We have received a copy of “Enforcing the rules” by the Home Office with a foreword by the Minister. I know irony is not dead in the Home Office because one of the chapter titles is “Making it happen”, which is something we have not seen from the Home Office for the past 10 years.
I would be interested to hear the Minister’s reasoned, coherent objection to a border agency. I have examined the literature and the comments of a previous Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), in his response to the 2001 Select Committee on Home Affairs report. There seems to be no real issue of principle. Indeed, no practical reasons have been given for the Government to resist the recommendations of a number of people who are experts in their field to have a border agency. He said at the time that there would be a lot of links with inland operations, a reduction in skills and objectives to the lowest common denominator—the meaning of which I confess to not fully understanding—and disruption caused by reorganisation. Given that many other European countries have been able to put into place and continue to have successful border agencies or equivalent organisations—Austria, France, Greece, Poland and Portugal, for example—I am astounded that we are not in a position to learn anything from the European experience.
I would like the Minister to answer a point concerning the capital and revenue costs of the likely border agency. In that document, which was published on 7 March—it is an exquisite example of new Labour gobbledegook, but I beg your indulgence, Mr. Amess—the Government pledge to
“redesign our existing intelligence units so that they manage the flow of information into, through and out of the organisation in a more structured and systematic way”.
There is, obviously, the obligatory commitment to a step change. This is the important part:
“create a function in each region to collect, analyse and disseminate information, and link this into HMRC, DWP, SOCA, police, SCDA and local authorities, allowing them to focus on local compliance and enforcement priorities”.
My challenge to the Minister is: is he seriously suggesting that the commensurate costs, both capital and revenue, associated with that level of co-ordination across all those agencies, would always come out lower than creating a border agency as proposed by my hon. Friends and indeed, in a different way, by the Liberal Democrats?