Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee.
New Clause 16
Compensation for an illegal working closure notice where order is cancelled/ no compliance order is made
‘(1) Where an illegal working closure notice is issued and—
(a) is subsequently cancelled in accordance with paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 to this Act, or
(b) no illegal working compliance order is made (whether or not an application is made for such an order)
the Secretary of state shall pay compensation to the persons listed in subsection (2).
(2) The Secretary of State shall pay compensation under subsection (1) to—
(a) the person to whom the notice was issued or, if he is dead, to his personal representatives;
(b) a person who lives on the premises (whether habitually or not);
(c) any person who has an interest in the premises.
(3) No payment of compensation under this section shall be made unless an application for such compensation has been made to the Secretary of State before the end of the period of two years beginning with the date on which the notice is issued.
(4) But the Secretary of State may direct that an application for compensation made after the end of that period is to be treated as if it had been made within that period if the Secretary of State considers that there are exceptional circumstances which justify doing so.
(5) The question whether there is a right to compensation under this section shall be determined by the Secretary of State.
(6) If the Secretary of State determines that there is a right to such compensation, the amount of the compensation shall be assessed by an assessor appointed by the Secretary of State.
(7) In assessing so much of any compensation payable as is attributable to suffering, harm to reputation or similar damage, the assessor must have regard in particular to—
(a) the conduct of the person to whom the notice was given;
(b) the conduct of the immigration officer.
(8) If, having had regard to any matters falling within subsection (9)(a) or (b), the assessor considers that there are exceptional circumstances which justify doing so, the assessor may determine that the amount of compensation payable is to be a nominal amount only.
(9) The total amount of compensation payable must not exceed the overall compensation limit. That limit is—
(a) £10,000 in a case in which there is no element for loss of earnings;
(b) £50,000 in any other case.
(10) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument amend subsection (9) so as to vary overall compensation limit.
(11) No order may be made under subsection (9) unless a draft of the order has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.’—(Stuart C. McDonald.)
Provides a statutory basis for compensation for illegal working closure notices when the order is cancelled.
Brought up, and read the First time.
Stuart McDonald, Mr Speaker.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 17—Residential Tenancies: repeal of provisions of the Immigration Act 2014—
‘(1) The Immigration Act 2014 is amended as follows.
(2) Omit sections 20-37, 74 (2)(a) and Schedule 3.”
Repeals the provisions of the Immigration Act 2014 in relation to the right to rent.
Amendment 18, in clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert—
‘(3A) The matters to which the Director must have regard in pursuance of his or her functions include the provision of assistance and support to victims of non-compliance in the labour market, as defined under subsection (3)(1).’
To ensure that the functions of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement are exercised for the purpose of protecting the victims of labour market exploitation and to make this explicit on the face of the Bill, mirroring section 41 of the Modern Slavery Act in respect of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner established by that Act.
Amendment 19, page 5, line 2, leave out clause 8.
To omit the clause on the new illegal working offence and maintain the status quo.
Amendment 20, in clause 8, page 5, line 9, after “if” insert “without reasonable cause”.
To provide for a defence against the offence of illegal working.
Amendment 33, in clause 9, page 7, line 11, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) In section 21 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (offence of knowingly employing illegal worker), leave out subsection (1) and substitute—
(1) A person commits an offence if he knowingly or recklessly employs an adult subject to immigration control, where—
(a) this adult has not been granted leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, or
(b) this adult’s leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom—
(i) is invalid,
(ii) has ceased to have effect (whether by reason of curtailment, revocation, cancellation, passage of time or otherwise), or
(iii) is subject to a condition preventing him from accepting the employment.”
To restrict the criminal offence of “employing illegal worker” to where this has been done “knowingly or recklessly”.
Amendment 47, page 7, line 36, in clause 10, leave out “Scotland or”.
Removes the power for the Secretary of State to make regulations relating to illegal working extending to Scotland.
Amendment 48, page 7, leave out line 41.
Prevents the Secretary of State making regulations that confer functions on Scottish Ministers in relation to illegal working.
Amendment 49, page 8, line 5, leave out “an Act of the Scottish Parliament or”.
Definitional change for purposes of amendments 47 and 48.
Amendment 50, page 8, line 6, leave out “under such an Act or”.
Definitional change for the purposes of amendment 49.
Amendment 51, in clause 11, page 8, line 13, leave out “Scotland or”.
Removes the power for the Secretary of State to make regulations relating to illegal working in relation to private hire vehicles extend to Scotland.
Amendment 52, page 8, leave out line 18.
Prevents the Secretary of State making regulations that confer functions on Scottish Ministers in relation to illegal working relating to private hire vehicles.
Amendment 53, page 8, line 25, leave out paragraph (b).
Definitional change for purposes of amendments 51 and 52.
Amendment 35, page 9, line 4, leave out clauses 13 to 16.
Removes the extension of the right to rent legislation in the Bill.
Amendment 46, in clause 13, page 9, line 31, at end insert—
‘(5A) A landlord will not commit an offence under subsection (1) if—
(a) the landlord enters a residential tenancy agreement with an organisation or person who is supporting an adult mentioned in in subsection (2);
(b) the rental payment received by the landlord as a result of this tenancy does not significantly exceed the costs that are incurred by the landlord for having the adult occupy the premises.”.
Ensures that a landlord who has agreed by working with an organisation/charity to provide accommodation to support failed asylum seekers are exempt from committing an offence.
Amendment 22, page 10, line 4, at end insert—
‘(8A) A landlord does not commit an offence under this section during the period of 28 days specified in section 33D (4).”
To protect a landlord/landlady from prosecution for renting to a person without a right to rent during the period for which they are prohibited from evicting the tenant under section 33D(4).
Amendment 23, in clause 14, page 12, line 1, leave out subsection (2).
To remove the provisions providing for summary eviction.
Amendment 24, page 13, line 18, leave out “Sections 33D and” and substitute “Section”.
See explanatory note for amendment 23.
Amendment 25, page 13, leave out line 24.
See explanatory note for amendment 23.
Amendment 26, page 13, line 26, leave out subsections (5) to (7).
See explanatory note for amendment 23.
Amendment 54, in clause 16, page 17, line 7, leave out “, Scotland”.
Removes the power for the Secretary of State to make regulations in relation to the right to rent scheme extending to Scotland.
Amendment 55, page 17, line 10, leave out “, Scotland”.
See explanatory statement for amendment 54.
Amendment 56, page 17, leave out line 17.
Prevents the Secretary of State making regulations that confer functions on Scottish Ministers in relation to the right to rent scheme.
Amendment 57, page 17, line 27, leave out paragraph (c).
Definitional change for the purposes of amendments 55 and 56.
Amendment 41, in clause 57, page 50, line 4, at end insert—
“(7) Regulations made under—
(a) section 10;
(b) section 11; or
(c) section 16
of this Act shall not come into force in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.”
Ensures regulations made under the relevant sections cannot extend to Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
Amendment 21, in clause 58, page 50, line 9, at end insert—
‘(2A) Section 13 shall come into force subject to the conditions set out subsection (2B).
(2B) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish an evaluation of the national implementation of provisions contained in sections 20 to 37 and Schedule 3 to the Immigration Act 2014, and must lay a copy of the report before Parliament.
(2C) The report in subsection (2B) must include an assessment of the impact of those provisions on—
(a) individuals who have a protected characteristic as defined in Part 2, Chapter 1 of the Equality Act 2010, and
(b) British citizens who do not hold a passport or UK driving licence.”
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament an evaluation of the national roll out of the 2014 Right to Rent Scheme before the new offences in clause 13 come into force.
New clause 8—Detention of persons—exempted persons—
In paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971, after subsection (4) insert—
“(5) A person may not be detained under this paragraph if they are—
(a) a woman who—
(i) states that she is pregnant, where this is confirmed to be the case or,
(ii) is reasonably suspected to be pregnant by an immigration officer;
(b) a person whose initial claim for asylum to the United Kingdom was based on being a victim of one of the following:
(i) human trafficking;
(iii) sexual violence;
(c) a member of any other group as may be prescribed in regulations by the Secretary of State.”
This amendment would provide that pregnant women, people who claimed asylum as victims of trafficking, torture or sexual violence, and any other group prescribed by the Secretary of State, may not be detained pending an examination or decision by an immigration officer.
New clause 9—Time limit on detention—
In paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 after subsection (4) insert—
“(5) Subject to subsection (6), no person shall be detained under this paragraph for more than 28 days.
(6) Subsection (5) shall not apply where the person detained under this paragraph has a criminal conviction with a sentence of imprisonment for three months or more.”
This amendment provides that people shall not be detained pending an examination/a decision by an immigration officer for more than 28 days, unless they have a criminal conviction.
New clause 13—Review of Immigration Detention—
“(1) Before the end of the period of three months beginning on the day on which subsection (1) of section 32 comes into force, the Secretary of State must commission a report on detention under paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 that addresses the following matters—
(a) the process for, and detail of, introducing a statutory maximum limit of 28 days on the length of time an individual can be detained under that paragraph;
(b) how to reduce the number of people detained under that paragraph;
(c) how to minimise the length of time an individual is detained under that paragraph;
(d) the effectiveness of detention in meeting the Secretary of State’s objectives; and
(e) the effectiveness of procedures to review decisions to detain and to continue to detain.
(2) The Report must be published by a panel appointed by the Secretary of State.
(3) The panel appointed under subsection (2) must be independently chaired.
(4) On completion of the report, the Chair of the panel must send it to the Secretary of State.
(5) The Secretary of State must lay before parliament a copy of the report received under subsection (4).”
Reflecting the unanimous agreement of the House of Commons to the recommendations of the joint APPG on Refugees and APPG on Migration inquiry into immigration detention, the new clause requires the Secretary of State to appoint an independently-chaired panel to consider the issues raised therein and report to Parliament within three months of Schedule 7 to the Bill coming into force.
Amendment 32, in schedule 7, page 97, line 22, at end insert—
“(2A) The Secretary of State must grant a person bail if a person is detained under a provision mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) after no later than the 28 day following that on which the person was detained.”
To introduce a 28 day time limit on the amount of time a person can be kept in immigration detention.
I am unashamedly moving lots of amendments, and there are several others that we on these Benches support too, which I will come to in due course. The large number of changes that we want reflects our hostility to this Bill, which we oppose outright and will vote against this evening as ill-conceived and regressive, and which will do little to move the country towards the Government’s increasingly ludicrous-looking net migration target. If the Bill passes, perhaps one or two of these amendments might provide a little comfort in an otherwise bleak piece of legislation.
New clauses 16 and 17 seek to rectify two provisions that exemplify for us where fundamental problems lie with this Bill. New clause 16 would put in place some restriction on one of the many significant, inappropriate and untrammelled powers that the Bill passes to immigration officers and other officials. A large part of the Bill seems to be a wish list of powers from UK immigration staff, which the Government unquestioningly want to hand over to them.
We have done our best to make the Bill slightly more palatable, but even with all our amendments I regret to say that we would still find the damage that the Bill will cause unacceptable. Regardless of what happens today, therefore, we will be voting against Third Reading.
New clause 17, would repeal the right-to-rent provisions introduced by the Immigration Act 2014, provisions which, like their successor provisions in this Bill, will have limited effect on the Government’s pretend net migration target, but are none the less deemed necessary to make the Government look tough on immigration. As I said on Second Reading, it is in reality immigration theatre—acting out the part of immigration enforcer. But while there is little evidence that it will achieve much in terms of immigration control, its consequences on cohesion could be significant.
I agree that we need to enforce the immigration rules and laws that we have put in place, but the problem is that the resources and manpower are not being put in to do that. We do not need new powers and rules; we simply need resources to enforce the rules that already exist. I suggest that some of the rules already go far too far.
New clause 16 is a modest response to clause 13, which creates wide powers for immigration officials to close premises for 48 hours before any court involvement is required in certain cases of suspected illegal working. These could have very significant consequences, including for perfectly innocent workers whose place of work is closed for up to two days. Provision for statutory compensation, which our amendment would introduce, is designed to ensure that notices are not issued in an oppressive manner by immigration officials.
New clause 17 is without doubt the more significant of the two new clauses. It would remove the right-to-rent provisions in the 2014 Act. We have signed other amendments in relation to right to rent, starting with the crucial amendment 35, which would remove the criminal sanctions and what we regard as Dickensian eviction processes from the Bill. Amendment 46 is designed to prevent those letting out rooms on essentially a charitable basis from being criminalised. Finally amendments 54 to 57 remove powers for the Secretary of State to legislate by way of regulations for new Scottish right-to-rent provisions, with immense effect on devolved Scottish housing law.
We also support changes proposed by Labour Members such as amendment 22, which seems designed to fix what we can only presume to be a drafting anomaly under which a landlord or landlady would be guilty of an offence for renting to a person with no right to rent, even during the period of 28 days when they could not evict that person. We also fully back their amendments 23 to 26, which would remove the obscene proposals that would see landlords and landladies turned into not only immigration officers but High Court judges, and would see summary evictions without judicial oversight.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) will have more—much more—to say on these dreadful and draconian measures if given the opportunity, Madam Deputy Speaker. Our view is essentially the same as it was on Second Reading. Right to rent is not evidence-based, but in fact flies in the face of the evidence provided by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, and indeed parts of the Government’s own pilot review. It is unfair to place these duties and now criminal sanctions on landlords, and it will lead to inadvertent discrimination or racism, with foreign nationals and even British citizens without documents at risk of being rejected from a tenancy whenever there is a safe and easy option of a British passport holder to rent to. It will push more families away from authorities and immigration control, making enforcement harder, not easier.
The one part of the Bill from which something useful might actually emerge is the first few clauses of part 1, and the provisions for a Director of Labour Market Enforcement, which we welcome. It is sad that its presence in an immigration Bill suggests that the new role might be seen as one primarily concerned with enforcing immigration laws, so we have joined our Labour colleagues in supporting amendment 18, which is designed to ensure that the functions of the director are exercised for the purpose of protecting the victims of labour market exploitation.
More fundamental is amendment 19, which seeks to remove the offence of illegal working. We share the widespread concerns that, like other offences, it will have little effect in terms of immigration control, but will have other significant adverse effects. In this case, the negative consequence is to undermine the decent work that the Government have been doing to tackle slavery and trafficking. The Bill will drive exploited, undocumented workers further underground, and leave them more at risk of exploitation, rather than less.
While on this issue, we know that James Ewins’ report on domestic workers is with the Government but as yet not available to Members. We question why that is the case, and when we will be able to see and debate it in order to inform what should happen with this Bill if it gets a Third Reading.
Finally, in relation to part 1 of the Act, amendment 33 seeks to ensure that employers who innocently and inadvertently employ a person without the right to work are not criminalised by the Bill. It does so by applying a threshold of “knowingly or recklessly” to the offence of employing an adult without permission to work, instead of merely requiring that they have “reasonable cause to believe” that the employee may be such a person. We are concerned that the current test might catch people who are not the intended target.
There are two further sets of amendments in this first grouping that I need to speak to. The first set relates to how a number of these provisions would be implemented in Scotland. Clauses 10, 11 and 16 all include what I am told are referred to as Henry VIII clauses—broad powers to legislate for Scotland, and indeed Northern Ireland and in one case Wales. Whereas provisions on licensed premises, private hire vehicles and right to rent are set out in significant detail in schedules to the Bill, and subject to full legislative scrutiny, that is not the case for Scotland. Instead, the Secretary of State is given the sweeping power to legislate in a similar way for Scotland by way of regulation. The power includes the ability to amend Acts of the Scottish Parliament, without any consideration of that Parliament’s view on the matter—and that is despite the fact that liquor licensing, private hire car licensing and housing are all devolved matters.
I understand that Parliament has long been hostile to Henry VIII clauses, and rightly so. These clauses are particularly pernicious for the reasons given, and so should be rejected. That can be done by supporting amendments 47 to 53, which would remove the power to regulate for Scotland in this way, thereby requiring primary legislation and the full scrutiny that that entails. Alternatively, amendment 41 requires that any such regulations would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament, again enabling proper scrutiny. That is surely only right and proper in the circumstances.
Finally, on new clause 13 and amendment 32, this House witnessed a powerful Backbench Business debate back in September, led by the hon. Members for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), for Bedford (Richard Fuller) and for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), who I know will all want, if they can, to speak on the issue again today. On that day there were strong speeches on all sides of the House as it united to tell the Government that immigration detention without a fixed and certain time limit was no longer acceptable. We are the only country in the EU without a time limit so it is inexcusable for this country not to operate one. We on the SNP Benches would prefer that we move straight to a position where immigration bail is granted after 28 days, as set out in amendment 32. Alternatively, we will support new clause 13 to see progress towards that goal.
My hon. Friend will be aware that the immigration detention inquiry panel heard evidence from a consultant psychiatrist that those who are detained for more than 30 days suffer significantly more mental health problems than those detained for fewer than 30 days. Does my hon. Friend agree that this evidence reinforces the need for new clause 32?
Does my hon. Friend share my concerns for the wellbeing of the migrants being detained—an experience described by one man as his three years in a cage? The conditions in which migrants are detained lack any shred of dignity. Does my hon. Friend concur with me that the Home Office seems to have forgotten that human rights are universal and not conditional upon immigration status?
My hon. Friend makes her point powerfully. The issue is not just a time limit going forward, but conditions of detention and moving away from routine use of immigration detention to make it a rare exception, rather than almost the norm.
In conclusion, there is widespread demand for change, and perhaps if there is one— just one—piece of silver lining on the dark cloud represented by this Bill, it will be a time limit on detention.
As I have had cause to mention previously in the Chamber, immigration was the single most important issue for my constituents in Castle Point at the recent election and remains so. I am sure many hon. Members in all parts of the House find that to be the case. Having spent several weeks sitting on the Committee that considered the Bill, I fully support it as the Government have drafted it.
I shall speak in particular on new clauses 8 and 9, dealing with time limits on detention. Although I fully appreciate the thinking behind such amendments, I cannot support them because introducing a time limit on detention is, I believe, a poor approach to an important issue. I believe also that new clause 13 is premature as we await the results of several Government reviews of the whole system of detention.
The Home Office already has a policy to safeguard against unnecessary or arbitrary detention of individuals. Detention must be used sparingly and for the shortest period possible, and cases must be assessed on an individual basis.
I am conscious that we are covering ground that we covered in Committee. The hon. Lady will recognise that although that is the principle of the Home Office, there is powerful evidence that the Home Office is failing to achieve those objectives, as shown by the fact that many people are detained for months, and some for years. A statutory limit could therefore bring a culture change in the approach to the issue.
I appreciate my hon. Friend’s point about the need for those reviews to inform the debate. Does she share my disappointment that although the reviews have been pending for many months, we in this House do not have that information as we deliberate the amendment before us today?
I recognise the frustration of my hon. Friend and others about that, but properly conducted reviews can take time and we have urgent business, which is to deal with many of the measures in the Bill. I feel confident that the Government will deal appropriately with the issue in due course.
In instances where an individual is detained while their case is being investigated, regular reviews can be undertaken to ensure that such detention remains lawful and proportionate. I feel sure that subsequent to the findings of those three reviews, any improvements that can be made will be made by the Government. In addition to this, detention is always a matter for the judiciary. Cases where an individual has been detained are rightly subject to scrutiny and oversight by the courts, which have the power to examine any case as they see fit. The judiciary is clear that factors such as risk to the public and an individual’s immigration history are key in deciding the appropriate timescale for detention. It is correct that judicial authority and experience should be the guiding principle in such cases, and not a random figure imposed by politicians in the Chamber today.
Imposing a maximum time limit of 28 days, for example, is not only arbitrary, but potentially dangerous and irresponsible. Such a limit risks allowing all sorts of individuals to effectively and maliciously subvert the rules. They can refuse to co-operate with the authorities, safe in the knowledge that in doing so they will be released after just four weeks. I need hardly remind the House of the consequences that such a rule would have in the case of someone such as Abu Qatada. This surely cannot be the intention of the House. Placing a time limit on the detention of individuals could be an irresponsible risk to our national security and, especially in the light of recent events around the world, I cannot support the amendments and I urge other Members to oppose them.
I shall speak to the amendments in my name. I hope it will be helpful to the House if I indicate as I go through them which of those amendments I currently intend to press to a Division, so that the Minister will know.
I start with the labour market provisions and say at the outset that we on the Labour Benches support the establishment of a director of labour market enforcement. This will provide strategic leadership, which is much needed and very welcome. The real issues in relation to the director are resources and focus. In Committee we heard evidence from Professor Metcalf, who is chair of the Migration Advisory Committee. He said that he understood the issues of public finances, but he did not think the enforcement bodies had enough resources. He pointed to the fact that on the evidence in the report on low-skilled work, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs could be expected to visit any given premises once every 250 years and that there was the prospect of a prosecution every 1 million years.
I accept that any investigation would be intelligence-led and targeted, but those figures are stark and point to the problem of resourcing. As another example, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority investigations dropped from 134 in 2011 to 68 in 2014. Clearly, we cannot deal with resources here in this debate, but amendment 18 is intended to give a focus to the director, to ensure that the functions of the director are exercised for the purpose of protecting the victims of labour market exploitation and to make this explicit on the face of the Bill. This mirrors the way in which the Modern Slavery Act 2015 dealt with the functions of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner established by that Act.
There is therefore a good precedent for the amendment. It provides clarity and it avoids any misconception or temptation about this role, which is being introduced in an immigration Bill—namely, that it should be about labour market enforcement, not immigration control. The experience of other countries suggests that this is the right focus for this important role.
Amendment 19 would omit the proposed illegal working offence and maintain the status quo. Time and again in the House and elsewhere the point has been made about the exploitation of the vulnerable. The Migration Advisory Committee reported in 2014 that
“the combination of non-compliance and insufficient enforcement can lead to instances of severe exploitation, particularly of vulnerable groups such as migrants.”
The Committee said in the same report:
“We were struck on our visits around the country by the amount of concern that was expressed by virtually everyone we spoke to about the exploitation of migrants in low-skilled jobs.”
There is a great deal of other evidence to the same effect. What is desperately needed is more resources for inspections, a focus on exploitative employers and a mechanism to encourage employees to have the confidence to come forward. The new provision cuts across that.
Clause 8 is likely to ensure that the most exploited and vulnerable will become even more so; in effect, it will simply strengthen the hand of gangmasters over exploited workers. It also fails the test of necessity. There are already criminal provisions relating to those who have breached immigration rules and there is no need to introduce a new criminal offence for employees. We are talking about the most vulnerable and exploited people, who need the confidence to come forward if the director is to achieve the functions set out in the Bill. My current intention is to push amendment 19 to a vote, although obviously I will listen to what the Minister has to say.
I turn to amendment 20, which also relates to the offence of illegal working. It is a strict or stark offence: an employee who simply does not have the right immigration status commits an offence and has no defence at all. I shall give an example of the injustice likely to be caused. If an employee in good faith relies on his or her employer to sponsor him or her, but something wrong in the process means that as a matter of law, and unbeknown to them, they do not have the right immigration status, they automatically commit an offence and have no “reasonable excuse” defence. That cannot be right for a new criminal offence in this field. With all due respect to the Director of Public Prosecutions, it is not good enough to say that the prosecution must weed out those cases. There needs to be a defence in statute to cover cases of mistake and error that are not the employee’s fault.
I turn to the provisions on landlords and the right to rent. The background is important during this Report debate. The Immigration Act 2014 introduced a civil penalty scheme in relation to the right to rent. That was discussed in the House; there were concerns about the impact it would have in practice and in particular about whether there would be any discriminatory effects. Assurances were given about piloting and properly evaluating the civil penalty scheme before it was rolled out. This Bill, in 2015, proposes to extend the civil penalty scheme by introducing a criminal penalty before there has been a full and meaningful evaluation.
As was mentioned on Second Reading, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants carried out an evaluation showing, alarmingly, that 42% of landlords said that the right to rent provisions made them less likely to consider accommodating someone who did not have a British passport. At that stage, we did not have the advantage of the Home Office evaluation, which was made available in Committee, as the Minister said it would be. That evaluation, however, was small and narrow. The Home Office itself said that it was not sure about the statistical significance of part of the evaluation and that the sample sizes were too small to draw any robust conclusions. We say that the assurance in relation to the civil penalty scheme has not been fulfilled and there is no warrant for extending the scheme to include a criminal sanction.
Amendment 22 deals with the position of landlords who, under the current provisions, would automatically commit a criminal offence the moment they were served notice that they had a tenant without the right to rent. They would be criminalised notwithstanding the period between receipt of that knowledge, normally by a notice, and their best prospect of getting anybody evicted. A reasonable, objective landlord who received a notice and acted on it immediately would still be criminalised during the process. There cannot be any sensible or compelling case for that state of affairs, which causes great concern to landlords and puts them in an impossible position. I understand that the Government may be considering the issue and obviously I shall listen carefully to what the Minister says. On the face of it, however, it is difficult to see that there could ever be a case for such a measure.
Amendments 23 to 26 all relate to the important issue of summary eviction. The Bill introduces a fast-track process—innovative in this field—in which a notice from a landlord stands as a court order, leading to provision for summary eviction. Some 30 or 40 years ago, the House set its face against summary evictions for a very good reason: there were too many examples of locks being changed and families literally being put out on to the street to sleep on the pavements. Everybody agreed that there should be due process before individuals and families, particularly families with children, were evicted. The Bill cuts through that protection for no good reason. In this country in the 21st century no group of individuals should—for whatever reason, and whether renting lawfully or not—be subject to summary eviction proceedings that, as I said, we turned our back on a long time ago.
I move on to immigration detention, which has already been touched on and is a matter of increasing concern to many in this House and beyond. The fact of immigration detention causes real distress and anxiety, particularly among vulnerable groups, and its indefinite nature adds to that. There is strong evidence of the impact on varying groups, particularly women. I think I am right in saying that the UK is the only country in Europe that does not have a time limit of any sort on immigration detention. That has been the subject of inquiry by the all-party groups on refugees and on migration. They concluded:
“We believe that the United Kingdom has a proud tradition of upholding justice and the right to liberty. However, the continued use of indefinite detention puts this proud tradition at risk.”
The reforms suggested by the cross-party joint APPG group were backed by the House of Commons when they were debated in September this year, and a motion supporting them was passed. The issue is one of increasing concern and justifying indefinite immigration detention is increasingly difficult. Amendment 32 is intended to deal with that by introducing a 28-day limit, which many people feel is the right one.
New clause 13 is intended to allow a review by an independently chaired panel to consider the issues and report to Parliament within three months; it is not premised on a fixed period. It is important that there is progress on these issues. Immigration detention is a real cause for concern and this is an opportunity to do something necessary.
I apologise. I meant that it proposes a review of the time limit rather than a time limit itself, and that therefore, given the nature of the review, it would be open to it to look at other options. There are shared concerns across the House about immigration detention and its indefinite nature. There will be disagreements as to the precise time limit, if there is to be one, and that can be discussed, but at this stage sitting back and simply accepting the status quo is not an acceptable way of proceeding. However, I will obviously listen to what the Minister has to say on this.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that one of the values of a time limit is that it provides the detained person with some certainty about what is happening while they are being detained? We heard evidence, and we know from our constituents, that the difficulty is that people are put in detention and do not know what is going to happen to them, with consequential mental health, and other, impacts.
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. There is the fact of detention in the first place, covering a wide range of individuals detained for different reasons, and then there is its indefinite nature, which adds to the anxiety, because most terms of detention are for a fixed period that allows the individual to know when they may regain their liberty.
As I say, there will be debates about what the precise time limit should be, but sustaining a position of indefinite detention is no longer acceptable in the 21st century. It is not the position in almost all other countries in Europe, and it should not be so in this country.
As somebody who served with the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) and others on the Bill Committee, there is a terrible sense of déjà vu, to put it politely, or “Groundhog Day”, not so politely, about this debate. We had a lot of these debates and discussions in Committee. I hope that those who did not join me in voting as I did in Committee would at least recognise that it was a very thoughtful process in which we went through the whole Bill in great depth and a great raft of amendments were tabled and debated. However, even the Opposition parties managed to run out of steam, allowing the usual channels to pull stumps some little time before the Committee stage was scheduled to finish. I hope that that in no way suggests that we cantered with unseemly haste through the important issues that the Bill seeks to address.
My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), who is no longer in her place, hit the nail on the head, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith) in Committee. This is probably one of the most important issues that this House and this Parliament will deal with. If we get it right, we will engender a sense of an understanding of fair play and that this place “gets it”. If we get it wrong, we will seem to be even more disengaged from the communities that we seek to serve.
I am lucky to represent a predominantly rural constituency where even a casual glance at the census returns would suggest that immigration was not an issue that would be raised on the doorstep or in meetings. However, even in rural North Dorset, it has been, and continues to be, such an issue.
I represent a constituency that has a significant proportion of people who have come from other countries, and immigration was raised with me on the doorstep once in the course of a year. Parties such as the United Kingdom Independence party tend to do well in areas where there are few immigrants, so it is perception that is causing people to have a problem with immigration rather than reality.
This is noteworthy for Hansard—the hon. Lady and I have found something on which we agree. What we are seeking to do—this sits at the kernel of the Bill—is to shoot UKIP’s fox: the idea that the country, the Government, Parliament, Westminster or Whitehall has become rather soft and flabby on this issue and needs to—
Let me address the hon. Lady’s first intervention and then I will be happy to give way to her again.
Although I represent North Dorset, I have the most enormous pleasure—the first prize in the lottery of life—to be a Welshman. I was hoping for some supportive comments there, but no. I come from Cardiff—a very mixed, culturally diverse city, which, thank God, has hitherto had very little tension between the communities. However, it was becoming an issue back in the 2010 election, and people are very keen, irrespective of the immigrant make-up of a community, to address it. That is what this Bill is all about, and what all these amendments—
Order. We are venturing into much broader aspects of the principles of the Bill rather than the amendments before us. I am happy for the hon. Gentleman to respond to the hon. Lady’s point, but then I would be very grateful if we moved back on to the amendments.
I have fallen into my usual trap, Madam Deputy Speaker. I always like to set a backdrop to my remarks, and I am trying to explain the kernel of the Bill, why it has come about, and why the amendments and new clauses are, in my judgment, fundamentally wrong.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North East has taken me neatly on to my second point—the amendments in her name and the names of her hon. Friends. The position of the separatists is entirely disingenuous on this issue. The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) told us that they would be unable to support the Bill not only if new clause 16 were not passed, but if the whole raft of other SNP amendments were not passed as well. We should not be unduly surprised by that, because in Committee we were able to tease out from their questioning of our witnesses that Members representing Scottish seats in the SNP interest believe in uncontrolled and unfettered immigration—an open-door policy. Moreover, they seek, on behalf of their friends in the Scottish Parliament, to assume to themselves powers and privileges reserved to this House with regard to the control of immigration, and suddenly, via the back door, to see it as a new devolved power. Anybody with a strand of Unionism and common sense in their body should seek to resist that, and that is why I will vote against the amendments.
In essence, at the heart of these amendments, SNP Members are seeking to encourage further devolution—further separation—and to have a greater tension between the regions and the countries of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glasgow North East says, with her customary self-deprecatory humour, “Us?” Yes, I do mean the SNP. Government Members will seek to resist the devolution of power over the control of immigration into, let us be frank, a small island with incredibly porous borders, given our coastal and island nature. It would be folly to open a Pandora’s box of devolution with regard to immigration issues. This affects the whole of the United Kingdom.
I rather think the hon. Gentleman is missing the point about the amendments and new clauses. The Bill has very detailed provisions for England and Wales, and in some cases for Northern Ireland, but it just provides the Secretary of State with a broad, sweeping power to do the same for Scotland, without any scrutiny in Parliament or in the Scottish Parliament. Even if the hon. Gentleman does not agree with us about getting approval from the Scottish Parliament, he should at least agree about getting rid of the regulatory powers so that this would have to be done in primary legislation, with full scrutiny in this House, rather than by a Henry VIII clause.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. All I would say to him in reply is that the Bill has been brought forward in the United Kingdom Parliament and has had full and forensic discussion both on Second Reading and in Committee, as it will today on Report and, doubtless, on Third Reading. I suggest he should say to his friends holding ministerial office and other positions of power in Scotland and the Scottish Parliament that, when they are in effect carrying out duties passed to them under a devolved settlement, they should ensure that how they deliver such policies and put them in place on the ground always reflects the national law of the land.
When I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, I was simply concluding that if the new clauses and amendments, which would in effect devolve immigration to Holyrood, were agreed to, the United Kingdom Government would by definition need to find ways of controlling the movement of people from Scotland south into England, and very possibly people going from the south to the north as well. As I have said, we teased out in Committee—both in the evidence sessions and the other sittings—the SNP’s firm commitment to have an open-door policy and no fetters on immigration. My constituents in the south of England will be grossly alarmed by that.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House anything that any SNP Member said that leads him to believe we support an open-door, open-borders policy? I cannot think of anything, and I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) cannot do so. What is the hon. Gentleman referring to?
Unlike Lord Green, I had no difficulty understanding what she and the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), who knows precisely what I am referring to, said at any time in Committee. However, the tone and the tenor, the winks and the nods, and the direction of travel of the questions and the amendments in Committee—and, indeed, of the amendments today—can only lead one to assume that SNP Members, for reasons that are entirely respectable for them to deploy, do not believe in having any control of immigration at all. That is the narrative arising from the heartland of the hon. Lady’s speeches. The hon. Gentleman, who was also a member of the Public Bill Committee, told us that nobody raised with him the issue of immigration on the doorstep during the election campaign.
I want to go back to our thoughtful discussions in Committee, in which the issues were well debated. I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), for Norwich North (Chloe Smith) and for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), who said that immigration was the No. 1 issue on the doorstep. In Eastleigh post the by-election—we were third, before moving into second place and then absolutely came first—we had to reflect that fact in our deliberations. It was disingenuous to hear about one lawyer who represented a freedom of movement blog. Immigration was the No. 1 issue, and the caseload left us by the Labour party—
The good folk of Eastleigh, many of whom I got to know during the by-election, will no doubt breathe a huge sigh of relief at having a doughty champion in the form of my hon. Friend. She absolutely gets the point that if we are to have a sensible, vibrant and vivacious debate about politics and public affairs in this country, it is absolutely right for this House to address such issues through legislation—hence the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration.
If I may, I wish to make further points about the amendments and new clauses tabled both by SNP Members and the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras. He is in his place, but not apparently agog with interest at the remarks being made by Conservative Members.
On immigration removal centres and detention, I think IRCs play a pivotal role in the arsenal available to this country and to those we charge with managing our borders and our immigration. I must say that the staff working in the centres deserve a huge debt of gratitude. In a previous incarnation, I was fortunate enough to visit quite a few IRCs, including those at Yarl’s Wood and Heathrow. I was struck by the dedication of the staff and not convinced that we can address the issue sensibly—the amendments and new clauses seek to frustrate our doing so—by tearing up the rulebook on IRCs and detention.
To answer my hon. Friend’s questions in reverse order, no and yes. Whether or not a woman is pregnant is immaterial. The issue is about the environment in which people are detained and the care and attention they are given, rather than about their status. I know the proximity of Yarl’s Wood to my hon. Friend’s constituency—from memory, it is in his constituency—but I would tell him that I heard, both from staff and from those detained, that they had seen people destroy their papers or hide their child under the bed, where they cannot be touched, when an aeroplane was on the tarmac waiting to take off to take them away. In my judgment and experience, which is all I can speak from, the staff approach such problems with huge sensitivity, often in very difficult circumstances.
I, too, think that the people we ask to manage detention centres do a good job in general. On a point of clarification, my concern arises not from my constituency’s proximity to a detention centre, but from the proximity of the rules to my ethical code. My hon. Friend mentions that the issue is about the care of people in detention centres. Is he aware of the case of PA, a pregnant woman detained in Yarl’s Wood? The Home Office has recently had to admit that she was not given proper antenatal care. Is not the issue that if we detain pregnant women, mistakes will be made, and we therefore need to protect ourselves and our ethics from such mistakes by exempting those people from the rules?
I do not wish to test your patience, Madam Deputy Speaker, or indeed that of the House, by straying too far, but my hon. Friend has made a valid point. I certainly am aware of that case, but I never think it is right to build a policy on the basis of one incident. Terrible things happen when women are pregnant, whether they are detained or just going about their ordinary business. Medical negligence can happen even to those outside prisons or detention centres. Nasty, upsetting and tragic things happen. He is absolutely right to say that such things should raise questions, and right hon. and hon. Members should continually ensure that those detained can access a range of care that is wide, deep, qualitative and professional. My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but I do not believe that one isolated incident should force us to say that immigration removal centres and the principle of detention are inherently wrong or unethical. As a practising Christian, I find no difficulty in reconciling good quality care in detention with my faith and ethical basis.
My hon. Friend said that the Bill was about fair play. The question of fair play is also at the heart of the amendments relating to pregnant women. I shall cite not an individual case but the Home Office guidance, which states that pregnant women are normally considered to be suitable for detention only in very exceptional circumstances. The issue is whether that guidance is being properly applied or whether it needs further legislative attention. We are concerned about having proper fair play for those people. I am sure that my hon. Friend’s constituents, and mine, are concerned about fair play for those in detention centres as well as about controlling our borders.
My hon. Friend makes an apposite point. This must all be about fairness, about robust regulations, about proper ministerial oversight and about the scrutiny of ministerial duties by this place. That is absolutely the right chain of command. We all know that things go wrong, whether in the healthcare system, in education, in the police or in the armed forces. Regulations are not necessarily followed to the letter, but—this is a horrible phrase that we all trot out and it sounds frightfully trite—lessons will be learned. I do not say this to be sycophantic, but my right hon. Friend the Minister has humanity and compassion at his core, and he will always ensure that those regulations are fair and that they are applied fairly.
On the subject of fairness, I want to say a few words about workers, employees, employers, landlords and housing. The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras and I have discussed the fact that a survey might produce results that suggest x, y and z, and that we can extrapolate data from that, however small or large the sample pool is. The rules and regulations that now govern access to the private rental property market—certainly those that apply to affordable housing—are pretty strict and robust. In conjunction with the clauses in the Bill that introduce new responsibilities for employees and employers, one is tempted to say, not as a cheap, knocking political point, that the quantum has become so large due to the rather shy—nay, potentially deleterious—attitude of Labour when in government.
The Government and their agencies cannot seek to solve all these problems. That is why it is perfectly proper to expect a landlord who is just about to enter into a rental agreement, and his or her agent, to carry out the most forensic tests possible to ensure the legitimacy and qualification of the individual or family seeking accommodation. That will not place a particular onus on them. In order to avoid the scenario that the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras has raised, the advice given by the Residential Landlords Association to its members and the advice given to the residential letting agencies will have to make it clear what their duties are. It will be important to stress to both that they are helping the Government and the country by playing an important role in addressing this issue.
That takes me from the right of access to housing to the question of access to work, from the point of view of the employee and the employer. The Bill is absolutely right to address these issues, and the amendments are at best mischievous and at worst devious as they attempt fundamentally to undermine the provisions. I have little doubt that employers, whether large or small, usually seek to kick back from any new regulations or guidance under which they will have to operate, but that should not fetter our need to impose such regulations if we are convinced of their efficacy. I am convinced of the efficacy of the measures in the Bill, and I believe that the amendments would undermine them.
There is no point in hon. Members, irrespective of which side of the political divide they might fall, wringing their hands about trafficking, slavery or forced labour, if, when an opportunity arises to augment previous legislation such as the rules in the Act governing gangmasters, they then say, “Oh no, this is a step too far. This will place too great an onus on the employer. We must seek to resist this.” That sends a mixed and confusing message to those evil individuals who are now benefiting in labour and cash terms from forced and indentured labour. I stress that this is just my judgment of the matter, but if the Bill as amended in Committee does not prevail, it will be holed below the waterline. That is why, if and when the official Opposition or Scottish National party Members press any of their new clauses or amendments to a Division, I shall be trotting into the No Lobby, where I hope many of my hon. and right hon. Friends will join me.
I spent five long weeks on the Immigration Bill Committee. It was an interesting experience, but unfortunately I found very little I could agree with. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) and I, and hon. colleagues on the Labour Benches, did some pretty forensic questioning. The conclusion I certainly reached from the responses that we got was that the motivation behind much of the Bill was not as stated. It cannot be, because it is clear that much of it will not work, and that it will not do what it apparently sets out to do. What it will do, however, is impact negatively on anyone who does not look, sound or even seem to be British.
My hon. Friend has taken the words right out of my mouth. I was about to say that the right to rent is the perfect example of that.
The Residential Landlords Association has made it clear that its landlords are worried that fear of committing a criminal offence, by inadvertently renting to the wrong person, will lead to them behaving in a racist manner, because they will simply not take on as a tenant anyone about whom they have doubts—because they are not white, because their surname is not British sounding or because they do not have a passport. They will not take the risk. Making it harder for those people to get accommodation will put some of them in danger. They might have no choice about where they lay their head at night and, in some circumstances, with whom, or they could end up on the street. I do not want that for people who have the right to live here; nor do I want it for people who do not have that right. I do not want it for anyone.
If the Government were to write the script for a film, it would be a black and white one, in more ways than one. It would be very straightforward. In their mind, if someone is refused asylum and we squeeze the life out of them by forcing them on to the street and starving them, they will simply stroll up to UK Visas and Immigration one day and say, “Okay, I give in. You win. Send me home.” We never get to know what happens to them, but here in Britain, we all live happily ever after.
All the evidence tells us that is not what happens. I will tell the House why. For many asylum seekers, there is no choice. Sleeping on the street in rainy, freezing-cold Britain, going hungry day after day and knowing they are despised by many of the people who pass them by is preferable to returning somewhere where they face all that and are in danger of being raped or even murdered. That is what the evidence tells us. That is what those who work with destitute asylum seekers tell us. That is what asylum seekers themselves tell us. There is one hour to go for those on the parliamentary estate who are watching this debate on television to go to Committee Room 14, where they will find Sanctuary, a fantastic organisation, with dozens of asylum seekers who will tell them that face to face.
We discussed this matter in Committee. The hon. Lady refers to asylum seekers. Does she mean failed asylum seekers—in other words, people who have claimed asylum but whose claims have not been upheld—because obviously, those who are asylum seekers are supported through the system?
I thank the Minister for giving me the opportunity to make a point about the language that we use. He says “failed asylum seekers”; I say “refused asylum seekers”. Let us not forget that the majority of those who are refused—or failed—by this Government go on to win their appeal when it comes to court.
I absolutely am aware of that, but we have limited time so I have to focus on the most important impact this part of the Bill will have on people. That is why I am talking about the most vulnerable people and they are the asylum seekers who have been refused.
I would not use that language about anyone, but I understand that people come here seeking asylum who are not entitled to it. I made that clear in Committee, as did all members of the Committee. I am talking about asylum seekers who do need our help, who should be entitled to asylum and who tend to win their appeals. It is therefore accepted that they do require asylum and we need to give it to them.
Right to rent will not provide the Government’s desired “happy ever after”. It simply will not work, but it will increase discrimination and racism. It certainly should not be implemented in Scotland without seeking the permission of Members of the Scottish Parliament, to whom housing is devolved, among other things. It should be removed in its entirety from the Bill.
The hon. Lady’s party has often repeated the call for a more relaxed approach to asylum. In fact, it opposes the enforced removal of failed asylum seekers and pledged in its last manifesto to close the Dungavel detention centre, which is the only such centre in Scotland, making this very much an English problem.
There are a number of countries across the world, if the hon. Gentleman cares to read up on this, that do not make much use of detention, but use other ways of enabling people. Indeed, the family returns process in this country works very successfully to return a number of families when there is no other option for them. It is not essential to always detain people.
If our amendments to get rid of right to rent are unsuccessful, I ask the Government to accept amendment 46, which relates to something that I cannot believe is anything other than an oversight. In Committee, I asked for a bit more detail on when someone who provides a roof over a destitute person’s head becomes liable to criminal prosecution. There are many people who already do that as volunteers in an act of compassion or, if we want to bring the Christian faith into it, as other Members have done, as good Samaritans. I want clarity that those people will not find themselves facing court or even prison simply for showing kindness to another person.
I have received only partial reassurance from the Minister, thus amendment 46. Getting full reassurance on this matter is more important than it has ever been, because more people will need this kindness than ever before if the Bill goes through as it is. There will also be more people offering such support. One of the greatest reactions to the refugee crisis that escalated over the summer months was people, in their thousands, asking how they could help. Members on both sides of the House said how proud we were of those people. “Let them in,” they said, “and we will house them.” Thousands of people right across these islands offered to open their homes to house those in desperate need.
At that time, the offer was in response to the mainly Syrian refugees. Of course, refugees who have been granted leave to remain will not be affected—at least, not directly—by the Bill because accommodation will be provided for them. However, now that the debate has started, people are looking at the asylum seekers who are already in the UK with fresh eyes. Charities are saying to the people who offered help, “We have many refused asylum seekers who are currently destitute. Why not house them instead?” However, if they do so and the Bill goes through unamended, those kind, compassionate, generous people could be criminalised.
I said that the Minister has given me partial reassurance and I will explain why. If no money changes hands, there is no issue. People are allowed to let a refused asylum seeker—or failed asylum seeker, as Government Members like to say—stay at their home as long as no money is exchanged. That was welcome news to organisations in my city of Glasgow, such as Unity and Positive Action in Housing, which both do an incredible job in keeping vulnerable people off the streets with very little funding.
However, what if a householder cannot afford to do that? What if they are rich in compassion, but poor in finances? It costs money to let another person live in one’s home. There are heating costs, lighting costs and food costs. Even if it is not part of the agreement, people will hardly sit down to dinner knowing that another person under their roof is going hungry. Some charities therefore pay a nominal sum to the householder—not a profit-making amount or a commercial rent, but a nominal sum to cover their costs. I have had no reassurance about where those people stand. In response to that question, the Minister said that exemptions had been made for refuges that house victims of trafficking. Why not exempt anyone who houses a refused asylum seeker because otherwise they would have to live on the street? Are the Government really going to make criminals of those people, who are still volunteers because they are not making any money out of it? Will the Minister criminalise them for having the decency to share what they have with a stranger in trouble and for not being wealthy enough to cover the increased costs themselves?
What about the charities? There are charities, such as the Action Foundation in Newcastle, that seek out philanthropic landlords who will make the houses that they own available for refused asylum seekers to rent at a heavily discounted rate that is paid by the charity. Those philanthropic landlords will now be committing a criminal offence, but will the charities also be committing an offence? They need to know. Do the Government really intend for that to happen? Other groups, such as Abigail Housing in Leeds and Open Doors Hull, provide accommodation not in family homes, but in houses that are lent by their owners, empty vicarages and church buildings. Abigail Housing raises funds in order to pay a nominal rent, not a commercial rent. Nobody is making a profit.
Dozens of charities, individuals and church groups across these islands are carrying out this kind of work. Will they be committing an offence? It certainly seems that those who support their charitable aims by providing the accommodation will be. Are men and women of God to be prosecuted for doing as the Bible asks them to do and not turning the other cheek? Are the Government comfortable with potentially having to imprison faith leaders for up to five years? I urge the Government to think again, otherwise they are saying to the thousands of people who responded to the refugee crisis in a manner that we were all rightly proud of, “No, you can’t help. Yes, there is a need and we are going to increase that need by making more refused asylum seekers homeless, but if you dare to help, we will criminalise you.”
The hon. Lady makes her points with the same eloquence and passion that she showed in Committee. She asked me to evidence what I said about the open-door policy and what I perceive the SNP’s position to be, but she has effectively just done that. She is talking about refused asylum seekers, and those who have no right to be here, being allowed to stay for as long as they like, based on the philanthropy of individuals. Such philanthropy is to be championed and supported, but when people have gone through the whole process and their claim has been refused, surely she will admit that it is time for them to go home.
The hon. Gentleman, and his Government, know full well that some people simply cannot go home. Indeed, people in such circumstances are often sent not home but to detention centres, where they languish for a long time because they cannot be sent home. I am not talking about every asylum seeker, or about keeping people here indefinitely; I am saying that we should not criminalise people who open their homes to those in desperate need. To be clear, I oppose the right to rent in its entirety, and I question the British Government’s right to override the wishes of the Scottish Parliament. I hope that this particular topical issue will turn out to be simply an anomaly that the Government will put right.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate, and I will speak to the new clauses to which my name has been added. New clauses 8, 9, 13 and 32 are unique in that they have a cross-party feel, which should not go unnoticed. I have not had the pleasure of being involved in all stages of the Bill, but I think that cross-party support for these new clauses is a unique aspect to our deliberations; I do not think it has happened until now. As the Minister has noticed, there is cross-party concern about the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) about fair play. We are concerned to ensure that our immigration system stands up to scrutiny from beginning to end, and that fair play is imbued within it.
Fair play matters for those who shout loudest and campaign loudly—whether before elections or in other campaigns throughout the year—just as much as it matters for those who are relatively voiceless, or perhaps do not even have a vote. Fair play should be about “the other” and those who are not as loud, and we want to uphold the fundamental British values of fairness and due process. Indeed, one could refer back to Magna Carta when considering issues of detention, and the right and duty to detain people only after fair and due process, and not for administrative purposes alone. Although I concede that immigration detention is not the main purpose of the Bill, it will not surprise the Minister that these new clauses have been tabled.
When dealing with detention, it is important that we uphold principles that have stood this country well for many years. The rest of the world looks at how we handle detention and whether we do so with fairness, and when dealing with those who are detained for administrative reasons, the bar is set that much higher. We must be proportionate, reasonable, and do things in a limited way, so that a limited number of people are in detention for as short a time as possible. Regardless of whether the new clauses are accepted, we must ensure that that principle is applied.
I agree, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister about that abiding principle. Home Office guidance states that detention should be used sparingly and as a last resort, and such guidance must be available for all to use and apply throughout the system. However people come to this country, and whether by fair means or foul, we must treat everyone fairly and with dignity when they are with us, all the way through to their possible removal. They may be with us voluntarily or by force, but at every stage we must show that we respect their human dignity.
To pick up on the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), does my hon. Friend agree that, although it may be difficult for the Minister to talk about a limit on detention for any one person, the general principle in immigration of trying to limit and reduce the amount of time that people spend in detention is something different that it is possible to talk to?
I agree, and it is important to get the first principles right. We can have lots of debates and discussions on time limits and setting a maximum— indeed, we had such a debate in the all-party inquiry in which I was proud to take part, along with the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and others. I pay tribute to Sarah Teather who fought long and hard on this issue, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) and other Members from across the House who were involved in that campaign.
It is important not to be wholly bound by the issue of the time limit. Some of us feel that we may return to the stage where we need a statutory time limit to ensure that there is movement, and so that everyone does all they can to limit time spent in detention. It is important that we listen to what the Minister has to say about the review being undertaken, and we must consider the measures in new clause 13, which I will come on to. We must consider how we want to achieve what we are all saying about the principles that have been outlined.
Work on immigration is taking place, and Stephen Shaw’s review into the conditions of detention is important. We wanted that review sooner, and the Home Affairs Committee—which I sit on—recommended that it be published before these discussions on the Bill. I recognise that the Government are considering that review carefully and want to treat it with the respect that it deserves. We look forward to it being published at a later stage, and it will no doubt inform deliberations in the other place. I welcome indications that a further comprehensive review will go to the heart of new clause 13, and particularly recommendations (b) to (e).
There is a danger that immigration detention will not get sufficient attention. We have done our best to consider it, but it is somewhat out of sight and out of mind. Over the year about 30,000 people are held in 11 immigration removal centres, and apart from campaigns and individual circumstances that sometimes lead to litigation, the issue does not get the attention that it needs. We need serious action one way or another to ensure that immigration detainees are much clearer about when they are likely to be released and have a clear expectation.
I am a criminal defence solicitor, and as I said in a debate scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee, the first question asked by every client once they have ended up in prison, and after they have challenged me about how I dealt with their case, is, “How long have I got? What is the earliest date of release?” We must be able to provide greater clarity and at least some expectation that various gatekeepers and review mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that everyone knows that there is no prospect of indefinite detention, and that there is a greater push and pull to ensure that the smallest number of people are detained for as limited a time as possible.
The new clauses are framed around the inquiry of the all-party group on refugees, which was able to report before the election, and then more substantively in a motion discussed in a Backbench Business debate. That achieved something that has not happened before, which is a unanimous resolution to support the principles and recommendations behind the inquiry. We are concerned about maximum time limits, but we are also concerned about outcomes, which cut across conditions and treatment and go to the numbers in detention and the time they spend there. We want to ensure that we see action. This is a complicated piece of work, as the Minister perhaps knows more than anyone, but new clause 9—in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford—recognises the issue of foreign national offenders and public protection. It needs to be addressed, and the fact that it is complex and difficult is no reason not to handle it. Given the consequences for public protection, we must be able to handle it better. A quarter of immigration detainees are foreign national offenders in one form or another, so it is not good enough to rely on the issues of public protection alone. We can and should do better.
My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris), who is no longer in her place, mentioned that “28 days” is an arbitrary figure. In one way, it is arbitrary to have an indefinite time in detention: it is an issue of fairness and due process. Cost is another driver, and a cost impact assessment has no doubt been done on the Bill. We have had the comprehensive spending review, and the Home Office is still looking at the issue of cost. The cost of holding one person in detention is more than £36,000 a year, and the overall cost is £164.4 million. There must be better ways to spend that money.
On new clause 8, it is important to look at the individual categories of people we are talking about, away from the statistics, because sometimes we can stereotype them in the wrong way. That goes to the heart of the issue and the concerns that the all-party group expressed. New clause 8 seeks to exempt pregnant women, and people who have been granted asylum as victims of trafficking, torture or sexual violence, from detention orders. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) mentioned this issue and, as I said in an intervention, that provision is already in the guidance, but we need to make sure that it happens and does not get lost in the guidance. Current Home Office guidance identifies vulnerable groups of people—the elderly, pregnant women, those suffering from serious mental illness, torture survivors, those with serious disabilities and victims of human trafficking. No one can suggest that it is immaterial if a woman is pregnant, as my hon. Friend seemed to do: it is material, and pregnant women should be subject to detention only in very exceptional circumstances.
Our inquiry heard that the guidance is not properly applied. Under the screening process, those protections are limited, and it is all too commonplace for victims of torture and trafficking to end up in detention centres for an intolerable time. They end up re-traumatised by what they go through.
In an oral evidence session, we heard from Penny, who was one among many. When she arrived at the IRC she was asked if she had gone through any trauma. Despite saying that she had been a victim of trafficking, her detention continued and she was told that she had fabricated her trafficking experiences. Since her release, she has received formal recognition as a victim of human trafficking. We need to recognise that the screening process does not do enough. It is not surprising, given the language issues. Also, when people who have been through trauma end up in detention, they are unlikely to speak freely and frankly about their experiences. New clause 8 seeks to challenge the Government and asks whether we are doing enough, and the issue will no doubt be informed by the Stephen Shaw recommendations.
We also heard about the Home Office’s failure to comply with its own guidance on detaining pregnant women only in exceptional circumstances. Hindpal Singh Bhui, a team inspector at HM prisons inspectorate, said in evidence that, when looking for evidence that pregnant women were detained only in the most exceptional circumstances,
“we haven’t found those exceptional circumstances in the paperwork to justify their detention in the first place.”
So the Home Office fails at almost the first hurdle. We need to do more because we are failing to protect the most vulnerable people. There must be fair play and they must be treated properly.
I sense that in the future we will look back at the numbers detained in so-called immigration removal centres—that is a bit of a misnomer—and wonder how we tolerated for so long so many people being detained who were victims of torture, trafficking, sexual violence or who were pregnant.
New clause 13 has received the most cross-party support because its provisions are very moderate. It follows the all-party group’s recommendations, the Backbench Business motion and the unanimous resolution of the House in September. I wait to hear from the Minister exactly how he will proceed. There is scope for us to really coalesce behind recommendations (a) to (e) in the new clause, if I can find it—[Interruption.] This is a “Blue Peter” moment—something I prepared earlier.
I want to hear from the Minister that we will look at
“how to reduce the number of people detained”—
and make sure that we put in place procedures, policies and guidance to find a way
“to minimise the length of time an individual is detained”.
We need to develop a more effective form of detention that meets the objectives already put into place by the Secretary of State, and ensure
“the effectiveness of procedures to review decisions to detain and to continue to detain.”
That is what we want to achieve. Some of us feel that we still need a statutory time limit and we want to hold the Government and the Minister to account. But let us see what the Minister says and how that time fits into the progress of the Bill in the other place and following the recommendations in the Stephen Shaw report. The Home Affairs Committee will also be listening to what the Minister says and I hope that we will have an update on the comprehensive review before we go too far down the line in the other place.
I hope that the Bill will mean that we have many fewer people in immigration detention, many fewer in detention for too long and many more people receiving fair play and respect for their human dignity.
Before I speak to three of the amendments, I wish to make some brief points. The hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) reminded the House that we should not go over the issues that were discussed in full in Committee. I gently say that I would have loved to serve on the Committee. I realise that no one can assuage my concerns this afternoon, but on an issue of such importance—and one that is reserved to this Parliament—it is important to re-emphasise the fact that we need regional representation on a Bill Committee, and that Northern Ireland should have a representative, whether from my party or any of the others, so that we can fully scrutinise the Bill and get involved in these important discussions.
I say, with tongue firmly in cheek, that I was delighted to see the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the Front Bench earlier in the debate, because I hope to grab hold of him before we get to the second group of amendments.
I am sure the people of Wales are delighted. Among the three main parties, whether or not SNP Members are present, there is representation of Scotland, England and Wales, and it is important that they were represented in the Committee, but my point was about Northern Ireland.
I look forward to contributing on the second tranche of amendments, which I hope we will have the chance to discuss with the Northern Ireland Minister in advance. For now, however, I shall turn to amendments 18 to 20. I have discussed this matter with the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) many times before, and although I do not agree with his final conclusion—he cannot support the overall thrust of the Bill—I found many of his arguments about the amendments persuasive and powerful, and I hope they were listened to by Members in the Chamber and outwith. I believe that some of the amendments are worthy of support, but we see considerable benefit in the overall thrust of the Bill, which therefore has our support.
On amendment 18, I think there is a persuasive argument for putting in legislation guidance to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement. I know we are not considering a gargantuan directorate or the creation of a large body, but it will have a large body of work to deal with. The issue of immigration in the UK is so big that I think it would be a mistake for Parliament not to insert in the Bill a provision outlining some guidance and the core functions we expect the directorate to perform. The amendment is therefore well made.
The hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras rightly referred to the anti-slavery commissioner and the Modern Slavery Act 2015 as an example of where such direction has been given in legislation. Another example is the Children and Families Act 2014 and the children’s commissioner. There are many examples of where the House has deemed it appropriate to impart to an individual what functions we expect them to perform, to direct them in that work and to wish them well in their endeavours, once they have received the House’s approval. We therefore support amendment 18.
We cannot, however, readily lend our support to amendment 19, which would remove the illegal working offence. I recognise the thrust of the amendment, but it is important that the Government take the necessary powers and tools to ensure that those working in the country do so legally and properly and recognise that there are penalties and consequences for not adhering to the law of the land.
That naturally brings us to amendment 20, for which I think there is an incredibly strong argument. It is hugely important that we insert a defence for somebody who finds themselves, through no fault of their own, coerced, exploited and enslaved to provide labour. I said on Second Reading that we should insert such a defence. When we talk of slavery, many in the Chamber will hark back to the good old days of William Wilberforce. As a country, we have a considerable heritage and a proud tradition of standing against slavery, but when Wilberforce got involved in anti-slavery movements in 1787, he was preceded by a Belfast man called Thomas McCabe, who in 1786, in response to the creation of a company with slave ships in Belfast, disrupted the meeting at which the agreements were to be signed and declared: “May God wither the hand of any man who signs this declaration to create this company.” He started an anti-slavery revolution in Belfast that spread to the rest of the UK and started a tradition we proudly remember today.
I am focusing on anti-slavery because we have a proud tradition of standing against those who exploit others and for those who are exploited. The hon. Lady makes the point that it continues today; I am making the point that in today’s debate, as we focus on amendment 20, we should not lose sight of the compassion this country has shown, continues to show and should show. That is why I support the amendment.
The hon. Member for North Dorset referred to the Minister’s compassionate heart. I do not doubt he has such a heart, but I believe that the small insertion of a defence would be preferable to the suggestion in Committee to let the decision be solely at the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions. If we, as the supreme Parliament of this country, cannot insert a defence and ask the DPP to exercise discretion in certain circumstances, what direction should she take in doing so? It is our role as parliamentarians to say that if somebody is being, or has been, exploited or enslaved in this country, the DPP should consider what we intended the defence to be against the offence of illegal working. I do not consider that to be an onerous insertion or amendment for the Government to consider. Every response to date has indicated that, as we heard on Second Reading, discretion should be provided and that such defences exist already in the Modern Slavery Act. If, therefore, there is no resistance to the prospect of such a defence, why not make provision for it?
I look forward to contributing to the further tranche of amendments, but for now I have outlined where my party stands on the current group.
I wish to speak to the new clauses and amendments dealing with immigration detention. New clause 8, which stands in my name, would exempt certain persons from detention. New clause 9 and associated amendment 32, tabled by the Opposition, would provide for a time limit. New clause 13, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) and many others across the House, would provide for a review of the role of detention centres in our immigration control system.
Before turning to those new clauses and amendments, however, I want to make a brief comment about the amendments tabled by the SNP. Those amendments have nothing to do with separation, but come from an acute sense that the direction of travel in the Bill, which is to make it harder for people here illegally to stay in the country, pushes against not just things we all agree are wrong, such as exploitation, but against our compassion. SNP Members are absolutely right to ask whether we have got the balance right, and they made some strong points in Committee and today.
The amendments and new clauses focus on immigration detention because for so long now we have lacked control over our immigration detention system. We allowed a culture of disbelief to grow up within it such that the people caught up within the system had no way of managing their rights. It is right that we look for a fundamental change. Immigration detention has moved from being a part of the immigration system to being the substantive and default position. The focus is on looking tough rather than being effective. It would be nice to hear from the Minister that he gets that and that he is focusing on an effective way to achieve what the people of this country want: that we remove, effectively and compassionately, people with no right to be here, while standing up for things we want to protect—namely, our compassion and our values. If some of the amendments we are proposing today are not pressed or if we do not hear a sufficient response from the Minister, I fear that the true victims will continue to be the British sense of compassion and the British sense of justice when we manage immigration.
I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) for his. I want to emphasise that that sense of efficiency and effectiveness is absolutely at the heart of the work we are undertaking and of the broad review currently under way. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) makes some important points about vulnerability, and he knows that Stephen Shaw’s review will focus on that. We will come back to the House soon—before Committee stage in the House of Lords—to respond to the report and to allow, I hope, further detailed examination.
I am very pleased that the Shaw review will be available for their lordships to review in tabling amendments. I can assure the Minister that, should amendments come to this House to ensure that pregnant women and victims of torture and rape are exempted from our immigration detention estate, I will support those amendments at that time, if the Shaw review has not done a sufficient analysis.
There is no point going over our concerns again that the report has not been available to us in this House—we shall wait on their lordships—but I know that there will be women in Yarl’s Wood detention centre right now who have been victims of torture or rape. We also know that in the last year 100 pregnant women were put into Yarl’s Wood detention centre. This is not one or two cases; it is a significant part of what is happening, and that points to the reason behind new clause 8: the limits on the Minister’s ability to control the action on the ground. The procedures can look perfect on paper, but we know that in practice they are failing and falling down. That is why new clause 8 and the associated amendments aim to restrict the types of people who might fall foul of those processes.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Part of the evidence built up in this Parliament, in case after case after case, is that what the Home Office says is the case is patently not the case, and examples from Yarl’s Wood are front and centre of that. Not only have we had cases where the guards’ procedures in Yarl’s Wood should have been of a certain type and clearly were not—that has besmirched many people who work in immigration and removal centres who do a very good job—but we know that procedures for the provision of care for pregnant women in detention centres are not followed either. My hon. Friend is therefore quite right that there is an issue about procedures, and that is why we are waiting to hear what the Minister is likely to say.
I want to sit down so that the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), a fellow member of the all-party group on migration, can contribute, but let me say first that I feel—and I hope—that the Minister has been listening to the work of the all-party group and the unanimous view of the House of Commons that change needs to be made along the lines of its recommendations. He has heard some eloquent speeches from the Scottish nationalists, from the Labour Benches and also from the Conservative Benches that reinforce that. I feel, however, that he is one step away from being able to reassure the House. I hope he will take that step—I alluded to that a moment ago. I understand that there are concerns about having time limits for individuals or even a category of people, but that is different from the intent behind the all-party group’s report, which seeks a recognition from the Home Office that the use of detention in immigration is overblown and to hear that he as Minister will seek to limit and reduce the overall amount of time in detention in this country. If we could hear that, hon. Members in all parts of the House would be reassured.
I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller), whose contribution represents the cross-party consensus on this issue, as does the breadth of support from both sides of the House for new clause 13.
I will severely reduce the remarks I was going to make because I am keen that the Minister should have the full opportunity to respond, but I want to underline the breadth of support for engagement in the inquiry—which I was privileged to be vice-chair of and which Sarah Teather led—to which the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) referred. We had Members from all parties and from both Houses, with a depth of experience that was reflected in the involvement of a former Law Lord and a former chief inspector of prisons. We were unanimous, having heard evidence over eight months, that the introduction of a time limit on indefinite detention was overdue. That was reflected, as other Members have said, in the will of this House when we debated the matter on 10 September.
New clause 13 seeks to reflect the will of the House in the Bill. It is not a particularly controversial proposal and would bring this country into line with most other countries in Europe. This is not a party political proposal, because our concern is about the growth of the detention estate in the UK, which happened under successive Governments—my Government as well as the Conservative Government—and needs to be addressed.
I would like to share one of the many stories we heard that highlight the problem. We spoke to a detainee who was in detention at the time of our inquiry, a young man from the disputed territory on the Cameroon-Nigeria border. He told us that he had been trafficked to Hungary as a 16-year-old, where he was beaten, raped and tortured. He managed to escape and eventually made his way to Heathrow—using a false passport, because he was desperate. That passport was discovered on arrival and he was detained. We asked him how long he had been detained and he said, “For three years”—three years in an immigration removal centre. That detention conflicts with the three stated aims of the Home Office—that those who have been trafficked should not be detained, that those who have been tortured should not be detained and that detention should be for the shortest period.
With new clause 13 we are trying to reflect the will of the House in addressing that problem. I accept that the Minister also wants to address it, because indefinite detention does not simply have an impact on those detained—we heard powerful evidence about the impact on their mental health and the sense of hopelessness when people do not know how long they are to be held, which they said made detention worse than prison—but is also expensive, costing the taxpayer more than £36,000 a year.
We recognise that the recommendation to introduce a time limit will mean a fundamental culture change and a reliance on methods other than detention to manage the process, so we looked at other countries that are doing this successfully, such as the United States and Australia. Indeed, some people are quick to hold up Australia as a model of a country with hard-line immigration policies, but it is developing much more effective alternatives to immigration detention. There is also a precedent in the UK, whereby the coalition Government, committing to reduce the number of children detained, introduced the family returns process. That process worked, leading to a dramatic fall in the number of children detained, with no increase in absconding.
There are therefore powerful arguments at every level for a shift in policy. I hope the Minister will commit in his response to seeking to limit and reduce the time that people spend in detention.
I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions on a range of issues, which have highlighted the concerns, passion and interest that so many people have shown throughout the consideration of this Bill. The debate we have had over the last hour and 50 minutes has again underlined that interest and focus, and it is important that the House has been able to debate in this way.
I want to start with the issue of immigration detention, which is one of the key elements of the debate. I want to underline at the outset the fact that the Home Office has a policy to safeguard against unnecessary or arbitrary detention. The presumption is in favour of liberty. Cases must be considered on their individual circumstances. Detention must be used sparingly and for the shortest period necessary. That goes to the heart of some of the elements in new clause 13, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes). This is about having a system that is efficient and effective, but that also treats those within it with dignity and respect.
If I may, I would like to finish this point and then take interventions. I want to set out the fact that the Home Office is conducting detailed analysis of the purposes behind that—in other words, moving towards the policy that I have underlined, including looking at the checks and balances in the systems to ensure that we have a more efficient and more effective process so that people are removed more swiftly and speedily. We also need to reflect on how that sits within an overall framework of removal.
I believe that it is accepted here that detention plays an important role in managing immigration and managing people towards removal, but it has to have removal as its focus. Yes, of course, for certain groups such as foreign national offenders or in certain national security cases, detention might be needed for a slightly longer period, but always with the focus on the realistic prospect of removal taking place. We will come back to this House in the new year—and we intend this to be before the Bill has passed through both Houses—setting out the much broader piece of work that we are undertaking.
Other amendments relate to the issues of vulnerability raised by Steven Shaw. As I have indicated, we intend to respond to it before the Bill has started its Committee in the House of Lords, and we shall also set out proposals for a new detained fast-track, which I suspended because I was not satisfied that the necessary safeguards were in place. It is the sense of how we construct an efficient and effective detention policy that goes to the heart of the issues I have highlighted—of considering cases on their merits, but using detention sparingly and for the shortest period necessary that is consistent with our policy, which must be upheld.
Does the Minister agree that the reviews he has summarised deal with the issues raised in paragraphs (b) through to (e) in new clause 13? Having set out the policy carefully, does he agree that it is consistent with the principle that we should seek to limit and reduce the time spent in immigration detention?
As I have said, the current Home Office policy is to use detention sparingly and for the shortest period necessary, which is why our work on ensuring a more efficient and effective system consistent with our obligation is absolutely consistent with the themes redolent in paragraphs (b) to (e) of new clause 13. The difference is that I believe that having a 28-day time period does not advance the cause. It is a blunt instrument that does not take account of the full range of different circumstances that are redolent here from foreign national offenders to those who might not be compliant with the requirements we put upon them or who abscond, so we need to look at the situation on a case-by-case basis. I repeat, however, that we are conducting our review in the light of our focus on efficiency and effectiveness, and we will revert to the House as I have outlined.
A number of other points, including about the right to rent, have been highlighted in the debate. The right-to-rent scheme restricts the access of illegal migrants to the private rented sector, stopping them setting down roots and building ties. The scheme, which has been rolled out to parts of the west midlands, has not proven difficult or burdensome for landlords, but it has led to illegal migrants being apprehended.
The scheme has been in place for one year and is working as intended. The Government published an extensive evaluation of the right-to-rent scheme’s first six months, and this found no hard evidence of discrimination or any new barriers to lawful residents accessing the private rented sector. Repealing the right-to-rent scheme would remove a significant part of the Government’s measures to deter illegal migration. The Bill’s provisions on residential tenancies are aimed to make it easier for the majority of reputable landlords to evict illegal migrant tenants and to crack down further on those rogue landlords who do so much to damage the sector.
The offences are framed to allow for the prosecution of those who are or who have knowingly rented to illegal migrants or who have or had reasonable cause to believe that they were renting to illegal migrants. We believe that that is the right approach, but a conviction will be possible only where the offence has been proven to the criminal threshold of beyond reasonable doubt. These offences are not designed to catch out a landlord who has made a genuine mistake, and it is difficult to foresee a situation in which it would be in the public interest to pursue a prosecution against a landlord making reasonable efforts to remove illegal migrants from their property.
There are concerns about people being evicted without adequate notice or without sufficient safeguards in place—and points were raised about these in the debate on some of the other amendments. However, safeguards already exist. The Secretary of State will serve notices only where she is satisfied that the migrant is here unlawfully and only after taking the migrant’s circumstances into consideration. Should there be recognised barriers to illegal migrants leaving the UK that are not of their own making, these will be taken into account.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) asked about measures relating to charities. Amendment 46 would create what we regard as a significant loophole in the right-to-rent provisions. It could lead to endless quibbling about what is meant by “significantly exceed the costs” and indeed about what constitutes “costs”. I responded in Committee to give an assurance on a number of different aspects, and said that many of the shelters would fall outside the provisions. Our concern is that rogue landlords would take advantage of the measures that the hon. Lady outlined, and we would not want to create such a loophole.
In the debate in Committee on the director of labour market enforcement, there was strong support on all sides for the creation of such a director, which has been reflected in today’s debate, too. The director’s role is already set out in the Bill. The director will set out the strategy for our enforcement bodies to stop exploitation and non-compliance across the spectrum, but there is a difference between the role of the director and that of the anti-slavery commissioner. If we look at all the different aspects of the labour market enforcement strategy, we judge that the provision is right, but we will obviously continue to reflect to ensure that it is appropriately framed.
On the issue of resources, we have recently announced that we will increase HMRC’s budget for 2015-16 by £4 million around the issue of the national minimum wage. The director will analyse the available funds across all the different aspects for which he or she would have responsibility.
Some have raised concerns about the offence. The Government would not want to prosecute those who have been forced to travel here and exploited for the profit of others, which goes to the heart of the matter. That is why the offence is not aimed at the victims of modern slavery. The statutory defence in section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 will apply.
On some of the issues raised by SNP Members, we maintain that the heart of the issues that matter here are reserved, so it would not be appropriate to accept the proposed amendments. New clause 16 would amend the compensation arrangements for those experiencing financial detriment as a consequence of an illegal working closure notice, but we believe that these provisions are already covered in paragraph 15 of schedule 3 and related safeguards, which are, in our judgment, sufficient. As for James Ewins’s review of overseas domestic workers, it will shortly be published and will no doubt be subject to further consideration at that stage.
I reiterate to right hon. and hon. Members that we have given careful consideration to the Bill and have reflected on a number of the points raised. I hope that, with the assurances I have given, right hon. and hon. Members will be minded not to press their amendments and new clauses to the vote.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Offence of illegal working
Amendment proposed: 19, page 5, line 2, leave out clause 8.—(Keir Starmer.)
To omit the clause on the new illegal working offence and maintain the status quo.
More than two hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, this day).
The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).
Amendment proposed: 35, page 9, line 4, leave out clauses 13 to 16.—(Stuart C. McDonald.)
Removes the extension of the right to rent legislation in the Bill.
Question put, That the amendment be made.
New Clause 3
Transfer of responsibility for relevant children
‘(1) This section applies in relation to a local authority in England (“the first authority”) if—
(a) the authority has functions under any of the provisions of or made under Part 3, 4 or 5 of the Children Act 1989 (support for children and families and care, supervision and protection of children) (“the relevant provisions”) in relation to a relevant child, or
(b) functions under any of the relevant provisions may be conferred on the authority in relation to a relevant child.
(2) The first authority may make arrangements with another local authority in England (“the second authority”) under which—
(a) if this section applies to the authority by virtue of paragraph (a) of subsection (1), the functions mentioned in that paragraph become functions of the second authority in relation to the relevant child, and
(b) if this section applies to the authority by virtue of paragraph (b) of subsection (1), the functions mentioned in that paragraph become functions that may be conferred on the second authority in relation to the relevant child.
(3) The effect of arrangements under this section is that, from the time at which the arrangements have effect in accordance with their terms—
(a) functions under the relevant provisions cease to be functions of, and may not be conferred on, the first authority in relation to the relevant child (“C”),
(b) any of the relevant provisions which immediately before that time applied in relation to C as a result of C’s connection with the first authority or the area of the first authority have effect as if C had that connection with the second authority or the area of the second authority (if that would not otherwise be the case), and
(c) C is to be treated for the purposes of the relevant provisions as if C were not and had never been ordinarily resident in the area of the first authority (if that would otherwise be the case).
(4) Subsection (3)(b) is subject to any change in C’s circumstances after the time at which the arrangements have effect.
(5) Nothing in subsection (3) affects any liability of the first authority in relation to C for any act or omission of the first authority before the time at which the arrangements have effect.
(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations make further provision about the effect of arrangements under this section.
(7) Arrangements under this section may not be brought to an end by the first or second authority once they have come into effect.
(8) In this section “local authority” means a local authority within the meaning of the Children Act 1989 (see section 105(1) of that Act).
(9) In this section “relevant child” means—
(a) a person under the age of 18 who is unaccompanied and has made a protection claim which has not been determined, or
(b) a person under the age of 18 who is unaccompanied and who—
(i) requires leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom but does not have it, and
(ii) is a person of a kind specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(10) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about the meaning of “unaccompanied” for the purposes of subsection (9).
(11) In subsection (9)—
(a) “protection claim” has the meaning given by section 82(2) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, and
(b) the reference to a protection claim having been determined is to be construed in accordance with section 94(3) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.’—(James Brokenshire.)
This new clause creates a mechanism in England to transfer responsibility for caring for particular categories of unaccompanied migrant children, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children, from one local authority to another.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new clause 4—Duty to provide information for the purposes of transfers of responsibility.
Government new clause 5—Request for transfer of responsibility for relevant children.
Government new clause 6—Scheme for transfer of responsibility for relevant children.
Government new clause 7—Extension to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
New clause 1—Extended criteria for refugees joining refugee sponsors—
‘(1) Rules made by the Secretary of State under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971, shall make provision for persons outside the United Kingdom to apply for family reunion with persons recognised as refugees in the United Kingdom, or granted humanitarian protection in the United Kingdom on or after 30 August 2005, who are their children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses, civil or unmarried partners or siblings.
(2) Rules made under subsection (1) may—
(a) make provision for dependants of the persons therein mentioned;
(b) make provision for a person who the Secretary of State is satisfied was a dependant of the refugee or person granted humanitarian protection or a member of their household at the time the refugee or person granted humanitarian protection left the country of his habitual residence;
(c) restrict provision for siblings applying to join family in the UK to those who have not formed their own independent family unit outside of the UK.
(3) Family members seeking leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom must—
(a) be applicants who would not be excluded from protection by virtue of article 1F of the United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees if he were to seek asylum in his own right;
(b) be applicants who would not be excluded from humanitarian protection for any reason in the immigration rules in the United Kingdom.’
This new clause would allow those separated from their family, and who have refugee or humanitarian protection status in the UK, to sponsor family members beyond spouses or under-18 children to join them. It would also remedy an anomaly that prevents children with refugee status in the UK from sponsoring their parents to join them.
New clause 11—Review of rules relating to refugee family reunion—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must undertake a review of the current rules on refugees or those granted humanitarian protection reuniting with close family members in the UK.
(2) The review under subsection (1) must consider—
(a) the failure to implement Dublin Convention III, which allows for spouses or children under 18 with refugee status or those granted humanitarian protection to be reunited with family members in the UK;
(b) options for allowing British citizens to sponsor close family members recognised as refugees or granted humanitarian protection; and
(c) options for extending the criteria for family reunion to include children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, spouses, civil or unmarried partners or siblings who have refugee status or have been granted humanitarian protection and have close family members in the UK.
(3) This review under subsection (1) must be completed and a copy must be laid before Parliament within six months of this Act receiving Royal Assent.’
Amendment 29, page 40, line 14, leave out clause 37.
Government amendments 5 and 6.
Amendment 31, in schedule 8, page 109, line 29, leave out from “(6)” to end of line 30 and insert—
(none) “, for “section 4 or 95” substitute “section 95”;
(iii) in subsection (7) for “section 4 or 95” substitute “section 95 or 95A”.”
See explanatory statement for amendment 30.
Amendment 40, page 112, line, leave out sub-paragraph (5).
This amendment ensures that families with children under 18 receive section 95 support until they leave the country.
Amendment 30, page 113, line 13, at end insert—
‘(2A) If the Secretary of State decides not to provide support to a person or not to continue to provide support to them, under this section , the person may appeal to the First Tier Tribunal.’
To reinstate a right of appeal against Home Office decisions to provide support (under Section 95 or new 95A).
Amendment 2, page 119, line 21, at end insert—
‘(43A) The Immigration Act 1971 is amended as follows.
(43B) After section 3(9) (general provisions for regulation and control) insert—
“(10) In making rules under subsection (2), the Secretary of State must have regard to the following.
(11) Rules must provide for persons seeking asylum, within the meaning of the rules, to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to take up employment (including self-employment and voluntary work) and that permission must be granted if—
(a) a decision has not been taken on the applicant’s asylum application within six months of the date on which it was recorded, or
(b) an individual makes further submissions which raise asylum grounds and a decision on that fresh claim or to refuse to treat such further submissions as a fresh claim has not been taken within six months of the date on which they were recorded.
(12) Permission for a person seeking asylum to take up employment shall be on terms no less favourable than those upon which permission is granted to a person recognised as a refugee to take up employment.”’
Amendment 42, in schedule 9, page 121, line 26, leave out paragraph 2.
This amendment removes those provisions added by Schedule 9 that would prevent local authorities providing leaving care support under the Children Act 1989 to young people who are not asylum seekers and do not have leave to remain when they reach the age of 18 years.
Government amendment 7.
Amendment 43, page 122, leave out lines 16 to 34.
This amendment removes those provisions added by Schedule 9 to the Immigration Bill that would prevent local authorities providing leaving care support under the Children Act 1989 to young people who are not asylum seekers and do not have leave to remain when they reach the age of 18 years.
Amendment 44, page 122, line 46, at end insert
(c) he entered the UK as an adult.’
This amendment enables local authorities to provide leaving care support under the Children Act 1989 to young people who do not have leave to remain and are not asylum seekers.
Government amendments 8 to 12.
Amendment 45, page 124, leave out from line 11 to line 13 on page 125 and insert—
‘10B The Secretary of State shall provide adequate funding to local authorities to enable them to meet their duties under the Children Act 1989 to persons who do not have leave to enter or remain and are not asylum seekers.’
This amendment provides for the Secretary of State to make funding available to local authorities, as the specialist agency responsible for care leavers, to meet the duties set out in the Children Act 1989 in relation to young people who do not have leave to remain and are not asylum seekers.
Government amendments 13 to17.
New clause 2—Automatic deportation under the UK Borders Act 2007—
‘(1) Section 32 of the UK Borders Act 2007 is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (2) substitute “12” for “6”.’
This new clause would require that non-British citizens who commit offences and are sentenced to 6 months in prison are deported automatically.
New clause 10—Offence of presence in the United Kingdom without legal authority—
‘(1) Any person who is present in the United Kingdom after 1 June 2016 without legal authority shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Any person who after 1 June 2016 enters or attempts to enter the United Kingdom without legal authority shall be guilty of an offence.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction—
(a) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months;
(b) to a fine which in Scotland or Northern Ireland may not exceed £5,000, or to both.
(4) Any person who is convicted of an offence under subsection (1) shall be subject to a deportation order unless the Secretary of State deems such a deportation order to be against public interest.
(5) For the purposes of subsection (2) above, a deportation order shall be deemed to be in the public interest unless a certificate to the contrary has been submitted by the Secretary of State to the court.’
This new clause makes provision for criminal sanctions including deportation orders against those who have entered the United Kingdom illegally or who remain in the United Kingdom without legal authority. It adds to the existing offences under Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971.
New clause 12—Right of residence: registration certificates—
‘(1) Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988 is repealed.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972, or any other enactment, any non-UK citizen resident in the United Kingdom without authority to remain in the United Kingdom provided by a valid visa, visa waiver, residence permit or other official permission must apply for a registration certificate to confirm their right of residence in the United Kingdom.
(3) The Secretary of State shall by regulations prescribe the content of application forms for registration certificates and for the grounds on which an application made may be granted or refused and arrangements for appeals and final adjudications.
(4) The Secretary of State shall establish the registration certificate scheme, comprising the matters mentioned in subsection (3) and such other matters as he thinks necessary and expedient, by 30 November 2016.
(5) Any person present in the United Kingdom after 31st December 2016 without legal authority or without having applied on or before 31st December 2016 for a registration certificate under subsection (2) above shall be guilty of an offence.
(6) Any person who, after 31st December 2016, enters or attempts to enter the United Kingdom without legal authority shall be guilty of an offence.
(7) A person guilty of an offence under subsections (5) or (6) is liable on summary conviction—
(a) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months; or
(b) to a fine which in Scotland or Northern Ireland may not exceed £5,000; or
(c) to both.
(8) Any person who is convicted of an offence under subsections (5) or (6) shall be subject to a deportation order unless the Secretary of State deems such a deportation order to be against the public interest.
(9) For the purposes of subsection (8) above, a deportation order shall be deemed to be in the public interest unless a certificate to the contrary has been submitted by the Secretary of State to the Court.
(10) Any power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument.
(11) A statutory instrument containing an order under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.’
New clause 14—Minimum income requirement for partner visas—
‘(1) The Secretary of State shall within six months after this Act receives Royal Assent amend the Immigration Rules regarding a person applying for entry clearance to, leave to remain in or indefinite leave to remain in the UK as the non-EEA national partner or dependent child of a person who is—
(a) a British citizen; or,
(b) present and settled in the UK; or
(c) in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection
to make provision as set out in this section.
(2) The minimum annual income requirement—
(a) for the sponsor of the partner shall be the equivalent of one year’s full-time salary (net of tax and national insurance contributions, and allowing for four week’s holiday) at the rate of the National Minimum Wage as it applies to that individual;
(b) for the first child in addition to the partner the additional sum of £2,500;
(c) for each further child the additional sum of £2000.
(3) The minimum annual income requirement as specified in subsection (b) may include financial support from third parties.
(4) In this section “full-time” will mean 35 hours a week.’
New clause 15—Adult dependant relative visas—
‘(1) The Secretary of State shall within six months after this Act receives Royal Assent amend the Immigration Rules regarding Entry Clearance in respect of an adult dependant relative of a person who is—
(a) a British Citizen; or,
(b) a person settled in the UK; or
(c) in the UK with refugee leave or humanitarian protection
to make provision as set out in this section.
(2) The Immigration Rules for persons specified in subsection (a) must not require as condition for entry that in the country where they are living—
(a) the required level of care is not available;
(b) there is no person in that country who can reasonably provide the required level of care;
(c) the required level of care is not affordable.
(3) The applicant shall be adequately maintained, accommodated and cared for in the UK by the sponsor without recourse to public funds for five years.’
Amendment 39, in clause 20, page 25, line 18, at end insert—
‘(2A) In paragraph 2(2) after “examine” insert “at the point of entry into the United Kingdom.’
This amendment would end the practice of conducting speculative, in-country spot-checks and restrict the power to the point of entry into the UK.
Amendment 36, in clause 25, page 32, leave out lines 20 to 23.
This amendment removes proposed extension of powers of relevant officers—custody officers, prison officers or prisoner custody officers—to conduct strip searches of detainees for documents which “might” establish a person’s nationality or indicate “the place from which the person travelled to the UK or to which a person is proposing to go”.
Government amendments 3 and 4.
Amendment 27, page 39, line 6, leave out clause 34.
Amendment 28, in clause 34, page 39, line 19, at end insert—
‘(5A) After subsection (3) insert new subsection—
“(3A) Before a decision is taken to certify a human rights claim the Secretary of State must obtain a multi-agency best interests assessment in relation to any child whose human rights may be breached by the decision to certify.”’
To make sure that before a decision is made to certify any claim for out of country appeal, the best interests of any child affected by this decision must be considered.
Amendment 34, in clause 58, page 50, line 11, at end insert—
‘(3A) Part 7 shall not come into force in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.’
To prevent language requirements on public sector workers applying in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
Amendment 1, in clause 59, page 50, line 18, leave out subsection (2).
Amendment 37, in schedule 7, page 97, line 9, at end insert—
‘( ) The following provisions apply if a person is detained under any provisions set out in paragraph (current paragraph 1(1))—
(a) the Secretary of State must arrange a reference to the First-tier Tribunal for it to determine whether the detained person should be released on bail;
(b) the Secretary of State must secure that a first reference to the First-tier Tribunal is made no later than the eighth day following that on which the detained person was detained;
(c) if the detained person remains in detention, the Secretary of State must secure that a second reference to the First-tier Tribunal or Commission is made no later than the thirty-sixth day following that on which the detained person was detained and every twenty-eighth day thereafter;
(d) the First-tier Tribunal hearing a case referred to it under this section must proceed as if the detained person had made an application to it for bail; and
(e) the First-tier Tribunal must determine the matter—
(i) on a first reference, before the tenth day following that on which the person concerned was detained; and
(ii) on a second and subsequent reference, before the thirty-eighth day following that on which he was detained.
( ) For the purposes of this paragraph, “First-tier Tribunal” means—
(a) if the detained person has brought an appeal under the Immigration Acts, the chamber of the First-tier Tribunal dealing with his appeal; and
(b) in any other case, such chamber of the First-tier Tribunal as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
( ) In the case of a detained person to whom section 3(2) of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 applies (jurisdiction in relation to bail for persons detained on grounds of national security) a reference under sub-paragraph (3)(a) above, shall be to the Commission and not to the First-tier Tribunal.
( ) Rules made by the Lord Chancellor under section 5 of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997 may include provision made for the purposes of this paragraph.’
This amendment makes provision for automatic judicial oversight of detention after eight days, then after a further 28 days, and every 28 days for so long as detention lasts.
Amendment 38, page 102, line 9, leave out sub-paragraphs (1) to (3) and insert—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must provide, or arrange for the provision of, facilities for the accommodation of persons released on immigration bail.’
This amendment makes provision for an impecunious detainee to be furnished with an address to facilitate their applying for bail, without which they are unlikely to be granted bail.
In this part of the debate we turn to amendments and new clauses concerning the asylum system and the arrangements made for the support of failed asylum seekers who the courts have agreed do not need our protection.
The crisis in Syria and events in the middle east, north Africa and beyond have seen an unprecedented number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Europe. Some have gone on to reach the UK via northern France, including many unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. There are now nearly 1,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Kent County Council’s care, 300 of whom have had to be placed in other local authority areas. I would like to put on record my thanks to all those in Kent—all the officers and others—for the way in which they have responded to this challenge, but in our judgment a national response is required.
Additional funding has been made available to local authorities who take on responsibility for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Kent. We hope that the dispersal arrangements that have been put in place will remain voluntary. However, we have tabled new clauses 3 to 7 and Government amendments 5 and 6 to underpin the voluntary dispersal arrangement and, if necessary, enforce them, although we see this as a reserve backstop power. The amendments introduce a new power to facilitate the transfer of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from one local authority to another; enable the Secretary of State to direct local authorities to provide information about their support to children in their care—this will inform new transfer arrangements; enable the Secretary of State to direct a local authority that refuses to comply with a request to accept an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child to provide written reasons; enable the Secretary of State to require local authorities to co-operate in respect of transfers; and enable the provisions to be extended across the UK by regulations, subject to the affirmative procedure and informed by further dialogue with the devolved Administrations.
We take our responsibilities for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children very seriously. The new provisions will ensure that there is a more equitable distribution of such cases across the country and that the welfare of vulnerable children continues to be safeguarded.
Government amendment 7 addresses an anomaly in migrants’ access to support in paying university tuition fees. Under the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011, which govern home student access to student loans in England, British citizens—including those returning to the UK from overseas—and most other groups must demonstrate three years of ordinary residence before they can qualify. We think that that is also the right benchmark for adult migrant care leavers with limited leave to remain or an outstanding application.
The measure will also relieve the burden on local authorities, created by case law, that means that their leaving care duties under the Children Act 2004 may encompass payment of student tuition fees for migrant care leavers who do not meet the student support regulations. Those payments are normally at international student rates, which range from £12,000 to £15,000 per year in most cases. Even one or two cases can place significant pressure on local authority budgets.
Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 restricts access to local authority support for migrants without immigration status. Schedule 9 to the Bill simplifies that framework. Government amendments 8 to 16 make technical improvements to those provisions. Amendment 17 amends schedule 3, which provides a UK-wide framework, so that regulations may make equivalent changes across the UK. That will be informed by further dialogue with the devolved Administrations.
A number of other amendments and new clauses have been tabled in this group. I shall make some initial comments about them, but will reflect and respond further in the light of any points made. Amendments 29 and 40 would reverse the reforms made by schedule 8 to the support provided to failed asylum seekers and other illegal migrants. They reflect a clear difference of principle, which was clear in Committee. We say that it is not appropriate for public money to be used to support illegal migrants, including failed asylum seekers, who can and should leave the UK. Schedule 8 will therefore restrict the availability of such support, consistently with our international obligations, and remove incentives for migrants to remain in the UK when they have no lawful basis for doing so.
The system of support for which Parliament legislated in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, to discharge our obligations to asylum seekers, is, in our judgment, too often used to support those whose asylum claim has failed and who have no lawful basis to remain in the UK. On 31 March 2015, we were providing support to an estimated 15,000 failed asylum seekers, their dependants and others. In 2014-15, such support cost an estimated £73 million.
We believe that the situation is wrong in principle. That is why, under schedule 8, those with children with them when their asylum claim and any appeal are rejected will no longer be treated as though they were still asylum seekers and will cease to be eligible for support under section 95 of the 1999 Act. Section 4 of the 1999 Act will be repealed and support will be available to failed asylum seekers and any dependent children only if there is a genuine obstacle that prevents their departure when their appeal rights are exhausted.
In Committee, there was a great deal of discussion about the 2005 pilot; it was said that that could be prayed in evidence as to why our approach might not work. However, I underline again what I said in Committee about why we think there is a difference. First, the current onus on the Home Office to show that a family is not co-operating with return is removed; to qualify for support under new section 95A of the 1999 Act, the family will have to show that there is a genuine obstacle to their departure at the point when they have exhausted their appeal rights.
Secondly, the 2005 pilot involved a largely correspondence- based process in cases that had exhausted appeal rights in the previous 11 months. The new approach will involve a managed process of engagement with the family, in tandem with the local authority, following the end of the appeal process, to discuss their situation and the consequences of not leaving the UK when they can. Thirdly, we judge that circumstances have changed: it is now more generally recognised that the taxpayer should not have to support illegal migrants who could and should leave the UK.
Amendments 30 and 31 are concerned with appeal rights. Under the Bill, asylum seekers refused support under section 95 of the 1999 Act will retain their right of appeal. That appeal is extended to those refused support whose further submissions on protection grounds are accepted, or may be treated, as a fresh asylum claim. However, the Bill does not provide a right of appeal to failed asylum seekers refused further support because they do not face a genuine obstacle that prevents their departure from the UK when they have exhausted their appeal rights against the refusal of asylum. Common examples of a genuine obstacle will be where medical evidence shows the person is unfit to travel or there is evidence that an application for the necessary travel document has been submitted and is still outstanding. These are generally straightforward matters of fact which do not require a right of appeal.
Does the Minister agree that the children of parents who will not return—to my mind, mostly because they cannot—face genuine obstacles to returning, namely their parents, and that we should therefore support those children because they have absolutely no choice in the matter?
We had detailed and considered debate about this in Committee, to which the hon. Lady was party. The point I made there is that the family returns process engages with this so that we assist and work with families to bring about their return. She will recall our debates about the support that can still be made available by local authorities in respect of destitution cases. That support is potentially still available as we continue, as part of this process, to assist families in their entirety, with the appropriate safeguards, in seeing that they are returned if they do not have the right to remain in the UK.
The appeal statistics on asylum support do not give the full picture. In the year to August 2015, 37% of asylum support appeals were dismissed. Forty-one per cent. were allowed, but in many cases this was because the person provided only in their appeal the evidence required for support to be granted. Many of the remainder were remitted for reconsideration or withdrawn, in many cases also in the light of new evidence provided in the appeal. Few appeals related to the issue of whether there was a practical obstacle to departure from the UK. The previous independent chief inspector of borders and immigration found in his July 2014 report on asylum support that 89% of refusals were reasonably based on the evidence available at the time.
Amendments 42 to 45 would reverse the Bill’s reforms of support for adult migrant care leavers and require that they be provided with local authority support under leaving care legislation, even though all their applications and appeals to stay here have been refused. We believe that these changes are wrong in principle. Public money should not be used to support illegal migrants, including failed asylum seekers, who can leave the UK and should do so. The amendments would create obvious incentives for more unaccompanied children to come to the UK to make an unfounded asylum claim, often by using dangerous travel routes controlled by smugglers and traffickers. We are speaking of adults. If their asylum claim has been finally refused, automatic access to further support from the local authority should cease at that point. The Bill makes appropriate provision for their support before they leave the UK.
Amendment 2 would allow permission to work where an asylum claim has been outstanding after only six months, remove the caveat that any delay must not be of the asylum seeker’s own making, and lift all restrictions on the employment available. As we debated in Committee, we do not consider this to be sensible. We met our public commitments to decide all straightforward asylum claims lodged before April 2014 by 31 March 2015 and to decide all straightforward claims lodged from 1 April 2014 within six months. About 85% of cases are straightforward. We judge that this policy strikes the right balance. If an asylum claim remains undecided after 12 months, for reasons outside the person’s control, they can apply for permission to work in employment on the shortage occupation list. This is fair, reasonable and consistent with EU law.
The Minister has talked about making regulations to extend provisions to Wales and about skills requirements. Does he agree that the Bill should recognise, in dealing with asylum claims, the distinct skills and immigration requirements of Wales, and enable the Welsh Government to provide input into Home Office immigration policy?
I am afraid that I do not, on the basis that immigration is a reserved matter. The hon. Lady may be aware that the Migration Advisory Committee analyses differences in this regard between the countries of the UK, as well as regional differences. For example, in Scotland there is a separate shortage occupation list, so there is an ability to reflect variations across the UK in assessing evidence and policy.
New clauses 1 and 11 would widen the scope for refugee family reunion. I am aware of the calls from the Refugee Council and others for that. We recognise that families may become fragmented because of the nature of conflict and persecution, and the speed and manner in which those seeking asylum often flee their country of origin. Our policy allows the immediate family members of a person with refugee leave or humanitarian protection —for example, a spouse or partner, and children under the age of 18 who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country—to be reunited with them in the UK. The immigration rules allow for the sponsorship of other family members. By contrast, some EU countries require up to two years’ lawful residence before a refugee becomes eligible and impose time restrictions on how quickly family members must apply once their sponsor becomes eligible.
We have granted over 21,000 family reunion visas over the past five years. In our judgment, widening the criteria for inclusion would not be practical or sustainable. It might be a significant additional factor in how the UK is viewed by those choosing where among the different jurisdictions to make their asylum claim, and it would undermine our wider asylum strategy. Some have asked whether we have fully implemented the Dublin regulations. In our judgment, we have. The challenge is to get family members to make claims in EU countries to establish the links that operate under the Dublin regulations. That is often the impediment standing in the way of those who are entitled to this, but who need to start by making their claim in an EU country.
Does the Minister not accept that the definition of a family is drawn incredibly tightly and is very cruel, for example to those with siblings or children over the age of 18? He says that extending the criteria would not be efficient or effective, but it would actually be one of the most effective ways of granting refugee status to more people. Such people will not put great pressure on our services because they will largely be looked after by their families.
I recognise the manner in which the hon. Lady advances her point, but our judgment is that the policy strikes the right balance. Our family resettlement policy has rules, but equally, certain circumstances—for example, where there are older relatives, or issues relating to illness or medical need—allow for some greater flexibility within those existing rules. From our standpoint, the steps we are taking on resettlement are about an assessment of vulnerability. That is redolent of the approach we are taking in the camps, through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and how we are seeking to deal with resettlement.
May I press the Minister on the people who are currently excluded by the rules? For example, a case has been raised with me about a family of refugees from Syria. The parents are in this country with their younger children, but their 19-year-old daughter is still in Lebanon. She is unable to join them, even though she is also a refugee from Syria, because she is over 18, which is surely wrong. As a result, they are worried that they may have to pay people smugglers and traffickers to get her to Britain, which is a huge risk and would mean breaking the law.
As the right hon. Lady knows, the current regulations are framed in a way that allows the resettlement of children under the age of 18. Our judgment is that that is framed in the right way. Adults seeking protection can use the normal route of claiming asylum in other countries. We do not think that resettlement should be extended beyond the current framework. As I have said, there are exceptions to that, particularly in cases of older relatives who have an illness. The rules can operate in a way that allows entry clearance officers to take such factors into account. Clearly, the rules are examined case by case, including by looking at whether leave falling outside the rules may be appropriate in certain circumstances.
What is the option for that 19-year-old and so many other similar cases? Where does she go—should she get a boat across to Greece and try to apply there? The Dublin III arrangements are not working for people arriving in Greece and Italy. There are huge numbers of examples of that. What does the Minister say to that 19-year-old?
We think that the Dublin arrangements are the right way to provide consistency of approach across the whole EU in dealing with what some have described as asylum shopping and with people’s ability to choose the jurisdiction in which they claim asylum. The key element is that we achieve a stable Syria, so that the people in those camps can see a stable future in which they will be supported there. Our response in relation to humanitarian protection, including the £1.1 billion that the Government have committed, absolutely matters. It is not simply about direct humanitarian protection; it is about education, about giving people a sense of hope and purpose and about ending up with a stable Syria to which people will be able to return as soon as possible.
New clause 2, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), who is not in his place, aims to increase the number of foreign national offenders we deport. However, our existing legislation already gives us the tools we need to achieve this, and there is no better illustration of that than the immigration statistics published last week, which showed that 5,591 foreign national offenders were removed from the UK in the last year.
The proposed change would mean that the Secretary of State would be required to sign a deportation order for a foreign criminal if they received a period of imprisonment of six months. It is already Government policy to consider for deportation those with custodial sentences of less than 12 months if they have caused serious harm. The Secretary of State also uses the power to take deportation action in any case in which she considers that it would be conducive to the public good to do so. So the new clause, although perhaps motivated by the best of intentions, is unnecessary.
I recognise the intentions behind new clauses 10 and 12, but we do not judge them to be necessary or appropriate. New clause 10 seeks to make provision for criminal sanctions against those who are present or who entered the UK without legal authority, but there are already criminal sanctions and removal and deportation powers in place to deal with illegal migrants. Section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 in particular sets out criminal sanctions for various types of unlawful migrant behaviour, including illegal entry and overstaying.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, in 2013, the latest year for which I have statistics, there were only 72 convictions in magistrates and Crown courts for all the offences mentioned in section 24? Does he think the Government are taking the matter seriously enough?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the way in which he has advanced these issues and underlined the need for us to remain focused on the removal of those who have no lawful authority to be here and to address those who have sought to come into the UK by clandestine means. The most effective way of dealing with those matters is to have an effective removal process, and that is why we are legislating in this way in the Bill. I also want to highlight the work that we discussed in our debate on the previous group of amendments. We are working to achieve a speedier and more efficient and effective use of detention and to determine how that plays into a more effective removal process more generally. The measures are already in place, but my hon. Friend’s points relate fundamentally to our achieving more efficient and effective removal, which is an aim I share.
May I take my right hon. Friend back to new clause 2, which relates to the deportation of non-British citizens who have committed offences here? I am persuaded by his response to the new clause, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), but will he tell us a little more? I understand that there is a number of countries to which it is extremely difficult for us to deport people in these circumstances. Are moves such as we have seen in relation to Jamaican prisons relevant to this issue, and has any progress been made with those other countries?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The issue of prison conditions is relevant, for example, as are prisoner transfer agreements and the bilateral arrangements that we have in place. Work is being done across Government on the return of foreign national offenders, which I know was a particular issue for my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate, not simply in the Home Office, but in the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Justice and elsewhere, to look at these issues in the round and see what measures and mechanisms are available to us to enhance the process. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) was right to frame his point in that way. I assure him and my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate that we are taking a joined-up approach across Government to use the measures that are available to us to enhance our response in respect of returns.
New clause 12 seeks to create a system that requires non-UK nationals, including EU nationals, seeking leave to enter and remain in the UK to obtain legal authority to remain in the UK. I agree with much of the thinking of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), but new clause 12 essentially seeks to curtail the free movement of EU citizens to the UK under existing treaty rights. I am not sure that legislation is the right way to approach that.
The Immigration Act 2014 limits the factors that draw illegal migrants to the UK and introduces tough domestic reforms to ensure that our controls on access to benefits and services, including the NHS and social housing, are among the tightest in Europe. We believe that the way to bring about real change is through effective renegotiation with the European Union. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch will be well aware of the letter the Prime Minister sent to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, to set out our approach and the broader stance we seek to take.
New clause 14 would require the Secretary of State to amend the minimum income threshold requirement for sponsoring a non-EEA national partner and any non-EEA national dependent children to settle in the UK. That would undermine the impact of the minimum income threshold, which the courts have agreed correctly reflects the public interest in controlling immigration to safeguard the UK’s economic wellbeing by preventing family migrants from becoming a burden on the taxpayer and by promoting their integration. A couple with income equivalent to the national minimum wage can still access income-related benefits and tax credits. A minimum income threshold set at that level would therefore not be sufficient to prevent burdens on the taxpayer once the migrant partner reached settlement and had full access to welfare benefits. It would also provide less support for the migrant partner’s integration in society. That is simply not an adequate basis for sustainable family migration and integration.
Will the Minister clarify his position on the rules that prevent potential income from a non-EEA spouse from being taken into account? That income is not a burden on the UK taxpayer, so why is it still the Government’s position that it should be excluded?
As I have indicated, it is about creating a long-term stable position on what may be considered a burden. I underline that we continue to look at the specific rules on what is and what is not taken into account. I am happy to reflect further on the point that the hon. Gentleman has highlighted. The Government’s approach has been challenged in the courts and the relevant monetary threshold has been upheld. We will continue to analyse experience and evidence in respect of this matter, but our judgment is that the way in which we assess what is counted is right.
New clause 15 would require the Secretary of State to amend the entry clearance rules for non-EEA national adult dependent relatives to remove the current requirement that the personal care needs of that relative cannot be met in their country of origin. Again, that would represent a significant dilution of the reforms implemented in July 2012. The route for adult dependent relatives was reformed because of the significant NHS and social care costs that can be associated with these cases. The route now provides for those most in need of care, but not for those who would simply prefer to come to live in the UK. The family immigration rules that we reformed in the last Parliament are having the right impact and are helping to restore public confidence in this part of the immigration system. If personal care needs can be met in someone’s country of origin, it is not right to allow them to travel to the UK for that purpose.
Is it not the case that many of the frictions between immigrant and settled communities relate to fears about the abuse of the health and care system, and that having a clear framework that makes explicit the limits of what we will and will not accept will go a long way towards calming the nerves of the host communities in respect of the new entrants to their areas?
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. That is what we have done. We must also ensure public confidence more generally about where costs should lie, and ensure that understandable concerns about access to healthcare are framed rightly. That is why we introduced the immigration and health surcharge in the last Parliament.
Amendment 39 seeks to restrict the power of immigration officers to examine someone in-country. As my hon. and learned friend the Solicitor General—he is sitting alongside me—said in Committee, the power to examine someone in-country is essential, for example when immigration officers are questioning persons who have been seen climbing out of lorries on motorways or at service stations, and who are therefore suspected of having entered the UK illegally.
Officers working in immigration enforcement do not conduct speculative spot checks. To examine a person after the point of entry, an immigration officer must have information that causes them to question whether someone has the right to be in the UK, as set out in the 1987 case of Singh v. Hammond. Our published guidance reflects that judgment, and makes clear that when conducting an in-country examination, immigration officers must first have reasonable suspicion that a person is an immigration offender, and they must be able to justify that reasoning. If the power of examination is limited only to the point of entry, the ability to conduct in-country enforcement operations would either be severely hampered, or it could risk unnecessary arrests.
Government amendments 3 and 4 are minor and technical, and replace “strip search” with “full search” to allay concerns that the person is stripped completely naked during such a search when that is not the case. We judge that the term “full search” more appropriately reflects the nature of the power.
Amendment 36 seeks to remove the power to conduct such searches from detainee custody officers, prison officers and prisoner custody officers when they are searching for nationality documents. As the Solicitor General said in Committee, the reality of detention is such that items are often concealed below clothing. It may therefore be necessary in some cases to remove the detainee’s clothes to locate documentation and other items. Of course, such a power must be governed by appropriate safeguards, and used only when necessary, and it may not be exercised in the presence of another detained person or a person of the opposite sex. Removing altogether the ability to search in that way would create an easy way for detainees to thwart removal efforts.
Amendments 27 and 28 are to clause 34. Section 94B of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 allows human rights claims and deportation cases to be certified to require an appeal to be brought from outside the UK, where to do so would not cause serious irreversible harm or otherwise breach human rights. Clause 34 extends that power to apply to all human rights claims, but amendment 27 would remove that clause from the Bill. Extending such a power to all human rights claims is a Government manifesto commitment and builds on the success of section 94B, which was introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 and has resulted in more than 230 foreign national offenders being deported before their appeal.
The Court of Appeal recently considered two cases concerning the operation of that power. It held that the Government are generally entitled to proceed on the basis that an out-of-country appeal is a fair and effective remedy. The amendment would prevent the Government from meeting their manifesto commitment to extending that successful power, the operation of which has recently been endorsed by the Court of Appeal.
Amendment 28 relates to the best interests of children. It seeks to impose an obligation on the Secretary of State to conduct a multi-agency best-interest assessment for any child whose human rights may be breached by the decision to certify. The amendment is unnecessary because, before any decision to certify is made, the best interests of any child affected by that decision must already be considered. Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 imposes a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to consider the best interests of any child affected by a decision to certify. Where the person concerned makes the Secretary of State aware of the involvement of a child who may be affected by her decision, the Secretary of State will ensure that the best interest of that child is a primary consideration when deciding whether to certify. That consideration is supported by published guidance and will take into account all the circumstances of the case.
On language requirements and devolved Administrations, amendments 1 and 34 relate to part 7—a measure to ensure that the public receive help, advice and support from their public services in fluent spoken English. Regarding Scotland, the English language duty applies only to reserved matters. Consent is not required for such application, but consultation is appropriate and I am grateful to Scottish Government officials considering the draft code of practice and its implementation. On Northern Ireland, it is right that we consider extension of the scheme there. But amendment 1 is defective as it needs to be limited to reserved powers, as with Scotland. We need to give further thought to how best to achieve the intent behind the amendment, and we intend to return to that issue in the other place.
I hope that with those comments the Government new clauses and amendments will receive the approval of the House.
I start by confirming that we see the sense in the Government new clauses—I think they are new clauses 3 to 7—intended to help local authorities such as Kent deal with unaccompanied children, and we support them. But that is the extent of the agreement on this group of amendments.
Amendment 29 deals with the removal of support for certain categories of migrants. Such removal is wrong in principle and likely to be counterproductive. All the evidence is one way—support for families facing removal is the best means of ensuring that they leave. By support, I mean not only support in the terms set out in the Bill, but support by way of help with obstacles, documents and advice. It is the families that are supported in that broad way that are most likely to leave, and thus the objective is achieved by having the support in place. By contrast, withdrawing support has the opposite effect.
Let us call a spade a spade. Withdrawing support for this category of migrants is a threat of destitution as a means of enforcing immigration rules. All the evidence suggests that it is counterproductive. The Minister mentioned the 2005 pilot, confident—I think—that I would also mention it. It was a pilot of the proposition that withdrawing support—threatening destitution—was likely to encourage people to leave and to alter behaviour. The results of that pilot were evaluated in 2006, and they were stark. Of the 116 families in the pilot, one family left as a result of the withdrawal of support; 12 sought help with documents; 32 families went underground; and nine were removed from the scheme because on analysis it was found that their claims should not have been refused. The pilot was considered a complete failure.
The evidence is not only a pilot some 10 years ago: it is practice since then, with successive and different Governments accepting that destitution, or the threat of destitution, should not be used as a means of enforcing removal because—among other reasons—it is wholly counterproductive.
The Minister says that the situation now is different, and he put forward two reasons. The first is that, under the proposed arrangements, families would have to prove there was a genuine obstacle to removal. I am not sure how far that advances the argument. The idea seems to be that putting the onus on the family to prove a genuine obstacle will make them less likely to go underground if support is withdrawn, but there is no rational link between the two propositions. Secondly, he says the process will not be by way of correspondence, but carried out in a more engaged manner. It is hard to see how that change, welcome though it is, will make a difference to the stark results of the 2005 pilot. The withdrawal will cause hardship, distress and anxiety and will be wholly counterproductive. That is one the problems with the Bill: it does not meet its own objectives. The only basis on which the Government can advance these provisions is that they will make the UK appear to be a more hostile environment.
Destitution in the 21st century should not be a means of enforcing immigration rules, or any other rules, yet that is what lies behind the provisions. The whole House will accept that children should not be adversely impacted by the decisions of their parents, yet the Bill will visit those adverse impacts on them, because they will fall within the removal of support provisions. That led to great debate in Committee about whether this would simply transfer the burden from one Department to local authorities, which are not going to stand by and leave destitute children unassisted. The provision, therefore, is wrong in principle and counterproductive, and not one that in the 21st century we should have anything to do with.
Turning briefly to appeals, I will start with the narrow issue of appeals on the question of support. Amendments 31, 40 and 30 would reinstate the right of appeal against Home Office decisions on support. This is where the Home Office has made a decision on support but it is thought that the decision is wrong. At the moment, the error rate is very high. Those in the House who were not on the Committee will be astonished to hear that it is as high as 60% in some cases. Under the Bill, those decisions could not be put right on a simple appeal. In Committee, the Minister said that the long route of judicial review would remain as a remedy, but I failed to understand then, and I fail to do so now, how it can be sensible or cost-efficient to remove a simple right of appeal in cases for which there is a high rate of success and to rely on the much more expensive route of judicial review by different principles. With a 60% error rate, it is unacceptable to withdraw the right of appeal.
In relation to that error rate and others I will mention, the argument that some decisions that are changed are changed because an individual provides additional information is no answer. The rate of 60%, and of 40% to 42% for general appeals, is high in any event, and there is no evidence to suggest that in the majority of cases an individual has not provided the necessary information. In any event, whether or not they have been properly advised about what information to provide, they should not be punished by the withdrawal of support where inappropriate.
On the wider point of appeal, amendments 27 and 28 deal with the extension of appeals to the wider category of individuals who will be removed before they can appeal. There is a general point to make about such appeals, which is that although there may be court cases establishing that these provisions or their forerunners do not extinguish the rights of appeal, there is no question but that they materially inhibit the right of appeal. The success rate under the current arrangements, of between 40% and 42%, is instructive—these are the cases where individuals have been removed, only in the end to succeed in their appeals. I accept that some in that group may well have succeeded earlier had different or fuller information been made available to the authorities, but there is a variety of reasons why that may have happened, including the advice that those people had been given. Removing first, before appeal, materially inhibits rights of appeal and it should certainly not be expanded.
Amendments 27 and 28 are intended to ensure that before a decision is made to certify any claim for out-of-country appeal, the best interests of any child affected must be considered. These amendments propose a specific provision to deal with a real problem, rather than the general provision that is already in place, and that is materially important for the children who will be affected by the extension of the rules on appeal.
I want to spend just a few moments on the family reunification issues. Part 11 of the immigration rules are very narrowly drawn, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) has given a powerful example of the injustice that they can and do inflict. New clause 1 is intended to remedy that, and I am sympathetic to it, but we have tabled new clause 11, which proposes a wider review of the refugee family reunification rules. New clause 11 has the advantage of covering the failure to implement the Dublin III convention, the advantage of enabling the review to consider an option to allow British citizens to sponsor close family members recognised as refugees or granted humanitarian protection, and the advantage of looking at options for extending the criteria for family reunion in the way envisaged by new clause 1.
I rise to speak to my two new clauses. In so doing, I want to thank the Minister for telling me all the reasons why he does not support them, although he was generous enough to say that he agrees with the principles that lie behind them.
The second of my new clauses, new clause 12, could well be a blueprint for what happens after the country decides to leave the European Union in the forthcoming referendum, because it sets out the way in which people who are already in this country would be able to obtain the right of residence here, as well as some of the associated rules to ensure that those without the right of residence would be the subject of criminal sanctions.
Before coming to that in more detail, I want to refer to new clause 10 and some of the background to it. New clause 10 is modelled very much on a private Member’s Bill that I have brought forward on a couple of occasions for debate in the House, the Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill. The Bill had the privilege of being the subject of an opinion poll, which was conducted by the noble Lord Ashcroft in June 2013. The findings were that some 86% of those polled supported the provisions of the Bill and only 9% were against them, so this is a new clause that strikes a chord with the British people.
The reason I have brought those provisions forward again is that, despite previous debates, it seems that the statistics on how many people are being prosecuted and/or convicted for offences under section 24A of the Immigration Act 1971 are going in the wrong direction. In 2009, the number of people proceeded against and convicted both in the magistrates courts and the Crown courts for offences against that section was a giddy 158. For every year after 2009 the number had fallen, and by 2013—the last year for which figures are available—the number found guilty in the magistrates courts had fallen to six and the number convicted in the Crown courts had fallen to 66, making a total of 72 convictions for a widespread range of criminal offences against our immigration laws.
This means that section 24A is in effect not being enforced. Meanwhile, clause 8 of this Bill will add a new section 24B, which introduces the offence of illegal working by people subject to immigration control. One wonders whether this offence, if enforced as rigorously as the more serious offences under section 24A, will actually achieve anything of substance. Perhaps it is more of a presentational issue so that the Government can show that they are doing something and attempt to win public support on that basis. I hope that there will be time for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration to respond and to explain how many people he thinks will be subject to prosecution under the proposed new section 24B for the offence of illegal working. I hope he will also explain why there have been so few prosecutions under the existing section 24A.
It is always much easier to go for the people with resources, the people who are trying their hardest to run businesses, often small businesses, which is why clause 9 penalises them for employing illegal workers, even though they are already to a certain extent subject to civil penalties. In 2013-14, there were 2,150 civil penalties for such offences. When it comes to the employment of illegal workers, particularly where the workers are themselves illegal immigrants, one would have thought that the first port of call would be to sanction the illegal immigrants rather than the people they duped into employing them.
Some offences are designed to deal with people who are in the United Kingdom with permission, but are subject to immigration control; and this in a sense reinforces my concern. If we are introducing new sanctions against those who are here lawfully but are subject to immigration control, surely we should be even harder on those who are here unlawfully and are trying to avoid any immigration control.
That is the background to new clause 10. It does not simply re-enact the provisions of section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971, as it includes more specific proposals that are set out in subsection (4), whereby:
“Any person who is convicted of an offence under subsection (1) shall be subject to a deportation order unless the Secretary of State deems such a deportation order to be against the public interest.”
Subsection (5) states:
“For the purposes of subsection (2) above, a deportation order shall be deemed to be in the public interest unless a certificate to the contrary has been submitted by the Secretary of State to the court.”
Another problem with the enforcement of our immigration laws is that too few people are being deported, because too few are being made the subject of deportation orders. One reason for that is the fact that a person who is prosecuted and whom the authorities seek to deport has a right of appeal against deportation, with all that that entails. The authorities often do not seek to deport people, preferring to allow them to—in a sense—lie low. There is, indeed, a perverse incentive for people to lie low in our system.
As we know, there are perhaps half a million illegal immigrants in the country at present. That is very much a ballpark figure, but it makes the number of prosecutions and convictions in 2013—72—seems paltry in the extreme. One is entitled to ask the Government, “Can we take you seriously when you are doing so little to deal with people who are here illegally, and thereby to deter others who may be tempted to come here illegally?” I think that we need to introduce a new offence of being in the United Kingdom without legal authority. The prosecution would then not need to prove how a person had come into the United Kingdom, because that person’s mere presence in the United Kingdom without legal authority would make him guilty of an offence.
There is another practical side to the matter. At present, if someone jumps out of the back of a lorry on a motorway, in a layby or at a service station, and members of the public are concerned and call the police, the invariable practice of the police is to say to the potential illegal migrant, “You should not be here; you must go and report to the Home Office in Croydon.” They do not arrest them or initiate a prosecution because, I am told, they do not think that the powers of prosecution in the Immigration Act 1971 are adequate to ensure that it is worth their while. Rather than facing the hassle of arresting someone on, for example, the A31 in my constituency who has come in illegally through the port of Poole and has jumped out of the back of a lorry, and initiating a prosecution, the police tend to say, “You should not be here; be on your way; you should leave the country.”
I witnessed what was almost a similar situation on the island of Kos about a month ago. Members of our Border Force who were on secondment to Frontex were dealing with a large number of migrants who had crossed the water from Turkey, a distance of some 3.5 km. Those migrants were merely being processed. They were not being sent back to Turkey, and they were not being told that they were subject to any sanctions. All that they were being told was that they should not be in Greece, and should leave as soon as possible. That was a farcical situation. It was a waste of resources for our Border Force people to be involved in Frontex, with no powers to do anything about illegal migrants coming into the European Union and the Schengen area, when they would have been better employed protecting our own shores and borders. That is the background to new clause 10, and I hope the Government will start to prosecute more and take the offence of being here in the UK without legal authority much more seriously than seems to be the case at the moment.
We know that another reason people are attracted into the UK illegally is that we do not have any system of identity cards, so people think that once they have got here unlawfully they can lie low, sometimes for many years, and carry on below the radar while still being illegal migrants.
New clause 12 would repeal section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988, which effectively gives EU citizens who are not citizens of the UK rights equivalent to citizens of the UK in relation to residence in this country and goes to the heart of the issue of free movement of people across EU borders. I do not think there is any longer a case to be made for allowing EU citizens to have a special status compared with citizens from other parts of the world who may in our view have a greater entitlement to be in this country and whose presence in this country might be more conducive to the national interest.
This subject was discussed yesterday by the Scottish Affairs Committee when it met in Aberdeen and was examining the subject of post-study work visas. It became apparent that the extraordinary status of students from the EU was making it much more difficult for the fine Scottish universities to recruit people from foreign countries outside the EU, many of whom might make very good undergraduate or graduate students.
This is relevant to the whole issue of free movement of people, and I can understand why my right hon. Friend the Minister would not wish to anticipate the result of the forthcoming referendum and accept new clause 12, but I think this sets out the way in which we would be able to assure people who were already in the UK that they would be able to stay in the UK in the event of the people of the UK deciding to vote to leave the EU.
New clause 12(2) refers to the European Communities Act 1972. Without that subsection the new clause would be nugatory in the same way as the amendment debated in relation to women’s sanitary products and VAT was nugatory because it did not include the provision to exclude the provisions of the 1972 Act.
Subsection (3) states:
“The Secretary of State shall by regulations prescribe the content of application forms for registration certificates and for the grounds on which an application made may be granted or refused and arrangements for appeals and final adjudications.”
Subsection (4) sets out a timescale within which such a registration certificate scheme would become operative. The result of that would be that we knew who was in our country. It is a pretty basic question: who is in our country but not currently a United Kingdom citizen? The Government are in no position to answer it. By the use of registration certificates, we would be able to ensure that we were not burdening UK citizens with an identity card system and that those who are not UK citizens would be able to exercise their privilege of continuing to be in the UK only if they had a registration certificate showing that they had a right of residence in our country.
There is no point in having a command without a sanction, so subsection (5) states:
“Any person present in the United Kingdom after 31st December 2016 without legal authority or without having applied on or before 31st December for a registration certificate…shall be guilty of an offence.”
Anybody who after that date enters or attempts to enter the United Kingdom without legal authority would also be guilty of an offence. The new clause then sets out the penalties that would apply and states:
“Any person who is convicted of an offence under subsections (5) and (6) shall be subject to a deportation order”
unless that is certified to be “against the public interest.”
That would significantly tighten up our immigration rules and would make life much easier for employers, particularly small employers. If the person was not able to establish that they were a British citizen when they were applying for work, the employer would be able to ask them to produce their registration certificate demonstrating a right of residence—and why not? We would also be able to ensure that people who were not entitled to be here were deported.
Another consequence of having new criminal offences as set out in new clauses 10 and 12 would be that people would often choose to leave voluntarily rather than face those criminal sanctions. I know the Minister is keen to ensure that as many people as possible who are not entitled to be here leave the United Kingdom voluntarily. These two new clauses would give them an extra incentive to go, because they would be able to avoid prosecution if they were to leave the UK—it is almost a type of plea bargain. The measures would reduce the administrative costs, too.
We cannot be complacent about the situation we are in at the moment. We have record levels of net migration, far in excess of what the Government pledged in the Conservative party manifesto. We have record numbers of people who are in our country illegally and of people in this country about whom we know nothing. We have a golden opportunity in this Bill to rectify some of those lacunae in our law and to set out a framework within which we can operate in the future and thereby minimise the number of people who are in this country illegally and in breach of our immigration rules.
I wish to speak to new clauses 1 and 11, which focus on the response that we should have to the refugee crisis and the way in which the family reunion rules for refugees are simply not working. The background to this is that the European refugee crisis is showing no signs of easing. Nearly 1 million refugees have travelled to our continent this year. Some 700,000 people have travelled through Greece and, in the final weeks of November, almost 3,000 people were arriving on the tiny island of Lesbos by boat each day—this is even in the November cold. A huge number of refugees are stuck in the Balkans, often in very difficult and increasingly harsh weather conditions; there are refugees camps in Idomeni, on the Greek border, and thousands more refugees are in Serbia, including unaccompanied children. Other countries in Europe are doing considerably more than us, and I continually urge the Government to do more, as we need to do our bit to support the refugees. I am talking about those not just in the camps in the regions, but those who have fled to Europe.
Tomorrow the Prime Minister will argue that Britain should not stand back and let other countries shoulder the entire security burden that stems from the events in Syria. That will be a powerful point for him to make, but what follows from that is the fact that we should not stand back and allow other countries to shoulder so much more of the burden of responding to the refugee crisis, especially as we are not doing enough to help.
This year, Britain will take just 1,000 refugees from Syria, and yet 3,000 arrive each day in Lesbos. I was struck by what the Minister said about asylum shopping. Given that we had only 25,000 asylum seekers in Britain last year, compared with 700,000 in Germany, how can he seriously talk about asylum shopping? In fact, what we are talking about are families who have been split up by a terrible refugee crisis and who simply want to be together. Families have been ripped apart by a bloody and brutal civil war in Syria. Parents have been torn apart from their children and brothers apart from their sisters.
I have met Syrian children on their own in refugee camps. There are 11 and 12-year-olds desperate to be reunited with their families. Our current rules make it very hard to reunite families of refugees who have been split up by the crisis. The British Red Cross is currently supporting an Iraqi refugee who hopes to be reunited with his wife and two daughters, one of whom is disabled and has the mental age of a seven-year-old. She is entirely dependent on her mother, but she is over 18 and so is not eligible to come to the UK under the Minister’s family reunion rules for refugees. She is stuck in Iraq, and the strain of being a sole carer is taking its toll on her mother.
Another case of the Red Cross is that of a 15-year-old boy whose parents have both been killed in the war and whose brother has been granted refugee status in the UK. He has not registered an asylum claim anywhere in Europe, but has had his fingerprints taken in Greece. Understandably, his brother wants him to join him in the UK, but he is currently not eligible and has been told to return to Greece where he knows no one and has no prospects. He is now in Italy, but is getting no support from the state and is living with another Syrian family. His brother is incredibly worried about his safety, as he feels that he is at risk of being exploited by gangs of traffickers, which, as we know, is what happens to many unaccompanied refugee children.
When I was in Calais a few weeks ago, I met a single mother with two small children. She thought that her husband had been killed in an Assad jail. The family were living in a small caravan and tents in the mud in Calais. They had left Syria and been financially supported for a while by her father-in-law, but he can now no longer afford to support them. She told me that her own father and brother were here in Britain, and that was why she had paid money to people traffickers to travel across Europe to try to join them, as they were her only remaining family. She said that they could support her here in Britain. [Interruption.] The Minister says what about Dublin. What a good point. What about Dublin III, because, in so many cases, Dublin III should help to reunite families, but it does not do that? It is not working,
Quite a few people I talked to in Calais probably would have a case under the Dublin III arrangement, but there was no process for them to apply to. Those who had looked at it were told that the French procedures and the bureaucracy would not allow it and that it was too difficult. This is why new clause 11 is so important. It urges the Minister to look at the way in which Dublin III is being implemented across Europe. Clearly, there is a huge problem here, and it could be what is driving some of the illegal migration. It could also be driving people to take huge risks at Calais. Why are they trying so desperately hard to get to Britain? Why are they not going to Germany, Sweden or other countries? Many of them told me that it was because they had family in Britain, and they were people who ought to have refugee status. Their claims were not being assessed so they were taking huge risks, causing security risks for the Eurotunnel trains and causing great problems. They were stuck in the mud in the cold winter of northern France. Much of this is to do with what France and other countries need to do, but I urge the Minister to review Dublin III. It is just not working in practice for too many of the refugees who are fleeing terrible conflict.
When many refugee families have been hit by crisis, persecution or war, they may lose their closest family members. They may no longer have the parent or the child that current family reunion rules cover. Their nearest relative may now be a brother or sister or someone who is not covered by the existing rules. That is why it is so important to look at the wider family relationships of refugees.
My intention in drawing up new clause 1 was to make it easier to reunite refugee families and to help refugees whose closest family are already refugees here in Britain to get sanctuary here too. That would cover the case of the 19-year-old in Beirut that I raised with the Minister, and the woman whose disabled child is over 18 but still needs her parents. It is not my objective to rewrite the wider immigration rules for those who are not refugees; that is a different debate. I want to concentrate on those who are refugees. I recognise that new clause 1 is not the simplest way to do this because it is primary legislation when the matter would be dealt with better through immigration rules. Further changes to immigration rules would be needed alongside new clause 1 to ensure that the measure was focused on those fleeing conflict rather than wider family who are not refugees.
The new clause is an attempt to focus the Minister’s attention on the plight of families who are being separated all across Europe and need to be reunited. We should, out of compassion and as part of our support for refugees and for families and the family values that we hold dear, make more attempt to reunite families. It would be the best way for us to increase the number of refugees that we in Britain take. The Prime Minister set a target of 20,000 over the next five years, but we know that only 1,000 of those will be here before Christmas if the Government’s targets are met. They will need to go beyond that. The refugee crisis is not going away, and the most sensible, simple and fair way to provide more support for those who already have family here who could support them is for us in Britain to give them sanctuary.
We cannot make the debate on Syria simply one about security. It has to be about refugees and compassion as well. I know that the Government have done much to help refugees in the region, and I have praised them for doing so many times, but it is not an alternative to doing our bit to reunite families. There are so many ways in which the Government could do this; we have set out a series of ways in new clause 1 and in new clause 11. I have always sought to work on a cross-party basis and to build the biggest possible consensus. I urge the Minister in the same spirit to look carefully at what more he is able to do to help reunite some of the desperate refugee families who really need our help.
I am sure that my hon. Friends and Opposition Members who served on the Public Bill Committee will agree that the debates were thoughtful and informative. I was extremely pleased to be a member of the Committee. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) and for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), in the past 12 months, as I have knocked on thousands of doors, I have found that immigration has been a big issue for my constituents. It has not been very often that I have knocked on a door and people have not raised this issue with me. I was therefore extremely pleased to be on the Bill Committee and to listen to the debate and hopefully increase my knowledge of certain aspects of the Bill.
It is evident from the debate today and on previous occasions that we often confuse the various categories of immigration, such as asylum seekers, refugees, non-EU immigration and European immigration. So often I hear Members on both sides of the House talk about them as one, rather than as different categories of immigration requiring different measures to tackle them. That is frustrating for me and for my constituents.
Immigration is not static. It is changed by the various factors affecting world migration, such as the economy and what we have seen this summer, leading to terrible pictures of refugees. It is right that the UK adapts its policies to reflect current pressures and those changeable factors, and it is right for the Government to introduce Bills containing measures to deal with the current situation. The Bill and some of the amendments focus on tackling illegal immigration.
As I have mentioned, I represent Rochester and Strood in Medway in the county of Kent. Over recent months and years we have been on the frontline of attempts to gain entry to the UK by clandestine routes. We have all seen the images of desperate people putting their lives at risk to get into the country. This has caused economic damage to the county and brought significant pressures such as those caused by Operation Stack.
I am pleased to see the Government amendments on unaccompanied minors. As I said on Second Reading, Kent has seen a great increase this summer in the number of unaccompanied children arriving in the UK. This has put pressure on social services at local level. As we all know, it is difficult to recruit social workers and there is great pressure on social care from a domestic point of view. Those pressures have been felt in Kent, in my constituency and across Medway. I very much welcome the Government new clauses.
Unfortunately, I cannot support the family reunion clauses tabled by the Opposition, particularly new clauses 1 and 11. When individuals have followed the correct procedures to obtain entry to this country and to seek asylum, it is right that they are supported. But when those measures have been exhausted, the British taxpayer should not have to pick up the burden of looking after failed asylum seekers. I thank my right hon. Friend for introducing the relevant new clauses. I was interested to hear him say that the cost to the British taxpayer is estimated to be £73 million.
The Opposition new clauses on unaccompanied minors could potentially be seen as a way of jumping the queue. For example, an unaccompanied minor could sponsor their parents to come to the UK. We absolutely do not want to separate families, but people should follow the correct procedures and the provision should not be seen as a way of trying to jump the rules to obtain entry to this country more quickly.
The new clause sends the wrong message. People in my constituency will have been troubled by, or have had some concern about, some of the things that have been said—not necessarily in this debate, but during prior discussion. I absolutely support the Government amendments that I have discussed and I look forward to casting my vote later.
Like the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), we believe that the provisions on support are among the most draconian parts of the Bill; I agree with the Minister to the extent that the disagreement is one of principle.
In our view, provisions that seek to use the further deliberate infliction of destitution, including of children, as a tool of immigration policy must be thoroughly opposed. The provisions fly in the face of evidence, are counterproductive and show a grim lack of compassion. We support all amendments seeking to prevent, or at least limit, the damage. They include amendment 29, which would remove clause 37 and therefore most of the damaging changes, and amendments 30 and 31, which would preserve all rights of appeal against decisions to refuse support. Amendment 40, tabled by Scottish National party Members, would ensure that families with children who are minors received section 95 support until they left the country.
The Minister referred to the pilot carried out by the last Labour Government, and that is still relevant to what is being proposed today. Similar proposals were abandoned because of the results of the pilot. It is interesting to look at the comments about the project made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights:
“The section 9 pilot has caused considerable hardship and does not appear to have encouraged more refused asylum seeking families to leave the UK…We believe that using both the threats and the actuality of destitution and family separation is incompatible with the principles of common humanity and with international human rights law and that it has no place in a humane society. We recommend that section 9 be repealed at the earliest opportunity.”
We believe that the same should happen to the equivalent provisions in this Bill.
Sadly, the Government have in their sights not only children but those who arrived as children and are now young adults. Rather cruelly, young care leavers will be prime targets. That is why we have tabled amendments 42 to 45, which would ensure that young people leaving local authority care were able to access leaving care support under the Children Act 1989 without discrimination. Amendments 42 and 43 would remove the provisions, added by schedule 9, that would prevent local authorities from providing leaving care support under the 1989 Act to young people who were not asylum seekers and did not have leave to remain when they reached age 18.
Amendment 44 would enable local authorities to provide leaving care support under the 1989 Act to young people who did not have leave to remain and were not asylum seekers. Finally in this group, amendment 45 would provide for the Secretary of State to make funding available to local authorities, as the specialist agency responsible for care leavers, to meet the duties, set out in the 1989 Act, to the latter group of care leavers.
Our amendments 39 and 36 bring us back to what I said about the first group of amendments relating to the broad powers, which we seek to rein in, proposed for immigration officers. Despite what the Minister says, those include powers for detainee custody officers, prison officers and prison custody officers to strip search detained persons for anything that could be evidence of their nationality—a very broadly defined power. The Minister points out that Government amendments 3 and 4 propose changing the name of the search from “strip search” to “full search”, but they do not in any essential way change the extent of the powers, which, to all intents and purposes as far as I still understand them, are basically strip search powers. For that reason, provision on the gender of the persons present during the search is made in clause 25(8). Our amendment 36 would remove the proposed power for custody officers to strip search detainees for documents that “might” establish a person’s nationality or indicate
“the place from which the person travelled to the UK or to which a person is proposing to go.”
Going further, we seek to tighten schedule 2(2) of the Immigration Act 1971. This power ostensibly deals with individuals on arrival in the UK for the purposes of determining whether they have or should be given leave to enter or remain. It has been used by the Home Office as justification for conducting speculative, in-country spot-checks involving “consensual interviews”. Amendment 39 would expressly limit this power to examination at the point of entry. The Minister argues that our amendment makes the power too tightly drawn, but in our view it is far better for intrusive powers to be tightly drawn than drawn broadly and arbitrarily.
The other atrocious provisions that amendments in this group seek to attack are those which provide that people should leave the UK even before their appeal against a Home Office decision has been heard. Amendment 27, which has support from Labour as well as SNP Members, would remove the offending clause 34, which extends powers of certification introduced by the Immigration Act 2014 to mean no longer just “deport first, appeal later” for those convicted, but “remove first, appeal later” for all. To us, these provisions are madness. They will mean people having to give up jobs, studies and family life while appeals are ongoing. Families could be separated for lengthy and unknown periods until their appeal is finally determined.
All this comes against a background of constant criticism of Home Office decision making, including in a recent ombudsman’s report. We should bear in mind that in 2014-15 42% of managed migration appeals and 42% of entry clearance appeals were successful. In 2013-14, the figures were 49% and 48%. Thousands of people could have to leave for several months because the Home Office got it wrong. The danger is that appeals will not be pursued or will be pursued inadequately given the costs of pursuing an appeal as a privately paying client from overseas.
My hon. Friend will be aware that Home Office statistics state that only 24% of appellants removed under the current “deport first, appeal later” provisions go through with their appeals. Does he agree that this suggests that extending those provisions will make it much harder—in fact, probably impossible—for the majority of these appeals to go ahead? Is it not inherently unfair to hold appeals with the appellants unable to make their own case in person?
I am grateful for that intervention and entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend.
The Government seem to be attempting to cut net migration not just by limiting the class of people who can come under the rules but by making it nearly impossible for people to exercise their legitimate rights to stay. This is scraping the barrel of immigration control measures, and I will want to test the House’s opinion on that.
We regard as utterly unnecessary the part 7 provisions on the English language. Our amendment 34 would ensure that part 7 will not come into force in Scotland without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. We have faith that our public authorities, whether reserved or devolved, can determine that a worker has the necessary skills for the job, including speaking fluent English, and that normal complaints procedures would deal with any problems, as with any other complaint about competence. Part 7 creates unnecessary bureaucracy and is a clear example of immigration theatre and tokenism.
A number of other Members have made brave attempts to bring a silver lining to the cloud provided by this grim Bill. New clauses 11 and 1 seek to expand the range of people qualifying for refugee family reunion. I have asked questions, written letters and spoken in this Chamber on this point on several occasions, so I am very happy to provide my backing for such attempts. In the face of the most dreadful refugee crisis since the second world war, surely this is a sensible option that we can all support. Broader family reunion means that people we know should logically be sheltered in the United Kingdom do get to come here. This is the logical place for them because they have family support here and so will have help with accommodation and integration, for example. They will often even pay for their own flight. With little trouble for the Government or the taxpayer, we can extend a hand of friendship to more of those fleeing dreadful war and persecution.
Three amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) similarly seek to bring some light from the darkness. Amendment 2 would introduce permission to work for those seeking asylum who have been waiting six months for a decision. My colleagues and I recognise that this is a positive step forward, and it has our backing. We also thoroughly welcome new clause 14 as a step forward in overcoming the unduly onerous financial thresholds attached to family visas, which the Children’s Commissioner for England recently reported had created thousands of what she called “Skype families”—British children able to communicate with a parent only over the internet. New clause 15 would improve rules relating to adult dependent relatives by removing unnecessary criteria, and it again has our full support.
Our amendment 37 makes provision for automatic judicial oversight of detention after eight days, then after a further 28 days and again every 28 days for so long as the detention lasts. Such judicial oversight will be particularly necessary if the Government persist in refusing to put a proper time limit on detention. Some of the most vulnerable people are least aware of their rights, including their right to bail, so automatic bail hearings will ensure that they are not detained unnecessarily. Finally, our amendment 38 makes provision for an impecunious detainee to be furnished with an address to facilitate their applying for bail, as without an address they are unlikely to be granted it. In our view, the Bill as drafted is ambiguous and risks being read as suggesting that a person coming out of detention can be given support only when they have been granted bail. I urge all Members to support these small rays of light.
I appreciate the opportunity to address the House again on Report, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), whose stewardship this afternoon has been thoughtful and thought provoking.
There is one amendment in my name, although I cannot entirely take the credit for it, and I may move slightly away from it, given what the Minister said earlier. It relates to part 7 on the requirement on public services to employ English speakers, with some exceptions for jobs outside mainland UK and so on. I had the opportunity to raise this issue on Second Reading. My first observation was that I was amazed it was not already a requirement. I cannot think of any engagement I have had with any public servant in this country who was unable to speak our language fluently. I also said that I hoped in my contributions in the Chamber and elsewhere to speak English just as well as every other resident of Northern Ireland. Yet the Bill specifically excludes the provisions in part 7 from applying to Northern Ireland.
I share the hon. Gentleman’s surprise that there is not already such a requirement. Does he share my surprise that in areas of public life, not least in Enfield, there are councillors who themselves perhaps would not be able to pass the test of being fluent in verbal or indeed written English? [Interruption.] Yes, councillors.
It is a wonderful tenet of our democracy that if people wish to choose an individual to represent them irrespective of their linguistic gymnastics, and are satisfied that that person will do so ably and capably, it should be within their gift to endorse them. However, when it comes to those employed in our public services throughout the UK, I think not only that this should be a requirement, but that it should apply in Northern Ireland as well.
Having made such points, it is fair to recognise what the Minister outlined in his opening speech on this tranche of amendments. He said that there are implications for the devolved Administrations and institutions, and that what has been fairly replicated for the devolved Administration in Scotland should most properly have formed the basis of our amendment 1. I accept that point, so if he considers the amendment defective, I will take that on board. However, the principle is well worth pursuing. He helpfully outlined that the Government intend to look at the issue again in the other place, which I welcome.
It may help the hon. Gentleman to say that, as I indicated in my speech, certain drafting issues need further attention to make the provision effective and consistent with those in the other nations of the UK, but we certainly intend to return to it in the Lords.
I am grateful to the Minister for his comments.
While we are on that topic, may I suggest that there is further work to be done in the other place? Schedule 11 relates to maritime enforcement. Reference was made on Second Reading to the failure of the schedule to mention the Belfast harbour police. I think the Minister took on board the fact that it is a properly constituted, legitimate authority that is mandated to operate within the port. It is a private police force, but it looks after the security of the port. I believe that an additional provision relating to the Belfast Harbour Police could be inserted into the Bill in the other place, should the opportunity to do so arise and should such a provision have the Government’s backing. If we are intent on pursuing the thrust of the Bill, and the protections that the maritime provisions will provide, it is important that we give that matter consideration in the other place.
I want to raise a couple of issues that have arisen in recent years that relate to immigration in general and to the UK Border Force in particular. They relate to the new clauses and amendments, so I shall not be straying too far from the subject. Border Force runs a skeleton operation in Northern Ireland. In fact, one could easily be forgiven for thinking that its effective operational role related only to mainland GB.
There are ferry links between my constituency of Belfast East and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds), and the constituency that Stranraer rests in. I am struggling to remember which one that is, but I think it is Dumfries and Galloway. Stena goes there. UK Border Force will be waiting in Scotland for anyone travelling from our part of the UK to that part of the mainland. Should anyone wish to board the vessel in Belfast in a vehicle, they will not be searched or questioned at all. Foot passengers will go through more invasive security procedures, but the immigration screening does not take place in Belfast. That omission should be looked at.
I want to mention the case of Myriama Yousef. She is a wonderful character who sought asylum in Belfast and received great assistance from the Belfast Central Mission, the Methodist church in the city. I have to be careful about the terminology I use to describe her case. She is either a failed asylum seeker or a refused asylum seeker. She is someone who sought asylum in the United Kingdom and was turned down. She had to spend time in the Larne House detention centre, which is located within the Larne PSNI station. Anyone with any knowledge of security arrangements in Northern Ireland will know that the police stations there are not the most welcoming or inviting places. That is a consequence of our history. Anyone who is detained for immigration reasons in Northern Ireland is held there, in what looks like a military compound, with sangars, high fences, security lighting and security cameras. It is not an acceptable place. Myriama Yousef was deported to the country from which she had entered the UK. She was removed to Dublin, at which point she immediately got on the Ulsterbus, paid her £8.50 fare and was back in Belfast within two hours. Following her subsequent detection, she was brought to Yarl’s Wood.
Another case relates to a point made by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). She talked about a 19-year-old in Beirut who was separated from her family, but this case relates to Johnny Sandhu, an Indian-born solicitor from Northern Ireland who operated in Limavady. He was detected in the serious crime suite inciting a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force to commit murder so that they could evade prosecution. He was subsequently jailed for 10 years and, on his release, he was deported back to India. His family, who relied on him, were left in Northern Ireland. His children, who were going through the education system and doing their GCSEs at the time, were not in a position to up sticks and leave, but their father was never in a position to come back to the United Kingdom.
I would be grateful if the Minister considered cases such as that and the one raised by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford to see how we can be a little more compassionate and recognise that, when someone’s 18th birthday strikes, they do not cut all ties or lose all connection with their family. We should consider how we, as a country, can best ensure that the family unit is held together.
On Second Reading, I described the Bill as heinous. My experience as a member of the Bill Committee has not altered that impression. The Bill is divisive and disproportionate, and it ultimately lacks a credible evidence base.
The evidence sessions were embarrassing for the Government because the vast majority of the oral and written evidence the Committee received was damning of their proposals. Witnesses from the private, public and third sectors sent the underlying message that the Bill lacks a proper evidence base, is not necessary and is merely being brought about to appease the right wing of the Conservative party and UKIP.
I take issue with part 5, which, among other things, proposes to remove support from those whose asylum applications have been refused. That blanket approach does not allow for the consideration of personal circumstances, nor does it protect families with children. We heard evidence from a number of organisations that voiced concern, shock and deep disgust over part 5, particularly in respect of how it might affect the welfare of children.
In giving evidence, Ilona Pinter of the Children’s Society said:
“We think the risks for children from this provision are very serious indeed. Essentially, it would see families becoming destitute—they would no longer have accommodation and financial support under asylum support. That obviously brings with it a whole range of risks, from families being street homeless to families having to move around, potentially for short periods of time, to stay in potentially unsafe accommodation.”––[Official Report, Immigration Public Bill Committee, 20 October 2015; c. 72, Q165.]
Even Lord Green of Deddington from Migrant Watch, with whom I disagree on almost everything else, agreed that asylum seekers with children whose claim has been refused should be treated differently.
Part 1 sets out ambitions to reduce the exploitation of migrants. However, when individuals and, in particular, parents with children are pushed into a vulnerable situation, they are forced into making rash and desperate decisions that only increase their vulnerability and the dangers they face. Most reasonable people would accept that we have a responsibility towards those who have had their asylum application rejected. Amendment 29 seeks to ensure that we continue to uphold that responsibility.
Amendment 29 seeks to omit all the changes to support that have been made by the Government by removing clause 37 and schedule 8. Assuming that the Government are not minded to accept such a wholesale change, amendment 40 would ensure that some protection exists for the children of the families affected.
The Government have attempted to simplify the support that is provided in the immigration system by moving from two sets of regulations whereby asylum seekers can claim support to four sets of regulations dealing with support by local government and central Government. That is not simplification as I understand it. Under the Bill, local authorities will be legally prevented from providing support to families, including those with young children, when there are
“reasonable grounds for believing that support will be provided”
by Home Office provisions. In practice, that might create dangerous gaps in the system where support is not provided to vulnerable families.
It is worth repeating the horrendous story of the one-year-old boy, EG, who died in 2012, followed two days later by his mother, when they were left in limbo between two different types of support. In responding to that example, the Minister stated that the gap in provision was between support from two different Departments. I accept that, but can he guarantee with absolute certainty that his proposals will result in no gaps whatsoever between the support people receive from central Government and local government?
The changes that are proposed by the Government will create a significant financial and administrative burden for local authorities. The Government claim to have consulted widely, but the Scottish Government and Scottish local authorities were not content with the level of consultation from the Home Office before the introduction of these provisions.
The underlying reason for removing support from failed asylum seekers is to allow the Government to expedite the removal of affected parties.
As my hon. Friend says, the Bill proposes the removal of support from those who are due to be deported. That will obviously have an impact on the children of the families who are affected. To give some context, is it not the case that this support amounts to just over £5 per day? Removing that bare minimum amount of support will not lead to refused applicants being removed from the UK any quicker. We should support families until they are deported from the UK.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. In Committee we tabled an amendment to try to ensure that support was pegged at 60% of income support, which would have increased support by just over £1 a day. It is not a massive amount of money—I am not sure that many Members of the House could survive on just over £6 a day.
Evidence suggests that removing support from refused asylum seekers does nothing to make it easier or quicker to deport families from the UK. The 2005 Home Office pilot study attempted to remove support from refused asylum seekers—the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) touched on that point. It concluded that ending support for asylum seeking-families had no influence in encouraging people to be removed from the UK. That view was echoed by Peter Grady from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who stated that
“it was noted in our evidence that we had concerns whether removing support would meet the objective of encouraging return, or disincentivising staying, particularly for families of refused asylum seekers.”––[Official Report, Immigration Public Bill Committee, 22 October 2015; c. 134, Q284.]
The Government’s new approach to removing support allegedly differs in three respects from the 2005 pilot study, but aside from moving the onus to prove that a genuine obstacle to their departure exists from the Home Office to the claimant, and hollow promises to work more closely with refused asylum seekers, nothing has really changed. The Government are not learning the lessons from previous pilot studies, and they are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past, with families being forced into a vulnerable and difficult situation as a result.
Amendment 29 seeks to ensure that a right of appeal—surely a basic human right—continues to exist for those whose claim for asylum has been unsuccessful, or whose support has been discontinued. Surely the measure of any society is how we treat the most vulnerable, and it is right that we retain some support for those youngsters who are leaving institutional care. I stated in Committee that other Departments are calling for more support as part of a leaving care strategy. The Minister for Children and Families described that group as “highly vulnerable”, and as recently as July he stated that it was time to do more for vulnerable youngsters leaving care. It seems that our commitment to providing more care to that vulnerable group depends on where they were born. Amendments 42 to 45 would ensure that the Bill does not fly in the face of that leaving care strategy, and I hope that the Minister will stand by his rhetoric and lobby his ministerial colleague to accept them.
When introducing this Bill, the Home Secretary stated as fact that our public services were being abused by illegal migrants. I accept that some people might be living here illegally, and the authorities should deal with them appropriately. However, the people I have spoken about today are not “abusing” the system. I have spoken about children of asylum-seeking families and youngsters leaving care. Those groups are not abusing the system; those are people who the system is designed to protect. They are vulnerable youngsters who are just looking for the best start in life, and I call on the Government to drop their harmful proposals.
In view of the time and our keenness to hear the Minister respond, I will just raise a couple of brief points. Amendment 7 has not been discussed so far this afternoon, and it is unfortunate that it is being introduced at this stage, because we did not get the opportunity to consider the principles behind it in Committee. Those include fundamental principles about the removal of access to higher education for a significant cohort of young people. The amendment will prevent local authorities from providing funding to facilitate access to higher education for care leavers whom they are supporting but who have limited leave to remain.
In the explanatory notes, the Government say that that measure will be replaced by a requirement to qualify under student support regulations, which implies that that is an easy alternative route. However, they know that that is disingenuous, because under those regulations young people who have not been recognised as refugees qualify for such a loan only if they have had leave to remain for three years, or if they have lived in the UK for more than half their life. In effect, that measure cuts off access to higher education for a significant proportion of young people who will, in many cases, gain leave to remain in the UK and build their lives here. That is not only discriminatory, but it prevents young people at a crucial point in their life from developing the skills that will provide them with productive careers and an opportunity to give back to society.
The Government have also said that they are concerned about an undue burden on local authorities because people in that situation are required to pay overseas student fees. It would be easy to legislate to give them home fees student status, which would be another option for alleviating the burden on local authorities, and one that I am sure universities would be keen to embrace. I raise the point only because I hope that, when the Bill reaches the other place, this issue will be given proper consideration.
The removal of support from refused asylum seekers with families says a lot about the Bill as a good example of bad law making, with measures brought forward that fly in the face of evidence. As other hon. Members have made clear, all the evidence is that not only is it a harsh measure, but it will be counterproductive to the Government’s objectives. If we want to reduce expenditure on support for asylum seekers, the best way to do so is to conclude cases as quickly as possible. That does not require legislation: it just needs better resourcing and decision making in the Home Office.
In Committee, the Minister argued that asylum support rates are a pull factor for asylum seekers coming to the UK, despite the fact that our rates are significantly lower than those of most other countries in Europe. I challenged him to provide evidence that they were a pull factor, but he was unable to do so. I hope that now, having had the opportunity to consider the issue and to draw on the substantial support that he has, he might be able to provide the evidence that justifies the removal of that support. All the evidence that we received as a Committee suggests that it will drive the issue in the opposite direction to the Government’s objectives. It will make it more difficult for the Home Office to remain in contact with the people liable to removal and, ultimately, undermine efforts to promote voluntary departures. It will not tackle the issue: it will create destitution that will then have to be addressed by local authorities; it will create pressure on mental health services, something that we also heard; and it could leave people vulnerable to labour exploitation by pushing them into the hands of exploitative employers. For all those reasons, I urge the Government to think again on this issue.
Again, we have touched on several important themes in the Bill that were debated and examined in detail in Committee. We have also had additional items in new clauses that were not addressed in Committee, including those tabled by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). We understand the depth of feeling about the human suffering in Syria and the UK and we are obviously taking several steps to respond to that crisis. I recognise the contribution that she has made to highlight several issues and concerns relating to that. We do not believe, however—I will explain how this fits into what other European countries are doing—that widening the family reunion eligibility criteria is the appropriate response. We are focusing our efforts on humanitarian aid to help the majority of refugees who remain in the region, and working with international partners to find a solution to the conflict, as well as—of course—the issue of resettlement, including of 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees over the course of this Parliament.
The right hon. Lady asked about Dublin, and it is important to underline that the UK has fully implemented the Dublin III regulation. Those in Calais are the responsibility of the French authorities, and anyone wishing to benefit from the family unity provision of the regulation must first lodge an asylum claim in France and provide details of their family in the UK. A request will then be made to the UK to accept responsibility for that claim based on the presence of close family members—as I think the right hon. Lady recognises. As part of our joint declaration with the French Government, we continue to work with the French authorities on the overall processing of asylum claims and ways in which we can continue to support their activities. Indeed, some of the numbers they are processing and seeing outside the camps are increasing.
It is also worth underlining that our family reunion policy is more generous than our international obligations require. As I hinted at, other EU countries impose additional restrictions in their lawful residence requirements. Countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Austria have recently announced they are amending their family reunion policies, while Germany has indicated it will review its policy.
The right hon. Lady asked me about compelling humanitarian cases, and indeed the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) gave another example. Where a family reunion application fails under the immigration rules, such as in the case of an 18 or 19-year-old applying to join their refugee parents in the UK, the entry clearance officer must consider whether there are exceptional circumstances or compassionate reasons to justify granting a visa outside the rules. I gave another example in relation to elderly parents, so there is that obligation on entry clearance officers. The hon. Gentleman is no longer in his place, but he also highlighted the specific issue of the Belfast harbour police. I am happy to reflect on his point, while recognising that it was established under separate legislation: the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847. Information-sharing powers exist, but I am happy to look at that in further detail.
My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) highlighted deportation. Our primary sanctions for immigration non-compliance are removal and civil penalties, which is why, in many respects, prosecution numbers are relatively low. Our focus is on removal, therefore, rather than prosecution, which can delay removal and is obviously costly. That is why we have taken this approach.
Obviously, powers of arrest do reside. Issues of detention came up in the previous debate, and I do not cut across the need to uphold the law and ensure that people are appropriately identified, and I think that removal or a civil penalty for those unlawfully employing them are appropriate measures.
The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), speaking for the SNP, highlighted an issue to do with the minimum income threshold. A migrant partner with an appropriate job offer in the UK can apply under tier 2 of the points-based system, but overseas employment is no guarantee of finding work in the UK.
In highlighting the issue of destitution, the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), who speaks for the official Opposition, said that our arrangements would not work, based on the 2005 pilot. I gave some explanation when I opened the debate, but I would add that there will be focused and targeted engagement with appeal rights-exhausted families together with local authorities. That close engagement with families is in contrast with what happened before. The Local Government Association acknowledges the need for focused efforts to engage with families and adults to promote returns, and that is precisely what we intend to do.
We are working with local authorities to close the gaps that some have suggested might apply, and, in many ways, the LGA welcomes the steps we have taken to ensure that gaps are closed. On the issue of overseas appeals, obviously this matter has been tested by the Court of Appeal, which recently confirmed that the Government were generally entitled to proceed on the basis that an out-of-country appeal is fair and effective remedy. On access to higher education, we want equality of treatment in respect of the relevant student support regulations. We are requiring that the test should be that which is applied to other migrants and British citizens applying for a student loan under the student support regulations.
Again, there was comment about safeguards for children. I want to underline the duty we have under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. That is something we have carefully considered throughout our consideration of these provisions and that we judge provides the necessary support and protection mechanism for children under the Bill.
Debate interrupted (Programme Orders, this day).
The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.
Question agreed to.
New clause 3 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
The Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).
New Clause 4
Duty to provide information for the purposes of transfers of responsibility
‘(1) The Secretary of State may direct a local authority in England to provide information of the kind specified in subsection (2) to the Secretary of State for the purposes of enabling—
(a) arrangements to be made under section (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children), or
(b) the Secretary of State to exercise functions under section (Scheme for transfer of responsibility for relevant children).
(2) The information mentioned in subsection (1) is—
(a) information about the support or accommodation provided to children who are looked after by the local authority within the meaning of the Children Act 1989;
(b) such other information as may be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(3) A local authority which is directed to provide information under this section must provide it—
(a) in such form and manner as the Secretary of State may direct, and
(b) before such time or before the end of such period as the Secretary of State may direct.
(4) In this section “local authority” has the same meaning as in section (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children).”—(James Brokenshire.)
This new clause enables the Secretary of State to direct local authorities in England to provide information about the support and accommodation provided to children in their care. This will inform arrangements made for the transfer of particular categories of unaccompanied migrant children from one local authority to another.
Brought up, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 5
Request for transfer of responsibility for relevant children
‘(1) Subsection (2) applies if—
(a) a local authority in England (“the first authority”) requests another local authority in England (“the second authority”) to enter into arrangements under section (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children), and
(b) the second authority does not comply with the first authority’s request.
(2) The Secretary of State may direct the second authority to provide the first authority and the Secretary of State with written reasons for its failure to comply with the request.
(3) In this section “local authority” has the same meaning as in section (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children).”—(James Brokenshire.)
This new clause enables the Secretary of State to direct the provision of written reasons as to why a local authority in England refuses to comply with a request to accept responsibility for an unaccompanied migrant child from another local authority.
Brought up, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 6
Scheme for transfer of responsibility for relevant children
‘(1) The Secretary of State may prepare a scheme for functions of, or which may be conferred on, a local authority in England (“the first authority”) to become functions of, or functions which may be conferred on, another local authority in England (“the second authority”) in accordance with arrangements under section (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children).
(2) The scheme—
(a) must specify the local authorities to which it relates, and
(b) unless it relates to all relevant children who may be the subject of arrangements under that section between those authorities, must specify the relevant child or children, or descriptions of relevant children, to which it relates.
(3) The Secretary of State may direct the first authority and the second authority to comply with the scheme.
(4) A direction may not be given under subsection (3) unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that compliance with the direction will not unduly prejudice the discharge by the second authority of any of its functions.
(5) Before giving a direction under subsection (3) to a local authority, the Secretary of State must give the authority notice in writing of the proposed direction.
(6) The Secretary of State may not give a direction to a local authority before the end of the period of 14 days beginning with the day on which notice under subsection (5) was given to it.
(7) The local authority may make written representations to the Secretary of State about the proposed direction within that period.
(8) The Secretary of State may modify or withdraw a direction under subsection (3) by notice in writing to the local authorities to which it was given.
(9) A modification or withdrawal of a direction does not affect any arrangements made under section (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children) pursuant to the direction before it was modified or withdrawn.
(10) Subsections (5) to (7) apply to the modification or withdrawal of a direction as they apply to the giving of a direction, but as if—
(a) the reference to the proposed direction were to the proposed modification or proposal to withdraw the direction, and
(b) subsection (6) permitted the Secretary of State to withdraw the direction before the end of the 14 day period with the agreement of the local authorities to which it applies.
(11) In this section “local authority” and “relevant child” have the same meanings as in section (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children).”—(James Brokenshire.)
This new clause creates a mechanism for the Secretary of State to require local authorities in England to co-operate in the transfer of particular categories of unaccompanied migrant children from one local authority to another.
Brought up, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 7
Extension to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
‘(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for enabling any of the provisions of sections (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children) to (Scheme for transfer of responsibility for relevant children) to apply in relation to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision which—
(a) has a similar effect to any of the provisions mentioned in subsection (1), and
(b) applies in relation to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
(3) Regulations under subsection (1) or (2) may—
(a) amend, repeal or revoke any enactment (including an enactment contained in this Act);
(b) confer functions on any person (including a power to make regulations).
(4) Regulations under subsection (1) or (2) may not confer functions on—
(a) the Welsh Ministers,
(b) the Scottish Ministers,
(c) the First Minister and deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland,
(d) a Northern Ireland Minister, or
(e) a Northern Ireland department.
(5) In this section “enactment” includes—
(a) an enactment contained in subordinate legislation within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978;
(b) an enactment contained in, or in an instrument made under, an Act or Measure of the National Assembly for Wales;
(c) an enactment contained in, or in an instrument made under, an Act of the Scottish Parliament;
(d) an enactment contained in, or in an instrument made under, Northern Ireland legislation.”—(James Brokenshire.)
This new clause enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to extend any of the provisions made by NC3 to NC6 to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. By virtue of amendment 5, such regulations will be subject to the draft affirmative procedure.
Brought up, and added to the Bill.
Amendment proposed: 29, page 40, line 14, leave out clause 37.—(Keir Starmer.)
Question put, That the amendment be made.
Amendment made: 5, page 49, line 24, at end insert—
“() regulations under section (Extension to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)(1) or (2),”. —(James Brokenshire.)
This amendment provides that regulations made under the new clause inserted by NC7 will be subject to the draft affirmative procedure.
Amendment made: 6, page 50, line 17, at end insert—
‘( ) “Sections (Transfer of responsibility for relevant children) to (Scheme for transfer of responsibility for relevant children) extend to England and Wales only.”’ —(James Brokenshire.)
This amendment provides that the new clauses inserted by NC3 to NC6 extend to England and Wales only. Regulations made under the new clause inserted by NC7 may be used to apply the provisions in Wales.
Availability of local authority support
Amendments made: 7, page 121, line 40, at end insert—
“After paragraph 1 insert—
“1A (1) A person to whom this paragraph applies is not eligible for assistance under section 23C(4)(b), 23CA(4) or 24B(2)(b) of the Children Act 1989 (grants to meet expenses connected with education or training) which consists of a grant to enable the person to meet all or part of the person’s tuition fees.
(2) The duty in section 23C(4)(b) or 23CA(4) of that Act and the power in section 24B(2)(b) of that Act may not be exercised or performed in respect of a person to whom this paragraph applies so as to make a grant to enable the person to meet all or part of the person’s tuition fees.
(3) This paragraph applies to a person in England who is aged 18 or over and who—
(a) has leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom which has been granted for a limited period,
(b) is an asylum-seeker, or
(c) has made an application for leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom which has not been withdrawn or determined.
(4) In this paragraph “tuition fees” means fees payable for a course of a description mentioned in Schedule 6 to the Education Reform Act 1988.”
This amendment prevents local authorities in England from paying the higher education tuition fees of adult migrant care leavers deemed to be overseas students because of their immigration status. Instead, to obtain such support, the person will be required to qualify under the Student Support Regulations.
Amendment 8, page 123, leave out lines 10 and 11 and insert—
“(c) who is not a relevant failed asylum seeker, and”.
This amendment and amendment 9 define those who are or may be supported under section 95A of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and who therefore may not be supported under the regulations made under paragraph 10A of Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.
Amendment 9, page 123, line 12, at end insert—
“( ) A person is a “relevant failed asylum seeker” for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(c) if the person is a failed asylum seeker within the meaning of Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and—
(a) the person is receiving support under section 95A of that Act,
(b) the person has made an application for such support which has not been refused, or
(c) there are reasonable grounds for believing such support would be provided to the person if an application by the person for such support were made.”
See the explanatory statement for amendment 8.
Amendment 10, page 123, line 23, after “82(1),” insert—
“( ) the appeal is not one that, by virtue of section 92(6), must be continued from outside the United Kingdom,”.
This amendment excludes appeals which must be pursued from outside the UK under section 92(6) of the 2002 Act from the reference in paragraph 10A(3)(b) to an appeal pending within the meaning of section 104 of that Act.
Amendment 11, page 123, line 29, after “that” insert
“a person specified in regulations under this paragraph is satisfied that”.
This amendment clarifies that the local authority or another person specified in the regulations is to be satisfied that condition D in sub-paragraph 10A(5) of Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act is met in order for support to be provided under that sub-paragraph.
Amendment 12, page 123, line 30, at end insert—
“( ) Regulations under this paragraph may specify—
(a) factors which a person specified by virtue of sub-paragraph (5) may or must take into account in making a determination under that sub-paragraph;
(b) factors which such a person must not take into account in making such a determination.”
This amendment provides that the regulations made under paragraph 10A of Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act may specify factors which a local authority or another person may or must, or must not, take into account in determining whether condition D in sub-paragraph 10A(5) is met.
Amendment 13, page 124, leave out lines 16 and 17 and insert—
“(b) who is not a relevant failed asylum seeker, and”.
This amendment and amendment 14 define those who are or may be supported under section 95A of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and who therefore may not be supported under the regulations made under paragraph 10B of Schedule 3 to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.
Amendment 14, page 124, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) A person is a “relevant failed asylum seeker” for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(b) if the person is a failed asylum seeker within the meaning of Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and—
(a) the person is receiving support under section 95A of that Act,
(b) the person has made an application for such support which has not been refused, or
(c) there are reasonable grounds for believing such support would be provided to the person if an application by the person for such support were made.”
See the explanatory statement for amendment 13.
Amendment 15, page 124, line 31, after “82(1),” insert—
“( ) the appeal is not one that, by virtue of section 92(6), must be continued from outside the United Kingdom,”.
This amendment excludes appeals which must be pursued from outside the UK under section 92(6) of the 2002 Act from the reference in paragraph 10B(3)(c) to an appeal pending within the meaning of section 104 of that Act.
Amendment 16, page 124, line 36, at end insert—
“( ) Regulations under this paragraph may specify—
(a) factors which a person specified by virtue of paragraph (b) of sub-paragraph (4) may or must take into account in making a determination under that paragraph;
(b) factors which such a person must not take into account in making such a determination.”
This amendment provides that the regulations made under paragraph 10B of Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act may specify factors which a local authority or another person may or must, or must not, take into account in determining whether support needs to be provided under sub-paragraph 10B(4).
Amendment 17, page 125, line 19, at end insert—
“(1) Paragraph 15 (power to amend Schedule 3) is amended as follows.
(2) After paragraph (a) insert—
“(aa) to modify any of the classes of person to whom paragraph 1 applies;”.
(3) In paragraph (c) after “remove” insert “, or modify the application of,”.
(4) After paragraph (c) insert—
“(d) to enable regulations to be made providing for arrangements to be made for support to be provided to a class of person to whom paragraph 1 applies;
(b) to apply paragraph 1A in relation to Wales;
(c) to make provision which has a similar effect to paragraph 1A and which applies in relation to Scotland or Northern Ireland.”
In paragraph 16(2)(d) (power for regulations or order under Schedule to make consequential provision) after “amending” insert “, repealing or revoking”.”—(James Brokenshire.)
This amendment amends paragraphs 15 and 16 of Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act so that regulations made under them may apply, or make equivalent provision for, the changes made to that Schedule by Schedule 9 in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Search for nationality documents by detainee custody officers etc
Amendments made: 3, page 32, line 20, leave out “strip” and insert “full”.
This amendment and amendment 4 replace the term “strip” search with “full” search to reflect more appropriately the nature of the power.
Amendment 4, page 33, line 10, leave out “strip” and insert “full”.—(James Brokenshire.)
See the explanatory statement for amendment 3.
Appeals within the United Kingdom: certification of human rights claims
Amendment proposed: 27, page 39, line 6, leave out clause 34.—(Stuart C. McDonald.)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We have heard considerable debate and lively discussion as the Immigration Bill has been discussed today and at the various other stages. A range of views and concerns have been expressed and considered amendments have been voted on. As we come to Third Reading, it is important that we remember why the Bill is so necessary, so I want to reflect on what we believe the Bill will do.
As I said on Second Reading, we must continue to build 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. That means ensuring that immigration is balanced and sustainable and that net migration can be managed.
I am sure that the whole House will agree that, without immigration, this country would not be the thriving multiracial, multifaith democracy that it is today. Immigration has brought tremendous benefits—to our economy, our culture and our society—but, as I have said before, when net migration is too high, and the pace of change too fast, it puts pressure on schools, hospitals, accommodation, transport and social services, and it can drive down wages for people on low incomes. That is not fair on the British public and it is not fair on those who come here legitimately and play by the rules. So since 2010 the Government have reformed the chaotic and uncontrolled immigration system that we inherited, and instead we are building one that works in the national interest.
This Bill will ensure that we can go further in bringing clarity, fairness and integrity to the immigration system. I would like to thank right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House for their constructive contributions in shaping this Bill during its parliamentary stages, and all those who have been involved in working on it: the members of the Committee, the House authorities, the organisations who gave evidence to the Bill Committee, and those who responded to all the consultations and provided briefing on the Bill. I thank and commend my right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration for the thoughtful way in which he has steered the Bill through the House. It has been important and substantial work. I want to highlight briefly some of the measures in the Bill.
The exploitation of vulnerable people by unscrupulous employers is an issue that has been raised by victims’ campaign groups, charitable organisations and Members in this House many times before. We know that labour market exploitation can be committed by organised criminal gangs, and it is clear that workers’ rights need to be enforced more effectively, and that the current regulatory framework needs improvement. This Bill will create a new statutory director of labour market enforcement to oversee and co-ordinate the drive for more effective enforcement across the spectrum of non-compliance.
The House will appreciate that illegal working remains one of the principal pull factors for people coming to live in the UK illegally, so we are taking the necessary step of making illegal working a criminal offence. This addresses a genuine gap in our ability to use proceeds of crime powers to seize and confiscate the profits made by those who choose to break our immigration laws. But we should be clear that this measure is not intended to—nor will it—punish the vulnerable, such as those who are trafficked here and forced to work illegally. The safeguards provided in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 will continue to protect people in those circumstances. Instead, we want to deal with those illegal migrants who choose to work here illegally when they should, and could, leave the UK. But we must also target the employers who facilitate illegal working. The Bill will allow us to strengthen sanctions for employers who knowingly turn a blind eye to the fact that they are employing illegal workers.
We also know that a great deal of illegal working happens in licensed sectors. The Bill will ensure that those working illegally or employing illegal workers cannot obtain licences to sell alcohol or run late night take-away premises. Similarly, we will be requiring licensing authorities to check the immigration status of taxi or private hire vehicle drivers. The message is simple—illegal working is wrong, and it will not be tolerated.
Too often, illegal migrants ignore the law, remain illegally in this country and take advantage of our very generous public services. That cannot be allowed to continue, so we will further restrict access to services. We will make it easier for landlords to evict illegal migrants while also introducing new offences for rogue landlords who repeatedly rent to illegal migrants. We will crack down on those driving while in the UK illegally by ensuring that, if they hold UK driving licences, their licences can be seized and taken out of circulation. We will also strengthen the consequences for those continuing to drive without lawful immigration status, including powers to detain their vehicle.
We will create a duty on banks and building societies periodically to check the immigration status of existing current account holders so that accounts held by illegal migrants can be closed or frozen following a court order.
It is right that we address the appeals issue so that we can remove people with no right to be in the UK. In 2014 we introduced our deport now, appeal later scheme, which has helped us to deport over 230 foreign national offenders. In our manifesto, we committed to extending that to all human rights cases, provided it does not breach human rights. The Bill allows us to do just that, to ensure that illegal migrants who have not been offered leave to remain cannot frustrate the removal process.
We will also ensure as a result of the Bill that when foreign criminals are released on bail we can place a satellite tag on them so that we know their whereabouts and can improve public protection.
The Government are clear that we have a duty to offer support to those who come to the UK and seek our protection while their claim is being assessed. But it cannot be right for that support to continue once it has been established and confirmed by the courts that an individual has no need of our protection and could, and should, leave the UK. Such individuals are illegal migrants, and to support them further would be unfair on those who do need our protection and our support to establish a new life here. The Bill redresses that balance and removes incentives to remain here illegally.
Two other aspects are important. Controlling our borders is vital in protecting national security. It is imperative that we know who is seeking to enter the UK and that we are able to stop them if they seek to do us harm. The Bill gives Border Force officers more powers to intercept vessels at sea, increase penalties for airline and port operators who fail to present passengers to immigration control, and automatically apply UN or EU travel bans to stop dangerous individuals coming to the UK.
Secondly, in line with our manifesto, we will ensure that customer-facing public sector workers are able to speak English. Where communicating with the British public is a vital part of the job, fluent English should be a prerequisite, and through this Bill we will legislate to ensure that this becomes a reality.
When the Government first came to power in 2010, the immigration system that we inherited was chaotic and uncontrolled. Over the past five years we have taken great strides forward in reforming it. We have tightened immigration routes where abuse was rife, shut down more than 920 bogus colleges, capped the number of non-EEA migrant workers admitted to the UK, reformed family visas, and protected our public services from abuse. These reforms are working, but we must go further. This Bill will build on our achievements and ensure that we have an immigration system that is firm and effective, fair on the British public and on those who come here legitimately, and, most importantly, serves the national interest. I commend this Bill to the House.
As the Home Secretary said, we have had a lively and thorough debate, if not a genuine dialogue, as the movement from the Government has been minimal. We have not won many amendments but we have certainly won the argument. For that, I thank my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) for the assured and expert way he led for the Opposition on the Bill. He was, of course, our star summer signing and, like one of Mr Wenger’s best from the old days, he has managed to outshine his considerable reputation already, with more to come.
I would also like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), who brought an invaluable insight from her outstanding work on tackling the exploitation of children, and my hon. Friends the Members for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck), for Workington (Sue Hayman), for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and for Blackburn (Kate Hollern) who served on the Committee. Our thanks go too to the co-Chairs of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), and to the third-party organisations that the Home Secretary referred to, which made a very important contribution.
Figures were published last week that I believe set the context for this Third Reading debate. The ONS reports that net migration has reached a record high of 336,000—up 82,000 from last year and 101,000 higher than the level it was when the Prime Minister came to office. I heard the Home Secretary’s comments about the record of the previous Government. She needs to have a look at her own record before she comes to this House and points the finger in this direction. That is the record of her Government. Let us set it against what they promised.
The Conservatives’ 2010 manifesto made a solemn pledge to reduce net migration to “tens of thousands”. “If we don’t meet it, boot us out,” said the Prime Minister. The 2015 manifesto made the same pledge—and we now know that, rather than reducing net migration, the Government are increasing it by tens of thousands. That is the Home Secretary’s record, and it is lamentable even by the standards of the Government. The Home Secretary likes to go to the Conservative party conference and talk a tough game, but the truth is that she cannot escape her own record. The very scale of the gap between her rhetoric and the reality continues to erode public trust on this most important and sensitive of issues.
As I made clear on Second Reading, I will always support practical measures to deal with the public’s legitimate concerns about immigration, and there are some measures in the Bill that we support—particularly the emphasis on labour market enforcement and English language requirements in public services. What I will not do, however, is lend our name to desperate attempts to legislate in haste and to half-baked measures that owe more to a PR exercise to camouflage a record of failure than a considered attempt to create the firm but fair immigration system of which the Home Secretary spoke.
We will refuse to give the Bill a Third Reading tonight because the Government have failed to listen in Committee and failed to produce any meaningful evidence that the measures in the Bill will have any more success than the steps that they took in the last Parliament. Worse, by legislating in this ill-conceived way, they have produced a Bill that could have a number of unintended and pernicious consequences, as my hon. and learned Friend the shadow Immigration Minister so skilfully exposed in Committee.
First, the Bill could undermine all the progress made on tackling modern slavery and human trafficking—for which, actually, the Government deserve some credit. Secondly, the Bill could leave desperate children utterly destitute. Thirdly, it could lead to discrimination in the workplace and the housing market and erode important civil liberties and human rights. I shall take each issue quickly in turn.
I have real concerns that the creation of a new offence of illegal working could deter vulnerable people, such as trafficked women and children, from having the courage to come forward to report rogue employers and criminal gangs. Those unscrupulous individuals already hold the whip hand; the tragedy is that the Bill will strengthen their grip over these most vulnerable of people. The House should reject the Bill. Working to put food in your kids’ mouths should never be a criminal offence. More broadly, if employees fear losing wages or even imprisonment by coming forward to report employers, might not the effect of the Bill be the reverse of what the Home Secretary wants? Might it not actually increase the size of the black market?
Those are genuine concerns and I have not seen any convincing evidence from the Government to suggest that they are misplaced. Although the Government have remained unmoved during the Bill’s passage through this House, I feel sure that their lordships will wish to push them hard on this issue in another place.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government are focusing on the wrong party in the Bill? They should be concentrating—[Interruption.] They should be concentrating, as the Home Secretary should while I am speaking, on clamping down on unscrupulous employers who prey on the misery of people forced into terrible conditions, such as those exploited on Britain’s building sites. I have actually seen that with my own eyes.
My hon. Friend has more experience than anybody in the House of the workplaces that might be most affected by the Bill. He is absolutely right to say that unscrupulous employers—sadly, they do exist in the construction industry—will feel emboldened by the Bill. They will know that exploited people on building sites will no longer have the courage to report them to the authorities. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary says that is “desperate”, but those people are desperate and she is putting them in a worse position. She needs to think about that before she puts the Bill into law.
Another concern is about clause 34, which removes support from families—a power that the Home Office has long sought; the proposal was put to me as a Minister and piloted under the last Labour Government. The official evaluation of that pilot found no evidence of increased removals but plenty of families going underground and losing touch with the authorities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central said in the debate, there is also the shunting of costs from the Home Office to local authorities.
In the end, however, the question we need to ask ourselves is much more fundamental: should any child—whoever they are, wherever they come from—be denied food and clothes while they are on British soil? I do not think so and I would venture to say that most Members on both sides would, in their heart of hearts, think the same. The great irony is that it was the then Conservative Opposition—specifically, the shadow Home Office team—in the last but one Parliament who led the charge against what was then known as clause 9. They were right to force the then Government to pilot this change, and we were right to drop the whole idea once the results of the pilot were clear. If what they said was right then, why is it not right now?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) on raising widely held concerns about the need for immigration rules that allow for the reunification of refugee families. She spoke powerfully about that. I hope that the Government will continue to look at this, particularly at new clause 11, which calls for a review of the rules.
Finally, I turn to the concern about the potential of the Bill to increase discrimination and erode basic rights and liberties. We live in the most challenging of times when there is no shortage of people with extreme views who seek to set race against race and religion against religion. We are legislating in a febrile climate in which discrimination can easily flourish, and this House must take great care that nothing we do adds to that. The right response to these challenges is not to erode important rights and liberties but to do the exact opposite—to protect and champion them. Given the huge backlog in the Home Office and its consistently poor record on initial decisions, the deport first, appeal later approach could undermine Britain’s position in the world as a bastion of fair play and higher ideals. Despite the evidence published by the Government, I remain concerned that the threat of imprisonment to landlords who rent flats or houses to people without immigration status could lead to discrimination in the housing market, and a greater sense among black and Asian young people that they are being victimised.
Let me end on a more positive note that gives us a glimmer of hope for the Bill’s onward passage to another place. I am pleased that the Minister, whom Labour Members have time for, has conceded significant ground on immigration detention. That has had strong support from Members on both sides, including the hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller), who has Yarl’s Wood detention centre in his constituency and has long called for a more humane system.
Last Thursday, I attended Yarl’s Wood having spoken to a number of charities that are assisting people there. I met a young lady of about 25—she does not know exactly how old she is because she is an orphan—who was trafficked from her home country of India. She has now been taken into detention at Yarl’s Wood and does not know when she will get out. She is 25 weeks pregnant and absolutely terrified. She spoke to me about many basic healthcare services being denied to her. [Interruption.] I appreciate that the Minister has said that this will be looked into, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a matter of extreme urgency?
I do agree with my hon. Friend, who puts her point very well. There are obviously concerns about the case she mentions given the question of the inappropriateness of detention for children, pregnant women, and victims of rape and torture. The Minister acknowledged the issue of minimising the time spent on administrative detention, and the effectiveness of administrative detention, and we are grateful for his recognition of that.
It is reassuring that on this issue, at least, the Government have shown a willingness to listen, but that is only the start of what they need to do. They will need to do a lot more listening, particularly to their lordships, before this Bill is in a fit state to reach the statute book.
I, too, place on record my thanks to all the organisations that have supported and advised MPs during the passage of this Bill. We have had a passionate and thoughtful debate and we have one final, brief chance to debate further, so I intend to take it.
Some would wish to criticise the Immigration Minister in the light of the latest abject failure to make any progress on the net migration target, but not us: we are critical of the net migration target itself, which long precedes the Minister. On Second Reading, I described the net migration target as unhelpful and unachievable. Last week’s announcement suggests that my description was far too understated. The immigration target is, frankly, total bunkum, complete baloney, and utterly bogus. There is no research or plan that explains why tens of thousands is the right target or an achievable target. Indeed, we learned today that the Chancellor’s spending plans appear to depend entirely on the net migration target being spectacularly missed. Without forecast inward migration, we will not be able to see through the spending plans that he set out last week. It is time for an honest debate on immigration about what is desirable and what is achievable.
Week after week at my constituency surgeries, I am left speechless as I try to explain to people coming from the most difficult of circumstances and wanting to seek a fresh home, make a fresh start and contribute to our society and economy, why this Government refuse to let them in. Does my hon. Friend agree that the net migration target is completely ideological and has nothing to do with what is actually good for the country?
I agree with my hon. Friend.
Such an honest debate must include discussion of how we assist communities that face challenges because of significant levels of migration. It must be about how we incentivise migrants to live in the parts of the United Kingdom that most need them and can most easily accommodate them. It should be about whether and how we can properly count those coming in and out, and how we can enforce the rules we already have, rather than create endless new rules. The debate must no longer proceed on the basis of the vicious climate of hostility policy that the Government pursue, and which affects all of us. We need a better approach to migration than the ludicrous one-size-fits-all target, which actually incentivises—my hon. Friend alluded to this—the exclusion of husbands and wives, the persecuted and the bright young students who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
We should reject this flawed Bill, which is designed to pursue a flawed target. Indeed, saying that it seeks to pursue that flawed target is in itself almost certainly being too kind, because it has zero chance of getting us anywhere near the target. This is not pursuit, but pretence. The Bill has been well described as “immigration theatre”. That is the fundamental flaw at the heart of the Bill, but there are so many problems with its pernicious clauses that it is not possible to do them all justice in the time available.
The Government may feel compelled to be seen to do something about net migration, but in reality the Bill will do nothing to resolve the challenges of migration, nor to maximise its benefits, and it will not certainly achieve the bogus target. However we look at it—from the perspective of the rule of law, human rights, the best interests of children, or just simple common decency—the Bill is pretty desperate stuff. I encourage Members to vote against it on Third Reading.
I knew you would remember, Mr Speaker. The hon. Gentleman did tell me that he would be in the House to speak on behalf of his party, which of course he does so very eloquently.
I join the shadow Home Secretary and the Home Secretary in welcoming all the good work done by Members on both sides of the House in scrutinising the Bill, particularly the new shadow Minister for Immigration. The shadow Home Secretary has stolen him from the Home Affairs Committee. He says he is the star striker—he is not yet the Jamie Vardy of the team, but he is going that way. Sorry, I could not think of an Arsenal player; otherwise I would have mentioned him.
I think that I have served longer than any other Member in the Chamber at the moment, with the exception of the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), who had a short gap to be the First Minister of Scotland. In the 28 years I have been in the House, we have had about 20 immigration Bills. Every time we have one, the Home Secretary in successive Governments has got up at the Dispatch Box and said that, as a result of passing the Bill, immigration will be kept under control, the system will be much better, illegal migration will be reduced and that is the end of the show as far as such matters are concerned. Unfortunately, it never ends up like that: we pass legislation, and I am afraid that at the end of the day we have to come back again to pass another Bill.
I hope that that will not be the case with this Immigration Bill, because during the next four years until the next election I do not want the Home Secretary—either the right hon. Lady or her successor, although I am sure she will be in office for a long while—to have to come back and tell the House, “Well, it didn’t quite work, so we’re going to try something new.” My concern is not with passing legislation, although that is of course what the House is for, but with the way in which we administer the legislation. As reflected in the reports of the Home Affairs Committee, my concern has always been with the administration of the Home Office.
The Home Secretary has taken great strides. She has abolished the UK Border Agency and replaced it with a much more effective organisation. Sarah Rapson and her team are doing a much better job than their predecessors. However, there are always examples of situations in which illegal migration is not under control. Only yesterday, as a result of work done by the BBC in the south-west, undercover reporters posing as illegal migrants went to various places in Kent and Sussex and offered themselves as employees—[Interruption.] I can send the Home Secretary the video. They offered themselves as employees to work illegally in those two counties, and they were offered jobs at £2.80 an hour. They were also given advice by the employers on how to evade enforcement officers.
So no matter what legislation we pass here, at the end of the day we need an administration that is fit for purpose. I hope that, as a result of passing this legislation, we will get more focus on how we enforce the law, to ensure that those who wish to come to this country legally—students and others who genuinely want to study and work here—can do so, and that those who want to come here illegally will not be allowed to do so and will not be allowed to offer themselves for employment and to be put at risk by unscrupulous employers. There is a huge job of work to be done on the way in which we deal with enforcement, and if we can get the enforcement section of UK Visas and Immigration up to the same standard as the other parts of the organisation, it will make a huge difference. I hope that the Home Secretary will take that message with her as she continues her long journey running the Home Office.
The Select Committee heard today from the head of the UK Border Force, Sir Charles Montgomery, that he had not yet been told what his allocation was to be following the cuts—or should I say the austerity measures —at the Home Office. The Home Secretary fought a good fight with the Chancellor to protect the budget for counter-terrorism and policing, but she obviously did not win the fight in respect of the Home Office’s other functions. I hope that Sir Charles will be given that information as soon as possible, because protecting our borders, especially in the current climate, is one of the key concerns of the House and, I know, of the Government.
I am grateful to you for calling me to speak, Mr Speaker, particularly as it was not possible for me to be here for the majority of the Front-Bench speeches. I want to follow on from some of the comments of the Chair of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), about the passage of the Bill.
To be honest, I am interested not so much in what is in the Bill as in two important things that have been revealed by our discussions. The first is that there exists across Parliament a wish to see fundamental reform of the way in which we manage immigration and detention, and that wish is shared by people of all political views, from those who take a hard line on immigration to those who take a more lenient view. Secondly, there are indications—the early green shoots of spring—that the Home Office recognises the existence of that cross-party consensus. This is a tribute not only to Members of the House but to the all-party group and to Sarah Teather, the former Member for Brent Central, who instigated it. I appreciate being able to put this on record.
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to speak briefly in this important debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) said that it is important that this House reaches a consensus on immigration and on this Bill. It is also vital that the country recognises that there is a consensus about dealing with the immigration challenge. When all of us, a few months ago, stood on the doorsteps talking to our constituents, many of them said, “First and foremost, you must deal with the challenge of immigration.”
The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) says that we must not keep legislating and I suppose he is right, but I believe that this Bill will play a significant and signal part in signalling to our constituents that we are serious about dealing with the challenge. This Bill will deal with the challenge and I commend it to the House.
Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Bill read the Third time and passed.
business of the House
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Orders No. 15(2)(a) and No. 41A(3)),
That, at this day’s sitting, the Motion in the name of Chris Grayling relating to sittings of the House may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour, and Standing Order No. 41A relating to Deferred Divisions shall not apply.—(Stephen Barclay.)
Question agreed to.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),
That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Priti Patel relating to Social Security.—(Stephen Barclay.)
Question agreed to.