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House of Commons Hansard
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Oral Answers to Questions
29 October 2018
Volume 648

Home Department

The Secretary of State was asked—

ESOL Classes

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1. If he will extend Government support for English for Speakers of Other Languages classes to include newly arrived asylum seekers. [907293]

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With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like first to express how shocked and appalled I am at the deadly gun attack that took place this weekend at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in expressing our deepest sympathies for the victims and those injured, as well as their families. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish friends across the world and utterly condemns antisemitism in all its forms.

My thoughts today are also with the friends and families of the victims of the terrible crash at Leicester City football club. I thank the emergency services for their response to this awful tragedy. I know that they did their absolute best.

Turning to Question 1, Government support towards integration is given through English language tuition, but it is available only once asylum seekers are recognised as refugees. This focuses resources on those recognised as being in need of protection.

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I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Given the limitations on ESOL budgets, will he assure me that sufficient funding will be available to support the plan that he has in this area?

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The hon. Gentleman raises an important question. It is right that we support those who are given protection in ways to integrate into British life, and language is important to that. I assure him that we have a good budget in this area; in 2016-17, it was £99 million of the total adult learning budget.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that perhaps the success of the Jewish community in this country has been its willingness to integrate, to do in Rome as the Romans do and to learn the language? That is not always the case with other ethnic groups, so it is a question not only of providing sufficient funds but of encouraging them to learn the language and become a part of our community.

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It is right, of course, that this Government do more to welcome all communities and help them to integrate. That is why the Government published—I published it when I was Communities Secretary—an integration Green Paper, which we will build on. It is also worth commending the work that World Jewish Relief does to help all communities to integrate.

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In light of the terrible tragedy in Leicester, it is with particular feeling that I call Mr Keith Vaz.

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I thank the Home Secretary for the comments that he made following the death of Khun Vichai and four others in the helicopter in Leicester. He was an amazing man—someone who spent so much time in Leicester and did so much for the club—and he was adored by the people of Leicester. He will be greatly missed, and it is kind of the Home Secretary to mention him today.

On the substance of the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), the issue is not just English language lessons but the right to work, which goes hand in hand with being able to speak English. Will the Home Secretary look again at the rules to make sure that those who are waiting can get their right to work quicker and asylum seekers can be fully integrated in our society?

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It will be a difficult time for the right hon. Gentleman’s community and he has our full support in dealing with this tragedy.

On the issue of asylum seekers and support, the right to work is also very important. He will know that after 12 months, asylum seekers start getting some rights to work, but we are always looking at what more can do.

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I associate myself with the remarks by the Home Secretary in relation to the terrible attack in Pittsburgh and the victims of the terrible tragedy in Leicester.

In my schools in Harrow, 161 languages are spoken and it is vital that we integrate young people, but they are getting the education. What more can we do to integrate the adults who come here and need this training, so that they can take their place in our society?

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My hon. Friend is right to raise that. He may recall that the integration strategy, which was launched earlier this year, talked of almost 700,000 adults in Britain who speak no or very poor English. That has led to more work in this area, especially on using members of the communities concerned as mentors to try to encourage others to take up English language learning.

Police and Fire Services: Collaboration

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2. What steps his Department is taking to encourage greater collaboration between the police and fire services. [907295]

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I am sure there is cross-party support for wanting our emergency services to make the best use of existing resources, and the Government are extremely active in encouraging greater collaboration, whether it be through innovation funding, the work of the Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group or legislation that enables police and crime commissioners to take on fire and resource governance where a local case exists.

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As the Minister will know, Essex is a pioneer in this area, where Roger Hirst, our police and crime commissioner, has brought fire services in. Will the Minister consider allowing the pooling of capital budgets to enable better joined-up working of back offices?

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I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Roger Hirst is doing a fantastic job in seizing the opportunity to get more out of existing resources, and I completely understand the point about capital budgets. There are restrictions in place for good reasons, but Roger and other PCCs can already use police and fire budgets to invest in shared functions, such as joint back offices, although both fire and police budgets need to make an appropriate contribution to the shared service.

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One of the issues with capital budgets is that some services are selling their capital assets and then renting from another part of the service, which can lead to very imbalanced budgets locally. Does the Minister have a grip at the centre on the long-term impact this could have?

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I recognise the point the hon. Lady is making. In taking through the enabling legislation in this area, we were careful to put restrictions in place to assure stakeholders in particular that it was not a takeover of fire budgets, for example. Restrictions are in place, and for good reasons, but we monitor the situation carefully and listen to representations on both sides of the argument.

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Leicestershire police are based in Enderby in my constituency. Does the Minister agree that the collaboration between Leicestershire police, the fire service and the other emergency services the other day demonstrated the hard work that our emergency services do in Leicester and Leicestershire?

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I join the Home Secretary in his remarks about the performance of the Leicestershire emergency services. Leicestershire is an excellent example of where services are going the extra mile to explore ways of working together and making the best use of existing assets and resources. As they are public assets and public resources, there is a duty to make the most of them.

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Merging services is yet another ploy to promote the Government’s austerity agenda: cutting one budget rather than two. For example, in Essex, the recently merged fire service budget is now being used to prop up the local highway plan, while the Essex service is forecast to lose £8 million between 2016 and 2020. Does the Minister agree that the Government are putting the future of the fire service at risk? If austerity is really over, will he tell the House when he will speak to the Chancellor about properly funding the service, based on community importance, rather than sporadic demand?

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The hon. Lady could not be more wrong. We are not talking about mergers; we are talking about the imperative on those deploying public money to use it in the smartest possible way and to make the best possible use of the public resources at their disposal. It is about value for money, which of course the Labour Front-Bench team have no interest in at all.

Modern Slavery

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3. What steps the Government are taking to reduce modern slavery. [907296]

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The Government are tackling the abhorrent crime of modern slavery both at home and overseas. We have strengthened the law enforcement response and introduced new requirements for businesses to report on slavery in their supply chains, and are transforming the support we provide to victims. Internationally, we continue to work to stop modern slavery wherever it occurs.

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I strongly welcome the steps the Government are taking to tackle modern slavery. Does the Minister agree that, as we leave the EU and bring in much tougher rules on unskilled immigration from the EU, we will need to be vigilant to ensure that it does not provide new opportunities for people traffickers who may seek to exploit those tougher rules?

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Our determination to tackle modern slavery will be unaltered by our exit from the EU. On 6 September, the Government announced the introduction of a new seasonal workers pilot for horticulture, but we are of course very alert to the risks noted by the independent Migration Advisory Committee, which my hon. Friend outlined, and we will work with sectors, including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, to ensure that migrant workers are protected against modern slavery and other labour abuse.

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19. I welcome the fact that UK Border Force recently conducted spot checks at hand car washes in Wakefield, but the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the issue has heard that these criminals are breaking the law in other ways: avoiding their taxes, underpaying wages, and discharging chemicals into nearby watercourses. When will the Minister take a cross-departmental approach to tackling modern slavery, which is hidden in plain sight throughout the nation? [907313]

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I thank the hon. Lady for chairing the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into this important subject. It was a pleasure to appear before the inquiry some weeks ago. She is absolutely right: these criminals do not restrict themselves to exploiting human beings, but break every rule going. That is why we are leading a cross-governmental approach, having regard to environmental offences as well as offences of labour exploitation such as failing to pay the minimum wage. We want the message to go out to these criminals loud and clear that we will not tolerate modern slavery, whatever form it takes.

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Many businesses want to show more clearly how they are trying to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains, as some need to in law. Will the Minister’s modern slavery team talk to her equalities team and learn some lessons on how we are showing gender pay gap reporting, which is making that information more readily available?

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I thank my right hon. Friend for the important work that she is doing on the review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, along with the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) and Baroness Butler-Sloss. I hope that the review will help us to tackle the problem that some—although not all—businesses have with meeting their duty under the Act to report that their supply chains are slavery-free. We have started that work already: last week, in celebration of Anti-Slavery Day, we wrote to 17,000 businesses across the country setting out our expectation of their compliance with the law.

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North Wales Police was the first force in Wales to establish a modern slavery unit, working to combat human trafficking at Holyhead, which risks being a soft target for modern slavery gangs. What measures is the Secretary of State introducing to ensure that security at the port of Holyhead specifically is not compromised as a result of the UK’s leaving the EU?

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I thank the hon. Lady for her commitment to this issue. As she knows, the Home Office is taking an in-depth look at the security of our borders as we leave the EU. However, our exit from the EU does not in any way affect our determination to tackle modern slavery, and to work with our international partners to stop slavery around the world.

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The Council of Europe has been a real force for good through its proactive work to tackle modern slavery. It is entirely separate from the European Union, but will my hon. Friend confirm that we will continue to be at the forefront of the important work in that collaborative organisation?

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I am delighted to confirm that not only are we at the forefront in terms of the Council of Europe, but the Prime Minister is leading the world through the United Nations’ global call for action to end modern slavery by 2030. We are very ambitious and determined in this regard, and the rest of the world is working with us.

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On Anti-Slavery Day, ECPAT UK—Every Child Protected Against Trafficking—handed No. 10 a petition calling for specialist support for trafficked children. No Government funds are currently available for specialist children’s care, and that leaves children vulnerable to re-trafficking. The Government must commit themselves to giving local authorities additional funds. Will the Minister agree to provide those funds to protect vulnerable children?

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The hon. Lady will know that we are committed to the introduction of independent child trafficking advocates, and I am delighted that next year a third of local authorities will have ICTAs to look after the most vulnerable victims of trafficking. However, we have noted that the crime type is evolving. We are piloting schemes for UK-trafficked as opposed to internationally trafficked children, because we appreciate that the needs of those two different sets of children must be encompassed.

Free Movement of People

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4. What assessment he has made of the effect on Scotland of ending free movement of people with the EU. [907297]

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7. What assessment he has made of the effect on Scotland of ending free movement of people with the EU. [907300]

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After the UK leaves the EU, free movement will end. In a recent report, the Independent Migration Advisory Committee concluded that the economic impacts of EU migration had been “relatively small”, with “limited regional variation”. As we leave the EU, we will create a single global immigration system that works in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.

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Ending freedom of movement will have a major impact on the health and social care sector, which employs high numbers of EU nationals, and the tier 2 visa threshold of £30,000 is far more than any social care worker earns. Do the Secretary of State and Minister not recognise that wealth is not the same as worth?

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We have been very clear that employers should take all possible steps to reduce their reliance on low-skilled migrant labour. The MAC does have serious concerns, however, about the social care sector and is clear that this sector needs a policy wider than just migration policy to fix its many problems. The MAC report has given us some sound advice, but the Home Office continues to discuss with all sectors, with business leaders and indeed with the devolved Governments so that we can come forward with an immigration policy that works for the whole country.

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As someone who has recently been the beneficiary of care and care support, I would refute what the Minister has just said. Scottish Government analysis published in February estimates that real GDP in Scotland will be 4.5% lower by 2040 than it would otherwise have been, as a result of lower migration. Does the Minister agree that this is why immigration powers must be devolved to Scotland, so that Scotland can create a system that is fair and that meets our needs and values?

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The Government have been repeatedly clear that immigration policy remains a reserved matter. Four years ago the people of Scotland confirmed in a referendum that they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom and we will deliver an immigration policy for every part of the UK.

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There are 115,000 people looking for work in Scotland. Does the Minister think it would be a good idea if the Scottish Government did more to help those people acquire the skills they need to get into the workplace and build the Scottish economy, rather than just ship in more people from beyond our shores?

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I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. It is crucial that we work across the whole of government—through our modern industrial strategy, the Department for Education, local government and the devolved Administrations—to make sure that we provide the opportunities for young people across the whole economy so that they can find work.

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I welcome the news that free movement will be replaced with a single control system based on people’s skills, not where they come from. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that the future system will both facilitate the supply of foreign labour where there is a domestic shortage and complement the Government-wide approach to domestic skills to tackle the shortages where they can be addressed by upskilling UK workers?

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My hon. Friend makes an important point. Our first priority must be upskilling UK workers and making sure they can move into the vacancies that we know are there. My hon. Friend is always diligent in promoting the interests of businesses in Scotland, which might find it difficult to acquire the labour they need. I will be delighted to work with him in that respect.

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The Scottish Government’s analysis shows that the average EU citizen working in Scotland contributes £10,400 per annum to Government revenue and £34,400 per annum to GDP. What plans have the UK Government made to mitigate the adverse economic impact on Scotland as a result of the UK Government’s decision to end free movement?

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The hon. and learned Lady will be conscious that an immigration White Paper will be coming forward very soon, but it is crucially important that we reflect on the advice given to us by the independent Migration Advisory Committee, which made the point that there were only limited regional variations.

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I am very conscious of the much heralded and long awaited White Paper. However—and the Minister may not know this—a nationally representative survey conducted by British Future and Hope not Hate shows that nearly two thirds of people in Scotland think the Scottish Government should have the power to decide which visas are issued to people who want to work in Scotland. Will the Minister meet me in advance of the White Paper to discuss how it will address the wishes and needs of the people of Scotland?

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I gently remind the hon. and learned Lady that Scotland will be part of a single immigration policy for the whole United Kingdom, however strongly she might argue against that, but I will be delighted to meet her after the White Paper is published, because we do not want the White Paper to be the end of the conversation, and we will still be asking business and industry leaders, representative groups, stakeholders and the devolved Administrations to give us their views.

EU Settlement Scheme

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5. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the Government’s EU settlement scheme. [907298]

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EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and society, and we want them to stay. The EU settlement scheme enables them to do so, in line with the draft withdrawal agreement. The scheme provides a simple streamlined process for residents and EU citizens and their family members to obtain their new UK immigration status.

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The Roslin Institute in my constituency conducts world-leading scientific research, and it benefits significantly from the expertise of the EU citizens who work there. Given the Government’s plans to level down of the rights of EU citizens living here from 30 March onwards and the false categorisation of many scientific researchers as low-skilled, what is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that EU researchers do not find the UK a hostile environment for themselves and their families and choose to go elsewhere?

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The Government are supporting all those EU citizens who wish to stay in our country. As I said, we actually want them to stay, not just because of the economic benefits they bring but because they are part of our society and part of many of our families. So we want them to stay, and as we have made clear, whether there is a deal or not, they will still be welcome to stay. Our new immigration system will continue to welcome talent from across the world.

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How does the Home Secretary propose to honour his promises to EU citizens living in the UK and to British citizens in the EU in the event of no deal? Will he now seek to negotiate and ratify a citizens’ rights agreement with the EU that would come into force if there were no wider deal?

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We have made it clear that if there is no deal—which we do not expect, but we need to plan for all eventualities—all 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK will be allowed to stay and welcome to stay.

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Today, I wrote to the Home Secretary about the Home Office illegally requiring DNA data for people’s immigration applications. We have just had the Windrush scandal, and the EU settlement scheme will be the biggest task that the Home Office has ever undertaken. With an additional 3.5 million EU citizens subject to the hostile environment, it will be a question of when, not if, another scandal will break. The Home Secretary has committed to conducting a review of the structure and processes of the Home Office. Will that review be fully independent, and will it roll back the hostile environment?

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I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that the first Ministers to stand at this Dispatch Box and talk about the hostile environment where Labour Ministers. He should never forget that. Also, almost half the people affected by the Windrush saga were pre-2010. He should reflect on that as well. He is right to say that the EU settlement scheme is large and ambitious, and we are confident that it can be delivered. In our beta testing of the scheme so far, 95% of the people taking part say that it has worked very well for them.

Traveller Encampments

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6. Whether police forces are using the powers available to them to tackle unlawful Traveller encampments. [907299]

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The distress that local communities face as a consequence of unauthorised encampments is unacceptable. The Government have recently consulted on what more can be done to ensure that existing enforcement powers are used effectively and on whether additional powers are required.

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Will my right hon. Friend join me in unequivocally damning the disruption and antisocial behaviour caused to innocent residents by illegal Traveller encampments? May I urge him to go further and to give the police more powers to tackle trespass, from which all our constituents deserve the right to be protected?

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Yes, I join my hon. Friend in that; I fully recognise that unauthorised encampments can cause the settled community significant stress. I have seen that in my own constituency of Bromsgrove, and he has seen it in his. I am not convinced that the existing powers are strong enough, which is why, as Communities Secretary, I launched a consultation, and we will be responding to it shortly.

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Has the Home Secretary read “Policing by consent: Understanding and improving relations between Gypsies, Roma, Irish Travellers and the police”, the report published last week by the Traveller Movement? Will he take note of the concerns in that report that police officers still display signs of unconscious bias and racism towards the Traveller community, and will he meet the all-party parliamentary group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma to discuss those concerns?

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I have not yet had the opportunity to read that report, but I will certainly take a look now that the hon. Lady has mentioned it. She reminds the House that the vast majority of the Traveller community are law-abiding citizens, but there are a few, as there are in any community, who break the law through unauthorised encampments, and what people want, including perhaps people in her community, is a balanced approach.

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My constituents have suffered significantly from illegal Traveller encamp- ments for several years, leading to a significant loss of local amenity and significant cost to council tax payers. I am glad that my right hon. Friend is working with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on that matter, but enforcement is key, so will he reassure me that whatever powers are put in place are backed up with decent, proper enforcement?

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It is worth reminding the House that there is a joint consultation across the Government between the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office and that it will lead to better powers, whatever the results.

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The fact remains that the system simply is not working. This lawlessness is having a corrosive effect on local communities, and there have been catastrophic consequences for local government finance. Will the Home Secretary please listen to the suggestion that I have made many times before? We should use the number plates of these gleaming, glistening chariots that invade our open spaces and prosecute these malefactors through the identification of their vehicles.

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Will the Home Secretary heed Pound?

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I dare not heed Pound, but the hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The consultation’s purpose is to look not just at what is happening at the moment, but at what new powers and sensible policies should follow to deal with this issue.

UK Visas and Immigration

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8. What progress his Department is making on establishing the new UKVI service and support centres. [907301]

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On 30 November, UKVI’s existing premium service centres will close to undergo refurbishment and conversion to service and support centres. Home Office staff will be given tailored training sessions, enabling them to best serve customers’ needs when the centres reopen in January 2019.

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Delays in Home Office decision making have been a feature of just about every surgery that I have ever held. Given the recent announcement that some services will be outsourced to Sopra Steria—the same company that managed to lose half a million NHS documents—and the experience that we have had with Serco in Glasgow, will the Minister tell me how on earth this privatisation agenda will help my constituents?

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It will help the hon. Lady’s constituents by providing a transformed experience for those who may need more face-to-face interaction or help with their applications. At the free appointments, customers will meet experienced frontline staff to help UKVI better understand their circumstances, take appropriate safeguarding action and validate their documents.

Police Funding

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9. If he will take steps to secure additional funding for police forces with multiple cities in their authority area. [907303]

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The Minister for Policing has spoken to all police forces about the demands that they face. We have increased police funding by over £460 million this year, including by providing additional flexibility through the council tax precept.

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The Home Secretary will be aware that the South Wales police and crime commissioner, Alun Michael, is lobbying the Home Office for additional funding because Cardiff, as a capital city, receives no additional funding despite hosting major sporting and cultural events. Will the Home Secretary support Mr Michael’s bid and deliver new funding for the South Wales police authority area?

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The Minister for Policing has met the hon. Gentleman’s local force—I believe he actually met the hon. Gentleman to discuss the issue—and we are giving the matter careful consideration.

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Last week, the police force in Chelmsford, Essex, and its local partners came first in the country for the national Pubwatch scheme, which has reduced violent crime at night by 45%. Will the Home Secretary praise Essex police and continue to help fund our frontline?

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Essex police force has my full congratulations on what it has achieved, which shows what can be done to tackle serious violence with creative thinking. Indeed, I may well invite the force to the cross-party serious violence taskforce.

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I associate myself with the Home Secretary’s remarks on the tragedy in Leicester and on the horrific events in Pittsburgh. Our thoughts and prayers should be with the family and friends of the slaughtered and with the people of Pittsburgh.

The Home Secretary will be aware that the National Audit Office has clearly set out how the Government have failed to protect police funding. Does he accept that this is a mark of shame and is putting the public at risk? Since 2010, over 21,000 police officers have been cut under the Tory Government’s austerity policy. All our constituents can see the consequences in delays in responding to 999 calls and in rising violent crime. Will we see the Chancellor today offer any additional funding for policing? The fear must be that the Government will not even properly fund the police pension settlement.

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The right hon. Lady is right to talk about policing and the incredible work that the officers and staff do, but it is worth reminding the House that Labour planned to cut police spending by 5% to 10% had it won the 2015 election. Labour did promise an increase in 2017, but it was not enough, because we increased police funding by more than Labour promised—by £460 million. Labour went on to vote against that increase. Not a single Labour MP voted for an increase in police funding when they had the opportunity, so we will not take any lectures from Labour on policing.

Knife Crime

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10. What steps he is taking to tackle knife crime. [907304]

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The Government are very concerned about increases in knife crime and its impact on victims, families and communities. The action we are taking is set out in our serious violence strategy and includes new legislation in the Offensive Weapons Bill; the community fund to support local initiatives; the #knifefree media campaign; and continuing police action under Operation Sceptre.

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The Minister knows that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 currently prevents the police from using past criminal convictions as grounds for determining whether a search is proportionate. Will she consider changing PACE so that people who are stopped for a legitimate reason and who are found to have a recent criminal conviction for carrying knives can actually be searched by a police officer?

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My hon. Friend brings his experience as a special constable to the Chamber, and I am grateful for his service. We are clear that stop and search is a vital policing tool, and we are committed to tackling knife crime. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act officers already have the power to search an individual they suspect to be carrying a knife. We therefore believe the current arrangements to be proportionate, but we will keep them under review and continue to work closely with the police to ensure they have the tools they need. I will be happy to meet him to discuss it further.

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The Home Secretary announced in September that the Government would adopt a public health approach to tackling knife crime, a measure recommended by the Youth Violence Commission following strong evidence that it works. When will the House be given the opportunity to debate this vital issue?

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I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady and other hon. Members on both sides of the House for their work with the Youth Violence Commission. She will know from our scrutiny of the Offensive Weapons Bill how seriously we take the public health approach—we looked at it through the development of the serious violence strategy. She will know there was a debate before the summer recess on serious violence, but I am always happy, as she knows, to debate how we help support our police forces in tackling this terrible crime.

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I am afraid there is strong pressure on time today.

Organised Crime (National Crime Agency)

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11. What steps he is taking to tackle organised crime through the National Crime Agency. [907305]

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We have made significant progress since the National Crime Agency was established in 2013. Capabilities have improved; partnership working is better; and we intervene earlier to prevent serious and organised crime. The agency has gone from strength to strength, with an impressive and sustained track record of disruptions across the full range of serious and organised crime threats.

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Thames Valley police spent £7 million investigating the HBOS Reading banking scandal. Will my right hon. Friend consider establishing regional fraud squads, which would be self-funded from the proceeds of both fines and recovered funds, to properly investigate business banking fraud and other financial crimes?

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My hon. Friend’s suggestion is similar to what already happens through the regional organised crime units. We have injected £140 million in grant funding to help establish them and to ensure that we put in place the right financial investigators in each region to tackle fraud.

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Organised crime crosses borders, and the National Crime Agency relies on the European arrest warrant and databases and joint operations with Europol, all of which will fall if we leave the European Union without a deal in place in April. Given that Ireland has repealed its extradition arrangements to do with the previous 1957 convention, will there be any legal way to extradite organised criminals from Dublin if there is no deal?

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The right hon. Lady makes an important point about what happens post Brexit. She will of course know that the negotiations with Michel Barnier are all about issues like that. I suspect that Ireland will go along with whatever the EU’s deal is to implement, and we are seeking a security treaty so that we can put in place many of these important measures.

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A sentence perhaps, Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

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23. Organised crime often leads to bad drugs on our streets, and one way to stop that is through drug testing in festivals. The Minister agreed that he would write to police forces about the legality of that. What is the response? [907317]

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I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. We have to stem the demand for drugs, both recreational and in respect of other users. Therefore, it is important that we work with the police to deliver that.

Violent Crime

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12. What steps his Department is taking to tackle violent crime. [907306]

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We will be launching a £200 million youth endowment fund to intervene with children at risk of serious violence; we will be consulting on a new duty to support the multi-agency approach to tackling violence; and we will be undertaking a review of drug misuse.

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The recent murder of a 23-year-old man in my constituency has once again brought violent crime to the forefront of concerns in my community. My constituents understand that whether in Labour-led cities such as London or in Tory shires, cuts to police numbers are having a serious impact, which is leading to increases in violent crime across the country. When will the Home Secretary accept that and put the money back into the police that our communities need?

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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this. He will know that the Government have a cross-government serious violence strategy, but we do need to do more. That is why I recently announced these further steps, especially the new £200 million fund, which will help prevent violence.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to remain committed to steering young and often vulnerable people away from crime? What is the Department doing to strike a balance between prevention and robust law enforcement?

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My right hon. Friend is right to raise this. We have this new £200 million fund announced earlier this month, and we also have an early intervention youth fund of £22 million.

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The Home Secretary might not want to take any lessons from Labour on policing, but in March Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary warned that

“the lives of vulnerable people could be at risk”

if cuts continue. In May, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said she was “certain” that his Government’s cuts have contributed to violent crime. In September, the National Audit Office warned that the Home Office

“does not know if the police system is financially sustainable.”

Last week, the Select Committee on Home Affairs declared that the police could become “irrelevant” without serious investment in today’s Budget. Every one of those warnings has been ignored by the Government. Can the Home Secretary tell us why he thinks they are all wrong and he is right?

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Of course the police need to have the right mix of resources as well as other factors, which is why we have increased police funding this year by more than £460 million. But the hon. Lady also knows this is not all about resources. For example, the changes in drug markets are playing a big role, which is why I hope she would welcome the review that I have recently announced.

Asylum Seekers

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13. What steps he is taking to ensure that asylum seekers are adequately maintained and accommodated; and if he will make a statement. [907307]

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The Government are committed to protecting the rights of asylum seekers and to ensuring that those who would otherwise be destitute are provided with accommodation and other support to meet their essential living needs. We continue to work closely with local government, the devolved Administrations, the private sector and civil society to make improvements to the services that are provided.

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The Minister will be aware that, following a legal challenge in Scotland’s Supreme Court by two of my constituents and Govan Law Centre, Serco undertook to put its lock-change evictions on hold. Is she aware that Serco is verbally threatening my constituents with lock-change evictions? Does she agree that that is completely unacceptable, and will she investigate?

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It is important that the Home Office continues to work with Serco, Glasgow City Council and non-governmental organisation partners as part of a dedicated taskforce to make sure that all those individuals who are no longer entitled to asylum support or accommodation are managed appropriately. The hon. Gentleman is of course right to point out that, following his constituents’ legal challenge, no service users have been evicted while the appeal is ongoing.

Police Funding

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14. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of police funding. [907308]

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As taxpayers, we are investing over £1 billion more in our police system than we were three years ago. That shows the Government’s recognition of not only the increasing demand on police and the increasing complexity of that demand, but the progress that we are making in reducing the deficit in our public finances—progress jeopardised by the current Labour Front-Bench team.

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The Minister will no doubt be aware of the lamentable findings of the recently published Home Affairs Committee report, “Policing for the future”. Does he agree with its conclusion that without

“additional funding for policing…there will be dire consequences for public safety, criminal justice, community cohesion and public confidence”?

Will he join me in calling on the Chancellor to provide substantially more funding for policing not only in my constituency, Enfield, Southgate, but throughout the country?

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I agree with much of the Select Committee’s report, including on the need for more resources for policing, which is exactly what we are providing through an additional £140 million taxpayer investment in our police system this year. That is a police funding settlement that the hon. Gentleman and other Labour MPs voted against.

Topical Questions

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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [907333]

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It has been a busy few weeks at the Home Office as we continue in our efforts to deliver for the British people. On Thursday, regulations that allow the medicinal use of cannabis-based products will come into effect, providing relief to those people, particularly children, who have known so much pain. I shall shortly visit the United States to monitor progress on my challenge to tech giants to help us to fight child sexual exploitation. For those who fall short, there will be no place to hide.

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On Friday, my constituent was supposed to be moved by Serco to new social housing accommodation, following a successful claim. However, that did not happen, and Serco removed beds, heating and £22.50 in cash. Does the Secretary of State believe that Serco is a rogue provider of services that should be removed its contract?

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I am happy to take a closer look at the case that the hon. Gentleman mentions. He will know that we have consulted the Scottish Government, local government and others on a new approach, and we are confident that that new approach will bring significant improvement.

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T7. Over the past few months, we have seen a reduction in moped crime. Does that not show what can be achieved when we take a multi-agency approach when resources are allocated and, crucially, when the police are allowed to pursue motorcyclists even though they are not wearing crash helmets? [907339]

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As a London MP, I am absolutely delighted that moped crime is down by around 50% from its terrible peak. That is the result not only of superb police action but of the work convened by the Home Office that has brought together Government, industry and civil society to bear down on the problem. So pleased are we with that work that we taking the model forward to tackle vehicle crime.

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I thank Max Hill QC for his work as the reviewer of counter-terror legislation—a role that he left on 12 October to become the Director of Public Prosecutions. Given that his departure was announced on 24 July, why has no successor been appointed and the post been left vacant with counter-terror legislation going through Parliament? What on earth is the Home Office excuse for this sheer negligence?

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We are about to start the process for appointing Max Hill’s successor. To suggest that that has held back progress on counter-terrorism would be completely incorrect. The new counter-terrorism strategy was launched just a few months ago and it sets out how seriously the Government take the issue.

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In the light of the horrors of Pittsburgh, will the Government provide assurance—[Interruption.]

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Order. This really is a matter of the utmost sensitivity, and the right hon. Lady’s question must be heard with solemnity and respect.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

In the light of the horrors of Pittsburgh, can the Home Secretary provide the reassurance that both Government and the police will always take very, very seriously the security of the Jewish community and other minorities who may be subjected to hate crimes and violence?

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I can absolutely provide that reassurance to my right hon. Friend. In fact, this weekend, following that tragedy, I spoke to the head of the Community Security Trust to offer that reassurance. It is an organisation that we are proud to support, but we want to look at new ways of helping the community with its security needs. It is sad, in this day and age, that any community needs security of that type but, for as long as they do, we will always be there. Tonight, I will also be attending a vigil to mark the terrible tragedy at Pittsburgh.

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The perpetrator of the Pittsburgh murders has a history of posting the most vile antisemitism, Islamophobia and threatening comments. Similarly, the man suspected of sending pipe bombs to prominent Democrats threatened the life of a political commentator via a tweet a few months ago, but Twitter said that it did not violate its online guidelines. In the wake of these terrible tragedies, what are the Government doing to address the very serious issue of online hate?

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The hon. Lady is again right to raise this matter. We have seen the role that social media is playing not just in Britain, but abroad, in feeding hate. That is one reason why the Government recently refreshed our anti-hate strategy and that is exactly one of the things that we will be looking into further.

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This summer, Rugby saw a number of illegal Gypsy and Traveller encampments on new housing sites. Our local councillor, Jill Simpson-Vince, brought together developers and Warwickshire police to put a protocol in place. Can the Secretary of State encourage others to follow Warwickshire’s lead?

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Yes, I can.

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T2. What progress has the Minister made in compensating Windrush victims who have been made homeless and jobless by the Government’s hostile environment project? [907334]

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. He will know that Martin Forde QC recently asked the Government, and we agreed, to extend the consultation period for the compensation scheme so that we can make sure that we get the best responses possible and so that he can engage more widely with the community. In exceptional circumstances, the Home Office has already made payments to some individuals.

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Meat and fish processing businesses in my constituency rely heavily on migrant workers. Many of their staff are highly skilled even though their skill is not formally recognised by a qualification. What steps are the Government taking to make sure that these sorts of skills are properly recognised in our future immigration policy?

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Our food and drink industry is vital to the success of our economy and I know that many Cornish businesses are very successful in this sector. I can reassure my hon. Friend that we will be taking these issues very seriously as we develop our new immigration system.

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T3. My constituent, Mr Jenkins, was born and bred in Bridgend. His wife of more than 20 years has been told that she has to leave the day before their child’s 18th birthday. Why? What sort of hostile environment destroys family life in that way? [907335]

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If the hon. Lady would care to write to me, I will look closely at the case that she has mentioned.

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Next March will see the 40th anniversary of the brutal assassination of Airey Neave on these premises. Airey Neave’s family, my constituents, are seeking more information about the circumstances of the murder. I have been told that my questions on this have been transferred from the Northern Ireland Office to the Home Office. Will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary agree to meet me and Airey Neave’s family to discuss how they can get answers on how and why Airey Neave was murdered 40 years ago?

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Yes, I will.

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T4. What will the Home Secretary do to help police forces to prioritise resources when they are faced with cannabis clubs, of which most members require cannabis for medicinal reasons, and an epidemic of Spice at the same time, which poses very serious risks to both health and law and order—both are class B drugs? [907336]

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Operating priorities are local decisions, but what I can tell the hon. Lady is that the priority of the Department is to make sure that the police have the resources that they need to do their job, which is why we took steps to increase public investment in our police.

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May I seek an assurance from the Minister that any revised immigration policy will reflect the needs of the farming and fishing community in Scotland and indeed the whole of the UK?

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I can give my hon. Friend that assurance, and that is one reason why we recently launched a pilot for a seasonal workers agricultural scheme for 2019.

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T5. In the west midlands we have lost over 2,000 police officers and violent crime is on the rise. Will the Home Secretary look again at funding for West Midlands police and reverse the imposition of extra pension costs? [907337]

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I am sure that the hon. Lady is aware that West Midlands received more funding this year— £9.9 million—in a police funding settlement that she voted against. I will be coming to the House in early December with our proposals for 2019-20.

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Town centres are at the heart of the Erewash community, but on occasion they can become the target for antisocial behaviour brought on by the misuse of drugs and alcohol. What more can be done to ensure a visible police presence in our town centres, and does my hon. Friend agree that sharing back-office functions with other emergency services to free up resources may be one solution?

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I am delighted to be visiting my hon. Friend on Friday to see for myself the hard work that she does in taking care of her constituents, working alongside her local police force. This Government support greater collaboration and have placed a statutory duty on police, fire and ambulance services to keep collaborative opportunities under review and enter into them in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness.

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A single sentence of Hobhousian liberalism—Wera Hobhouse.

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T6. Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of most of our economy, including in my Bath constituency. However, they face many challenges in recruiting the talent they need, so will the Minister consider reforming the tier 2 visa system to make it easier and remove the prohibitive costs for smaller employers to recruit highly skilled overseas graduates from UK universities? [907338]

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I think that sentence contained quite a lot of semi-colons.

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I share the hon. Lady’s admiration for small and medium-sized businesses the country over. The immigration system already facilitates recruitment of foreign graduates of UK universities by waiving many of the usual requirements. We will shortly be setting out our plans for the future immigration system, following the recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee.

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Following on from my Adjournment debate on the subject and a letter from 20 police and crime commissioners, will the Minister confirm that he shares my concerns about the impact of Mamba and Spice on communities such as Mansfield and consider potential solutions to support local police and other services in tackling this issue?

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I salute the tireless campaigning by my hon. Friend and others. Spice is a scourge of many town centres at the moment. We take independent advice on classification and we keep that independent advice under review.

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T8. Tomorrow, Martha Fernback would have turned 21, but sadly her young life was cut short when at 15 she took an overdose of ecstasy. Her mother, Anne-Marie, now campaigns tirelessly for a new, evidence-based approach to drugs policy. Will the Secretary of State consent to meeting Anne-Marie to hear why she believes a new approach is necessary? [907340]

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I am of course very sorry to hear that, as I am sure the entire House is. The hon. Lady will know that the Home Secretary has commissioned an independent review of drugs so that we may understand better how they are used in the 21st century, and I would of course be honoured to meet her and her constituent to discuss this.

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When we leave the European Union, we will of course have control of all aspects of immigration policy. Does the Home Secretary agree that we can then prioritise higher-skilled immigration as a way of boosting our nation’s productivity?

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Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. That is exactly what we will do, and we will set out the approach in the White Paper in a few weeks.

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T9. Since 2010, Northumbria Police have had funding cuts of £140 million and seen 1,000 jobs lost. Now it faces an additional cost from employer pension contributions of £11 million, which is equivalent to 220 officers. Has the Minister pressed the Treasury to fund that cost before even more police jobs are lost? [907341]

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The hon. Lady’s local police force will be getting an extra £5 million this year, and she will also know that later this year we will have the policing settlement—something that I know she will look forward to.

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The seasonal agricultural workers pilot scheme was warmly welcomed both by farmers and by agricultural bodies across the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Will the Minister update farmers in my constituency on when further detail will be released? [Interruption.]

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Order. I hope the Minister heard her hon. Friend.

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indicated assent.

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She did. Otherwise we would have to have a reprise.

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I thank my hon. Friend for her question. I was delighted to go to her constituency over the summer to meet soft fruit farmers who made a compelling case for a seasonal workers scheme. She will no doubt be delighted that the Government are having a pilot in the horticultural sector to make sure that it can access the labour that it needs.

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Where is that new young Member, John Spellar? Ah, there he is. Let’s hear the fella.

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T10. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I hope the Home Secretary will answer this question, because the reality is that in the West Midlands police area, crime is escalating and the overstretched, understaffed police are feeling deeply frustrated as the criminals and the gangs take control of the streets, especially at night. When is he going to stop the rot and give the backing and the resources to our police out there on the street every day? [907342]

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The right hon. Gentleman will know that West Midlands police had an increase of almost £10 million this year. However, it is always worth listening to local forces. I am happy to meet west midlands MPs, as I have done in the past, and to listen more.