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Corporate Killing

Mr. Frank Doran accordingly presented a Bill to create a new offence of corporate killing that applies to all companies and unincorporated bodies: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 21 May, and to be printed [Bill 84].

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Opposition Day

[8th Allotted Day]

Immigration Entry Clearance Standards

Mr. Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

12.42 pm

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I beg to move,

Before I start on the substantive motion, may I, through the Home Secretary, offer the congratulations of the Opposition—and, I suspect, all hon. Members—to the security services and the police on the remarkable operation that they carried out today, thwarting, we believe, a major terrorist attack?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his words. I believe that we all give considerable thanks to the security services and the counter-terrorism branch, which have done and are doing a first-class job of securing our safety. We now wish to ensure that due process of law takes its course and that the public, especially in those local communities, are reassured both of the adequacy of policing, and that we have in hand any other measures that might be necessary to secure social cohesion.

David Davis: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that.

Today's debate is about the effective collapse of immigration controls in this country. Let us start by recognising the origins of that catastrophic failure. In May 1997, the Labour Government tore up all our policies on immigration and asylum. In particular, they got rid of the so-called white list, restraints on benefits and the agreement with the French Government. The result was an increase of 200,000 incomers per annum in the UK in the first five years of the Labour Government. It is therefore no wonder that the immigration and nationality directorate was collapsing under the strain.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Davis: I will give way in a minute.

That is why the Government have a problem. It is why they are mounting a pathetic attempt to blame everyone else—the civil service, the right-wing press including the

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Daily Mirror, and now the Conservatives. That is daft. We did not face half a million incomers every year, because we got our strategy right.

What emerges from the documents—[Interruption.] I am sure that hon. Members will be on their feet today. What emerges from the documents that we have seen so far—and the new documents that I am releasing today—is a picture of civil servants—honourable, committed and hardworking—who are struggling under impossible burdens.

Several hon. Members rose—

David Davis: I will give way in a moment. I see that we have a good set of Government Whips' plants today—almost vegetables, one might say.

These are civil servants who were instructed to hit clearance targets with no consideration for the quality or purpose of the work that they do. Civil servants are being instructed to do—

David Taylor: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Davis: I will give way in a moment.

Civil servants are being instructed to do things that they believe are improper or even illegal. We are clear from what they say, explicitly, that the collapse has happened over the past two or three years, not 10 or 20 years. It emerges also that these civil servants are the heroes of the piece, not the villains, as Ministers have intimated during the past few weeks.

I give way to the first plant.

David Taylor: I will resist the temptation to turn this intervention into a point of order that ends in my instructing my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) for being called a Government Whips' plant.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether that golden asylum and immigration legacy to which he is referring, which the Government inherited on 1 May 1997, included an average time to deal with applications of almost two years? Does he not believe that that played some part in the problems that have been encountered since then?

David Davis: I shall remind the hon. Gentleman of the figures, if he wants to talk numbers. I always enjoy bandying numbers with Whips' plants. In our last year in office, I think that there were 35,000 applicants, compared with 125,000 in Labour's first year in office.

I shall move on to the sequence of events.

Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Davis: I will give way in a moment—I will give another plant a chance.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk) (Con): Speaking as a Whip non-plant, perhaps I could strengthen the evidence that my right hon. Friend is giving the House by telling him that over the past two to

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three years the Breckland district council, which covers part of my constituency, has calculated that between 15,000 and 20,000 migrant workers have arrived in its district area. It has no means of knowing whether they are here legally or illegally. It has been extremely difficult to raise concerns among Ministers about whether these people are protected, catered for, dealt with or in any way rendered less vulnerable than invisible people will be.

David Davis: My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. She flags up something that I had not intended to raise, but I think it important: that is, that the issue has serious implications. The proper management of immigration in its totality has an important role in improving or maintaining good community relations, reducing or controlling the burdens on societies and protecting the people themselves. As the cockle pickers' incident demonstrated only too clearly—it took the Government six weeks to convene a ministerial meeting—everyone is affected, including people coming into the country.

I shall go through the events of the past few weeks. Three weeks ago, the civil servant, Steve Moxon, revealed that immigration officials in Sheffield had been ordered by senior managers to drop key checks on migrants coming to Britain under the European Community Association Agreement. First, the Home Office denied it categorically again and again. Eventually, the Minister was forced to admit that the allegations were correct. However, she did not tell us the full facts.

The Immigration Minister told the House that the decision to waive checks was "rare and untypical". Now we have learned that it applied to bogus students, sham marriages, people with dubious immigration histories—in fact, it applied to anyone whose application was more than three months old. In effect, this meant granting visas on the back of spurious and demonstrably false claims. As one civil servant in the immigration and nationality directorate wrote in a letter this weekend,

the Crown Prosecution Service—

That is the view from the front line—not from the ministerial suite, but from the front line of the immigration and nationality directorate. If virtually all applications were being granted, how on earth can we believe the Minister's claim that the practice of rubber-stamping was rare and untypical?

The Immigration Minister also told the House that the decision to sanction such a policy was taken at a junior level in Sheffield. She told us that she had had nothing to do with it. This week we learned that the Minister had sanctioned a much broader policy. The memo that ordered civil servants to grant all applications over three months old stated:

So how can the Immigration Minister deny all knowledge of this practice, when she ordered it in the first place?

Mr. Watson: When the right hon. Gentleman received the e-mail from Bucharest on 8 March, did he consider

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it his duty to submit the evidence to the Sutton investigation? Why did he wait three weeks to bring it to the notice of the House?

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