I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am very pleased to have this surprising opportunity briefly to set out the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend Mr Chope. I should like to make sure from the start that we give all the credit to him: this is his Bill and it is superb. Members will only be disappointed that he is not here to propose it himself, because he could do so with much more skill and panache than I am able to muster. While I give him full credit for the Bill, I certainly take full responsibility for the poor quality of the speech proposing it on his behalf.
We do not have enough time to go into any great detail, but I want simply to set out what the Bill does and why it does it. It makes it a criminal offence to be an illegal immigrant in this country. At the moment, people can come here with impunity: they can come into this country as an illegal immigrant, try their luck and do their best to give it a good shot. Unfortunately, as we have seen in recent years, far too many people are successful at giving it a shot. They come into the country and if they get caught the worst thing that can happen to them is they will be kicked out, but, given all the human rights legislation we have, they would have to be particularly unlucky for that to happen. There is absolutely nothing in place to give any real, meaningful deterrent to prevent people from giving it a go in the first place. My hon. Friend is trying, rightly, to provide a real, proper, meaningful disincentive for anybody who tries to come into this country illegally by making it a criminal offence that can carry a sentence of imprisonment.
I am not naive enough to imagine that this Bill will, at once, clear up the mass problem this country has with illegal immigration. There is an awful lot we need to do. We need to get ourselves out of the European Union for starters and get back control of our own borders. We need to have much better controls over who is coming into the country, including knowing whether they have any criminal convictions. We also need to get rid of all the human rights legislation that stops people being deported when they are illegal immigrants.
My hon. Friend’s modest Bill makes it clear that being an illegal immigrant in this country should be a criminal offence and that a meaningful deterrent of a prison sentence should go with it. That may play a small part in deterring people from trying to enter this country illegally, and on that basis I commend the Bill to the House.
I genuinely feel that this a Radio 4 moment: I will speak for just over a minute—that is all the time I have—without repetition, deviation or hesitation. [Interruption.] I will try my best not to deviate.
It is very important that we in this House think carefully about the matter of immigration, which, as we all know from our time on the doorsteps, our constituents care about. It is an issue of integral importance to the people we speak to and represent, so it is vital that we take their concerns seriously.
The Minister has less than a minute left to speak, so may I help her by suggesting that, rather than just waffling on about the subject of immigration more generally, she explain succinctly why the Government think it is wrong that being an illegal immigrant should be a criminal offence?
I fear that we are getting into repetition. I want to talk about the important work of our Border Force. I was at Heathrow airport last week.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. That is clearly a matter for the Ministry of Justice, not the Home Department, so I do not wish to comment on the number of prisons that may be needed. We should pay tribute to our Border Force teams—
The debate stood adjourned (
Ordered, That the Bill be resumed on