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28 Jun 2010 : Column 595

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for her points. She was making a valid point about the many unemployed people in the UK who have not had the skills to take advantage of the work opportunities that have become available. Our welfare reform proposals will provide extra support to help people get into work, and that is important. She is also right to say that people are looking to this Government to ensure that we control immigration into this country.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I welcome the Home Secretary's exemption for ministers of religion from these provisions, but will she go further and set in place a protocol, such as the protocols that we have at present with universities and other certified institutes of higher education, so that those coming in from certified religious institutions can be fast-tracked and not have to go through the present process with the Home Office? Often, monks or sadhus who take a vow of poverty are asked to show what wealth they have before being allowed to come here.

Mrs May: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, which sounds like an early submission in the consultation process. He might like to put that forward in more detail.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement, which is an important first step in implementing the coalition's proposals to get our immigration system under control. She talked about restoring public confidence in our immigration system. Does she agree that, in addition to the measures that she listed in her statement, doing a better job of removing those people who do not have a right to be in this country is a key element in that regard?

Mrs May: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and that is something on which we will also focus. The general public are right to expect that if someone is here without the right to be here, the Government take steps to ensure that they are removed.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): May I welcome both the statement and the direction of travel? I also welcome the direction of travel from those on my own Front Bench. Indeed, had we been clearer about our direction of travel, we might not be sitting on these Benches today.

I am, however, disappointed on two counts. First, the Home Secretary said nothing that she did not say to Radio Scotland this morning. I was not aware that it was the practice to make announcements to Radio Scotland first thing in the morning before coming to the House- [ Interruption. ] I never did that. Secondly, why does the statement address only non-EU immigration? Why do the Government not seek to repatriate powers over EU immigration? Would the Government not consider saying to their European neighbours that there will be no new accession until powers over immigration have been repatriated?

Mrs May: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman needs to listen a little more carefully to BBC Radio Scotland in the mornings, because I did not speak on it this morning, although my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration did. I am not aware that I sound like him-

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Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): In the morning you do!

Mrs May: Yes, perhaps when the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson) has just got up. He suggests that what we are doing is a natural progression from the direction of his Front-Bench colleagues, but they were not proposing to have an annual limit. In fact, they have consistently derided the concept of an annual limit. It is this coalition Government who are taking the steps necessary.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): I welcome the Home Secretary's statement. In my short time as a Member of Parliament I have met people who are in this country as economic migrants and working for large, established employers who should be establishing training schemes, taking people on and equipping them with the relevant skills. Does she agree that those employers should put their efforts into setting up apprenticeships rather than recruiting low-skilled workers from abroad?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend makes a valid point about the need for employers to see what they can do to ensure that unemployed people in this country can take up job opportunities. The policies that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is bringing forward will ensure that we give the support necessary to help people get into the workplace.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): In my constituency fishermen from the Philippines have been very welcome in the fish-catching sector, especially as they have kept jobs in the fish-processing sector. Will the Home Secretary listen to specific information such as that when deciding the basis for work entry?

Mrs May: Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that that is the whole point of a consultation exercise.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): The Home Secretary spoke powerfully about human trafficking and how the coalition Government were going to deal with the problem. Is she happy that the Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield has closed and is now part of the overall police effort, with the £1.8 million budget seeming to have disappeared?

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue and congratulate him on, I believe, having taken over the chairmanship of the all-party group.

Mr Bone: Tomorrow maybe.

Mrs May: I am so sorry; I am a little in advance of myself. If that does happen tomorrow, I congratulate my hon. Friend. Our honourable friend the former Member for Totnes had an excellent record during his time in this place on dealing with the issue and ensuring that it was discussed on the Floor of the House. Regardless of the result tomorrow, I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to do that, as he has in the past. Looking at how we deal with human trafficking is an important issue, and the response of the police is an issue that I am interested in looking at both as Home Secretary and, with my other hat on, as the Minister for Women and Equalities.

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Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Whenever we talk about net migration, we always tend to talk about the numbers coming in, forgetting the large numbers of people going out. Given that under the previous Government net migration reached record levels, it would have been even higher had hundreds of thousands of British skilled workers not got fed up with Brown's Britain and left to go and work abroad. Will my right hon. Friend work with her colleagues across Government to ensure that Britain's skilled workers are incentivised to stay in Britain?

Mrs May: I thank my hon. Friend for that point. The good news for those many workers is that this is no longer Brown's Britain.

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Points of Order

5.16 pm

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Home Office questions this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) and the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) asked questions about domestic violence and the concerns felt by refuges across the country about a possible serious cut in their funding. In response, the Minister seemed to confuse domestic violence with previous questions to do with rape, and kept praying in aid responses with which she hoped to furnish the House from the Ministry of Justice. If the Home Office no longer has responsibility for the issue of domestic violence or the sanctuaries from it-namely the refuges-surely this House should have had a statement to that effect.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order, but I have a sense that, dissatisfied with the responses that she heard earlier, she is, in a sense, seeking to continue the debate. To the best of my knowledge, responsibility for the issue of domestic violence remains where it has always been. If Ministers feel otherwise, they might wish to respond to the serious point of order that she has just raised. However, I see that the Home Secretary is in her place, so it might help the House if she would care to respond to that point of order.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I am happy to confirm that the Home Office does indeed continue to have responsibility in matters relating to domestic violence, although there will be aspects of dealing with domestic violence that require the intervention and consideration of the Ministry of Justice.

Mr Speaker: Whether that response satisfies the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson) I cannot be sure, but it will have to do for now.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would it be in order for me to apologise to the Home Secretary and the Minister for Immigration for confusing the two of them this morning? Could I also point out that, in my defence, they were on the radio and all these posh Tories sound the same, and that the Home Secretary did not, however, deal with the point that the announcement was made by the Minister for Immigration this morning before it was brought to this House?

Mr Speaker: In almost all circumstances it is in order to apologise, but if that is the hon. Gentleman's idea of an apology, I am not sure that I ever want one from him.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You said last week, and five weeks ago, that you wholly deprecated the practice of Ministers announcing things to the press before they had announced them to the House. You will know that many hon. Members on both sides of the House complained about this when Labour was in government. We tried to
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ensure that it did not happen and, in many cases, succeeded- [ Interruption. ] I would say to those on the Government Benches that there is no point in sneering about this. The truth is that there is no point in fighting to get elected to this House if we might as well stay at home and listen to the announcements on the television or the radio, or read them in the newspapers.

Mr Speaker, can you confirm that we had a statement this afternoon from the Home Secretary only because an urgent question had been tabled? Can you also confirm that that happened after a written ministerial statement on the subject had been laid, and that that happened a long time after the Home Secretary had given a press conference today? We now have a Government who are systematically leaking matters to the press before they are announced in the House. That should not have happened in the past, and it should not happen in the future. Only if the House takes responsibility and takes action will we be able to stop this. Otherwise, Ministers will just laugh at the House. Will you, sir, refer this matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges? It would be good if that Committee had already been set up, of course, but the Government have not yet done that. Will you refer the matter to that Committee, so that the House can take action?

Mr Speaker: The first point that I would make to the hon. Gentleman is an important one about which we need to be clear. A reference to the Standards and Privileges Committee cannot be made on the basis of a point of order raised on the Floor of the House. A written request must be made to me, explaining the rationale for the request, and a decision on that will then be reached. That is a procedural point. Secondly, I reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I utterly deprecate the practice of releasing to the media the content of ministerial statements before those statements have been made to the House. I deprecated it in the past, both from this Chair and as a Back-Bench Member, and I continue to do so. The question of whether this has taken place on a similar, greater or lesser scale in the past is neither here nor there, because two wrongs do not make a right.

Thirdly, I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that I cannot confirm what he has just asked-namely, that an oral statement followed the submission of an urgent question. I am in no position to confirm that. I listened to the Home Secretary's explanation of the reason for changing from a written statement to an oral statement. I can confirm, however, that I am willing to look further into the particular details of this case, and to decide what, if any, action needs to be taken. We need to establish a new pattern in this Parliament, whereby this sort of thing does not happen and, if it does, action is taken. I shall look into this as a matter of urgency and revert to the hon. Gentleman and to the House. I hope that that is clear; I get the impression that it is.

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Ways and Means

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Capital Gains Tax (Rates)

Debate resumed (Order, 24 June).

Question again proposed,

5.23 pm

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Iain Duncan Smith): My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has delivered our first coalition Budget, making what he legitimately described as unavoidable choices in the face of a potential eurozone economic crisis. They will involve, first, a reduction in spending to repair the record deficit left by the previous Government. I remind the House that we inherited the largest deficit in peacetime history: for every £4 we spend today, we are being forced to borrow at least £1. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, this Budget will put us back on track to balance the structural deficit by 2015-16, with net debt falling as a share of gross domestic product by the end of the Parliament.

Secondly, the measures will include a restructuring of the tax and welfare system, underpinned by our commitment to fairness and protecting the vulnerable, even when faced with some tough choices-and there are tough choices.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend kindly clarify the rate at which the Department for Work and Pensions can undertake work capability assessments for people on incapacity benefit?

Mr Duncan Smith: I was not going to deal with that at this point, but while we are on it, I can tell my hon. Friend that I know there has been speculation in the media over the past few hours and days. I can confirm that, as we said previously, we will launch the work programme in 2011, and will migrate current incapacity benefit claimants to employment support allowance over the three years. We have absolutely no intention of changing the current plan to assess 10,000 claimants per week over the period. That is our expectation. As the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) will know, it will involve challenges, but we will stick to it and see if we can get there. Unlike the last Government, we will provide an extra bit of help for those on employment support allowance who undergo the work capability assessment and need that support. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will table a statement tomorrow giving more details.

I am sure that the right hon. Lady-my opposite number-will back up what I have said. She has already expressed the hope that we will proceed with the changes that she introduced and with which we agreed.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State confirm that his timetable is the one that we proposed for the roll-out of the work capability assessment, and that it is expected
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to save about £1.5 billion over the next five years? Does he plan to make additional savings, and if so, where? The briefing that was in the papers today will have caused concern to people. Will the Secretary of State also tell us whether he will implement the small amendments to the work capability assessment that we announced just before the election in response to points raised by the citizens advice bureaux?

Mr Duncan Smith: We are continuing with the programme that the right hon. Lady left. We thought it a good programme, and I want to make it happen. She asked us to do that, and I agreed that it was right. We always said in opposition that we would do it.

As for whether we are looking for more savings, we are going to intensify the work support programme, which was not there before. I should be happy to give the right hon. Lady more detail about it, and my hon. Friend the Minister of State will make a more detailed statement. We estimate that we will be able to return more people to work, but we will keep that estimate under review. The right hon. Lady will recall that when she was Secretary of State there was a constant review of the programme to deal with the group who were flowing in. Recommendations were made, and we are paying attention to them.

Yvette Cooper: Does the fact that the Secretary of State thinks he will be able to help more people to return to work-although he has cut the job guarantee and billions of pounds from the support that would help them to do so-mean that he thinks that other people will not get jobs instead, or is he suggesting that the Office for Budget Responsibility will raise its forecast of the number of people in employment? Where will the jobs come from for the extra people whom he is going to return to work?

Mr Duncan Smith: The right hon. Lady is assuming that the economy is static, and that nothing changes in it. We believe that unemployment will fall-that is what the Office for Budget Responsibility says-and that we will therefore create more jobs.

The right hon. Lady's programme, which we inherited, provided support for the "back to work" element in only two parts of the country. We are extending support to the whole country, and that is where we will get the extra effort. We will continue the programme. We think that we have embellished it and made it somewhat better, and I guarantee that we will keep it under permanent review.

The third thing that we are doing is setting down a strong foundation for long-term reform, which is part of the Budget proposals. Although we must correct the failings of the last Government, we are committed to delivering a better future for Britain, and we have had to make the stability of our economy a priority. I know that it is difficult for many Opposition Members to talk about this, but I also know that it is what they would be talking about if they were in government. There are always difficult choices to be made at a time when we have to draw our horns in.

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