|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Keith Vaz: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have not woken up. I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman for the last 30 minutes, as has the whole House. I just wish he would get on with it, as the business is guillotined.
Mr. Malins: I hesitate to address the hon. Member for Leicester, East as Mr. Deputy Speaker, but he seems to be instructing me to move at a pace that suits him. Many of us have genuinely fallen asleep in the Chamber during his deliberations since 1983.
I would like to insert under amendment No. 15 a provision whereby, following an appeal, a court can make an order as to costs. That is important. Can a court hearing an appeal make an order for costs at present under this Bill? If the appeal is vexatious and rubbish, it is undoubtedly sensible for the court to order costs against the appellant. However, if the appeal is full of merit and the Secretary of State has behaved disgracefully, it seems proper that the court can order costs against the Secretary of State. I hope that the Minister will respond on that matter.
Amendment No. 16 is a probing amendment, by which I seek to omit clause 21. I ask the Minister kindly to tell us a little more about the position of a body corporate and the criminal offence that applies in relation to a body corporate. We are anxious to know who would be prosecuted. Take the case, for exampleI mentioned it in Committeeof a club. A club run by its members is capable of being criminally prosecuted under this measure. That is entirely different from a big organisation. It is voluntary for a start. Take a sports club or a small business where there are four partners, one of whom is a junior partner who has some responsibility for an aspect of the employment but no authority to overrule the other partners, who take a particular view about the employment of the individual concerned. I am anxious that the net in criminal terms does not extend to cover too many people.
Those are my amendments. The Minister has much to justify. I am hopeful that he will accept amendment No. 10, which is the one that we most want to test the opinion of the House on. Among my other amendments, I hope that he will be kind enough at least to agree that those who have a penalty imposed on them should get 28 days, rather than 14.
16 Nov 2005 : Column 1036
Keith Vaz: I came into the Chamber determined to vote with the Opposition on amendment No. 8 but, having heard the speech of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins), I have decided to vote with the Government because they do have a case and there are concerns about that amendment. I am certain that, with the length of time that he has taken to put his views forward, my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to deal with those concerns. Let me raise my concerns in a much shorter time to give other right hon. and hon. Members the opportunity to put their points to the Minister.
I am concerned about these proposals because they will disproportionately affect members of the ethnic minority community. The hon. Member for Woking was right to say that the measure will create a burden on small businesses when they have to keep checking immigration documents. It will also create a burden on the immigration service and the police. We have had legislation on immigration, asylum and nationality where the Government have told us, in good faith, that they felt that it would deal with the problem of illegal immigration, but sadly that has not happened. We are again legislating because we think that we will solve the problem, but we could end up not solving it and just creating greater burdens.
Mr. Hollobone: The hon. Gentleman is correct to identify that the immigration service does not want to have more rules and regulations to enforce. Is not it the case that the service is already overstretched and cannot enforce its existing powers?
Keith Vaz: I agree. There are more than 220,000 cases that the service has not dealt with. I went to visit the Arnhem centre in Leicester last Friday, where I looked at the appeals that come from the Home Office to the Department for Constitutional Affairs. There is such a huge burden on the IND, despite the appointment of the new director general, Lin Homer, whom I wish well. An extra burden of this kind will not help the system. After all, that is exactly what the Government said when they introducedI think by regulation, but the Minister will correct me if I am wrongthe new certificates of marriage that people had to obtain from the Home Office in order to go to the registry office to get married. At the time, we were told that the purpose was to make the system clearer. In fact, there is still a huge delay for people trying to get those certificates from the Home Office because there is a backlog. The purposethe good purposefor which they were introduced has not been realised because of the administrative problems created.
First, I seek an assurance from the Minister that the provision will not create additional burdens, requiring additional resources, for the already overstretched immigration and nationality directorate. Secondly, to reiterate a good point that was made in an over-lengthy way by the hon. Member for Woking, what about consultation? The hon. Gentleman mentioned the CBI and employers organisations for small businesses, but what consultation has there been with communities, particularly with those who will be affected by what is happening?
16 Nov 2005 : Column 1037
"The CRE view is that civil penalties and repeat checks on certain employees subject to immigration control is not in the spirit of the Race Relations legislation, could be divisive within workforces, stigmatise workers, and potentially damage good race relations. We fear that the latest proposals may cause confusion, misunderstanding, and further cases of discrimination."
The very body set up to deal with issues of discrimination is saying to the Government that before the measure is passed they should pause and consider what is being proposed, so it is important for the Minister to tell the House which organisations and community groups have been consulted and what research his Department has done.
We know that proposals do not instantly emerge from the mind of the Home Secretary or the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality and lead to immediate legislation. Ministers have had time to think about the proposals as the issue has been central to what the Government have been attempting to do for the past eight years. What is the evidence to support the measure? What information can the Minister give the House about that?
My final point is about the need to ensure that people who are here illegally and readily own up to it are given some sort of decision about their status. Occasionally, although I am not saying that it happens often, people who have lived in this country illegally for a long time come to my constituency surgery, as I am sure they do to the surgeries of other Members, and admit that they have been in the country illegally. Some have had an extended holiday. A gentleman who came to see me only last week came for a holiday 10 years ago on a visitor's visa. He is still here, he has had three children and he is working illegally, but he wants to come clean. He wants to make the Home Office aware of the position, although I am not sure whether he wants an amnesty. My job as MP is to stand in his shoes and write to the appropriate Minister or officials. I have done thatas I have done for a number of people who have come to my surgery and want to admit to being here illegally. They want their status clarified, but the delay in dealing with their cases adds to the backlog and the wider delay in the system.
We are all trying to find people who are working here illegally so that we can bring them to justice, and so that they can regularise their stay and either make an application to remain on some basis or leave the country and make an application to come back. We need assurances from the Minister that his staff that resources in the Home Office are sufficient to cope with the applications when they are made.
If the Minister can reassure me on those three points, I will happily vote with the Government on this measure. I remain worried, however, that in the 18 years during which I have been a Member of the House we have had 10 Bills on immigration, asylum and nationality. Every Government, of every hue, have said
16 Nov 2005 : Column 1038
that the next piece of legislation will solve the problem, but that has not happened. I hope that the Minister is confident that these proposals will make a difference to the Government's immigration policy.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|