New Plan for Immigration

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:57 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:57 pm, 24th March 2021

First, let me take the right hon. Gentleman’s distasteful comparisons to Windrush head-on. Members of the Windrush generation came to the UK lawfully to help rebuild Britain, and they were wronged by successive Governments, including Labour Governments. It is simply insulting to attempt to draw parallels between them and those entering our country unlawfully.

Not only are this Government ensuring that Windrush victims receive compensation—the compensation that they deserve—but today I am announcing new measures to fix historical anomalies in British nationality law to ensure that members of the Windrush generation can receive British citizenship more easily. That is a Conservative Home Secretary, and a Conservative Prime Minister and Government, righting these wrongs. As I have set out previously in the House, the Home Office is absolutely committed to supporting victims of the Windrush generation, and that is why today I have launched the biggest and most wide-ranging consultation when it comes to this new plan for immigration.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman commented on the record of Conservatives in government, so let me just set out some facts for him. From the expulsion of Ugandan Asians, such as my own family members, from a repressive regime; to proudly resettling more refugees than any other EU country, as he heard me say in my statement; to supporting campaigners fleeing political persecution in Hong Kong—that is the record of Conservatives when it comes to humanitarianism. Under the Conservative leadership of this Government, the United Kingdom will always provide sanctuary to people who are having the light switched off on their own liberty and personal freedoms, and this new plan will build on that.

Thirdly, I am quite astonished by the tone of the right hon. Gentleman’s comments, repeatedly suggesting that we just turn a blind eye to people attempting to come into our country illegally—people being smuggled in small boats and in the back of lorries. He will well know that we in this House have stood too often to hear about the tragedy of people who have died, whether in the channel or the back of refrigerated lorries. I will not apologise for being abundantly clear that an illegal journey to the UK is not worth the risk. That is what this plan is about: tackling illegal migration, protecting lives, and, of course, alongside that creating new routes.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman accuses me and the Government of lacking compassion. He accuses me of taking an inhumane approach. I suggest politely to him that he should not resort to personal attacks of that nature. I, and my own family in particular, understand what oppression is like and, after fleeing persecution, sought refuge in the United Kingdom, just like millions of others who have successfully rebuilt their lives. That lack of substance is not surprising, because the Labour party has no plans to fix the broken system. In fact, I understand that last night, the Labour party’s response to my plan was very much to look at my plan. As long as Labour Members are devoid of a plan of substance, they are defending a broken system that is encouraging illegal migration and supporting criminality. They are defending a system that is enabling an established criminal trade in asylum seekers, and causing human misery. It is a system that disregards the world’s most vulnerable, elbowing women and children to the side. It is a system that all too often, as I have seen, results in the tragic loss of life.

A family of five drowned on their way to this country—our country—only last year; in 2019, 39 victims were found dead in Purfleet in the back of a refrigerated lorry. That is inhumane. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour party are prepared to be associated with that criminal trade in asylum seeking and human misery, he is the one who lacks compassion. That is not a position that we will take, and I will not be complicit in defending the indefensible on that basis.

Finally, it is extraordinary to hear lectures about our border from the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour party, when it is still official Labour party policy to maintain and extend free movement rights, as per its party conference motion. In effect, that is to have open borders. We are the only party that is prepared to tackle illegal migration, show compassion to those who have been trafficked in the world, and create safe and legal routes, so that we help to save lives.