whom we have granted refugee status from India and indefinite leave to remain in the UK? But while he was on holiday in Portugal last month with his wife and four British children, he was detained with a request for deportation by India. Does the Minister agree that if the Indian authorities have a case, they should take it up with the UK Government? Will the Minister put the case to his counterparts in Portugal and the European Commission to secure Paramjeet Singh’s early return to his family in Smethwick?
Despite measures having been taken by the Government, the number of sham marriages appears to be on the increase. In 2014, the last year for which we have figures, a total of 2,486 weddings were visited by enforcement officers. Will the Minister look at the possibility of giving registrars the power to cancel ceremonies, thus relieving the pressure on Home Office officials to crash weddings in this way?
The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee and I have debated these issues in the past. Since April last year 12,253 notices to marry have been referred to the Home Office through the new arrangements. Of these, 160 proposed marriages were considered a sham, and a further 99 marriages were prevented because couples did not follow the necessary requirements and co-operate with the investigation. This is a serious matter on which we have already taken action. Between April and September last year we arrested 528 individuals and removed more than 279 people involved in sham marriages, underlining our focus on that issue.
Would my right hon. Friend reconsider the question of ID cards, not only in respect of immigration and the introduction of many digital services for all our individuals and citizens, but particularly in regard to national security and the protection of all our citizens from terrorism? Does he agree that this is now a matter of national security?
My right hon. Friend will be aware that one of the first steps that the coalition Government took was to respond to the Labour Government’s proposals on that issue, which we continue to judge was the right thing to do. We are taking various measures to enhance the security of this country, but our judgment remains that ID cards are not the right way forward.
Does the Minister accept that other countries with ID cards find it much easier to identify, detain and deport illegal immigrants? Given the support now on both sides of the House, may I suggest that the Government re-open the agenda for the introduction of ID cards, which we understood they dropped under pressure from the coalition?
Many of the issues that we face in relation to deportation involve foreign nationals—obviously, by the nature of the work. We have introduced biometric residence permits, and in her speech last October to the Conservative party conference the Home Secretary referred to the further measures that we are taking so that we can remove those people who do not have authority to be in this country. We are using biometric residence permits and other means to achieve that.