Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:01 pm on 28th January 2019.

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Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley 8:01 pm, 28th January 2019

I, too, want to send my condolences. Maybe it is convenient that I am speaking after Alex Burghart, because I was born and raised, and both my children were born and raised, in Birmingham Hall Green. I am sure I express the feelings of everybody in Birmingham when I send massive condolences to the Member and his family. It does not matter what path we tread, we are all human in this place. Any man who loved the city that I love has my full and utmost respect. Best wishes to his family.

I want to say a massive thank you to Members who have spoken throughout the debate about their support for Birmingham. They may not have noticed it, but many Government Members have been encouraging more spending in areas where there is high migration. I thank those Conservative Members who have suggested that Birmingham needs more resources. Perhaps the Minister could explain to me why so many of those resources have been cut when they feel that way about areas with high migration. It sticks slightly in the craw of a person who grew up in Birmingham to listen to people, who do not live among migrants and who do not live in diverse places, talk about how difficult it is for communities who have to live in places of high migration. Well, it is not difficult. It is not difficult at all. It is a total pleasure to live among migrant communities. My husband is very concerned. He believes he may be the only person in the entirety of Birmingham not to have heritage elsewhere that allows him a passport in these testing times. Pretty much everybody in Birmingham is from somewhere else. My Irish heritage has never felt closer to me than in these testing times. It is for my city that I stand here and I want to defend migration.

Actually, I am not just standing here and saying, “I really love living in a diverse place.” I have real concerns about the Bill. I have spoken many times to the Immigration Minister about the real, deep-seated concerns I have about immigration: certain misuses of spousal visas, situations where we are not preventing problems such as forced marriage, and other issues that really need to be addressed. I see some of the worst elements of our immigration system, both on the part of the Home Office and on the part of the people who wish to abuse it. I am not here to say that everything is perfect, everything in the garden is rosy, and that we should just open our borders and let everybody in. I am not saying that for a second. But what worries me most about the Bill are the powers that will take away the scrutiny of this place.

I will tell a little story, which Ministers have heard before and maybe the House has heard before, about how the scrutiny of this place makes a difference to our law—although we need to go much further. My constituent who rang the police to tell them that her husband had threatened to kill her ended up in Yarl’s Wood. She was not taken to a place of safety; she was taken to a place of detention. I am incredibly proud of her. She was one of the brave women who, with Southall Black Sisters and Liberty, asked for court action, as a result of which the Government have now stated that a firewall must be put in place between victims of domestic abuse and the detention system. However, what we are being offered currently is not good enough and we are about to extend it to millions more people, so we have to get it right. I will, through the various channels in this House, be seeking special immigration status for women and any victim of domestic and sexual violence. I am sure the Minister will want to work with me on that. But without that scrutiny, without people like me in this House standing up and telling these stories, those laws would not be changing.

My deep worry is that the system proposed in the Bill will not be independent enough. Let us be honest. Those on one side of the House have far less experience of working with the immigration system and its pitfalls than those of us on the Opposition Benches. I imagine that I do more immigration casework in one day than some Conservative Members do in an entire year. It is only right that this place is the place of scrutiny for immigration. That should not be abandoned and given over in Henry VIII powers.