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

Mr. Clappison: No.

The Minister now has to face up to her responsibilities. She has been asked many times what responsibility she takes in all this. How does she square her responsibilities with what she has said in the past? What does she accept responsibility for today, given the mess, with all the immigration system's defences down, as described in the memo at the Sheffield office? It is no use the right hon. Lady shaking her head; we want answers. What responsibility does she accept?

2.48 pm

Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this debate because it touches on one of the issues of greatest concern to my constituents—matters relating to asylum and immigration—and it is precisely for that reason that I believe that the Conservative party has raised it particularly at this time. When an election is coming, the Conservative party talks about immigration. Muddling up debates about eastern Europe and the EU also plays well.

Mr. Cameron: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Keeble: No, I will not give way because time is limited.

I am particularly pleased to support the work that my right hon. Friend the Minister has done in pushing forward improvements to the asylum system. An awful lot of what is needed in her job is exceptionally unglamorous and does not involve big policy decisions; most of it relates to putting in the proper procedures, seeing them through and getting the systems working. She has done that extraordinarily well, and certainly the recent moves that she has made have produced real benefits for my constituents.

Shortly after I was elected, I went to look at some of the asylum procedures that were in place in my constituency. A number of people were arriving there, but we inherited the system from the Conservatives, and it was the most ramshackle, non-system that I had ever seen. There was a completely farcical approach to the payment of benefits, there was no networking between the different agencies, and the Conservatives' idea of

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new technology was a pencil sharpener. There was no proper system for identifying the people who were claiming asylum and receiving benefits. For a party that talks tough about identity cards, it was astonishing to see the total failure to identify properly the people who were coming in and out, claiming benefits and moving around the system. There was also a complete denial of the fact that many people were coming into the country and claiming asylum. If there were not scams then, that was partly because one did not need to run an effective scam to work through what was a totally shambolic system.

The Labour Government have increasingly put steps in place that have improved the system, and my right hon. Friend the Minister has pushed them through. For example, a new system was put in place for asylum support. Certainly, it faced problems, but it was a distinct improvement on the shambles that we inherited from the Conservative party. A range of different identification documents and cards are in place and they will establish who people and their dependants are. Those documents can be relied on and they replace the lack of documentation in the previous system. There has been an increase in the number of decisions taken, and they have repeatedly been reported to Parliament.

There has also been an increase in the number of removals. Any Member who visits their police station can ask the police officers there about the number of removals that they have to deal with. There has certainly been in an increase in the number of removals going through Northampton. There has also been open discussion about managed migration, which relates to the points that my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) made about ensuring that we have the people to do the jobs that others simply do not want to do.

In my constituency, there has been, particularly recently, an increase in the number of enforcement actions taken. For example, a successful raid took place today on a factory that employed illegal migrants. Fifty-seven people were stopped and, so far, 33 of them have been arrested and will be removed. I very much welcome the increase in such actions.

It is certainly true that there is further to go. The Conservative party has highlighted a scam, but it is not the only scam that has ever existed. There should be proper recognition that circumstances have changed over the past couple of years and that an increasingly and extremely sophisticated international industry is engaged in trafficking and the forging and sale of documents. That has made it extremely hard to tackle some of the problems that we confront.

I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister shares my concerns about the proliferation of forged documents, and I know that she and her Department are also working to tackle the problem. An examination of the forged documents in the possession of the immigration and nationality directorate at Croydon and at Heathrow make it clear that they are produced to an extremely high standard and put through a sophisticated market. However, there is an increasing problem of documents being obtained through apparently legal means and then being used by different

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people. There are increasing problems of impersonation, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will put more resources into dealing with the appalling problem of forgeries that are part of a huge international trade. The people detained today in my constituency were found to be travelling on false documents.

Laura Moffatt (Crawley) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that all these issues are real and that this Government have tackled them by putting in more resources and getting the organisation right? The last thing we need is any future Government threatening cuts in those resources. That would make it impossible in future to tackle the problems created by new technologies.

Ms Keeble: My hon. Friend is right. I was just about to come to that point.

The Conservative party has been extremely good at talking the talk in the way it did before 1997. It absolutely refused to put in place the steps and procedures that were needed to deal with the problem. Just as it did not have proper procedures for dealing with benefits, it did not have the proper documentation available to check on who people were, or the proper new technology in place to enable the different agencies to network properly. It also refused to support openly the proposals that my right hon. Friend the Minister and colleagues introduced to improve and speed up the legal procedures, so that we could deal with claims, in particular false claims, more quickly. Rather than just talking about the problems, we need to ensure that there is proper support in place for the solutions that the Government are putting forward.

My right hon. Friend is tightening up on the procedures to prevent abuse of the legal system, but there is also a need for the Law Society to deal with some of the problems created when certain lawyers handle such cases. It is noticeable that the case in Bucharest involved lawyers who were taking substantial sums of money for processing many claims that they must have known were false.

I very much welcome the steps that have been taken so far. My right hon. Friend has done more than any other Minister who has held her position to tighten up the procedures, to take difficult decisions and to see them through. I hope that she will continue to do that in exactly the way she has done previously. The public must also realise that, if the problems of asylum and immigration are to be dealt with properly, it will take tough decisions and proper resourcing. Cuts of the type proposed by the Conservative party will not suffice, and impractical proposals such as parking people on offshore islands, are complete nonsense. It is only by clamping down on the procedures while dealing with the issues of properly managed migration that my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras mentioned that we can allay people's fears and make for a civilised society that has decent race relations and sound systems.

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2.58 pm

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): We have learned three important things in the debate so far, the first of which is that Ministers seem very reticent about wanting to get to the facts.

Lady Hermon: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cameron: I have only just started my speech, but I will be delighted to give way to the hon. Lady.

Lady Hermon: I am enormously grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene so early in his speech. For clarification and my peace of mind, will he justify the shadow Home Secretary's use of the word "collusion"? I should like to learn four things from the debate, one of which is the justification for the use of that word by the shadow Home Secretary.

Mr. Cameron: Much of my speech will be about the Minister's role, so I shall try to answer the hon. Lady's question during it.

We have learned three important things. First, Ministers seem reluctant to get to the facts. The Home Secretary told us that Mr. Cameron—no relation, I stress—the official in our Bucharest embassy, met Home Office officials on 1 March. We need to know who was told about his concerns. Why were they not examined by the Sutton inquiry? We need to see the minutes of the meeting between Mr. Cameron and the Home Office official so that we can find out who knew what and when. If Ministers wanted to get to the facts, the Sutton inquiry would have covered that straight away.

Secondly, Ministers seem reluctant to take responsibility. The Home Secretary said on the radio this morning that Ken Sutton will now widen his inquiry, go to Bucharest and examine the matter further, which is important. He also said, as he repeated in the House, that no Minister would resign—there will be no scalps. What will happen if Ken Sutton finds that Ministers were responsible in some way and that they knew something but did nothing about it? The Home Secretary has effectively prejudged his own inquiry.

We learned a third important fact from my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis): that our embassies in Sofia and Bucharest had written to the Home Office raising important concerns. The most important question that the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration must answer is whether Ministers saw those letters. If they did but did not act, they are to blame for much of what has gone wrong. If they did not see the letters, does that not prove that we need a wider inquiry, worthy though the Sutton inquiry is? I am sure that Ken Sutton is a great man, but we need a proper independent inquiry.

I wanted to speak in the debate because immigration and asylum are of long-standing interest to me. I am not some Johnny-come-lately to the subject, although Labour Members say that we are interested in the matter only because of the politics. I worked in the Home Office, I have served on Committees that have considered asylum and immigration Bills and I am a member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I have asked the Minister questions about the Moxon affair in that Committee and the Chamber, but I have

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not been satisfied by the answers that I have received. I do not believe in pursuing Ministers for the sake of it. We did that with the former Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions; he has gone and what benefit was that? We must try to get to the truth.

I agree that the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration has what I once described in The Guardian as the "job from hell" in having to deal with all inquiries. I do not pretend that a Minister with thousands of civil servants can be held responsible for every last thing that they do. However, I have seen events unfold from relatively close at hand, so I know that the way in which the Government have handled the matter has not been impressive in any sense.

Let us be absolutely clear about what has happened throughout the saga. First, the policy on entry clearance for one group of people was being operated by officials without ministerial knowledge. That is clearly evidence of a failing Department—we have heard further evidence from my Front-Bench colleagues about its failure today. The Minister herself said about the Sutton report:

as I said, we have a failing Department.

Next, we find out that the whistleblower—Mr. Moxon—told the Minister's private office that the policy has been introduced, but he received no response for more than two months, which is evidence of a failing private office. As she told the Home Affairs Committee:

We know from the Minister's mouth that as well as a failing Department, we have a failing private office.

The whistleblower then went to the press. The Sunday Times called the Minister's press office and the Home Office made several denials. Its final denial said:

That was simply not true, because as the Minister admitted at the Dispatch Box on 8 March:

As well as a failing Department and private office, we have a failing press office that actively misleads the press. In the same statement on 8 March, the Minister said that the lapse in scrutiny was "rare and untypical"—those words are important.

Next, the Prime Minister backed up the Minister during Prime Minister's Question Time by saying:

the Home Office

He repeated the line that the problem was a rare and untypical one in the Home Office. However, we know that it was not rare and untypical and that the accelerated procedures were applied to other groups. As the leaked memo in The Sunday Times said:

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No one can doubt that the matter is serious.

From what I have seen, a clear picture emerges of complacency among Ministers, of them not wanting to get to the facts and of them having the truth pulled out of them slowly, bit by bit. Let me give two examples of that.

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