Immigration Controls

Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 21st October 2008.

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Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Home Affairs, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice & Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice 4:29 pm, 21st October 2008

It does not take any years at all to understand it.

The official Opposition cannot escape responsibility. When the Tories were in government, they took leave of their senses and removed exit checks. Short-term work permits and student visas are, as a result, far more difficult to enforce. Some 346,000 student visas were issued in 2007 to non-EU citizens, and that is a good thing, too. Our higher education is something of which we can be proud. However, how many have returned? We have absolutely no idea who was here, who should be here or who is here. That is precisely why there is a crisis of confidence in the system.

I am glad that both the Government and the Conservatives are now in favour of a national border force, an idea that we introduced to the debate. We need it, along with exit controls, employer checks and enforcement. Between 1997 and 2006— [ Interruption. ] I realise that those on the Conservative Back Benches do not even know when they are stealing other people's policies, but those on the Front Bench, at least, ought to know that. Between 1997 and 2006, only 37 employers were found guilty of employing illegal immigrants. The number is rising: in 2007 there were 35 criminal prosecutions, but in the six months from January to June 2008 there were 42. The Government are rightly tightening up but, by God, they are still only scratching the surface.

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