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Immigration Bill

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:32 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Home Secretary 2:32 pm, 13th October 2015

I stood alongside him and he said no such thing, so I will move on from that pointless intervention.

A number of organisations—Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Justice, the TUC and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants—have expressed serious reservations about the Bill. They believe it could damage social cohesion, force children into destitution, undermine efforts to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery, erode human rights and civil liberties, and lead to widespread discrimination.

Let me take those issues in turn, starting with the potential for discrimination. Clause 12 in part 2 amends the Immigration Act 2014 to make it a criminal offence for a landlord to rent premises to an individual with no immigration status, punishable by five years in prison. The measure is intended to underpin the national roll-out of the Government’s right to rent scheme, as the Home Secretary said. I am not against asking landlords to carry out reasonable checks of identity documents, as they already do, but there are a couple of points to make. First, landlords are not border or immigration experts, they are not trained in reading official paperwork from around the world, and they are not experts in spotting forged documents, so on what basis are we planning to outsource immigration control to them? Will not the regulatory burden that this will impose on landlords be way beyond the capacity that many can manage? Secondly, given all that, is it really proportionate to threaten them with jail, and will not that have a major impact on the housing market and the way it works?

The House will recall that in the previous Parliament the Government tried to bring forward the same proposals, but given the huge implications, not least for private landlords, they were forced to back down and pilot them. A commitment was given to this House that the findings of the pilot would be presented to us before the Government proceeded any further. That was the commitment given by those on the Front Bench. We learned yesterday that that commitment will not be honoured. Although the Home Office has conducted its study, it will not present its findings until the Committee stage. That is not good enough. This House should not be in a position where it is being asked by the Home Secretary to vote tonight on measures that could have a huge impact in every constituency represented here today without evidence for what those measures might do. It is not just a discourtesy; it is downright dangerous. She is asking us to be complicit in legislating in haste, and this House should have none of it.

Let me explain why. We know that right to rent could cause widespread discrimination, not just against migrants but against British citizens. In the absence of the Government’s study, an independent survey was carried out by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. It found that in the west midlands, the pilot area, 42% of landlords said that right to rent had made them less likely to consider someone who does not have a British passport, while 27% were now more reluctant—as my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner has said—to engage with those with foreign accents or names. Those are very serious findings. Why on earth is the Home Office not presenting its own information to the House so that we can establish whether it is correct?