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Mr. McCabe: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do the official Opposition require a quorum when it is their motion that is being debated? I can see only four of them in the Chamber.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: As the hon. Gentleman knows, he is making a political point, not a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Oaten: So, these applications are not just in-country applications. We need to acknowledge that a number of outside-country applications are involved.

The third allegation, which is by far the most serious, relates to the Cameron e-mail, as we might best describe it. Cameron clearly claims that normal checks were being waived in respect of certain countries that are among the next wave of EU member countries, and the Home Secretary is right to say that that claim is serious. Cameron's memo states that

That hard-hitting statement raises a number of serious issues and, as the Home Secretary has acknowledged, concern also exists about the activities of certain lawyers. The Cameron memo also states that there is evidence that one lawyer helped more than 500 applicants. Incidentally, such help cost each client between £1,000 and £2,000. Those are serious allegations, and I should make it absolutely clear that we have no time for a system that allows clearly bogus applicants to fast-track the system in that way. We are

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also extremely concerned about the activities of certain lawyers, and when the Minister responds I hope that she can say a little more about what is being done to crack down on them. It is clear that a rip-off is taking place in some of those countries, and that there is another, hidden story behind the detail.

Those are the allegations, and although I accept that the Minister does not have a case to answer in respect of the first two, there is a strong need for a proper inquiry into the third. I am disappointed that the Home Secretary did not acknowledge that such an inquiry should be independent; instead, he wants to establish another internal Home Office inquiry.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need to examine how a climate has been created within a Government Department in which such short cuts can be contemplated? Surely one reason is that this Government are being target-driven by public relations presentation, in order to justify certain policies in a difficult environment. That is one key reason why nobody has any confidence in what the Government say any more.

Mr. Oaten: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point that touches on my opening remarks. While we live in this climate, which was caused in large part by his own party, Ministers will adopt a public relations, target-driven approach, rather than tackling and talking about the issues in an honest and up-front way.

Mr. Watson: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on taking on this issue in a cool and sober way, and on the fact that more Liberal Democrats are present than Conservatives, even though it is a Conservative-initiated debate. He talks about the need for a proper debate, but does he agree with the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), who said that immigration was

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this debate has more to do with Conservative PR than with the real issue of fraud?

Mr. Oaten: There are surely some among the so-called official Opposition who believe that this issue will help them to win votes at the next general election. However, it did not seem to do the Conservatives much good when they raised it during the 1997 and 2001 elections. So one of three allegations is serious and worthy of investigation, and I say again to the Home Secretary that I am disappointed that such an investigation will not be independent.

I turn to the allegation that is not talked about, but which constitutes the wider problem: the underlying culture within the Departments and the way in which they are run. The Sutton report considered this issue in some detail and raised a number of concerns. It is a great pity, incidentally, that the report was pushed out last week, on a day when endless Government announcements were made. As a result, it did not receive the coverage and detailed examination that it deserved. Sutton revealed a serious breakdown in the managerial

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process. Some of its recommendations are quite remarkable. Recommendation No. 5 says that the immigration and nationality directorate should produce for all staff a guidance note outlining how IND policy is developed. That is breathtaking. No Department should need to produce guidance notes on its own policy. If such guidance was necessary, it should have been provided ages ago, rather than being provided now in the form of a recommendation.

Recommendation No. 6 says that all staff new to IND at grade 7 or 6 should undergo training on policy and working with Ministers. It is breathtaking that such policy guidance and training was not in place to begin with. The fact that it was necessary for an internal inquiry to recommend that training be given to staff on how to work with Ministers illustrates that a complete failure has occurred.

Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman's point reinforces what I said earlier, and describes the difficulties that officials encounter in interpreting Ministers' policy guideline wishes. As a result, a breakdown in communication occurs, and such a breakdown is surely squarely the responsibility of both the Minister and the Secretary of State.

Mr. Oaten: One of two things is being demonstrated. The Department failed because proper training was not in place and policy guidance was not given to officials in the first place; or Ministers' new guidance is so complex, or it changes so quickly, that front-line staff have been unable to keep up. Whichever of those is true, it is clear that something has gone wrong.

Recommendation No. 7 is also breathtaking. It says that technical expertise should be included for those deciding cases. Of course it should. The implication—that those deciding cases did not have the technical expertise in the first place—is astonishing. If we are to have confidence in the system, the individuals involved in complex cases should have such expertise in the first place. Why were they allowed to do what is a complex job for such a long time without the necessary skills and knowledge? We should not need to wait for an internal inquiry to come up with such an obvious and basic recommendation. There is a serious case to answer in respect of that fourth allegation, but Sutton touches on only some of the managerial problems that existed.

I want to ask a few questions of the Minister and the Home Secretary, and to discuss the list placed by the Home Secretary in the Library last night concerning the backlog clearance process that has taken place since the 1980s. I acknowledge that that principle and that process began under Conservative Governments, but does the Home Secretary not accept that his Government have gone further than the Conservatives in respect of backlog clearing? Why was it decided that the BRACE scheme would kick in only after a 12-month delay? He has changed the guidelines, and the scheme now kicks in after a three-month delay. Is that not a clear acknowledgement that the system is getting out of control?

Can the Minister say more about the plan to tackle the clear pressure to which the IND is being subjected? In his Library note, the Home Secretary said that he believed that the introduction of charges for

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applications on leave to remain would give the IND an opportunity to invest more, and to move towards "high standards". It is true that from 1 August 2003, there has been a big increase in the charges for applications. Can the Minister explain where that money is going, how much money has been raised by that increase in the charge and how much money has gone directly to improving the quality of IND and exactly how many extra staff will be employed? There is clearly a pressure, a backlog and a burden on staff, and I hope that the Minister can explain how many additional staff will be employed to clear that backlog.

What is the position of the so-called whistleblowers? Where do Mr. Moxon and Mr. Cameron stand in relation to their employment? Are they both under investigation? What kind of hearing will they have? Have either of them broken any codes that they signed in relation to employment? Based on what I have heard in relation to Mr. Cameron, I have concerns about the way in which a consul or other diplomat, who must surely be privy to extremely privileged information, has operated in sending that e-mail.

While I want a system in place that protects whistleblowers, I acknowledge that some individuals, especially in consulates or embassies, hold positions of enormous trust. I do not necessarily argue that the two individuals who have been referred to should be reinstated. That is one of my concerns about the Conservative motion, which implies that those individuals should be praised as heroes and reinstated. I do not take that line, but I hope that the Minister will explain that they will be treated fairly and under which codes of conduct they will be processed.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying his attitude to civil servants. I welcome what he said about whistleblowers, but when it comes to disciplinary action is it not the duty of the House to avoid political interference? The matter should surely be one for the civil service.

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