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Geraint Davies: When the right hon. Gentleman was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, he signed off a report showing that the previous Government's legacy on immigration was a computer system that did not arrive—hundreds of staff were sacked during that wait—and the loss of hundreds of files when the whole department moved from one office to another. Given that history and his intention to cut £600 million from the Home Office's budget, will he accept that the prospects of his managing the system any better are next to nil?

David Davis: Rather sadly, coming from an ex-member of the Public Accounts Committee, barely a point in that intervention was correct. The hon. Gentleman omitted to mention that the Passport Agency was famously computerised under this Government, and as a result one could not get a passport to leave the country—everybody could get in, but one could not get out. [Interruption.]

Geraint Davies rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

David Davis: I think that Mr. Speaker is protecting the hon. Gentleman from me.

We are discussing a massive well organised migration scam that civil servants had drawn to the attention of the Home Office, but Ministers did nothing about it. That is the central allegation that the Home Secretary must answer.

When my office spoke to Mr. Cameron last Thursday, he said that the concerns he raised could easily have been brought to my attention by any one of his demoralised staff. As the man in charge, however, he felt he should be the one to raise them. Frankly, he is a very brave man: at the end of the day, the buck stops with him, and the Minister should learn something from that.

This is not a question of one or two operational failures; what we have witnessed over the past month is an extraordinary outbreak of incidents that are symptomatic of a catastrophic failure of the system. It is a story of committed and loyal civil servants struggling to make a failing system work, and having their cries for help ignored.

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

David Davis: The hon. Gentleman is being ignored, so he knows how the civil servants feel.

Three weeks ago, I said that there had either been collusion, cover-up or simple incompetence; I am beginning to believe that it was all three.

I am glad to see that the Home Secretary recognised the magnitude of the problem this morning. That is why, as I understand it, he has announced a major investigation, with staff being sent to Bucharest and Sofia—the problem is here, not there—and the setting up of a hotline for civil servants who want to reveal

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problems without being set about by the Government public relations machine. I welcome those measures, which belatedly begin to recognise the size of the problem.

The Home Secretary must make a decision, however. Either he believes that what I have described is the result of systemic operational failure, in which case the Minister is to blame, or it is a failure of policy, in which case he is to blame. Whichever it is, somebody should shoulder responsibility for this disaster.

1.5 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

The allegations are serious and concern sensitive issues with profound implications for attitudes to immigration and for the actions of the Government, both now and in the future. [Interruption.] It is no good Conservative Members shouting, "Hear, hear", because they will not get any jokes or knockabout—these matters should be treated with the gravity that they deserve. This is not a knockabout occasion; this is supposed to be a serious debate. [Interruption.] When children shout, "Get on with it", they do themselves no service.

We should have a grown-up debate and examine the issues with the gravity that they deserve, and we should also understand the concerns that the issues raise with the public. Whatever the knockabout in this House, the concerns of the public affect not only how we do business but race and community relations, and wider immigration policy.

We should conduct the debate carefully: we should not duck the issues or underestimate the concerns, but we should not play into the hands of the British National party either.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South) (Lab): I do not recognise the system described by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis). I have to deal with many immigration and asylum cases in my constituency, and it is still exceedingly difficult for people from certain countries to get into the United Kingdom either to settle or as visitors, so I do not understand the big picture that he is painting. If, however, what he says contains some truth—it appears that it does—will the Home Secretary put the issue into perspective by discussing the order of magnitude of the people whom we are talking about compared with people who want to come to the United Kingdom from all parts of the world either to settle or as visitors?

Mr. Blunkett: I will happily do that for my hon. Friend and the House, and I intend to work through the

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allegations one by one. Today, I have announced the suspension of all applications from Romania and Bulgaria, and the fast track has already been suspended, as those who are familiar with the issue will know. I am instigating an immediate further inquiry, and, as the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), has said, I have indicated that staff should immediately go to Bucharest and Sofia to examine the further allegations.

Had the claims been made available to the Sutton inquiry, we would have taken them into account from 8 March. Unfortunately, the claims were not available, but as I indicated on the radio this morning, we are setting up a hotline and a website so that those who do not want to use the existing whistleblower procedures can feel free to speak without intimidation. That may disappoint The Sunday Times and other newspapers, because staff will have to report things through the system, not outside it. I promise them, however, that any allegations will be dealt with properly and sensitively.

We will pick up on the work of the National Criminal Intelligence Service. That was mentioned in Mr. Cameron's e-mail, which indicated that it was doing an excellent job—as it was, on the back of the conference that was held with the Foreign Office in November 2002 on dealing with the problems and opportunities of developments in south-east Europe. That was part of our recognition of the fact that organised criminality would undermine the case for accession to the European Union, undermine proper immigration procedures, and undermine our attack on drug smuggling. That led to allegations of the kind that have been reiterated today.

I mention the conference in November 2002 because the fresh material—not fresh in the sense that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden has had it for a long time, but in the sense that he has put it into the public arena—relates very much to what was happening in autumn 2002. Yes, Chris Mace and Peter Wrench did work for the Department then, but they have not done so for some considerable time. [Hon. Members: "So what?"] Conservative Members should not assume that we disagree with them just because they have a political hare running. Some of us agree that action should have been taken. Some of us—including the Minister of State and me—believe that if material is placed before senior management they should act on it. We are talking about allegations of fraud and forged documents. People who use false papers and have an immigration history that rules them out should be ruled out. It does not require a great deal of intelligence to recognise that, just common sense. [Interruption.] I hear another sedentary intervention saying that my right hon. Friend the Minister is to blame. How on earth can one blame her for actions taken in relation to the failure to follow through on allegations of the magnitude that I have described and have been alleged by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden?

The e-mail that was revealed last night was sent by Mr. Cameron on 8 March. That coincides exactly with the day on which my right hon. Friend the Minister set up the review to examine these issues. I do not dispute for a moment that the shadow Home Secretary did not know who had sent the e-mail, and I do not doubt his word in terms of its not being revealed until last

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Thursday, but I do think that it was irresponsible, having had that document and others, not to have placed them before the Sutton review.

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