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Mr. Oaten: I entirely accept that. I hope that the process that the Minister sets out for any disciplinary action will be independent and clear and will be undertaken according to the proper codes. I am sure that it will.

Mr. David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion) (Lab): Is the hon. Gentleman acknowledging that there is a proper process in place for whistleblowers to report their concerns and have them investigated and that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has announced extensions to that process with a website and a hotline? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that what we heard from the official Opposition earlier suggested that no such system was in place and that the only recourse for civil servants who are concerned about certain practices is to shoot off e-mails or messages to the press or the official Opposition?

Mr. Oaten: I do not accept that. Clearly, in this case, the individuals did not feel able to go to senior managers and they decided to send e-mails in a different direction.

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So there has been a problem with the process, and the climate in the Department is not one in which individuals feel that they can go through the proper process. For whatever reasons, the individuals involved felt that they had to go to the tabloid press or Opposition parties. So there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Mr. Cameron: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that Mr. Moxon's options were effectively closed down because he sent an e-mail to the Minister's private office and received no answer for two months? He could not really go to his senior officials because they were the ones who had apparently introduced the illegal policy without consulting Ministers. What was he meant to do?

Mr. Oaten: I accept that Mr. Moxon made a number of attempts to send an e-mail to the Minister, but the process by which whistleblowers should raise a concern should not involve sending an e-mail to the Secretary of State or the Minister of State. They should understand that those Ministers will be bombarded by endless e-mails. If the system is to work properly, there has to be someone within an organisation whom employees can approach rather than having to go to a national newspaper or to a Minister. Clearly there has been a failure and it needs to be addressed. Proper procedures need to be put in place.

Mr. Watson: Given that it took the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) two weeks to answer his e-mails, can we forgive my colleague on the Front Bench for not taking note of some of hers?

Mr. Oaten: I am sure that none of us wants to examine how long it takes us to respond to e-mails at any given time.

As the Home Secretary has acknowledged, there was valid criticism of the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen for jumping slightly too quickly in their relationship with Mr. Moxon. I am on the record as saying that I met Mr. Moxon in the morning and it was clear to me that he was a troublemaker. Just a few alarm bells started to ring in my mind. They did not seem to ring down the corridor in a different office. However, the Conservative Front-Bench team seems to have learned a lesson in relation to the Cameron e-mail. I accept, as the Home Secretary accepts, that it was right not to draw conclusions immediately from an e-mail—e-mails are not signed—but to take some time to check out the source. So on this occasion we can excuse the Conservatives for the delay in responding.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (UUP): I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's generosity in taking yet another intervention. He has criticised the wording of the Opposition motion in a particular regard. Is it his opinion that the allegations made by the shadow Home Secretary—I wrote down the words that he used at the time—of "collusion", "cover-up" and "incompetence" are extremely serious when there is not a shred of evidence that the Minister of State or the Home Secretary authorised any such activity? Will the hon. Gentleman comment on the serious words used by the shadow Home Secretary?

Mr. Oaten: The hon. Lady has a valid point. The shadow Home Secretary was clear in the language that

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he used and the allegations that he made. I shall come shortly to those allegations and how they relate to the Minister of State. They are important. One of the only ways in which we shall clear up the allegations is to set up an independent review. The hothouse of allegations around here means nothing. An independent review could check whether such allegations have any merit.

Mr. Grieve: The hon. Gentleman may agree that the evidence is already pretty clear that the Government have been at some pains at departmental levels to avoid publicising some of the things that they have been doing in relation to entry clearance. We have that on the documentation that has become available.

In terms of the Government's way of going about their business, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is already pretty clear that on that level there has been a cover-up?

Mr. Oaten: The phrase "cover-up" can be interpreted in many different ways. When it comes to the serious matter of asking a Minister to resign, do we believe that a general allegation that the Government have covered something up is a resigning issue? I argue that it is not. All Governments manage their stories to put across the best message. For goodness sake, if people had to resign for doing that, none of us would be left in this Chamber.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Apart from you.

Mr. Oaten: Not even me.

I move on to the timing in relation to the applicants who were so close to the 1 May deadline and EU accession. I understand that in a busy office with a pile of papers to go through one might say, "What is the point of rejecting this application when in just a few months, on 1 May, this national will have full EU membership? Let's just let this one go through." But the Government have a policy of taking other applications right up to the 30 April deadline. They have made it clear that for asylum applications from the Czech Republic the deadline should be 30 April. Surely there has to be some consistency. What guidance is being issued in relation to applicants from countries that are just a couple of weeks away from becoming EU members?

The Home Secretary has announced that he is suspending all immigration applications from Bulgaria and Romania. Is the Minister comfortable with that? Has the decision been legally checked? Is the process legal? Does she believe that the decision could be challenged legally? If it is legal and necessary due to the concerns of the Home Office, does she believe that there is a case for widening it to apply to other countries? Is she sure that the kind of practice that Mr. Cameron has exposed in Bulgaria and Romania is not taking place in other countries? Surely there is a case for the investigation that the Home Office has announced into those countries to be expanded to consider practice in other countries; otherwise, we may have to have another debate in six months' time, after we have had another leaked memo from a different consul in a different part of the world.

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I come to the sensitive issue of the Minister's position. I have found the Minister to be able and polite, and during the passage of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill, my colleagues and I found her to be open, frank, honest, helpful, clear and plain-speaking. I have nothing but respect for the Minister. I have never, in seven years of doing this job, called for another politician to resign. That is done on a knee-jerk basis, far too often and I am uncomfortable with the constant calls for individuals to resign. However, on this occasion, I have had to consider the issue, because the press have asked me endlessly whether I support the Conservatives' calls for the Minister to resign.

In considering the issue, I have had to analyse several points. First, did the Minister ignore warnings from officials? The Sutton inquiry found that she did not ignore the warnings on the specific allegations and that in fact some of those warnings did not get through to her. On that ground, there is no case. Secondly, did the Minister mislead the House? That is one of the most serious allegations that can be made and is a reason for individuals to resign if they have done so. Again, despite some of the comments in the memo in The Sunday Times about the Minister knowing about the process, I am clear that there is a difference between her authorising that process and the allegations that were made when she came to the House on 8 March.

Thirdly, has the Minister got to grips with the management process? Sutton does set out some concerns about what is taking place in the Department. I know that the Minister has said on the airwaves that she has been responsible for sorting out the chaos and introducing procedures to try to improve matters. However, she still has a case to answer on some of the problems in her Department. Fourthly, should a Minister be held to account for managerial failures? That is the most complex and difficult question because increasingly Ministers say—with some justification—that something is an operational issue, and not a ministerial responsibility. However, the extension of that argument leads to questions of where democratic accountability lies and where the buck stops. There are concerns that the Minister has not got to grips with the managerial process.

In the circumstances, it does not appear to me that a case can be made for the Minister to resign. That is why we have not supported such calls. However—and I hope that the Minister and the Home Secretary will consider this—because of the public concern about what has happened in the Department, Ministers should agree to a full inquiry into the Cameron allegations, and a broadening of the remit of Sutton to examine the procedures in place in the immigration and nationality directorate. The concerns are so severe that a wider independent inquiry should take place. The Minister's future should be decided after that, and not in the hothouse of the television studios or the Chamber where it is too easy to call for resignations.

Those of us who wish to speak tolerantly about asylum and immigration—who wish to argue that the country is not going to be flooded and that we should have a mature debate—are undermined enormously if the information and figures from the Government are

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not accurate. That does not help us in making our case. That is why a full, independent and public inquiry into the facts should take place.

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