Clause 22

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:00 pm, 15th March 2007

I am disappointed that the Under-Secretary thinks that, particularly as I was not treading on the tentative ground of the fact that the tough clause in last year’s Act is still not in force, which she  then brought up. I thought that I would forgo the opportunity to point out that that is yet another example of the classic problem with the current Home Office—the fact that it introduces legislation as a substitute or displacement activity for effective action. Last year’s provisions are not yet in place, but we are considering this year’s Act. We are promised an Act next year as well. Legislation is ever flowing, but activity on the ground is rather less visible. That is unsurprising, because the Home Office cannot get round to implementing all the legislation that it passes.

The fact that the two-year sentence is not yet in operation, meaning that we cannot hear any evidence as to whether it is effective, is not a particularly strong argument against the amendment. There is no evidence about two years, four years or any period that one cares to name, so the Under-Secretary cannot pray that in aid. As she rightly said, we supported that part of the 2006 Act because we believe not only that the offence is serious but that, considering the figures, it is increasingly common. The knock-on effects of it being known around the world that Britain is the place to come and work illegally are very serious. At the extreme end of horror are episodes such as the cockle pickers and the dead Chinese people in the lorry in Folkestone. However, even without such terrible tragedies it is bad in all sorts of ways for this country. It is bad for employment and for social cohesion that Britain has become one of the parts of the world in which illegal working is endemic. I am not reassured by the Minister’s arguments, so I seek to press the amendment.