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“many others cannot. Then, of course, there is the issue as to whether Historic England will feel pressured into giving expert advice to developers as a means of raising income.”

Mr Vaizey: That is absolute nonsense. First, the hon. Gentleman says that £80 million will not go very far, but I suggest that £80 million goes slightly further than no million pounds. It is £80 million of new money going into English Heritage properties. To cast the aspersion that English Heritage and Historic England will be the creatures of developers and will be used to raise money, based on absolutely no evidence at all, is pretty scandalous.

Mr Marsden: It is interesting that the Minister should be so pricked by that, because I did not say any of those things.

Mr Vaizey: You did.

Mr Marsden: No, I did not. The Hansard record will bear out that I said that these were the fears and concerns of a friend—[Interruption.] Will the Minister allow me to finish? He has had his say. He must come back with reasoned arguments as to why those concerns will not be realised. I accept that £80 million is a lot of money, but we are talking about a settlement that should endure not for seven or eight years but for 20, 30 or 40 years, or whatever is a reasonable period of time. It is not unreasonable for outside bodies to raise the issue of whether the settlement is appropriate.

For good or ill, this is the biggest single shake-up in the heritage landscape for 30 years, yet the plan remains veiled. Access to the business plan is restricted. If it is not, the Minister can tell us today when he will make it available to the House. I want to make it clear, before he tries to misrepresent me further, that I am not opposed to the principle of the division, but the devil is in the detail, as he knows. It is the duty of the House and of Members present to ask specific questions about the devil and the detail. The Opposition spokeswoman, my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), and the Minister obviously have restrictions on the time available for them to respond, but I challenge the Minister, given the huge change, to hold proper full-length debates in this House and the other House, in Government time, about the Government’s proposals.

Mr Vaizey: I am not in charge of Government business, but I will happily arrange for the hon. Gentleman to meet the chairman of English Heritage. All hon. and right hon. Members present are welcome to come to a meeting with the chairman, and to put to him whatever points they wish to make.

Mr Marsden: With all due respect to the Minister, his offer, which is gracious and accepted, does not address the overall issue—[Interruption.] Will the Minister let me finish? We have already had a number of informal meetings at which these issues have been raised. I am talking about a proper debate on the Floor of the House—I know that the Minister is not in charge of that, but he could talk to his Whips—at some point in the next few months, during which we could discuss the matter.

Mr Vaizey: My limited understanding of parliamentary procedure is that the Opposition have a number of debates each week. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) will give up one such debate to this subject.

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Mr Marsden: It is the not the Opposition who are bringing the proposals forward. It is the Government who should be held to account; it is down to the Government to bring forward a debate.

The Minister faces a challenge of openness and accountability, as well as one of style. He has got slightly worked up today, but he is generally an amiable guy, which I know because I have seen him on other occasions. His style occasionally resembles that of Derren Brown—now you see it, now you don’t—but what we need from the Minister and his team is more precision, more grit and more detail. English Heritage staff, its supporters and the general public need all that to have confidence in the Minister’s proposals, which may be the best solution. This year marks the centenary of the start of world war one, and I do not want the Minister or English Heritage to end up in the situation described in Siegfried Sassoon’s famous poem “The General”:

“‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack…

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.”

3.14 pm

John Howell (Henley) (Con): I declare an interest as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Today’s debate has centred on the conservation and management of English Heritage properties, and I understand why, but I want to move the debate on to the bigger picture, because English Heritage is responsible for much more than that. The hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken have alluded to that, but have not concentrated on it. For example, English Heritage’s relationship with local authorities, which manage in excess of 95% of archaeology, is perceived to be in need of improvement.

As we move forward into the Historic England situation, there is a need for some robust taking-by-the-collar and shaking out of what is happening. We are in a period of change in the archaeological world—quite radical change, in some cases, and it needs to be made more radical through English Heritage’s role in the whole exercise. I have recently examined the relationship between archaeology and local government services. English Heritage was interviewed as part of that work, and it can play a substantial role in taking the discussion forward. The planning system is where archaeology comes into contact with the real world, and the arrangements need to be worked out in greater detail.

The current backlog was mentioned earlier. I am sure that the issue can be raised at different levels, but English Heritage told us that the problem with trying to make the process of museums accessing archaeological material more robust is the limited amount of control that English Heritage has. Almost every piece of Roman brick found on an excavation is bagged up and sent off in a box, at enormous cost, to be put into a museum collection. We do not need to keep every piece of Roman tile or brick. We need someone to make a judgment about the importance of finds. It would be easy for English Heritage to set a scope for that in its dealings with local authorities and archaeologists, but it cannot, because the list of what should be included and how it should be accessed is the responsibility of Arts Council England. English Heritage needs to do some work to wrest that responsibility back to where it needs to be.

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English Heritage could play a much bigger role. Those in the development industry, which pays for most of our archaeology, are short of any idea of what service they will receive when they undertake the necessary archaeology to meet the sustainability criterion of the national planning policy framework. English Heritage could prioritise the facilitation of service level agreements between authorities and the public at large. It would not need to produce or monitor the agreements, but it could be effective in taking the initiative with archaeologists and developers. A suggestion was made to the Minister about how that relationship could be funded in future, and although I will not say anything in detail about that, there is a role for English Heritage and Historic England to play as distributors of funds to local authorities that sign up to service level agreements. If a service level agreement is signed up to, the developer will know what it is getting and the funding can be distributed.

That is an important role that English Heritage and Historic England could play in the development of this area. It would be far from turning English Heritage into a creature of development, but would recognise who pays for the archaeology in this country. Something should be given back to the developers for their contribution to the preservation of our heritage.

3.20 pm

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mrs Osborne.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) not only on securing this important debate on the future of English Heritage, but on the measured and informed way in which she set out the issues involved. I also take a moment to thank the right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) for his special pleading on behalf of cathedrals and successfully getting more money for them in the Budget. If the Minister could see to it that some of that money comes the way of Durham cathedral, that would be great—I thank him.

I endorse many of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) in his excellent speech. I will comment on the impact of the Government’s proposed changes to English Heritage in the north-east and in my constituency in particular, but I will first speak more generally about the vital role of English Heritage in securing our national heritage. If the Minister will forgive me, I will set out a series of anxieties about his proposals. If he could come back to me with some reassurances, that would be helpful.

As we have heard, English Heritage was set up by the National Heritage Act 1983, so it has not had a huge amount of time to get established. I am not sure that the Government have yet demonstrated clearly why there is a need for change, beyond the assertion that the system is not working. English Heritage had three prongs to its activities: to preserve ancient monuments and historic buildings; to promote the preservation of the character and appearance of conservation areas; and to promote public enjoyment of such areas. If the Government are promoting change, they need to be clear about the particular aspect of English Heritage’s work on which it was not delivering. That case has not been made. The Government, however, plan to create a new charity arm

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of English Heritage to manage the national heritage collection and a new non-departmental organisation, Historic England, to carry out English Heritage’s statutory duties.

I am concerned about the Government’s proposed changes to the national heritage collection, but in the time available I want to focus on the possible impact of the proposed changes to English Heritage’s role as statutory adviser and consultee on heritage sites outside the collection. English Heritage has a broad remit to manage the historical environment of England beyond the 400 or so sites in the collection, which includes scheduled ancient monuments, listed buildings, registered parks and gardens, and conservation areas in England. A key part of the English Heritage remit is to advise the Secretary of State on policy and in individual cases such as the registering of listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments. That role is vital to my constituency. Durham is a beautiful, historic city; we have many such historic cities throughout the country, but none of them is quite as beautiful as Durham. The role of English Heritage in protecting that environment and in ensuring that it is there for future generations to enjoy cannot be overestimated.

English Heritage’s remit includes archaeology, historic building sites and areas, designated landscapes and the historical elements of the wider landscape. It also monitors and reports on the state of England’s heritage. I am concerned that the Government’s consultation did not give enough weight to such a significant part of English Heritage’s role. The organisation also acts as a custodian of last resort if heritage sites are at risk. Safeguarding that role is particularly important in the north-east, due to the region’s unique heritage. Border conflicts have left a lasting legacy of defensive sites, such as Hadrian’s wall and, in my constituency, Durham castle.

Jenny Chapman: My hon. Friend mentions Hadrian’s wall. Is she aware that the trust responsible for managing it has just this week failed, because it was unable to make sufficient funds from its commercial activities to look after the site?

Roberta Blackman-Woods: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. That is one of the anxieties that I will come to in a moment.

English Heritage also looks after many other small sites of vital importance in the north-east, which has 1,383 scheduled monuments, 1,235 listed buildings, 287 conservation areas, 53 registered parks and gardens and six historic battlefields. The north-east region was also an early centre of the conversion to Christianity and an important seat of learning connected with historic scholars such as St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede; all that led to the magnificent Durham cathedral in my constituency, which is regularly voted the country’s favourite building. More recently, the region has been celebrated for its industrial heritage as well. It was the birthplace of the modern railway and home to numerous collieries, shipyards, lead mines and metal works. Protecting that heritage is vital to understanding modern Britain.

The region has two world heritage sites, one of which—Durham castle and cathedral—is in my constituency. Durham cathedral is particularly significant because of its exceptional architecture, such as its demonstration of architectural innovation, and the relics and material

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culture of the three saints buried at the site, Cuthbert, Bede and Oswald. I could go into its many other points as well. Critically, the whole of the centre of Durham is a conservation area in order to preserve and protect the area around such an important historical site.

I agree with the Minister that there is a strong role for local authorities in protecting the quality of our built and historical environment and in deciding what goes into the buffer zone surrounding world heritage sites or ends up in conservation areas. That role for local authorities, however, has been supported and strengthened over the years by advice from English Heritage.

Mr Vaizey: Nothing will change under Historic England, which will still carry out that role. I cannot see the concerns.

Roberta Blackman-Woods: It is helpful that the Minister is giving such strong reassurance this afternoon, but more reassurance is important given the drastic nature of the proposed changes to English Heritage. Particularly in its role as a statutory consultee in planning, English Heritage is vital. I will give two examples from my constituency.

The work of English Heritage was essential in getting a public inquiry into a development on the riverside on a hugely sensitive site. It supported the call-in, and we then had the public inquiry, ending up with a much better development on the site because of the intervention of English Heritage, which is doing much the same over the proposed development of the County hospital site. Where such advice is ignored, we can end up with poor developments, which we have occasionally had in Durham over the past couple of years. I will take the Minister at his word, however, and if he says that that role in planning advice and as a statutory consultee and adviser will continue, along with adequate funding so that it can be effective, that is a good thing.

The Minister will have to address some of the issues raised by the Heritage Alliance, which points out that the funding settlement is assured only until 2016, and that the profile and regulatory nature of the smaller, rump body might weaken its call on central Government support, but that heritage is essential to the national economy because of tourism and the construction, creative and cultural industries. The alliance wants funding to be available in the longer term and wants more detailed public consultation on the changes. If the Minister does not think we need more detailed consultation, perhaps he will explain why.

It is important that we should continue to conserve England’s historical environment and the special areas of the country that have beautiful heritage and a unique built environment in need of special protection.

3.30 pm

Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) on securing this important debate. English Heritage does fine work to protect historic places in England, and to preserve the past so that future generations may discover it. I fully appreciate the hon. Lady’s concern that it should remain financially secure, so that key historic sites, and particularly those that do not attract high numbers of visitors, will be protected. However, it is

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vital during the changes that English Heritage should do all it can to allow people to be involved with historic sites in their area. That lets them connect with their heritage, and it will help to preserve historic sites and improve their financial viability. Sadly, that is not what has happened to Fort Brockhurst, in my constituency. My remarks will be blatantly parochial and will deal with the performance of English Heritage in my area.

Fort Brockhurst is an imposing structure built in the 1850s and 1860s to protect Portsmouth harbour against a French invasion. The sides and top are covered in grass; clearly Victorian architects assumed that that might fool the French. It has a magnificent red brick, moated keep, gun ramps and fascinating buildings, but there is also a massive green space in the middle, which local people enjoyed for decades. It played host to many concerts and even car boot sales over the years, and other events that brought the community together. However, it also brought to life the military history that is such a feature of the Gosport peninsula. It became a tangible asset for generations of youngsters, who grew up proud of their area’s role in the defence of the nation.

Unfortunately, such events ground to a halt, and that striking example of mid-19th century fortification is now open to the public for only a few hours a month, in the summer. Throughout the winter its doors are barred to all comers. It is a gently rotting relic of the past, with no life or role in the community where it used to have an integral place. Would not it be wonderful if the community could rally together to breathe life back into it?

The situation is frustrating, because there exists a community organisation in Gosport that has been willing and able to staff the site, provide tours, and maintain and restore it. It is called the Gosport Shed. It is a social club for older men, and it gives retired men a chance to keep active by working with their hands, mending things and learning new skills while meeting new people. As many as 800,000 people in England are chronically lonely, and many are older or retired men. Groups such as the Gosport Shed offer them great opportunities to make new friends and take up a new hobby. A wonderful man called Martin Corrick founded it to help retired men battle social isolation and depression.

Originally Gosport Shed struck a deal with English Heritage to make its home in Fort Brockhurst. It was a fantastic example of local people coming together to do something for the community. Maintaining the historic site also offered older people a project to give them a renewed sense of purpose. I know that the local curator was supportive, but unfortunately the group felt that English Heritage threw obstacles in its path, until eventually, its tenure recently became unsuitable and unsustainable. The group has now moved out, and thankfully has found a new home at Priddy’s Hard, the home of the Explosion! museum of naval firepower, which is also in my constituency. Thanks to the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, members will help to restore the grounds and the amazing old buildings, and will offer guided tours of the ramparts. They have been welcomed with open arms. Yet, although the Gosport Shed has found a new home, Fort Brockhurst remains locked up, and for most of the year is closed to the public. Officially it is used for storage, although it is beyond me to think what could reasonably be stored in a damp, decaying building.

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Does the Minister agree that in a discussion of how we protect historic buildings, it is crucial that English Heritage should remember that it is the guardian of our heritage, not that of clerks, curators and museum keepers? Fort Brockhurst should offer local people the chance to connect with the history of the region, rather than being a dusty old store room. It should play an integral role in the community. English Heritage says that it wants community groups to consider local heritage, and that it wants to encourage people to be involved in preserving history. Unfortunately, however, when local people tried to help preserve an historic site, they were shut out. Does the Minister agree that it is regrettable that they were not only shut out of an old building, but were shut out of part of their history?

Our unique heritage is not something to be kept under lock and key. It should be a living thing that groups and individuals feel they can engage with. I do not know whether the example I have outlined is an isolated one. I hope that it is. Does the Minister agree that, to face the future, we must remember that we and English Heritage are guardians of our heritage, and that there is little point in preserving that as a dusty relic that no one can see, enjoy, learn from or participate in?

3.36 pm

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) on obtaining the debate. The proposed change is a huge one for English Heritage and it is right for us to have an opportunity to consider it in the House.

The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, which I chair, has taken a close interest in English Heritage for some years. We understand that the budget of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been under considerable pressure and that within it English Heritage has perhaps borne greater reductions than some other funding bodies. There is no question but that it has had a difficult time. It is a remarkable achievement by the Minister to manage to persuade the Treasury to come up with an extraordinary amount of money to sustain English Heritage—we hope—in the longer term. I pay tribute not just to the Minister but to his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose), who was in the Chamber until a short time ago, and who, I think, played a large part.

The scheme is radical and imaginative, and I welcome it in principle. The Minister will understand that there are one or two concerns, and I hope he will use the opportunity to set minds at rest on certain points. In particular, it is estimated that the backlog of maintenance repairs for English Heritage properties is of the order of £52 million, which will be funded out of the £80 million. That is welcome, although I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) about the impact on visitors while the work is taking place. However, I should be interested to know where the estimate of £52 million came from. The Minister will be aware that some people argue that the maintenance and repair backlog for English Heritage properties is even greater. Indeed, I have seen figures of up to £100 million.

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The hon. Member for Darlington raised the central point of what happens once that money is spent. The intention is that English Heritage should become self-sustaining in the longer term, but only a small number of its 400 properties generate serious income. English Heritage has a few iconic sites such as Stonehenge, and Dover and Kenilworth castles, but an awful lot of its sites do not generate revenue. If there is an expectation that in a few years the property portfolio will be capable of generating the kind of money that will be needed to sustain the required maintenance work, we need a little more confidence about that, and an indication of what will happen if the target is not met.

In particular, we are concerned that Historic England’s budget should not be raided and that the new charity should not be able to divest itself of certain properties if it is not capable of sustaining them. I seek a little more detail on that issue. I am also concerned about the impact that a more aggressive marketing campaign for English Heritage properties will have on the heritage properties in private ownership. The Historic Houses Association is having a difficult time, and its life will be made much more difficult if faces tougher competition from English Heritage properties. To what extent has that been taken into account?

Finally—the Minister and the Opposition spokesman need time to make the winding-up speeches—reference was made to the role of local authorities. I am deeply concerned about the extent to which the resource in local authorities, in the form of conservation officers, has steadily declined. There has been a massive loss of expertise in local authorities, which is making Historic England’s job more difficult, as well as local authorities’ role in preserving the heritage for which they are responsible. I wonder whether the Minister would like to say something about that as well.

3.41 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I must declare an interest, as I am a trustee of Auckland castle. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) on securing this important debate and on making such a good opening speech, which gave an excellent overview of the work of English Heritage and the financial issues that have arisen from the Government’s proposals. I did not know she was an archaeologist, but it was clear that she did a lot of digging in preparing for her speech.

I thank my hon. Friends the hon. Members for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) and for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods). My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South has been involved in this issue from the very beginning, and he has brought his great knowledge and experience to bear. There is no more passionate defender of Durham than my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham.

The quality of the built environment is incredibly important to people’s well-being, and their sense of place is defined by the buildings around them. Indeed, some buildings become the institutions in people’s minds. Thus, for many people, Parliament is Big Ben, and the Church is their local parish church. Therefore, how we care for, preserve, enhance and use our heritage sites is incredibly important. If it is done well, it is a source of

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pleasure and enjoyment for generations to come. There is, of course, an economic and financial payoff from the tourism income it generates for the country, but it is worth doing in itself; it is not a burden but a privilege. Our aim this afternoon is to test whether the Minister’s proposal will achieve those aims.

It is logical to put the management of the 420 sites into a charitable trust while retaining their ownership by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, given the 45% cuts to English Heritage in this Parliament. It is welcome that an £85 million dowry from the Treasury has been secured and that there will be greater management freedom to raise money, but will the Minister guarantee that the sites that are currently free will remain so? What will happen if other sources of income do not materialise? He is assuming a philanthropic income of £84 million in a climate of huge pressure on philanthropic funds, which other hon. Members have described. Is that £84 million realistic? What will happen if it does not materialise?

Local authorities are under massive pressure, totally, if I may say so, caused by the 40% cuts imposed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. High-profile sites might attract grants and philanthropic giving, but what about the others? Even more worryingly, what will happen to English Heritage’s role as custodian of last resort? What if there is another Windsor castle? What if another building that is not in the English Heritage or National Trust portfolio is seriously damaged? If Castle Howard has a big fire, are the Government seriously suggesting they will walk away? What contingency has been made for that? Nigel Hewitson of Norton Rose said:

“The distinction between English Heritage and the National Trust is that the former is the custodian of last resort…The National Trust won’t take properties on unless they have a dowry for future maintenance.”

English Heritage does precisely that.

That is far from being an unrealistic risk, as the news from Hadrian’s wall amply demonstrates. The trust set up to safeguard the wall is to be closed down as a result of funding cuts. Staff at Hadrian’s Wall Trust face an uncertain future. The body tasked with managing the world heritage site will be lost. English Heritage has reduced the funds for Hadrian’s wall management over the past three years. We are told that a working group will be chaired by Northumberland county council, the partnership will be chaired by Cumbria county council, and there will be a steering group with members from the public, private and voluntary sectors. I am sorry to say that that sounds utterly chaotic. People in the north-east cannot believe that the Government can rightly find a lot of money to invest in Stonehenge but cannot get their act together adequately to look after Hadrian’s wall. People do not believe that that would have happened if the wall were in the south. It is shameful that the northern extent of the Roman empire, marked with wall built 2,000 years ago, is in doubt under the Tory-led Government. It is amazing that the Romans were able to build a wall 1,500 miles from their capital but the Minister cannot look after one 300 miles from his.

Mr Vaizey: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Helen Goodman: The Minister will have an opportunity to respond in a moment, but I want to hear some reassurances about the wall.

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Sir Tony Baldry: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Helen Goodman: I would really rather not.

The consultation brought forth a series of critical comments. Heritage Alliance, which has 6.3 million members, said that

“the direction of travel is ominous…Worst case scenarios must be addressed and contingency plans drawn up.”

The Society of Antiquaries of London seriously doubts

“that the envisaged charity could become self-funding, while maintaining standards of curatorial care and property maintenance”.

Doubts have been raised about the capacity of the remaining body, Historic England, in the words of the National Trust, to retain the expertise and capacity

“to protect our historic fabric”.

The Historic Houses Association said it

“would be extremely concerned if”

the expert advisory service

“were to be reduced or diluted in any way.”

I share those worries. I am tempted to say that that is the greatest risk. An underfunded Historic England would not be able to provide the protection needed. The 420 sites are 0.05% of the scheduled ancient monuments, listed buildings and so forth. The other 99.95% will fall to Historic England in the Minister’s model. What will happen to them?

3.48 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

4 pm

On resuming

Helen Goodman: The concern is whether Historic England will have sufficient resources to look after the 99.95% of scheduled and listed buildings. That is extremely difficult, given the local authority cuts. Local authorities have been forced to shed 25% of their specialist heritage staff. We would therefore like to hear a clear statement from the Minister on whether English Heritage intends to provide advice on a fee-paying basis to some stakeholders. Losses as a result of the cuts could be the worst risk, because it could be a mediaeval dovecote in one place, a Tudor wall somewhere else and a Georgian garden in another place—none big enough to arouse national campaigns, but all bringing a loss to local heritage.

No doubt the Minister will tell us about the Farrell review of architecture and the built environment. There are a number of good ideas in that report, but I was not immediately attracted to the proposals on cultural heritage. Is not the proposal to make listing “less academic” code for dumbing down? The Minister is looking puzzled. He wrote the foreword to the report; he obviously has not read it. Seeking to elide the views of the Design Council with those of English Heritage is surely a way of suppressing the views of English Heritage. The report says:

“The value of our building stock is no longer just historical or architectural”.

That is very worrying. Had we had listing by public opinion polls, St Pancras railway station would have been demolished 50 years ago. It was only the sustained campaign by Sir John Betjeman that made it popular in the public mind.

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The point is that architecture goes in and out of fashion. That applies not just to modern architecture, but to views of earlier architecture. How boring it would be if London consisted only of Georgian terraces or only of the mediaeval and the modern. A place is complex and multi-layered, built over time by many generations, and all of those things should be reflected in the built environment.

4.3 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I have to say that after listening to a number of speeches during this debate, I now understand why they are called wind-ups.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) on securing this important debate on the future of English Heritage. We have had a very interesting discussion, and I am grateful to all hon. Members who have taken part. Before I go on to my main remarks, I want to correct some of the points made by the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman). She said that we southerners paid for Stonehenge but will not pay for Hadrian’s wall. Actually, we did not pay for Stonehenge, so we will not pay for anything, if you like. The Stonehenge visitor centre was paid for entirely through a fundraising campaign by English Heritage; it did not use taxpayers’ money. I am very confident, having engaged closely with Northumberland county council, that the arrangements for Hadrian’s wall, the majority of which is ably managed by English Heritage, will continue after the demise of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust. In fact, it will ensure that we can spend money more effectively to support Hadrian’s wall.

I do not think that English Heritage now or in the future would necessarily be in a position to save Castle Howard were it, God forbid, to burn down. I cannot be entirely sure of my facts here, but I am pretty certain that no public money was used to restore Windsor castle when £36 million was spent on it after the horrific fire in 1992.

The point about the Farrell review was to celebrate the fact that the artificial divide between modern architecture and heritage has dissolved. Heritage and modern architects now work a great deal in partnership, as was shown by the fact that the Stirling prize, traditionally seen as the great modern architecture prize, went to the Landmark Trust last year for a heritage building that had been beautifully restored by a modern architect. As someone who took the “brave” decision, as my officials would have described it, to list Preston bus station, I bow to no one in my homage to modern architecture, but as someone who regards Durham cathedral as one of the most magnificent structures in this kingdom, I also bow to no one in my devotion to heritage. In fact, that is what has led us here today, because I want a fantastic future for English Heritage.

I hate to say it, but there was a lot of tilting at windmills during the debate, with a number of hon. Members saying, “Will the new charity be able to do this? Will it be able to do that?”, suggesting that there are certain things that English Heritage can do now that it will not be able to do in future. However, there is no

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doubt that the two new bodies that are effectively being created—Historic England, the regulator of heritage, and English Heritage, which will run and manage the properties on behalf of the nation—will still have exactly the same powers as they have now.

Mr Marsden: But not the resources.

Mr Vaizey: There is no doubt that Historic England will be able to carry out the work that English Heritage already carries out fantastically, particularly helping cities such as Durham. The hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) muttered about resources. He said that I got slightly wound up during the debate, and I know that one should not react, but it is mildly galling, with £80 million having been found to launch the new charity and to clear the huge backlog of repairs, that people are now muttering about resources.

Roberta Blackman-Woods: Will the Minister consider, in setting up Historic England, whether it could be given additional powers to protect our historical environment, particularly with regard to views around world heritage sites and so on?

Mr Vaizey: That is an interesting point. In no way do I wish to bat back what the hon. Lady says, but we are debating the future of English Heritage as an organisation, and I am obviously a great advocate for that future. She is inviting me, perfectly legitimately, to debate wider heritage powers that Government could introduce and which organisation would have those powers. I have to say, without wishing to bind the Government in any way, that I have a lot of sympathy for her point of view. I, for one, value views and landscapes as much as our built environment, and I think that it is important that we preserve them where we can.

English Heritage has been in place for 30 years, and our system of heritage protection began, broadly speaking, a century ago, with the passing of the Ancient Monuments Act 1913. By the way, an excellent book was published on that by Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage. It is available in all good bookshops. As that book and the creation of English Heritage show, the system of heritage protection constantly evolves. I take on board the point made by the hon. Member for Blackpool South that Michael Heseltine and the other people who were present at the launch of English Heritage—I am thinking in particular of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu—were perfectly capable of imagining the kind of future that English Heritage now sees. However, I think that they would also agree that as that bright future comes into being, we must look at the structures that support it.

It is a fact that the national heritage collection is an £84 million business. It attracts 5 million visitors a year and it needs investment and a long-term plan. That is why English Heritage has proposed an eight-year programme of reform to establish a new model for the management of the national heritage collection. It is a

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model that we support. It will be supported by the investment of £80 million, alongside the additional £20 million that we have found for cathedrals. It will allow essential conservation work to be carried out, and it will allow investment in new projects to build on commercial success and enhance the visitor experience. It will allow it to grow its income to become a more resilient organisation. We hope by the end of the eight years, the management of the national collection will be self-financing.

Helen Goodman: My understanding was that English Heritage’s current function as the owner of last resort should continue. My question was whether there is enough finance to fulfil that. At the moment, English Heritage has a number of strategies for saving heritage at risk—

Mr Vaizey: I understand the hon. Lady’s point. Of course—

Helen Goodman: The Minister—

Mr Vaizey: I am taking back the floor.

Helen Goodman: The Minister seemed to walk away from that—

Mr Vaizey: I am taking back the floor. The point is that English Heritage, as now, will be the saviour of last resort. That is the point I am making. People see the change in English Heritage as meaning that any future problems will somehow be the result of the change in the structure. English Heritage is able to take, as an owner of last resort, a property that is threatened. There are a whole host of factors that come into play, one of which will be financing. If a property were to come up now, English Heritage might find that it did not have the financing. That would be a straightforward point.

Nothing will change under the new model. English Heritage will still be, potentially, the owner of last resort. A whole range of factors, depending on the particular situation, will influence whether it chooses to step in. As the hon. Lady knows, when it becomes the owner of last resort, English Heritage tries to move the property on. Sometimes it will stay in the national collection, but often English Heritage will want to put it back with a different owner to continue its future.

I have only got a minute left, but I want to make a simple and straightforward point. Change is happening, but the fundamentals will not change. Historic England will continue its brilliant role as the steward of our wide historical environment. It will continue to list, it will continue to research and it will continue to support the hon. Member for Darlington and other hon. Members who care about heritage. The national charity will, under a licence from Historic England, manage the properties, which will still be owned by the Government.

Sandra Osborne (in the Chair): Order.

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Asian Restaurateurs (Immigration Enforcement)

4.12 pm

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I am grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to raise the treatment of Asian restaurateurs by immigration enforcement officers. I seek to make this a constructive debate on a very difficult issue, and I genuinely hope that it will lead to a more productive relationship between Asian restaurant owners and immigration enforcement officers.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): My hon. Friend is absolutely right to try to make this a constructive debate. Of course, I know that hard-working immigration officers have to do their job, but was she as disturbed as I was when a group of restaurant owners came to the House of Commons last week and described some of the ways in which they and their staff were being treated? Should not the Minister explain why that must not happen again?

Nia Griffith: That is a good point. It was distressing to hear some of the stories that we heard last week, which is why I have secured the debate. The meeting that was held last week brought a delegation of Asian restaurant owners from south Wales to the Houses of Parliament for a meeting arranged by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). He had invited representatives from the immigration enforcement service to attend, but they were unfortunately unable to do so at short notice. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), Labour’s shadow Immigration Minister, attended, and I am grateful for his presence today, even though the rules of debate mean that he does not have an opportunity to make the case from the Opposition Front Bench.

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Minister said last week, we all agree that we need strict border security and proper enforcement of immigration rules, but the way in which some Asian restaurant owners have been treated by immigration enforcement officers is nothing short of disgraceful, and it is damaging to business. Times are tough, so to have immigration officers arriving at 7 o’clock on a Friday evening, causing distress among the customers, slamming the doors and handcuffing the chefs before they can even turn off the cookers is simply not acceptable. It causes not only immense financial loss on the evening in question, but irreparable damage to the reputation of that restaurant, particularly in a small town, and it will take years to rebuild customers’ confidence in returning to the restaurant. That is an acute embarrassment. Sadly, in some cases, it was even found that there were no substantive grounds for going there in the first place, so it was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

The debate coincides with the publication last month of the report by the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration on the use of the power to enter business premises without a magistrate’s search warrant. The report makes the point that two thirds of visits to business premises lack the necessary justification. Although the report focuses on a particular issue, it

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highlights more general points, such as widespread non-compliance with the guidance and lack of oversight procedures by senior management, who seem to have quite limited knowledge of the power as it is being used in practice. The report highlights visits on purely speculative grounds and inadequate staff training. It mentions that significant numbers of staff and management were either ignorant of, or choosing to ignore, the guidance. It also highlights a lack of understanding of what constitute suitable grounds for a visit, and gives an example of how an allegation should be backed up by any available data from, for example, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab): My hon. Friend talks about restaurants, but shops are also getting caught up in the problem. A judge recently threw out a case relating to a business in my constituency, and when the business was finally awarded costs, it received a fresh visit from immigration enforcement officers the next day. Although we all want the authorities to carry out their jobs properly, does she see how a business might feel particularly targeted in such circumstances?

Nia Griffith: My hon. Friend describes a distressing case. That procedure being repeated unnecessarily was not only distressing for the shop owner but a waste of public money. In fairness, the inspector says in his report that the Home Office began to look at procedures that he was highlighting as he carried out the inspection, but there is clearly a lot of work to be done in that respect. Last week, we heard about the distressing nature of the raids. We also heard about immigration officers inspecting documents, saying that they were okay and then returning two weeks later to say that they were not okay. If the immigration officer himself or herself cannot identify the documents, it puts the restaurant owner in a difficult place.

The Asian Catering Federation says that the problem applies not only to Indian restaurants but to Chinese takeaways and Malaysian, Sri Lankan, Thai, Vietnamese, Pakistani and Japanese restaurants. The federation stresses that it wants to co-operate and that the matter is extremely important to it.

I turn briefly to what needs to be done. First, there must be continued dialogue with the restaurant owners. The federation said that whereas previous visits had taken the form of terrorist-type raids, some progress had been made. None the less, what restaurants are still experiencing—the shutting down of restaurants at peak time, and the aggressive approach of the enforcement officers, who give them no opportunity to explain to customers what is happening or even to answer the phone—has been extremely damaging to their businesses. That is the first thing: we need continued dialogue, because law enforcement is always better with collaboration and not antagonism.

Secondly, the concerns in the report clearly must be addressed. Thirdly, the whole issue of reasonable grounds for visits must be looked into: why have these visits been decided on in the first place? My hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) gave a clear example relating to that. The Asian Catering Federation wants to co-operate and give the required information, but it must be done in a way that works for businesses, as well as for the immigration enforcement service.

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I would like the Minister to look into the matter thoroughly and take very seriously the distress and problems caused to the industry, which is a phenomenal success story in bringing money into the British economy. I hope that she tries to find ways in which immigration enforcement can be properly carried out without disruption to many businesses that, in tough times and particularly in less well-off areas, are finding it difficult to keep going.

4.21 pm

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) for securing such an important debate and allowing me to speak, and I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Karen Bradley) and thank her for her leave to speak in this short debate.

I want to start by making it clear that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli, I am absolutely committed to ensuring that immigration rules in this country are robustly enforced, and to ensuring that managed migration occurs in a way that is fair, transparent and beneficial for both this country and the individuals involved. The many organisations and businesses that I have spoken to, and that attended the meeting we held the other day, have made it clear that they do not in any way dispute the need for robust immigration enforcement in the catering and retail sectors, or elsewhere in the economy. It is crucial that the House notes that fact. The Asian Catering Federation, the Bangladesh Caterers Association and many other organisations, as well as many individual restaurants and businesses, have made it absolutely clear that illegal immigration undermines their legitimate business and the wider economy. No one wants to see people living and working under the radar, undercutting wages and conditions.

I have received representations at recent meetings and directly from businesses in my constituency, and two major concerns are coming across to me from the Asian restaurant community and, it appears, from throughout Wales. The first, which my hon. Friend mentioned, is the issue of how enforcement operations are conducted. Secondly, the advice and support given to restaurateurs and businesses on ensuring enforcement of, and compliance with, the law is important. It might interest Members to know that I produced a leaflet for businesses in my constituency, which is very diverse, to give advice on how to comply with immigration law. Nevertheless, it is a complex area of law, and although many businesses want to ensure that they are adhering to it, they often do not feel supported in doing so.

My hon. Friend mentioned the concern expressed by a number of businesses that some of them, or, indeed, the sector as a whole, are being disproportionately targeted. That must be addressed. Bearing in mind that concern, I hope that the Minister can furnish us with clear statistics that will help to restore confidence in these operations. I would particularly welcome statistics on the number of enforcement visits that have taken place in Wales, their geographical location and sector, the percentage of such visits that have led to arrests and prosecutions, and the number of premises that have received repeat visits from enforcement officers.

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Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): First, is not one of the problems that, certainly in my experience, some restaurants have difficulties in finding trained staff? That leads to all sorts of other problems, so it should be looked at. Secondly, there have been too many changes to the immigration law—in fact, some of it is getting confused with terrorist law. It is an area that really should be sorted out, because there have been wholesale changes to immigration law over the years.

Stephen Doughty: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I have made it clear to businesses in my constituency that a shortage of or challenge in getting labour is in no way an excuse for flouting immigration laws, and I do not in any way get a sense that any of them wish to do that. In fact, it is quite the opposite: there is wide concern on the issue of the immigration of skilled migrants to this country and ensuring that we have the right laws in place.

I want to concentrate on the two issues I mentioned near the start of my speech. A few themes have come out relating to the conduct of operations. Raids have occurred during busy periods, with diners being disturbed. Equipment has been left operating and staff have not been allowed to switch it off. I have heard of staff not being allowed to switch off woks, tandoors and the gas. Of course, significant stigma and embarrassment is caused, even when no offence has been committed. I am sorry to say so, but it appears that some very heavy-handed tactics have been used, and there have been repeat raids, despite the fact that the operations are supposedly intelligence-led.

I want to mention an example from my constituency about which I have been in dialogue with the Minister for Security and Immigration. Following an enforcement visit to a restaurant in my constituency on 7 November 2013, I was contacted by a number of concerned constituents—including members of my staff—who witnessed the events. I have since been engaged in to-and-fro correspondence with the Home Office that has not resolved the matter to my satisfaction, or, indeed, that of the business.

There was an operation by immigration officers at the premises at around 7.30 in the evening. As well as the restaurant, three of my constituents contacted me to share their concerns about how it was carried out. I would like to read out a couple of their statements. One said to me:

“I am currently sat in the restaurant and the Border Control burst in and told the manager to sit in the public seating area and not move. They then went into the kitchen and made the staff come into the public areas to interview them about their legal status. I think this is disgusting. The staff should have been afforded privacy and been interviewed with dignity. They disrupted the business and then left empty handed.”

Another witness said:

“Immigration officers entered the buildings and gathered the staff at the waiting area at the front of the restaurant. This took place while the restaurant had three or four tables occupied on a Thursday evening. What seemed particularly humiliating for the staff was the fact that they were interviewed in the shop window, so that passersby would be able to observe.”

That was despite there being

“a large number of telephone orders to be collected, and…a queue of customers lined up opposite the waiting area watching the interviews. I understand fully the seriousness of the operation,

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but I do not believe that questioning people in front of the public in this manner was acceptable and must have caused them much embarrassment.”

That is one of many examples that have been drawn to my attention and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli. Another, which I will keep anonymised, involved 13 immigration officers and two police officers attending a restaurant in which I have eaten a number of times. They were there from 6.30 to 9.30 in the evening. Allegedly, people were detained in a corridor and not allowed to switch off the gas, while a pencil was taken from a staff member with the suggestion that it might have been used as a weapon. Another allegation was that handcuffs were used. I have no way of independently verifying that but, unfortunately, given the number of examples cited, I am worried that there appears to be a trend in such operations. The witnesses I know are certainly absolutely truthful and would not want to mislead the House or, indeed, the authorities.

For the record, the dialogue with immigration officials in Cardiff to date has been welcome. Many of the restaurant owners and associations wanted that on the record, but the cancellation with a day’s notice of the attendance of senior officials at a meeting with me, other Members of this House and more than 30 restaurant owners from throughout Wales has not done a lot to continue that good and fruitful engagement. Despite repeated attempts, I have been unable to make contact with the officers who were due to attend.

In conclusion, I have three key points for the Minister to address: first, the conduct of the operations; secondly, the support for restaurateurs to help them to comply with the law, as they wish to; and, thirdly and most crucially at this time, reassurance that neither the sector nor specific restaurants are being targeted in any way.

4.28 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mrs Osborne. I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Security and Immigration, who would normally attend the debate; he is in the main Chamber dealing with another matter. He has not yet worked out how to be in two places at once, but we are training him.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) on securing the debate, which has been very interesting, and I have listened carefully to the points made. We have heard a range of views on the subject of illegal working, and I will respond to each in turn. Before I do so, it might be helpful for Members if I set out the background to illegal working and enforcement visits.

I make no apology for the enforcement of immigration laws. The message we have heard today seems to be that that view is supported throughout the House. The British public expect the Home Office to enforce the law and to remove those persons who have no legal entitlement to live or work in the United Kingdom. We are committed to tackling illegal working, because it sustains illegal immigration, fuels organised crime and encourages migrants to put their livelihoods at risk and place themselves in the hands of people who exploit them. Illegal working

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also undercuts legitimate businesses, as rogue employers typically undercut the national minimum wage and avoid national insurance contributions.

The Government take, and will continue to take, tough enforcement action to arrest, detain and forcibly remove those who are breaking the law by living and working in the UK illegally. Immigration enforcement does that by conducting intelligence-based operations to target illegal immigration, illegal working and the criminality that supports illegal immigration. We will also act against those who support and fuel illegal activity. That is why we have laid before Parliament new regulations that will double the maximum penalty for employing an illegal worker from £10,000 to £20,000. We are also taking action via the Immigration Bill to simplify the process of receiving unpaid penalties.

Illegal working occurs in a wide range of businesses across the UK, and immigration enforcement targets known offenders, and acts on intelligence received to target businesses believed to be employing illegal workers. We also conduct follow-up checks on past offenders to ensure that they continue to be compliant. The catering trade receives a significant number of enforcement visits, but that reflects the intelligence we receive and the prevalence of immigration offences in a low-cost and highly competitive sector.

The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) asked for the statistics regarding the visits. In the UK as a whole, of the 7,904 illegal working visits carried out by immigration enforcement last year, around half—3,972—were carried out at restaurants or takeaways. In Wales, from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2013, 665 illegal working visits were conducted by enforcement teams, from which there were 379 arrests. The number of visits to restaurants and takeaways was 434.

I recognise the disturbance that may be caused to a business when an enforcement operation is undertaken, especially during peak times, and especially if no offence is encountered. I sympathise with the concerns raised; my parents are publicans, so I understand that, when someone is running a business, they want to do so as effectively, and in as hassle-free a way, as possible. However, the busy times are when we are able to maximise the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome. In the 7,904 enforcement visits made last year in the UK, we made a total of 7,274 arrests. That shows that our actions are warranted and successful. Our actions are based on intelligence, and immigration officers are carrying out their statutory duties to investigate that intelligence. We make every effort to verify the strength of the intelligence received, but inevitably there will be some operations where no offender is encountered.

Immigration enforcement staff have a difficult job to do, but it is best done in co-operation with others, as Opposition Members have said. I would like to highlight the good relationships and constructive dialogue that have been established by immigration enforcement staff with Asian restaurateurs to keep them informed of their work and purpose, and to equip them with the knowledge to recognise and deter illegal working, so that they do not unwittingly employ illegal immigrants.

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Kevin Brennan: In that case, why did immigration officials withdraw from the meeting last week at such short notice? Why did they become so difficult for my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) to contact?

Karen Bradley: I cannot answer specifically on that meeting, but there is an excellent relationship with the Bangladesh Caterers Association. That is a prime example of the relationship that officials have with restaurateurs. Regional events take place regularly involving both immigration enforcement and the BCA. The previous Immigration Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), met the London Chinatown Chinese Association, which agreed to co-operate with us. We offered it help, saying that if it co-operated with us and helped us to identify illegal workers, we could then speak to those workers instead of conducting raids at peak times. That relationship has since been working well.

Nia Griffith: I understand what the Minister is saying, but one of the issues highlighted in the inspector’s report is the lack of understanding by senior managers of what is happening on the ground. Could it be that, while there is dialogue between a certain level of official and, for example, the BCA, what is happening on the ground does not necessarily reflect those talks?

Karen Bradley: I conducted lengthy discussions with officials in preparation for this debate, and I have been assured and reassured that officials are working hard with the bodies that represent restaurateurs, and that there is a great deal of co-operation between, and a desire to co-operate on, both sides. We want to make enforcement work.

It is undeniable that, in the industry, there is opportunity for the exploitation of workers who are here illegally, which we need to deal with and tackle. However, the hon. Lady is absolutely right: the best way to do that is by co-operation, which we are actively ensuring. Where concerns have been raised by restaurateurs—for example, regarding simplifying documentation checks for overseas workers—we have considered them and sought to introduce change where appropriate. For instance, we are reducing the list of documents that employers have to present at right-to-work checks. The first changes will be introduced at the end of April. In the longer term, we intend to focus the checking system for non-European economic area nationals on the biometric residence permit.

While employers sometimes raise concerns about our approach, there is also broad support from legitimate employers for proactive enforcement action against rogue employers, who are competing unfairly against them. Like the rest of the public, legitimate employers have concerns about illegal immigration and support the aspirations of hard-working people from the UK. They experience at first hand how businesses are undercut by

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illegal cost-cutting activity, and recognise that it is often associated with exploitative behaviour such as tax evasion and harmful working conditions.

Kevin Brennan: Will the Minister give way?

Karen Bradley: I will not, only because we are running out of time, and I want to address the specific points raised.

We expect to see continued and greater co-operation from the restaurant industry on employers investing in training and embracing the use of resident labour. The Migration Advisory Committee has repeatedly expressed its disappointment at slow efforts by the sector to train more chefs.

Turning to points raised in the debate, the hon. Member for Llanelli asked whether there was justification for visits, and asked whether there was perhaps a lack of oversight and guidance. One issue was identified by the report; we have discussed this, and the Home Office is already aware of that and is acting on it. No letters were issued or authorised without justification since the report, and the power is now being used correctly. The hon. Lady also asked about joined-up working—about Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Home Office making separate visits, for instance. She is absolutely right: joined-up working is an absolute priority for the Home Office. We are focusing on streamlining the different agencies looking at illegal working to ensure that the number, and therefore cost, of operations is minimised.

The hon. Lady asked about the substantive grounds for some operations. Every operation is based on the intelligence that we have at the time, but intelligence is not always perfect. We work on very fine intelligence, but have a statutory duty to investigate allegations if we believe them to have a foundation. If we did not follow those allegations up, we would be criticised for it.

I am pleased to say that the majority of people in the country agree with the Government and want a robust stance on immigration and illegal activity. Our illegal working operations must be seen in the wider context of the reforms of the immigration system under the Government. Our tough reforms are carefully targeted, and we will continue to work hard to bring net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this Parliament, and to create a selective immigration system that works in our national interest. Put together, our engagement with local communities, enforcement activity and reforms will ensure that individuals who have no right to work or live in the UK are encouraged to comply with the rules and depart voluntarily, but individuals who partake in illegal activity or harbour those who do will always be sanctioned in line with UK law.

I am grateful to have had the chance to listen to the hon. Member for Llanelli and others today. I thank her again for securing this debate and will reflect further on the points made.

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Transparency of UK Visa Bans

4.39 pm

Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): It is a pleasure to secure this debate under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne.

It is often, and rightly, said that the mark of a civilised country is who we offer safe haven to. Equally, who we do not let in says something about our moral character as a nation. The Home Secretary has wide powers to exclude foreign nationals, and successive Governments have stressed that such powers must be exercised in a way that is reasonable, proportionate and consistent, in accordance with the immigration rules. In addition, it should be noted that there is a duty—not just a power—to ban certain people who are subject to EU or UN travel bans. So the powers are there.

In 2005, the former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, stated that the power to exclude had been invoked by successive Governments on the grounds of national security, and after the London bombings of July 2005, the Home Office published a broader list of “unacceptable behaviour” that could form the basis for deportation or exclusion. That “unacceptable behaviour” included fostering hatred that might lead to inter-community violence.

The current Home Secretary made it clear in 2011 that she wanted to take an even more interventionist approach, banning people who hold extreme views even if they are not necessarily or directly inciting or promoting violence. She explained the rationale to the US Council on Foreign Relations, and it is worth quoting her just to provide the context for this debate:

“I think it is right that we have taken a slightly different stance over the last 18 months as a new Government in looking at this, because we believe that this issue of words that are said—what people actually say and how they are able to encourage others through the words that they say—is an important issue for us to address.

That’s why we have chosen in our Prevent strategy, for example, to look not just at violent extremism but at extremism. I think it’s important that we do so. If we’re able to do that, I think that enables us to operate at an earlier level rather than simply waiting until people have gone down the route of violent extremism.”

The grounds for refusal and for exclusion are not limited to terrorist-linked or other violent extremism. A criminal record, or even just obnoxious views, can get someone barred. For example, recently, US shock jock Michael Savage and right-wing activist Pamela Geller, who is also from the States, have been refused entry to Britain.

Overall, if we look at recent history we see that there is a long list of rather curious characters who have been excluded from Britain: from Snoop Doggy Dogg and Chris Brown to Martha Stewart; and from Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda and scientologist Ron Hubbard to Dutch MP Geert Wilders. Along with the positively dangerous, there is a rather rag-tag mix of crooks, kooks and cranks who have been barred from coming here.

There is a legitimate wider debate around all of this. Do we risk suffocating free speech because of undue sensitivity or political correctness if we bar individuals who are not directly inciting violence but are just offensive to certain quarters of society? Who decides where to draw that line, or what the objective criteria are for barring people for bad taste or because they may be regarded by some as insulting? Beyond protecting the

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public, in the sense of public safety, should the role of a Home Secretary effectively involve acting as some kind of thought police? I am not convinced that we have gone quite that far, but equally I am not convinced that we should go that far. That whole debate is perfectly legitimate.

Putting aside that wider debate, I will focus on a consequential aspect of this issue. On occasion, the names of those denied access to the UK have been disclosed in the past, including—as I have mentioned—where they foster hatred or seek to justify terrorist acts, or where they might spark inter-community unrest. Sometimes people are excluded on the basis of their views alone, rather than because of any physical acts or any crimes of which they have been convicted. In contrast to those examples of publication, when I have asked for clarification about whether those responsible for, or profiting from, torture have been barred from the UK, I have received the stock answer that the Home Office does not routinely publicise the names of individuals who have been barred from entry to the UK.

Hon. Members will remember that, two years ago, the House unanimously called for a UK Magnistky law. That motion was inspired by Sergei Magnitsky, the dissident Russian lawyer who was tortured to death, then prosecuted posthumously on orders from the Kremlin because he had disclosed the biggest tax fraud in Russian history, which was worth $230 million. The answer that was given at the time in response to the call from the House was that the Government already had adequate powers to impose visa bans or asset freezes, but we do not know for sure when or how those powers are exercised. That must be wrong on the grounds of transparency, and in addition to the point of principle about transparency it robs the powers of much of their deterrent effect for those whom we do not want coming to Britain, or applying to come to Britain.

My requests to find out whether the Home Office had allowed entry to any of the so-called Magnitsky 60—the US list of suspects in that appalling case, who were already publicly barred from America—was met with refusal. When I subsequently asked whether Dmitry Klyuev, head of the Klyuev gang and reportedly the mastermind of the fraud disclosed by Magnitsky, had recently been granted a visa to the UK, again the official response was, “No comment.”

That will not do. It cannot be right that, from time to time, Ministers publish the names of those who have been banned because, for example, they may hold obnoxious views, yet on the other hand, they refuse to say if alleged mafia, corrupt Government cronies or those complicit in torture are allowed in. It cannot be right as a matter of policy and it cannot be right as a matter of openness. The British public have a right to know.

In 2012, when he was a Home Office Minister, the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), tried to justify that rather arbitrary position when he gave evidence to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. First, he said that making the names public might lead to the risk of additional litigation. However, it is difficult to see how publicising names adds much to the inherent risk of litigation based on the substantive decision that was made. If anything, greater transparency and clarity about the criteria for banning people might help to reduce the risk of judicial review. Secondly, it was suggested that publication was unreasonable because of

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sensitivities and confidentiality, but that is wholly untenable. If there are sound public policy grounds to bar entry, they should trump personal, let alone diplomatic, niceties.

Finally and even more tenuously, the hon. Gentleman said that publishing the names might prejudice a trial back home, or put British citizens abroad at risk of retaliation. Again, it is difficult to see why the publication of a refusal of entry would affect the outcome of any fair trial back home, and neither is the risk of retaliation against Britons abroad any greater as a result of such a decision than it is as a result of the countless other decisions that a democratic Government can—and do—legitimately make, which might, at least in theory, spark some utterly irrational backlash abroad by someone, somewhere, at some indefinite point in the future.

In its 2012 report, the Foreign Affairs Committee rejected the arguments that the hon. Gentleman had put forward. Having received evidence on the Magnitsky case, it called for publication of the names of those denied entry to the UK on human rights grounds. Regrettably, the Government have not accepted that recommendation.

There is a far broader point in all of this. If we decide to extradite someone from Britain, that decision is made public, and if we deport someone from Britain, that decision is made public. That transparency is vital, informing the legitimate debate around the policy and the law underpinning the relevant powers and the manner in which they are exercised.

Legislation that deals with deportation is going through Parliament right now in the Immigration Bill precisely because of the need for transparency around deportation. Recently, there was an independent inquiry into extradition, again because of the importance of transparency, and various changes were made to legislation as a result. If there are good grounds for taking the preventive step of barring entry, why do we as policy makers, and the British public at large, face a veil of secrecy?

Added to those domestic considerations, Britain has signed up to a G20 commitment to deny safe haven to corrupt officials. As Global Witness, the international NGO, has argued, how can there be any accountability for that international pledge without transparency about the way in which powers at home are exercised?

I will have another go with the Minister today. Have the following people, for whom there is evidence linking them to the Magnitsky case, been subject to a UK visa ban? In addition, have any of them in practice entered Britain during the past five years? What about Alexander Ivanovich Bastrykin, the senior investigator responsible for the whitewash report about the circumstances surrounding Sergei Magnitsky’s death? What about Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika? He was the general prosecutor named by Magnitsky as having overall legal responsibility for the abuses, including torture, that he suffered when he was in detention. Chaika was also responsible for the subsequent whitewashing of the fraud.

What about Chaika’s deputy, Victor Yakovlevich Grin, who ordered the posthumous prosecution of Magnitsky? I think that I am right in saying that that was the first posthumous prosecution in Russian history. What about Victor Gennadievich Voronin, who at the time was the deputy head of Russia’s federal security service and responsible for authorising the original tax fraud, which was the crime that Magnitsky had uncovered? Can the

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Minister assure the House that these venal men are banned from setting foot on British soil, and indeed have not set foot on British soil?

Today, the wider secrecy around visa bans is relevant to the British response to the crisis in Ukraine. The US list of visa bans is public; the EU list is, too; yet still Britain’s national policy is not to make public the identities of any additional persons who might be subject to a domestic UK ban. What possible reason can there be for this? Is it that we might upset Vladimir Putin? Do not the British people have a right to know whether we have let in people such as Dmyrto Firtash, the Ukrainian oligarch who helped former President Yanukovych into power—arrested recently in Austria; wanted by the US; and investigated by the NGO, Global Witness, that I referred to earlier. He has a charitable foundation in the UK. Has he entered Britain in the past three years? The British people and Parliament have a right to know.

What about Rinat Akhmetov, another Ukrainian oligarch and sponsor of Yanukovych? He is facing investigation by the Swiss authorities. He reportedly owns one of the most expensive apartments in London. Many other Ukrainian politicians-cum-businessmen with links to UK businesses—specific links to Britain—have a cloud of suspicion hanging over their name for corruption: people such as Yuriy Boyko or Yuriy Ivanyushchenko. I readily and proactively say that the allegations against those men might not be true. Maybe they can answer all the claims that have been levelled against them and can rebut the evidence. They should certainly have that chance, but so should we in this House have the chance, and the British public at large should know whether such people are freely entering Britain.

The risk in the lack of transparency in this area is that people may start to suspect that the discretionary powers are not being exercised properly, robustly or consistently, and that expediency is trumping principle. That is the fear that is starting to grow up around the issue. I call on the Minister today to answer my specific questions about the individuals in the context of the Magnitsky case and the Ukrainian case, and to look at changing the Government’s position on visa bans, and perhaps go further than the Foreign Affairs Committee recommendation. The current position must be dragged into the 21st century. The names of those excluded from this country on policy grounds should be made public, in the same way that measures are made public when we extradite or deport someone. If we have good reason to bar someone from entering Britain, we should say so loud and clear, not in some half-hearted whisper lest we cause offence. The Government should have the courage of their conviction, and the public should be reassured that torturers, mafia bosses and the henchmen of dictators like Vladimir Putin are not simply waltzing in and out of Britain, despite pious statements of official policy.

4.52 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): It continues to be a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) on securing a debate on this subject. I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Security and Immigration, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), who is currently in the main Chamber and therefore unable to be here

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for this debate, but I am sure he and my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton will have many opportunities to catch up on this topic.

As the Home Secretary has previously made clear, where credible evidence exists, the immigration rules allow us to deny entry to those whose presence in this country is not considered conducive to the public good. The power to deny a person the ability to enter the UK is an important tool that has the potential to support key Government objectives across a range of matters including national security, terrorism, criminality, war crimes and human rights abuses.

The Home Secretary may also personally decide to exclude an individual who is not a British citizen. Individuals can be excluded on grounds of national security; on the grounds that their presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good; or under the unacceptable behaviours or extremism exclusion policy. Exclusion is not targeted against any religious group or proponents of any individual political position. Individuals excluded have included serious criminals, far-right extremists, homophobic extremists, and Christian, Jewish and Islamic extremists.

Exclusion powers are taken very seriously and we do not use them lightly. No decision to exclude is taken lightly or as a method of stopping debate on the issues. There is close partnership working across Government to identify those who should be excluded from the UK and to prevent them from travelling here. The Secretary of State will use those powers when justified, based on all the available evidence. In all matters, the Secretary of State must act reasonably, proportionately and consistently.

Where an individual not already subject to exclusion seeks entry to the UK either through applying for a visa from abroad or on arrival at the UK border, we have the power to refuse those individuals entry on non-conducive grounds. We do not routinely publish the names of individuals who are prevented from entering the UK. The Home Secretary and her officials use such powers to protect national security, to prevent extremists and terrorists from coming to the UK, and to disrupt the activities of serious criminals. When those powers are exercised, public disclosure of the names of the individuals concerned does not always assist in achieving those aims.

It is important that we use those powers to achieve the best results in protecting the UK and the British public. That is most often achieved without the glare of publicity, particularly when we are seeking to cause a change in behaviour. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton will appreciate that once it has been made public that a person has been banned from or refused entry to the UK—and so their reputation has been affected—they have less to gain by moderating their behaviour.

Furthermore, the Home Office has a duty of confidentiality, and the details of individual immigration cases will not routinely be made public. Where it is considered that there is a strong public interest in doing so, which clearly outweighs our duty to individuals, and there is sufficient information to confirm individual identity, the Home Office will disclose names. In exceptional circumstances, we occasionally confirm that an individual has been denied entry to the UK when the information

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is already in the public domain or there is a legitimate public interest in doing so, but it is certainly not routine or regular.

Having considered carefully the previous Government’s policy of releasing the names of individuals who had been excluded from the UK, we decided that that was the wrong approach. We concluded that that policy simply invited costly and long-running litigation where it could have been avoided. It is therefore our firm view that the current approach is right and that the details of those banned from this country should be made public only when there is a clear public interest in doing so or where the individual concerned has put the information in the public domain.

As my hon. Friend will be aware, that is a long-standing position that successive Governments have adopted. I quite understand that there is a view that disclosing the details of those who have been banned from this country, or refused entry, will reassure both the House and the wider public that steps are being taken to deny the most undesirable people access to this country. However, for the reasons I have just explained, that is not always in the UK’s best interest.

My hon. Friend raised the matter of Sergei Magnitsky. The circumstances surrounding his death—a human rights case—are of utmost concern. It is the most high-profile example of the failings of Russia’s judicial and prison systems. The Government recognise that four years after Mr Magnitsky’s death, there has been a lack of meaningful progress towards securing justice.

The power to prevent a person from entering the UK on non-conducive grounds is wide-ranging, but it can be and is used in cases where an individual has been involved in human rights abuses. Coming to the UK is a privilege, not a right. Although we do not routinely comment on individual cases, the presumption is that those who have committed human rights abuses will normally be refused entry to the UK. However, we cannot simply refuse an individual without objective, reliable, independent evidence of their personal involvement in human rights abuses or other serious crimes. We do not prejudge evidence speculatively, but when an application to come to the UK is made, it is considered on its merits, taking into account all circumstances at the point of application. It is not a straightforward issue, and as a Government we must adopt an approach that best supports our objectives while complying with our legal obligations. As I am sure my hon. Friend will agree, the overriding consideration must be to use our powers lawfully and effectively, and to achieve the best results in protecting the UK and the British public.

It is right that Ministers consider whether making details public can support our aims. That is one of the tools that can be used to increase the effectiveness of the ban, but it can be done only on a case by case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances. It would of course reflect the impact on the individual concerned and the wider policy aim, as well as the impact on wider Government objectives.

Mr Raab: The Minister is setting out the Government’s position with a degree of clarity that I have not previously heard. She talks about the considerations when the Government decide whether to make public the name of someone who has been banned, including whether doing so might deter or correct that behaviour. If we are

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dealing with people who are complicit in torture and there is enough evidence to substantiate and justify a visa ban, what possible countervailing reason can there be, whether it is to change their behaviour or otherwise, for not making their name public? Would not making their name public deter others?

Karen Bradley: My hon. Friend, as always, makes a coherent argument. The point, however, is that a decision to make someone’s name public will depend on individual circumstances. A blanket approach would be wrong, because decisions will depend on each case’s individual circumstances and evidence. We must consider such decisions on a case by case basis, rather than having an overriding one-size-fits-all approach to all cases involving, for example, torture. That leads me to his specific points. He is, as always, persistent and tenacious in his arguments, but I am sure he understands that I cannot comment on the individual cases that he listed.

The UK fully implements a range of travel bans agreed by both the United Nations and the European Union. The bans target certain individuals, such as those associated with the Syrian regime, the situation in Ukraine or terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban. We consider the bans to be an effective tool both to disrupt the activities of certain individuals and to send a clear signal that the international community does not accept those activities.

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The Home Secretary has the power specifically to prevent individuals from entering the UK so that the Government can protect the UK’s interests and security without disrupting travel more widely. Sanctions are internationally agreed where there is a collective decision to take action against certain individuals. By their nature, therefore, sanctions must be shared across a range of authorities and organisations. The UK has a duty of confidentiality, which means that we do not routinely disclose information about the immigration status of individuals. Additionally, we believe our objectives are often best delivered by working with others away from the glare of publicity.

The promotion and protection of human rights continues to be a key priority in our foreign policy. Human rights form a key element of the Government’s engagement with our international partners. Denying entry to the UK and, where appropriate, preventing travel to the UK has the potential to influence behaviour. We will continue to use immigration powers to achieve that end.

In conclusion, the Government make no apology for refusing access to the UK if we believe someone’s presence is not conducive to the public good. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values.

Question put and agreed to.

5.2 pm

Sitting adjourned.