[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 10:05 am on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary 10:05 am, 11th January 2019

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. As he says, there is already a backlog of people wishing to test this system. If I were on the Treasury Bench, I would be a little more humble about the possibilities of that system. This is about real people’s lives, and businesses have concerns about how it will work.

In my lifetime, the thinking and public debate about migration has largely moved forward. It says something about that forward movement that the two people who face each other across the Dispatch Box this morning are both the children of migrants, even if they come from diametrically opposed political positions. The concern with the heated and toxic debate around Brexit and migration is that that general debate might go backwards, not forwards. Indeed, people who have seen the scenes outside the House of Commons this week and in the past would do well to be concerned about the possibility of that debate going backwards. We have seen unpleasant scenes and attacks on Members of Parliament going about their business, on journalists, and even a black policeman was abused by those Brexit campaigners. We must be mindful to have a debate that moves forward and does not look back or excite passions, and that at all times acknowledges the important role that migration has played—and hopefully will continue to play—in building this country. In its efforts to pander to certain elements of the British electorate, the House at least must maintain a respectful and serious debate about migration.

On EU migrants, I repeat that from what we know about the immigration and nationality directorate from advice surgeries and individual case loads, there must be doubt about its capacity to process more than 3 million people speedily and efficiently. I remind the House of the concerns about security and the safety of the realm among stakeholders such as the former heads of MI6 and defence chiefs, and those in Brussels. I do not know whether Conservative Members have had occasion to go to Brussels and talk to stakeholders and commissioners, but if they have done so they will be aware of the very real concerns.

Whether on migration, EU migrants, or safety and security, Labour does not believe that this deal meets the tests we have set out. We regret that there has been such a huge break in this debate, but it has now resumed and Labour Members are saying that we will not be voting for the deal. It is wholly dishonest to say that the choice is between this deal or nothing—wholly dishonest. We will not vote for this deal. We believe that the country deserves better, and that the deal does not engage with the serious issues of security and migration that it needs to address. We will go through the Lobby to vote down this deal, and I only hope that those on the Treasury Bench have a plan B.