There have been 8 exchanges between Kemi Badenoch and Home Office
|Thu 14th February 2019||Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Third sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||5 interactions (1,060 words)|
|Thu 14th February 2019||Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Fourth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||5 interactions (651 words)|
|Tue 12th February 2019||Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||11 interactions (1,376 words)|
|Mon 28th January 2019||Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill||27 interactions (1,754 words)|
|Fri 11th January 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Act||3 interactions (968 words)|
|Wed 19th December 2018||Future Immigration||3 interactions (83 words)|
|Wed 6th June 2018||Rural Crime and Public Services||9 interactions (996 words)|
|Mon 30th April 2018||Windrush||3 interactions (123 words)|
Q My question is principally directed to the Children’s Society. Obviously, at the moment, the Government have set about waiving the charge for the EU settlement scheme, but there is still a power in clause 4(5) of the Bill that allows the modification of provisions on the imposition of fees and charges. I am interested in how that relates to vulnerable children, especially looked-after children. First, what are the barriers to those children being able to register? Secondly, what can the Home Office do to assist with those children to ensure that they are registered under the scheme as they are entitled to be?
Ilona Pinter: As I mentioned before, and as Steve mentioned, we are concerned about the significant fees, not just in relation to citizenship registration but more broadly. However, as the Bill is focused on EEA nationals, there is an opportunity here to tackle citizenship registration fees, which are more than £1,000 per child. That makes it prohibitive for many families to be able to acquire those rights, which may be in the child’s best interests. The EU settlement scheme will apply to many children, but it may not be in the child’s best interests to have EU settled status because citizenship provides for greater protection.
We really welcome the Government waiving the fees for the EU settlement scheme. That will help a lot of families for sure, particularly given the levels of poverty among EEA nationals and families, but the risk is that the costs will then be shifted on to other areas. I think there is a real concern in the sector about what happens come April, when the fees normally go up. That is one of the issues that is highlighted with the fees—that there is very little scrutiny and oversight around fee regulation, which is one of our concerns going forward with this kind of approach. For instance, there was no children’s rights impact assessment on fees, including for looked-after children, which you asked about.
There is not currently a waiver for citizenship fees, so local authorities are having to pick up the bill. Interestingly, the issue of the EU settlement scheme came up at the Home Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday. One of the things that was flagged up in that session and in the beta testing review report is that, for the local authorities involved in that second phase of testing, quite a lot of them—although the numbers are not given, and we would urge the Committee to ask questions about that—said that in many cases, children did not have their original passports, which would be the first stumbling block for the EU settlement scheme. Of course, local authorities are going to have to think about not only settling children’s status but settling their citizenship, because as corporate parents, they have to act in the best interests of the child, as any other parent would. That will often mean for that child to apply for citizenship rather than for the EU settlement scheme.
Q Do you have any concerns about the power that this Bill would confer on Ministers to make different provisions in relation to social security for different categories of European economic area or other nationals?
Professor Smismans: Yes, the Bill explicitly says that. The positive interpretation might be, “Well, actually, we needed that to say we have to distinguish between future immigration and those people who are already here.” The practice of the first instruments that are adopted is that actually they do not make that distinction, so it can be used in many different ways. That is why our proposal is that if there is such delegation, at least there has to be a protection for people who are already here saying that their rights cannot be removed by secondary legislation.
Q That exchange anticipated my next question, which was going to be about the physical documents. In that discussion, you made the point that you were consulted. You have made a very powerful case on the importance of physical documentation. Presumably, you made that case to the Home Office in the consultation?
Professor Smismans: Yes, we have said repeatedly how important a physical document is and that we want one.
Q Under the proposal in the White Paper, the UK will move to a system where every single migrant entering as a student or under the skilled route from any country will need to be sponsored. There have been concerns about this will raise an additional burden on businesses, universities, the NHS, schools and charities. What are your views on this?
Vivienne Stern: Perhaps I can start. The cost of managing the compliance requirements for non-EEA students and staff for universities is about £66 million a year—a huge cost. I want to make it clear that universities are one of the biggest users of the immigration system and there has never been any suggestion from us that they should not be responsible for working to make sure that the visa system is not abused, but the cost is huge.
If we increase the number of individuals coming through that sort of system by adding EEA workers to the group of people that universities have to manage through the compliance system, the cost will increase, at least in proportion, unless something has changed. We have got a piece of work going on at the moment about estimating the cost of compliance to improve on that £66 million figure. When we have got the results of that, I am quite happy to write to the Committee with a sense of what we think the cost might be.
As I understand it, there is an opportunity now to try and refine the compliance system to make it easier for those sponsors to discharge their responsibilities without it being a massively burdensome and costly exercise, but also make it more appealing for people who are coming into the UK and experiencing it from the other side. I would like to add that the Home Office has said repeatedly that universities are highly compliant. There is a genuine desire to make sure the system is not abused, so I hope we can get to a position where it is a little bit lighter touch.
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Q That is exactly my question. What could we put in place, or what could the Government put in place, to strengthen protections for workers in this situation? I wonder whether you might want to say a little more specifically about what you would look for in terms of a Government or legislative solution, and to what extent there might be other features or actors that might offer protections.
Caroline Robinson: As I said, we work a lot on the role of the labour inspectorates, particularly, while it still exists—as I said, there is a discussion about a single labour inspectorate and the Government have committed to that—at the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority’s licensing being expanded to high-risk sectors, particularly those that are likely to take on a number of short-term workers in the future. Those sectors are already high-risk and then they might have a high proportion of short-term migrant workers. We feel that there is a really strong case then for licensing those sectors—sectors discussed, such as care and construction—where there is a real risk to workers of exploitation.
We have also looked at the Agricultural Wages Board and the seasonal workers pilots, obviously in the agricultural sector. We are lucky that we still have an Agricultural Wages Board in Scotland and in Northern Ireland, but the absence of one in England and Wales is a real risk in terms of setting the standards for workers in the agriculture sector. So I think it would be useful to look at what kind of worker voice could be integrated in setting standards in the agriculture sector, again given the high risk of isolation and exploitation of workers.
Meri Åhlberg: Another important thing would be to grant people access to public funds. If people are coming here on work contracts they are paying taxes, so they are paying for their services. It seems counterintuitive to not allow people access to services they are already paying for, making them vulnerable in that process.
Caroline Robinson: I would mention again these bilateral labour agreements, to have some kind of engagement with sending categories. At the moment the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority has to rapidly try to license labour providers in a range of countries outside the EEA. They have already found it quite hard within the EEA to license labour providers, understanding the different jurisdictions and engaging with workers’ possible vulnerabilities. Having a structure and engagement on the basis of labour rights with a country that sends workers to our country and ensuring labour standards are upheld offers a framework, at least, for enforcing labour rights.
Q Quite a few of my questions have already been asked. Just to clarify, is FLEX saying that you would not want a seasonal agricultural workers scheme at all, or are you saying that if you are going to have one you have to ensure that you learn from the previous scheme and the experience of other countries, and that there are things you can do to try to clamp down on exploitation?
Caroline Robinson: We feel like many, I suppose, in the business of protecting workers’ rights in a conflicted situation. We recognise that there will be a shortage of workers in this country after Brexit. Equally, looking at seasonal workers programmes, as we have done over the past year, in great detail, workers in those programmes are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. If we were asked to start from nothing, we would not be proposing seasonal temporary workers schemes, but we are trying to engage with the programmes that are being suggested, to advocate for strong protective mechanisms to be integrated into those programmes.
(1 year, 7 months ago)Commons Chamber
To be clear, I started this contribution by saying that change and challenge were part of every life. Change is inevitable and constant, and advanced societies of course have people coming and going to and from them. Indeed, that has been the case in our country for a long time, but the level and extent of net migration into this country over recent years have been unprecedented. If we look at the numbers, over the past 10 years, roughly speaking in net terms, 250,000 migrants have entered Britain each year.
I do agree, and part of that is about scale. Part of that is about the absorption of new peoples, about building the kind of common sense of identity that I called for, and about ensuring that what we share is more important than that which divides us, as I also said a few moments ago. If we are to build that kind of social cohesion and that civil harmony, it is important to recognise, as my hon. Friend says, the consequences of immigration, where they are both positive and less so. Many communities across Britain felt at the time of the referendum—using that as an expression—that some of the changes were not positive. That is partly because free movement tended to bring people to particular communities in the east of England, including in my county of Lincolnshire, and other similar places, so that the number of people who came was not spread out evenly. People were often concentrated in small towns that changed very radically very rapidly, and it is the extent of that change that causes some of the concerns that I have attempted to amplify.
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, on which I am about to expand. Staff shortages in our NHS and care sector will leave our loved ones waiting longer in hospital corridors to see a nurse. As my hon. Friend has just pointed out, we must ensure that we have nurses and care workers. We must ensure that our NHS and our care sector have the people that they need with the right level of skills. That is why I cannot support the Bill on Second Reading. Does the Secretary of State agree that equating pay and skill undermines the desire for an immigration system that, to quote the Prime Minister’s foreword to the December White Paper,
“welcomes talent, hard work, and the skills we need”?
The second concern I wish to raise is about indefinite detention. As it stands, there are no limits on the length of time a person can be held in immigration detention in the United Kingdom. Anyone who has met those who have faced indefinite detention will know the pain and harm it causes. With the Bill potentially expanding the number of EEA nationals liable for detention, will the Government listen to the range of voices asking for an end to indefinite detention?
Finally, on the social security element of the Bill and the immigration White Paper, the latter proposes a more restrictive system for EU citizens’ entitlements, including longer waiting times before entitlement, so what guarantees will the Secretary of State give to protect EU citizens? With the EU likely to reciprocate any new restrictions on social security entitlement, what does he say to the more than 1 million UK citizens living in the EU who will have to face confines, or even become ineligible?
We in this House have a tendency to view issues as intrinsically good or bad, so I call on Members from all parties to reflect on a vital section of the MAC report that says that
“the impacts of migration often depend on other government policies and should not be seen in isolation from the wider context.”
I hope the Government heed that advice.
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I just wanted to remind her of some history. It was the Conservative party that, in an election, had huge billboards saying, “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?” That was the kind of rhetoric that was whipped up by this Tory party, so I will take no lectures from her on that point.
The point that my hon. Friend is making, and her willingness to tackle what Trevor Phillips described as the “liberal delusion” about the problems of mass migration, are important in respect to housing, because immigration is the single biggest driver of housing demand.
The hon. Lady talks about the UK’s one-size-fits-nobody migration policy. Like other countries such as Canada and Switzerland, does she support decentralising or devolving the issue, or is she still of the mindset that we must hold things centrally in London, and that London knows best?
On that point, my hon. Friend talks about the brain drain from eastern European countries to here, but does she not also recognise that the economies of many of those countries are improving to the point that people from those countries no longer wish to come to the UK? They want to stay at home and develop their careers there, which is why we need this Bill to extend our reach beyond the EU.
Can we just make it very clear that we do control our borders? The last time that I went overseas on holiday, I had to show my passport and so did everybody else.
It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mrs Badenoch), who gave an impassioned and well-delivered speech, almost all of which I disagreed with.
This Bill has taken its time to arrive. And now that it is before us, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Right the way through, it is based on an assumption made by the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech that what 17 million people meant when they voted leave was that we needed to end freedom of movement, not just for EU citizens in the UK, but for UK citizens throughout the European Union. I am 100% certain that 100% of the 52% did not mean that, but the Government’s assumption that they did is essentially why the red lines set by the Prime Minister have left the Government in a position where they are incapable of delivering any form of Brexit that does not wreck the British economy. If the Prime Minister wanted more time to reconsider her position, reconsidering those red lines would be the wisest thing she could do. If she then reached across to the other side the Chamber, she might well find reasonable people on the Opposition Benches who are prepared to listen to her.
The Bill abandons freedom of movement. With a slash of a pen, the rights of people in this country will be drastically reduced. British people, young and old, will lose the right to travel freely, to study overseas, to make friendships in other countries and to build careers. I am afraid that the Minister and the Home Secretary are both young enough to live long enough to have history judge them very harshly for this Bill, and they should be warned in advance. There are people who have made their homes here, and 3 million of our neighbours and colleagues are being told, not very subtly, that they are not wanted here. Britain is surely much better than this.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge). I recognise the sincerity of his remarks even though I disagree with his conclusions. To be clear, I campaigned for and voted remain, and the remain vote in my borough of Tower Hamlets was 67%. I have received many emails since the vote. Some call for no deal, and some support the Prime Minister’s deal, but the majority are for another referendum, which of course is code for reversing the original decision. Some colleagues on my side have said that nothing has changed since the Government pulled the vote in December. I disagree. If they had pressed the vote last month, I suspect I would have voted against, but now I am not so sure, for a number of reasons. First, time is running out. Yes, the Prime Minister has run down the clock; there is no denying that. Secondly, amendments have been tabled such as amendment (p) on workers’ rights, consumer protection and environmental standards, submitted by several of my right hon. and hon. Friends, which I have signed. Thirdly, I supported new clause 7 to the Finance Bill on Tuesday, and having demonstrated that I did not want a no-deal conclusion, I feel I should address what I do want, not just what I am against.
My party’s policy is to call for a general election, and if and when there is a vote of no confidence, I will support it, but our first problem will be drafting a united manifesto. We would also need to delay article 50 and restart negotiations. This could mean months or years in Brussels followed by what? Another referendum perhaps. The amount of time, energy and money we have already spent on Brexit could be duplicated. What has happened this week, outside on College Green and inside this Chamber on Wednesday during points of order, shows just how toxic this issue has become, and it has to end.
We need to make a decision, move the country on and move forward. The impact of the doldrums and uncertainty is undermining business and the economy. Many colleagues have quoted dire forecasts for one course or another, but doing nothing could be just as bad. I have had real disagreements on this at home with family, friends, members of my party and constituents. Labour’s six tests were useful as a challenge, but they, like Gordon Brown’s five tests for the euro, were never meant to be met, in my view. Those judgments are fully subjective.
On the Northern Ireland question, I listened carefully to the intervention from the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) on Wednesday, as I am sure did other colleagues, in support of the Good Friday agreement and the Prime Minister’s deal. It is very easy to use hindsight to point out that which might have been done better. After the referendum, and especially post the 2017 general election, the Government might have detoxified some of this issue if they had constructed a cross-party approach to the negotiations. Part of Wednesday’s debate focused on cross-party co-operation. There must be scope for a cross-party approach, as so powerfully argued for by the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) earlier this morning.
Our separation from the EU has been described as a divorce after nearly 50 years. Divorces are horrible. I have been through one. There is pain and there are costs. Then we have the playground politics of those who thought—and still think—this would be easy and pain-free. They are deluded, as the Father of the House described on Wednesday. Over 17 million people voted leave, and it was a national referendum, not a referendum in Poplar and Limehouse, not in Tower Hamlets, not even London. The Labour manifesto in 2017, which my constituents voted for, said we respected the outcome of the referendum. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday repeated that Labour would negotiate a better Brexit deal but that we would be leaving.
In conclusion, colleagues may have discerned from my comments that I am talking myself into supporting the Prime Minister’s deal next Tuesday, against no deal and against further delay. I am not quite there yet, but I am not far away. It seems the House is not yet there at all, but at some point we need to recognise that the danger of no deal is still there and that the only real alternative on the table is the Prime Minister’s deal.
When all is said and done, and everything that needs to be said has been said, this House is very good at saying it all over again. Mr Speaker, you could be forgiven for having a slight emotion of ennui, as you have heard these arguments run over and over again. I do not often feel sympathy for the wives of former Conservative Prime Ministers, but Lady Eden said she felt as though the Suez canal was flowing through her withdrawing room and I feel as though the British border on the island of Ireland is flowing through my living room. We have spent so much time on this, but are we any further forward?
Today’s debate has tended in some cases—I make no particular comment here—to go in a slightly bellicose, bombastic way; it is almost as though Palmerston had returned to Romford. I felt that the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) was rather more channelling Horatio Bottomley than Horatio Nelson, although I think I understand what his emotion was.
We have discussed at great length the Gradgrind utilitarianism of the EU. I was one of those who voted in 1975 to join the European Union, partly having been seduced by Margaret Thatcher—not an expression Members will hear often in this House—but above all because, as a representative of one of the first generations in this island’s history not to have fought a European or continental war, I felt it was crucial that we looked to the European ideal. In all our discussions about trade, customs, barriers and the backstop, I think we are losing sight of that ideal. I am not saying that the European Union was a shining city on the hill, but it did set global standards for decency, inclusion, human rights, freedom of belief, freedom of worship, interdependence, environmental legislation, workers’ rights, animal rights and universal suffrage.
When Francis Fukuyama wrote “The End of History?” towards the end of the last century, he said that the whole world would sign up for those emotions. He was wrong. There are many countries in the world that do not recognise those ideals or the European standard. We are Europeans, and those of us who are proud to be members of this community and continent should recognise that we have a duty and a right to set the standards for many other people to at least emulate and learn from.
We are surrounded in a dangerous world. We have Kim Jong-un, Trump and Putin. We have terrifying figures all around the world. Closer to home we have difficulties, certainly, with Viktor Orbán, Kaczyński and some of the Visegrád Group, and yet we are talking about breaking up and walking away from a Union that is not just the most successful economic union but an ideal and an example for the rest of the world. Are we mad? Why on earth would we walk away from it?
I am not one of those who subscribe to the chimera—the false promise—of another referendum, which would inevitably be followed by a further referendum and then a best out of five. However, if, God forbid, we leave the European Union on 29 March, we must not forget to make sure that our European brothers, sisters and cousins know that we still have affection and friendship for them and that there is still support and interdependence. Every single Member of this House has a duty to work with our fellow Europeans, to let them know that, although this country may have made a decision, it does not separate us from the rest of Europe. It is a decision that I regret. Many of us regret it—more people regret it by the day—but we will not stop being Europeans. We owe it to those whom we have fought both against and with to look forward to the future as one people. Let us never, ever forget that, aside from all the discussions about trade deals, the WTO and the backstop, there is an ideal of a better, interdependent world of decent common human standards. That was represented well in Europe and it is represented in this House. Let us never, ever forget the debt we owe to each other.
Under the new system, all people entering the United Kingdom will require a form of visa or visa waiver. That will probably not start in 2021, because it will take longer to develop the system fully and introduce it. However, the electronic travel authorisation scheme, which I also mentioned in my statement, will apply to all visitors. The right hon. Gentleman asked about cost; we have not yet determined what the cost of the ETA scheme would be.
As my hon. Friend will know, under the current non-EEA system there is a cap of 20,700 a year, with some exemptions. The work of the Migration Advisory Committee has shown that such a cap is not in our economic interests, and that it is far better to control numbers in other ways that are more reflective of economic needs. I think that removing the cap will lead to an economic boost, while also making it easier for students who have studied at our great universities to stay on if they can find a job at the right level. I think that that is very welcome too.
I would be more than happy for them to pay more. Is the idea that the poorest cannot afford 50p extra a month on their precept to get a police officer? The point is that it would be a choice for the community. Many communities would not choose to have parish policing or direct policing, but it is a new option for them.
I will take one last intervention, Madam Deputy Speaker, because you will be pleased to know that I will then be concluding.
Absolutely. I will finish by saying that the local funding formula means that funding is transparent—people will know that the money will be spent in their county. We should still look at the national formula, but the model of elected police and crime commissioners being responsible for the money raised locally in a clear and transparent fashion is the right one, and we should use it to get more officers on the beat, providing greater security and comfort to our constituents.
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Well! That was extremely succinct. I thank the hon. Lady.
By participating in this very necessary debate today I wish to put on record my willingness to speak up for the rural communities and farm businesses that this Government have neglected.
I went to Moor farm in my constituency to meet a number of farmers and members of the National Farmers Union. Farmers in my constituency have said that they are unable to sleep peacefully and are having to constantly dig trenches, replace locks and build gates and barriers to barricade themselves in their own farms. Gangs of hare coursers have threatened their families with violence and intimidation; hare coursing itself has become an almost daily and expected occurrence and damages crops, property and the welfare of livestock.
I ask Members to imagine if the context of a criminal episode was changed and it was shown to be one of us smashing through garden fences, driving across flowerbeds, shouting and gesticulating and gesturing abuse, intimidating and threatening witnesses and even actually assaulting someone. Would we be permitted to continue in that way unimpeded time after time? I think not; we all know the answer would be no.
Those who live, work and enjoy the countryside should feel safe, but these crimes result in deep anxiety. These communities are suffering from a chronic lack of investment in public services. Last year, there were 184 incidents of hare coursing in Peterborough and rural theft cost Cambridgeshire £1,732,174. Organised crime gangs steal diesel and tractors and relentlessly target quad bikes. The theft of high-value machinery that cannot be replaced swiftly puts timely agricultural operations at risk.
My constabulary works tirelessly to prevent the intimidation of landowners, walkers and people trying to enjoy the countryside, but cuts have affected the ability of rural forces to provide time-honoured community policing. Fly-tipping and illegal waste dumping are costing farmers tens of thousands of pounds to clear up. What impact does the Minister believe these unprecedented cuts to local authorities are having on the levels of rural fly-tipping? I would be interested to know whether he recognises the connection between his Government’s relentless austerity agenda and the increases in fly-tipping and littering in our countryside. As a result of these cuts to our councils, the cost of clearing fly-tips is increasingly being borne by landowners and farmers.
The situation is totally out of control, and on the rare occasions when criminals are apprehended, it is felt that their acts of criminality are not being dealt with appropriately. When I speak to farmers, they advise me that even when the police are called, they are unable to respond in a timely fashion. Also, as we have heard today, the police can be intimidated by these criminals. They often have to attend a reported crime by themselves without any support, and that has to be looked into. It is inappropriate for them to be alone without support. They need better support, and the victims of crime should not have to pay. Farms are having to become fortresses, as farmers feel as though they are under siege. There has been a blatant failure to address the real issues, and the situation has now reached breaking point. I ask the Minister to look seriously at what can be done to address the issue of rural crime, in order to make those whom we serve feel safe.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about other members of the Commonwealth, to which I referred briefly a moment ago. I want to ensure that we are looking at this carefully to see whether we need to take further steps where people are affected. The hon. Gentleman will know about the taskforce that we set up for the Windrush generation. I will not hesitate in taking any further steps that would help.
My hon. Friend is right to point out that there is a huge amount to celebrate about the Windrush generation, with the 70th anniversary of the arrival of MV Windrush occurring this June. My previous Department has done a huge amount of work on that, and I hope to work closely with it to make sure that we have the very best celebration we possibly can to show people from that generation exactly what they mean to this country and how much we respect everything that they have done for us.