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As we are dealing with a hypothetical situation involving an Order in Council, it is right to ask one or two questions about what it might contain. What costs will be involved in the provisions? The Minister mentioned enforcement costs. Will those relate strictly to the costs of imprisonment in this country, or will there be any connected costs in relation to legal representationsfor example, if an appeal were mounted when the person was imprisoned? On Second Reading, I asked the Minister to comment on what powers the Special Court would have and on what matters the UK would decide. Can he confirm that the sentence may be varied only by the properly constituted Special Court or its successor? Will that also cover such matters as early release? What will be the handover
arrangements from the Special Court? What sort of prison is the prisoner likely to be held in, if convicted? That is another matter that will have to be handled in the Order in Council. What arrangements would be made in an emergency medical situation? Those few questions are all that I have at this stage.
Dr. Howells: The Government do not envisage any extra costs arising. The issues that the hon. Gentleman raised are matters for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which sits in The Hague, not for the British Government.
The prisoner would be held in part of the high- security estate of the English and Welsh prison system. The hon. Gentleman asked about the transfer of prisoners. That would be done in the normal way. He knows about the normal procedure: in general, experienced prison officers would go to the airport where the transfer of prisoners took place. In the case that we are considering, the airport would probably be Schiphol. They would proceed in the normal way to take charge of the prisoner and take him on to the aircraft that would return him to the United Kingdom. That happens every weekor rather, I assume that it happens every week; it certainly happens often. I do not envisage any problem with that.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about delegated power, which is important, but I shall try to tackle it briefly. The Bill provides for a delegated power because its exercise will depend on the successful conclusion of a sentence enforcement agreement with the Special Court. We have no proposal for an Order in Council until such an agreement has been reached. No particular difficulty with the agreement is envisaged, but the Government do not propose to conclude it until Parliament has granted the necessary powers. Orders in Council will be laid before Parliament after being made. That follows the precedent under the United Nations Act 1946. I hope that I have answered the hon. Gentlemans questions.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: May I say to the Minister, Almost? He has not quite clarified what matters the UK authorities will decide, what the court will determine and what the special imprisonment enforcement agreement will cover. On early release, downgrading prison security to low security, emergency medical treatment and conditions for release at the end of the sentence, which matters will be for the UK authorities to decide and which will be for the Special Court? Will a Special Court have to be convened every time a significant event occurs in the sentence? How will the mechanism work?
Dr. Howells: I am sorry that I did not answer all the questionsI could not write fast enough.
The Special Court or its successor body will have to make any decisions on early release. There will be no financial cost to this country as a consequence of those decisions other than the cost of keeping Charles Taylor in prison if he is found guilty and if the court decides that he will be imprisoned in this country. If the Special Court convicted Charles Taylor and he was imprisoned in the UK, there would be no role for the UK courts. That is important. Under sentence enforcement agreements with international criminal tribunals, the role of the imprisoning state is simply to implement the sentence imposed by the tribunal, which retains responsibility for all decisions about appeal, revision or reduction.
The hon. Gentleman asked what would happen if the Special Court were wound up. Let us consider the event of the court ceasing to exist in its current form. As I tried to explain earlier, for the completion of its current trial load, judicial responsibility will pass to a designated successor body. Discussion is already taking place on the form that it should take. He also asked about what would happen if something happened to the prisoner while he was in prisonillness, for example. I have been reliably informed that he would be dealt with in the same way as any other high-security prisoner. Indeed, he would be dealt with just like any other high-security prisoner in every respect. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I have just one more question for the Minister, because it is important to get these matters on the record. If a high-security prisoner were imprisoned in one of Her Majestys prisons in this country, the prison governor would be able to decide on a number of minor proceduresfor example, curtailment of visitor rights for non-co-operative behaviour. Will the Minister confirm that the same regime would apply to Charles Taylor?
Dr. Howells: Yes, if Taylor were convicted by the Special Court and imprisoned in the UK, I can confirm that that would apply. Should his family wish to visit him here, for example, they could apply for leave to enter as visitors in accordance with normal immigration procedures. The day-to-day administration of the prison and the prisoner would have to be in the hands of the governor. He would act within the rules and norms laid down for the Prison Service, which would have been made clear to the Special Court for Sierra Leone prior to the trialand indeed if questions were asked during the course of the trialproviding absolute transparency on the conditions under which Charles Taylor would be held if he were convicted and sent to a British prison.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Bill reported, without amendment.
Bill read the Third time , and passed.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 7371/07 and Addenda 1 to 4, Draft Regulation amending Regulation No. 11 concerning the abolition of discrimination in transport rates and conditions in implementation of Article 79(3) of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community and Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 of the European Parliament and the Council on the hygiene of foodstuffs; and supports the Governments view that attempts to reduce administrative burdens on food businesses are to be welcomed, but should not compromise public health protection. [Mr. Cawsey.]
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): I have with me a petition signed by students from the university of Plymouth students union, including Mr. Darren P Jones, Mr. James Redfearn, Miss Kathryn Rason and Miss Katie Shaw.
Declares that, Students in Scotland and Wales do not pay any money towards prescriptions. Currently students in England are entitled to a reduced rate, depending on their financial circumstances; however, a fee must still be paid.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Chancellor of the Exchequer to abolish prescription fees for students in England and acknowledge that universal free prescriptions would be less expensive than the system of means testing that currently exists.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. [Steve McCabe.]
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise an issue of major importance to my constituency and surrounding areas. I am delighted to see on the Treasury Bench the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan). We got on well during the proceedings on the UK Borders Bill a few months ago and I hope that we have a fruitful debate today. I am also delighted that my hon. Friends the Members for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) and for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara) have been able to join me for the debate today.
The Minister might be aware that I was lucky enough to secure an Adjournment debate in July last year on community cohesion in Cambridgeshire. It was a similar debate to this one, although not exactly the same. I hope that this debate will focus on how a national policy has been implemented without thought for the consequences for a small number of communities, in terms of the delivery of public services, adequate financial provision, local governance and the impact on community cohesion. I want to talk briefly about the policy of unprecedented large-scale migration from within the European Union, especially in the context of the lack of reliable data on which to base funding decisions, and of the impact on Peterborough. I will make several key suggestions, to which I hope that the Minister will give due consideration.
It is vital to revisit the larger political issues arising from the Governments decision to allow unrestricted migration into the United Kingdom from the eight accession countries to the European Union in May 2004. I want to make a few general observations on that. One is that, in future, we should avoid a situation in which we know so little about the people entering the United Kingdom that we fail to predict their likely numbers with any degree of accuracy. In this case, we were out by a factor of about 50. We were therefore unable to amend public policy accordingly.
It is self-evident that when a wealthy country such as the United Kingdom opens its borders to countries whose income per head is hugely lower than oursLatvia, for example, has an income per head 40 per cent. lower than the UK averagelarge-scale migration will result. How did the Government fail to see that that would happen, given the obligation under the EU free movement directive for countries such as the UK to provide benefits to migrants that would exceed the real level of wages in their own country?
It bears repeating that the Governments estimate of the likely level of migration at the time, which was reiterated by the Prime Minister, was between 13,000 and 15,000. That estimate has been dwarfed by the actual numbers. According to figures released in July last year, 427,000 migrants from EU member states have registered to work here since May 2004, and most reliable estimates put the figure at between 600,000 and 700,000.
Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?
Mr. Jackson: I would be delighted to give way to my neighbour.
Mr. Vara: I am grateful to my neighbour for giving way. Does he agree that we are simply talking about figures that the Government are aware of, and that most commentators agree that a large number of people are not in the estimate system? The actual figures are therefore much larger.
Mr. Jackson: My hon. Friend makes a characteristically succinct and important point. I will discuss the demonstrable flaws in the workers registration scheme in a moment, particularly in respect of dependent adults and dependent children of EU migrants, and the impact of that on the delivery of public services in Peterborough and beyond. I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention.
In the eastern region, the most recent figures obtained via the workers registration scheme to March 2007 put the number of migrant workers there at 68,020. The eastern region has received the third largest number of EU migrants after the south-east and London. Peterborough officially has the highest figures, recorded at 7,915, representing one in eight of the total for the whole eastern region, which comprises Hertfordshire, Essex, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The figure is higher than that for migrant hot spots such as Luton, which has received 6,980 migrant workers, or for places such as Fenland, Kings Lynn and Breckland. I shall say more on the specific issues relating to Peterborough later.
The East of England Development Agencys report Migrant Workers in the East of England estimates that between 50,000 and 80,000 migrant workers are currently resident. In the eastern region, 20,743 new national insurance numbers were issued in 2005, 27,827 in 2006, and 3,276 in the first quarter of 2007. In Peterborough, 3,320 new national insurance numbers were issued in 2005, and 5,080 in 2006more than 8,000 in just two years, in a small city that, according to the 2001 population census, has only 156,000 citizens.
It is clear, however, that we simply do not know how many migrant workers are in the United Kingdom. The Governments worker registration scheme is seriously flawed. It fails to monitor the total number of people in the country or the number of migrants claiming benefits. It fails to capture details of those who are self-employed, those who are posted workers or the number of dependants and non-workers who have migrated to the United Kingdom.
The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham), said last August:
The number of people at the local level is often estimated at between two or three times the number the Government thinks are on the Worker Registration Scheme.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics international passenger survey show that more than 4.5 million citizens from the A8 countriesthe accession countrieshave visited the United Kingdom since May 2004, compared with just 1.4 million in the two years between 2002 and 2004. That figure seems incompatible even with the estimate of 700,000 new EU migrants in the UK to date.
I will now turn to the issue of benefits. In February 2004, the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) promised:
we will require accession nationals to be able to support themselves. If they are unable to do so, they will lose any right of residence and will have to return to their own country.[ Official Report, 23 February 2004; Vol. 418, c. 24.]
In practice, that is simply not the case. If we compare benefit claims by EU migrants in the United Kingdom in a random period since May 2004for example, the second quarter of 2005 to the second quarter of 2006we find that tax credit claims have risen from 1,781 to more than 14,000, child benefit claims from 5,021 to 27,280, and income-based jobseekers allowance claims from 35 to 564. That is historical data, and the figures are liable to be higher still this year. Overall, the number of successful benefit claims during that period increased from 6,853 to 42,057.
The worker registration scheme does limit migrants access to welfare, but not for all benefits, and only for one year. The debate is not primarily about EU directives or welfare benefits. There is a strong case to be made, however, for the Government to revisit or even amend the 2004 free movement directive, as it applies to the United Kingdom. The Government maintain that they have an appropriately robust policy and a special quota scheme for agricultural workers from January this year, with respect to Romanian and Bulgarian economic migrants. In practice, that claim is dubious. There are no border checks, the individuals only have to show an up-to-date ID card, and they are entitled to stay as visitors for up to three months. There is little, however, to prevent them from disappearing into the twilight world of the black economy, of unscrupulous landlords and of gangmasters.
Many commentators cite, with platitudinous generalities, the contribution that European Union migrants make to the United Kingdom economy. It is possible that they make a positive net contribution by making up for skills shortages and filling the Treasury coffers with taxes, but the evidence is far from clear; it is patchy and inconclusive.
The Ernst and Young ITEM Club report, which is often quoted by Ministers, is fundamentally flawed in that it fails to take into account the fiscal impact of contingent family dependants of EU migrants. Between May 2004 and August 2006, no fewer than 36,235 dependants of EU8 migrants were registered under the auspices of the Accession Monitoring Report. Moreover, Lord Turners Pensions Commission has already rejected as spurious the argument that the new work force will somehow assist in easing the pensions burden. Where the ITEM Club and Lord Turner agree is on the impact that EU migrants can have in the localised Labour market
the downward pressure the new workers exert on real wages.
I shall return to that later, with particular reference to my constituency.
It is a moot point whether the new work force do make a positive as opposed to a negative financial contribution to the economy. According to the Access Monitoring Report, 78 per cent. of registered workers earn between £4.50 and £5.99 per hour. That gives annual earnings of £11,800. In 2005, the average earnings of the employed working population overall were £22,000. Thus the earnings of A8 migrant workers were just over half those of the United Kingdom employed population as a whole. Measured by earnings per worker, the productivity of the A8 workers is therefore extremely low. However, they support just 17 dependants for every 100 workers, compared to 110 dependants for every 100 workers in the UK population as a whole. Average earnings per head are therefore about £10,000 for A8 registered workers and their dependants, compared to around £10,500 for UK employees and their dependants. That implies that their contribution to gross domestic product per head for the economy as a whole is probably slightly negative.
Output per migrant worker is also poor, as the workers are engaged mainly in low-productivity and low-value-added services and activities. If their productivity stays constant and the number of dependants increases, their contribution to increased GDP per head will become more negative. Their GDP and fiscal contributions would be reduced further if they had filled positions that resulted in UK workers remaining unemployed. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of people unemployed has increased by 280,000 over the last year, and it seems reasonable to assume that some of that increase results from A8 migration.
In October 2006, Migrationwatch UK published a detailed paper entitled Economic contribution of A8 migrants. I hope that the Minister will not grimace too much, given that the Minister for Immigration and Asylum prayed in aid Migrationwatch during recent discussions on the UK Borders Bill, including the Third Reading debate. The report states:
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