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Small Boat Channel Crossings

Volume 701: debated on Monday 18 October 2021

May I, too, associate myself with the tributes that have been paid, and that no doubt will be paid for the rest of the day, to both Sir David and James Brokenshire? They were model parliamentarians and great friends, and we are far poorer in this House for their passing.

Illegal entry to the UK via small boats is unsafe, unfair and unacceptable. We are working tirelessly to make the route unviable through a comprehensive package of measures—there is no one single answer. Our new plan for immigration and the Nationality and Borders Bill will address the challenge of illegal immigration by increasing maximum sentences for people smugglers and making it easier to swiftly remove those who enter the UK illegally.

What urgency does my hon. Friend attach to the implementation of offshore processing along the Australian model?

My right hon. Friend will know that the provisions in the Bill are comprehensive, many and varied. As I said, there is not one single answer to the challenge that we face in relation to illegal channel crossings. We must make the route unviable and, of course, in the Bill we reserve the right to do exactly what my right hon. Friend advocates.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Nationality and Borders Bill is key to preventing the vile people-smuggling gangs from continuing to facilitate channel crossings and putting so many lives at risk?

As ever, my right hon. Friend gets to the nub of the issue. I make the point again, because it bears repeating, that there is no one single answer to resolve the challenge that we face. In swift order, we require the comprehensive measures set out in the Bill, which are there to tackle dangerous crossings. Of course, we also need global assistance to help us to achieve our aims. We must put these evil criminal gangs out of business once and for all and preserve human life, which is exactly what the measures we have proposed seek to do.

I want to add my sincere condolences to Sir David and his family and friends. Sir David was kind to everyone in Parliament and he will be greatly missed.

Last week, Sir David and I were part of a parliamentary delegation in Qatar. During the visit, we met the unaccompanied child refugees who had been evacuated from Afghanistan and are now being housed in temporary accommodation in Qatar. As many as 13 of those children have family members in the UK and are desperate to be reunited with them. Will the Home Secretary now take steps urgently to facilitate the reunion of those children with their families?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are working across Government on these matters. I know that engagement is going on through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office with the authorities that he describes. We have a proud record and tradition in this country of providing sanctuary to those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. That absolutely continues to be the case. That is a firm commitment of this Government and it is perfectly in line with this country’s proud traditions. People across our country would expect us to continue to do that, and that is exactly what we will do.

I and my colleagues, from the bottom of our hearts, send our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of both Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire. It is fair to say that, in short, everyone knew Sir David and everyone liked and respected him, without exception.

I shadowed James Brokenshire as Immigration Minister in my first year in this place, and he made my job 10 times tougher, not only because of his mastery of the brief, but because he, too, was a person whom it was impossible not to respect and to like and we will sorely miss him.

At the last Home Office questions, the Home Secretary suggested that I had not read the Nationality and Borders Bill when I said that it would see Uyghurs, persecuted Christians and Syrians fleeing war prosecuted and sentenced to prison, but I have read it and that is precisely what clause 37 will do. I welcome the Minister to his place, but if he does not want to see Uyghurs, persecuted Christians and Syrians prosecuted and imprisoned, will he take that clause out of the Bill?

I would expect nothing less from the hon. Gentleman given that we are beginning line-by-line consideration of the Bill tomorrow in Committee. I have no doubt that he will have studied every single clause very carefully and will be interrogating me on each of them. We do not want to see anybody persecuted. As I have said previously, as a country and as a Government, we are absolutely determined to make sure that there continue to be safe and legal routes, so that people who qualify can continue to access sanctuary in this country. Also, of course, through our international engagement, we always press home that human rights must be respected and upheld at every turn.

I warmly welcome the Minister and, indeed, the Government’s forthcoming legislation on this issue, but may I urge on him the utmost haste and speed in delivering it to this House for our consideration? The trade, as it were, of human trafficking is a hideous crime. Lives are being lost now. It is making a laughing stock of the two systems on both sides of the channel. We need to put a stop to it. It should not be beyond the wit of the Government to do so.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend who has consistently raised these matters. He is right to say that we want to deliver the provisions of the Nationality and Borders Bill as quickly as possible, because we believe that they are fundamental to preventing these dangerous channel crossings as part of an overall package to deliver on that. I hope that the Bill will command support across the House.

My hon. Friend is also right to raise the issue of collaboration with our international partners; of course, the French are integral to that. We have an arrangement with the French. It is bearing results, but there is clearly still more to do. This issue cannot be resolved entirely without that collaboration.