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Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker.
My father came to the UK to escape the Kenyan Asian crisis in 1968. His arrival probably saved his life. My mother was recruited in Mauritius as a girl of 18, and she has just passed her 45th year of service as a nurse. More passionate patriots cannot be imagined. It is clear that immigration has brought huge benefits to this country. We have a proud tradition of offering refuge, opportunity and a better life to those who take the risk of leaving their homeland.
I echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend Richard Fuller about how compassion is the golden thread running through our approach to immigration. In fact, my parents’ experience has informed my strong belief that the immigrant story is a Conservative story—one of risk, starting from scratch, working hard and living frugally, all in the name of aspiration, endeavour and self-responsibility. That is why I am proud to be a member of the party proposing this Bill, which is aimed at tackling the root problems inherent in the broken immigration system that we inherited in 2010.
Little is more contentious: last year, immigration overtook the economy as the most important concern of British voters. The aspiration to reduce net migration is sensible, and the Bill goes to the heart of the existing problems in our system. It deals with the loopholes exploited by illegal immigrants, meets the need for greater enforcement and investigation powers, and reduces appeal rights to streamline the system.
Before I came into Parliament, I worked as a Treasury counsel, defending the Home Office in immigration cases, and I saw how the system has been improved over the past five years. The Immigration Act 2014 did much to tackle the pull factors that draw people here. It made it easier to deport foreign criminals by enacting the principle of “deport first, appeal later” and ending the abuse of the right to family life.
Prior to the 2014 Act, I saw at first hand how that right was stretched so far as to make it laughable and pitiful. I was involved in a case that involved the removal of a foreign criminal. One would have thought that it would be straightforward to justify the removal of a convicted class A drug smuggler, but because of the huge number of appeal rights, activist claimant lawyers and technical loopholes, as well as the backlog of cases in the courts system, it took nearly two years and thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to finally persuade the Court of Appeal that the public interest in deportation outweighed the human right to a family life in Britain. Thankfully, the number of such cases is diminishing, as is reflected by the Court of Appeal jurisprudence in cases such as MF (Nigeria) and SS (Nigeria).
I worked on many cases involving sham marriages, bogus colleges and overturned detention decisions. I saw the practical effect of the huge backlog of 800,000 asylum cases on the Home Office. We have brought that number down to just over 20,000.