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Immigration Bill

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:03 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk 4:03 pm, 13th October 2015

I agree with the hon. Gentleman 100% on that. One must distinguish between the right to travel in the UK and people retiring, and people going to and working in any country they feel like and claiming benefits. This is a huge issue, but it is a debate we cannot have now, because you would call me to order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The Bill contains a number of important measures, and I agree with the Home Secretary that it builds on the coalition’s Immigration Act 2014. I welcome the approach of looking with a relentless focus at the mechanisms of the labour market. In the past, a constituency such as mine, with a large food and agricultural sector, has been plagued by the actions of illegal gangmasters—now licensed under the Gangmasters Licensing Authority—and the unscrupulous behaviour of some rogue employers and rogue landlords. That is why we need additional measures to deal with and clamp down on those residual practices taking place. My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point put it well when she pointed out that there is still some way to go, and we must have zero tolerance towards any malpractice.

In many ways, the Bill is a modest measure and many parts of it are long overdue. I particularly welcome the new powers that are going to be given to immigration officers and the powers that are going to be given to Border Force to target boats in British waters. I find it bizarre that hitherto Border Force has had no power to target boats in British waters that officers suspect of helping illegal migrants enter Britain, and I am glad that that is going to be changed.

As I said, I want briefly to say something about the nursing crisis in this country, not only because I have been in talks with my local hospital, but because I noticed that yesterday Jan Stevens, the chief nurse at London’s biggest NHS hospital trust, pointed out that there is likely to be a real problem in that trust and in other hospitals as a result of the cap being applied. She has estimated that it will affect up to nearly 3,700 nurses working in the UK and will deter others from coming here. She said:

“It would be catastrophic if we had to send all our international nurses home as a result of the cap.”

The Queen Elizabeth hospital in my constituency is excellent, but it faces a number of financial challenges, the biggest of which is the amount of money being spent on agency nurses—that figure is rising very rapidly. I know that the hospital, under the excellent leadership of Dorothy Hosein, the chief executive officer, and Edward Libbey, the chairman, has been making every effort to employ local nurses. They have held a number of events locally, including roadshows to try to attract people back into nursing, but after a great deal of effort they have secured the return of only one local nurse into the hospital. In the past, they have recruited a significant number of EU nurses from places such as Portugal and Spain, but I have to tell the House that this pool of talent is slowly diminishing and they now have to look further afield, to India and the Philippines, where there is a ready supply of nurses who speak very good English, who want to come here and who are properly qualified.