“it is not possible to predict the scale of future migration from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK numerically.”

I presume that that means it is not possible to do it accurately, because clearly it is possible to predict it, but the likelihood of being accurate is I think slim. That is a sensible point of view and we have been straight about it.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) talked about a mysterious Foreign Office report, which the Department refused to publish. I think that he meant the report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which was commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That might not have been published when he asked his question, so perhaps a reference was made to the fact that it was to be published. Of course it has now been published, and it reached the conclusion about predicting numbers that I have set out. It was perfectly sensible for the Government to say what they did; that was treating people with respect.

Several hon. Members wanted me to say more about the inter-ministerial group on access to benefits and public services. Rather than producing speculative projections, we have been considering the work being done across Government—I am pleased to say that all Departments concerned with delivering public services are involved, along with the Department for Work and Pensions, which deals with benefits—on cutting out the abuse of free movement, and addressing the pull factors. With reference to something that the hon. Member for Rhondda said, it is worth pointing out that Germany is strongly opposed to benefit tourism—the abuse of free movement. We have been working with Germany and, indeed, the Home Secretary—along with her German, Austrian and Dutch counterparts—recently signed a letter to the European Commission to ask it urgently to review the current arrangements on the availability of social security benefits to newly arrived EU migrants, and stressed the need for more robust legal measures, such as re-entry bans for individuals removed from the UK for abusing their free movement rights.

I mention that because we are not of course alone in sharing such concerns, and I am therefore quite hopeful about not only what we may be able to achieve in this Parliament, but the seriousness with which other European countries will take our views on changing our relationship with the European Union. As we have seen, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has a close working relationship with his counterpart the Chancellor of Germany. That positive work will continue.

Let me briefly set out some of the work that we are doing. We will tighten the rules on access to benefits, and put in place a statutory presumption that European economic area national jobseekers will lose their right to benefits after six months unless they can show that they are genuinely seeking work and have a genuine chance of being engaged.

We intend to tighten access to social housing to insist that local authorities have to consider the local rules. I have a little more confidence than my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin about their ability to do that. Local authorities where there is an issue—for example, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the

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Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) or elsewhere in Cambridgeshire—will, if we give them a nudge, want to have some sensible controls so that they can deal with their constituents’ concerns.

The final area is the national health service. Some Members have made the point that it is a national, not an international, health service. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), who is no longer in his place, had concerns about how well we could implement that, given doctors’ Hippocratic oath. We do not of course propose to remove access to emergency treatment or to treatment required for public health reasons. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health set out some of that in his response to the urgent question from the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field).

There have been some positive views from GPs in their magazine, Pulse, which has undertaken a survey of them. A significant number of GPs want us to take action: three quarters are confused or frustrated about the lack of clarity about NHS entitlement; more than half—52%—said that they believe that NHS provision for migrants is too generous; and only 7% thought that it is not generous enough. In addition, 38% said that they did not want to agree to register people they think are illegal immigrants and 40% did not want to register people who had failed in their asylum claims. Therefore, a significant number of GPs and other doctors will, if we take the matter seriously—obviously we will consult both the public and the professions—support what the Government want to do, and that will be welcomed.

Let me turn, in my remaining two minutes, to criminality. That was raised by several colleagues, including my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering, to whose service as a special constable we should pay tribute. Several things are going on. In London, to which he drew attention, there is the successful ongoing Operation Nexus between the Home Office immigration enforcement teams and the Metropolitan police to target high-harm foreign national offenders and immigration offenders. It has removed more than 400 such people just since last November, so it has been very successful, and we intend to roll it out across the country. There are several operations to deal with lower-level criminality, so a lot is going on.

I have one minute left, so I will conclude. If there are any issues that I have not touched on, the Chair of the Select Committee will no doubt put them to me when I give evidence tomorrow. We have real concerns about the abuse of free movement rights. The Home Secretary has consistently raised that at the Council of Ministers with her European counterparts. We will continue to do so at the European level, as well as through the work of the cross-Government committee, which the Prime Minister has asked me to chair.

In due course, we will introduce a package of measures that I hope colleagues on both sides of the House will welcome. Of course, I could not possibly prejudge what may be announced in the Queen’s Speech in a few weeks’ time, but I hope that my hon. Friends will not be disappointed about the measures that the Government are going to set out. I am glad that we could have this debate today, Mr Howarth, which you have excellently chaired.

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7.53 pm

Mark Pritchard: It is a privilege to conclude this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I am grateful to all colleagues for an even-tempered and measured debate on an issue that is important to all our constituents. I am also grateful to the Government, who are making good progress on reducing net migration, and I am pleased that the Minister has just confirmed that we will soon hear more details.

The British people are tolerant and fair-minded. I believe that the least they can expect from national

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policy makers is an immigration system that is both balanced and sustainable. I hope that today’s debate has advanced that collective pursuit.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the e-petition relating to immigration from Bulgaria and Romania in 2014.

7.53 pm

Sitting adjourned.