I want to update the House on the action the Government are taking to tackle illegal immigration, particularly in the light of the current situation in the Mediterranean and the disruption caused by the recent strikes that affected the port of Calais and the Eurotunnel site at Coquelles.
The close co-operation between the United Kingdom and France on the issue dates back many years, and our Governments have been working closely together to respond to the pressure caused by the growing number of people migrating across the Mediterranean in recent months.
As the House will be aware, aggressive strike action by French port workers recently exacerbated that pressure, temporarily closing the port of Calais and also disrupting Eurotunnel services. That had significant repercussions for the UK, particularly for lorry drivers, the travelling public and local residents in south-east England. Tourists and freight drivers endured long and difficult journeys in the summer heat. Illegal migrants in France, taking advantage of the situation, made increasingly bold attempts to board vehicles heading for the UK, and we heard worrying reports about intimidating and violent behaviour.
I am conscious of the forbearance of the residents of Kent, who suffered disruption due to the build-up of traffic on local roads caused by the French strike. That forbearance has been powerfully championed by their Members of Parliament, whom I will be meeting to discuss the issue shortly.
Since last week, strike action has paused to allow for talks between French trade unions and the French authorities. The port of Calais re-opened on
It is, of course, the responsibility of the French authorities to police French soil, and they have, like our own Border Force and Kent police, worked extremely hard to maintain law and order during this difficult period. Since disruption began on
That reflects the particular pressures caused by the recent industrial action, but Her Majesty’s Government have been working closely with the French Government for much longer to deal with the broader situation in Calais. At the beginning of this month, I met the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, in Paris, where we agreed to further strengthen our co-operation and build on the joint declaration we made last September.
Since November 2014, we have committed to investing £12 million, of which £6 million has already been spent, to reinforce security at our juxtaposed ports in northern France. That includes new fencing to secure the approaches to the port of Calais and joint work to improve traffic flow through the port and Border Force controls so that more tourist vehicles can queue within the secure environment of the port. That work is due to be completed at the end of this month. In addition, we have funded a £2 million upgrade of detection technology and boosted our dog searching capability by another £1 million.
We have also provided funding for additional fencing to help secure approaches to the channel tunnel at Coquelles, where repeated incursions have taken place over the last few weeks. This work, which we announced last week, has already begun and is also due to finish by the end of this month.
In addition, we have made considerable progress in targeting criminal gangs in Calais through better intelligence sharing and increased collaboration between law enforcement agencies, and we are running joint communications campaigns to tackle myths about life in the UK. We continue to keep the situation under review and will assess whether further measures may be required.
As I have mentioned, the recent strike action has had significant implications for the travelling public and, in particular, for hauliers, who have been subjected not only to long delays but repeated attempts by illegal migrants who try to stow themselves away in their vehicles. We are working with the British haulage industry to support our drivers, and my right hon. Friend the Immigration Minister recently had a further meeting with representatives of the industry to discuss their concerns. It is of course important that vehicles are secured properly to help mitigate the threat of illegal immigration. We provide clear guidance on lorry security that many responsible drivers take steps to follow. However, as the vast majority of vehicles arriving in the UK are foreign registered, the bigger part of our challenge is international. Approximately 7% of fines issued last year were to British drivers, so we need to ensure that the rest of the world’s freight transport industry is keeping up with the UK’s. We have therefore offered to host an international event focused on best practice in lorry security.
I am sure the whole House will agree that British hauliers work tirelessly to keep our economy moving. Without the hours they spend on the roads importing and exporting goods, it would grind to a halt. It is imperative that they are allowed to continue their business unimpeded. So today I can announce the creation of a new secure zone at the port of Calais for UK-bound lorries that will provide a secure waiting area for 230 vehicles—the equivalent of removing a two-and-a-half mile queue from the approaching road. This should transform protection for lorries and their drivers, removing them from the open road where they can become targets for migrants attempting to board their vehicles.
The problems in Calais are clearly symptomatic of a wider issue that needs to be tackled at source and in transit countries. This was reflected in the recent European Council discussions that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister attended and reported to this House. The Government are clear that we must break the link between people making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean and achieving settlement in Europe.
We must also target and disrupt the organised criminal gangs who profit from their fellow humans’ misery, selling them false promises before loading them on to dangerous vessels and sending them—in many cases in the past—to their deaths. To this end, we are enhancing our work with European and African partners to tackle these callous criminal gangs and increase the support for genuine refugees in their regions of origin.
Recently, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a dedicated law enforcement team to tackle organised immigration crime in the Mediterranean. About 90 officers will be deployed in the UK, the Mediterranean and Africa to pursue and disrupt organised crime groups. They will make use of every opportunity at source, in transit countries and in Europe to smash the gangs’ criminal operations and better protect the UK and the vulnerable people they exploit. In addition, we are providing practical and financial support to other EU countries, including help to process newly arrived illegal immigrants and distinguish between economic migrants and genuine refugees.
We must also work to stop this problem at source. The UK has a proud record of providing aid to alleviate poverty and suffering overseas. We have committed £900 million to help people displaced by the Syrian crisis, making us the second largest bilateral donor in the world in response to that humanitarian crisis.
However, just as we are generous to those who need our help, the UK will be tough on those who flout our immigration rules or abuse our hospitality as a nation. Since 2010, the Government have introduced new laws to make it harder for people to live in the UK illegally, restricting their access to rented housing, bank accounts, driving licences, and our public services. We have revoked the driving licences of 11,000 illegal immigrants, closed down nearly 900 bogus colleges, and carried out over 2,900 sham marriage operations in the past year. The new immigration Bill that we will bring before the House later this year will build on this work and enable us to take stronger action still. It will include measures to make it even more difficult for people to live in the UK illegally, make it easier for us to deport them, and make Britain a less attractive place for people to come and work illegally—not least by making illegal working a criminal offence in itself.
The approach of Her Majesty’s Government is clear. We are continuing our close collaboration with the French authorities to bolster the security of the ports in northern France; working closely with them to mitigate the consequences of irresponsible French strikers; providing the assistance our hard-working hauliers and the travelling public deserve; and leading the international efforts to tackle this problem in the longer term, with generous support for those who deserve it and tough sanctions for those who do not. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and for advance sight of it this morning.
When order breaks down, a difficult situation can become desperate. That is what is happening in Calais. Today, there are reports that three people were injured after they broke into the French channel tunnel terminal. That comes just a week after a young man from Eritrea died, attempting to board a freight train headed to Britain. We do not know the circumstances of his death, what made him travel more than 3,600 miles to try to enter Britain, nor how much he paid to criminals who may have profited from his death.
The Home Secretary talked about the serious and growing challenge for hauliers, who are worried continually about the security of their load, whether people will try to break in and whether someone might be caught under their wheels, and about the holidaymakers who see people walking between the queuing cars and worry about the security of their boot, but this is a terrible crisis at our border in which lives are being lost and people are being injured.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement today, but it is not the first one that we have had and there have been urgent questions too. The situation has been exacerbated by the huge problems caused by the strike action, but the underlying problem has been getting worse as well. I welcome the additional measures, such as the lorry zone that she announced. I thank Kent police, Border Force and all the authorities for the difficult job that they are having to do. Will she confirm whether the lorry zone is additional capacity? Eurotunnel has already talked about there being additional capacity in place, but has warned that that is just making more people try to get into the tunnel and enter the trains directly. Will she clarify that point? Will she tell us how many additional staff the UK has deployed to Calais since last year and how many additional enforcement staff the French authorities have deployed?
Will the Home Secretary explain what is happening when people are found attempting to cross illegally? She referred to 8,000 people. Is it true that many of them are simply being returned to the streets of Calais to try again? What action has she taken to get a proper process in place in France to assess whether they have an asylum claim and are fleeing persecution or to assess their immigration status and whether they need to return home? Will she say whether the British authorities are fingerprinting those whom they find, which is something I have raised with her before?
The Home Secretary and I will agree that the French authorities need to do much more. Under the Dublin convention, it is their responsibility to assess those who may be vulnerable or who have asylum claims, and who should not be further victim to people traffickers or the despair that comes from being a vulnerable refugee travelling over large distances. Such people need an assessment early on, either in France or in the other countries that they have come from. What is she doing to ensure that the French authorities are assessing those who are living in camps or on the streets in Calais before they make an attempt to reach the border? Can she tell us how many people have been assessed in Calais by the French authorities, and what is being done to increase the number being assessed, rather than simply leaving people in the camps and leaving the problem to get worse?
The Home Secretary will know the importance of diplomatic action and partnership working with France. The former Home Secretary and Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough had to do exactly that when he negotiated the closure of Sangatte many years ago. It would be helpful to hear from her what progress is being made, because at the moment it looks as though the problem is still getting worse.
The Home Secretary talked about the work that is being done to tackle people smuggling more widely, but what is being done to make sure that immigration control and asylum process assessments take place in the southern Mediterranean countries too?
Finally, while it is crucial for us to strengthen border security to ensure that action is being taken in France to address this serious problem, we have a responsibility across Europe to deal with the humanitarian crisis that has been increasing the problem. A significant part of the problem is caused by the war in Syria, which is the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation. We all know of the pressure on families that are fleeing that situation.
The Prime Minister said that the UK Government would accept a “modest expansion” of the programme to accept Syrian refugees. I have urged the Home Secretary many times in the House to accept far more UN refugees from Syria. How many does she now expect to accept? I urge her to work with local authorities across the country, including on reviewing the support processes, to get them to offer places for those who are fleeing persecution. This country has a long tradition of providing humanitarian support and sanctuary for those who need it.
We have had a series of urgent questions and statements, but the problem is getting worse. Can the Secretary of State really put her hand on her heart and say that she thinks that as a result of her statement, things will be better in six months’ time than they are today? It does not feel like they will be. What else can she do to prevent the crisis from simply escalating, and to prevent us from simply being in the same situation in a few months, having the same discussions and asking the same questions, with her only being able to give the same answers?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her response and for her gratitude for my coming to the House and making a statement.
The right hon. Lady referred to the work of the police and Border Force officials, as I have done. We should recognise the professionalism with which Border Force officers deal with circumstances such as the current ones. They had contingency plans in place for the possibility of a strike related to MyFerryLink, and those plans were put into action. From the Border Force’s point of view, what it did operated smoothly. We should recognise the professionalism with which its officers approach their job. A number of resources have been deployed over time around the Border Force ports, and it operates a flexible system to ensure that it can move resources around.
The right hon. Lady asked whether the lorry park or buffer zone that I described was additional capacity. It is a new secure area that is being set aside, because if lorries are queuing it is easier for illegal migrants to try to get on to them. Putting lorries separately in a secure zone means that we can remove people’s ability to access them. The French have also put in extra staff, and in particular they have increased the number of police in the area, including riot police.
As the right hon. Lady said, and as I recognised in my statement, previous Governments have worked with the French authorities on this issue for many years.
The juxtaposed controls at Calais and Coquelles are important to us and work well, but they have come under increasing pressure. She asked about the progress that has been made, and I point out to her that in 2014-15, the Border Force, its contractors and the French authorities prevented about 40,000 attempts to enter the UK illegally at the juxtaposed controls in France, compared with 18,000 in the previous year and 11,000 the year before that. There is increasing pressure, but also increasing ability to make identifications. As I indicated, we have put in some more technology to help that process.
In 2014 the number of organised criminal networks dismantled in the Calais region increased by 30% compared with the previous year, so the increasing joint working and collaboration with the French authorities is having an impact on the ground.
The right hon. Lady asked how asylum seekers are being dealt with. That is being addressed in a number of ways, but I return to a point that I have made in the House before. The number of asylum claims in France has increased—she referred to that point—and the French authorities have encouraged people to make asylum claims in France. There is a further upstream issue for both us and the French Government, which is what action the Italian authorities can take when people arrive across the Mediterranean on Italian shores. We have offered and given the Italian authorities increased support in fingerprinting and registering people properly at that point.
We have said before that we expect several hundred Syrian refugees to be relocated to the UK over a period of years as part of our vulnerable persons relocation scheme, and we are increasing that number by a few hundred. I remind the House that we have not set a target number, but those are people in particular need. We work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which identifies such people. Some of them require long-term medical treatment, which we will provide in the United Kingdom. We are trying to focus support on those who are most in need.
You will understand, Mr Speaker, that this issue is of particular concern to Members of Parliament in east Kent, most particularly my hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke, who is constrained by his office from asking questions but is present in the Chamber today.
There are two problems. First, the Home Secretary recognises that French strikers have brought Calais, and therefore Dover, to a grinding halt. Will she make it clear to the French authorities that in the name of the much-vaunted freedom of movement, we expect the port of Calais to be kept open at all times, as it ought to be?
Secondly, does the Home Secretary recognise that part of the problem is due to the complete failure of the Schengen agreement? Because border controls within Europe have been broken down, there is now effectively free movement from Martinique, on the other side of the Atlantic, to the port of Calais. It is time to abolish Schengen and bring back border controls.
My hon. Friend makes some important points. As my hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke is the Home Office Whip, my hon. Friend the
I know that a number of colleagues have met my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to discuss the problems of traffic queuing in Kent—Operation Stack, as it is known. I am arranging to meet a number of colleagues to discuss the policing of the operation.
I have made the point to the French authorities that we expect Calais to be kept open, most recently when I met Monsieur Cazeneuve a few days ago. That is important for both countries. In relation to the Schengen agreement, my hon. Friend might have noticed that two or three weeks ago the French started taking some action on their border with Italy in relation to migrants who were effectively being allowed to move into France unimpeded. Of course, the Schengen scheme allows for some emergency action to be taken.
The latest incidents, which the shadow Home Secretary mentioned, are of grave concern. The fact that people risk their lives, and in many cases have lost their lives, trying to get into Europe and the United Kingdom should give us pause for thought. We must ask what is driving thousands to such desperate action and what more we can do to deal with the root of the problem. We are a wealthy union of nations in a world that is becoming increasingly divided, and we are the big winners from the way the world works, so surely we in the United Kingdom have a responsibility to help and support those who are driven from their homes and families because of war, poverty or environmental degradation.
Playing our part in Europe-wide efforts on asylum would be a good starting point, as I and my party have urged on previous occasions. I associate myself with the shadow Home Secretary’s comments about that this morning. Ensuring maximum UK participation in policing and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean is also essential. We must also move questions of social justice to the top of our political agenda, so that greater economic opportunity exists where people live.
Earlier this month, one of my hon. Friends asked Ministers at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to estimate the cost to UK businesses of an unscheduled closure of the channel tunnel. The reply that she got was dismissive to say the least, to the effect that no assessment had been or would be made. Businesses in Scotland, particularly food exporters, face substantial additional costs each and every time the tunnel is closed. A fish exporter has described the situation as follows:
“Fish is a perishable commodity, and it is imperative that it is delivered as fast as possible to the customer. This generally takes 2 days from Scotland to say Switzerland. Because of the disruption our lorries are arriving a few hours late and miss the onward connections. This means I am being forced to hire other lorries at €250 a time to deliver my goods to the customer as a way of keeping them supplied and happy.”
That is just one example of one gentleman’s difficulty. Do the Government care about the impact on exporters, and if so, what are they going to do about it?
At the beginning of the hon. and learned Lady’s comments, she referred to dealing with the root of the problem—I believe that was the phrase she used.
Indeed, one of the issues that we are looking at in the UK and that I discuss with my European colleagues is how aid and development money can be used to ensure that we develop the economies and stability of the countries from which people are seeking to move to Europe.
The hon. and learned Lady asked about the channel tunnel. We recognise the significance of the channel tunnel to importers and exporters. Precisely because of that, Border Force made significant contingency arrangements with the French authorities for the possibility of a MyFerryLink strike. Obviously, the disruption—the strikers burned tyres on the tracks—had an impact on the tracks. We had contingency operations in place because, for all of us, it is important to maintain those routes through the channel tunnel, both for businesses and for those who wish to travel for tourism and other purposes.
Order. This is an extremely important statement. That said, may I just point out to the House that well in excess of 30 people wish to take part in the final day of the Budget debate, and therefore that there is a premium on brevity? The tutor in this matter today can be Mr Philip Hollobone.
A lorry driver constituent, Peter Clark, turned up at Calais with a cement mixer from Italy. He asked the French authorities to check it. It was six o’clock in the morning and they said they had no torches and their ladder was locked up. He crossed the border with five Vietnamese illegal immigrants on board and now faces a fine. Will the Home Secretary tell the French that they need to raise their game?
May I suggest to my hon. Friend that, if he sends the Immigration Minister details of that case, we will look at it? There are two parts to the searches that should take place involving not just the French authorities, but Border Force. We would like to look into that.
The Home Secretary is right that our security and immigration policy should not rest in the hands of a few French strikers. Later today, the Home Affairs Committee will hear from the Immigration Minister, the Road Haulage Association and the police to look at her proposals. I am not convinced that putting 250 lorries in a secure zone is the answer or even part of the answer. When I was in Calais a fortnight ago, a lorry with German plates driven by a Romanian was opened up. Five people from Darfur emerged. They were collected by the French police and let off about a mile down the road. Before they left, they said they would try again the next day—1,000 migrants were found on those lorries every single day. The key is the taskforce that she has set up in the Mediterranean, because unless we stop the flow of people into France, we cannot solve the problem of Calais.
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the taskforce and dealing with the organised criminal gangs. The taskforce will work with countries in Europe and Africa to deal with the problem, but we are supporting the JOT Mare operation under Europol, which has a fusion cell in Italy. It is looking to increase the intelligence available on the routes people are using so that we can better target the criminal gangs involved.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend says about close working with the French Government, but does she agree that it is vital that further pressure is brought to bear on the Italian Government to process newly arrived migrants quickly, including fingerprinting, in line with international obligations?
My hon. Friend has put his finger on one important aspect—the Italian authorities have responsibility for fingerprinting and registering those who cross through that central Mediterranean route and arrive first in Europe in Italy. My French colleagues and I, and others in the European Union, are putting pressure on the Italians to do that.
The focus is understandably on Calais and what is happening around Calais, but all hon. Members acknowledge that, in the long term, what happens in the transit and source countries makes the difference. Could we have more detail on whether we plan to escalate our role in the source countries, which in the long term will be the only way of dealing with the problem?
There are a variety of ways in which we are looking at what the UK can do, and at what we can do collectively with other EU member states. We could potentially have a centre in Niger to which it would be possible to return people who have made the journey into Europe. As I indicated in my response to Joanna Cherry, we are also looking at what can be done in the source countries to ensure that there is an economic future and a stable future there so that people do not feel the need to make the journey.
I thank the Home Secretary for acknowledging the impact on the people of Kent of Operation Stack and the disruption. I also thank her and her Department for their work to ensure that the channel crossings are secure and flow smoothly. Does she have any further tactics up her sleeve should all those efforts prove unsuccessful during the summer?
I assure my hon. Friend that we are constantly looking to see whether there are ways in which we can improve the action we are taking, but we need to approach it across a wide variety of areas of action, not just what happens at the ports. We will of course continue to look at what action needs to be taken in the ports.
In the later part of the Home Secretary’s statement, for which I thank her, she drew attention to the wider question of desperate migrant people around the world—my Friend Yvette Cooper did the same. Are we not facing a global refugee crisis of similar proportions to that which took place after the second world war? We see the tragic, awful symptoms in the camp in Calais, in the Mediterranean and in many other places. Does it not require a much stronger, bigger and more humanitarian global response, possibly through the United Nations as well as through the European Union? Many people are destitute, desperate and fleeing from the war in
Syria and many other conflicts. The problem will not be solved by turning people back. It will be solved by looking at the cause of the crisis and providing a high level of humanitarian support. I realise that we have given a great deal of support to Syrian refugees, but clearly more has to be done globally.
The hon. Gentleman is right that we are seeing significant movements of people in various parts of the world. We focus on those moving across the Mediterranean, but there are significant movements in the far east—we have seen lives lost when people move on boats there. It is important for us to look at what is causing the movements of those people. As I have said, that is why we will be looking at how we use our aid budget, and at how the European Union uses its budget, in those source countries. As regards the people we are relocating from Syria, we are working with the United Nations—we are working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—to ensure that we provide support to the most vulnerable.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s comments about myth-busting in respect of the prospects for migrants coming to this country. Clearly, the Home Secretary has been doing an awful lot with Border Force at no little expense to the British taxpayer, but Calais remains a magnet, so will she robustly respond to the deputy mayor of Calais, who seems to think that the UK should do more to let those people in? If we were not so effective with Border Force, many thousands more would be attracted to Calais to try to get into the UK illegally.
I assure my hon. Friend that we make those points clearly. He is absolutely right. That is why the juxtaposed controls are important to us. If a significant number of illegal migrants come through into the United Kingdom, an ever-increasing number of people would try to come through—it would act as a pull factor.
The Secretary of State rightly acknowledged that the situation in Calais is closely linked with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. We know that many of the people camped in Calais are from war-torn countries such as Syria. Do the Government not recognise therefore that, by participating in significant resettlement of refugees from Syria, cutting out the criminal gangs and providing the means for safe and legal transfer to the UK, they will be taking action that is helpful both for the situation in Calais and for the ongoing disaster in the Mediterranean?
I have a couple of responses to the hon. Gentleman. First, it is wrong to assume that all or the majority of people who are travelling across the Mediterranean are necessarily refugees from Syria. Significant numbers of people are coming from countries such as Senegal and Nigeria. People are paying organised criminal gangs—they are illegal migrants attempting to come into the United Kingdom and other European countries illegally. We must be clear about the need to deal with that.
Secondly, I have indicated that our Syrian vulnerable persons scheme will take several hundred people over a few years. A number of Syrian asylum seekers have been granted asylum in the United Kingdom. The Government and I remain of the view that the majority of our support is best given by supporting the refugees from Syria in the region, as we have done by providing £900 million in aid.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are witnessing the kind of large-scale migrations that were predicted some 20 years ago? We now need a much more comprehensive response from responsible countries to deal with the issue. I commend her for insisting to our European partners that they should seek to return people to their home countries rather than accepting them into the European Union, and for questioning the borderless Schengen area in Europe that encourages large-scale migration across our continent.
My hon. Friend is right: one of the keys to the problem is breaking the link between people making the journey and being able to settle in the UK or other parts of Europe. We work closely with other member states in the EU—such as the Italian authorities—to try to ensure that they are undertaking their responsibilities properly. As I have said, we have the benefit of not being part of the Schengen area and therefore being able to operate our own borders, but some action has been taken by other member states within that area to increase their ability to operate their borders.
There are more refugees today than at any time since the second world war because of so much violence and turmoil in the world. Support in the region is welcome, but it is not enough. Will the Home Secretary acknowledge that the Government’s refusal to accept some kind of EU refugee quota system is unfair and irresponsible? In the past, she has said that Britain has a proud tradition of standing up for refugees: now is the time to prove it by supporting such a measure.
The hon. Lady should take pride in the work that the United Kingdom is doing to support refugees from Syria. We are taking asylum seekers from Syria and we have our vulnerable persons relocation scheme. Crucially, we are working to support hundreds of thousands of people in the region with medical supplies, water, food and shelter, and that is the best place to spend the money because many of those people look forward to an opportunity to return to their homes in due course.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her tribute to the forbearance of the people of Kent—I might have chosen a slightly sharper word to describe the mood in Kent last week. In the context of the welcome increase in security at Calais that she has outlined, has she had any indication from the French authorities of increased security at the Eurotunnel exit at Coquelles? As she knows, it takes a third of the freight and, if it is kept secure, at least one route not directly associated with the Calais strike can be kept flowing at all times.
My right hon. Friend makes an important point. We are working with the French authorities to improve the security at Coquelles and with Eurotunnel on what more can be done on that route to ensure that we are able to protect the lorry drivers using it.
Can the Home Secretary tell the House when the secure waiting area will be up and running, whether it will be policed by French or British police officers operating under—presumably—French law, and what the cost will be?
The secure area will be in place in the autumn: we are working on putting it into place. I would expect it to be policed by the French police, because the British police do not police in other member states. We are providing £12 million, and the security arrangements we are putting in place in Calais will be paid for from that sum of money.
I commend my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for her comprehensive statement on tackling attempted illegal immigration from Calais. Can she assure me that the UK Border Force will not be diminished at other points of entry, such as Gatwick airport and elsewhere, where attempted illegal immigration can occur?
I recognise the significance of Gatwick airport for my hon. Friend and his constituency, and I assure him that UK Border Force is constantly looking to ensure that it is able to maintain security at all types of ports. That includes looking at security arrangements at some sea ports which have perhaps not had the same focus in the past.
I am grateful for the Home Secretary’s mentioning other ports. Has she had a chance to consider how porous the border is between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? Northern Ireland is seen as a key entry point for the United Kingdom, but there is no protection until mainland Britain is reached.
On the secure zone, can she tell us whether UKBF officials will be present or will it be left solely to French authorities? Clearly, we need to be sure that what is proposed for delivery in the autumn is as secure and protective as possible.
We have the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have ongoing discussions with the Irish Government about the arrangements for the external borders in particular of both countries.
On the new secure zone, Border Force officials of course operate in the port, and the area will be—I was going to use the phrase “to one side”—somewhere lorries can be stationed securely, rather than have to queue up on the road. It will be before they get to the juxtaposed controls.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s comprehensive statement and her agreement to meet Kent MPs to discuss the matter further. Has she received an assurance from the French Interior Minister that if more industrial action occurs this summer, swift action will be taken against strikers seeking to enter the tunnel and port site illegally to cause criminal damage, and that they will face prosecution if they do so?
I assure my hon. Friend that I have indeed discussed with my opposite number, the Interior Minister, the action that the French authorities will take and how they will approach any further strikes, should they take place. It is for the French authorities to decide how they will deal with those matters and for the French police to take their operational decisions, but I have made our concerns clear.
Does the Home Secretary agree with me and my constituent Mark, who runs a logistics company based in Holmfirth and who updated me on the situation in Calais over the weekend, that we should continue to work closely with freight and haulage bodies to ensure driver safety?
My hon. Friend is right: the Minister for Immigration spoke to representatives of the haulage industry yesterday, and that was not for the first time. He has had several meetings with representative organisations and hauliers, and he will continue to do so, because we need to keep the lorries moving.
Haulage is a prominent industry in Northamptonshire. Has any assessment been made of the losses that have been suffered by the industry as a result of the situation in Calais?
I am not aware that the industry has produced any such figures, but concerns arise in several areas—first is the strike action and the delays caused to hauliers. Secondly, if clandestines get into food lorries, the whole consignment often has to be destroyed. That is another incentive for us to do everything we can to stop illegal migrants entering the lorries.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] I wish to inform the House that in a correction to the business statement I made on Thursday, tomorrow’s business will begin with the Appropriations Bill and continue with a full day’s debate on the issue of English votes for English laws, as set out last week.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House—[Interruption.] Order. Ordinarily, when there is a change to business, there is a supplementary business statement to the House. If I may say so, that is the proper course to follow. In this place, we tend to be guided and governed to a considerable extent by precedent, and I simply make the point—I hope in a gentle, understated and courteous way—that following that precedent would seem to be sensible. It is not obvious why there should be a departure from it. That said, I thank the Leader of the House for what he has said. It is the fact that he has dealt with it in this way that has been the cause of some commotion.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. We found out only by accident that this change to the business was going to be announced to the House in this way—we heard about it through the media. Of course, we heard initially that the statutory instrument on hunting was to be debated on Thursday of this week only because we had a load of people from the pro-hunting lobby emailing us about it before it was announced to this House. That was then shifted to Wednesday at the business statement last week. We now learn through the media that it is being withdrawn altogether, while the debate on English votes for English laws has become a general debate. May I ask that we make provision in our Standing Orders for a business statement every day, because the Government seem to be getting into such a shambles with their own legislation?
The resources of civilisation have not been exhausted. Precisely because I thought that ordinarily such a matter would be treated by way of a supplementary business statement, and in light of the evident interest in the House in the matter, I will, with the agreement of the House, treat it as a supplementary business statement, in relation to which colleagues’ contributions are therefore not just invited but welcomed.
Order. Forgive me if I did not make myself sufficiently clear. We are very pleased to have the Leader of the House here. What I said was that, as this would normally be a supplementary business statement, we will operate on that basis. Therefore, there is no “Further to that point of order.” The right hon. Gentleman, in his full splendour, can now ask a question to which I hope he will elicit a reply from the Leader of the House.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I very much share your hope in that regard. When the Leader came to the House last Thursday, he told us:
As a consequence, I spent yesterday in a state of fevered anticipation, but went home at the end of the day an empty-handed and disappointed man. In fact, the draft set of modified Standing Orders was not published until after midday today. Do you know of any reason for that, Mr Speaker? How many hounds are we allowed to employ to flush out an explanation from the Leader of the House?
I have no knowledge of that matter. I very gently say to the right hon. Gentleman, whose humour has not deserted him, that his question and other questions must be directed not at me but at the Leader of the House, who can respond accordingly.