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Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:34 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Chair, Administration Committee 2:34 pm, 16th October 2019

Perhaps Carol Monaghan will take an interest in the new immigration Bill.

It will come as a big surprise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to learn that I am an ethnic minority immigrant. I cheer for England in Japan, but I put my money on the All Blacks! I came here as a newly graduated health professional just before the UK entered the common market. I was allowed in on a work permit. That system enabled the UK to encourage the people who it needed to come here, and they came from a number of countries, most of them in the Commonwealth.

Many of those countries were our kith and kin, and many supported the allies in world war two. Immigrants were selected for their expertise on application from outside the UK. That stopped when we entered the common market, and even visitors from those nations entered through the “alien” gates at our airports. A considerable proportion of the people who might have brought their expertise to the UK transferred their interest to nations such as Canada and America, and we lost out. I hope that we will now broaden our intake to include those countries under the new system, attracting the people who we need.

Let me now raise a second and parochial point. I am delighted by the proposed boost to research and development funding and the launch of a comprehensive UK space strategy. In Holmbury St Mary, a tiny village in the southern hills of Mole Valley, is the UCL space station. It is hidden in the forest, in an old manor-type house. Just inside the front door is a huge entrance hall, where there are two 20-foot old-fashioned—now—rockets. Behind the manor are modern research buildings enabling world class research to take place. The station has research partnerships across the world, leading space research for the UK, and has been providing advanced, state-of-the-art instruments in many international space ventures. I hope that the Government’s proposed comprehensive space strategy will help that unit to increase the contribution that it already makes to this country.

Also of personal interest to me are the proposed new regulations for internet companies. The main aim—but not the only aim—is to protect children and young people from sexual abuse and radicalisation. Notwithstanding what some Members have said today, the UK leads innovations on child protection. It is one of a number of issues on which Members on both sides of the House, whatever Government have been in power, have worked closely together over the past few decades. For example, in 2002 and 2003 I joined a number of professional experts working in a team for the Home Office and reporting to David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, and we introduced the groundbreaking legislation that made it a crime to groom a child for sexual purposes. I hope that the same co-operation will apply when the new regulations are introduced. I also hope that Members with an interest in child protection will be aware of the need to reflect further on some aspects of the serious violence and victims Bills in the context of child protection and care.

In 1994, I was the MP for the then constituency of Croydon Central. In one of the big council estates, a popular, well-liked metropolitan police officer, Sergeant Robertson, was murdered by Robert Eades. Eades and two brothers, Terry and Christopher Snelling, attempted to rob a local post office on the estate. Sergeant Robertson, on his own and armed with a truncheon, tried to stop the robbery. The three escaped, although they were later caught. As they escaped, they fought with Sergeant Robertson, who was knocked down, and Eades stabbed that gallant police officer persistently with a weapon called a black widow dagger. The police officer died in minutes. He left a wife as a widow, and two small children.

The Snelling brothers went down for 12 years, but at least one of them was released after six. On conviction, Eades was sentenced to life with a minimum of 25 years. That means he can apply for parole next year. Mrs Robertson and her children lost a husband and a father for life—not for six years, not for 25 years, but for life—and for this reason and many others I will be specifically watching the new sentencing Bill with deep interest.

There are quite a number of other Bills in the Queen’s Speech that I am enthusiastic to see through to the statute book either before or with a returning Conservative Government after the election. I suspect that many Members on both sides are in their heart supportive of many of the proposed Bills in the Queen’s Speech and, in the past, whatever the Government, cross-party support has happened.