All 1 Bob Seely contributions to the Illegal Migration Act 2023

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Mon 27th Mar 2023
Illegal Migration Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee stage: Committee of the whole House (day 1)

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Home Office
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think I was crystal clear that we oppose the Bill. It will be entirely counterproductive and make all the challenges that we face worse. Labour Members believe in supporting legislation that addresses the substance of an issue rather than one that chases tabloid headlines.

The competition for the most absurd aspect of this entire process is pretty stiff, but the programme motion is a strong contender. Ministers in their infinite wisdom decided that we should debate the second half of the Bill on the first day, and the first half on the second day. Whatever the rationale for that, I suppose that there is something strangely appropriate about the idea that we should consider the Bill back to front given that so many of its provisions put the cart before the horse.

The other point that I wish to make at the outset is that the refusal of the Home Office to publish a full set of impact assessments ahead of Second Reading—and they still have not been published—is completely unacceptable. Surely, as a matter of basic respect for this House and for our constituents, Members should be entitled to expect to be given the opportunity to have an informed debate, based on comprehensive assessments of the impact that the Government expect their proposals to have.

The fact is that the Government’s entire handling of this shambles of a Bill has been utterly chaotic, while Ministers’ statements have generally been incoherent, inconsistent or simply incomprehensible. I spoke earlier in my point of order about the Government’s conjuring up statistics to suit their needs that have now been rubbished by the statistics watchdog. However, we are where we are, and on that basis I will move on to consider some of the substantive issues.

It is with regret that, given the time available, I will have to limit my remarks to our own Front-Bench amendments tabled on behalf of the Opposition. I begin with our new clause 25, which sets out how Labour would approach these matters if we were in government, in order to deliver meaningful progress on a range of issues, from border security, to authorised safe routes, as part of a comprehensive strategy to stop the crossings and keep people safe, in line with our international commitments. In particular, new clause 25 calls for a multifaceted overarching strategy for securing the agreements with international partners that our country urgently needs.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con)
- Hansard - -

We have already come to agreements with international partners and we are signing more all the time—a new deal with the French, a new deal with the Albanians—but we have had 480,000 asylum places granted here since 2015. How many hundreds of thousands more people does the hon. Gentleman want coming to the country?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman’s notice that when the botched Brexit negotiations took place we left the Dublin convention, which is crucial for returns. We have to find a deal that replaces it. That is about protecting our borders, because it is about returning people when their asylum claims are not successful.

A strategy for securing Britain’s borders must begin with a clear and honest recognition that we cannot solve these problems unilaterally. This is a collective international issue that requires a collective international solution, so closer co-operation with our nearest friends and neighbours must be our starting point and our No. 1 priority. That means urgent action, which will be taken forward from day 1 of a Labour Government, to negotiate a returns agreement with the EU to replace our previous participation in the Dublin system.

That is just the start, however. We also need to restore access for our law enforcement agencies to the treasure trove of information—from biometrics to travel history—that Eurodac and other databases provide in support of efforts to ensure that the removal of asylum seekers from the UK to safe EU countries is possible.

--- Later in debate ---
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I have just said, we support clause 51; I do not know whether the hon. Lady was listening. We support the idea of safe and legal routes that are capped. What she needs to understand is that for people escaping war and conflict, the idea of being detained in a deterrence centre that does not exist or of being removed to other countries when no removal agreements are in place is not a deterrent. For a deterrent to be effective, it has to be credible. The Bill has zero credibility because it is impossible to operationalise. That is the key point that the hon. Lady seems to fail to understand.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely
- Hansard - -

rose—

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am going to make some progress.

A range of proposals have been put forward, including by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake), who has a record of huge commitment to addressing these matters. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) and the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) also have a long history of working diligently on these issues.

The number of new clauses, including one of my own, that seek to build on and expand access to family reunion visas for refugees clearly reflects the high level of support for such schemes among Members on both sides of the House. In speaking to new clause 24 on behalf of the Opposition, I make it clear that providing better safe routes for unaccompanied children with family in the UK is not just right from a moral point of view; it will also demonstrate to our European neighbours, whose support on issues from returns to tackling people smuggling is so fundamentally important to this country, that we are serious about making progress in negotiations on the range of issues that I outlined in relation to new clause 25.

--- Later in debate ---
Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely
- Hansard - -

As ever, my hon. Friend is making an incredibly interesting and important speech. There have been, in the last decade, 10 safe and legal routes, six of which are country-specific and four of which are general. Of the six, the Syrian one is now shut, but there are two for Afghanistan, two for Ukraine and one for Hong Kong, and there are four other non-specific safe and legal routes. If I understand correctly, he is arguing for a fifth safe and legal route. Can he explain and delineate how that fifth safe and legal route would be different from the other four that we already have?

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Those four existing routes are country-specific for certain emergency situations that arose—for obvious reasons, Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and the rather prolonged emergency we are seeing unfold in Hong Kong. There will be other such cases that come up, and I believe the Bill as it stands gives the Home Secretary the power to determine, if there is a new emergency in a certain country and a sudden wave of refugees genuinely fleeing danger to whom the UK Government may want to give a commitment, to enable us to take some of those people, and I think everybody would agree with that. However, in between such a country-specific scheme and the four existing country-specific schemes, the numbers able to come here are minimal. If we look at the just under 500,000 who have come here since 2015, we see that almost 400,000 of those are accounted for by those from Hong Kong and Ukraine alone.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely
- Hansard - -

Apologies if I was not making myself clear. Out of those 10 schemes in the last decade, four are non-country-specific safe and legal routes. My hon. Friend is arguing for a fifth, an additional safe and legal route. While I am not arguing against his case, I am asking how his fifth safe and legal generalised route will be different from the other four we currently have, which are non-country specific. We also have six country-specific schemes, one of which—Syria—has been shut.