Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) (Lab): Is it not the case that the majority of economic migrants into this country come from the island of Ireland, New Zealand and Australia? How, if there are two applicants with equal qualifications for a job under the quota, can we be assured that the applicant with white skin will not automatically get the job?
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):
The Home Secretary complimented the fresh talent initiative, but yesterday's Sunday Herald detailed five separate instances of policy initiatives proposed by the Scottish Executive being turned down by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. How on earth can he satisfy Scotland that the policy he has announced today will
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recognise the economic benefits of immigration when he is simultaneously engaged in an increasingly unpleasant auction with the Conservative party on who can sound toughest on immigration?
Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman is simply wrong. We specifically welcome the fresh talent initiative, as I was at pains to point out in my statement, and I engage in regular dialogue with my colleagues in the Scottish Executive, including the First Minister, on what we can do to support it. We are not involved in a bidding war.
Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is right to identify as a source of profound public concern a situation in which the vast majority of asylum seekers cannot establish a case for remaining in the UK, but do so anyway. If democracy, peace and stability take root in Iraq, will the Government under the new policy take the measures necessary to ensure that every failed Iraqi asylum seeker is removed to their country of origin?
Mr. Clarke: The short answer to that question is yes. The question illustrates extremely clearly the fact that in the modern world, in large part, the need for asylum arises from conflicts in various parts of the worldAfrica, east Africa, the middle east and elsewhere. The principal aim of our policy is to resolve those conflicts in the best possible way, and resolution enables us to consider returning people who were genuine refugees to those countries if necessary. That is what we will consider.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the Government's moral responsibility in these matters. We have reached, or nearly so, the anniversary of the shocking events in Morecambe bay, over which the Labour Government presided, and as a Norfolk MP he is aware of the intolerable abuse suffered by some migrant workers at the hands of some unscrupulous employers in East Anglia. The reason for that abuse is that such people are invisible. His predecessor memorably said that he had not a clue how many migrant workers there were in Britain, either legally or illegally. Will one of the results of today's announcement be that in future the Government will know and, as a consequence, will be able to accord to those forgotten and neglected people the protection that the Morecambe bay workers so spectacularly did not have?
The right hon. Lady is quite right. The imposition of the border control systems that I have set out today will allow this or any Government to have the information that she rightly identified as necessary. She is right, too, about the impact of illegal working and people trafficking on our economies. She will be aware that an individual who ran a huge people-trafficking business in East Anglia was found guilty last week, and was brought to justice as a result of measures that we introduced. However, there is a great deal more to be done. The right hon. Lady has rightly campaigned on these matters, and I will join her in doing so.
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Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): The Opposition spokesman raised the issue of pressure on public services, but may I tell my right hon. Friend that swathes of those services, especially in London, could not function without migrant and refugee labour? I, for one, pay tribute to those people. Is my right hon. Friend aware that in opinion polls the British public regularly overestimate the size of the migrant and refugee population, and assume that between one quarter and one third of the entire population are first-generation migrants. Last week, however, the House of Commons Library advised me that the figure was nearer 4 per cent. Will he do what he can to ensure, particularly in the next few weeks in the highly charged atmosphere in the run-up to an election, that we reach an agreement that it is not in anyone's interest to distort and exaggerate the picture?
Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is quite right. As I understand it, 27 per cent. of professionals in the health service were born overseas. A vital number of key services and businesses depend entirely on that migration, so I was accurate in describing the Opposition's proposals for a quota as economically illiterate and destructive, as they would wipe out much of that key support. As for responsibility in the debate, it is legitimate to debate these questions, but every party to the debate, political or otherwise, should be required to introduce a balanced set of practical propositions. That is the nature of our proposals, and I very much regret that the official Opposition have not introduced proposals that are even remotely practical, as that can foster fear and uncertainty.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): Does the Home Secretary not agree that confidence in him is important if his proposals are to work? Many people must be asking why all this was not in the Queen's Speech or, indeed, previous Queen's Speeches; to the general public it looks very much as if the right hon. Gentleman has introduced these proposals only because of the sensible proposals introduced by the Opposition. He is under fundamental pressure from No. 10 to deliver on this very matter.
Mr. Clarke: I am staggered that the right hon. Gentleman should consider the proposals introduced by his Front Bench team sensible. I am surprised that, with his personal record and internationalist background, he should be happy that they propose to withdraw from the 1951 Geneva convention on refugees. I agree that confidence is important, but the Queen's Speech deals with the legislative programme of the present Parliament. A vast number of the measures that I have set out today can be introduced without primary legislation, and we shall do so.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
May I tell my right hon. Friend that, as a first-generation immigrant whose parents did not have to face a quota before they came to the United Kingdom, I am concerned about his proposals to limit the right of appeal in family visitor cases. That very special right was introduced by a Labour Government, and it affects people in this country who want to see family visitors. Does he not agree that if he is going to charge higher fees at the
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immigration and nationality directorate, then the services that it provides must be much better; and that we must get a grip on that system?
Mr. Clarke: I agree with my hon. Friend. I intend to retain the right of appeal in family visitor cases, as I have made clear. However, that should be done on the basis of papers rather than oral hearings, and I have said in terms that we will consult on the question of a charging regime, precisely because, as my hon. Friend argued, it is important that any charges be considered alongside the efficiency of the service that is provided. I therefore accept the general thrust of what he said.
Mr. Mike Hancock (Portsmouth, South) (LD): I for one on the Liberal Democrat Benches welcome much of what the Home Secretary said today. When he spoke about removals, he did not emphasise what the problems had been and why we had not been able to remove so many people. Why should people be confident that the Government now have a plan that will get it right, when they failed so badly in the past, with tens of thousands of people who have been refused permission to stay remaining in the country?
Mr. Clarke: There are three key things that we must do in connection with removals. First, we must identify countries that are not ready to accept removals in the way that they need to. I set out a coherent cross-Government strategy for doing that in a way that has not been done before. Secondly, we must ensure that everybody is identified consistently. Though we have some good record on this, we do not have a good enough record, and we must make technology work for us in that regard. Thirdly, we have recently legislated to make it a criminal offence to destroy documents upon entry to the country. That is only a recent development, but we need to take it still further. All three steps are part of our removals approach. Putting all three into effect will build on the record that we already have for the highest number of removals the country has ever had.