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Immigration Bill

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, Bedford 5:21 pm, 13th October 2015

Some of the speeches from Opposition Members have done a bit of a disservice to our Home Secretary. I think that history will reveal her to have been an outstanding Home Secretary, given her capacity to cover the range of issues that the Home Office has to deal with, and the immediacy and potency of some of those issues. Those Members have also missed some of the breakthroughs that she has made in identifying issues of abuse, particularly in relation to people trafficking, and of discrimination in relation to stop and search that other Home Secretaries have not addressed. We must put that on the record to balance the argument.

As many people have said, it is undoubtedly true that immigration is the No. 1 issue. It is equally true to say that the vast majority of people who believe that to be the case are not anti-immigrant. However, they have specific things that they want to see in our immigration policies. They want to know that the system is under control. They want to know that the numbers of people coming to this country are reasonable and that our borders are secure. They want to know that the people who come here make not just an average contribution— a break-even contribution—but an above-average contribution to our country. As we have heard from people who are themselves the daughters of migrants, they also want to know that the people who come here will do their best to integrate into the country that they now call home. And of course, they want those people who they believe have no right to be here to leave or to be removed.

As I look through the Bill, I miss the provisions relating to many of those early points. The focus of much of it is on that last point. It says, “Please leave.” It asks, “What can we do to encourage you to leave?” I ask the Minister to listen to what hon. Members have said about the importance of evidence in pursuing the policies in the Bill. If we cannot supply evidence to support the measures we are taking, I fear that some of the negative consequences—some of which have perhaps been presented today with a bit of hyperbole—might indeed come to pass.

I am worried that the Bill focuses too strongly on symptoms rather than on the underlying causes of the concerns about immigration in this country. Our previous Bills have contained a number of measures that have precisely targeted the causes, dealing with bogus colleges, spousal visas and even the English test. I do not see much in this Bill to reinforce my belief that that is a continuing thread of the efforts of our Government’s policies.

Above all, we want measures that deal with immigration but avoid things that are costly, ineffective or unjust. Will the Minister therefore support efforts that would limit detention in certain circumstances? He is aware of a case involving a pregnant women. He wrote to me at the end of last year saying that her healthcare had been adequately provided—he was relying on second-hand advice—but as we found out last week in the High Court that was not the case. Continuing with the detention of pregnant women leaves us open to these sorts of abuses in the future. This Bill is an opportunity to correct that, address the position of victims of torture and rape, and introduce a limit on the period of detention for people who are subject to immigration regulations.

As has been said, this is not just about the extension of powers, but about how well we are using the powers we already have. I urge the Minister to provide more information in Committee about how the current powers are being used and why they are not sufficient. Many of us do not wish to see landlords and business people used as the front line of our Border Force; we are concerned about the potential for them to be criminalised. We are also concerned that as we put further pressure on people’s ability to stay in this country we will drive them to vagrancy and crime. I am sure that is not the intention, but I am also sure the Minister can see the potential for that in some of these measures. We have to get the balance right. The same applies on the issue I raised in my question to the Home Secretary about potential discrimination, which has been widely mentioned today.