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Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): This is a good opportunity for the Home Secretary to be honest about the points-based system. She tends to refer to it as the “Australian-style” points-based system, because we all admire the way in which the Australians deal with immigration. Did she notice that last week, the Australians, who put an annual limit on work permits, reduced that limit? They said that it was prudent to do so in a recession. Will she admit that a Conservative Government could follow that policy, because we will introduce an
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annual limit, but that she cannot? Will she therefore stop trying to fool people into thinking that we have an Australian-style system? Only under a Conservative Government will we have Australian-style control over immigration numbers.

Jacqui Smith: On the contrary, I have already announced—I reiterated this today—that we have the ability, through the points-based system, to raise the bar. We will do that. The impact of that, alongside the economic circumstances that we face, will be fewer migrants coming to the UK from outside the EEA. We will successfully reduce the number of migrants coming in during these difficult economic times. If we are talking about honesty, as the hon. Gentleman favours a cap, although I do not know what sort of a cap it is—a UK Tory cap—perhaps he would like to give us some background. Perhaps he could say how many people he thinks the cap should cover, what its level should be, and how it could be made more effective, given that it would cover only one in four migrants to this country, whereas the points-based system covers half of them.

Topical Questions

T1. [264820] Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport) (Lab): If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): We are on track to introduce identity cards this autumn, and we have already started to issue ID cards for foreign nationals. Next month, we plan to award two contracts for the national identity scheme: one to upgrade our passport application systems, and one for the biometric database to deliver the next generation of passports and ID cards. Later this year, we will award the ID contract itself. As is normal, the contracts have been written to protect the public purse, with standard clauses on what would happen in the event of termination. Cancellation of the ID cards contract, and partial termination of the application and database contracts, would cost about £40 million in the early years. Therefore, as I have made clear on many occasions, scrapping ID cards and the identity database will not free up a large fund of money to spend on other priorities.

Alison Seabeck: I thank the Home Secretary for that answer. She will be aware, because I have written to her Department, that Devon and Cornwall police force has decided not to discipline a police officer who used police cars for his own personal use. Does she share my concern, and the concern of my constituents, that that is an entirely inappropriate use of police property, and does she agree that action should be taken?

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Vernon Coaker): I am aware of the case that my hon. Friend refers to, and I have written to her about it as I know it is a matter of concern to her. Perhaps I could meet her so that we may discuss it in more detail.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): As the Secretary of State knows, Scotland is experiencing long-term population decline, which might well be made
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more difficult with the points-based system. Why does she not seriously consider the positive suggestion that skilled migrant workers be given extra points if they opt to go to Scotland, as opposed to one of the pressure points in England? That is what happens under the points-based system in Australia, where some states have had the same difficulties as Scotland.

The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Phil Woolas): Some of the skills shortages on the skills shortage list that Professor Metcalf identified apply in Scotland, but without the introduction of internal border controls—perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to see that—

Pete Wishart: It happens in Australia.

Mr. Woolas: The last time I looked at a map, Australia was slightly bigger than the United Kingdom.

T4. [264823] Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend look into wheel clamping companies, particularly those that have been abusing the system? There are some reputable companies and some that are not.

Jacqui Smith: Yes, which is why I asked the Security Industry Authority to carry out a feasibility study into the regulation of wheel clamping companies. Although I know that there are legitimate companies operating in this area, there are, as many Members have seen, too many companies that operate to the detriment of our constituents, that are roguish, to say the least, and that should be regulated. We will introduce proposals for regulation in the near future.

T2. [264821] Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): Although some aspects of the new e-Borders system, such as reinstating exit checks, are welcome, there is widespread concern about the extent of the data that will be collected, so will the Secretary of State clarify exactly what information will need to be provided by innocent citizens travelling abroad, and for how long it will be held?

Mr. Woolas: I thank the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to answer that question. The e-Borders programme has been running for four years, and the data collected and the use to which they are put is and has been available for some time on the Home Office website and in agency information. I can reassure the hon. Lady that the data are not misused, as some have rather mischievously alleged, but I come back to my point in answer to the spokesman for the Opposition, the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), that immigration controls and management are possible only if there is counting in and counting out, which requires a data base.

T6. [264825] Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): As a result of the great efforts of the police, the crime and drugs partnership, and the local strategic partnership, One Nottingham, the number of crimes in Nottingham over the past three years has fallen by 26,000, saving the taxpayer £52 million. Will my hon. Friends have a word with their Treasury colleagues and ask whether we can incentivise cities such as
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Nottingham and enable them to borrow against that saving, and perhaps create a Nottingham investment bond, to push crime down further and give people some tangible reward when they do a good job of reducing crime?

Mr. Coaker: That is an interesting idea from my hon. Friend, and I will talk to Treasury colleagues. I am not sure—or perhaps I am sure—what the answer will be, but I will speak to my colleagues in the Treasury about it. Obviously, I know Nottingham well, as that is where my constituency is. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that he has done with One Nottingham, and Alan Given and everyone else on their work running it. Crime has dropped significantly in Nottingham as a result of the work that my hon. Friend and others associated with One Nottingham have done. One of the most important things to which my hon. Friend draws attention and to which One Nottingham has drawn attention, is that not only is enforcing the law important, but that if we are to bring about change over time, the early intervention that my hon. Friend has pioneered and passionately argued for time and again is crucial. Breaking the cycle of crime and deprivation is surely one of the great social challenges that we all face.

T3. [264822] Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): Will the Home Secretary or the Minister take a careful look at the case of the Rizk family, who face the prospect of being deported to an uncertain future in Egypt? Their son Marin has autistic spectrum disorder, for which there is no specialist provision in that country; the family fear discrimination as a result. The family run a successful supermarket in my constituency, and because of their hard work they have mobilised community support. More than 900 people have signed a petition supporting them. Will the Home Secretary or the Minister meet me to discuss the case, and particularly the family’s fear of discrimination?

Mr. Woolas: Of course I will meet the hon. Gentleman if he wishes to push the case of his constituents; it is right that he should ask, and right that I should meet him. From his campaign, I have become personally familiar with some of the details of the case. I simply say, although not directly in relation to this case, that when such concerns are raised by hon. Members, they come after the independent judicial tribunal system has looked at the relevant situations. However, I will make arrangements to meet the hon. Gentleman.

T5. [264824] Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Does the Home Secretary think it appropriate for MPs to intervene to stop judicial proceedings before the High Court? In particular, did she think it appropriate for the Chairman of her departmental Select Committee to intervene in the case of—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must stop the hon. Gentleman. The purpose of Question Time is to question Ministers on their actions, not to criticise a right hon. Member of the House. That is not what Ministers are here for, and it is wrong of the hon. Gentleman to make such comments.

T8. [264827] Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend look carefully at the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary
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about the possibility of genocide and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka when she next considers the status of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the list of proscribed organisations in the UK?

Jacqui Smith: The proscription of every proscribed organisation is reviewed annually. Those reviews seek to establish whether the organisation remains concerned with terrorism according to the definitions set out in the Terrorism Act 2000, and therefore whether the proscription should be maintained. The status of the LTTE has been reviewed in the past six months as part of that process. It is open to anybody affected by an organisation’s proscription to apply to me for the removal of the organisation from the proscribed list.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): There are now nearly 100 special constables in Colchester. The number has been boosted significantly in the past year under a system whereby the local business community releases staff in company time to train quickly to become special constables. May I ask the Home Secretary about what measures the Government are taking to roll out that successful programme across the country?

Mr. Coaker: The hon. Gentleman is right; the specials do a really important job in policing our country. He is also right to point out the existence of employer-supported policing programmes as a further development. The Home Office has funded nine regional co-ordinators across the country, based in each police region. It will be their responsibility to ensure that we recruit not only more specials but more employers to the cause, so that they release people to become specials in their communities. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the commitment is to pay those employees at their normal wage for at least two days a month, so that they can conduct special policing. I should also say that the Home Office has also taken part in the scheme; 12 Home Office staff work as special constables. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman’s question.

T10. [264829] Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): Dealing with antisocial behaviour in Mitcham town centre is a top priority for the Figges Marsh safer neighbourhood team. Can my right hon. Friend understand why Merton council officials and police officers, none of whom lives in the area, decided not to renew the dispersal zone—and without consulting local residents, local councillors or me, the local MP?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): As my hon. Friend will know, dispersal orders are time-limited and their renewal depends very much on the effect that they have had on the problem concerned. Our view is that such decisions are best resolved locally by police, working with local agencies and residents.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): In an interdependent world economy, a regular, though limited, flow of migrant workers is inevitable, necessary and desirable. Given that immigration policy should be driven at least in part by considerations of economic need, and certainly not by the worst prejudices of the tabloids, can the Home Secretary confirm that the advisory report submitted to her by the Migration Advisory Committee, the better to inform public policy, will always be published?

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Jacqui Smith: We set up the independent Migration Advisory Committee precisely to provide the evidence to enable the flexibility within the points-based system that allows it to be used as we designed it to be used—for the benefit of the UK. Yes, we do publish the committee’s reports.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): I welcome the long overdue reintroduction of embarkation controls. Can the Minister tell me for how long those data will be kept?

Mr. Woolas: The programme has been running for four years; following its pilot project, we are now rolling it out. There are two sources of data within that, and they are kept for 10 years.

Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): Returning to the DNA database, the Secretary of State
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will know that West Midlands police took a DNA sample from me after the death of my uncle, Leslie Ince, in February 2007. After a two-year-long murder inquiry, the police now maintain that he died accidentally. Why, despite three written requests over the past 18 months, am I still being refused the return of my DNA sample? Does she agree that, like hundreds of thousands of others, my connection to any crime is extremely remote? Indeed, I am now told that there was no crime. Does she not understand why hundreds of thousands of innocent people are led to the inexorable conclusion that she is building a national DNA database by stealth?

Jacqui Smith: No, I am building a national DNA database that enabled us, last year alone, to solve 17,614 crimes, with a further 15,000 detections. On more than 3,000 occasions every month, the police are enabled to help to solve crimes, to clear the innocent, to pursue investigations effectively, and to keep this country safe.

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Spring European Council

3.32 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the European Council held in Brussels last Thursday and Friday, which I attended with the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary, and which once again emphasised the importance of European and international co-operation to address this financial crisis.

In October and November, all European and then G20 countries agreed to recapitalise the banks. In November, both the European Union and the G20 agreed on co-ordinated fiscal action to support employment and growth. Just as in the previous summit in December, Europe led the way towards a global climate change deal, which we hope to secure in Copenhagen later this year. Europe has now made proposals in advance of the G20 meeting in London to reshape the global financial and trading system and to do what is necessary to build economic recovery across the world.

First, we agreed that the global challenges we face today cannot be met if nations turn inwards to a protectionism that—history tells us—in the end protects no one. Our agreement to

will require careful monitoring by the World Trade Organisation. The Council agreed to encourage international trade by facilitating more trade credits, and the Council called for a

Secondly, we agreed measures to put to the G20 for global agreements to reshape the regulation of banks and financial services. We agreed that all systemically important institutions should be subject to appropriate regulation and oversight, and that this would extend to include hedge funds and the shadow banking sector. We pledged to protect the world’s financial system from non-transparent, non-co-operative and loosely regulated jurisdictions, including offshore centres and tax havens. We welcome the progress that has already been made by Switzerland, Austria, Andorra, Lichtenstein and other countries, and look forward to seeing them implement the international standard— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The way we do things is that we hear the statement that the Prime Minister has to make, and then questions are asked of him.

The Prime Minister: We call on all countries yet to endorse the OECD standard to do so urgently.

The Council also agreed to improve supervisory co-operation by pushing forward with colleges of supervisors for all major cross-border financial institutions. We also agreed to adopt international principles on remuneration in the financial sector, based on an approach that rewards long-term success rather than excessive risk-taking. We called on the Council and the European Parliament

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At its next meeting in June, the Council will take its first decisions on regulation and supervision following the de Larosière report. Our policy is that regulatory rules should be set at an international level but that direct supervision is a matter for our national authorities.

The Council was clear that by acting together, the European Union can

as well as helping to build a stronger economy for the future. The Council welcomed the Commission’s proposal to double, to €50 billion, balance of payments assistance so that those within the European Union have the support they need to deliver the fiscal stimulus required to ensure their recovery. But with global capital flows in 2008 down by more than 80 per cent. compared with 2007, and with the financing gap for emerging economies this year up to $800 billion, this is not just an issue for central European, eastern European and emerging economies. Because of the continuing risk of contagion, it is an issue for every country in the world. It is vital that we increase the resources available to the International Monetary Fund to ensure that it can intervene to stabilise economies, stop the crisis spreading, and return the global economy to growth.

The Council called for a very substantial increase in resources available to the IMF, and agreed that, for their contribution to this increase, EU member states should as a first step provide on a voluntary basis a fast temporary support of IMF lending capacity in the form of a loan of over $100 billion. The Council called for continued

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