Border Management (Calais)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:36 pm on 24th June 2015.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:36 pm, 24th June 2015

The right hon. Gentleman’s questions raise a number of issues. He referred to the fact that he visited Calais last year. Indeed, at the time he said of the problems of migrants building up at Calais:

“This is not new—we saw problems over ten years ago.”

That is precisely why the previous Labour Government worked with the then French Government to introduce the juxtaposed controls. The Le Touquet agreement was important and I reassure him that we certainly intend to do everything we can to maintain those juxtaposed controls. They are an important part of our border security and we will continue to work with the French authorities, as previous Governments have done, to ensure that they are maintained and operate well.

On the issue of processing people, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated in Prime Minister’s questions when asked about it by the acting Leader of the Opposition, there is a challenge to the Italian authorities. People are due to be processed and fingerprinted when they first arrive on European shores, and for the majority of those people that means Italy. My French opposite number and I have been working with the Italian Government and, indeed, other European member states to encourage Italy to do exactly that. The European Council will be looking at the question of Mediterranean migration, as did the Justice and Home Affairs Council that I attended in Luxembourg last week. One of the key messages the United Kingdom has been giving consistently—and others support it—is that the best means of dealing with the issue is to break the link. This is about ensuring that people see that if they make this dangerous journey, they are not going to achieve settlement in Europe.

We need to work to break the organised criminal gangs and the people traffickers. The new taskforce is bringing together people from the National Crime Agency, Border Force, immigration enforcement and the Crown Prosecution Service. Some of them will be based overseas and some in the UK. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that they will be working not just among those British agencies, but with the French authorities and others, to ensure that there is better intelligence and a better understanding of where the gangs are and what the routes are, so that we can take appropriate action against them. I absolutely agree with that. It was this party, as part of the coalition Government, that introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which makes it easier for law enforcement to deal with human traffickers. Obviously, that is important legislation.

My right hon. Friend the Immigration Minister has had a number of meetings and conversations with representatives of road hauliers about the security aspects. We believe that, overall, Operation Stack worked well. The process has been in place for some time, but the Department for Transport will continue to look at it and about half of the £12 million has already been spent.