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Forgive me for being cynical, but the number given earlier in the debate was 900 and now it is 600. That underlines the fact that there is misinformation; there is no evidence base for this Bill. There is no evidence base for the assertion of 900 or 600. What is the right figure? We need to know the facts.
The opportunities for prejudice and discrimination will be rife as a result of this Bill. It places a duty on banks and building societies to carry out regular checks on the immigration status of individuals and to notify the Home Office when a person becomes disqualified from holding a current account. I have a degree of sympathy with that proposal, on the face of it. A failed immigration applicant should not have access to banking or other services, but I worry about the unintended consequences, not least for our own citizens from other cultures or for perfectly legitimate immigrants. How many failed immigration applicants actually have a stash of cash that would need to be frozen? Would freezing such assets serve any purpose, save that of scoring obvious political points? These provisions could result in serious intrusion into the lives of all our citizens if they were applied in the wrong circumstances.
The Bill also contains the power to seize and detain vehicles driven by illegal immigrants. It provides for the prosecution and imprisonment and/or fining of those who drive if they are illegal immigrants, even if they are in possession of a valid driving licence from another state. Again, on the face of it, that might appear sensible, but I have to ask: do we really have a problem with lots of failed immigration applicants clogging up our streets and creating traffic jams with their cars, or is this just another point-scoring exercise?
How these provisions are to be regulated and enforced should be a matter for rigorous debate in this place. It is clear that the Bill is fixated on reducing the net migration figures, and in so doing—as has been admitted by Conservative Members—reducing the attractiveness of the UK as a place where skilled migration is welcomed.
The Home Secretary’s dangerously aggressive speech to her party’s conference was a class act in striking more fear where it does not belong. The Bill will extend that fear to those who might not even have done anything wrong. How many UK citizens with foreign-sounding names will have their lives disrupted and become disfranchised as a result of these measures before we realise that this has been a mistake? I believe that the nut that this sledgehammer of a Bill has been designed to smash will pale into insignificance beside the can of worms that the provisions will open.