I welcome this Bill, which brings in a points-based immigration system to ensure that immigration is controlled and that we have the skilled workforce that we need not just from the European Union but from around the world. Yet, while it is important to gain immigration status for the people with the skills that we need, it is also important that we have effective border security, particularly when freedom of movement comes to an end.
Last December, I was pleased to accompany the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Kevin Foster, the Minister on the Front Bench tonight, in our joint inspection of the Dover Border Force operations at the docks. I thank the men and women of our Dover Border Force together with all in Her Majesty’s Coastguard and the RNLI for the sterling work that they do day in and day out, putting themselves in harm’s way and saving lives.
As the sun sets this evening, I can look across the English channel and see the twinkling lights of Calais. France is fewer than 21 miles away—more than three times closer than London. France is our long-term ally, but it is also our nearest European border. Great Britain is an island, our waters are her moat, and the stretch that Dover guards to France is and always has been our most vulnerable point of entry. That is why Julius Caesar first tried to land at Dover, before he was repelled by doughty Dovorians of past times.
The challenges we face today are a different kind of army; it is the army of people traffickers—organised crime gangs who prey on the vulnerable and the less vulnerable, all of whom have made the decision not to use legal points of entry or to stay safe in France, and many other countries before France. These illegal entrants can pay the traffickers up to £4,000 to break into our country, knowing that there is little or no chance of being returned once they get in. This is an unacceptable situation and has been for a long time. I strongly welcome the robust work of the Home Secretary in working afresh with France to stop more boats leaving the French shores and seeking to return would-be illegal entrants to France. However, it is incumbent on us, as Members of this House, to give the Home Secretary the legal tools that will support her and the Government in their clear determination to put a stop to this criminal trade in people, and to ensure that we can attract the skills that our country wants and needs from across the globe.
This Bill is about restoring the legal powers to control our own borders, to set our own rules, to encourage and welcome those we invite to our country, and to send away those who engage in criminal activity, such as illegal entrants. In Dover, we know that it is only when people traffickers and migrants alike know that they will not succeed in breaking into Britain that we will bring an end to these small boat crossings—and bring an end to them we must. The Dover straits is one of the most important and busiest shipping lanes in the world. There has already been loss of life in the English channel through this illegal activity. Every day longer that the activity continues, it risks further loss of life.
I welcome the Bill, which brings in a points-based immigration system to ensure that immigration is controlled and that we have the skilled workforce that we need, not just from the EU but from around the world, together with a framework for effective border security, to stop criminal activity and to save lives.