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Mr. Byrne: Far be it from me to intrude into the fantasy life of another hon. Member, but if the House will permit me a brief intervention, it is fanciful to argue that we can tackle illegal immigration while opposing penalties for smuggling people in, as the Conservative party did in 1999; while opposing the simplification of the appeals process in 2004; and while proposing to halve, by £900 million, the budget for the IND and to vote against ID cards, too. All those measures are required to police illegal working and illegal immigration in a modern economy. Yes, we need to increase resources. That is why we will double resources over the next few
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years. Yes, we need to change the law, and proposals will come into place in 2007. But let us not pretend that the kind of measures proposed by the Conservative party would have any impact whatsoever.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Will the situation not be made much worse by the Minister’s decision on Romania and Bulgaria, whereby EU citizens from some countries will be prevented from working, whereas citizens from other countries, such as Poland and Hungary, are allowed to work? Does that not create enormous confusion in the minds of employers? What steps will he take to ensure that he publicises those changes, rather than concentrating on removal, to make employers more aware of the situation, rather than acting in a way that could cause even greater problems for the operation of the lamentable immigration and nationality directorate?

Mr. Byrne: There are very few things about which I disagree with my right hon. Friend but, unfortunately, this is one of them. As he will know, the question that all EU countries must confront upon the accession of Bulgaria and Romania is not whether to lift restrictions on their labour markets but how quickly to lift them over the next four or five years. The decision that we took—it commanded some support not only in the business community, but in the House—was that we should not throw the door open very quickly, but gradually.

We need to understand the impact of the last wave of accession. My right hon. Friend is right to say that it is important that we help employers to understand their obligations. That is precisely why I wrote to 500,000 of them over the last few weeks. We will spend significant amounts more over the next few months so that employers know their obligations. He alluded to an important point: without a means of establishing someone’s identity in this modern economy, the job is difficult. That is why we need ID cards.

Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): One has to admire the Minister’s chutzpah in criticising employers of illegal immigrants when one of the employers caught using illegal immigrant cleaners was the Home Office in July. Tonight, a BBC “Panorama” special will expose how ridiculously easy it is to obtain a fake passport from another EU country and to be allowed freely into this country with it. Will he tell the House what penalty is appropriate for an employer who relies on that same fake passport as evidence of the right to work and will he not admit that the biggest problem is not the employers, but the fact that the Government’s system of border control has been exposed as completely inadequate?

Mr. Byrne: The hon. Gentleman will know something about this matter, because the Opposition abstained on the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act in 2005. The Act proposed a penalty for knowingly employing illegal immigrants and introduced new sanctions of unlimited fines, and imprisonment. The premise of his point is wrong. Business in this country has a responsibility to help to police illegal immigration. That is precisely why the CBI has joined with us, so that it can help draw up the rules that drive out bad employers. He is right to say that we must strengthen border controls—indeed we must, but that is exactly why biometric identity systems will be so important, not just for British nationals,
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but for foreign nationals and those who seek to visit this country from abroad. Over the months to come, as we debate the matter over and again, I anticipate that many members of the Opposition will join the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), who made it clear on the radio a year or two ago that, where the police have said that they see a case for using ID cards to tackle illegal immigration, he believes that that is true.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): What is my hon. Friend doing about people who have been granted leave to stay and allowed to take employment, but whose span of time has run out and who are waiting to renew that permission? Many employers are letting those people go.

Mr. Byrne: We have a number of measures in place, but, ultimately, there is no substitute for a big expansion in the available resources to police that. That is why I am glad that we were able to take the first step a week or two ago, outlining plans to hire 800 extra officers and investigators to uncover those businesses that break the rules. The transformation and overhaul of the IND will not be done overnight. It will take place over months and years to come. Ultimately, there will be no substitute for that in tackling the problems that my hon. Friend outlines.

Northamptonshire Police

8. Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): If he will take steps to prevent the loss of police officer posts from the Northamptonshire police in 2007-08. [106797]

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): It is for Northamptonshire police authority to set the budget and, with the chief constable, decide on police officer and police staff numbers and on their deployment.

Mr. Hollobone: That is a disappointing and complacent reply. There is strong local concern, because the way in which the present police funding formula works means that Northamptonshire faces the loss of between 30 and 42 full-time police officers next year. Will the Minister meet a delegation of hon. Members, the police force and the police authority so that we can get to the bottom of this serious financial crisis?

Mr. McNulty: I will be happy to consider that, if the hon. Gentleman gets his facts right. If the formula had been strictly applied, it would have meant £600,000 less for Northamptonshire in 2007-08, so it has benefited from the 3.6 per cent. flat level.

Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): The biggest problem faced by my constituents in Northamptonshire, on some of the more difficult estates, is that there is not the same uniformed presence that exists elsewhere. That is because the Conservative-controlled county council decided to pool the funding for police community support officers and cut funding for youth services, so that it could keep council tax down. Will the Minister ensure that the Opposition take the battle against crime and the causes of crime seriously?

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Mr. McNulty: I can only agree with my hon. Friend and thank her for her comments. The hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) cannot even get his facts right, let alone represent the concerns of the people in Northampton as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) does.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): It is interesting that the Minister picks one statistic for one year. If he were being totally informative, he would have mentioned that year after year the police in Northamptonshire have been underfunded by the national formula. This Government have cut millions and millions of pounds from the funding. Is that not a disgrace, and should he not apologise for it?

Mr. McNulty: The hon. Gentleman’s feigned anger shows again that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North is exactly right. Tweedledee and Tweedledum here are not serious about properly representing the people of Northamptonshire, whereas she clearly is.

Identity Cards

9. Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (LD): What estimate he has made of the total cost to date of identity cards. [106798]

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Liam Byrne): From the start of the 2003-04 financial year, up to the end of September 2006, a total of £58.2 million was spent by the Home Office on the identity cards scheme.

Danny Alexander: Given that the huge cost is one of the reasons why so many people are rightly sceptical about the ID cards scheme, why are the Government so unwilling to publish the gateway reviews and come clean about the true accumulated cost of the project?

Mr. Byrne: I note with interest that the Liberal Democrats’ website says that they:

The hon. Gentleman will no doubt have read the cost report that we laid before the House not too long ago and he will remember that about 70 per cent. of the costs set out in it will be incurred anyway as we upgrade our identity systems to support biometric passports as well. He is looking for some Christmas reading, so he will be delighted to know that, just before Christmas, we will publish our action plan for identity cards, together with detailed plans about how we will use biometric identity systems to tackle illegal immigration, a cause to which I am delighted that he subscribes.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): When the report is published, will my hon. Friend bear it in mind that cost does not stop terrorists or illegal immigrants coming into this country? When he examines such things, he should remember the needs of the people of this country before he starts listening to the wishy-washy Liberals.

Mr. Byrne: I am delighted to provide my hon. Friend with that assurance.

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Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): Recently, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan), gave me a written answer saying that no costs had been calculated for the deployment of ID cards in the private sector—indeed, all the cost estimates so far have been only in respect of the Home Office. Is any quotation of possible savings from the introduction of ID cards not ludicrous until a full and comprehensive cost estimate is provided for not only the private sector, but the full public sector and not just the Home Office?

Mr. Byrne: The private sector will make investments in exploiting ID cards as it sees fit and when it sees a net positive business case for doing so. We are fulfilling our obligation to the House to provide six-monthly estimates of the costs as we see them. When we laid the cost report before the House not long ago, we took the opportunity to set out the net benefit case. The net benefit stood at between £1 billion and £1.7 billion a year, in addition to helping our ability to strengthen controls, tackle illegal immigration and identity fraud, and disrupt terrorism.

North Yorkshire Police

10. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the recently completed baseline assessment report on the North Yorkshire police; and if he will make a statement. [106799]

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): The baseline assessment forms an integral part of the police performance assessment for each force, which we published in October. North Yorkshire was assessed as doing better than its peers in most areas, and had demonstrated improvements compared with last year.

Hugh Bayley: I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in congratulating North Yorkshire police on its success. Last year, the number of police officers in the county increased by almost 100, which was one reason why the total amount of crime in the county fell. However, the number of crimes varies enormously from one community to another. There were 3,949 crimes in York’s city-centre Guildhall ward compared with only 121 in York’s rural Wheldrake ward. Will the Government continue to target extra resources on fighting crime in the inner-city hot spots in police areas that are predominantly rural in character?

Mr. McNulty: I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating North Yorkshire on its performance. I take his point about the rural-urban dichotomy in crime, which is startling in North Yorkshire’s case. I know that the North Yorkshire force has already put in place the architecture for neighbourhood policing and that will be implemented in full during the rest of the year and beyond. I have no doubt that City of York will get its fair share, and that will reflect the crime levels there, as opposed to other parts of North Yorkshire.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): I congratulate North Yorkshire police on reducing crime overall, but does the Minister share my concern about the fact that violent and sexual crimes in North
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Yorkshire are on the increase, and that antisocial behaviour has reached unacceptable levels in the rural wards of market towns such as Thirsk, Bedale, Boroughbridge and Easingwold? What are the Government doing to allow the provision of community support officers to continue under North Yorkshire’s budget, and what extra finances will they give the force?

Mr. McNulty: I am happy to join the hon. Lady in congratulating North Yorkshire on its performance, and I am equally happy to congratulate her on hopefully staying in north Yorkshire, albeit in the constituency next door to hers. I take her points seriously, as does the chief constable of North Yorkshire. On every front—on violent crime, antisocial behaviour or the elements alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley)—North Yorkshire is on the case. Resources, as reflected in the recent police settlement, are still going up, and are going in the right direction.

Drug Rehabilitation Programmes

11. Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of drug rehabilitation programmes in prisons and young offender institutions. [106800]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): Research shows that drug treatment programmes in prison can reduce the reoffending rate by 10 to 15 per cent. below predicted levels, when effective aftercare arrangements are made. The Government have boosted funding for prison drug treatment significantly since 1997. It is up by 738 per cent., and a comprehensive framework is in place to provide treatment based on individual need.

Mr. Burrowes: Given the importance of the issue, is the Minister aware that London prisons receive only 5 per cent. of the drug rehabilitation provision offered to those in the community? Why, then, have the Government cut the very programme introduced to plug the gap, namely the integrated drug treatment system, by some 60 per cent.?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I do not accept that we have cut the programme. We are trying to get the most, and most effective, treatment for offenders, both in prison and outside. As for the figures, as I said, there has been a 738 per cent. increase since 1997 and clinical services are up by 483 per cent., so we cannot be charged with not trying to deal with drugs in prison. We certainly have a good record on what we are trying to achieve.

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Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): May we have an investigation into the distressingly large number of addicts who die shortly after being released from prison? In a recent case in my constituency, a young addict was forcibly detoxed, against his wishes and those of his family. The result was that he died on the day when he was released from prison. He took what was probably his usual dose of drugs, but his body was no longer tolerant to it. Should we not treat drug addicts with the same humanity as we do those who are addicted to alcohol?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that we try to support offenders in any way that we can, particularly those with drugs problems. That is why we made the investment that we did. I am happy to speak to him about the case that he mentioned, and, obviously, if any lessons can be learned, we will learn them.

Immigration (UK Skills Shortages)

12. Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): What recent estimate he has made of the number of workers from Romania and Bulgaria required to satisfy current UK skills shortages when developing his Department’s proposed restrictions on such immigration. [106801]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): We have made it clear, not least during this afternoon’s questions, that we will impose controls on Romania and Bulgaria’s access to jobs for a transitional period. The opening of our labour market will take account of the needs of our labour market, the impact of the A10 expansion and the positions adopted by other member states.

Mr. Evennett: Is the Minister aware of concerns in my constituency about the number of workers who may come to Britain from Romania and Bulgaria who will be unskilled or semi-skilled, rather than the skilled people that the country needs? Will she deny the suggestion, emanating from her own Department, that some 45,000 undesirables could well come to the country as a result of her policies?

Joan Ryan: Those coming from Romania and Bulgaria do not have any automatic right to work. Although we have not placed restrictions on skilled workers from Romania and Bulgaria, we will double enforcement and ensure that anyone who works does so legally. If they do not do so, sanctions will be enforced.

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