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Immigration Bill

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 6:28 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Craig Mackinlay Craig Mackinlay Conservative, South Thanet 6:28 pm, 13th October 2015

I appreciate that there are differences across the country, but in my constituency in particular, the issue of immigration was on the lips of many.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) and for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst), who have visited many of the camps in Calais. Like them, the mayor of Calais herself has recognised that many of the problems that she faces on a daily basis result from the perception of Britain as an easy touch when it comes to working and doing the wrong thing. The Bill will deal with that.

I want to say something about under-the-counter working. The existing civil sanctions were stiffened last year by the Immigration Act 2014, under which illegal employers face a £20,000 civil fine. According to the figures for the last few years, 2,150 civil penalties were issued in 2014, but I would guess that that figure is probably much lower than the reality. The companies involved are often low-asset businesses, or have no assets at all; and the fines have been levied only on businesses. The figures suggest that that the number of illegal employers has not been reduced by the increase in the fine to £20,000.

I welcome the criminal action that will result from the Bill. I pay tribute to the former shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, for the question that she asked on 11 November 2014, at about the same time that she took some photographs during the Rochester and Strood by-election. It was an extremely pertinent question about the number of criminal sanctions that had been imposed under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. The answer was just 19. We need the criminal sanction in the Bill, because the civil penalties do not seem to be doing the job.

I also want say something about driving offences. It is considered to be far too easy for illegal immigrants to secure driving licences. That is an issue for the DVLA to address, but I was reassured when the Home Secretary said earlier today that 9,000 licences had been revoked last year. Anne McLaughlin asked my hon. Friend Mims Davies how many deaths there might have been. I do not know the answer, and I suggest that the hon. Lady should ask the appropriate written or oral parliamentary question, but to my mind one death caused by an illegal driver is one too many.