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5.32 pm

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): The Bill is fairly adequate and can be considerably improved. I am sure that we shall have the opportunity to improve it as it proceeds. I begin by describing what my constituents—and, I am sure, those of many other hon. Members—perceive as the problem that we are trying to resolve. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), who is no longer in his place, denied that there was a problem.

The problem is a gross overflow of asylum seekers and other immigrants to this country, to the extent that 20 per cent. of the population of London are of ethnic minority origin, and 80 per cent. of the population of the country want better control of the immigration process. It is evident that the Home Office has no idea of the numbers. It produces a variety of statistics on different occasions and challenges the information that organisations such as Migrationwatch UK provide. The Home Office believes that there are 45,000 people from Colombia in this country, whereas the Colombian embassy believes that the figure is 250,000. Perhaps both are wrong.

In such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that people are prepared to say what they would have been ashamed to say 10 years ago. According to a recent poll, between a third and a half of the population accepts that, as individuals, they are "mildly racist". The term has been abused so much and applied to so many that people think that, if it is racist to question the number of migrants to this country, they are prepared to admit that it applies to them. I do not believe that it is racist to challenge the number of migrants, and it is not wrong for the Government to act to put right the deficiencies of the immigration system that my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) outlined so effectively.

The 200,000 or so people who come to this country every year put huge pressure not only on London but on the outer boroughs, the countryside around London and as far away as my constituency. It is no surprise that, when 200,000 people a year come to this country and 200,000 new houses are required in the south-east every year, people see a connection.

That situation will become even worse when the new countries join the European Union shortly. It is estimated that, as a result of the Nice treaty, 72 million people will be entitled to live in this country, although not all of them will come here. The draft constitution that we just escaped having imposed upon us last weekend provided for immigration to become a joint competence and therefore out of the control of the House altogether. That is not something that I find satisfactory.

I am glad that the Government—unlike the Liberal Democrats—recognise that there is a problem and that they are taking some steps to resolve it. However, those steps are meagre and inadequate, for various reasons. As the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said, it would be better if we could also get the processes right, but that does not absolve the Government of responsibility to put through this legislation, with some amendments.

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Let us look at what is wrong with the Bill, because there is quite a lot. Clause 7 is certainly open to criticism, and one of the problems was that the Home Office had not briefed that clause 7 meant that children would be taken into care, while No. 10 Downing street had briefed to that effect. The Minister did not deny that No. 10 had provided that briefing; she denied that the Home Office had done so—

Beverley Hughes: That was not the claim.

Mr. Turner: That is indeed what was claimed. The Minister will have heard the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry). I am not an expert on these matters, but it seemed to me that the Home Office was delivering an honest briefing while No. 10 was issuing a briefing thought to be more suitable for the columns of the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Perhaps that is where the problem arises.

If children will be taken into care as a result of the implementation of clause 7, would it not be more useful if some of the responsible bodies contributed charitably to the sustenance and support of those children, so that they did not have to be taken into care? I refer to bodies such as the Law Society, Liberty, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, Justice, the Refugee Council, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and a host of others that constantly try to undermine the efforts of this Government and previous ones to control the number of migrants to this country. Their making such a contribution would be a much more useful and effective use of their time and energy.

I referred in an intervention on the Home Secretary to one of the key problems, which is that too many lawyers are making too much money by giving inadequate advice—in some cases, wholly inadequate advice—to people, and raising their hopes in the way that the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington described. I have two examples of that. The first involves a man of Chinese origin who was advised by a mainland lawyer to get a letter from his Member of Parliament—that is, me—to support his application. I am not competent to provide a letter saying anything other than what that person has told me. I do not undertake investigations into whether people are telling me the truth. Why is his lawyer advising him to get a letter from a Member of Parliament, as though that would make a difference to the process? The unsupported word of a Member of Parliament written on the basis of unsupported evidence provided by someone who may have been resident in his constituency for less than a fortnight certainly should not make a difference.

The second, similar example is that of a person who came to this country from Italy, claimed asylum and spent six months going through the asylum process. He was subsequently convicted of rape. A number of statutory agencies gave information in support of him and his family remaining in the country, which turned out not to be supported by the information that he and his wife subsequently gave.

Keith Vaz: Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the Government should take away the right of Members of Parliament to make representations in immigration cases. Clearly, we must accept what our

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constituents say to us. It is an important right to be able to make representations to Ministers, and to leave it to Ministers and officials to make the decision.

Mr. Turner: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Indeed, it is an important right for us to make representations, but it is not the right of someone who has lived in a constituency for two weeks to demand that a Member of Parliament supply a letter. It is certainly wrong for a lawyer supported from the public purse to advise someone that they have that right.

Jeremy Corbyn: Surely any constituent has a right to go to his Member of Parliament. Whether his Member of Parliament makes representations is down to that Member of Parliament. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his remark that people have no right to do that. Everyone has a right to go to their MP.

Mr. Turner: I said that that person had no right to expect such a letter. That is what I intended to say anyway, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I did not make that clear.

I should like to move on to some improvements that could be made to the Bill. Representing the Isle of Wight, I am well aware of the fantasy island argument, which I believe originated with my friend in the European Parliament, Tim Kirkhope, who produced a paper for my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) when he was shadow Home Secretary. If we implement my right hon. Friend's other proposals, it is important that we find a place where those who end up in this country can be placed pending a decision, whether that decision is taken by the British Government or by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In my view, it is appropriate that people in those circumstances should be confined and not able to move out into the community. One way of doing that is to put them at some distant place offshore. That may be a British dependent territory, or there may be other territories where those arrangements could be made. [Hon. Members: "Where?"] I hear what hon. Members say. I am not in a position to tell them where it is, but that is the sort of place that we—and the Government if they are wise—should be looking for. It should be somewhere from which people do not have the right to return to this country.

We should consider providing temporary leave to remain for asylum seekers if we believe that circumstances may change in their home country. There are many Iraqis in this country who will be grateful for the changes that have taken place in Iraq recently, but we should ask whether they are entitled to remain here indefinitely, because they came here when there were problems in their home country.

I welcome the proposals on loss of documentation. I hope that that provision will not operate to the disadvantage of British carriers. If people arrive on these shores in carriers from other countries, perhaps those carriers should be persuaded to provide a bond for their good behaviour.

Will the Home Secretary consider more effective coastal controls? We have the coastguard, Customs and Excise and the immigration and nationality directorate,

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and between them they cover the 57 miles of coastline in my constituency, most of which is rural, for half a day a week if we are lucky. I think that there should be a single agency to cover coastal security, because not just immigration but smuggling needs to be covered. I also think that the immigration service should have the power to enforce removals, so that the police need not be involved.

As I have said, great improvements could be made to the Bill, and I hope that that will be possible in Committee. As I told the Home Secretary earlier, he is making difficult judgments and there are no simple solutions, but it is not right for children to be used as a weapon by the Home Secretary to effect the removal of their parents, or for them to be used as a weapon by their parents to secure the acquiescence of our immigration policy in their remaining unlawfully in this country.

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