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"part of the jigsaw puzzle that is trying to prepare the way for the simplification Bill." --[ Official Report, Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Public Bill Committee, 16 June 2009; c. 133.]
Frankly, that is not a great commendation for a piece of legislation, but it certainly highlights the jagged and uneven way in which the Government have approached immigration and immigration law. It should not be tackled in this piece-by-piece manner. We need an overview of the whole, and that is why my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have repeatedly called for a consolidation and simplification of the law governing immigration and asylum. This approach of piecemeal change generates more uncertainty for some of the most vulnerable people among migrants and their dependants, and it has resulted in many anomalies and inconsistencies.
Another overall concern I have with this Bill is that large sections of it are still reliant on statutory instruments, leaving many decisions resting with Ministers to make at a later date. That is not the way to legislate on something as important as immigration. The Government are asking us to make serious decisions on vague promises and proposals. In effect, it is another "Trust me, I'm a Minister" Bill. We need a strong and cohesive national border force, but there are only tentative steps in that direction for the UK Border Agency.
We have the third longest coastline in Europe, stretching to 7,758 miles, and the number of people entering and leaving this country every year is more than three times the size of our population-192 million by air alone in any given year. So having a competent and well-trained border force is key to tackling and controlling immigration. However, alarmingly, the Bill still comes with no concrete provisions on exit checks. That is a major problem, because we cannot enforce short-term visas if we do not know when people are leaving.
The proposals in part 1 are in a tangle, because the Government have focused mainly on extending the powers of the UKBA and immigration officials and blurring distinctions between immigration controls and criminality. We have avoided some of the more controversial aspects on citizenship with the concessions on retrospection, but this would have been a key moment to address the issue of asylum seekers. Several elements of part 2 are discriminatory and much is undefined and awaits delegated legislation. The opportunity has been missed to deal with a pressing problem in this area.
We are, however, happy that the Government have included the welfare of children in this Bill. That is one of the main reasons why we will not seek to divide the House on Third Reading, quite apart from the concessions that have been announced today. Clause 56, in particular, is one of the Bill's redeeming provisions. The intention behind the clause is good, and our amendment sought to mark out more clearly the duties that we thought the Secretary of State should have towards children- [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne). I say to the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) that it is the height of bad manners to wander into the Chamber in the middle of a Third Reading speech and chunter away from a sedentary position. It is rank discourtesy.
Abolishing the traumatic experience of dawn raids is a key concern of the Liberal Democrats. We also oppose the detention of children in detention centres, but as the Government have come up with no plans to stop children being held in that way, we wanted to use the Bill to highlight provisions that we feel should cover them if and when they are detained.
Mr. Bone: The all-party group on human trafficking battles with the problem that if children-in this case, girls of 15 or 16 who have been forced into prostitution-are not in secure accommodation, they can fall right back into the hands of the traffickers. That is a difficult issue, and I would be grateful for the hon. Gentleman's view on it.
Chris Huhne: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue, because it is important. One of the most alarming features is the number of children who disappear back into the hands of traffickers. There are many language problems and there are problems of not generating the sort of warmth to which children will naturally respond. I fear that given the guillotine that we are under, however, that this will require debate on another day.
That the draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Appeals) Regulations 2009, which were laid before this House on 3 June, be approved. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
That the draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Consequential Amendments and Transitional and Saving Provisions) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 3 June, be approved. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
That the draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Special Exemption) Regulations 2009, which were laid before this House on 17 June, be approved. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
That the draft Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) (Amendment) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 10 June, be approved. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
That the draft Electricity and Gas (Carbon Emissions Reduction) (Amendment) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 1 July, be approved. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
That the draft Electricity and Gas (Community Energy Saving Programme) Order 2009, which was laid before this House on 2 July, be approved. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 8338/09, Draft Council framework decision on prevention and settlement of conflicts of jurisdiction in criminal proceedings-general approach; and endorses the Government's support of the proposal. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
That, at the sittings on Monday 20 July and on Tuesday 21 July, the Speaker shall not adjourn the House until any message from the Lords has been received, any Committee to draw up Reasons which has been appointed at that sitting has reported, and he has notified the Royal Assent to Acts agreed upon by both Houses. -(Mrs. Hodgson.)
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are approaching motion 11- [ Interruption. ] Motion 12; I apologise. It is a little unhelpful to Members of this House, as the Order Paper seems to be describing the motion in the wrong way. It says:
"If opposed, this item cannot be taken after 10.00 pm."
"No debate after 10.00 pm."
Normally, if a Member objected, that motion would then have to be brought back by the Government. I have spent some hours studying Standing Orders today, however, and that appears not to be the case. If we object, a deferred Division will occur. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the motion is in its entirety-except for a very small part-exactly the same motion as was rejected by this House just a few days ago. You will also know that under Standing Orders one has to rescind a motion before one can bring it back again. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you are determined that this House has the power to control the Executive. It seems to me that this is a prime example of such behaviour, because not only do we have, shall we say, misleading information on the Order Paper, but the Government are bending, if not breaking wholesale, the rules of this House to get their way. I hope that you might be able to say something that will stop the Government Whip from moving motion 12.
Motion 12 is correct and in order. The rubric is incorrect and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) is right to highlight that point. I understand why he was led down the path down which he has been led, but the House is bound by its Standing Orders not by the rubrics. The Table Office has asked me to convey its apologies for the error.
I can also say to the hon. Gentleman that it is true that a similar motion was on the Order Paper, I think in June-if I am correctly advised, on 25 June. The hon. Gentleman said that this motion was almost entirely the same but for a small point, and I do think that the "but for the small point" is rather significant in this matter. The original motion had proposed that the meeting on Wednesday 9 September should take place between 1 o'clock and 3.30. It is now intended that it should take place between 2 o'clock- [ Interruption. ] Order. I do not need advice from the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) on this matter. I am giving a full and comprehensive reply to the point of order properly raised by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. That revised time is a noticeable difference, the motion is in order, the error has been explained and I hope that the hon. Gentleman would agree that that is a full and fair response to the point of order that he has properly raised.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. By coincidence, my point is not unrelated to the previous one. The motions for the Regional Grand Committees state where the sittings "shall" take place. Motion 12 refers to the sitting in Nottingham, but I am interested in the one for Bedford on 8 September. The Standing Orders of the House require that the location in such motions must be "specified". For instance, they must specify a particular council chamber, community centre or whatever. Just naming the town or city is pretty bland and difficult.
I have looked at what happens with Scottish Grand Committee and so on, and I wish to pray that in aid as a precedent. For example, the motion for a sitting of that Committee will state that it will take place in the council chamber, Stirling. This motion is not good enough.
Mr. Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I will not get drawn into a wider debate about Scotland but, on advice, I think that I can safely say that there is no requirement for a designated, precise location of the kind that he specifies. I have looked at page 113 of the Standing Orders, and at Standing Order 117A(2)(a), which states that a Regional Grand Committee can
"sit on a specified day at a specified place in the region to which it relates or at Westminster".
The answer- [ Interruption. ] If the hon. Member for Wellingborough will allow me to deal with the point: I appreciate his eager anticipation of what he thinks that I am about to say, but if he could contain himself for a moment he might hear what I in fact have to say in response to the legitimate point of order from the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). The answer is that "Bedford", for the purposes of the Standing Orders, is sufficient.
The hon. Member for Thurrock may strongly disapprove of that and think that it should be subject to change and improvement, but my job tonight is simply to respond to his point of order and to tell him not what ought to be, but what is. I can advise him that "Bedford" is sufficient under the Standing Orders.
Andrew Mackinlay: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With respect, I hope that you will reflect on this matter overnight. I prayed Scotland in aid because the precedents show that the motions for all the other Grand Committees specify where they are to take place. They do not just name a town. Logically, one could turn up at Bedford and ask, "Has anyone found a Grand Committee anywhere? Point me to the Grand Committee." That would be like asking, "Is this the road to British socialism?" I think that such motions need to be specific.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman's views are very clearly and firmly on the record. As he knows, I always listen to him with interest and respect, but we cannot now get involved in a wider debate about other locations to which he thinks that a reformed or better Standing Order should, in different circumstances, apply. What I am saying to him is that a number of these motions have been passed previously, and that the motion with which we are dealing tonight-or, if I may say so, were about to deal-relates not to Bedford or indeed any part of Scotland but to the east midlands and, within that, probably to Nottingham.
Mr. Speaker: In a moment. It is to the substance of motion 12, which the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson) was ready to move a moment ago, that I want very soon to return-but I have a feeling that there is a point of order beating in the breast of the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt).
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