Scheduling of Parliamentary Business

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 8:17 pm on 17th July 2017.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 8:17 pm, 17th July 2017

My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire, some hon. Gentlemen and, of course, the Speaker, are gallant, but I can assure them that I have no difficulty with the chuntering going on to my left. It certainly will not put me off my stride.

I was suggesting that the Government need to bring forward a debate on the Floor of the House on the basis for their immigration policy. We heard during the general election campaign that the Prime Minister wants to stick with the unrealistic targets that she has missed for seven years. The reason why the targets are unrealistic is that they are based on ideology, not evidence. We need an evidence-based debate on the Floor of the House about immigration policy for the whole of the UK. If we have that, we will see that immigrants are on average more likely to be in work, better educated and younger than the indigenous population, and that Scotland’s demographic needs are such that we require a progressive immigration policy. As I said earlier, business in Scotland wants this; the Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors in Scotland have said that they want the post-student work visa bought back, and a different immigration policy for Scotland, given its unique democratic needs. Let us have a debate about that, rather than about process.

Countries such as Canada and Australia manage to operate differential immigration procedures within their federation. Professor Christina Boswell of the University of Edinburgh has produced an excellent report evaluating the options for a differentiated approach to immigration policy in Scotland. There is cross-party support in Scotland for the post-study work visa; even the Scottish Tory party supports its return, so what will the Tory MPs do about that, and when will we have a debate about it on the Floor of the House?

Another important issue from the last Parliament is the plight of child refugees in Europe. Many of us, including Conservative Members, fought for their rights, and we got the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016. Last week, I attended the launch of a report by the Human Trafficking Foundation that followed an independent inquiry on separated and unaccompanied minors in Europe. It reveals that the UK Government have woefully failed those children, and that Ministers have done

“as little as legally possible” to help unaccompanied children in Europe. It says that the Government have turned from a humanitarian crisis that “would not be tolerable” to the British public if they could see the truth of what was happening in France. When will we be able to hold the Government to account for the promises that they made when the Dubs amendment was agreed to, and for bringing only 480 minors to the United Kingdom when the understanding was that they would bring in 3,000? When will we have a debate about that important issue? We must find time in this Parliament to force the Government to rectify their dereliction of the duty that we imposed on them when we agreed the Dubs amendment.

Finally, on the connected issue of human rights, hon. Members have mentioned the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that was brought forward last week. Clause 5 makes it clear that the Government do not intend the EU charter of fundamental rights to become part of what they call domestic law after Brexit. This must be challenged and debated immediately. There was a time not so long ago when the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was a great fan of the charter. He liked it so much that he used it to take up a legal challenge against the “snooper’s charter”, which ended up in the European Court of Justice, but he has changed his mind, and he has brought forward a draft Bill under which a whole swathe of rights and protections enjoyed by our constituents will go, if the Bill is passed unamended. Where is the debate about that?