There have been 5 exchanges between Kwasi Kwarteng and Home Office
|Mon 23rd July 2018||Foreign Fighters and the Death Penalty||3 interactions (39 words)|
|Wed 27th June 2018||Offensive Weapons Bill||26 interactions (897 words)|
|Thu 21st June 2018||Refugee Family Reunion||23 interactions (2,161 words)|
|Mon 4th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (54 words)|
|Wed 2nd May 2018||Windrush||17 interactions (885 words)|
My hon. Friend is right. There are countries around the world that we recognise have due process, the rule of law, separation of powers and values we agree with. That is why we share intelligence with some of those powers and why, in the 8,000 mutual legal assistance requests a year, we often share evidence that leads to prosecutions in court. We will always do that where we think it is about seeking justice and the best place for that justice to be delivered. In this case, we felt the best place was the United States of America.
It is welcome when any police force recruits additional police officers. I do not have to hand the number of officers that Essex has lost since 2010, but I imagine that it is significantly more than 150.
Let us look at the Home Office research on the drivers of trends in violent crime. Neighbourhood policing was certainly mentioned; social media was acknowledged to have played a role, as were changes to the drug market, as the Home Secretary mentioned, particularly in respect of the purity of crack cocaine. They are all factors in the spate of recent murders, but one of the most important factors that the analysis showed was that a larger cohort of young people are now particularly vulnerable to involvement in violent crime because of significant increases in the numbers of homeless children, children in care and children excluded from school. Just 2% of the general population have been excluded from school, compared with 49% of the prison population. As much as this Bill is, and should be, about taking offensive weapons off our streets, the issues around serious violent crime are also a story of vulnerability.
The Children’s Commissioner has shown that 70,000 under-25-year-olds are currently feared to be part of gang networks. The unavoidable conclusion is that, for a growing, precarious and highly vulnerable cohort of children, the structures and safety nets that are there to protect them are failing.
Behind this tragic spate of violence is a story of missed opportunities to intervene as services retreat; of children without a place to call home shunted between temporary accommodation, with their parents at the mercy of private landlords; of patterns of truancy and expulsions; and of troubled families ignored until the moment of crisis hits. The most despicable criminals are exploiting the space where well-run and effective early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies once existed.
As the Children’s Commissioner notes, the pursuit of young children is now
“a systematic and well-rehearsed business model.”
The Home Secretary himself highlighted the importance of early intervention in tackling violence when he told “The Andrew Marr Show” that we must deal with the root causes, but the £20 million a year we spend on early intervention and prevention has to be seen in the context of the £387 million cut from youth services, the £1 billion cut from children’s services, and the £2.7 billion cut from school budgets since 2015. For most communities, the funding provided by the serious violence strategy will not make any difference at all. How can it even begin to plug the gap?
We know what happens when early intervention disappears. A groundbreaking report 18 years ago by the Audit Commission described the path of a young boy called James who found himself at the hard end of the criminal justice system before the last Labour Government’s progressive efforts to address the root causes of crime through early intervention:
“Starting at the age of five, his mother persistently requested help in managing his behaviour and addressing his learning difficulties. Despite formal assessments at an early age for special educational needs, no educational help was forthcoming until he reached the age of eight and even then no efforts were made to address his behaviour problems in the home. By the age of ten, he had his first brush with the law but several requests for a learning mentor came to nothing and his attendance at school began to suffer. By now he was falling behind his peers and getting into trouble at school, at home and in his…neighbourhood…
Within a year James was serving an intensive community supervision order and…only then did the authorities acknowledge that the family had multiple problems and needed a full assessment. A meeting of professionals was arranged but no one directly involved with James, other than his Head Teacher, attended, no social worker was allocated and none of the plans that were drawn up to help James were implemented. Within a short space of time, he was sent to a Secure Training Centre and on release…no services were received by James or his family. He was back in custody within a few months.”
How many Jameses have we come across in our constituencies? How many mothers like James’s have we met in our surgeries? The pattern described here could just as well be attributed to a young man I had been seeking to help over the past year but whose life was tragically ended just last month. He was stabbed to death in my constituency, and another 15-year-old charged with his murder.
It very much feels as though we have learned these lessons before and are now repeating the same mistakes.
The Mayor of London has put £150 million into recruiting additional police officers. I appreciate the serious concerns in London but this is a national problem, as I have made clear and as the Home Secretary has acknowledged. This is not a London-only problem. Indeed, the increase in violence in London is actually lower than in other parts of the country, which is why a national solution is required. It is politically easy to pass the blame on to the Mayor of London, but it simply is not the case that that is the only solution.
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My hon. Friend makes a really potent and timely point; I was about to demonstrate why these weapons have never been implicated in any crime. There was one incident when one was stolen; the barrel was chopped down but the gun was quickly recovered and never implicated in a crime. There has been only one other incident: more than 20 years ago, a .50 calibre weapon was stolen in Northern Ireland and used in the troubles and then, again, recovered.
Instances of such weapons being likely to fall into the wrong hands are incredibly rare. Even if they did, they are most unlikely ever to be used by a criminal, as I shall try to persuade the House. They are as long as the span of my arms and incredibly heavy and bulky. They demand a great deal of effort between shots. They are simply not the criminal’s weapon of choice. The weapon of choice of a criminal is likely to be something gained from the dark web or the underground. It is likely to be a sawn-off shotgun, or a revolver or pistol of some sort. These really heavy, clunky weapons are simply not the weapon of choice of the criminal. In the one instance I suspect my hon. Friend the Minister will cite in her summing up, a criminal stole it, realised what they had got hold of and that it was not suitable to be used in a crime, and chucked it over a hedge.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right and it is very sad, when people gain pleasure from using these rifles, that the Government want to effectively ban them. The muzzle energy will effectively mean a ban on the .5 calibre. The only reason the Government are banning them is that they happen to be one of the largest calibres. The police and the other authorities are saying that because they are so large they must be dangerous. I have to tell the House that any rifle is dangerous in the wrong hands and used in the wrong way. A .22, the very smallest rifle, is lethal at over a mile if it is fired straight at somebody. All rifles need to be handled with great care and held in very secure conditions.
In summing up, the Government will, I think, cite some evidence as to why these rifles need to be banned. They will cite the one that was stolen and chucked over the hedge with the barrel chopped off, they will cite the fact that one was used in the troubles in Northern Ireland, and they will cite the fact that more high-powered weapons are being seized by customs at our borders. But this has nothing to do with .5 calibre weapons. It has everything to do with illegal weapons, the sort of weapons of choice that, sadly, the criminal and the terrorist will use, but not these particular weapons.
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I thank you for that, because otherwise I would have something to say and that would not be helpful to you. I am just trying to be constructive. We are on Second Reading of a Bill, and I am allowing latitude, but Members must focus on the Bill.
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Whether it is the Mayor of London or any police and crime commissioner, I feel that they could all do certain things to tackle knife crime, including better community engagement, better use of stop and search, and the provision of preventive initiatives.
There are several parts of the Bill which I have some concerns about. I am never convinced that attaining the age of 18 should allow an individual to engage in any particular kind of behaviour or activity, whether that is drinking, voting, fighting in the armed forces or buying bleach. I therefore have some concerns about the age of 18 with regard to the provisions in the Bill. It is my understanding that the Home Office does not regularly collect data on the age of those engaging in acid attacks, but information collected from 39 forces showed that only one in five acid attacks was committed by a person under the age of 18. This leads to questions about whether the person who has purchased the substances is over or under the age of 18. I hope the Minister will take up this issue and legislate on it.
While preparing for this debate, I had a look on the internet to see how easy it is to purchase a knife online—for example, on eBay. I was pleasantly surprised to find that flick knives, gravity knives and zombie knives are not readily available. However, kitchen knives are, so the provision in the Bill that seeks to ban knives being sent through the post does not seem to be a very effective use of the legislation, given that most knives used in crime usually come from kitchen drawers.
I would also like some detail on the proposal to make the possession of a knife on a further education premises an offence. As has been mentioned, there are some scenarios where this is permissible. In the case of training, gamekeepers, chefs, cooks, hairdressers, electricians, builders and carpenters all require a bladed instrument, so in many respects these people will have to be excluded from the provisions.
The Bill seeks to ban the .5 calibre rifles that many Members have spoken about today, but these are legally held weapons. The owners have been vetted. They have been through a process where they have been judged to be not only competent but safe to own a gun. Many of them also regularly attend a club. I therefore have to ask, what does this have to do with violent crime? The owners have exemplary records and are among the most law-abiding people in this country, so why are they being victimised when they have nothing to do with violence, particularly in cities such as London?
The reason I am very interested in knife crime is that I witnessed someone being stabbed in 1990. It was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince) said, quite an experience. It certainly had an impact on me. I was actually photographing at the time, and was pleased that I managed to take a picture of the perpetrator. He was subsequently convicted, but would not have been if not for my picture. My recollection of the person who fell into my arms with a big hole in his back will certainly never leave me.
We are approaching 80 murders within the capital this year. I conclude by mentioning two people, who were both my constituents. Back in the winter in Mill Hill, Vijay Patel was punched, hit his head and died; and Raul Nicolaie was stabbed to death in his house. I believe that this legislation will ensure that such tragedies do not occur in the future. I appeal to the Minister: if there is to be any legacy from this legislation, let this be her legacy, because the legacy of the Mayor of London currently is one of a lost generation.
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. As he knows, the Bill has been drafted in such a way as to refer not to .5 calibre rounds, but to 13,600 joules of energy. The reason for doing that is to include other weapons, including .357 Lapua Magnum rifles, but that cannot account for the people who use home loads and lower the velocity of the round. The Bill is about whether the rifle is capable of firing it. People do use home loads, and they lower the capacity, the velocity and energy. The Bill does not account for that at all.
The hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) has put his finger on an interesting point. Clause 28(2) references “any rifle” from which a shot of more than 13,600 joules can be fired. The Bill is drafted much wider than just .5 calibre weapons.
Prior to the debate, we were furnished with a huge number of statistics, and those statistics make stark and appalling reading, because behind every one of them is a real life that has been lost, a family that has been destroyed or a person left with life-changing disfigurement and injury. In 2017—a particularly bad year—we saw a 22% increase in offences involving knives, an 11% increase in firearms offences and a near tripling of recorded corrosive substance attacks. Within a few miles of where we sit, in the city of London, we have seen more than 70 murders just this year.
I am pleased that a good proportion of the Bill is devoted to putting on a statutory footing many of the voluntary commitments that retailers have given over the last couple of years, and I know that many local authorities have worked with local traders to implement codes of practice regarding knife and corrosive substance sales. I am also pleased that the Bill extends to internet business-to-consumer sales, which is long overdue.
Clauses 12 to 27 contain expansive measures to restrict and control the supply and ownership of bladed items. That has been mentioned at length this afternoon, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes). We need a complete prohibition of these things called zombie knives, which are particularly fearsome and have no value in what they look like. They are not like 18th-century samurai swords; they have one sole purpose. They have cutting, serrated edges and are deemed and bought to be threatening and offensive.
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, not just for the concise and clear points he made in his contribution but for the poetry that he always brings to our debates.
My hon. Friends the Members for Solihull and for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) also made the point about social media. That is why the Home Office serious violence strategy is funding the social media hub pilot, which will give the Metropolitan police the powers they need to work with social media companies to bring those videos down. I have seen drill videos; they are horrific and they need to stop.
The measures on the possession of offensive weapons give the police the powers they need to act when people have flick knives, zombie knives and other offensive weapons that have absolutely no place in our homes.
A number of colleagues mentioned clause 28, which is on high-energy rifles. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said at the start of the debate that we will listen to colleagues’ concerns. I reiterate that this is not an attack on rural sports; it is a response to the threat assessment of the National Crime Agency and the police.
Given the strong concerns expressed, I will take a moment to explain how clause 28 came into being. For those who are not familiar with such weapons, they are very large and heavy firearms that can shoot very large distances. One example I have been given is that they can shoot the distance between London Bridge and Trafalgar Square—some 3,500 metres. I can share with the House the fact that there has been a recent increase in seizures at the United Kingdom border of higher-powered weaponry and ordnance. The assessment is that those weapons were destined for the criminal marketplace, and that the criminal marketplace is showing a growing demand for more powerful weaponry.
I will finish my point if I may.
That is the background against which we are operating. Having received such an assessment, we must consider it with great care. We have a duty to consider it and to protect the public. I gently correct the suggestion that such high-energy rifles have not been used in crime. As the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) said, high-energy rifles were used in the 1990s during the troubles to kill people who were charged with securing Northern Ireland. We are listening, and, as I hope colleagues saw, I sat through the vast majority of the debate. Those and other issues will be addressed in the conversations that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and all the ministerial team will have with colleagues on both sides of the House.
I must pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), who has devoted a great deal of time and energy not just to the Bill but to protecting our young people and tackling serious violence.
I thank my hon. Friend for making those excellent points. He is absolutely right to say that there are children in Calais—other hon. Members have been to see them, too—who appear to have a relative who already has status in this country, and who should be here. Making those safe and legal routes available is very important in order to protect children and adults.
In closing, let me say that the forthcoming immigration Bill may give us scope to support amendments in many of these areas, and I hope it does, but we need to create other opportunities to improve the treatment of those looking for sanctuary in this country and to improve our welcome. I urge Members from across the House to read the report that my all-party group compiled, researched and wrote last year, “Refugees Welcome?”. One recommendation was about the right to work, but others were about the other matters I have mentioned. We can all improve the welcome that we as Members of Parliament give to our own constituents. I have been learning Arabic for the past 18 months to make myself a better MP for Syrian and other middle eastern refugees. I am smiling because it is very slow progress—painfully slow; they are learning English faster than I am learning Arabic—but the idea is to make that welcome as genuine and sincere as possible.
This is about who we are as a country. It is about how we want to be seen in the world. It is about the fact that in our increasingly, heartbreakingly divided world, differences are reinforced more than they are bridged. It is about those countries that live out their values and provide safe haven for those who flee war and persecution. Those are the countries that light up a more hopeful future for us all.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and highlights the importance of having this debate and getting it right. The pressures we face are not going to get any easier. Whether or not the conflicts come and go—I suspect that they always will—we are going to see, not that far down the track, further pressures from the effects of climate change. That will cause massive movements of people. Whether they would currently be seen as economic migrants or refugees, there will be people unable to remain where they currently are.
I thank my very good friend for allowing me to intervene on him. He cites migrants in Libya. I have not been to Libya, so I bow to my hon. Friend’s greater authority on the matter, but are those migrants refugees from other parts of Africa or displaced persons from within Libya, or are they economic migrants? It seems to me that they might be a mix of everything.
The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting case. On a wider point of information, I think it was the Swedish academic, Hans Rosling—I might have the name wrong—who pointed out first that the reason why many people go overland is that air transportation is closed to them because of our rules that will send them back again. We have other difficulties and other issues in and among that, so, sometimes, our own policies are actually creating the free market business that he describes of people trafficking at £1,000 a head.
I am in broad agreement with much of what the hon. Gentleman says, but there is another aspect on which he has not touched. He said earlier, I think, that people traffickers lead this trade. I suggest to him gently that, in fact, they are the product of it. One reason why they are a product of it is that they are filling a vacuum because there are no proper safe and legal routes. If we put in safe and legal routes, along with proper action on an international basis, we will be part of the way to excising the cancer of the people traffickers.
I ask my very good friend to forgive me for intervening a second time. I have had to deal with the mafia in the Balkans. It may be foreign-owned or run, but it uses local people. I am quite sure that, in Libya, the mafia to whom he is referring will often be Libyans who are actually working for foreigners. That makes it even more complicated.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) who made a very eloquent, thoughtful and measured speech. Indeed, I welcome all the speeches that have been made so far in this debate. I congratulate those who secured the debate, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) who has been leading the charge on this issue.
As the UN Declaration of Human Rights states:
“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
As lawmakers, we should do all we can so that we never force anyone to have to choose between living in this place of safety, and living with their family. Most reasonable people looking at the immigration rules now would agree that our refugee family reunion rules are still too narrowly drawn. Most Members in the Chamber will have encountered their own heartbreaking cases—perhaps an 18 or 19-year-old child left stranded in Libya or Lebanon while younger siblings are reunited with parents in the UK. Most strikingly, our rules on recognised child refugees in the UK are both outliers and pretty outrageous. To borrow the word the Home Affairs Committee used, it is “perverse” that unaccompanied children cannot be sponsors for their parents or carers.
In the lead-up to the Second Reading of my hon. Friend’s private Member’s Bill, there were many excellent articles about divided families, and one I found particularly moving was written by Sarah Temple-Smith, a children’s psychotherapist at the Refugee Council. In that article, she described the utter agony endured by two young child refugees because of separation from their families. One teenager, whose father had been killed, tells her that being apart from his mother and siblings was harder to deal with than the torture and violence suffered in detention in Libya. He was just one of an inbox full of referrals she received every day relating to children suffering from separation. It is incredibly sad, therefore, that other than Denmark, this is the only EU country that refuses to allow children to apply to have close family members join them here, if they can be found.
There cannot be a clearer illustration of why refugee family reunion is a win, win for everybody involved. It is clearly of huge benefit for the refugees here, reunited with their support network and better able to rebuild their lives. It is good for us because it means that the refugees can integrate more easily. It can literally be lifesaving for those who are granted family reunion visas to join their families here, and by providing a safe legal route it stops them turning instead to traffickers and smugglers to find their way to the UK.
In response, the Government tend to turn to two or three arguments. The first is that immigration rules already make provisions for other family members to join refugees here, but in my view the alternative rules are barely worth the paper they are written on. The legal thresholds, costs and complexity make them a poor and pale substitute for proper refugee family reunion rights. It is not unknown even for families to have to sponsor a niece or a nephew but be unable to sponsor both—a horrendous decision for anyone to have to make! I do not regard those rules as fit for purpose. Exceptional grants outside the rules are far too rare.
Secondly, the Government sometimes argue that expanding refugee family reunion rights would somehow incentivise dangerous journeys to the UK—we have heard a bit about that today. The most significant point is that the rules keep too many family members out and so force them to turn to smugglers and traffickers and to make dangerous journeys.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to flag up the trafficking and criminality. The UK, and the EU generally, have a long way to go to improve their response to that issue, but at the end of the day who are the most desperate to get here? It is the people with close family ties here, who are perhaps the parents of a child who has made it here, or 18 or 19-year-old siblings of children here. They will come here come hell or high water. The issue, then, becomes: are we going to allow them a safe legal route, established under my hon. Friend’s private Member’s Bill or otherwise, or are we going to leave them having ultimately to use these smugglers, traffickers and criminals? By expanding the safe legal routes, we will undermine and tackle the smuggling.
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The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly fair point, and we can have this debate when the Bill, I hope, returns, but there is limited evidence to support the proposition that that is what happens in all the other EU countries—as I say, it is only Denmark and this country that do not give children this right. As far as I can see, the Government have not produced any evidence that in other EU countries this has become a phenomenon out of kilter with what happens in Denmark or the UK, but if somebody wants to cite statistics showing that everyone is sending their kids unaccompanied to the other EU countries, I will look at that argument.
I am not absolutely sure what the hon. Gentleman is getting at. My view is that there is no evidence to back up what the Government are saying about providing an incentive to go to other EU countries as opposed to Denmark and the UK. I struggle with the ethics of that argument as well. We have child refugees here, and we should have rules in place that are in their best interests and which allow them to be reunited with their families, as do these other countries.
I turn to a third argument the Government tend to use in these debates: that they are acting in different ways in response to the refugee and migration crisis. It is only fair to recognise that the Government are doing good things. The Syrian vulnerable persons scheme is making excellent progress, and it is true that the Government have a record they can be proud of in providing aid to the region around Syria in particular. That does not mean, however, that we should not look at how else we can improve our response. Broadening the category of family members, as proposed by my hon. Friend’s Bill, would have limited implications for the Home Office but transformative consequences for the people involved.
Finally, I want to touch on legal aid. I used to be an immigration solicitor, and I can say hand on heart that using legal aid for a family reunion application, which people can still do in Scotland, never remotely struck me as a wasteful use of resources, because of how serious the subject matter is—separation can be both stressful for all involved and dangerous for those who are left behind—and how complex the process is. It is not just a matter of form-filling and box-ticking; there are other questions—what documents does a person need to prove a family relationship, how much credibility will a birth or marriage certificate from a certain country have with the Home Office, should we get expert verification, should a DNA test be done? That is even before we get to barriers of language and culture. Without a doubt, legal aid can make a huge and important difference to ensuring that applications are completed properly and that the Home Office can make the right decision on what are hugely important issues for those involved. For all these reasons, the measures in my hon. Friend’s private Member’s Bill are well founded, and I hope the money resolution will be tabled very soon.
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I am going to make some progress, because I am conscious of the time. We will return to these issues in more detail.
I said that I wanted the UK Government to take two leaves out of Scotland’s book. The first is on legal aid. Legal aid is available in Scotland. We have managed to make it available. We actually spend less per capita in Scotland on legal aid than is spent in England and Wales, but we still make it more widely available. Do not take my word for it. An independent review of the Scottish legal aid system published earlier this year reported that, for less spend per capita than England and Wales, legal aid is more widely available in Scotland and covers a wider range of categories. Where there is a will there is a way.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, I used to work in the Scottish legal system and did a lot of legal aid work. I can tell Conservative Members, as I have said to their colleagues in the Ministry of Justice, that the English legal aid system would benefit greatly from looking north to what has been achieved on a smaller budget. As has been said by others, the law on this subject is complex. People who are already vulnerable and separated from those who normally give them guidance need the assistance of a solicitor to find their way through it.
I would like to say something about the integration strategy in Scotland. I will keep it brief. The hon. Members for Harborough (Neil O’Brien) and for Dudley South (Mike Wood) spoke about good works in their constituencies. I am very proud of the work done in my constituency by the Kurdish community centre and by the Welcoming to integrate refugees, and also of the work done in primary schools in my constituency, particularly Redhall and Oxgangs, which are rights-respecting schools that have worked on big projects about welcoming child refugees. I have written to the UK Government about that.
In Scotland, we launched the New Scots strategy. The UNHCR UK representative said that he believed the New Scots strategy could be used as an example and model not just for the United Kingdom but for many countries around the world which host refugees. At the launch of the strategy, he said that, having left family far away, it is for many refugees a daily pain to think about a loved one, and he stressed to the Scottish audience how critical it is that the UK Government adopt more flexible and humane policies when it comes to bringing families together. He recognised that the powers are reserved to this Parliament at Westminster, and called on his Scottish audience to continue to influence and affect change here at Westminster.
That is what we seek to do here today. My hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has brought forward a private Member’s Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and the whole of the SNP will continue to try to pressure the UK Government to do more to help refugees, particularly the most vulnerable child refugees.
The hon. Gentleman has identified farming and my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) asked about tourism, but a number of other sectors are affected, including fisheries, which has been raised with me recently. It is crucial that we take the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee and that we have evidence-based policy making. I reassure the hon. Gentleman and other Members that I am looking into this issue very closely indeed.
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The 2015 counter-extremism strategy committed the Government for the first time to tackling the non-terrorist harm that extremism causes. Since 2015, supported by civil society groups, we have taken steps to protect public institutions from the threat of extremism.
I can tell my hon. Friend that the new counter-terrorism strategy introduced today touches on counter-extremism as well, and some lessons were learned from the Parsons Green attack. If he would like to learn more about that, I am happy to meet him.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the inquiry, but this is an issue of transparency. He and I agree about an awful lot of things, but we are on opposite sides of the fence here. The documents should be put in the public domain. We can redact certain things, such as civil servants’ names, but the names of elected people should not be redacted.
Both the cases that I mentioned earlier resulted in victories, but I am dealing with many other cases. Over the past two or three years—this goes back a long way—I have spent an awful lot of time writing to schools, former employers, colleges and the police. In one case I even had to write to the Army to try to check the records to prove that people who had every right to be here could assume that right.
This country has close ties with the Caribbean and with other Commonwealth countries, and we should bear in mind that this debate will be watched across the Commonwealth. Thousands of people will be watching us in countries such as Jamaica, India and Pakistan. Those close ties with the Commonwealth, and with the Caribbean in particular, have their roots in an appalling institution: the empire. It was built on piracy and slavery, but nevertheless the one good thing to come out of that poisonous institution was the Commonwealth, which has always given relatively small countries, often with little political and economic clout, a platform for their voices to be heard, especially here and particularly at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings.
After the war, a series of Governments in this country and in others worked to foster the bonds with the Commonwealth, but those bonds have now been loosened. It is not simply that communities in this country have been given cause to fear what might happen, which is bad enough; we have also undermined relationships with countries across the globe. I never thought I would see the Prime Minister of Jamaica standing in Downing Street, expressing his dismay at the British Government and their policies. That goes way beyond what any previous Jamaican Prime Minister has said, and previous Prime Ministers were fairly critical—I am thinking of Michael Manley and his father Norman. Nobody has expressed such sentiments in the heart of the capital. This Government’s job now is to rebuild links with the affected communities and reassure them that they are safe and not under threat. The Government also need—this includes the Foreign Office—to rebuild links with the Commonwealth countries that have had their faith in Britain shattered.
I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s points about contrition and about the resignation of the former Home Secretary, but surely the issue is the underlying immigration policies—the hostile environment. Can he enlighten us as to whether he and his Back-Bench colleagues challenged some of those policies? He is a Conservative Member and his party is in government. What did he and his colleagues do? I am sure that, like the rest of us, his mailbox is full of constituency cases of people who are being treated in a hostile manner.
It should be put on the record that many of us who were elected in 2010, with the change of government, noticed that under the previous Government there had also been big problems in the Home Office in getting on and doing the right thing in relation to all manner of things—visas, applications and so on. This was nothing new under the Conservative Government.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this incredibly important debate. A lot has been said today and over the past week or so about this scandal, but I still feel that there are not words strong enough to describe how awful, appalling, heartbreaking and profoundly un-British this whole scandal has been. I associate myself with all the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary in her opening speech. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and, in particular, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on the tremendous work they have done on bringing this issue to light.
This is a horrendous, horrible moment, not just for the Windrush generation and their children but for all of us in our collective national life, and it will have an enduring legacy. If we choose, and if the Government listen, it could be a positive legacy that helps us to move forward in a way that is in the best of our British traditions of fairness, decency and a desire to do the right thing. In that context, I say to Home Office Ministers that they should take heed of our motion and simply release the paperwork. If there is an issue as to how extensive the wording of the motion is, they should work with either the shadow Front-Bench team or the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee to come to a wording that is acceptable and to bring forward the disinfectant that is sunlight.
Break in Debate
At its heart this motion is about the hostile environment, and that is why so many of us are here this afternoon. The Home Secretary has committed himself to a “fair and humane” immigration policy. In my view, it is not possible to have a fair and humane immigration policy alongside the hostile environment. That is a paradox and a total contradiction in terms. He has said that he wants to move from a hostile environment to a compliant environment. Let us think about what compliant means.
Compliant means to obey rules to an excessive degree. Compliant means the action or fact of complying with a command. I say to the new Home Secretary: has he forgotten our history? I remind the House that I am here because you were there. I say “you” metaphorically. The Windrush generation are here because of slavery. The Windrush story is the story of British empire. And the Windrush community and its ancestors know what hostile and compliance mean. We know what compliance means. It is written deep into our souls and passed down from our ancestors. Slaves having to nod and smile when they were being whipped in a cotton field or a sugar cane field were compliant. Watching your partner being tied to a tree, beaten or raped on a plantation is compliance. Twelve million people being transported as slaves from Africa to the colonies is a compliant environment.
I will not.
Windrush citizens being abused, spat on and assaulted in the street but never once fighting back was a compliant environment. Black Britons being racially abused at work but never speaking up because they need to put food on the table know all about a compliant environment. Turning the other cheek when the National Front were marching through our streets was a compliant environment. Young black men being stopped and searched by the police, despite committing no crime and living in fear of the police, know what it is like to be in a compliant environment. And thank God that Doreen Lawrence defied that compliant environment.