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Patrick Hall: About 14 minutes ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that he supported the Billand therefore the Government, on this issuebut since then he has not mentioned it. He has been campaigning for something, although I cannot imagine what. Will he return to the subject of the debate and explain why he supports the Bill? If he has any improvements to propose, will he explain what they are?
David Davis: The hon. Gentleman forgets that this is a Second Reading debate. I said that I supported the Bill, but that it is too little, too late. The Opposition have been asking for some of the measures contained in the Bill, and for the other measures that would derive from it, for some time. However, the problem over and over again has been that this Government legislate and then nothing happens. Following a headline-grabbing initiative with inaction is not a very good policy premise. That is my point, and I shall go on making it throughout the debate.
I turn now to the consequences of uncontrolled immigration. I agree with the Home Secretary that controlled immigration has a proper and useful function. Managed migration contributes to our economy and culture, and to many aspects of British
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society, but uncontrolled immigration can have the opposite effect. That is the concern that I want to raise today.
The consequences of uncontrolled immigration for the everyday lives of ordinary people are there for all to see. Here in London, there are pressures on housing. That housing stress has led to the Government crippling the right to buy, with the result that many people can no longer afford to buy the houses that they live in.
Across the country, vital local services are under increasing pressure as people find access to health care and schooling more difficult because more people are fighting over fewer places. The Government are very quick to remind us, when it suits them, that Britain is still at high risk from terrorism, but the public have little faith in the very system that is supposed to control who enters our country and who leaves it.
Mr. Charles Clarke: The right hon. Gentleman has raised many issues, but has not yet discussed the Bill. I have a direct question for him: does he intend to table an amendment to introduce an annual quota for immigration that would be set by this House? That was proposed by the Conservatives during the election campaign. Will he table such an amendment, if that is what he believes in?
David Davis: Certainly, if the Home Secretary invites me to and gives sufficient time in Committee. It is a very good idea, and I shall return to the matter of the quota in a moment. I shall also return to the question of how the points system that he proposes will workif we ever see it.
Across Britain, taxpayers are footing the bill for the Government's failure. When they came to power, the budget for the immigration and nationality directorate was £212 million a year. It is now more than £1.7 billion. That money could pay for 80,000 extra nurses, 70,000 extra teachers, and 60,000 extra police. Ordinary people are literally paying the price for this Government's asylum failure.
I can understand why Ministers wanted to cover up the extent of the problem during the election campaign. However, I cannot understand why they let the problem get so bad in the first place. There has been no shortage of activity, but there has been a shortage of results. Six years ago, the House debated phase 1 of the Government's asylum policythe Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. It abolished the so-called white list, and the number of applications shot up to more than 100,000 a yearthe highest in Europe. So three years ago, phase 2 of the Government's policy reintroduced
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the white list. By that time, the UK was well on the way to receiving the second highest number of asylum applications in the world.
Last year, we passed what the then Home Secretary described as the final phase of asylum reformthe plan to bring speed and finality to the appeals and removals process. The result is that the number of removals has fallen in five of the last six quarters. If that was the final phase, this Bill appears to be an afterthought.
Edward Miliband: We all acknowledge the problems of housing, education and health that the right hon. Gentleman mentions, but it is a grotesque caricature to suggest that they are the result of asylum and immigration. The asylum budget consumes 0.3 per cent. of public expenditure. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to lead the major Opposition party in this House, he must put his claims in context.
David Davis: Given the hon. Gentleman's background, I am interested to hear that he thinks that £2 billion is not much, but with a billion here and a billion there one is soon talking about real money.
The Government and their supporters say that they take the issue seriously and are very concerned about it. But then what happens? To give one example, London is a housing stress area. Some 60 per cent. of immigrants and asylum seekers coming to this country come to London, so several hundred thousand people add to the housing demand in the city. I do not pretend that it is an easy problem to solve, but the Government do not even recognise the problem. That is the problem that we face, and we have to make them think about it.
The Secretary of State wanted me to talk about the Bill, so I shall do so. It promises new sanctions against people employing illegal immigrants. We welcome that. The exploitation that has developed in some sectors of our economy in recent years is a disgrace to a civilised society. We would all agree with that. However, sanctions are already available: they just have not been used. There have been only 24 prosecutions in the past seven years under the legislation introduced in 1996, just before the Government came into power. And that is against the backdrop of a group of Chinese dying in the back of a van in Dover and the deaths in Morecambe bay. That is a disgrace. There is no other word for it. I asked the Home Secretarydeliberately, because I want to be helpful on this pointwhether he thought that more legislation would help, and he said that it was like the legislation that had been used before. The simple question is why the Government have not used that other legislation. That is what Governments are responsible for and what they are there to do.
The Bill promises new powers to track people entering the country, but it does nothing to address the fact that, as I said earlier, 11 out of 35 British ports are manned with security or immigration officials 24 hours a day and the others are not. The Bill contains provisions to allow immigration officers to verify someone's identity, using the Government's new favourite thingbiometrics. But as we saw in the ID cards debate, that technology is far from foolproof and remains open to fraud. It is a partial solution, not a panacea. The Bill also contains proposals to change the right of appeal. As I said to the Home Secretary, we shall look at those proposals in detail to
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check that they strike the right balance between an individual's rights and the needs of effective administration. We will look carefully at how effective the initial decisions procedure is in making that judgment, and I hope that the Home Secretary will meet his undertaking to take on board the National Audit Office proposals.
The Bill is significant not for what it contains but for what it does not contain. At the election, the Opposition set out a clear plan for controlling the number of people coming into Britain and as usual the Government began by ridiculing it, then they attacked it and then they adopted it.
Now, the Government have watered down our plan. We said that we would adopt a points-based system for immigration, as they do in Australia. That is the biggest single thing that the Government could do to get a grip on the immigration system, while giving priority to people with the skills that Britain needs. We also promised to let Parliament put a limit on the number of people coming to the UK each year. That would ensure that we balanced the needs of Britain[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Edward Miliband) carries on shouting from a sedentary position, I shall not give way to himhe can make up his mind.
Our system would ensure that we balanced the needs of Britain's economy with the needs of the population as a whole. The Government agree with the first, but not with the second; they want the points, but not the limit. A points system with no limit is futile. How will it work? If someone gets 100 points, will they be allowed in? If someone gets 90 points, will they be allowed in? If someone gets 60, 50 or 30 points, will they be allowed in? Where does it end? If there is a cut-off point there is a de facto limit. If not, there is no point to the system.
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