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make it clear that they are motivated by perceived worldwide and long-standing injustices against Muslims...and their interpretation as anti-Muslim of UK foreign policy
an attractive option for some citizens of this country and others around the world.
Prime Minister, should the British public be frightened by what the head of MI5 had to say about the state of the terrorist threat in this country?
I have been saying, as you know, for several years that this terrorist threat is very real, it has been building up over a long period of time...this is a threat that has grown up over a generation. I think she is absolutely right in saying that it will last a generation and it can only be combated in the end, not just by proper measures on security...but in addition to that that we take on and combat the poisonous propaganda of those people that warp and pervert the minds, particularly of younger people...we have got to...take the fight to those who want to entice young people into what is in the end not just something that is wicked and violent, but something that is utterly futile in terms of the future.
I am sure that we all agree with that, but the Prime Minister spectacularly fails to mention that much of the propaganda that he decries comes from groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, which have flourished in the chaos following the invasion. As Dame Eliza said:
The propaganda machine is sophisticated and Al-Qaida itself says that 50 per cent. of its war is conducted through the media. In Iraq, attacks are regularly videoed and the footage downloaded onto the Internet within 30 minutes. Virtual media teams then edit the result, translate it into English and many other languages, and package it for a worldwide audience. And, chillingly, we see the results here. Young teenagers being groomed to be suicide bombers.
So the Prime Ministers own head of domestic security, who has been an intelligence officer for some 32 years, states clearly what she sees happening, but the Prime Minister continues to ignore the implications of his foreign policy in a see no evil, hear no evil fashion. Instead he chooses to concentrate on amending the law, but that will do little to stem the tide of brainwashing of young Britons, and nothing to alter Muslim perceptions of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I fear that it might also further alienate Muslims, because they are the most likely targets of the 90-day detention proposals.
I do believe that foreign policy is sometimes a motivating factor in radicalisation of young Muslims and the potential recruitment to terror. It is better to be frank about it.
The war in Iraq has been a disaster, as the Prime Minister has admitted, for community relations in this country. It has alienated a significant minority of the Muslim population, a sizeable minority of which believes that suicide bombing in this country is justified. Unfortunately, and sadly, that has put the majority Muslim population in the same bracket, as some of them are recognised as providing hospitality for the minority who believe in the suicide bomb.
It beggars belief that the Prime Minister can stand at his press conference like some latter-day St. George in shining armour ready to slay the dragon of terrorism, not recognising that he, primarily among all politicians in this country, has fed that dragon. It is of the gravest importance that the Prime Minister should recognise his responsibility for creating what we have already experienced as communal violence in this country.
Laura Moffatt (Crawley) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner). We should congratulate his local authority, no matter what its political colour, on introducing full free travel for older people and 50p fares for younger people. Crawleys Labour authority provided free off-peak travel for older people for decades when no money was coming from central Government, but that has now been underpinned by the excellent scheme proposed in the Queens Speech.
I want to oppose the Opposition amendment and support many of the excellent Bills proposed in the Gracious Speech. I shall do so quickly, however, as I am very much aware that many other Members want to make contributions.
It would be silly to assume that much of the Labour Governments work does not need to be developed, continued and rolled out. Many contributions from the Opposition have asked why yet another Bill has been proposed for a particular subject. It is perfectly reasonable, however, to consider measures already taken and to decide what other action is needed. I therefore fully support many of the Governments measures.
In particular, I support the measure to regulate estate agents, as well as the measure to expand free travel for older people throughout the United Kingdom, which is a tremendous advantage. Having just finished my Industry and Parliament Trust stint with a transport company, and living in a town whose transport system is expanding and numbers of travellers increasing day by day, I can see the impact of investment, particularly in Fastway in Crawley, on the environment, and the difference that it is already making in reducing car ownership.
I want to focus on Home Office Bills, because many of us have been troubled in our communities by people who do not respect others. The Government should be congratulated on measures that they have already introduced. The introduction of police community support officers, for instance, has been a boon to our communities, and their use in neighbourhood policing teams is now enshrined in legislation. We should also congratulate the Government on the innovation of antisocial behaviour orders. Nevertheless, a hard rump of people seem to think it perfectly all right to go on abusing their neighbours and ignoring any action that may be taken. It does not worry them that their neighbours are leading miserable lives, unable to focus on anything except having a difficult family living in their midst because it is borne in on them every time they step out of the door.
There must be a way of tackling such problems, and I firmly believe that people who behave badly, particularly young people, also need help and guidance. There are some tremendous schemes in Crawley to support those who would otherwise ride mini-motos in our parks and on pavements, and to guide them back on to the right track with proper supervision. Those young people, however, have a completely different view of the disruption that they are causing in their communities from the families who refuse point-blank to accept that they are causing terrible problems.
Home owners have always caused difficulties when it comes to legislation. My local authority is prepared and I hope will continue to be preparedto tell tenants A lovely house in Crawley will be denied to you if you cannot live decently with your neighbours. The problem is caused by the private home owner who ignores antisocial behaviour orders. Even the threat of a prison sentenceI am now looking at the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow)does not deter such people from their awful behaviour. We must take action against offenders who think it is perfectly all right to make their community a miserable place in which to live.
The other side of the coin is the way in which we treat victims of crime. People involved in these awful disputes often feel that they are not being treated properly, and I hope we shall see a proper emphasis on victim support.
Some speakers have seemed to sayand it may well be true in their areasthat offender management schemes are entirely satisfactory and do not need to be addressed in any way, but I believe that the system needs to be improved considerably. I can give two examples. I am a trustee of a charity called Furni-aid, which I started some years ago. It provides good-quality second-hand furniture for people in need. We have benefited from two sizeable lottery bids, and we
now have employees. We thought it a good idea for those undergoing community punishment to help us restore and deliver furniture, and we organised a partnership with the probation service. The partnership was extremely difficult. On some days six offenders would turn up, while on others none would arrive. We felt that, as an organisation that was attempting to help the whole process, we were being ignored and not being taken seriously.
The son of a good friend of mine sadly suffered from drug addiction and was on probation. She would drive him to the probation office so that he could have a proper weekly session with the probation officer, but he was often out of the room in 30 seconds. She was desperate, and he eventually ended up in prison.
Many issues need to be addressed, and the Queens Speech is doing that. It is moving forward, and taking our agenda forward. It is looking after people in our community, and is making it a better place in which to be.
Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): I compliment the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) on allowing four more minutes for other hon. Members. We have had interesting contributions to the debate from my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) on immigration. I shall try to address the same issue briefly.
During my frequent attempts to become a Member of Parliament, I found it hard to talk about immigration without exciting unwarranted accusations from some of my opponents. The cheapest hit was that I was in some way playing the race card, something that I would never do and never did. I raised the issue of immigration in an extremely moderate and responsible way, because it is of enormous interest to the electorate. I am glad that we have a new realism that accepts that if those of us on the moderate centre ground do not talk about that issue of real concern to the British public, the void will be filled by the likes of the British National party, which will talk about the issue for all the wrong reasons and in the wrong way.
I like to believe that the Home Affairs Committee, in a small way, contributed to that new realism. Every week in the early part of this year, the headlines were filled with yet another discovery by our inquiry into the immigration service. Those headlines were not always to the liking of the Government, but they encouraged a national debate on a range of issues, including the number of illegal immigrants; whether there should be an amnesty; what we should do with foreign prisoners; and, for the first time, a realistic assessment of the benefit of immigration and the effect that it has, both socially and economically.
The detailed report of the inquiry was, perhaps wrongly, entitled Immigration Controlit should have been Immigration out of Controland it identified a system creaking at the seams. It identified an organisation in the immigration and nationality directorate that was structurally and culturally unfit for the job in hand. Many of the recommendations in the report showed that there was no need for primary legislation to address the problems. What was needed was complete structural change and good leadership.
I welcome any measures in the legislation proposed in the Gracious Speech or following the review being carried out by Ministers that address the fact that immigration cuts across all areas of government. The discovery that large numbers of national insurance numbers have been issued to illegal immigrants has to be sorted out by the Department for Work and Pensions. The appallingly administered register of educational establishments showed a two-way fraud. People who wanted to come to this country to study found that the college to which they had sent large amounts of money was an accommodation address above a chip shop in Rotherham. On the other hand, bogus educational establishments also existed so that people could come here to work illegally. Immigration also has wider implications for local government and health, and the Department for Constitutional Affairs has taken responsibility for the asylum and immigration tribunalsand that opens up the issue of removals. It is an issue, therefore, that stretches across government.
The issue that I wish to address relates to a report and subsequent allegations of corruption. Back in January The Sun printed a rather lurid story which came to be known as the sex for visas issue. Allegations were made by a former IND employee about the awarding of visas and corrupt practices within the IND. The IND made a thoughtful inquiry into the matter headed by Mr. Gbedemah, which on the face of it seemed to be a thorough report. I was at Lunar house in Croydon on the day the report came out. We were given briefings and told that this was a one-off, that various areas of concern had been identified and were being looked into, and that we had no real cause for worry. In the context of what the Home Affairs Committee then discovered and of what happened in May the report now seems breathtakingly complacent.
The Select Committee discovered, for example, that allegations of corruption or misconduct referred to the immigration service operational integrity unit numbered 169, of which 120 were pursued. For the same period cases referred to the IND security and anti-corruption unit numbered 703, of which 409 were investigated, 31 referred for prosecution and 79 for deliberate action. That is why some of us have great concern about the method by which the Home Office and the IND examine themselves when such cases occur.
In May came the case of a chief immigration officer who made appalling advances on a young asylum seeker from Zimbabwe, a rape victim in her own country. We have cause to be extremely grateful to The Observer for the sting operation and exposure of that individual and for his eventual dismissal.
I have no knowledge that the deeper issues that these cases raise have been addressed by the IND or Ministers. I have had to draw, like blood from a stone, information from Ministers to written questions and I am on the cusp of doing a freedom of information trawl for further information. The time has come for a new and more open approach.
The police have the Independent Police Complaints Commission, an authority in which we can have confidence, to look into cases of wrongdoing by police officers in an independent, open and trustworthy manner. The IND has no such body; it conducts investigations itself. I am convinced that now is the time to set up an independent body to investigate corrupt practices in the IND. In general, I want to see a bonfire of quangos and other regulatory bodies, but I believe passionately that we need better regulation in this area.
The abuse of power, for that is what this case and many of these cases are about, makes us no better than the countries from which some asylum seekers are trying to escape. It is vital that we root out corruption and that Ministers understand. It is good to have the Minister on whose watch this took place sitting on the Treasury Bench. Perception is reality and the perception is of a real problem in the IND. Only by openness, by independent, rigorous investigation and by determined leadershipearlier the Home Secretary used the word leadership a lotwill the cloud of corruption be lifted from our immigration service. Reform of the service is both culturally and administratively necessary. It is also a question of ministerial leadership.
Mr. Fabian Hamilton (Leeds, North-East) (Lab): I now know why I like the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) so well, since he spoke so much sense on the subject of prisons, although I cannot agree with him on some of the other subjects that he discussed this afternoon. I also agree with many of the points about prisons made by the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), whose constituency I had the pleasure to visit a few months ago, although I spent most of the time in the prison there, because I am chair of the all-party prisoner health group. That is why I have an interest in prison issues.
This afternoon I want to look at two issuesfirst immigration, which was touched on by many right hon. and hon. Members. Do we have too much of it? Is it good for society? Does it benefit us economically and socially or is it too expensive and should we put a cap on the numbers allowed to come here? I say to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) and the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), who knows the city of Leeds well, just look at what immigration has done for the city of Leeds; it has been entirely beneficial. My parliamentary colleagues who represent the other seven constituencies in Leeds would certainly agree with that.
In my constituency of Leeds, North-East we have very good racial integration and community relations. Indeed, that is so much the case that our first ever Muslim lord mayor of the city of Leeds recently attended a synagogue service to celebrate the 350th
anniversary of the return of Jews to England, and he was roundly applauded for the contribution he has made. That is an example of good community relations.
Through good community relations, we can foster a sense of security and well-being among the whole community, and we can tackle the kind of extremism that bred the suicide bombers, and led to the outrages carried out on the London underground and other parts of the London transport system on 7 July last year, the perpetrators of which, sadly, came from our city. Through excellent community relations, we can try to ensure that that sort of thing does not occur again.
Mr. Lilley: The hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that I had in some way demurred from the notion that immigrants have made a positive contribution. On the contrary, I said that that was the objective of most who want to come here. The question that I posed to him, and to which I would welcome a reply, is: should there be any limit on the number of economic migrants coming here?
Mr. Hamilton: That limit should be determined by the demand for workersby the number of jobs that are available. If we cannot find enough peopleBritish citizensto fill vacant posts in our economy, we should welcome as many from abroad as we need. [Interruption.] From a sedentary position, the right hon. Gentleman is perhaps disagreeing with that.
I want to move on because time is short. I shall give a couple of good examples of the integration and harmonious community relations that our schools have helped to foster. The hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) touched on that in her contribution when she talked about the good work done by schools in her constituency, and I want to draw attention to a couple of schools in my constituency.
At Carr Manor high school, the head teacher Simon Flowers has fostered a sense of integration and has encouraged communities to work together; the pupils who attend his school come from hugely diverse backgrounds. His school has, thankfully, just been rebuilt under the building schools for the future programme, and it is absolutely excellent. Another school in the constituency is Allerton Grange high school. Its head teacher, Jean Hertrich, often has to wrestle with community problems, but she fosters a sense of harmony and well-being among the children of many different groups of faiths and backgrounds who attend the school; some of them are the children or grandchildren of immigrants. Our schools play a very important part in ensuring that communities are integrated and feel that they can live together in security.
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