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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].
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.
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.
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 farand the new documents that I am releasing todayis a picture of civil servantshonourable, committed and hardworkingwho are struggling under impossible burdens.
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.
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.
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
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 clearlyit took the Government six weeks to convene a ministerial meetingeveryone 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 historiesin 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 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: