Clause 34 — Appeals within the United Kingdom: certification of human rights claims

Part of Consumer Protection (Standards of Fire Resistance of Children’s Fancy Dress and Play Costumes Etc) – in the House of Commons at 6:37 pm on 1st December 2015.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Home Secretary 6:37 pm, 1st December 2015

My hon. Friend has more experience than anybody in the House of the workplaces that might be most affected by the Bill. He is absolutely right to say that unscrupulous employers—sadly, they do exist in the construction industry—will feel emboldened by the Bill. They will know that exploited people on building sites will no longer have the courage to report them to the authorities. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary says that is “desperate”, but those people are desperate and she is putting them in a worse position. She needs to think about that before she puts the Bill into law.

Another concern is about clause 34, which removes support from families—a power that the Home Office has long sought; the proposal was put to me as a Minister and piloted under the last Labour Government. The official evaluation of that pilot found no evidence of increased removals but plenty of families going underground and losing touch with the authorities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central said in the debate, there is also the shunting of costs from the Home Office to local authorities.

In the end, however, the question we need to ask ourselves is much more fundamental: should any child—whoever they are, wherever they come from—be denied food and clothes while they are on British soil? I do not think so and I would venture to say that most Members on both sides would, in their heart of hearts, think the same. The great irony is that it was the then Conservative Opposition—specifically, the shadow Home Office team—in the last but one Parliament who led the charge against what was then known as clause 9. They were right to force the then Government to pilot this change, and we were right to drop the whole idea once the results of the pilot were clear. If what they said was right then, why is it not right now?

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper on raising widely held concerns about the need for immigration rules that allow for the reunification of refugee families. She spoke powerfully about that. I hope that the Government will continue to look at this, particularly at new clause 11, which calls for a review of the rules.

Finally, I turn to the concern about the potential of the Bill to increase discrimination and erode basic rights and liberties. We live in the most challenging of times when there is no shortage of people with extreme views who seek to set race against race and religion against religion. We are legislating in a febrile climate in which discrimination can easily flourish, and this House must take great care that nothing we do adds to that. The right response to these challenges is not to erode important rights and liberties but to do the exact opposite—to protect and champion them. Given the huge backlog in the Home Office and its consistently poor record on initial decisions, the deport first, appeal later approach could undermine Britain’s position in the world as a bastion of fair play and higher ideals. Despite the evidence published by the Government, I remain concerned that the threat of imprisonment to landlords who rent flat or houses to people without immigration status could lead to discrimination in the housing market, and a greater sense among black and Asian young people that they are being victimised.

Let me end on a more positive note that gives us a glimmer of hope for the Bill’s onward passage to another place. I am pleased that the Minister, whom Labour Members have time for, has conceded significant ground on immigration detention. That has had strong support from Members on both sides, including Richard Fuller, who has Yarl’s Wood detention centre in his constituency and has long called for a more humane system.