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Topical Questions

Volume 678: debated on Monday 13 July 2020

Four years ago, the British public voted to leave the EU—they voted to take back control of our borders and end free movement. Last year, they voted to get Brexit done and introduce a points-based immigration system. We are doing exactly that: despite the best efforts of the Labour party, we are ending free movement and introducing a points-based system. Today, we have published more details of that system, which will enable us to attract the brightest and best—a firmer and fairer system that will take back control of our borders, crack down on foreign criminals and unleash our country’s true potential. We are building a brighter future for Britain and signalling to the world that we are open for business.

Last week was the 15th anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks. It was a moment once more to commemorate those who lost their lives and repeat our appreciation for those who rushed to help those caught in those dreadful blasts—particularly those from the emergency services. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on what plans her Government have to try to prevent future attacks and monitor people who have raised the suspicions of the police and security services?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to pay tribute to those people and commemorate the anniversary of those attacks. In short, we are constantly investing in our security and intelligence services. In particular, we are investing in counter-terrorism policing, which has had an increase this year of £90 million—one of the largest uplifts ever, taking CT policing funding to more than £900 million. Of course, we have to do more to strengthen it and ensure our system is fit, agile and responsive to all sorts of threats.

I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to those who died in the 7/7 attacks, and I commend the work of the emergency services that day.

When I read the details of the proposed new immigration system, I was disappointed, if unfortunately not shocked, to see evidence yet again that the Government do not consider carers to be skilled workers, as they have been excluded from the qualifying list for the health and care visa. After the Prime Minister accused care workers of not following the guidance on covid-19, and now this, will the Home Secretary please answer a simple question: what do the Government have against care workers?

We support our care workers. Senior care workers will qualify under the new points-based system. People will look at what has happened over the past few months and surely they will not think that our vision for the social care sector should be to carry on looking abroad to recruit at or near the minimum wage. We need to be prioritising jobs in this country.

We all want more people training and entering the care sector at a decent wage, but there are more than 100,000 vacancies in England alone today. Some of us in the House do not need reminding of how important and skilled care workers’ jobs are, but that does not always seem to be the case for the Government. I would like to extend an invitation to the Home Secretary. I will convene a meeting of a delegation of care workers, alongside their trade union representatives, to help to provide a better understanding of the incredible jobs they do. Would she care to join me? I am sure she would find meeting frontline care workers incredibly useful when sitting there deciding how skilled people’s jobs are.

Many people listening in Torfaen and Halifax will be wondering whether the hon. Gentleman has been following the sad news about the economic impact of covid-19 and the number of our own UK-based workers who we will need to get back into employment. It is hard to believe that many will believe that there is a labour shortage. We engage regularly with the care sector and we listen to what it says. Our priority is that in future these jobs will be valued, rewarded and trained for, and that immigration should not be an alternative.

The Environmental Audit Committee highlighted in our reports on hand car washes in 2018 and on fast fashion in 2019 clear evidence of modern slavery, in plain sight, in hand car washes on streets across Britain and in garment factories in Leicester. Will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary commit to doing all she can to work across Government agencies to rid our towns and cities of this scourge? (904635)

I completely agree with my right hon. Friend’s description of this modern-day scourge of exploitation. On hand car washes, local authorities need to do so much more in terms of stepping in and investigating with trading standards. He is right to press me and the Government on integrated working across all aspects of the state, at both national Government and local authority level. On Leicester, he, like all hon. Members, will be interested to know that we have established a cross-Government taskforce, which will be on the ground, asking the difficult questions of all institutions and organisations across Leicester about this scourge in the textile sector.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Select Committee has repeatedly called on the Government to include care workers alongside NHS medical staff with regard to this year’s free visa extension following covid-19. By refusing to do so, Ministers have cost those frontline workers thousands of pounds. Does the Home Secretary’s decision to exclude social care workers from the health and care visa mean that they will also have to pay the immigration surcharge up front? If so, why is it fair for them to have to find many more thousands of pounds up front as well?

To be clear, the health and care visa will, by definition, include various areas in the care sector. As I touched on in response to the shadow Home Secretary, our vision for the future of the care sector is about providing rewarding opportunities to UK-based workers, not basing it purely on immigration.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will fondly remember her visit to Clowne in my constituency during the election campaign and the popularity on the doorsteps of getting more police on the streets in Derbyshire. Our police are fantastic but they need some new colleagues. Could she please give us an update? (904636)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. On calls for more police officers in his constituency, he is equally as popular for his championing of more cops and for the excellent work he is doing. I can confirm that his county of Derbyshire will receive 85 officers as part of the uplift, but 60 new officers have already been recruited and they will be coming to his community very soon.

According to a new report from Coram Children’s Legal Centre, more than 900,000 eligible European economic area children are thought to be living in the UK, fewer than half of whom have been granted status under the settlement scheme. Of the estimated 9,000 EEA children in the UK care system, the state—which has a duty of care to these vulnerable children—has secured status for fewer than 500. What urgent action will the Home Secretary take on the back of these revelations, to ensure that no vulnerable children are allowed to become undocumented? (904640)

We have already taken a range of actions. We are working with local authorities, which, as the hon. Gentleman has touched on, have the duty to make the application for those eligible under the EUSS. We have also confirmed that we will accept late applications from those who should have had an application made on their behalf by their local council. We are also working with support groups, one of which I will visit virtually tomorrow.

No one should be fearful of practising their faith anywhere, but there have been too many attacks, both at home and abroad, on all sorts of places of worship. I thank the Minister for her earlier answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) about doubling the places of worship protective security fund to £3.2 million, and for the Home Office’s consultation, which recently closed. Does the Home Secretary believe that those measures, put together, will limit the chances of future hate crime attacks in the UK? (904637)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is valuable investment. What we have seen in terms of targeted attacks on places of worship is appalling; it is thoroughly unacceptable. It is that combined approach, along with law enforcement, that absolutely matters. We want to see crimes of this nature absolutely decrease, and we want to stamp this out.

It is over three months since Wendy Williams’s Windrush lessons learned review was published. On 23 June, I asked the Home Secretary when she would implement the review’s sixth recommendation: to accurately teach British colonial history in the Home Office to tackle institutional racism. The Windrush generation has waited too long for justice. The Government must not continue to drag their feet. The Home Secretary said that she would bring forward a timeline and an action plan for implementing the recommendations before recess. Is that still the case? (904642)

Violent crime is the scourge of too many communities. Perhaps the Home Secretary will join me in paying tribute to the Thames Valley police and crime commissioner, who has put together a violence reduction unit, which works with the police and other partners to pilot early interventions into these offenders. (904638)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I pay tribute to the police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley and the emphasis that he has put, along with the police force, on violence reduction units and that multi-agency way of working, so that young people and people across all communities can be supported to ensure that crime prevention, and steering people away from crime and criminality, is the focus.

When and why did the Government U-turn on their commitment to a remote areas visa pilot? Who did they consult before making that disastrous U-turn? (904643)

We have been very clear in our response to the Migration Advisory Committee report, and we will make sure that our new system serves the whole of our United Kingdom.

Women’s Community Matters in my constituency is an amazing place. It helps women and families, including those in urgent need, but it is rightly concerned about the availability of refuges locally. There is one in Kendal; if it is full, families have to go out of the area, and often placements fail. We passed a landmark piece of legislation in the Domestic Abuse Bill. Will the Home Secretary look again at the funding and availability of these services in rural areas such as mine? (904639)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I commend him for his work locally and for raising this point. If I may, I will write to him with the specifics of what we can do in his local area to provide assistance and financial help.

Cleveland has the third highest violent crime rate in the country and ranks sixth highest nationally for offences involving knives and sharp instruments. The most serious violent offences are also increasing at a higher rate than the national average, despite the excellent work by our new chief constable. The Government have granted £100 million to 18 police force areas and PCCs deemed to have a significant problem with serious violence. Why has Cleveland not been included? (904645)

If I may, I join the hon. Gentleman in commending the work of his chief constable. Cleveland, as he will know, has had a difficult few years, not just when it comes to policing, and he will know the outcomes of many of the inspectorate reports too. On the areas of violence that he mentions, of course we are constantly looking at this whole area, and if there is more that we can do to tackle serious violent crime we will absolutely do that.

My right hon. Friend will know that the Peace Foundation is globally renowned for its work in supporting victims of terror incidents, most recently those affected by the Reading attacks. Its work is now at risk because of changes to its funding. Will the Home Secretary come to Warrington and meet the team there, so that she can understand more about the great work that they do? (904641)

First, let me commend my hon. Friend for championing the work of the Peace Foundation. He has been in extensive dialogue with us on this, but he is right to point to the work that it does when it comes to victims of terror. I would be very happy to meet him and to come to Warrington and have further discussions about this.

Shockingly, in Kidsgrove and Talke, local police officers are unable to access the outdated CCTV due to its being stationed in a local high street store. I was pleased when residents supported my plan to have the Labour-run Kidsgrove Town Council use its extensive funds for a CCTV upgrade. Will my right hon. Friend back my plan, call for an end to the dither and delay and demand that Kidsgrove Town Council backs our brave Staffordshire police officers? (904644)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We must end the dither and delay, as he outlined, and I commend him for championing CCTV to make sure that the local council steps up and does the right thing. I will give him every backing that he needs.

It is clear that child victims of domestic abuse who do not enter a refuge often require extra support, which is regularly being overlooked. Will the Home Secretary confirm what specific resources are available to those children to ensure that their needs are met? (904649)

If the hon. Lady has specifics that she would like to raise with me, I can come back to her on the details for children. We passed the Domestic Abuse Bill last week in this House and we have been very clear about the protections around children—that is absolutely right. There are many other measures that we have in place, and I would be very happy to write to her about that.

Our commitment to providing sanctuary to those fleeing war, famine and disease is important to many across the UK, and especially in my constituency. At the end of the transition period, the UK will leave the Dublin system, risking the loss of an important safe route to reunification for families, so will the Home Secretary amend the refugee family reunion rules to allow more families to reunite safely here in Britain? (904654)

We set out clearly, during the passage of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill recently, our plan to look at negotiating a proper agreement with the European Union for family reunification based on the fantastic record that we have, which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary outlined earlier.

Residents in Paston, Werrington and other parts of Peterborough have had to endure unauthorised encampments on public land and open spaces for many years. Rubbish, industrial waste and even human waste has been left behind, costing many thousands of pounds to clear up. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is unacceptable and will she bring forward legislation to deal with it as soon as possible?

I think my hon. Friend knows my views on this subject matter quite well, my having campaigned with him. I absolutely agree with him: it is thoroughly unacceptable. He will have to wait until the autumn session of Parliament, but we will be bringing forward legislation covering that very issue.

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I briefly suspend the House.

Sitting suspended.