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That is a very wide power: the Secretary of State can impose a penalty on someone for not complying with the registration, but there is no indication of what that penalty might or might not be.

A few days ago, I raised with the Minister the question of how the card will be used. For instance, could the police stop someone and ask them for their card? The Minister has assured me in writing——and mentioned earlier today——that that would not be the case. However, we would assume that an immigration officer could ask for the card and that it will be asked for in a variety of circumstances. Let us suppose that there was a raid on a factory where it was thought that a significant number of employees were working illegally—the sort of thing that we know happens. People in that factory may require the card; others will not: people who are British citizens but who happen to have come to this country as migrants. We must be sure that the checking of such people, who might include British citizens, will be done with sensitivity.

I am not clear either, given the Bill’s phrasing, exactly who in the end will have the biometric card. The Bill talks about people who are subject to immigration control. It appears that that will be interpreted to include people who have indefinite leave to remain, on the ground that it is possible for that person’s indefinite leave to be revoked at some point. For instance, if someone with indefinite leave stays out the country for two years or more, the indefinite leave lapses. Is it the intention that everyone who has indefinite leave to remain but has not then acquired British citizenship will be brought into the ambit of the Bill? That is a very large number of people and it will include many family members of people who are British citizens. After living in this country for years and years and having indefinite leave to remain, they would feel some resentment if they were asked to sign up to a biometric card on the ground that they were foreign nationals.

I can understand perfectly well that people should be able to prove that they have a right to work and to gain access to a benefit or a public service. It may well be that a single secure document, rather than the vast number of documents that can be used now, would be a considerable help in that respect. I have certainly come across cases—I am sure that other hon. Member have, too—that involve people who find it difficult to convince an employer that they have the right to work, because they have a three-year-old status letter from the Home Office that is getting tatty and does not look like the genuine article. I have also dealt with constituents who have had problems proving to the Benefits Agency that they have a right to gain access to benefits. Responsible employers are reluctant to employ people whom they think might be subject to immigration control or perhaps do not have the right to work. I can understand that such things can be a two-way street and that people could benefit from being able to produce that secure document.


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I am also concerned about some points that were raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) about the consequences of a move towards cracking down on illegal working. I agree with absolutely everything that he said about the employers whom we should be targeting. Those people will not just be employing illegal workers; they will not be paying VAT, national insurance or tax properly, and so on. There is no question but that we should be targeting those people, but we will inevitably throw up conceivably very large numbers of people who are working illegally and people who have overstayed—some of whom have been here a long time and have families, mortgages and children in school—and we must have some way to deal with those people if were not going to create chaos. Chaos will certainly be caused in their lives if they are suddenly told after years of working that they are no longer able to do so.

My right hon. Friend said that he would rule out an amnesty because it would become a magnet. I have heard that sort of argument before, but it does not necessarily convince me, if the rules are made clear enough. For example, in recent years, there was effectively an amnesty for asylum seeker families with children who had been here a certain length of time and whose children had been born before a particular date. I do not see any evidence at all that that led to lots more people coming to this country with their families to seek asylum because they thought that there might be another amnesty in two or three years. I am not necessarily convinced that an amnesty has to act as a magnet if the rules are made clear.

David T.C. Davies: The hon. Gentleman will surely appreciate that, in a country where the standard of living falls far below that in the United Kingdom, if people see that they can get into the UK and get an amnesty after a period of years, that is a good incentive to come here.

Mr. Gerrard: If we are moving to a system that involves points-based migration controls and better controls on illegal working—something that we need to address through tackling employers—we somehow have to deal with the people who are in the country here and now, some of whom have been here for a long time. I would not argue for an out-and-out amnesty. I am saying, let us have some rules that look at how long someone has been in the country and how long they have been working. Perhaps in the first place we could just give them a limited leave to remain—in other words, the possibility of earning the right to stay here permanently. Whether we go down that road or not, I agree absolutely with my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen that the Government have to be prepared to deal with those people, and to do so systematically, if we are not going to cause a lot of problems for individuals. I know where those individuals will end up when they get those problems: in our constituency surgeries, and in large numbers in the inner-city parts of London.

Mr. Stewart Jackson: I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman has said, but the problems to which he refers already exist for legal migrants in this country. They are being exploited by some employers, they live in houses in multiple occupation, and they are displacing
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low-skill and low-wage indigenous host community work forces, which is causing community cohesion problems—something that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas) has drawn attention to. The Government have to look at all those issues. I am sure that the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) will not agree with me, but the Government have to look at the impact of both legal and illegal immigration on the local delivery of services.

Mr. Gerrard: Of course the Government have to look at the impact of migration on delivery of services, but where I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and I would part company is on the question of whether migration is good for the economy. I think that, in general, migration has been good for the economy. There is no question but that, when people are working illegally and being exploited, that affects many other people.

I will try to conclude my remarks, because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. I shall refer quickly to a couple of other points in the Bill. Clause 16 allows conditions to be imposed on people with limited leave to remain in relation to reporting and residence. I can see the arguments in the specific cases that have been cited, but the drafting of that clause leaves the provision very wide. It could apparently be made to apply to far more people than were referred to in the debate earlier. That is another example of where more clarity is needed in the Bill.

On new evidence and appealing, I understand the arguments, but I again agree with the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen: if all that happens is what is proposed in the Bill, that will lead to more clogging of the system. It will lead to people reapplying, paying again and going round and round. If we did have a “minded to refuse” stage, that would be a way of cutting through that and getting rid of some of the problems.

The final issue that I want to mention is deportation. I am concerned about the threshold that is being suggested. It covers a wide range of offences. We need to be sure that the process will allow for proper consideration in relation to anybody who is making the claim on human rights grounds or in connection with the refugee convention. The issue is a bit like illegal working in that it has the potential to throw up cases of families who have been settled here for many years. We need to think about the impact on the family when we are looking at whether to deport someone. I do not have any problem whatsoever with deporting somebody who has been convicted of serious offences, but the list could include people who have not committed such a serious offence. We could be talking about a first-time offender who has done something stupid behind the wheel of a car and who ends up with a sentence of more than 12 months. That person could have been in the country for a long time and have a family. We need to get the balance right.

I said initially that I could see the reasoning behind much of what is in the Bill. There are issues of principle that I do not have any problem with, but there is an enormous amount of detail that we need to go through in the later stages to get things right. Otherwise, I am afraid that we are going to end up with powers that are so wide that we will not be able to get things right in the regulation.


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6.45 pm

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): The history of Britain is one of immigration—often coming from the south or the east. We are constantly reminded of that. It is a historical fact, but we are often reminded of it because it is seen by some as a reason to do absolutely nothing about the unparalleled levels of immigration at the moment. If one looks back in history at our experiences of immigration, one can draw certain lessons from them. For example, when immigration has been on a small scale and has taken place in a controlled fashion, and when there has been a willingness on the part of the immigrating community to integrate themselves, it has usually been a successful and happy experience. Off the top of my head, I can think of the Jews who came here under Oliver Cromwell, the Huguenots who came here after the edict of Fontainebleau and, more recently, the Ugandans who came here because of Idi Amin. Those are all good examples of immigration into this country where the host nation benefited, as did those who came here.

Throughout our history, there have of course been many other examples that have not been so happy. Those who say that immigration is always a good thing ought to look at their history books a little more closely. Wherever it has taken place in an uncontrolled fashion and has involved very large numbers it has almost inevitably resulted in forms of conflict with the host community and in a lack of willingness on the part of those coming here to integrate themselves. I would not even begin to compare what is going on at the moment with things that happened in Britain’s pre-history, but immigration is very much out of control.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol, East) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman has given some examples of when he thinks that communities have integrated successfully. Perhaps he would care to give some examples of when he thinks that they have not integrated so successfully.

David T.C. Davies: I am not sure whether you want historical examples. Obviously, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes were an example of mass migration that did not work terribly well as far as the host population was concerned. If you wanted something more contemporary, you need only look at some of the comments that have been made by your own Front-Bench Members recently—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must use the correct parliamentary language when he is addressing another Member of the House.

David T.C. Davies: I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Lady need only listen to some of the comments that have been made by Members on her own Front Bench, who have referred to the fact that certain minorities that have come to this country have sadly not integrated very well. Her Government, and perhaps previous Governments, bear some of the responsibility for that because of the rather pernicious ideology of multiculturalism, which encouraged people to celebrate the things that made them different, rather than to celebrate the fact that we are all British and live in this great and wonderful country.

I fear that the Bill will do little to change anything. It will certainly not change the weight of numbers coming
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into the country, which is putting severe strain on our social services and housing services, and, in some areas, on our schools and hospitals. It is certainly putting a strain on wages. The Welsh Affairs Committee is carrying out an inquiry into globalisation. One of the papers from the CBI rather gloatingly referred to the fact that the large number of immigrants has pushed down wages for lower-skilled workers. The CBI is absolutely delighted about that, of course. It said that that had kept down wage inflation, which it saw as a perfectly good thing. Many of those who work at the lower end of society—although that is not a phrase that I like to use very much; I am talking about those who work on lower pay—would not see that as a terribly good thing. Many of those people are themselves recent immigrants.

Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): On a point of clarification, does the hon. Gentleman tell his constituents that he comes to this House and argues for policies that would increase the wages that they would have to pay, for example, for some building work to extend their home or to get a plumber? Is he arguing that his constituents should pay more for those services?

David T.C. Davies: I am very happy to tell my constituents that I would like them to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. I would be interested to know whether the hon. Gentleman tells his constituents something different.

Andrew Mackinlay: I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman says. I notice that people talk, sometimes very skilfully, about immigration without control. For the purposes of the discussion, does the hon. Gentleman include people from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in his argument, or is he talking about people from non-EU countries? What would he say to those wonderful people from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic who will soon be on the electoral register in his area? Will he tell them that he was criticising them and their worth? I want to know.

David T.C. Davies: Well, if I am, I will have to be careful because my wife is one of them. When people tell us that we should embrace our European partners, I can say that I do it most nights of the week when I am not in the House.

My wife and the many Hungarians whom I know—I know most of them in my constituency because I am one of probably few Members of Parliament who have some grasp of the language—tell me that they, too, do not want unlimited, uncontrolled immigration because it affects their jobs and the way that people perceive them. That is why we need controls. I thought that it was probably okay to allow Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the European Union because their standards of living, although below ours, are not so far below that huge numbers of people could have been expected to leave permanently. The standards of living in Bulgaria and Romania are so far below even those of that recent tranche of EU members that people will have a strong financial incentive to leave in very large numbers indeed. This is not a matter of faith or culture; very often it is a matter of differences in standards of living.


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Mr. Stewart Jackson: Does my hon. Friend share my scepticism about Labour Members who complain about the attitude of Conservative Members to EU migrants when their Ministers’ projection of the number of such migrants was out by a factor of 25? Does he also agree that it is not a badge of honour for our country that many people from EU countries are being exploited, live in poor housing, have poor educational attainment and are earning well below the minimum wage? That is not something to be proud of, for this Government or any other.

David T.C. Davies: It is very shameful. A case recently came to my attention concerning a young lady from Poland who had been exploited in a shocking fashion, and that sort of thing is widespread. My hon. Friend makes an important point.

A number of parts of the Bill are well worth supporting in themselves even though they will not change anything, but even those are not all that they are cracked up to be. I am sure that the provision relating to automatic deportation will play very well in the tabloids, and Ministers will be hoping that all sorts of left-wing pressure groups jump up and condemn them so that, paradoxically, the Government will look rather good in the pages of the Daily Mail, but as my Front-Bench colleagues have pointed out, the measure is not what it is cracked up to be.

Why on earth should somebody have to be sentenced to 12 months in prison before they face the threat of automatic deportation? We all know that it is virtually impossible to get into a British prison these days. One has to do something very bad indeed as a first offence to be sentenced to more than 12 months in prison. I should be interested to know whether the 12 months relates to the sentence passed by the judge or the sentence that is actually served, which is of course usually a fraction of that passed by the judge.

I put it to Labour Members that if somebody repeatedly breaks the law—by breaking into houses or cars, or shoplifting, for example—but does not get more than 12 months in prison, why on earth should they not face deportation? We heard earlier about the case of the Somali sex offender who had carried out one sex offence and been to prison, was released but not deported because somebody said that his human rights would be abused, and was then put back in prison having been convicted of another sexual offence. Presumably, the same people will be jumping up and down and bleating if there is any suggestion that he be sent back to Somalia, because of course it is a terribly dangerous place and he might come to some harm. Yet every single right-thinking person in this country is thinking to themselves that if it is a dangerous place and he will come to some harm there, that is the very reason he should be deported there as quickly as possible, instead of being left in the holiday camps that pass for prisons in this country these days.

I ask the Minister again why, according to the Bill, somebody who assaults an immigration officer will face a maximum prison sentence of only 51 weeks. The message will go out to people involved in immigration cases that they can get away with assaulting immigration officers and, if they do so, they will not necessarily face the threat of deportation because they will not receive a prison sentence of more than one year.


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There is another issue that concerns me very much. It is not the fact that immigration officers are getting extra powers. Clearly that needs to happen, although it would be much better if they were being given these powers along with members of different police forces and we had a unified border security force, which at least two of the major political parties in the House are calling for. What worries me is the fact that this is likely to lead to yet another series of spurious claims against the IND, in addition to those currently being made, all funded by taxpayers’ money.

A year ago I was told that millions of pounds are being paid out by the IND as a result of spurious claims, and I refrained from making that statement because I thought that it would be best to try to check the facts. I tabled a written question last May and was told that I could not have an answer. I tabled another one in June and was told that somebody would write to me. Back in September or October somebody wrote to me and said that they would write to me with some details soon. I then tried the House of Commons Library, asking it how much money is being paid out in compensation claims to asylum seekers. I was told that the member of staff in the Library had been told by the IND that under no circumstances was it prepared to give those figures. I then started making freedom of information requests, and I was told that it would cost too much money to tell me how much money had been paid out in claims. I then made a freedom of information request to find out whether the Home Office had talked to the IND about any of my queries, and it looked as though it had, but it was not prepared to tell me about that either, for security reasons.

I put it to the Minister that the Government are already paying out probably tens of millions of pounds in entirely bogus claims to asylum seekers who are probably claiming that their human rights have been breached because they have had to wait a couple of extra days or weeks for a ruling from the IND. I challenge the Minister, if that is not true, to tell us how much money has been paid out in claims to asylum seekers. I put it to her that, after one year of trying very hard, a Member of Parliament ought to have access to fairly basic information such as that.

I finish by saying to Members of the House that I get rather tired of being called a fascist, a racist, a xenophobe and all the rest of it for simply pointing out that unlimited, uncontrolled immigration into this country is not a good thing. I remember that when I was dealing with the IND in a personal capacity, I went up to Birmingham one day with my wife, as I had done on a number of occasions, taking all my forms and the money in a brown envelope— [Interruption.] I did not get into this place as a result of that. The case officer I was dealing with, who had no idea that I was a Member of the Welsh Assembly, looked at me in surprise and said, “Do you know, I don’t meet many people like you.” [Laughter.] I walked into that. The case officer said that he had never met anyone who had gone so far out of their way to obey the rules. He said, “You are very definitely in a minority.” My fear is that people such as me, my wife and other immigrants to this country who obey the rules will continue to be in a minority and this Bill will change absolutely nothing.


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