Enforced Removal (Families with Young Children)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:20 pm on 10th January 2006.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 12:20 pm, 10th January 2006

I shall seek to explain that in the short time that I have left, but first let me draw together a few points that people have made. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South talked about basic human decency. Of course, that is what we should all strive to achieve. No system is beyond improvement, and by visiting Scotland my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality is engaging in precisely that debate, to see how we can respond to the concerns that have been expressed and create a system in which we can all have confidence.

However, there is a choice. At the end of the day, if the system is based on a series of rules, at some point the rules must be enforced. If we accept that, the debate shifts to how we do that as humanely as possible, respecting the basic humanity of all citizens. I would argue that that is happening now. Much intemperate language is used about the operations of the immigration service. Some of its public servants are carrying out some of the most difficult responsibilities on our behalf. We do not have an open-door immigration system, and I have not heard that any party in this House favours such a system. If we accept that, it follows that we must support the people who in challenging circumstances implement the system on behalf of the citizens of this country.

Those public servants deserve our support. That is not to say that we should not consider the practicalities of what they are doing on the ground; of course we should. We are sensitive to the points that have been raised by Stewart Hosie; we certainly do not use handcuffs routinely, and we certainly do not use them on children. We assess the risks involved in each operation to try to ensure that the scale of the operation is proportionate to the risk presented. We balance all those issues and we seek to improve all the time, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that some of the scare stories are not backed up by the reality. I urge everyone to consider the reality.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South asked for more precise information from the Home Office about the operations, how they were carried out and the numbers that were involved. That is a good suggestion, and I shall consider it. Every Member of this House should be given the information if they want particular facts about the way in which an enforcement operation was carried out, so that there can be a local debate on what actually happened, and we can debate such matters in an informed and considered way.