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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman must respect the time conventions as well as everyone else.

2.36 pm

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): I look forward to the day when we hear the frank and unvarnished opinions of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson).

Control over borders should be a high priority for Members, in today's world more than ever. Many of our constituents say that there can be fewer high priorities and they expect us to hold the Government to account for the security of our borders and the soundness of the immigration system.

When something goes wrong, as it has plainly done on several occasions, we need to find out how bad the breakdown of the system is, the extent of what has gone wrong, how long it has been going on and the number of cases affected. Notwithstanding the remarks made from the Treasury Bench earlier, it is clear that something went wrong in the Sheffield department of the Home Office. Indeed, I thought that had been accepted on both sides of the House, but as I listened carefully to the Home Secretary earlier he seemed to be rowing back. He seemed to be trying to suggest that all the allegations made by Mr. Moxon had been disproved and that the Sutton report, to which I shall return in a moment, had completely exonerated the Government.

On Mr. Moxon, there seems to be an attempt in certain quarters to play the man rather than the ball—something with which we are all far too familiar. Whatever else may be the case about Mr. Moxon, his allegations turned out to be right. The Minister admitted that to the House and said that the procedures that had been followed would be withdrawn, so we do not need to go over that ground today. However, I remind the House that the Government's case then was not that everything was above board and that everything was going right; they said that something had gone wrong but that it was an isolated matter involving local guidance. On 8 March, the Minister told us that she knew nothing about what had gone wrong at the Sheffield office.

Today, we have heard new allegations that put a rather different complexion on the information that the right hon. Lady gave the House on 8 March and the Select Committee on Home Affairs the next day. They also overtake the Sutton report, which she set up—an internal inquiry by a senior civil servant from her own Department, albeit from a different part of the Department, but still an internal inquiry. The matters that have come up over the last day or so clearly overtake the Sutton report, whose remit restricted

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Mr. Sutton to looking into a particular range of issues in the Sheffield office. In the final report, which I have read, Mr. Sutton emphasised, above all, that the context for his inquiry was a limited proportion of the casework of the immigration and nationality directorate. That was what he put first and foremost.

The suggestion that the Home Secretary has confirmed in large measure today is that, in fact, the issues run much wider than those considered by Mr. Sutton and that there was far more irregularity than just that which he considered, covering far more issues. As Mr. Cameron apparently put in his e-mail—one could not do better than this—what was revealed at the Sheffield office earlier this month was just the "tip of the iceberg", and we now need to look at how much of the iceberg remains beneath the surface. Not only is the Sutton report completely overtaken by what has emerged subsequently, but the new matters, which are partly admitted at least, put a completely different complexion on what the right hon. Lady told the House and the Home Affairs Committee earlier this month.

The right hon. Lady told the House that the relaxed procedures employed by the Sheffield office, about which Mr. Moxon complained, related to people who were already legally in the country and who were seeking to extend their stay. In her statement to the House, she emphasised:

Yet in the new allegation, backed by documents, the case is clearly made that relaxed procedures were employed for such people, at least in Romania and Bulgaria, when they sought to enter the country in the first place.

According to Mr. Cameron—the man behind the report—the procedure involved thousands of applications from those seeking to enter or settle in Britain as students, spouses, au pairs, domestic servants, working holiday makers and dependant relatives of migrants already here. If that is right—it seems to have been admitted that it is right—I am afraid that it does not tally at all with the impression, given by the Minister on 8 March, that those involved were already in the country.

The Minister needs to tell us just what the state of her knowledge was about the allegations made by Mr. Cameron at the material time. If what Mr. Cameron is saying is right, the defences were down at every stage of the immigration control proceedings. They were down when the applicants applied to enter, and they were down again when people already in the country applied to the Sheffield office to stay.

How the fraud was dealt with is even more serious. Again, what has transpired puts a completely different complexion on what the right hon. Lady told the House. When she spoke in the House on 8 March, she was at pains to dismiss the question of fraud altogether. I remind her of her words:

Breaking away from what she said, we know from what Mr Cameron said that fraud was very much an issue. I have only seen reports of the e-mail sent from the British

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embassy in Romania, but it would seem that fraud was very much an alarming issue in the case of both Romania and Bulgaria. According the reports that I have seen, the e-mail says:

We have heard more details about that, the involvement of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, and the extent of bogus applications and irregularities among the legal profession.

I shall ask the Minister some questions that she has to answer today. Was she aware of the allegations being made by Mr. Cameron when she made statement to the House on 8 March? Was she aware of what he said then? If so, how can she possibly justify the way in which she dismissed the question of fraud out of hand, as she did not only on 8 March on the Floor of the House, but in her evidence to the Home Affairs Committee?

I turn now to the memo that we have heard about in a separate allegation. The right hon. Lady told the Home Affairs Committee on 9 March—the day after the statement—that the backlog had arisen as a result of matters that took place in the previous autumn. She referred to the BRACE procedure, but she said that it was a longstanding approach to backlogs that simply allowed caseworkers to use discretion if all the papers in certain cases, possibly marriage cases, were not there.

The memo, which has apparently come from two senior civil servants in the Minister's Department, clearly refers to an enhanced BRACE policy that was implemented in July 2003, with, it is said, the specific approval of the Minister. If so, it puts an entirely different complexion on what she told the Home Affairs Committee, when she said that the policy was not implemented until later last year and that it arose because of backlogs. Was she aware of that memo? Was the memo true? Was the policy implemented with her agreement in 2003—not in response to an individual case, as she told the House in response to the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), but on a much more widespread basis than she admitted to the hon. Gentleman?

The memo of July 2003 says:

Why did the Minister not refer to that memo when she appeared before the Home Affairs Committee? She had something to say about BRACE and the backlog procedures. Does the memo not put an entirely different complexion on the evidence about the Sheffield problems that she gave to the Home Affairs Committee?

Mr. Watson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clappison: I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, because time is limited.

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The Minister said that the Sheffield matters were all locally determined by staff and had arisen as a result of local problems with a backlog later in the year, but the policy was decided centrally and agreed by Ministers. The right hon. Lady should deal with the question of what she knew about the BRACE procedure and the enhanced procedure in 2003. She should also deal with what she knew about Mr. Cameron and his allegation that the iceberg would have remained completely unknown if it had not been for my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. They deserve congratulations for bringing this matter to light. They have done a public service, and I commend them on the way in which they have brought the issue to the attention of the House. They are right to do so.

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