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Clause 126 — Power to search for evidence

Part of Orders of the Day — Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 9:14 pm on 12th June 2002.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:14 pm, 12th June 2002

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I should like to thank both past and present Ministers for their work and support over the past few months in introducing a complex and difficult measure. I should also like to thank Labour Members for the forbearance that they have shown and the contribution that they have made, and the two major Opposition parties for the way in which the debate has been conducted from Second Reading, through the Committee stage and over the past two days. That impressive difference in tone, compared with the way in which nationality, immigration and asylum issues have been dealt with in the past in this House and elsewhere, has made a difference to the way in which hon. Members and people outside the House have been able to address these very sensitive issues. We have had disagreements and will continue to do so, but there has been a unanimity about the way forward that could not have been expected even a year ago.

In the White Paper and in subsequent debates we have tried to balance the critical issues involved. We want to offer a warm welcome to people from across the world who wish to come to our shores to settle, to work, to be educated, to visit, to be able to integrate through diversity in our society, to bring different cultures, experiences and enterprise, to contribute to the development of our economy and our social life, to make a difference to local communities and to be able to show a different face. This is Britain—a nation that has been built up over the generations and centuries and of which we are proud today.

Only six months ago, there was controversy about being proud of that heritage and welcoming people as British nationals prepared to learn our language and about our citizenship, culture and history, and to participate in a ceremony to celebrate an important event. Over the past six months, that controversy has died away. The Bill's passage through Second Reading, Committee, Report and, I hope, Third Reading has signalled that people no longer believe that that is a controversial issue.

It is also no longer controversial to take the view that we can welcome people legitimately into our country while being robust in developing a system that is trusted, that has the confidence of the British people and that protects our borders and prevents clandestine entry and illegal working. The Bill encapsulates, as the White Paper sought to, the balance between that warm welcome and a hard-headed and sensible, but sensitive, approach to ensuring that our hospitality is not exploited. I said that when I presented the White Paper and on Second Reading, and I say so tonight. We can be proud of providing a sensitive and balanced policy that gets it right in terms not only of our humanitarian obligations and simple humanity, but of our common sense and knowledge that there will always be those who exploit the weak and the timorous, who do not hear the clarion call of clear leadership. That is why, in taking on prejudice and racism, we must be clear about our own leadership and the values that we hold. We must take a common-sense approach that ensures that people know both that we are not to be taken for granted and that we understand what is necessary to protect their interests.

It is in that spirit that I ask the House to give the Bill its Third Reading. I do so briefly, so that hon. Members can express their views and have their opinions heard in that broader context: not on individual items on which we may have differences, but on the broad thrust—