Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Given the Government's past woeful achievement on the matter and the Secretary of State's admission that most of what he has announced will not require primary legislation, when will anything happen? For example, when will he introduce embarkation controls? When will the points system come in? When will he introduce the temporary status for asylum seekers? It is all very well listening to his comments, many of which we all support for the reasons that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) outlined, but what matters is when he delivers.

Mr. Clarke: Some of the proposals will be delivered with immediate effect and others will take more time. The hon. Gentleman's first point was about embarkation controls. We cannot establish that system until the technology and regime are in place to make it work. We have taken the first steps but the process must be completed. We anticipate that the full fingerprinting system for visas will be complete by 2008. On the other
7 Feb 2005 : Column 1197
hand, it is possible to set in motion the process for the points system almost immediately, after we have held a proper consultation about what the points regime should be. There is therefore a different answer for each part of the proposals. However, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, as of today, we will move forward on implementing the whole document.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his important statement. If he has had the opportunity to read last year's Home Affairs Committee report on those matters, he will have found a more measured discussion of them than has been apparent in much of the past fortnight. The report recognised the considerable improvements that the Government made in reducing the time taken to process applications and in the reduction of failed asylum applications. However, it highlighted the need for radical change in the approach to the return of asylum seekers, for embarkation controls and for making asylum issues central to this country's foreign policy. My right hon. Friend has dealt with those matters this afternoon and I am grateful to him for that.

Mr. Clarke: I very much appreciate the way in which the Home Affairs Committee, under my right hon. Friend's chairmanship, has sought to conduct the debate. It is potentially an emotive and difficult debate and we must all conduct it in a balanced way which is based on the facts. The Select Committee has shown us the way on that. I am glad that my right hon. Friend believes that we have been able, at least to some extent, to move in the direction that the Committee suggested. I look forward to continued dialogue with him and his Committee.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): Until my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) asked the Home Secretary about the timetable, the right hon. Gentleman had not condescended to give us any detail about the schedule and when we could expect the reforms to come through. What does he expect the public to have to pay for those additional proposals?

Mr. Clarke: As I said in answer to the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice), there are different timetables for the different aspects. For example, establishing a points-based scheme, the requirement for migrants in specific categories to have sponsors and bonds, changing the settlement regulations and so on require secondary, not primary legislation. On the other hand, establishing a new civil penalty for employers, removing appeals for work and study routes and so on require primary legislation. A detailed schedule will be published in due course, but I can assure the House that we start work on the document immediately.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): When a person has entered the country and gained indefinite leave to
7 Feb 2005 : Column 1198
remain as a spouse, will that person be allowed to continue to act as a sponsor after leaving the wife who sponsored him? Or does my right hon. Friend have plans to stop that sort of abuse?

Mr. Clarke: We are trying specifically to deal with that. I believe that I understood my hon. Friend's question correctly and that what I have proposed today will tackle the abuse that she describes. However, to avoid doubt, I shall write to her rather than give an answer at the Dispatch Box, to ensure that I have understood the wording of the question accurately.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I thank the Home Secretary for drawing attention at the beginning of his statement to the importance of migration to this country's economy. He drew attention to skilled and unskilled migrant workers. Now that he is Mr. Nice Guy at the Home Office, will he emulate his predecessor in at least one respect and update and publish the economic evidence that asylum seekers and refugees, when given permission to work, are net contributors to the public purse and not a drain on the national economy?

Mr. Clarke: We always seek to analyse these matters and to keep them under review. However, it is important that the hon. Gentleman should be clear about the Liberal Democrats' policy on this issue. I have tried to set out our position as clearly as possible, as I think I have done today. I look forward to his comments—

Mr. Russell: I am trying to be helpful.

Mr. Clarke: Well, if this is the hon. Gentleman's idea of being helpful, it is a bit like when he supports Norwich against Ipswich: he always gives slightly barbed support at the key time.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): As a descendant of an economic migrant of 1849 and a representative of a city founded almost entirely on layers of migration, I welcome today's statement. It will ensure that the door remains open to those would-be migrants whose lives are at risk, while seeking to close the door on the human trafficking that results in problems of abuse by gangmasters and other criminals, and which also, perversely, ensures that deserving migrants do not get in because their places are taken by those who can pay the huge charges demanded by the human traffickers.

Mr. Clarke: I am particularly glad that my hon. Friend should focus on the role of the human trafficking gangs and on the trade that gives billions of pounds in profits every year to some of the most unpleasant people in the world. It is important to remember that some of the people coming into this country under their auspices are the wretched—really they are. They are the victims of the system rather than the causes of evil. I have sought in my statement to distinguish between the legitimate migration path that my hon. Friend celebrates and the pressing need to deal with the illegitimate paths.
7 Feb 2005 : Column 1197

7 Feb 2005 : Column 1199

Points of Order

3.31 pm

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Ideally, I would have liked to raise this point of order a couple of weeks ago, but I have been away with the Select Committee on International Development and this is the first opportunity that I have had.

One of the most contentious issues in my constituency is the Government's proposal for an "accommodation centre for asylum seekers"—the phrase used by the Government—at Bicester. I was somewhat surprised, on 20 January, to be told by the regional media that, according to a Government website, leaflets were being distributed in my constituency by the Home Office. I knew nothing of that. I obtained a copy of the leaflet and was even more surprised to see that it contained this announcement by Ministers:

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no reference in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to community liaison groups, so this is an extra-statutory provision. At no time did the Minister concerned either make a written statement to the House on this matter or have the courtesy to write to me as the local Member of
7 Feb 2005 : Column 1200
Parliament. So far, this is the only accommodation centre in the country being proposed, so it is not as though there is a huge number of us to write to. I find that contemptuous of us as Members of Parliament. If our constituents feel that Ministers are being contemptuous of us, they will also conclude that they are being contemptuous of Parliament as a whole. That substantially undermines our ability to provide leadership in the community and to represent our constituents. I therefore urge you to urge Ministers not to make policy announcements of this kind by shoving leaflets through our constituents' letterboxes, but to have the courtesy to inform the House first.

Next Section IndexHome Page