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Commonwealth Immigration and Visas — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:24 pm on 27th January 2015.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:24 pm, 27th January 2015

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I do not want to dwell on this issue for too long, because we are running out of time and I would like to cover modern slavery, but I reiterate that an enhanced criminal information exchange is available to us with regard to EU nationals, and that provides information over and above that which we have about non-EU nationals. I want to reach a point at which we have such exchange of criminal information across the board, because that would be a very good thing to keep all of us safe. While we do not have that, however, I am not prepared to put the security of the British people at risk by opening our borders in a way that might create a problem. I hope that he understands that point.

Let me conclude by saying something about the work that we are doing on modern slavery, which we all agree is an international problem. We are committed to working with other countries to prevent individuals from being exploited. Commonwealth countries are often source countries for modern slavery, so we are committed to working with them to tackle the problem. The modern slavery strategy, which was published on 29 November, commits us to raising the profile of modern slavery through the institutions of the Commonwealth and the EU, and to working with partner Governments to implement positive changes in law and practices. It also commits us to identify annually between 20 and 25 priority countries, which will include a number of Commonwealth countries.

Through our links with the Commonwealth and civic organisations such as Rotary, we are trying to ensure that we have on-the-ground information so that we can tackle this issue upstream, so that people are not trafficked and do not become victims of slavery in the UK, and so that we can deal with slavery on the ground. The UK Government are committed to stamping out that abhorrent crime by building on our strong track record in supporting victims and fighting perpetrators. Promoting links with the Commonwealth should not be to the detriment of maintaining the security of our borders, which is what allows us to tackle problems such as modern slavery.

Let me reiterate our commitment to the Commonwealth. We want to welcome citizens from across the Commonwealth to the UK. Britain is open for business. We welcome legitimate students, tourists, business people and others who want to come to this country to contribute. The changes that we have put in place ensure that Britain remains an attractive destination while maintaining the security of our borders. Britain is a place that people want to visit so that they can work hard, study, and enjoy our historic buildings and beautiful countryside.