Duty to commission an independent evaluation: health and social care sectors

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe 5:00 pm, 30th June 2020

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that, and I certainly share his sentiment, but, for reasons that I am going to come on to in a moment, I am going to try to avoid any words of condemnation. I wish to thank Detention Action for providing a helpful briefing, which points out that the claim that trafficking victims, with whom it works, are rarely detained beyond 28 days is “not true”. It has given us a number of accounts, but I am sorry to say I do not have time to read all of them into the record. However, it states:

“J had to leave her country of origin because her partner, who held a senior position in the army, was abducted and she was raped by the people who abducted him. When she tried…to leave her country, she ended up being trafficked”.

The story goes on and on. Such a person ought to be helped. We have a real problem with people who have been trafficked all too often ending up with criminal offences; we end up prosecuting, whereas they are people for whom we should have compassion. I do not doubt that these cases raise extremely delicate and tricky issues of evidence and justice, because, of course, some people will plead falsely that they have an excuse under a trafficking law, but we really do have to rise to the challenge of looking after people such as J, and indeed A and P, whose stories are in this briefing.

On this point about the availability of bail meaning that people are not detained for longer than they should be, let me say that that is not correct. I understand that £8 million was paid out in unlawful detention cases in 2019, and that judges have wide discretion—indeed, my right hon. Friend’s new clauses try to reduce that discretion. Bail decisions can be made on the basis of very limited evidence, and first tier tribunal judges in bail hearings do not have jurisdiction to decide the lawfulness of detention, only the High Court can do that. On and on the evidence goes, but I do not have time to put it all on the record.

What do I really want to say to the Minister? I want to praise him and officials, because I recognise, after 10 years of representing Wycombe, diverse as it is, that dealing with immigration is an extremely delicate, difficult and tricky job, characterised by very high volumes of often heartbreaking case work. I want to pay tribute to officials and I do not want us to be in an environment of condemnation, where people who are working hard and doing their best, with high levels of skill, end up with so much incoming fire. I do, however, want to say to the Minister that I could have stood here for another 20 minutes going through cases of injustice and setting out areas where there is opportunity for reform.

As a former Brexit Minister responsible for legislation, I recognise that this is an EU withdrawal Bill and its scope is:

“To make provision to end rights to free movement of persons under retained EU law” and so on. Listening to the debate, it seems that we have perhaps forgotten that this is the Report stage of such a Bill. I understand the scope of the Bill and that this is not the end of the journey on immigration, but I say as gently as possible to the Minister that when he comes to the Dispatch Box I am hoping that he will set out something of where the Government intend, in the round, to get to on these issues of justice in the migration system and, in particular, on the principle of indefinite detention. It is right, morally, that we should treat people equally, wherever they come from, whether they are UK citizens or not. With that in mind, we really should be working towards ending indefinite detention, and we should certainly make progress on all those other areas on which I can and will provide details to the Minister. I hope we can do that without an endless series of urgent questions and Adjournment debates.