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Westminster Hall

Wednesday 11 December 2013

[Mr George Howarth in the Chair]


Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(John Penrose.)

9.30 am

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth.

I asked for the debate today because of public concern about immigration levels. We all know, not least because Members now in opposition have admitted it, that the previous Government had a deliberate policy of encouraging uncontrolled immigration. The right hon. Members for Blackburn (Mr Straw), for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) and for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) have been queuing up to blow the whistle on the Labour record. Lord Mandelson told us in May that they even sent out search parties to find people to come and live in this country, seeking to fulfil their key political aim of making the UK truly multicultural, by encouraging mass migration.

The annual net immigration figure under Labour rose from 48,000 in 1997 to 198,000 by 2009. Between 1997 and 2010, net migration into Great Britain totalled 2.2 million people—more than twice the population of Birmingham. It is no wonder we had a crisis. Members on both sides of the House know that immigration is not just a population problem; it is also an NHS, education and welfare problem. Government figures cited in The Sunday Telegraph last week show that, on average, each immigrant costs the taxpayer more than £8,000 a year in health care, education and benefits. That applies whether they come from inside or outside the European Union.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): The hon. Gentleman lists the downsides of immigration. Does he accept that there are also huge benefits and that immigrants contribute substantially to the economy, the NHS and many other aspects of the life we enjoy in Britain?

Mr Turner: If the hon. Gentleman listens a moment or two longer, he will find that I come to those points.

No one ever thought to ask the British people whether they wanted what happened. Plans and policies were concealed, and mass immigration happened by stealth. One can only speculate whether Tony Blair would have been swept to power had he gone into the 1997 general election saying, “I will oversee an unprecedented increase in immigration.” Perhaps not—but now we must deal with the consequences of his policy.

Other hon. Members and I sit in our surgeries listening to tales of people living in overcrowded social housing or being on the waiting list for years with no hope of ever getting a home. It is no coincidence that with high net migration, from 2002, there was an increase of more than 60% in social housing waiting lists. Foreign nationals now occupy 8.4% of the housing stock, and among

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those aged 16 to 40 the figure is 12.6%. On the Isle of Wight we have a relatively small immigrant population, and overwhelmingly those residents work hard and make an important contribution to the community—indeed, they are an important and integral part of it. However, that is not the case everywhere.

I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they moved to the Isle of Wight because they no longer recognised the places where they grew up; that now, in streets where their grandparents lived, no one appears to speak English; and that they moved to get away from ghettos where they felt they no longer belonged. The effects of mass immigration, mostly into our cities, are felt even in rural areas such as the Isle of Wight. We must recognise that.

I am thankful that the Government have begun to make a difference. They have made progress in cutting immigration from outside the EU. They cracked down on the abuse of student visas, unjustified family visas and—I am glad to say—bogus marriages. However, they have been unable to close our borders to a huge influx of EU nationals who can come whether or not there are jobs and homes for them, schools for their children or doctors and hospitals to care for them. Many British people believe that that must come to an end.

I have recently, in the words of one of my staff, joined the 21st century: I have signed up to Twitter and exchanged views with the intriguingly named Wight Car Tipper. I tweeted that we should extend transitional arrangements for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals and that our Government should have control of our borders. Wight Car Tipper asked me whether I thought his daughter, who has a French passport, should be able to live in the UK and retain the rights she currently has. I replied that it depends on the circumstances. Presumably, with the fine name of Mr Wight Car Tipper, her father is British, and in that case I think that she should be able to come and live here. However, I do not believe that foreign nationals from the EU or elsewhere should have the same rights as a British citizen, and I strongly believe that our Government must have the right to decide who can live and work here.

There is a fine British principle of fair play—of not getting something for nothing, and of making a contribution to society before being entitled to benefit from it. That principle must be applied to those who come to the UK. Someone who has only just arrived cannot have contributed to society. Some people claim that we need more immigrants to pay the pensions of an ageing population. That, of course, glosses over what happens when the immigrants get old—it is simply an argument for an endless influx of new migrants.

I am grateful to see the Minister here to respond to the debate, and extremely pleased that the Home Secretary has recognised at least part of the problem. She has suggested that free movement for future accession countries could be controlled, and that future member states should reach a certain economic threshold before full free movement is allowed. However, that would not deal with the current treaties that we have signed, or the issues that we will face in only a few weeks.

The Government are seeking to deal with some of the problems—the things that attract those who want to come to the UK to take advantage of our generous welfare system—but that approach does not deal with

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the basic right of so many foreign nationals to live and work here. They have those rights regardless of how overcrowded our island becomes, or how many of our own people are unemployed.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): How many British citizens live and work in Europe at the moment, and how many of them would be affected by the proposals that the hon. Gentleman contemplates?

Mr Turner: I do not know the figure, but it is certainly substantial.

Mr Hanson: What would happen to those individuals if the policy that the hon. Gentleman suggests—of immigrants not having the right to live and work in this country—were applied to British citizens in France, Spain or elsewhere in Europe?

Mr Turner: That is entirely up to the Governments of those countries. I feel that they should have the right to determine that issue for themselves, just as we should for our country.

The Government must try to deal with the concerns of many British people and, indeed, many settled and integrated migrant communities—those who recognise that we simply cannot retain an open-door policy for all current EU citizens. We need a more nuanced policy that is controlled by our elected Government and that works in the interests of the British nation.

In 1973, we signed up to the treaty of Rome, which established the free movement of people across the then common market. Let me be frank: it was a rich man’s club, and the number of people coming to the UK was small. In 1975, net migration was 3,000. Since then, the club has expanded to places such as Croatia, where the average wage is a 10th of that in the UK. It is hardly surprising that people there want to move to the more prosperous parts of the EU.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, which I am following closely and enjoying immensely. Is he as concerned as I am that large numbers of non-EU citizens are now entitled to EU passports and therefore entitled to come to this country? Up to 3 million people from Moldova, for example, can access Romanian passports and will be able to come here from 1 January.

Mr Turner: I did not know about that, but I certainly believe it.

Figures published just last week show that net migration unexpectedly jumped to 182,000 in the year to June 2013, due in part to a rise in prospective workers coming from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

People cannot be blamed for wanting a better life. Let me be clear that I do not blame them; I blame the outdated rules of the EU and the previous Labour Government, who sent out the message that anybody and everybody could and should come to the UK if they want. Britain, however, simply cannot provide a better life for everyone who wants to come here. We do not have the infrastructure or jobs to do that.

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Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this timely debate. Has he received or been able to obtain any estimate of the number of Bulgarians and Romanians who are likely to come to the UK when the labour market restrictions are lifted on 1 January?

MrTurner: I have not seen any information from the Government. I do not blame them, because they cannot guess. How could they? There is a range of figures that go all over the place. I am interested in sorting these things out once and for all. Whether we get the changes through by January or later, we continue to work on the matter.

I want to pay tribute to the role that so many foreign people have played in our history and still play in our society today. In 1942, the Polish destroyer ORP Blyskawica saved Cowes from Luftwaffe bombs; every year, we from the island commemorate that event and the brave Polish crew. The NHS employs many EU-born and non-EU-born doctors and nurses across the UK—indeed, it could not function without them.

Those are just two of many examples, but shared history and our reliance on skilled workers cannot mean that everybody in the EU has the right to live here. We cannot provide places for people from overseas while less-educated people from the UK cannot find a job. The treaty of Rome was a product of its time. The unfettered, free movement of people is no longer appropriate and polls show that, for the majority of people, it is no longer acceptable.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) recently suggested a five-year extension to the restrictions. That would be a good start, but there is an even better answer: the one recently proposed by the European Scrutiny Committee, which is chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash).With unanimous support, the Committee believes, as I do, that we should legislate to restore our country’s sovereignty. We should make provision for the British Parliament to disapply EU laws and give British courts the duty to uphold British laws.

The time is overdue for us to stand up to the EU and tell it that this Parliament takes precedence and that we will make our own decisions about who can live here, work here and benefit from our welfare state. The time is fast approaching when the calls for change will be so many and so loud that they can no longer be denied.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr George Howarth (in the Chair): Order. It should be possible for everybody who hopes to speak to do so. That does rely, however, on people exercising some restraint. If they do not, I may decide to apply a time limit on speeches.

9.46 am

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak. Although I speak from the Opposition Benches, I am not in the business of defending everything that the previous Government did in relation to immigration, but frankly, the suggestion by the hon. Member for Isle

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of Wight (Mr Turner) that the decisions that we made about the A8 accession countries—which we recognised were a mistake, and perhaps arose from listening too closely to the calls of the business community and its desire for free movement of labour into the UK—were some sort of ideological plot to transform the nature of our society is perhaps something that is better placed in the pages of the




Let me describe a personal experience. Last Friday, when I was conducting one of my regular advice surgeries, I was talking to a Romanian citizen currently living in the UK. She is a student and is making a significant contribution to our local economy in Sheffield. She was volunteering for AIESEC, which is a student society committed to promoting business, finding business placements, developing skills in an industrial and commercial context and growing global-minded entrepreneurs. She was enthusiastic when she came to Britain, but she was deeply depressed by the public discourse around Romania and Bulgaria and their citizens, which made her feel unwelcome. I think we need to take care how we debate the issue, not only for her sake and others’, but also for the sake of all those UK citizens who have raised concerns, of which all hon. Members have experience, about immigration. They deserve proper leadership from us as politicians, which means being honest about the facts and coming up with the right solutions to the real problems.

I have some sympathy with the Minister. He was right a couple of weeks ago to talk down the fear of a mass influx of Romanians and Bulgarians. He will not be surprised, however, that I have only some sympathy. Much of the problem has been created through the Government talking up the problems of migration for political advantage. We need an honest debate. We have heard a lot of noise, some of which was reflected in the speech by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, about benefits for newly arriving EU migrants. The impression being given is that EU migrants are freeloaders who come simply to claim our benefits and to exploit our generosity. However, all the evidence, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, suggests that EU migrants make a net fiscal contribution.

A study was published last month by the centre for research and analysis of migration—CReAM—at University college London, which is one of our country’s greatest universities and one of the world’s leading universities. It concluded that recent immigrants—those who arrived after 1999, who constituted 33% of the overall immigrant population in 2011—were 45% less likely to receive state benefits or tax credits than UK natives. Over the same period, recent European economic area immigrants have on average contributed 34% more in taxes than they have received in transfers. By contrast, over the same period, the total of UK natives’ tax payments were 11% lower than the transfers they received.

We welcome the most talented migrants. In 2011, 32% of EEA immigrants and 43% of non-EEA immigrants had university degrees. The estimated net fiscal contribution of immigrants increases even more if we consider that immigration helps to share the total cost of fixed public expenditure among a larger pool.

The main reasons for the large net fiscal contribution of recent EEA immigrants are their higher average labour market participation than UK natives and their

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lower receipt of welfare benefits. Professor Christian Dustmann, the director of CReAM and the co-author of the study, said:

“Our research shows that in contrast with most other European countries, the UK attracts highly educated and skilled immigrants from within the EEA as well as from outside. What’s more, immigrants who arrived since 2000 have made a very sizeable net fiscal contribution and therefore helped to reduce the fiscal burden on UK-born workers. Our study also suggests that over the last decade or so the UK has benefited fiscally from immigrants from EEA countries, who have put in considerably more in taxes and contributions than they received in benefits and transfers. Given this evidence, claims about ‘benefit tourism’ by EEA immigrants”—

that myth—

seem to be disconnected from reality.”

Another example of the Government talking up the migration issue but introducing measures that damage the economy by targeting the wrong issue is on the issue of international students. The Minister will not be surprised to hear me speaking about that again. I agree that the Government are right, as were the previous Government, to clamp down on bogus students who not only are exploiting our system, but are themselves in many cases exploited by bogus colleges. However, overall, international students bring huge benefits to the economy.

Oxford Economics conducted research on behalf of the university of Sheffield, which looked at the students’ net contribution after all costs to public services—such as traffic congestion and everything else it could think of. The survey was published in January 2013 and showed that during the previous academic year the 8,000-plus international students at our two universities made a net total contribution of more than £120 million to the Sheffield economy. Probably about 6,000, 7,000 or 8,000 local jobs depend on those students. Furthermore, the net benefits generated by the indirect supply chain advantages were assumed to account for approximately an additional £22 million to the local economy. International students obviously bring further external benefits, such as boosts to demand as a consequence of increased familiarity with locally produced goods and the potential for our status as a city and a country to be boosted by the relationship that they build while they are in the UK.

International students are a growing market internationally. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has calculated that by 2020 the market could double. Instead of being worth £8 billion to our economy, it could be worth £16 billion; instead of 6,000 jobs in Sheffield, it could be 12,000 jobs. Currently, international student numbers are flatlining, while our competitor countries are taking advantage of some of the measures that this Government have put in place. We should be concerned about that.

The hon. Member for Isle of Wight expressed concerns about things that are happening in the labour market. My concern is that he did not focus on the things that can be done to address issues in the labour market. The Minister for Immigration made a useful contribution before the Home Affairs Committee this week when he was challenged about a statement from the head of Domino’s Pizza about why it was unable to recruit sufficiently from within the UK domestic work force. The Minister rightly made the point that the company should perhaps look at its employment conditions and

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wages. It would be helpful to consider positive labour market interventions that can create the sort of level playing field that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight seeks.

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): To be clear, it is worse than the hon. Gentleman suggests. The chief executive of Domino’s Pizza was not arguing that he could not recruit in the UK alone. He was arguing that he could not recruit enough people from the whole EU labour pool, and that we needed to start importing low-skilled workers from outside the EU in order that he could keep low wages in his business. That is why I said he perhaps ought to reflect on the terms and conditions. So he was arguing that we should have an unrestricted free-for-all, but I do not think it is the role of Government policy to let multinationals keep wages low when, frankly, they should pay their staff a little more.

Paul Blomfield: I agree entirely with the Minister on that point. We should ensure that multinationals pay wages that will attract people to do the jobs. We should also ensure that companies do not recruit exclusively from eastern Europe, as they seek to do. Jobs should be available to local workers in the market. We should also do more to ensure that companies that flout the minimum wage rules are prosecuted. The number of businesses that are fined for employing illegal workers has halved, plummeting from more than 2,000 in 2009 to a little more than 1,000 in 2012. We can talk positively about those sorts of labour market interventions to address many of our concerns.

I will conclude by commenting on something that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight said about a constituent, who is concerned about the way in which their community has been transformed by the influx of migrants. I am sure that if we look back in 50-year snapshots, we will find that people have always expressed such concerns. I am sure that they expressed concerns about my wife’s family, who came across from Ireland to supplement the work force in the UK. I was brought up in Sheffield in the 1960s and it was a relatively monocultural city. The city in which I have brought up my son in the 1990s is stronger, richer and better for having welcomed people from around the world—some to build better lives, some fleeing persecution. I am proud that we are the country’s first city of sanctuary.

9.57 am

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth, and to follow such an excellent introductory speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner).

I would say to the Romanian constituent of the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), who sounds like an excellent citizen, that the hon. Gentleman rather misses the point. This country should be able to say to someone like her, “Yes, we want you to be an immigrant to our country, because you offer us skills that we don’t have enough of.” The problem is that this country does not have the right to select her; this

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country has been told by the European Union that it must accept as many Romanians and Bulgarians as apply to these shores.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he spoke for far longer than he should have done, given the number of Members who want to contribute. The problem for his constituents is that their concerns are not being properly reflected by him in the Chamber today, because they are very concerned indeed that there will be far too many Romanians and Bulgarians heading to Sheffield from 1 January next year. The concern is not that those individuals are Romanians and Bulgarians; it is about the number of people who can potentially come to this country.

British citizens are concerned that immigration from the European Union is on far too large a scale. It is not about the colour of somebody’s skin or the skills that they can bring, but about the numbers of people. How on earth has this country got itself into the situation where we are opening our borders to all and sundry with absolutely no control at all over the numbers who can potentially come to our shores? That is the concern of the British people.

I am afraid that this esteemed House of Commons is out of step with public opinion. The fact that fewer than 15 out of 650 hon. Members are in this Chamber this morning suggests to me that far too many of our colleagues are not listening closely enough to their constituents. The big issue in the country, about which people are talking every day of the week, is immigration.

My constituency, Kettering, has had a very welcoming attitude to immigration on an appropriate scale and to individual immigrants. But the view of my constituents is that our country is full—we have taken far too many people in and far too many of the immigrants coming to our shores do not have the skills that our economy needs. All my constituents want is for this country to be able to decide how many immigrants we should take, deciding who can come in on the basis of the skills that they can offer. What my constituents do not want us to do is open our doors so that anyone can come in.

I have to say that it is a dereliction of duty on the part of Her Majesty’s Government not even to attempt an estimate of the numbers of people who may come in from Romania and Bulgaria on 1 January. I can understand politically why the Government have decided not to publish an estimate: they do not want to make the horrendous mistake of the previous Labour Government, who said that the number of immigrants from the A8 eastern European countries would be only 13,000 a year. I understand that the population that has come in is 1.1 million and climbing. If people from Romania and Bulgaria come in at the same rate, we will be looking at a figure of 425,000 Romanians and Bulgarians—a number with which, I would suggest, our country cannot cope.

The big magnet for many people from the EU and outside it is London. We often forget that London is the biggest city in western Europe, the second biggest in the whole of Europe, second only to Moscow, and the most cosmopolitan city in the world. But London is full. For my sins, in my spare time I am a special constable with the British Transport police. This weekend I was on duty on the London underground network; on Saturday night I was on duty outside Piccadilly Circus underground station. Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Green

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Park underground stations were all shut at 7 o’clock in the evening, because too many people were using them. That was not peak time on a Saturday night—it was 7 o’clock.

As the population of this country is driven ever upwards by immigration, 43% of all new house building comes from immigration. That affects not only areas such as London but places such as the Isle of Wight and Kettering, where green fields are being built over to provide the homes that we will inevitably need if we fail to stem the influx of people to our shores. As my hon. Friend said, the issue is not just immigration. It is the NHS, schools— far too many primary school children do not have English as their first language—and all the pressures on our local public services. Frankly, those services need to be guided by Her Majesty’s Government as to how many people they can expect from the new entrant EU countries.

I am therefore concerned that Her Majesty’s Government have ducked the issue. I shall take no more time, because I know that many hon. Members want to contribute, but I would say that this House and this Government are not listening carefully enough to the concerns that my constituents—and I believe a big majority of the country—have about immigration.

10.4 am

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), who I thought made an excellent case for investment in public transport. I hope the Transport Secretary was listening to him.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on one other issue: when I talk to businesses in my constituency of Cambridge, immigration is one of the issues they raise most often. They have huge concerns about the processes and about the times when it is harder to get people in—for example, when it is hard for people to whom those businesses wish to sell in the US to get into the country because they are Chinese nationals. That is hitting our economy, and we need to work on it as a priority, to make sure that we can get people into this country who will benefit the economy. I thank the Minister for coming to talk to a small handful of such people recently. There have been some improvements.

Overall, immigration is a good thing: it benefits us socially, culturally and economically. There are associated problems—it is not an unalloyed triumph—and there are constraints in terms of housing needs, schools and many other matters. But when we net it all together we find a substantial benefit from immigration—I am not talking about a completely open border but well-managed and well-controlled immigration. It is a huge positive.

There is much we could do to reduce the associated problems. For example, we could run more programmes to make sure that people are able to learn to speak English. It is a shame that the Government cut back English classes for some new immigrants a few years ago, although work is going on now to remedy that. It would be good for people to be able to communicate in our language: it would help them and would also help the state. There are also concerns about people in the UK not being able to find employment. We should

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therefore be training people in the UK better. I agree completely with that, but it does not mean that we should not also have immigration.

The way the rhetoric on this issue has been going is a real danger. It scares people—I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents are so concerned when he and so many others tell them they ought to be. But it does us harm when we use that rhetoric: when people overseas are looking for where to invest and where the best and the brightest should be going—where people pay huge amounts of money to study—they will look at the rhetoric on this issue in the UK and they will be worried. We are in danger of appearing isolated and closed off, and so missing out on all the benefits we could have.

Yesterday at the Home Affairs Committee I asked the Minister about the balance of competences report into freedom of movement. I agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) that there is a lot of evidence—the best I am aware of is the UCL study he cited—showing that we have seen over £20 billion of net benefit from EU migration. I am sure the numbers are not exact, but that is a very substantial contribution. I would love to hear from the Minister—slightly more accurately than in the masterful answer he gave yesterday—when that report will come out.

This debate feels a little like a rerun. Many of us have been in such debates many times: the Immigration Bill Committee; the Select Committee yesterday; and indeed in this Chamber on 22 October, when the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) played the role the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) is playing today. Many of the comments were the same; my first intervention was almost exactly the same then as the one I made today, and was made for the same reasons.

I do not think that the previous Government got everything wrong, but they did not get everything right. There was too much abuse and too many loopholes, student migration being an example. I agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield Central that student migration is important, but we definitely saw people coming through to bogus colleges. The previous Government also did not do enough to control the people I blame for many of the problems we face, namely rogue immigration advisers—people who give dud advice. That shows how complex the system is, which is another issue we have to work on.

I say to the Minister today as I have many times before that the most important thing he can do has nothing to do with changing any laws or with anything in the Immigration Bill: it is to get the UK Border Agency, now within the Home Office, to work better. He will be well aware of all the criticisms and problems and the amount of work that has to be done. I also know that he intends to deal with the matter; no Minister would want to run an organisation with such a huge number of problems and complaints. Some 92% of complaints made about the Home Office to the ombudsman are upheld, and they are almost all to do with the workings of the UK Border Agency.

Dealing with the Border Agency will do more than anything else that has been suggested could do. For example, landlord pilots have been suggested—we rehearsed the arguments about those in the Immigration Bill Committee. I disagree with them. The Bill Committee compromised on having a single pilot, although the

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right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) wanted to have five, helpfully listing Lambeth, Derbyshire, Flintshire, Glasgow and Belfast, as he thought that was perfectly acceptable. We disagree on that but we have rehearsed those arguments, and it will be interesting to see the results of that one pilot.

In the Bill Committee we also rehearsed the arguments about child detention. It is a source of great shame for the previous Government that more than 7,000 children were detained in the last five years of their time in office, one of them for 190 days. I argued in the Bill Committee that we should put a measure on the statute book about child detention—I hope the Minister will continue to deal with the issue in the helpful manner of his previous comments. I was surprised to hear the former Labour Minister, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), defend child detention; she said that some of her constituents would be “envious” of the conditions at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, which was a rather surprising comment.

Much more can be done, but ultimately it comes down to the basic question: how do we get things right? How do we make sure that we do not spend hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to remove an ill man—again, the Minister was questioned about this case yesterday— such as Isa Muazu? Surely we can think of better things on which to spend such sums. We should try to promote international business, so that people who want to try products made in Britain can get into the country to do so and find out whether they want to buy them.

We should promote students and do what we can not to make it easier for other countries to compete. I talked to the Minister about charging for the NHS. He is right in saying that other countries charge students more to use their health service than we do here, but any marginal step that makes it easier for other countries to compete will make it harder for our students. I hope the Minister will reconsider.

We must change some policies, principally the operation of our visa and immigration system, to ensure that the right people can get in and the wrong people cannot. Those decisions should be made quickly and promptly. We must ensure that our rhetoric shows that we are welcoming to those who should be coming to this country, and that we will not engage in a rant about foreigners.

10.10 am

Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I am delighted to be here on what I believe is the first occasion I have spoken on immigration. We do not have an immigration problem in Braintree, which is very much a British, white, working-class area, as are many in Essex. However, the fear of immigration seems to grab people’s attention. My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) hit the nail on the head in his many reasons why. I congratulate him on an excellent speech.

Immigration is a highly emotive subject, but we must not forget that we are a nation of immigrants. Since Roman times we have had wave after wave of immigrants: from Angles, Jutes and Norsemen in the dark ages to Normans, Jews and Huguenots in the middle ages, to Italians and Irishmen in the 1800s, to West Indians, Ugandan Asians—

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Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Newmark: No.

Sir Gerald Howarth: Thank you.

Mr Newmark: —to Indians and Pakistanis in the 1900s, to north Africans and others in the past decade. Indeed, the star of the London Olympics was Mo Farah, a Somali immigrant.

This House has many sons and daughters of immigrants, including the hon. Members for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) and for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz); my hon. Friends the Members for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) and for Witham (Priti Patel); and Mr Speaker himself. We must not forget my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal), who now holds the seat of the late, great Enoch Powell.

Immigrants come here because they want to contribute to our society. They tend to fill a skills gap rather than simply replacing British workers. The City, the arts and sports are full of immigrants who contribute to our society, as is education and the health service. Our national dish today is as much curry as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or fish and chips. So what went wrong?

Unfortunately, at some stage during the previous Government’s tenure, we lost control of our borders. That resulted in the largest migration in our history and the system broke. There was huge pressure on housing, health care and even education. Something had to be done, and the present Government have grasped the nettle and cut immigration by one third. The Prime Minister announced recently that EU migrants will have to wait before claiming benefits and there will be tests for those who want to do so. Newly arrived jobseekers will not be able to claim housing benefit without a minimum period of residency.

We are tightening up on immigration not because we are little Britain, but because, in the words of the Minister:

“Hard-working people expect and deserve an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system and flout the law…We will continue to welcome the brightest and best migrants who…contribute to our economy and society and play by the rules.”

I say, “Hear, hear” to that.

I am an immigrant. I moved here with my family when I was nine years old. I have always contributed more to society than I have taken. I have built up a successful business, paid my taxes, raised my family and now have the privilege of representing my country and my community in Parliament. The vast majority of individuals who come to the United Kingdom do so, like me, because they want a better life for themselves and their families. They want to make a contribution to society. Let us therefore continue to welcome those who wish to contribute to our society, but let us also toughen up on those who seek only to take advantage of our

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generous benefits system without giving anything back. This Government are seeking to get the balance right, and I welcome their initiatives on immigration.

Mr George Howarth(in the Chair): Order. Two more Members want to take part in the debate, and I intend to call the Front Benchers at 10.30. Members can do the maths so that there is time for both to speak—[Interruption.]The Front Benchers have indicated that they would be willing to take a little less time, so if the two remaining speakers exercise a little restraint, there should be time for everyone to speak.

10.15 am

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): It is a pleasure, Mr Howarth, to serve under your chairmanship again. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) on securing this timely debate. He described the change that has taken place in this country, on which the British people were not consulted. I refer particularly to the free movement of labour under the European Union.

I am old enough to have taken part in the 1975 referendum when, thankfully, I voted no—I say “thankfully”, but it came to nothing of course. I do not recall that free movement of labour ever played a significant part in that debate. Indeed, had it done so, I am sure that it would have been glossed over by the leaders of all political parties at that time; they assured us that the United Kingdom would have a veto and that we had nothing to fear. Clearly, we were misled, to put it mildly. Unfortunately, the British people fear that their political leaders are not taking note of their concerns.

My part of the United Kingdom has a small immigrant population. The two local authority areas that make up my constituency have 5% and 3% non-British populations. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 7% of those in north Lincolnshire and 4% in north-east Lincolnshire were born outside the UK. Those figures are remarkably low compared with many parts of the country, but that does not alter the fact that immigration is the No. 1 issue on the doorstep.

People are concerned. To say that they fear change is putting it too strongly, but they are certainly concerned about change. One role of the political process is to manage change, and one reason why people believe the political process is failing them at the moment is that change is coming so quickly that Governments throughout the world find it extremely difficult to manage that change.

My constituents are not opposed to all immigration, and they recognise the important part that existing communities play in voluntary and charitable organisations, churches and the work force. Spanish nurses have recently been recruited at our two local hospitals. People recognise that they bring a skill and can see the value of that. They may regret that we do not have enough trained nurses in our own work force, but they see an obvious advantage in recruiting Spanish nurses, so they are prepared to accept it.

However, my constituents can also see the tensions only 50 miles down the road in Boston. They are reported on regularly on the regional television news and that causes concerns. We as politicians and as Governments in particular bury our heads in the sand if

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we do not recognise that we are not serving the best interests of those we represent if we allow unlimited immigration into our provincial towns and cities. Places such as Boston and other provincial towns find it much more difficult to integrate than a large multicultural city does. London is the exception, but the point can equally be applied to, say, Birmingham or Manchester.

Public opinion is clear in this country and if we go by media reports in France, Germany and elsewhere in the EU, populations there are equally concerned. Perhaps the political systems in some other EU countries—where there are list systems and national lists, inevitably making the politicians somewhat more remote from their electorate— allow Governments, as it were, to get away with the fact. Here, however, we have a very close contact with our voters, which is something we are all grateful for.

As I mentioned, it is clear that areas such as north and north-east Lincolnshire are more remote from large-scale immigration, but there is still concern. The Government do people a disservice if they do not recognise that and take appropriate action.

I pay tribute to the Government and to the Minister, who was good enough to visit my constituency in July. We saw then the Border Force’s excellent work and looked at how the considerable container traffic that comes in through the port of Immingham was scanned for potential illegal immigrants and so on. It does great work. We are not a soft touch, as many of our critics would have us believe, but that does not take away the concerns of those we represent. We have a duty to articulate those concerns.

The transition period that expires on 1 January with regard to Bulgarians and Romanians has put the issue under the microscope. Let us be honest: our electorate—I suggest that this applies in Cambridge and Sheffield just as it does in Cleethorpes, Immingham and the towns that I represent—would like that transitional period to be unilaterally extended. I suspect that the Minister will not stand up in a minute or two’s time and say, “Yes, we entirely agree with that and that is exactly what we are going to do,” but we must have more robust action, otherwise the Government and we politicians collectively will pay the political price.

10.23 am

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): As your namesake, Mr Howarth, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I am grateful to my hon. Friends for curtailing their speeches to enable me to make a contribution.

I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner), not only for securing this important debate, but for the significant points that he made. As he said, this is the most important issue facing our constituents. My constituents in Aldershot are constantly raising the issue of immigration with me. They feel that nobody is speaking up for them and that they are on their own. Indeed, they preface all their remarks by saying, “I am not a racist, but—”. They then go on to express opinions that are denounced by our opponents as racist, so they have felt intimidated from expressing their perfectly legitimate and perfectly honourable concerns about how they see their country has been transformed.

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Yes, my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr Newmark) rejoices in being an immigrant; I rejoice in tracing my roots to nowhere else but into the soil of this kingdom. What my hon. Friend needs to understand about the wave of migration, which has so upset the people of this country, is that between 1066 and 1950, we had about a quarter of a million migrants to this country. We have now seen a massive change, with something like 8 million people coming into this country. The numbers are what is upsetting people. It is not necessarily the colour of people’s skin, although, of course, that brings different cultural challenges. It is the numbers—that is what Enoch Powell was trying to draw attention to in 1968, for which, of course, he got roundly traduced.

Of course, it is now okay to talk about immigration. It is extraordinary—apparently, the Leader of the Opposition has declared that it is all right to talk about immigration. As my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight said, we have had successive former Labour Ministers, including the right hon. Members for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett), apologising for the mistakes that were made. Of course, it was Andrew Neather, a speechwriter for the Labour party, who let the cat out of the bag when he said that it had been a deliberate act of policy to encourage mass migration—the 2.2 million that my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight mentioned. It was a positive decision, as Andrew Neather said, in order to

“rub the Right’s nose in diversity”.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that what adds to the frustration of the people of the United Kingdom is the unwillingness and inability of the Parliament and Government that they elect to deal fundamentally with opinion and the decisions that they should make about who comes to this country and who does not?

Sir Gerald Howarth: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; that point has been made by my hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) and for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), so I think there is unanimity here about that.

There is a feeling in this country that we are full up. We accept that many people wish to come to this country; it is a most fantastic country—the most fantastic country in the world. I do not blame people for wanting to come here, of course not. I can perfectly see why they want to, but it is adding enormous pressure to our way of life, and there are other changes to which I wish to refer in a moment.

However, I am not suggesting that all immigration is bad for this country—quite clearly, it is not. My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree is clearly one of the most outstanding examples of why we should accept migration into the country—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree say “Hear, hear!” He is never short of confidence in his own opinions, which is encouraging to see in a politician.

I say to the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) that he is absolutely right about overseas students. I could not agree with him more. I was the Minister

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for international security strategy, with responsibility for defence exports. The most fascinating thing about going around the world was finding people who had been trained in the United Kingdom.

Take, for example, Prime Minister Najib, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who went to the university of Nottingham. I do not think there is a more enthusiastic supporter of the university of Nottingham than the Prime Minister of Malaysia. That has been of huge benefit to the United Kingdom, and that is repeated all round the world. I can see the merit in that, but the fact is that our people are concerned about the practical and cultural effect.

Let me touch briefly on the practical effect. As MigrationWatch has pointed out, there is massive pressure on housing and services. We are constantly reading in newspapers that house prices are going up. Of course they are—there is a shortage of supply and an increase in demand. Where are all these 100,000 Somalis going to be accommodated? Where will all the incoming people from Romania and Bulgaria be accommodated?

We are not building houses, and why not? In part, because our constituents feel that we are already full up in our communities, so there is a massive challenge there. As MigrationWatch has said, we will need to build the equivalent of eight of the largest cities outside the capital in 15 years. For the next 20 years, we will need to build a new home every seven minutes, night and day, just for the new migrants and their families, because it calculated that the UK population will reach 70 million in the next 15 years. Parliament cannot allow itself to ignore those massive pressures on our country.

My second point is about the cultural considerations. I do not know when I was ever given the opportunity to vote on diversity. Everybody said, “What a wonderful thing diversity is.” Personally, I happen not to like curry, but I understand that many people do. Indeed, I represent the garrison town of Aldershot—I am proud so to do—and the Army seems to eat nothing but curry. That makes my visits to the Army slightly tricky, but there we go.

Diversity has been a mask to distract attention from people’s concerns that their own way of life has been changed. One of the interesting things about the latest wave of migration is how those new migrants to our country are not content simply to accept our way of life, our customs or even our laws. That is wholly contrary to the practice adopted by previous waves of migration to this country—most of which, of course, one has to say, have been from other European countries.

We now have the problem—it is a problem—of Islamic fundamentalism in this country. These are people who are demanding that we change our laws—that we have sharia law. I read in the newspapers that in parts of east London, people are challenged not to adopt certain practices—not to drink and not to show affection in public—because “This is an Islamic area.” In the House of Commons, we need to wake up to what is going on in our country. I freely accept that it is not happening in Aldershot, but it is happening, it would appear, in other parts of the country.

We also have the graphic account being given in court at the moment of the complete savagery—there is no other way of describing it—of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. Listening to the proceedings in court at the

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moment, I hope that the whole nation is completely shocked by the savagery—the brutality—that is happening in our capital city. We cannot in Parliament ignore these issues.

The assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police said last week that in the last two years there have been 400 arrests for terrorist offences, with 80 people charged. He was very fearful for the future of this country, and I do make the connection that this is associated with migration into this country. We have a growing threat to our way of life. There is a man called Anjem Choudary whom I have denounced in this House for the last 15 years. He seems to be able to act with complete impunity, advocating hatred of our way of life.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering has done a marvellous job in proposing a Bill to ban the burqa. That is something that I find deeply offensive—that women are wandering around in our country and we cannot see their faces. It is contrary to our culture. I have asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to ban it. She has said that she will not, but I think that there is a very strong case that the wearing of the burqa should be banned in courts and where people are encountering officials. After all, if a young lad goes into a shop these days, he is told to take off his hoodie; that does not seem to me to be any different in principle.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree again—my hon. Friend the Minister is doing a sterling job in this field, and it is a massive challenge. The Home Secretary was in Brussels last Friday, arguing the case for the kind of changes in the migration rules within the EU that are necessary. I warmly welcome that, but I say to the Minister that I find two things in my constituency surgeries.

One involves the women who have been inveigled into marrying a foreigner, generally on holiday, principally in north Africa. They get back here. The guy is given leave to remain, and then he sugars off. Can we get them deported? No, because we get told that this is all about data protection and all the rest of it. I say to my hon. Friend that that has to stop.

The second category of people is those who come to my surgery with a litany of appeals that have been rejected. Why are they still here? Why are we not deporting these people? I am perfectly happy to name them and to help my hon. Friend to remove them from this country. The failure of the Government to remove these people is itself undermining the Government’s stand on immigration.

Mention has been made of the contribution that immigrants have made, and we have all seen that the Poles and other east Europeans work incredibly hard. Our country is suffering from a lack of aspiration among our young people. I am not the first to have said that. Our education system has to do a great deal more to teach our young people the five R’s—reading, writing, arithmetic, right and wrong—to prepare them for a world that is becoming, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says, extremely competitive.

We need only go to countries such as India and Malaysia to see and feel the palpable sense of aspiration. When we talk to a publican who cannot get anybody even to turn up for an interview to come and work in his pub, our people have to start accepting that they have

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to do some of these jobs, that they have to have more aspiration in their lives, because otherwise, I am afraid, the prospects for the country are grim.

I will leave the House with this reminder. In 1960, the population of this country was 52 million, in 2010 it was 62 million, and in 15 years’ time it will be 70 million. There are practical and cultural considerations that the House must not and cannot ignore.

10.36 am

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I congratulate the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) on allowing us one and a half hours of parliamentary time to debate a very important issue. You will have seen, Mr Howarth, that it is clearly a complex and multilayered issue. We have had discussions about the importance of integration and of the impact of European migration, but we have also heard very strong contributions about the need for business, for students and for tourism. We need to reflect on all those in any positive response to the debate that we are having today.

I start by echoing what the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr Newmark) said in what I thought was—I hope I will not upset him by saying this—an excellent contribution: that immigration has benefited the United Kingdom over many centuries. People have come here to build our biggest companies, to create our national health service and to win our sports prizes. I am struck by the fact that we are meeting just off Westminster Hall, which was built by William Rufus, the son of an immigrant, in 1098. I say to the hon. Gentleman that we have a proud history of contribution from immigration, but I also say that we need to examine the fact that real concerns and tensions are caused by some of the issues that have been raised and accepted here today.

I hope that I can help to assuage the fears raised by the hon. Members for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth), for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), for Braintree and for Isle of Wight by saying that, yes, mistakes were made by the previous Labour Government. If I may say so, however, I do not think that it was as the hon. Member for Isle of Wight said. There was no mass plan for increasing multi- culturalism, but I think that there was a willingness and a wish to ensure that we had a positive approach to eastern Europe.

Under the communist yoke, that part of Europe was not free, not engaged in free-market economies, not trading with us and not developing some of the economies in which we are going to invest resources for the future. That was the case for many years, so I think that there was a willingness. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and others have said that there was a lack of transitional controls that should have been, potentially, put in place, and that that has created some community tension. But let us not say that it was in total a bad thing, because I think that we do have some very positive benefits from migration generally.

I can look at my own constituency. The biggest employer there makes aeroplane wings with contributions from French, Spanish, German and British workers. Only last week, there was a £30 billion order for aeroplanes for my constituency. The neighbouring constituency has the site of the Toyota factory—a Japanese factory

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managed in my area by Japanese staff, creating employment for people in my constituency. Kimberly-Clark in my constituency is also a major employer in my area. That is an American-based company with American staff helping to invest in that company. Immigration brings wealth, prosperity and businesses, but it also brings challenges, as has been expressed.

Particularly in view of the potential for Romanian and Bulgarian immigration from 1 January—like the Minister, I do not know what that figure will be—we must look at labour market issues associated with the exploitation of those who come to this country to work. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) touched on those issues as being important.

I want the minimum wage to be strengthened to stop exploitation. I want local authorities to step up enforcement, and I want fines for non-compliance to be increased. The Prime Minister and the Minister have alluded to the potential for a move in that direction. It is not acceptable for wages to be forced down in this country by immigration from eastern Europe. I want gangmaster legislation to be strengthened and extended to areas such as catering and tourism, which it does not cover at the moment.

Mr Andrew Turner: The right hon. Gentleman is making some fair points. The question that he has not yet answered—he has another five minutes in which to do so—is whether those decisions should be made here in the UK or there in Europe.

Mr Hanson: I am a believer in a wider Europe, and I do not think we should retrench into the position that the hon. Gentleman has set out. We might look at what changes are needed, but our position in the European Community is a strong one for our markets. We may disagree on the matter, but that is my view.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central mentioned recruitment agencies. As we discussed in the Immigration Bill Committee, there are websites on which people try, in contravention of the Equality Act 2010, to recruit staff solely from eastern Europe or, increasingly, from southern Italy. I do not think that that is fair or right, and we should look at measures to outlaw such recruitment. In my constituency, local people cannot access vacancies in certain factories because staff are recruited solely from eastern Europe. That has to be wrong, and we should deal with that labour market issue.

We must strengthen and enforce housing legislation. I believe that the Minister agrees, because he has mentioned beds in sheds. We need to end the practice of shifts of people in the same accommodation sleeping for eight hours, working for eight hours and spending eight hours on the street, as happens in my constituency and in many others. We must take action to tackle that, because it undercuts the UK labour market and exploits those who come here legitimately for work.

We must also focus on the positive aspects of immigration. I have had representations from businesses—I even met some this morning—through London First and others. They tell me that, as the hon. Member for Cambridge and my hon. Friend have said, we need to

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attract people from the student community abroad, to ensure that they not only bring fees and spending power to the country but carry the good will of this country with them into their future work. The Prime Minister of Malaysia, or the future chairmen or chief executives of businesses abroad, will look back on their time in the UK with fond memories. That is an unseen export that we should contribute towards.

In addition to attracting students, we must also focus on tourism. I discovered last week that Chinese tourism is worth £103 billion to the rest of the world, but in this country we benefit from only £300 million of that amount. We need to increase our share of that market. To give credit where it is due—I try to be fair—the Prime Minister has tried to do just that. We must not ignore the fact that immigration is not only about eastern Europe; it is about opening our borders to allow people to get in for tourism purposes and to spend their money. I agree that we also need to look at business issues, which are important. If someone wants to come here to invest £1 million or £2 million in creating a business, we must allow them to.

I share the view of the hon. Member for Cleethorpes that integration is extremely important. In many of our towns and cities, including my constituency, the sudden influx of people speaking different languages in supermarkets and on the streets has created tensions, which I hope will ease with time. We must look at how we can maximise the benefits of Europe while having fair and appropriate immigration controls.

That leads me to say that we must ensure that we have strong borders. The report “The Border Force: securing the border”, published yesterday by the Public Accounts Committee, raised some criticism. No one says that the problem is easy to deal with; it was not easy when we were in charge and it is not easy now. We need to look at strong border controls. We need to ensure that those who have been through the system and have failed the residency test are removed from the United Kingdom in a fair way. We need to ensure that people who come here integrate and speak English and that we have a proper and effective immigration system.

I do not think, however, with due respect to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight and some others who have spoken today, that closing our borders in the way they have described by repatriating powers would be a good thing. I do not think that putting up a “Britain is shut” sign will help the economy or the residents of the country, however long they have been here, in the long term.

We have had a useful debate, and discussion of the matter will continue. I would be grateful for the Minister’s response to the points I have raised. There are real steps that the Government could take, but are not taking, to deal with labour market issues, which would assuage some of the concerns that have been raised today.

10.46 am

The Minister for Immigration (Mr Mark Harper): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mr Howarth, and it is a rare treat to have two Howarths in the Chamber at the same time. I suspect that you are at rather different ends of the political spectrum—although you, as Chair, are completely neutral.

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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) for securing the debate. As the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) said, it is always good to have one and a half hours of valuable parliamentary time to talk about issues that are of concern to all our constituents. Some are concerned, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) said, about attracting the best and the brightest. Others are worried about the numbers of people coming here and whether they are all making a contribution.

I am also pleased to see that the right hon. Member for Delyn has some friends today. Last time we debated immigration, he was completely by himself with no Labour Back Benchers to support him. Today, however, one Labour Member spoke in the debate and another is in the Chamber, so the right hon. Gentleman’s powers of oratory are clearly attracting a wider audience.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight was right to highlight the failure of the previous Labour Government, and one can argue about whether that was the result of a conspiracy or a cock-up. The former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) leans towards the view that a “spectacular mistake”, in his words, was made. A significant number of people came into the country when the previous Labour Government were in power, which is partly why people have concerns. It was partly to do with the fact that at the time of the eastern European accession, we were the only major country to have no transitional controls, so most of those who left their own countries to work came to Britain.

It is worth remembering, however, that eastern Europe was not where the largest number of people came from. During the Labour party’s time in office, more than twice as many migrants came from outside the European Union. Although the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), was presented with that information in a clear graphical format during a recent edition of “Sunday Politics”, and she was sitting right in front of the screen, she denied that it is true. I am afraid it is, however. Although the Labour party may argue that it made some mistakes on eastern European migration, in an area in which it had complete control over who came to the United Kingdom, it failed. That is behind many people’s concerns, so we have tried to demonstrate that we are able to take tough decisions to reassure people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) said that even in an area such as his constituency where immigration is low, people see significant numbers of migrants from eastern Europe in neighbouring towns, such as Boston in Lincolnshire. People are concerned about the numbers of people who have immigrated in a relatively short space of time and how successfully they have integrated. That is why we have to address those concerns.

We have made progress. Several Members have referred to the fact that net migration is down by nearly one third since its peak. We are building a system that works in the national interest. Immigration from outside the EU is now at its lowest level for 14 years, and almost back to the level it was when the previous Conservative Government left office.

The good news is that we are being more selective. According to the latest figures, there is a 7% increase in students coming to our excellent UK universities. The hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) has

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made that point before and I am sure he will make it again, as will my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge. We welcome international students coming to our excellent universities, and both the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend have more than one excellent university in their areas. It is important that we welcome students who come to Britain to study. Most will leave, some will stay, some will start businesses and some will help create economic growth, and we very much welcome them. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) was being slightly unfair earlier—the “hear, hears” when he congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr Newmark) were coming not from him but from the rest of us. He made an excellent speech focusing on those who are going to contribute. People who come here and contribute are important.

I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) said about numbers, which was also a concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight. Two things are worth remembering. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering was concerned that we will see a repeat of what happened in 2004, but the situation now is different, because in 2004 we were the only country to have no transitional controls. This time, we have had such controls and at the end of September, the controls of eight other European countries—including large countries with successful economies, such as Germany—will expire at the same time as ours. We are not the only country that will have a policy change. Secondly, 48% of immigrants come from outside the EU, 36% come from within the EU and 15% of the people coming to Britain are British citizens who have lived overseas for more than a year who are returning home or who have never lived here. It is worth putting the numbers into perspective.

Most hon. Members talked about employment. We have made a difference, which my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight put his finger on when he talked about our immigration policy, our welfare policy and our education and training policy. The difference is in the combination of the three—a tougher immigration policy; a tougher welfare policy that encourages people to work and contribute; and an increase in the number of apprenticeships and more rigour in schools. In the five years to December 2008, under the previous Government, when there was economic growth and jobs were being created, more than 90% of the increase in employment was accounted for by foreign nationals. That is probably what provoked the comment of the previous Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), about

“British jobs for British workers.”

Since the second quarter of 2010, under the current Government, more than three quarters of the 1.1 million new jobs in the economy have gone to British citizens, which is of benefit. Talented people are still coming to Britain to fill gaps in the labour market and contribute, but the growth in employment now benefits British citizens. That is, first, what we are in business to do in Parliament, and, secondly, very welcome.

We are committed to continuing to bring net migration down. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot referred to removing people who have no right to be here. The Immigration Bill currently before Parliament contains measures to reduce the rights of appeal and make it

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easier to remove foreign national offenders, for example, from the UK when they have no right to be here, which is welcome.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I salute the Minister for what he is doing. My point is not so much that further measures, which I welcome, are being taken, but that many people in this country have already exhausted the extensive appeals procedures and have still not been removed. Despite people like me writing to say, “Why aren’t they being removed?”, officials do not seem to take action.

Mr Harper: I agree with my hon. Friend. We will certainly give ourselves the powers to take action. Since we split up the UK Border Agency earlier this year, there has been a change in the culture of the two new parts. The immigration enforcement branch now feels that it is a law enforcement organisation and its job is to deal with those who break our immigration rules.

On the subject of those who break the law and want to come to the UK, I would like to make a bit of a public service announcement. I noticed in media coverage this morning that Mike Tyson, who wants to visit the UK, is not able to come here because we changed the immigration rules for those guilty of serious offences. A column in The Sunsays that he received a “knock out blow”—the first time I have ever, in effect, got in the ring with a boxer. Mr Tyson is a convicted rapist. If people have been convicted of an offence for which they have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment of at least four years, we will refuse them entry to the UK. I say that because his publisher, who organised his UK book tour, said:

“There was a change in the UK immigration law in December 2012 of which we were unaware.”

That is a fault on their part. I will say in Parliament, therefore, to make the position clear, that we have toughened the immigration rules and people who are criminals who want to come to the UK will not be able to if they are guilty of serious crimes. The measure is welcome and has been welcomed by many who support victims of violence. The child protection campaigner, Sara Payne, said:

“I think the Home Office got it right.”

I savour those words; I do not often hear people say them. She said:

“The rules don’t change just because the offender is famous.”

That is an important point. People have to obey the law. The Government make no apology for toughening up the rules in 2012, and those rules will apply to people equally, whether they are famous or not.

Before I move on, I shall pick up on the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot. The Immigration Bill will reduce the number of appeals and

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tighten up the rules on article 8, putting them in primary legislation. People who have no right to be here, for example a foreign national offender we are trying to remove, will have fewer opportunities to argue that they should be able to stay, and we will be able to remove them more effectively. I hope my hon. Friend welcomes that.

There was much discussion about labour market rules. The right hon. Member for Delyn mentioned advertisements that aim to hire only foreign nationals, which are unlawful already. I said during a debate on the Immigration Bill that I would draw such advertisements to the attention of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is the regulator and enforcement body in that area, and I have done so. It wrote back to me and, to paraphrase a relatively lengthy letter, it is on the case. I will be able to update hon. Members when the Bill returns to the Floor of the House.

My hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes and for Braintree referred to what we are doing as we move towards the end of the year. We are preparing for the transitional controls expiring. Last week, I signed an order, which we laid before the House on Friday, amending the European economic area regulations, to take steps to restrict access to benefits, guard against the abuse of free movement and prevent individuals who are removed from the UK for not fulfilling the requirements of the free movement rules from coming straight back again. Those changes will be helpful. A number of them come into force on 1 January. Those we remove for begging or rough sleeping, for example, will not be allowed to come back unless they can demonstrate that immediately on re-entry they will be exercising a treaty right, coming back to work or study, or that they will be self-sufficient.

I am pressed for time and I want to deal with the other issues my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight raised. We will restrict access to jobseeker’s allowance to six months for foreign nationals who become unemployed. This week, the Department for Work and Pensions is rolling out a toughened habitual residence test to increase the range and depth of evidence collected from benefit claimants to ensure that they are entitled to be here. The Home Secretary has consistently raised that issue at the Justice and Home Affairs Council, and she did so again last week. She received support from a number of member states and, I note, robust support from my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot.

The Government are taking the tough measures necessary. We are bearing down on numbers, but also ensuring that Britain is open to those who want to come to contribute, to put something back and to make our country wealthier. We have the balance right. I want to continue to make changes and I am confident that hon. Members on both sides might even support them.

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Corruption (International Business)

11 am

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mr Howarth. I am pleased to have been granted this debate, which I secured as co-chair of the all-party group on anti-corruption, a role that I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar). I am pleased that a number of other members of the all-party group are present today.

We are here to highlight the United Nation’s international anti-corruption day, which took place on Monday this week. Citizens and parliamentarians have been marking the day right around the world, and I am pleased that the United Kingdom is playing its part, too. It is very appropriate that legislators in this country should highlight international anti-corruption day, because we are in a particularly good position to do something about it. Many of the tools that allow corruption to happen are within our control. I therefore hope that today’s debate, albeit brief, will contribute to the momentum of calls for change.

When we speak about corruption, we think about malevolent characters in places far removed from the UK, such as Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While those might be the sites of theft and where the devastating consequences impact on people, the deals themselves might be taking place just down the road from Parliament, in our capital city. In truth, corrupt officials in developing countries would find it much harder to steal from their citizens if they were unable to use the tools provided by international business, which includes UK citizens, UK-based companies and those listed on the London stock exchange. Those are all elements over which we can exercise some control. We are rightly proud of our aid spending in this country, and I strongly welcome the Chancellor’s confirmation in Budget 2013 that the Government intend to meet and build on Labour’s legacy, which was to set the UK’s historic target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid.

It is time, however, to take that a step further. We must ensure that resources are provided in a broader context that ultimately reduces developing countries’ dependence on aid. To do so, we have to look in our own backyard at how domestic business legislation can have a major impact on international poverty. Western business frameworks facilitate illicit financial flows out of Africa. Shockingly, those flows outweigh the amounts that those countries receive from aid and foreign direct investment. We have the power to prevent that, but until we do so, we will effectively keep giving with one hand and taking away much more with the other.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Lady on the hard work that she does in her all-party group, as well as on bringing this matter to Westminster Hall for consideration. Does she agree that, while it is important that we strengthen business connections across the whole world, those businesses must be transparent and accountable? Does she agree that the UK ambassadors in those countries could act as a catalyst to make change happen and to prevent corruption?

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Catherine McKinnell: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, and I am interested in what the Minister will say in responding to this debate. As the Government, they could exercise their influence to ensure that UK ambassadors play their part in tackling international corruption, which we know damages developing countries.

It is important to recognise the context in which we are speaking. Today is 11 December, and on this day, 800 women will die unnecessarily in childbirth, 29,000 under-fives will die from preventable causes, 67 million children are not in school when they should be and almost 1 billion people will go to bed hungry. The money to remedy that appalling situation is entirely available but is often being stolen for private gain.

Since the creation of the Department for International Development by the previous Labour Government in 1997, the UK has played a leading role in tackling these problems, and we should celebrate that important work and recognise that it is very much being continued under the coalition Government. It is vital that we continue to provide targeted, efficient and comprehensive aid where we know it will have a significant impact on the life chances of our fellow global citizens. However, those citizens are not simply asking us for direct assistance; they are asking us to look at how the conditions that we regulate continue to make and keep poor people poor.

To consider the role of western countries in this scandal, let us take a hypothetical example. A corrupt Minister tenders the mining rights to his country’s substantial mineral wealth. A multinational company guarantees winning the tender by sweetening its application with a large bribe. It most likely does so using a shell company to provide anonymity and an almost total guarantee that the money will be unrecoverable by officials. Alternatively, perhaps the Government sell the mines directly to a recently registered company with no employees, premises or registered activities. The Minister oversees the sale of the assets at as little as 5% of their market value, and the company then sells the assets on for a hefty profit, making sure that the corrupt Minister is well compensated personally for his generous deal. The shell company hides the often overly close relationship between the individual buying the assets and the person selling them, and corporate vehicles essentially render owners unaccountable for their actions.

After the deal, both the Minister and the company have illegitimate wealth from which they wish to benefit, and that is where the second element implicating international business comes to the fore: the laundering of ill-gotten gains through western financial institutions. To access the global marketplace, individuals need reputable banks in countries with strong property rights, such as our own. Without banks willing to take their cash, criminals would be unable to reap the rewards.

Shell companies and money laundering are two major tools provided by western businesses that facilitate devastating global corruption. Before I go on, it is worth commenting on the scale of the problem. Deals very similar to those that I just described lost the Democratic Republic of the Congo—a country at the very bottom of the UN’s human development index—more than its total annual health and education budget combined. In Nigeria, General Sani Abacha stole an estimated $1.3 billion while in power from a country where the national income is just $260 a head.

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I suspect that the Minister, who is from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is wondering what he is doing here, or is slightly concerned that he has arrived to respond to the wrong debate, because much of what I have discussed so far relates to the Department for International Development. However, many of these deals, such as the lost funds in the Abacha case, are alleged to have been laundered through British banks, and it is our own country’s role in this global scandal to which I turn.

Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Does not the point that she just made highlight the fact that this issue needs a cross-governmental approach? It is not about one Department looking at this, but a joined-up approach that includes the Department for International Development, the Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Through that, we can ensure that the UK continues to be a gold standard when it comes to its relationship with the world.

Catherine McKinnell: My hon. Friend makes the case very well and I thank him for his work in the all-party group promoting these issues. He succinctly highlights the key message that we want to convey to the Minister. He can work with other Departments, which will help us do what we can to bring an end to some of the corruption that is causing devastation in developing countries.

Our role is in part a consequence of the sheer scale of our financial services, which undoubtedly play a major role in the nation’s economy. The UK accounts for 18% of cross-border banking and houses 251 foreign banks—more than any other country. London has been voted the most attractive financial centre for asset management and is the largest currency trading centre in the world. However, we are also implicated through our links to British overseas territories and Crown dependencies, which, together with the UK mainland, account for one third of all shell companies. A number of thefts from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, were routed through the British Virgin Islands.

Thirdly, and on a very positive note, we are also linked by our potential international leadership on this issue. Since 1997, the UK has proved itself at the forefront of international development work and has recently taken steps to lead the world in global transparency too. We very much support the steps that the Government have taken in relation to transparency, particularly the recent Lough Erne declaration, after the G8 summit there.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I just wanted to comment on the benefits that the Government have introduced through the G8 open data charter and getting agreement to have more transparent company ownership and more transparency about those who control companies. I just wonder what the hon. Lady thinks about beneficial company ownership registry. We have agreed that it will be open, but there is an awful lot that we can do in the way that companies are formed in this country to ensure that this problem is sorted out and that Companies House helps to do so.

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Catherine McKinnell: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. In fact, I was just coming to that point about what we can do on the issue of shell companies and beneficial ownership. I very much welcome—we all do—the steps that the Government have taken to date. Indeed, I personally called for those steps to be taken in my role as shadow Treasury Minister during the consideration of this year’s Finance Act. We have become the first country in the world to commit to developing a public register of beneficial ownership, but it is vital that we implement it effectively. Above all, it must achieve its fundamental purpose of identifying the individuals who benefit from and control a company.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Like my colleagues, I congratulate my hon. Friend on her success in securing this debate and on her work with the all-party group. As she says, the Government’s commitments in relation to making public the register of ownership are very important, but we have to be absolutely clear that the register will extend to trusts, because trusts in particular have been used to hide ownership, not least—as she said herself—in some of the overseas territories and Crown dependencies.

Catherine McKinnell: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The key is that this register of beneficial ownership cannot be used as a smokescreen to hide the identities of companies and the individuals who control them. It must be part of the solution to ensure that we have greater transparency, and it must have the effect that I know the Government want it to have.

It is important that beneficial owners are required to provide information such as a passport number or date of birth, so that the register provides a unique, verifiable identifier for every person listed. It is also important that the information goes through some means of verification by Companies House. For example, it could be cross-checked with other registers, such as those of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency or the passport authority. Where company ownership is not direct, individuals should be asked to explain how they exercise control, and when control changes it should be noted within a reasonable time period. Lastly, it is important that the information is published in line with the principles outlined in the G8 open data charter, to which the UK is a signatory, and on a very practical note, it must be machine-readable and searchable, because the amount of information contained will be vast and it is of no use if it cannot be searched.

Tessa Munt: The UK Companies Registry already requires changes of names of directors to be made within a 14-day period, so it should not be difficult to require other changes, particularly as something like 98% of companies that are registered with the UK Companies Registry are actually private, small, family businesses, where the ownership is terribly clear already. It is only the very small percentage of companies that are trying to hide things that we need to get to.

Catherine McKinnell: The hon. Lady makes a very important point. This register of beneficial ownership should not be an onerous burden on business. It should not only make it as easy as possible for banks’ due diligence officers, civil society groups, investigative journalists and foreign law enforcement officials to use the information on it, but for companies themselves to register the

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relevant information with the necessary authorities. The more people who are able to access this information easily, the more we can guarantee its accuracy.

It is vital that the register is fit for purpose, so the eyes of parliamentarians from across the House will be on the Government as they implement their own pledge next year. I and other members of the all-party group on anti-corruption will make sure that the Government make every effort to introduce the legislation to make that happen.

Money laundering has been much discussed in recent days, during the passage of the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. Noble members, including former members of the respected Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, not least the Archbishop of Canterbury, have been calling on fellow legislators to take this opportunity to tighten up our anti-money laundering regulations, because our current checks are inadequate. In 2011, the Financial Services Authority found that 75% of banks, including the major ones, had inadequate checks in place and a Treasury report published just last month described the common failures as

“fundamental Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorist financing obligations... that all firms should be aware of.”

The new banking standards created by the Bill present an ideal opportunity to embed anti-money laundering compliance, both at the very top and throughout the culture of British banking.

Finally on the subject of money laundering, it is worth noting that this week is the anniversary of the imposition of a $1.9 billion fine on HSBC for transacting with Mexican drug lords, terrorist financers and those in countries subject to sanctions, including Libya, Burma and Iran. As a result of the deferred prosecution agreement that HSBC signed in order to avoid more serious punishment, its compliance with anti-money laundering laws is being independently monitored for five years. HSBC will be monitored not just in the United States; the Financial Conduct Authority will also be monitoring HSBC’s compliance with UK laws during the next five years. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views on whether those monitoring reports should be published.

There are some general anti-corruption steps that the Government should consider taking. I draw to the Minister’s attention a Transparency International report on asset recovery that was released this week. Clawing back the money stolen in the type of deals that I have talked about is vital, but at present it is extremely rare. Currently, 99% of illegally obtained money flows undetected through the financial system. The seizure rate could be as low as 0.2%. How many people would steal millions of pounds if they had a 99.8% chance of keeping it?

The report suggests that there should be a new law against corrupt enrichment, which would allow suspicious assets that vastly outweigh the declared wealth of a politician or public official to be seized until proven legitimate. That would shift the burden of proof to the individuals wishing to invest, and away from businesses, which are already under significant obligations. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views on this proposal.

It is also important to stress the important work of law enforcement in this area. As legislators, we are often very quick to add to the statute book, but of course it is vital that existing laws are enforced. The all-party group

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on anti-corruption was recently briefed by the head of the Metropolitan police’s proceeds of corruption unit. The unit, which is funded by DFID, costs just 2% of the amount of money that it has recovered, and just 0.3% of the amount of money that it is currently investigating. A £50 return for every pound of investment seems to be a pretty good deal.

The overseas anti-corruption unit, which sits within the City of London police, is also funded by DFID and since its creation in 2006 it has investigated more than 155 cases where corruption or bribery were alleged, resulting in more than 115 suspects being investigated and in the arrest of 80 individuals involving a number of sectors, including energy and natural resources, security, humanitarian aid, construction and engineering, and publishing. For every pound invested in that unit, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs retrieves between £10 and £30 from the clutches of shell companies and returns it to the UK public purse. In times of austerity, the Government should clearly be prioritising areas of work that provide such good value for money.

I will conclude by turning once again to those who suffer the impact of these devastating crimes. I would like to relay the words of a Zambian nurse quoted by ActionAid in one of its reports about the alleged abuse of shell companies. She describes what her hospital would do if it received the money that was owed to it. She says that

“maybe that money would be used...to access hard to reach places.”

She goes on to say that at present the hospital staff can only reach

“surrounding areas which we are able to walk to.”

The President of Equatorial Guinea’s son purchased a Gulfstream jet with suspicious funds, so he could probably solve that problem for them. However, I doubt that he will do so on his own. Instead, let us take the opportunity that we have here in the UK Parliament to do it.

11.19 am

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): This is an important topic and I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) on securing this debate. The trade and investment White Paper, published in 2011, stated:

“Bribery and corruption are barriers to trade and growth. They hinder development, distort competition and perpetuate poverty.”

That is the Government’s view.

The hon. Lady paid tribute to the United Kingdom’s strong reputation for tackling corruption. Earlier this month, the respected non-governmental organisation Transparency International released its latest corruption perceptions index, which ranks 177 countries and territories around the world on the perceived levels of public corruption. Of those 177 countries, the United Kingdom was ranked 14th. Transparency International’s 2011 bribe payers index ranks 28 of the world’s largest economies according to the perceived likelihood of companies from those countries paying bribes abroad. The United Kingdom ranks joint sixth, alongside Australia, Canada and Singapore. We are ahead of the United States and France.

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In its “Exporting Corruption: Progress Report 2013”, which assesses enforcement of the OECD convention on combating foreign bribery, Transparency International recognises the United Kingdom as one of only four active enforcers of foreign bribery. That is the challenge. Beyond the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and the United States, enforcement effort is poor or non-existent.

The United Kingdom is a signatory to the United Nations convention against corruption and the OECD bribery convention. Those conventions require the signatories to criminalise the bribery of foreign public officials by individuals and companies. Transparency International believes that 20 countries, accounting for about a quarter of the world’s exports, including major exporting nations, such as Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Russia, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey, do little or no enforcement. Enforcement in France, Canada and Argentina is limited.

To be effective in tackling corruption and bribery, both the demand and supply of bribes must be addressed. That means that we cannot address the problem alone; it requires a concerted and co-ordinated effort, and other countries must contribute more equally to tackling corruption. The reality is that the risks of wrongdoing being discovered and of being prosecuted around the world are uneven. To address that, we are increasingly leading the international agenda on these issues.

When we held the G8 presidency earlier this year, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister championed an agenda of tax, transparency and trade, and put tackling corruption at the heart of the G8 agenda. At Lough Erne he secured landmark agreements on tax transparency, transparency in the extractives industries and transparency of company ownership and control. That is in the interests of British firms, and those across the world, that play by the rules. It is about ensuring a level playing field for companies, so that trade delivers the benefits that it should for both rich and poor countries.

We are now taking forward those commitments, including establishing a central registry of company beneficial ownership information, and will be ensuring that the other G8 countries meet their obligations, too. We are working actively with our international partners in the fight against foreign bribery. UK law enforcement departments and agencies have provided training and technical assistance to a wide range of overseas law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies, including the Afghan Attorney General’s Office and Bangladeshi prosecutors, and we have participated in a number of joint investigations.

One of the strengths of the OECD convention is that 40 countries have signed it: more than just the OECD members. Through the OECD bribery working group, the monitoring body of the OECD bribery convention, countries are held to account for their efforts to tackle corruption through peer review. We are fully committed to the OECD bribery convention and we make a full contribution to the working group, which is meeting in Paris at the OECD this week and includes a review of the position in Ireland, in which the UK is a lead reviewer.

Catherine McKinnell: I apologise for taking the Minister back slightly, but he somewhat glossed over the register of beneficial ownership. I welcome the Government’s

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making a verbal commitment—he said that they are working on producing that register—but will he comment on the specific requirements that I proposed about the detail in respect of how it will be produced? He must accept that it is not enough simply to have a registry that is titled “Beneficial Ownership” but has no practical function, as such.

Michael Fallon: The hon. Lady knows that we are about to publish our formal response to the “Transparency and Trust” discussion paper and we will take forward primary legislation to implement a publicly accessible central registry, as soon as we find parliamentary time to do so. I will, if I may, respond to the hon. Lady in detail in writing on her specific point about monitoring.

The working group on bribery has not been shy about shining the spotlight on the UK. In 2008, it made a point of criticising the UK for having prosecuted no legal persons. Today only nine of the 40 signatory countries—Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Switzerland, the United States and the UK—have sanctioned a company for foreign bribery. Italy’s first corporate sanction was a temporary ban on public procurement. The German corporate sanctions have all been administrative fines. Our first corporate conviction for foreign bribery in July 2009 may well be the first in the European Union.

The Bribery Act 2010 provides the legal foundation here. In that Act, we have a modern, effective law against bribery that is second to none. It encourages and supports the establishment of ethical standards that are meaningful in the commercial world and society generally. The offence in the Act of failure to prevent bribery reflects the best practice from the working group, in terms of an effective model of corporate liability for foreign bribery. That has better equipped investigators and prosecutors to tackle bribery in the 21st century. Alongside the Act, investment in dedicated anti-corruption police resources has seen a dramatic increase in the number of investigations into allegations of foreign bribery by UK nationals and companies—up from just four investigations in 2006 to more than 20 live cases currently.

Foreign bribery offences are complex and demand considerable international co-operation, and can take years to investigate and bring to court. Consequently, although there have been several domestic bribery convictions using Bribery Act offences, we have yet to see a foreign bribery prosecution using those same offences.

The Serious Fraud Office also continues to pursue foreign bribery cases under the law that preceded the Bribery Act. In August, it charged four individuals with the first Bribery Act offences in relation to corporate behaviour.

Our ambition is to go beyond minimal technical compliance with the various UN and OECD conventions and to maintain a leadership position through best practice legislation that provides a fully effective deterrent to rogue traders. That means ensuring that we have the right tools. The Serious Fraud Office was given new legal tools to investigate foreign bribery allegations and confiscate the proceeds of crime through civil recovery. Earlier this year, we consulted on the introduction of deferred prosecution agreements for use in cases of economic crime, including Bribery Act offences, by

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corporate offenders. A new scheme for deferred prosecution agreements is provided for in schedule 17 to the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which received Royal Assent in the spring. We intend to implement that legislation in spring next year.

It is understandable that businesses will want to know how they can best comply with the law. We have published advice and guidance on UK Trade & Investment’s overseas business risk website, to ensure that businesses do not spend unnecessary time on disproportionate measures.

The issues that we are debating today are important for the well-being of our economy and the global economy, and for the standing of British businesses across the world. We are committed to ensuring that the UK leads the fight against practices of bribery and corruption. We have come a long way, but we are not complacent. Many points made in this debate challenge us to go further.

11.29 am

Sitting suspended.

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Badger Cull

[Mr Mike Weir in the Chair]

2.30 pm

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Weir.

I make it clear for the record that I am a long-standing trustee of the League Against Cruel Sports. I want the cull to be abandoned because I do not believe there is any justification for its continuation. Indeed, prior to the recent cull, there was a debate in the main Chamber in which we implored the Government not to proceed. We made it clear that there is no evidence to support a cull. I said that the cull was likely, according to the scientific evidence, to make matters worse.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): The hon. Gentleman says that there is no justification for the cull, so why is it that the Republic of Ireland only got control of tuberculosis once it started culling badgers? This is about badgers infecting cattle with TB, and we need to react strongly. I entirely reject what the hon. Gentleman says.

Chris Williamson: I will develop my argument, but the hon. Gentleman is misquoting the statistics relating to Ireland. If we dig a little deeper into the situation in Ireland, it is pretty clear that north of the border, where I believe culling has not taken place, the situation improved considerably more than it did in the south of Ireland.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Mike Weir (in the Chair): Order. Quiet in the Chamber. A lot of people want to speak in this debate, so I ask for quiet and for short interventions.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Does not the evidence show that, even with the cull, the targets cannot be achieved? More importantly, would it not be better to use the Scottish system?

Chris Williamson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I will address his point if I have time.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend agree that this debate is on so-called control of mainland badgers? Will he please address the intervention by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish)? This is about scientific evidence; the scientific evidence from Lord May and the breadth of scientific opinion in this country are against the cull.

Chris Williamson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Williamson: May I develop my argument a little further, because I have only just started? I have read only the first couple of lines of my speech, and I have already had five people seeking to interject. Please let me develop my argument before making further interventions.

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As I was saying before I was intervened on, the Government disregarded the scientific evidence and my and other hon. Members’ assertions that the cull would make matters worse. They disregarded public opinion. The scientific views of a range of eminent individuals have been completely disregarded by Ministers; we have been confronted by Ministers who from day one have simply been gung ho for the cull and determined to proceed, irrespective of the evidence. It seems to me that Ministers are impervious to reason. Disregarding scientific evidence and public opinion so cavalierly is no way for a Government to make policy.

Mel Stride: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Williamson: May I carry on a little longer?

As we know, the cull has been a dismal failure. The policy is an absolute shambles. Instead of accepting the Government’s mistake, we have seen the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs indulging in shameless propaganda to try to justify the unjustifiable. The Independent reports him as saying:

“These lovely black and white creatures you see on the telly and you put in your newspaper. They don’t relate to these miserable, emaciated sick animals spewing out disease.”

There is no evidence for that.

In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) on 10 October, the Secretary of State said that

“some of the animals we have shot have been desperately sick—in the final stages of disease”.—[Official Report, 10 October 2013; Vol. 568, c. 281.]

In a written answer to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), the Minister said:

“The Secretary of State’s comments about sick badgers relate to the comments made to him by contractors and farmers during the culls.”—[Official Report, 18 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 714W.]

So there is no evidence at all. We are simply getting scaremongering nonsense from the Government. The cull has been a very costly failure.

Mr Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate.

Scotland is virtually clear of TB in cattle. Is there not an awful lot to be said for the argument that the Government down here, whose experiment has been a folly, should look at the Scottish situation instead of continuing a cull that nobody recognises as being of any use?

Chris Williamson: My hon. Friend is right that the Government should look at evidence from elsewhere in the United Kingdom—and, indeed, listen to the expert scientific evidence.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. He mentioned my parliamentary question, but does he also share my concern that the Government appear to have done so few post-mortems on badgers that we do not know what the results are? Does he further agree that, in light of the shambles around the current culling policy, there is a real danger that the Government will go down the route of gassing? Gassing is incredibly

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inhumane. The real answer, which is also cheaper and more effective, is to vaccinate badgers. That is what we should do.

Chris Williamson: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I will address her point a little later.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Williamson: I will carry on before taking a few more interventions.

What I find so scandalous about the whole process, apart from the fact that the Government have disregarded scientific and public opinion, is that the Government have withheld information about the humaneness of the cull. We were assured by Ministers that of course the cull would be humane. We had crocodile tears from Government Members in the debate earlier this year, when they said how concerned they were about animal welfare and that of course the procedure would be humane.

Ian Paisley: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Williamson: I will give way in a moment.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is withholding information about the criteria on which the humaneness of the cull has been based. Surely if the Government have nothing to fear, they will release that information—but of course they have been singularly unwilling to do so.

Public safety has been compromised by the cull. Monitors who are there to watch over the cull have been intimidated by some of the people employed to do the culling. Shots have been fired over the heads of monitors—shots have been fired in the United Kingdom over the heads of people going about their lawful business of monitoring the activities of a cull set up by the Government. They have had shots fired over their heads! That is appalling and disgraceful, and it should be condemned by Ministers, but we have not heard any condemnation from the Government. On at least one occasion, people monitoring the culls have had their vehicle rammed by people who favour the cull.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that there is some scientific evidence in favour of a cull, as well as strong arguments against a cull? Is it not the case that the Labour party in Wales, which is now in government, was in favour of a cull when it was in coalition with Plaid Cymru? It was only when they won an overall majority that they changed their mind and ceased their battle in the High Court. Why is the hon. Gentleman trying to politicise the matter when his colleagues in Wales were determined to fight in the High Court for the right to go ahead with a cull? What has changed since then?

Chris Williamson: The fact is that the Welsh Government rejected any suggestion of a cull and are going ahead with a vaccination programme, which I hope this Government will accept for England. It seems a more appropriate way forward, rather than proceeding in the current manner. I am about to come on to some of the

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scientific evidence, which clearly refutes the assertion just made by the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies).

Public safety has been compromised and costs have spiralled out of control, but the Government say that the policy is based on the previous randomised badger cull from, I think, 1998 to 2006. The conclusions of that cull showed that, far from actually making things better, it actually resulted in a 29% increase in the incidence of TB outside the cull area. I will quote from paragraph 9 of the independent scientific group on cattle TB’s final report, which is a weighty tome that runs to some 200 pages:

“After careful consideration of all the RBCT”—

randomised badger cull trials—

“and other data presented in this report, including an economic assessment, we conclude that badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the…control of cattle TB in Britain.”

There we have it. The scientific evidence from the randomised trials could not be clearer. It is there in black and white. I invite the Minister to read it. It was actually produced for the Government, and I simply do not understand why they have been so unwilling to take account of the evidence before them.

The cull has been utterly unsuccessful. It was supposed to kill 70% of badgers, but it has managed only 39% even though it was extended from six to 11 weeks. Cattle have been put at greater risk. Ministers say they are standing up for the farming community and that they want to eradicate this terrible disease, but they are embarking on a programme that is making matters worse. They knew it would make matters worse, because the evidence from the scientific report told them so.

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. He mentioned the science and scientific assessment, and he will be aware that Lord Krebs, in the Grand Committee debate on Monday, described the trials as a “complete fiasco.” There is a critical question that the Minister needs to be asked today. Without prejudging the findings of the independent panel, which was charged with assessing the cull’s effectiveness and humaneness, if it finds that the cull was neither effective nor humane, would the Government stop the cull?

Chris Williamson: One would certainly hope that the Government would. I am going to refer to Lord Krebs in a moment, and I share the hon. Gentleman’s concerns.

Professor Woodroffe, who is a leading expert in such matters, said:

“It’s very likely that so far this cull will have increased the TB risk for cattle inside the Gloucestershire cull zone rather than reducing it.”

Scientific evidence from a few years ago and contemporary scientific opinion both say that the cull is making matters worse. Yet the Government still want to proceed with more culls.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is making a most impassioned speech, albeit one with which I do not entirely agree. Leaving aside the substance of his arguments, perhaps he could address one particular question. One criticism of the trials in Somerset and Gloucestershire is that, according to his

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argument, insufficient badgers were killed. Had a larger number been killed, would he be congratulating the Government on their success?

Chris Williamson: I have fundamental objections to the cull. All the evidence demonstrates that it is likely to make matters worse. Even if the 70% target had been reached, scientific opinion suggests that a cull is not the way to proceed. I urge the Government to follow the route taken by the Welsh Government and to embark on a programme of vaccination.

The Secretary of State seems deluded. Even though the scientific evidence stated that the cull would make matters worse and even though only 39% of badgers, rather than the 70% that was claimed necessary to have the required impact, were killed, the Secretary of State said in a written statement:

“The extension in Gloucestershire has therefore been successful in meeting its aim in preparing the ground for a fully effective four year cull.”—[Official Report, 2 December 2013; Vol. 571, c. 34WS.]

It is unbelievable. The Secretary of State is absolutely gung-ho. The evidence does not matter; he will simply argue that the cull has been a success when, even by the Government’s own terms, it has been a catastrophic failure. The target was culling 70% of badgers, but only 39% was achieved. That is barely half.

Several hon. Members rose

Chris Williamson: The culls are making matters worse, and yet Members are straining at the leash to intervene to support the badger cull. I will give way to the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart), whom I know is an inveterate supporter of killing badgers.

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. The hon. Gentleman gives the impression that the evidence is completely one-sided. Does he accept to some extent the evidence of the British Veterinary Association? We have accepted its evidence in other debates, such as on circus animals. It is concise and focused on this. Does he accept that there are at least some scientists out there who take a contrary view and that the matter is not as one-sided as he maintains?

Chris Williamson: I of course concede that some small percentage of individuals—pseudo-scientists, some might call them—[Interruption.]

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Weir. The British Veterinary Association has just been referred to as a group of “pseudo-scientists”. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman may like to withdraw that statement.

Mr Mike Weir (in the Chair): That is not a point of order. Interventions as points of order are not going to help matters. Many people want to speak in this debate, so I urge hon. Members to control themselves.

Chris Williamson: I actually said that some might say that they are—[Interruption.] I urge hon. Members to check Hansard, where they will find that I said that

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some might refer to it as pseudo-scientific evidence. Irrespective of the fact that some veterinary surgeons argue that the badger cull is justified, many other vets actually take a different and contrary view.

Mel Stride: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Williamson: I will not give way at the moment.

I wonder what on earth the Secretary of State is doing. I am reminded of Einstein’s definition of madness, which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Lord Krebs, to whom the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George) referred earlier, seems to agree with me. He oversaw the randomised badger culling trials in the 1990s and has labelled this cull a “complete fiasco”, saying that it has been “even crazier” than anticipated. After the schemes in Somerset and Gloucester missed their targets, he said that

“there is no point in doing something if it is the wrong thing.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 December 2013; Vol. 750, c. GC144.]

It could not be clearer. I am not saying that the Secretary of State is mad, but he is deluded if he thinks he can pull the wool over the British people’s eyes. The cull in Gloucestershire failed to meet the Government’s target of a 70% kill rate—it only managed 39%, as we know.

Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con): I wish to take up the hon. Gentleman’s point about doing the same thing over and over again. My guess is that there are about 365,000 badgers in this country, and they would need to be vaccinated annually. I would like to support vaccination, but how on earth will we vaccinate 1,000 badgers a day just to keep the population healthy?

Chris Williamson: The hon. Gentleman is exaggerating slightly. That will be necessary only in the hot spot areas. However, I will explain in a moment why vaccination is a far better and less costly route.

The Secretary of State’s attitude to the badger cull is deluded. We know that the Government’s cull has failed, we know that it makes matters worse, we know that it is cruel and inhumane and we know that vaccinating badgers is cheaper and more effective. The vaccination of badgers in Wales seems to be working. How it will work in the future remains to be seen, but we think it will work better than the cull.

The magazine Farming Monthly Nationalsaid:

“Out of nearly 1200 badgers caught in Wales for vaccination, none showed any signs of illness.”

That is revealing, given that the Secretary of State said that badgers are “spewing out disease”. When he was probed on that claim, it turned out to be anecdotal hearsay from the National Farmers Union, which represents only 18% of farmers, and the people who were employed to do the culling. There is no evidence for his claim.

In a written answer to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion, the Government said:

“TB testing in culled badgers is not being undertaken as a routine procedure”.

They went on to say that

“the numbers of badgers found to be carrying TB is not known at present.”—[Official Report, 18 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 714W.]

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They do not even know whether any of the badgers that they have killed so far were carrying TB. They are ignoring all the evidence. It seems that the Government are blind to this matter.

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that even if we killed every badger in the UK it would not eradicate TB?

Chris Williamson: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is a moot point whether badgers are responsible for infecting cattle with TB. Vaccination is a far better route, with biosecurity measures and restrictions on movement.

2.54 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

3.8 pm

On resuming—

Chris Williamson: I am about to conclude my remarks. I simply say that I hope that the Government listen to the debate.

Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con): The hon. Gentleman has been generous in taking interventions. I want to make one quick point. During his opening remarks, he presented the issue as a red versus blue one, but it really is not. It is a black and white issue, not a red versus blue one, as many Government Members feel as strongly about it as he does.

The case against vaccination has always been based on its cost as much as anything else, but the cost of policing the cull has spiralled to four times the original prediction. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the cost of not vaccinating looks increasingly serious?

Chris Williamson: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I am delighted that Government Members are as passionate as I am about wanting to—

Mel Stride: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Williamson: I will not take any more interventions, as I know other people want to speak. I know that some Members on both sides are passionate about this issue. It is important that we have cross-party support, and I hope the Minister will listen to Government Members.

On the cost, there is considerable evidence making it clear that vaccination is a less expensive way of dealing with this problem. When we take into account the cost not only of culling, but of policing the cull, which would obviously not be necessary in a vaccination programme, we see not only that the cull is useless and failing, given the context in which it was introduced, but that it is an expensive failure and much more costly than vaccination.

I hope the Minister will give us an assurance today that, having listened to the scientific evidence, public opinion, parliamentary opinion and Government Members, the Government will abandon the cull. If he will not give that commitment, I hope he will, at a bare minimum, give a commitment to do what I am about to set out. Given the controversy over the cull, I call on the Government—

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Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way on the point about the controversy?

Chris Williamson: If the hon. Gentleman will let me finish on this point, he will, I hope, be able to come in before the end of the debate.

I hope the Minister will support an independent and systematic review by the likes of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons or the Royal Society. Such a review could evaluate all the scientific, social, economic, ecological and ethical aspects of the Government’s policy. If Ministers are so sure—

Mel Stride: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Williamson: I am about to conclude.

If Ministers are so sure of their position, they should have nothing to fear from a thorough appraisal of this controversial policy. Such an appraisal would provide the evidence base on which policy decisions could subsequently be based, and it would certainly command public confidence. That is something the Government should consider seriously, and I hope that, when the Minister responds to the debate, he will at least give an assurance on supporting such a review, if he will not give the assurance that the overwhelming majority of the British people want and abandon the cull altogether, as the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion urges.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Mike Weir (in the Chair): Order. A very large number of Members are seeking to speak in the debate. I do not know whether we will manage to get everybody in, but in an attempt to do so, I am imposing a four-minute time limit from now on.