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Illegal Immigration

Volume 712: debated on Monday 25 April 2022

There is a whole of Government effort to counter these dangerous and unnecessary crossings. That effort is reflected in the recent changes that the Government have made to operational primacy. We continue to work closely with the French to prevent crossing attempts, guiding vulnerable migrants in France towards support there, and tackling the vile criminal gangs that profit from them.

I have raised small boat crossings with the Department on a number of occasions, and I am grateful for the continued efforts to bring the crossings to an end and to ensure that we control illegal immigration. Does the Minister agree that it is important that we use every single power we have to prevent these illegal crossings, which continually put lives in danger; to clamp down on the gangs that facilitate them; and to continue to provide the legal routes by which so many people have already made safe crossings?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the distinction between illegal entry into this country and people coming via safe and legal routes. I know that his constituents in North Warwickshire and Bedworth feel very strongly that the Nationality and Borders Bill needs to pass into law. We need its comprehensive measures to build on our existing powers, to get to grips with this issue, and to tackle it fairly but robustly. I am sure that he will join me in encouraging the other place to get on and pass the Bill this week.

The people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke are delighted with this groundbreaking economic and development partnership with Rwanda, which will help to break the business model of vile people smugglers once and for all. Does my hon. Friend share my concern and that of my constituents that the Labour woke warriors are quite happy to stick with the status quo, meaning that more people are going to leave safe mainland France, risking their lives and putting thousands of pounds in the hands of smuggling gangs, which will mean more death in the channel and illegal economic migrants continuing to enter the United Kingdom?

One thing we absolutely know is that my hon. Friend’s constituents are very perceptive. They will recognise that the Labour party has no credible alternative that recognises the scale of the challenge and all its complexities. We need the measures in the Bill; we need the Rwanda model to come to fruition. We are getting on and delivering on that priority.

To avoid desperate Ukrainians being added to those trying to cross the channel, the Government’s schemes for Ukrainians need to work. Can the Minister explain why the very helpful Members’ hub in Portcullis House has been stopped from issuing permission-to-travel letters to MPs? I dealt with a family last week. For two of the family members, the letters were sent to me and I could let the family and their host family here know, and they were all happy about it. For the third family member, the system was stopped at the end of the last week, and officials are saying that they are now no longer allowed to issue MPs with those permission-to-travel letters. It is a complete shambles. Will he sort it out?

The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that I am not the Minister with direct responsibility for the refugee scheme, but I will gladly ensure that his feedback is heard by my noble Friend Lord Harrington. If the right hon. Gentleman would like to share details of those specific cases, we will gladly look at them at pace.

Despite this Government continually patting themselves on the back, there remain far too many cracks in the Homes for Ukraine scheme. In a recent article published by The Guardian, an anonymous whistleblower has revealed that he dealt with numerous cases in which UK visas had been issued for an entire family apart from just one child, effectively stopping the family from travelling to safety. Over the past few weeks, I have been in contact with a constituent who has been doing all she can to help a family from Ukraine who are in that exact scenario, but she is getting nowhere. What is the Minister doing to plug those gaps and to ensure that entire families, not just individuals, can reach the UK safely?

If the hon. Lady can provide the specifics of that case, I will happily ensure that that is looked at quickly. It is also fair to say that the number of caseworkers dedicated to this work has been increased, and we try to ensure that cases are grouped so that families are processed consistently together, which makes sense, but I would be delighted to look at the specifics of this case.

The deeply misjudged Nationality and Borders Bill and the Rwanda offloading plan will not only make cracking down on criminal people traffickers much more difficult, but make the cost to the British taxpayer criminally expensive. The British people deserve to know how their taxes are being spent, not least because the failed Australian model ended up costing £1 million per refugee. I ask the Home Secretary how many refugees she expects to send to Rwanda each year. The Prime Minister says it is tens of thousands; is that correct? How many can they house in the detention centres? What will the cost per single refugee be? What will the £120 million be spent on? Finally, given that her most senior civil servant refused to sign off on the plan, when will the Home Secretary publish a comprehensive cost forecast of her unworkable, extortionate and profoundly un-British Rwanda offloading agreement?

The hon. Gentleman clearly did not pay much attention to the statement last week and the responses given. The British people deserve to know what his alternative is. I would politely suggest there is none.

I thank the Home Secretary, the Minister and all her team for bringing about the so-called Rwanda plan. I know the whole of Dudley is behind her, as is the rest of the country—unlike the Labour party, which has no plan. I ask the Home Secretary and her team to continue with the same steely resolve that I know she must have applied to get here as they move on to delivery and implementation.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for the policies we are bringing forward. He recognises the gravity and importance of the issues we are dealing with. We will not rest while people continue to put their lives in the hands of evil criminal gangs, whose only concern is to take a profit from those individuals. They do not care whether people get here safely. That has to stop, we have a plan to stop it and we are going to get on and deliver it.

The Minister claimed that the Rwanda scheme will be a way of diminishing the small boats crossing the channel, but he will be aware that at least one Member of this House does not support his scheme: the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who is not only a former Prime Minister, but a former Home Secretary. Can he explain to the House why he disagrees with his colleague, and what makes him so sure that his scheme will not fall in the courts?

I have huge respect and admiration for my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). The bottom line here is that there is no single intervention that will resolve the issue, but we must strain every sinew. We believe this is an important policy intervention that will shift the dynamic and help to preserve lives. That is a fundamental imperative and we cannot put a cost on it. I am convinced that this policy will deliver, along with the wider package of measures we are introducing. I encourage the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) to be in the right Division Lobby this week and to pass the Nationality and Borders Bill into law.