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Major Incident in Essex

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:43 pm, 28th October 2019

I thank the right hon. Lady for her comments. Let me be clear to the House: any form of trafficking and smuggling of individuals is completely wrong. She rightly highlights the appalling use of refrigerated lorries, which is effectively what we have seen in the case that she mentions and in what happened in Essex last week. The fact that these containers have been used and are being exploited by criminal gangs is a major issue that affects not just this country but other countries.

The right hon. Lady asks about checks; there are checks, and checks have been made when it comes to refrigerated lorries not just in the UK, but in other ports. She will appreciate, however, that, with the investigation that is taking place and the links with the Belgian authorities, there is much more information to come, specifically for the vehicle and the container that came through that particular port.

There are checks that take place in Zeebrugge as well. I said in my statement that we will escalate our work. There is a plan, working with my Belgian counterpart, to address the specifics of security issues in Zeebrugge and how we can extend more checks if required, although that is an operational decision not just at the port but with the Belgian authorities.

On the right hon. Lady’s question about co-operation, it is right that we co-operate internationally with all partners and all agencies—so, yes, that work is absolutely under way. There must be no doubt that even after we leave the EU, that co-operation will continue. As Home Secretary, I will not move away from high levels of co-operation. We will work day and night to make sure that we have the right processes and structures in place to ensure that that international collaboration continues and grows.