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David Davis: I could almost see the Whips' sheet in front of the hon. Gentleman when he was reading out the question. I have two points to make. I remind the hon. Gentleman and this arrogant Government that Ministers are accountable to Parliament, not the other way round. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to his own Home Secretary on the radio this morning, he would have heard him say that that was the responsible thing to do if one did not know the provenance of a piece of information. That is what I did until I could confirm the provenance of the document, which was last Wednesday night/Thursday. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should talk to his own Home Secretary. He was the one who said that that was the right thing to do. The Whips' plants should get their act together.

I shall excite the Whips' plants now. In the past few days, documents that have been sent to me, which I am making public today, indicate that the decision to waive checks on ECAA applicants went wider and deeper than any previous memo suggests. These documents suggest that ministerial denials of responsibility are, frankly, incredible. I have given the Home Secretary a copy of the documents and placed a copy in the House of Commons Library. The story they tell is one of concerns ignored, warnings unheeded and objections overruled.

Last night the Minister of State claimed that she knew nothing of the allegations of the consul in Bucharest. That is difficult to believe when one looks at the facts. I have a letter written by Sir John Ramsden, a senior Foreign Office civil servant, to Chris Mace, who is the deputy director general of the immigration and nationality directorate. It was copied to Peter Wrench, the deputy director general in charge of policy. It is one of several accounts of the abuses of the ECAA scheme.

Let me read the House the key extracts. Sir John is writing about the ECAA scheme. He states:

the British Embassy in Bucharest—

He continues:

The letter goes on:

But the business case unit in the Home Office

He concludes:

Mr. Blunkett: I do not dispute for a moment that such allegations are deeply serious and should be dealt with

30 Mar 2004 : Column 1429

as such. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that any Minister approved the actions that he describes—that where previous fraudulent activity had been identified and where there was clearly illegal action, Ministers had told staff that they should ignore it and wave through the application?

David Davis: Unfortunately, the Home Secretary has teed me up well for my next paragraph. The letter was written to the Minister's senior civil servants in November 2002, six months after the Immigration Minister was appointed to her position. Are the Government seriously suggesting that she was not told? In which case, who is running the Department?

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Davis: In a moment.

Last night the Minister asked why the consul in Bucharest had not taken the matter up with his senior managers. Let me read to the House a letter that James Cameron wrote to the Home Office as far back as October 2002 to complain about the way in which ECAA applications were processed. He states that the Home Office

He continues:

He goes on:

the Home Office

Let us understand what this means in reality—what Mr. Cameron and his demoralised staff had to face. I shall give just a few examples of the people being let in under the scheme. I have concealed individual names to protect their identities. One example is a Ms A. who was a former British asylum seeker. All her claims for asylum and all her appeals were turned down in the mid-1990s. Facing deportation, Ms A. absconded. She was subsequently picked up by the police and removed from the UK in 1997—[Interruption.] Yes, picked up and removed. Exactly right—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. We must have order.

David Davis: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I need protection.

Ms A. was not, one would have thought, an ideal candidate for the ECAA scheme, yet in October 2002 she was granted an entry visa to the UK under the

30 Mar 2004 : Column 1430

scheme, under a Labour Government. Or consider Mr. N., whose application to the ECAA scheme was reviewed in March last year. The British embassy "strongly" recommended that Mr. N.'s application be refused because he had insufficient funds to support himself without recourse to public funds. The Home Office's response? "Entry cleared."

Many other examples of extraordinary ECAA applications include not least a range of builders who know nothing about bricks and mortar, and electricians who know nothing about electricity. A common factor in these applications was an inability to speak English. And the Home Office response? "Entry cleared."

Hugh Bayley: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Davis: No, I will not. I have given up.

Those are not one-off examples. It is an organised scam. It is well run and well known to the Home Office, yet instead of being tightened since these examples, the rules have been weakened. Yesterday the Home Secretary made a statement on organised crime. This is a prime example of organised crime. One of the excuses given by the Minister and the Prime Minister was that the vast majority of ECAA cases were already in the country legally, but that was all part of the scam.

I have a letter from the British embassy in Bulgaria to the immigration and nationality directorate in Croydon. It lists the names of 48 people who applied to come to the UK for four to six-day holiday visits from Bulgaria, with an organisation called Delfi Tours.

Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

David Davis: No, I will not—I want to finish this point.

More than three quarters of those who came to the UK on those holiday visas applied for ECAA status and never returned to Bulgaria. The vice-consul points out that Delfi Tours is

The letter states that that

The letter also states:

That letter was from the British vice-consul in Sofia to the immigration and nationality directorate in Croydon, and it was sent on 20 October 2002. How can Ministers seriously claim that they knew nothing about that?

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I will give way to the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Geraint Davies), who has a constituency point.

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