Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
It is a pleasure to follow Gavin Robinson. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have made the important point—I am sure that this is neither an intention of the Bill, nor an outcome—about the sensitivity of names with regard to lettings policies. The hon. Member for Belfast East comes from a community where being allocated a house, or indeed given a job, might often have depended upon having a Protestant-sounding or Catholic-sounding name. That is a sensitivity that we should be alert to, as I have little or no doubt Government Front Benchers are.
Let me turn briefly to the reasoned amendment that stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and others. I think that this is the first time I have seen a U-turn performed in an amendment. The first two thirds of the amendment are in full praise and support of the Bill, but then it rests its reason why we should not give it a Second Reading on an argument that a report that is to be published
“could cause widespread indirect discrimination”.
I do not think that that is a particularly well argued point from the Opposition. Given the amount of time that they have spent thinking about their position on immigration, I think that we might have expected a little better.
There are some very nasty people out there in our communities, and they have some very nasty views on this sensitive subject, which I have no doubt they will articulate with force and passion from their armchairs and in the saloon bars. But those nasty views are not put forward in this Bill. The Bill does not try to debate—because this is not the kernel of the argument—whether immigration is a good or bad thing, and it does not seek to further or foster racism or discrimination; it seeks purely to find better ways of defining the legal and the illegal. There is no qualitative judgment on an immigrant community the vast majority of whom play a full and active part in British life and are welcomed to our shores.
When my family and I moved house relatively recently, we were assisted by a very hard-working man from Poland. When he discovered what I did for a living, he quaked and said, “You don’t want me here, do you? I’d better go.” I said, “No, not at all.” It is a helpful irony, in many respects, that we are debating this issue on the anniversary of the birth of Lady Thatcher, who did so much to champion the rights of people from the former eastern bloc to come to the west. That free movement of people is something we should celebrate and support. We must understand, however, that it cannot and should not be unfettered. When I stood in the 2010 election—I fought Cardiff South and Penarth, and Cardiff South and Penarth fought back—established members of the immigrant, but very settled, community in Grangetown and Butetown said to me, “For God’s sake, Governments have to get a handle on this because we are starting to feel anxious. We are starting to feel that the Government have lost the plot.” That struck me as a very forceful endorsement of the main thrust of this policy and this Bill.
I am surprised by Labour’s tone with regard to the main thrust of the Bill in trying to clamp down on illegal working and exploitation. This is a matter of human welfare. We have all heard horrible stories of the terrible conditions of people forced to work in this country because they are here illegally and their existence can therefore be abused. It is absolutely right—I hope that it would unify the House—that we should focus on that and try to correct it and remove it from our national life.
I strongly welcome the proposed appeals process, but it will come as no surprise to the Minister that I, and no doubt many in this House, believe that the Home Office needs to up the speed with which it determines these appeals.
I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast East that it is a surprise that a language requirement has not existed in our public sector, and I very much welcome it.