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Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996

19. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): What representations he has received from the National Union of Journalists on the requirement on journalists to reveal their sources under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996. [155762]

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): To the best of my knowledge, none—I thought about approaching the NUJ to see whether I could access any of its sources of information from my Department, which would enormously reduce my blood pressure on a Sunday morning.

Mr. Dalyell : I want to declare a personal interest, of which I have informed a senior official at the Home Office: I am under pressure from defence lawyers and West Mercia police in relation to the revelation of sources on the brutal and callous murder of the Shrewsbury rose-grower, Hilda Murrell. What is the Home Secretary's general attitude to the use of the 1996 Act to put pressure on people to reveal sources?

Mr. Blunkett: My attitude is clear: it is not the job of the Government or the police to bring pressure to bear on MPs or other citizens to reveal their sources, but it is their duty to investigate and find out the facts. Investigation involves interrogating people, and it is open to the individual to reveal what they believe would be helpful in finding the truth—I hope that we are moving to find the truth in that historic case.

Leicestershire Police Authority

22. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): If he will make a statement on funding to the Leicestershire police authority. [155766]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): Leicestershire police authority will receive general grant funding of £102 million in 2004–05, an increase of £3.2 million or 3.25 per cent. over this year. In addition to that, it will receive more than £10 million for targeted programmes and capital provision. I understand that Leicestershire police authority has set a final budget of £138.1 million for next year—an increase of 6.1 per cent.

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Mr. Robathan : The Minister will know that the authority has had to increase its budget because it received some £4 million to £5 million less than it expected from the Government. The result has been an increase in council tax. Perhaps the Minister could explain to her colleagues in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister why council tax will have to go up in Leicestershire as a result of the mean-minded funding for the police by this Government.

Ms Blears: The hon. Gentleman would have known, had he been in his place earlier, that the police have

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received generous funding settlements in the past three years of some 30 per cent. Leicestershire will receive an increase of 3.25 per cent. this year, as well as a whole range of specific grants. The hon. Gentleman will know that his local force now has a record number of police officers out on the streets, with 45 more than in March last year and 210 more than in March 1997. It also has record numbers of police staff. I am sure that he welcomes those increases in policing and in reassurance for his local community.

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EU Enlargement (Free Movement of Workers)

3.31 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I wish to make a statement on the Government's approach to the accession of 10 countries to the European Union from 1 May. EU enlargement is extremely welcome to, and important for, our country. It is something to be celebrated. All parties in this House are in favour of enlargement. John Major played an important role in launching the process. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was instrumental in calling for early accession of the 10 countries.

After 1 May, citizens of accession states will be free to travel across all EU borders. Our position has always been clear—that the UK would benefit from all new EU citizens working legally, paying taxes and national insurance. That is an alternative to illegal working, which would fuel the sub-economy and undermine existing conditions of work. But we will take every step to ensure that our benefit system is not open to abuse. We have already tackled benefit tourism by tightening the habitual residence test. Today, we are building on that by announcing measures that will ensure that those who come here from the accession countries but do not work will not be able to claim benefits.

It is important to remember the positive aspects of migration. The UK is already benefiting from more than 20,000 accession nationals who have been granted work permits in the last two years. From 1 May, that requirement will be replaced by a workers registration scheme.

The United Kingdom has one of the most dynamic and successful economies in the world. Since 1997, our economy has experienced growth and prosperity greater than any other large state. Growth has been higher, we have created more sustainable jobs and we have lower levels of unemployment—almost half the levels of France and Germany—which is a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, and to the creativity and flexibility of the British labour market. We currently have more than 500,000 vacancies and will benefit from the skills, flexibility and willingness to work of those new migrant workers, as we have in the past.

To say that we will welcome legal migrants is not new. We set out our policy in our White Paper "Secure Borders, Safe Havens" two years ago. We have consistently developed legitimate and legal routes for managed migration, including issuing 175,000 work permits this year, compared with 40,000 in 1997. At the same time, we have balanced that by taking tough measures to clamp down on illegal working, abuse of the asylum system and clandestine entry into our economy.

We have radically overhauled the asylum system. Over 80 per cent. of asylum claims are now processed in under eight weeks. We now have the lowest asylum backlog for a decade—half the level that we inherited in 1997. We have halved the number of asylum claims from its peak in October 2002. We are removing record numbers of failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants. That balanced approach enables us to make the positive case for legal, managed migration.

The accession of new countries into the European Union opens up new opportunities for trade and labour market flexibility. That is why all EU countries and all

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political parties in the House welcomed expansion. That is why I am confirming today our decision to allow workers from the accession states access to our labour market, subject to certain sensible conditions.

When we first set out our position, only those countries with high levels of unemployment were planning to introduce restrictions on work for accession nationals. Since then, other countries have changed their stance. It clearly makes sense for us to ensure that our approach does not leave us exposed.

We will therefore introduce a new workers registration scheme to replace work permits for accession nationals. That will place an obligation on all accession nationals to register where they are working and for whom. Their right to work in the UK will depend on their being issued with a registration certificate. It will be incumbent on the employer to check that the employee has registered. That will provide a platform for the national identity card scheme under which, in time, all non-UK nationals will be required to register. That will help us to determine accurately how many new workers are in Britain, and in which sectors and types of employment. It will also assist with enforcement and inspection and enable us to react immediately if, against all the odds, there are destabilising effects on the labour market.

It is important to emphasise that the Government retain full discretion to remove all or part of the concessions at any time. We will not hesitate to do so if necessary. We will in any case tighten controls and deal with those who evade their responsibility by the employment of clandestine workers. I know that all decent employers will want to join with us in co-operating and rooting out those who exploit.

We will put before Parliament a set of affirmative regulations that will allow access to the labour market, while ensuring that our benefits system is not open to abuse.

This is a coherent and sensible package of measures that builds on the principles and policies laid out by the Government over the past three years. We believe that proper, legal, managed migration is good for Britain and fair to genuine workers from the accession countries. Whether they are plumbers or paediatricians, they are welcome if they come here openly to work and contribute. At the same time, it is clearly not right that people should be able to come here, fail to get a job and then enjoy access to the full range of public services and social security benefits.

Therefore, the second element of the package that we are announcing today is that those who wrongly believe that they can move here to claim benefits without working should be in no doubt that they cannot do so. They cannot draw benefits without themselves contributing to the rights and entitlements that should go hand in hand with the responsibilities and duties. For two years, possibly longer, we will require accession nationals to be able to support themselves. If they are unable to do so, they will lose any right of residence and will have to return to their own country.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will bring forward regulations to prevent access to benefits for those not working, and my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General will bring forward

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regulations to prevent them from claiming child benefit. We will also restrict access to other benefits such as social housing.

This package reinforces the balanced approach to immigration that I have spoken about within a clear set of rules. I reiterate that we welcome people, as we have throughout the centuries, to come to our country to work, to contribute and to be part of our society. We reject those from wherever they come who exploit our hospitality. This approach takes account of the simple reality that, under the treaty of accession, no EU member state has the right to interfere with freedom of movement. The issue, therefore, is on what basis people come to our country.

By taking these measures, we will ensure that those arriving in Britain can work for their living openly and honestly and are not drawn into the sub-economy. Those who wish to find a job will be free to do so; those who come for short periods will have the means to do so. In this way, we avoid any expensive bureaucracy and, at the same time, protect ourselves against clandestine work and the exploitation of the sub-economy. This is the right approach for Britain in the 21st century—fair on ourselves, fair on our new partners and tough on those who would abuse the system. I commend the new approach to the House.


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