All 10 Peter Bone debates involving the Home Office

Foreign National Offender Removal Flights

Peter Bone Excerpts
Wednesday 18th May 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I am grateful to the shadow Minister for his contribution, but let me deal with some facts in responding to it. First, I can be very clear for the House’s benefit that more than 10,000 foreign national offenders have been removed from our country since 2019. [Interruption.] Opposition Members are making lots of gestures, but one thing they will recognise, I am sure, is that we have had a pandemic during the last two years, and I think all Members probably realise and recognise the impact that that has had on business as usual in the returns and deportation space. I can also confirm for the House that the vast majority of removals from our country are to European economic area countries, and of course that applies to enforced returns.

The hon. Member mentioned Windrush. This issue is of course completely unrelated to Windrush. None of those being returned are British citizens or nationals, or members of the Windrush generation. Each person’s return is considered on its individual merits and carefully assessed against a background of relevant case law and in the light of published country information, which covers country-specific issues. The case of each person being returned on a charter to Jamaica is referred to the Windrush taskforce, and it is right and proper that that work is done. I can also add—[Interruption.] Well, it is right that this is done properly. Legal aid was also raised. Of course, people can access legal support in detention in the usual way.

The Blair and Brown Governments took an entirely pragmatic and eminently sensible approach to these matters. [Interruption.] Well, I give credit where it is due. Opposition Members criticise, but I will give credit to former Labour Home Secretaries who did the right thing and were committed to ensuring that our laws are upheld, and it is the UK Borders Act 2007 that governs this.

Often, the Opposition talk tough on serious violence, but when they have the opportunity they want, entirely optionally, to let out those who have committed serious violence on our streets, when there are options available to remove them from our country. Labour had the opportunity to change things for the better, but oh no, as always they carp from the sidelines but never have a plan.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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My constituents, and I guess most in the United Kingdom, find it unbelievable that convicted murderers, rapists and paedophiles who are foreign national offenders are not returned immediately to their countries. Can the Minister tell us how on earth last-minute appeals can stop people going on flights? Surely we can at least have a cut-off date beyond which no appeals can be made. Maybe he can also tell the House whether he has been on one of these flights and what the atmosphere is like.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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My hon. Friend and constituency neighbour speaks with great authority on these matters, and I know the view that people in Northamptonshire take on this. I have been on a removal flight to Poland a few months ago, which was a useful experience for me to understand the end-to-end process. I am grateful for his support for the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which introduces the one-stop processes and priority removal notices that should enable us to break this cycle of endless dither and delay, and constant appeals and claims, so that those individuals are removed from our country more quickly. His constituents can be assured that we are getting on with delivering this.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I will not repeat the many, many occasions on which I have set out on the Floor of the House and in Committee during the Bill’s passage the many and varied safe and legal routes that exist. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), the Chair of the Justice Committee, has rightly touched on the need to reform the casework situation, which is precisely what we are doing through the new plan for immigration. I encourage him to be in the right Lobby this evening to help us get on with delivering on that priority, which is one priority among a number as we reform the system.

It is simply unnecessary, inappropriate and unconstitutional for the courts to have a duty to make declarations of incompatibility in circumstances where questions of compliance have already been determined by Parliament, so we cannot accept Lords amendment 5D.

On differentiation, Lords amendments 6D to 6F would make it harder to differentiate by placing significant evidential burdens on the Secretary of State. They would also set out our existing legal obligations on the face of the Bill, such as our duties under the refugee convention and the European convention on human rights, especially the article 8 right to family life. All of this is either unnecessary or unacceptable. We therefore do not accept these amendments.

Finally, the arguments on the right to work have been well rehearsed at several points in the passage of the Bill. In principle, we are concerned about the way in which this would undercut the points-based system, which we believe is the right system for facilitating lawful migration into our country—that skills-based approach, exactly as the British people voted for in the referendum in 2016. I go back to this point: our objective is to speed up caseworking, which then, of itself, ensures that we do not need to go down the route—

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Does the excellent Minister know the majorities the other place had for sending these amendments back to us? Given the large built-in anti-Government majority in the Lords, it seems to me that they must have been quite large.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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My hon. Friend probes me on this with good reason. Off the top of my head, I believe that one of them was won by one vote, one was won by eight votes and one was won by 25 votes. So they are not particularly hefty majorities. The time has come to get on and pass this Bill. This Government’s new plan for immigration will tackle illegal migration and reform the asylum system.

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Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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I can tell the hon. Gentleman that it will be a hell of a lot more than what will be returned under the Rwanda scheme. He knows that it is forecast that 23,000 people will seek to make that dangerous journey. The Rwanda scheme will not even scratch the surface. That is the reality. The only way to deal with this problem is through a proper removal agreement.

Only the Labour party can reset the UK’s relationship with France and the EU, and from there strike a robust removal agreement that would truly act as a deterrent against the criminal people smugglers by breaking their business model. A Labour Government would also engage with Europol and the French authorities to create effective co-operation in the pursuit and prosecution of the criminal gangs who are running the people smuggling and human trafficking, rather than the constant war of words with our European partners and allies, which is all we ever get from this headline-chasing Government. Cheap headlines are all they care about, as everybody on the Labour Benches knows.

Thirdly, absolutely none of the Government’s safe and legal routes seems to work. The Afghan citizens resettlement scheme is not even off the ground. The Syria route has been ditched. The Dubs scheme for unaccompanied children has also been cancelled. The Ukraine scheme today had a queue three hours long in Portcullis House of MPs’ staffers fighting for Ukrainians on behalf of their constituents, because the visas simply are not getting processed. Somehow, the Home Secretary has managed to turn an inspiring tale of British generosity into a bureaucratic nightmare. Labour would make safe and legal routes work, which in turn would strike another blow against the people smugglers.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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I have a lot of time for the shadow Minister, but he is on a really sticky wicket here. Can he just answer these two questions? Is it the Labour party’s policy that we should not take any migrants to Rwanda? Secondly, is he not then scared that by not doing that it will encourage the evil people smugglers in their work?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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The hon. Gentleman will know that the Home Secretary’s top civil servant has said that the Rwanda scheme will not work as a deterrent and it delivers no value for money whatever for the British taxpayer. What matters is what works, and that scheme will not work.

Global Migration Challenge

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 19th April 2022

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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I have already spoken about the processing and the eligibility—[Interruption.] Yes, I have. I absolutely have. Operational decisions are for the officials and practitioners on the ground who undertake them. That is part of our process that the hon. Lady should respect.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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The shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), was slightly wrong when she talked about human trafficking. This is not human trafficking; this is people smuggling. This is about evil gangs being paid money to take people across the channel. They do not care about the lives of these individuals. The only way we are going to stop the people smuggling is if we reduce the demand for it, and the Home Secretary’s Rwanda policy is absolutely right. Does she agree that her policy is morally the right thing to do?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there is a distinction and a significant difference between people trafficking and smuggling. It is the people-smuggling gangs that we are trying to stop. We are trying to break up their business model and end their evil trade, and it is absolutely right that we do so. When it comes to cases of human trafficking, it is a well-known fact that it is down to the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and the work of this Government, that we have stood up the legalities and the proper processes to give those people who have been trafficked the legal protection and the safety and security that they need in our country.

Refugees from Ukraine

Peter Bone Excerpts
Wednesday 16th March 2022

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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To illustrate the point I was making for the hon. Gentleman’s benefit, I repeat that it is important that we have agreement with Ukraine on how those matters are approached. It would not be right, for example, for us to remove unaccompanied children from Poland without that agreement in place. Of course, as he would rightly expect, and because it is something that we as Ministers are very mindful of, we will continue to work constructively with the Ukrainian and Polish authorities to ensure that we get it right and that we do our bit on this.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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On that point, surely if there is an unaccompanied child in Poland, say, we would want that child looked after safely in Poland so that it can reunite with its parents when they are free to escape Ukraine. What are the Government doing to support bordering countries with humanitarian aid for that purpose?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that particular perspective on this issue, and I will happily have a further discussion with him outside the Chamber about the constructive work we are doing with the Polish authorities in particular. It is important, where possible, that we help to provide appropriate humanitarian assistance in the region. Of course, as he rightly says, wherever possible we want to see families reunited as quickly as possible, and there is an argument that having those children cared for closer to home makes it easier to facilitate that, but we will keep that under constant review to ensure that we are doing everything we can as a country to support those unaccompanied children and see that they are properly cared for. That is something people in our country would rightly expect.

Returning to the Ukraine family scheme, we have ensured that the scheme is easily accessible and fee free, and that it will not include any salary or language requirements. People who successfully apply to the scheme will have three years’ leave to remain and can work and access public services during that time. We will ensure that there will be avenues for people to stay if they are unable to return. We will never seek to return those to whom we give shelter if the situation in Ukraine remains as dangerous as it is today.

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Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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The right hon. Lady is absolutely right. Operation Warm Welcome, the scheme for Afghans, has completely stalled and thousands of Afghans are stuck in hotels. That was completely on the watch of this Home Secretary, so I will take no lectures on that from the Government Members.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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I say to the shadow Minister that the SNP has moved the motion sensibly, criticising the Government in a constructive way. The shadow Minister’s remarks are in danger of turning into a more party political attack. May I suggest that that is not what the House wants at the moment?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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I remind the hon. Gentleman that what is going on in Ukraine is a fight for democracy. In this House we act on the basis of democracy; it is the Opposition’s duty to hold the Government to account and to scrutinise them. If I were saying these things in Russia right now, I would be carted out and sent to the gulag, so I will take no lectures from him on the purpose of this debate and on our purpose, as Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition, in a democracy. This House has lost confidence in the Home Secretary and, frankly, the entire country has too.

I turn now to the day-to-day misery and chaos that Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in our country are experiencing. We are still hearing stories from Ukrainians who have made it to Poland, Hungary and other bordering countries that they are having to wait for days on end to be granted a UK visa. Given that we know that it takes only 10 minutes for a biometric test to be completed and only a matter of minutes to print a visa, why on earth are people having to wait for so long? As one Ukrainian refugee on the Polish border said, “It was hell”. Another called it “a humiliating process”.

This incompetence is leaving a stain on our international reputation. Have these poor people not dealt with enough stress already? We have also heard that the visa centre in northern France was originally supposed to be in Calais, then Lille, and that now it will be in Arras, another 30 miles from Lille. If the Home Office cannot even decide where the visa centre will be, how on earth will the people on the ground know where to go?

Let us not forget that the Home Secretary cited security concerns as the explanation for her refusal to set up a visa centre in Calais, while we have a Prime Minister who repeatedly overruled the advice of our security services in awarding a peerage to the son of a KGB agent. That tells us all we need to know about the priorities of this Government.

I turn to the Homes for Ukraine scheme that was announced on Monday. As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, Labour managed to shame the Government into introducing a sponsorship scheme to allow those without family to come to our country. It is a matter of profound regret that the Government have not heeded our calls for a simple emergency visa scheme that would have avoided the huge amount of bureaucracy, uncertainty and red tape that they have chosen to introduce. Nevertheless, this scheme is better than nothing.

However, on Monday the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities stood at the Dispatch Box and bellowed at the top of his voice about being fed up with people saying that the British people are not generous. His histrionics were yet another example of the deeply disingenuous behaviour of Conservative Ministers who come to this Chamber and deliberately misrepresent the Opposition’s criticisms of their dismal performance. Nobody is criticising the public for lack of generosity; our criticisms are levelled directly at this Government who have utterly failed the Ukrainians who are fleeing the horrors of war. If Ministers were to spend half as much time actually getting on with their jobs as they do desperately deploying smoke and mirrors to conceal their failings, then we might all be in a better place.

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Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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It is traditional to thank the previous speaker for their remarks, but regrettably I can find little on which I agree with the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), and I fear his tone was wrong.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
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The point I wanted to make to the shadow Minister is that the reason the Government Benches are not as highly populated as many people, including in the media, might expect for a debate on refugees from Ukraine is that over 150 colleagues are currently in Committee Room 14 listening to and engaging with four female MPs from Ukraine. I have to say that all four of them have paid considerable tribute to the enormous support that this country and our Government have given their country, which is wonderful to hear, and I sometimes wonder whether we are living in a slightly different parallel world down here compared with up there.

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Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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I thank my hon. Friend for a very important intervention. I would not criticise the Opposition for not having Members on their Benches because, for various reasons, a number of things relating to Ukraine are going on today.

I have a great deal of respect for the shadow Minister, but I just think he got it wrong on this occasion, and I absolutely think that the deputy leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), got it wrong at Prime Minister’s questions. She lost the House, and she was making party political points. In contrast, the SNP parliamentary leader made a very constructive point, and the way SNP Members have introduced this debate is wholly constructive. They disagree with the Government on the level of support and the way refugees are handled, but they have done it constructively, and I could fully support most of the motion they have tabled. I have to say that I have said that before I hear what the Back-Bench SNP Members say, but I do think they have chosen this subject and put down a motion that is reasonable and constructive, even if I do not agree with absolutely all of it.

I want to congratulate the Prime Minister on his leadership across Europe on the Ukrainian crisis Europe. I think people recognise that he has put in a lot of energy and has galvanised support for sanctions. Our military support to Ukraine has been huge, and our humanitarian support to the countries bordering Ukraine is probably the most in Europe. I think that is important testimony to how well this Government have done.

I think there is a very important point about looking after refugees, mainly women and children, who are fleeing Ukraine and getting out of Ukraine to the bordering countries, and who will want to be looked after there until the Russians can be defeated in Ukraine and they can then go back to their loved ones in Ukraine. I think we should do everything we can to help those countries, and I congratulate all the countries bordering Ukraine on the support they have given people who have either come from a warzone, with all the trauma they are facing there, or are fleeing in advance of the war coming towards them. I think we should give great credit to our European neighbours for that, and the fact that we are giving massive humanitarian aid is very important.

I want to deal in particular with the issue of human trafficking. I chaired the all-party group on human trafficking for a number of years, and these evil gangs—“evil gangs” does not do justice to how awful these people are—have moved into the areas to which refugees are coming in those countries. What human traffickers, and by the way these are not the same as smugglers, do is take young women and children and offer them, they say, a safe route to this country or that country, perhaps even to the United Kingdom, but what they actually do is put them into modern-day slavery, prostitution or forced labour. This is happening at the moment in the countries surrounding Ukraine, as the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), brought up in the debate yesterday.

My particular concern is about Moldova, which is a small country bordering Ukraine, but not in the EU. That very small country has taken in 100,000 refugees, but Moldova was already known for human trafficking. It is an area rife with those telling people that they can get them jobs and prosperity elsewhere, because it is a poor country. There was always a problem with human trafficking gangs there, and they are now operating to a greater degree. It is not an area where we would naturally have a lot of Home Office or Foreign Office support, because it is not in the EU and it is not a country we would deal with at high level.

I would like the Minister to consider putting extra resources into those countries to fight the human traffickers. We have led the fight against human trafficking in Europe, and we need to have people on the ground at the border to stop the trafficking gangs getting hold of these people and forcing them into a most evil situation.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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It is fair to say that my hon. Friend has been a tireless advocate on these issues for many years, and he speaks with great authority about them. I hope I can provide him with some reassurance in saying that I absolutely take away the point he raises. It is fair to say that our law enforcement agencies are looking at this very closely and identifying what more we can do to work in this area. I should add that there is a very strong link through Europol, which is ensuring that we are working with our neighbours to clamp down on this in a co-ordinated way.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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I am very grateful for the Minister’s intervention, and we have of course worked tirelessly with Europol, but I do think that the sophistication of these evil gangs cannot be overestimated and urgent action is required in that area, particularly in Moldova, but also in other countries such as Poland.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford
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My hon. Friend is making an incredibly point about human trafficking. Does he agree that the UK should spend some of the money in our foreign development budget on tackling human trafficking, because it is a huge issue that we know is going to get worse with this crisis? We must protect those women and girls—the children especially—as it is a ginormous issue coming down the line.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The problem is, or has been, that when we use that sort of aid, it does not count towards this mythical zero point whatever it is per cent., but we should still do it because it is the right thing to do. We and the whole House are after protecting women and children, and we do not want to lose these people at the very point when they have fled from a most awful situation. I do hope that that is one thing the Government could look at.

I want to say something briefly about Homes for Ukraine. A number of my constituents have been very keen to help in Wellingborough—for instance, I know that the Methodist church has a number of people who want to take refugees from Ukraine—which is absolutely great, and I really appreciate what my constituents are offering. It is important, and I am glad to hear what the Minister has said, that we have wraparound support for everyone who comes here. We cannot just bring someone over, pop them in a house, and that is it, and the local authorities need to be on board. North Northamptonshire Council has been very keen on this, and Councillor Helen Harrison has played the leading role when dealing with Afghans who have come here, so I am really pleased that councils are going to be offered £10,500 per person.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)
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This is one of my concerns in that just getting accommodation by signing up to the website is not going to solve this, both because people will need all sorts of support to integrate and because they will be traumatised. Would it not be better for local councils to create lists of people with accommodation? The idea that this can be handled from here across the UK is not going to work; it should be as localised as possible.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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The hon. Lady raises a very interesting point. I have a lot of time for what she has to say, which has merit. One problem with getting Afghan refugees settled was the extra time that it took to go from the Home Office down to the local authority. North Northamptonshire Council has the ability to deal with this, and to do so quickly—and I am not a fan of centralised systems that are based on a computer that is liable to break down—so that is certainly worth looking at.

On the wraparound support that local authorities will provide, I think the Minister said there might be some extra help with education. In winding up, will he expand on that?

In summary, what my constituents have said about getting refugees over here is that, first, we should be looking after them as they come across the border. We are doing that with money. They also think that the Government have now got it right with the schemes—a little slow, I think they would say, but they are getting there. It is right that there are checks and that we do not just let any people in. On the human trafficking front, the easier we make it for traffickers to bring people in, the more people will come in and be forced into prostitution or forced labour. The Government are getting it right, and I congratulate them on what they are doing. I just wonder whether they could look at one or two points on how education will be dealt with, and whether we can speed up the process and get vulnerable women and children to local authorities quickly, rather than having to go through a more bureaucratic system.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)
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I want to acknowledge two things at the outset. First, the UK is not doing nothing and what the UK has done so far will have made a massive difference for some to whom we have given protection. Some may end up as MPs in this place one day, talking about how they came to the UK as refugees in 2022. There is no doubt that we will have saved and shaped lives, and have enabled some simply to have a life. This Government are not doing nothing and it would be wrong to claim otherwise, which is why nobody has claimed that today.

I also want to acknowledge that none of this is the fault of anyone other than Vladimir Putin and his regime, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) said. It is not the fault of a European Government, of the people of these islands or of the Russian people, and it certainly is not the fault of the Ukrainian people, but our lack of culpability is irrelevant to our duty, both legal and moral.

As an immigration spokesperson and someone who has a very significant immigration case load in my constituency, and as someone who sat on the Nationality and Borders Bill Committee, scrutinising every line along with my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), I am always concerned when this UK Tory Government is required to fulfil that legal and moral duty, because I do not think they think there is a legal duty, and judging by the way they continually invite pats on the head and talk of how generous they are, I do not think they believe they have a moral duty either. They would not bring forward a Bill such as the Nationality and Borders Bill—which, ironically, returns from the Lords next week—if they had any desire, or believed they had any duty, to protect people fleeing war, violence and terror. The Nationality and Borders Bill, widely known as the anti-refugee Bill, is clearly trying to send a signal that benevolent Britain is no more: “Do not come here, because you will not be welcome.”

As I said, the Government are not doing nothing to help Ukrainian refugees, but they must understand that our duty, not just as Opposition MPs but as Members of this Parliament, of whatever party, is to speak up when we think the Government have got it wrong and to say where we believe the Government need to go on this issue. Otherwise we might as well just go home, take the salary and do nothing for it. I will list some of my concerns, many of which have been raised by colleagues but which I want to reinforce.

The response to refugees has been chaotic. I do not believe the Government have got it right yet, but they have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming even to get to the stage they have currently reached. Those of us who regularly have contact with the Home Office know that its modus operandi is to change the rules regularly and blindside people. Immigration lawyers can hardly keep up, MPs and caseworkers cannot keep up, refugees cannot keep up; that is the Home Office MO, and it is deliberate. It is adopted to deny people their rights, and the chaotic way in which the current situation was handled is that MO in microcosm. Anybody would think the Home Office did not want people to come here! From 24 February to 14 March it updated the guidance 11 separate times.

I want to say something about the children we were talking about earlier, and which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) raised in Prime Minister’s questions, and the chaotic way in which that has been dealt with. We are failing in our duty to those children, and—[Interruption.] If the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove) will let me finish, I want to say this. His colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), who is no longer in his place, said that the Ukrainian Government have to give permission. That is right—we agree with that—and there is a Ukrainian Government Minister at the child processing centre right now who can give permission, yet the Westminster leader of the SNP must arrange it, because somehow it is not the Home Office Ministers’ job. Well, it is their job. [Interruption.] The Minister is shaking his head; so surely after this debate he will get that sorted so that those children will be brought to safety.

That aside, progress is being made, but why does it have to be so chaotic? Why do we have to make it so hard for people, and why are we still not offering anything comparable to what EU countries are offering? I know the Government do not like it when we compare what is happening here with EU countries, but we are not doing that because they are European; we are doing it because they have comparable economies and population size and we do not compare favourably, no matter what others think. I will come on to that shortly.

Nevertheless, we are slowly getting there, and one method is the Homes for Ukraine scheme. That cannot replace our legal duty, but I am delighted that so many people—120,000—have registered so far, opening their hearts and their homes to others. However, safeguarding remains a concern, and I know that it is a shared concern. Most of those using that scheme will be traumatised women and children and those men who are too vulnerable to be able to stay and fight, and we must ensure that they have the knowledge and means to reach out if it goes wrong; we must ensure they have the confidence to tell somebody if the placement is not working. They need to know who they can go to, and they also need to know they can approach them for any reason. They might just not feel comfortable, for instance. Perhaps a woman on her own with children is staying with a male who makes them feel a little uncomfortable and they might not be able to put their finger on why—perhaps it is just an inability to communicate with their hosts. I am sure most of those offering to share their homes do so from a place of compassion and would agree that we need to be careful in our vetting and follow-on, so that we do not end up inadvertently helping to traffic people into the sex trade who are then terrorised by their captors into not reporting it. That is what often happens now, and we must be very clear that they will be protected if they report such things. I know the Government have said that they will take that on board.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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The hon. Lady is making a crucial point about the way traffickers will bring people into this country, but they also coach people in this country, and they will threaten people so they do not report that. That is why vetting, checking and wraparound support from local councils is so important. The hon. Lady has touched on an extremely important point that we all must be aware of.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin
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The hon. Gentleman has done so much in this respect for victims of trafficking.

I want to repeat that Positive Action in Housing based in Glasgow has a rooms-for-refugees scheme; it is not a paid scheme, but none the less over 20 years there have been 4,000 successful placements. It has great experience in this field and the Government could usefully speak to it and other organisations about their experiences.

I raised the issue of visas and asked a number of pertinent questions on Monday, but the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Torbay chose to ignore them, so I tried to intervene, and he refused to engage at all. He continued with the pretence that what we on the Opposition Benches, and many on the Government Benches, are asking for is unusual. Yet thousands of people enter the UK every day without visas: anyone from Australia can come here without a visa; anyone from Mexico can come without a visa; and anyone from Costa Rica can come without a visa. Thousands every week, too, from Canada, from Japan, from Namibia, from South Korea, and from the US, arrive here without a visa.

The Government say that to allow Ukrainians to do so in their moment of need would somehow pose a threat to our safety. As if having a visa is in itself a safeguard: as my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East mentioned, the two Russian military intelligence officers who entered the UK and made their way to Salisbury to carry out a revenge attack on a former MI6 spy, which resulted in the death of local woman Dawn Sturgess, applied for and got their visas before they arrived. A visa is no safeguard.

In Monday’s debate, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) raised the fact, as she has again today, that Lord Ricketts, who I am willing to bet has much more experience than any of us in this House—

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Eddie Hughes Portrait Eddie Hughes
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That is fantastic news. I particularly thank my hon. Friend for his contribution to that effort.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you normally have the peroration at the end of the speech, so I am sorry for starting with it, but this is the final point of my opening remarks. Tens of thousands of people have already signed up to our Homes for Ukraine scheme. I am delighted to say that 7,000 of them have come from Scotland—these are not official figures, but the ones that I managed to squeeze out of the Department earlier.

The hon. Member for Glasgow North East also said that the Government needed a pat on the head when they feel that they are being generous. This is not the generosity of the Government—this is not our money. This is the generosity of the British people. This is the generosity of Scottish households. Seven thousand of them have come forward to open up their homes, and we should welcome and embrace that idea.

The hon. Lady also said, as did several other Scottish contributors, that the Government needed to be dragged kicking and screaming to this, and that it is against our better judgment, which is kind of weird when we have introduced an uncapped scheme. We are not putting any limits on the number of people who are coming here despite what Members might think from what they have heard from the SNP Benches so far.

I will now get back to my actual speech. I start by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has gathered and contributed to the debate today. The contributions, which I will come on to, possibly in detail—time allowing—later, show the strength of feeling that exists in this House and the importance that we all place on getting this right and doing the right thing by Ukrainian refugees.

As we meet today, thousands of Ukrainians are at the border of their country, trying to escape the horrors of war. They are overwhelmingly women, children, and the elderly—mothers, daughters, wives, and grandmothers. They are people left with no choice but to leave the country that they love. They are exhausted, distraught and desperate. Some have queued in traffic jams for 20 miles—the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) referred to a case of someone who queued for 40 miles. Others have boarded trains that are packed to the rafters. Many have watched in horror as their homes and cities have been destroyed by Putin’s bloody invasion. This unprovoked invasion is bringing about a humanitarian crisis on a scale that we have not seen in Europe since the end of world war two, with the United Nations estimating that some 4 million people could end up fleeing their country.

Members across this House are determined that we, as a country, should open our arms to these people, and this determination has been on full display today. The scenes of devastation and human misery inflicted by President Putin’s barbarous assault on what he calls “Russia’s cousins” in Ukraine have unleashed a tidal wave of solidarity and generosity across the country. British people always step forward and step up in these moments, and since the first tanks rolled into Ukraine, they have come forward in droves with offers of help: community centres have been flooded with critical supplies; the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain has received millions in donations; and charities such as the Red Cross have been overwhelmed with people giving whatever they can. The outpouring of public support has been nothing short of remarkable.

While this Government, and this whole House, have risen to the occasion with our offer of support to Ukrainians fleeing war, our lethal aid and our stranglehold on economic sanctions on Russia have clearly shown that we will keep upping the ante to ensure that Putin fails. As Members have argued today, it has been abundantly clear in recent days that we can and must do more. It is exactly right, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities set out on Monday the new and uncapped sponsorship scheme, Homes for Ukraine. It is a scheme to allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to be sponsored by individuals or organisations that can offer them a home. It is a scheme that draws not only on the exceptional good will and generosity of the British people, but one that gives them the opportunity to help make a difference.

As Members across the House have recognised today, the answer to that call has been truly emphatic. It sparked a Glastonbury-style rush to register to help, which did, temporarily, crash the website. Since Monday, more than 130,000 have stepped forward to offer an empty room or an empty home.

I appreciate that people are gathering for the statement, but I just want to briefly touch on the comments of some Members. My hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) talked about support for local councils. Obviously we will provide £10,500 per person, plus additional funding for education. Clearly, there are roundtable discussions ongoing with local councils and local resilience forums to ensure that they are well prepared for the arrival of these people. They will be responsible for going out and checking that the accommodation is of an appropriate standard and helping with those vital safeguarding concerns.

The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) would clearly like to see visas scrapped, but, in the meantime, they will be delighted to know that the Government have stepped up efforts to provide extra support to ensure that we can handle 13,000 appointments per week, which will dramatically surge the number of people that we are processing, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove), mentioned.

The right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) asked us to work with the devolved Assemblies. Now, I mentioned the figure for Scotland, but I also understand that the number of applications from Wales for the Homes for Ukraine scheme is 9,000 so far, so we need to ensure that the system works and that those people can serve the purpose for which they have signed up. We will be working closely with charities to ensure that the support is provided right across the country.

Finally, one Member also raised concerns about those people who are coming with disabilities. As the disability champion for our Department, this is clearly something that I am particularly concerned about. We will work with local councils to ensure that the provision that is necessary—the support that needs to be provided for those people with disabilities—is available when they come to this country.

I wish to conclude, in this dark time, on a very optimistic note. At a time when the British public were needed to come forward and to open their hearts and their homes, they have done so emphatically—more than 130,000 homes have been offered so far. These are exciting times in terms of the contribution that we can make as a country to support the people of Ukraine at their time of greatest need. Slava Ukraini.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House once more condemns President Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the war crimes being perpetrated by the Russian state there; reiterates the House’s solidarity with Ukrainians in their resistance to Russia’s invasion of their sovereign state; recognises that Europe is now seeing the largest movement of refugees since the second world war, for whom the UK shares responsibility; warmly welcomes the significant and widespread offers of support for those fleeing the invasion from people and organisations across the UK; supports expansion of the family visa scheme and Homes for Ukraine scheme; and calls on the Government to go further and faster in its response, including waiving requirements for Ukrainians to apply for visas in advance of their arrival in the UK so as to facilitate speedy access to international protection here, working with international partners to ensure vulnerable people can be resettled here and providing full and sustained funding and safeguarding to support people to rebuild their lives.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This will take one minute and 30 seconds. It is important that the public realise that sometimes, when the House is not packed, it is not because it is not interested in what is happening. Today, there are Ukrainian MPs in the Palace, and hundreds of MPs have gone to see them. The last debate was very important and well attended, and those speaking in it made their constructive points in a very sensible way. We should, though, make the public aware that there were other things going on in the House at the same time.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I am happy to give him a direct answer. First, I agree with him entirely. It was noted earlier this afternoon that although we were having an extremely important and topical debate about Ukrainian refugees, the Benches were sparsely occupied. It is important to note—the hon. Gentleman put this very well—that in another room at that very moment, there were four Ukrainian Members of Parliament, who are most welcome here. Many colleagues, rather than being in the Chamber, had gone to that meeting, which I gather was extremely fruitful.

Refugees from Ukraine

Peter Bone Excerpts
Thursday 10th March 2022

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I acknowledge the hon. Gentlemen’s comments. It is important that, as a country and in this House in particular, we unite against Putin and what he is doing. We must never lose sight of what President Putin is doing to Ukraine and the people of Ukraine. That is something that this entire House, particularly this week, should absolutely get behind.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I am grateful to the Home Secretary for her approach. Please forgive me, but I did not hear correctly whether it was 13,000 appointments per day or per week. She mentioned many of the countries where we have visa application centres, but a disproportionate number of people have gone to the small country of Moldova, which is not in the EU. Have we beefed up the visa application centre there?

Ukraine: Urgent Refugee Applications

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 8th March 2022

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the right hon. Lady will know from my original letter to her, we felt that pulling officials away to do a session before the Home Affairs Committee tomorrow would have meant pulling them—and me—away from the preparations for bringing people to the UK. However, we also specifically said that we would seek to agree on a later date, and that could, perhaps, have been reflected in the statement issued on Friday.

Let me deal with the right hon. Lady’s more substantive points. We have the existing process for those who have relatives here, and we are extending it well beyond the normal relatives and dependants. Moreover, the wider sponsorship route will provide many other opportunities for people to come to the UK.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Does the Minister agree that most of the help with processing visas should be provided close to the Ukrainian border? What are the Government doing to increase processing there—in particular, in the small country of Moldova, which has taken more than 80,000 Ukrainians? Have we a presence there, and how open is that visa centre?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We do have visa application centres in the countries bordering Ukraine, and we have stepped up capacity there, particularly in countries that are in the European economic area. Normally a very small number of EEA nationals need to go to a visa application centre, so we have been bringing in resources from other areas to bolster those centres. There is, in fact, a centre in Moldova. I understand that it has moved to seven-day working, although obviously demand will be very high, and people can apply from any visa application centre where they can get an appointment; they do not need to be in a country immediately bordering Ukraine. As I have said, we continue to expand capacity, and we are considering the position relating to those under 18 and whether they need to provide biometrics.

Ukraine

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 1st March 2022

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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That is a case that the hon. Gentleman has already been in touch with me about. We are looking into it.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for coming to the House at the earliest opportunity to update us. As we know, women and children are fleeing through west Ukraine to get to safe countries, but they are obviously vulnerable to air attack by Russian aircraft. Has there been any discussion on creating a no-fly safe zone in western Ukraine for refugees? Did the Home Secretary discuss that when she spoke to the Ukrainian ambassador?

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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We discuss all issues, some of which I cannot share on the Floor of the House because they are very sensitive in light of the attacks. I know my hon. Friend will respect that. Discussions are taking place constantly, but he is right to highlight just how dangerous, volatile and precarious the situation is. All of us are mindful of that as we work with our counterparts and our colleagues. I am speaking to many of my counterparts nearly every other day, plus ambassadors every single day. The situation is changing and we are hearing different reports. We are working in real time—real time—to provide all the support in the region and in-country in specific ways that can make a difference to people.

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 17th January 2022

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. She will know that Ministers in the Home Office are always keen to try to assist in these matters wherever possible. If she could provide me with the specifics, I would be very happy to take those cases away and have a look at them.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Does the Minister agree that one of the problems with genuine victims of human trafficking is that they are lumped together with asylum seekers? The quicker we can return bogus asylum seekers, the quicker we can get help to the genuine victims of human traffickers.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who raises an important point. It is fair to say that the Nationality and Borders Bill and the new plan for immigration focus very much on returning those who have no right to be here, while ensuring that those who require our protection and are genuinely in need of support do get that support as quickly as possible.

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith
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I am grateful to you for clarifying, Mr Speaker.

I will just say to the right hon. Gentleman that of course he is right, and it is important for us to understand that this is an issue not of asylum or migration but decency. He will know—even if he does not, I am going to say it to the House—that a significant chunk of those who are now part of the modern-day slavery ghastliness emanate from the UK. It is important that local authorities and others understand that they are looking not just for people who are trafficked in, but for those being trafficked within the UK. That is an important point. I agree with him, and the point of today’s debate is to try to raise that issue.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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The right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) makes a pertinent point, but is not Justice and Care—and its navigators who help victims of trafficking with the criminal justice system—one of the success stories? We get more prosecutions because of that charity and the work it does.

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith
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I thank my hon. Friend for signing the new clause, and he is absolutely right. Justice and Care has done a phenomenal amount of work; I am enormously grateful for its guidance and we have worked together on this matter. He is quite right to congratulate the organisation; without it, I suspect this would have been very difficult.

Let me bring in two examples that illustrate the problem. First, a Home Office local authority pilot found that all 62 adult survivors receiving support through the project in 2018-19 supported a criminal investigation, which makes my point that, with the right support, people do the right thing. They lose their fear, they understand that they are protected and they will give evidence. Secondly, Justice and Care found that 89% of victims supported by victim navigator support workers chose subsequently to engage with the police.

I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that it is important that we understand and separate this question out from all the other arguments that go on about migration and asylum. This is ultimately about helping ourselves and helping the victims. The two go together, and that is the important issue.

It is also worth reminding ourselves of the cost of modern slavery right now, without the resolution that we require and that this new clause would bring. The Home Office estimates the cost at £328,000 per modern slavery victim—a total of £32 billion using 2020 estimates of 100,000 victims from the Centre for Social Justice. I will just repeat that figure: £32 billion is the overall cost. That does not include court, prison and probation costs, or the costs of failed or aborted prosecutions due to insufficient evidence. So the case becomes stronger and stronger that this Bill offers the opportunity to do the right thing here.

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Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

It is a genuine pleasure to follow the powerful contribution from the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith). I will come to the merits of his new clause, but let me start by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) not just on the new clause and amendments that she has tabled, but on receiving her damehood at Windsor Castle yesterday. There could be no more fitting tribute in recognition of her services to politics and her community, and I was delighted to see her collect that recognition yesterday.

We have grave concerns about part 5 of the Bill, which would introduce detrimental changes in modern slavery provisions and the national referral mechanism. New clause 3, tabled by my right hon. Friend, has our backing for all the reasons that she outlined. I would struggle to find a more heinous crime than moving another human being across borders, or across the country, in order to force them to have sex and for their abuser to make a profit. Given the utterly depressing rises in this type of criminality and exploitation, my right hon. Friend will have our full support if she is minded to press the new clause to a vote.

Provisions in part 5 will make it harder to identify, safeguard and support victims of modern slavery in securing prosecutions against their abusers. Our new clause 6 will ensure that no child victim of trafficking or modern slavery is denied protection because of those provisions. The new clause follows the many battles that we had in Committee in calling on the Government to hear the pleas of organisations such as The Children’s Society and Every Child Protected Against Trafficking, and those of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, and to recognise the vulnerability of child victims of trafficking and modern slavery, something that they have failed to do throughout the Bill’s passage so far.

The Government have sought to suggest that a fear of the national referral mechanism being abused warrants the introduction of barriers to accessing it. I remind them that the Home Office’s own statistics show that, of the 10,613 potential victims of modern slavery referred to the NRM last year, 47% were children. There was a 10% increase in the number of child referrals last year, and the single biggest type of exploitation was criminal exploitation. The Home Office’s own publication states:

“For those exploited as children, an increase in the identification of ‘county lines’ cases has partially driven the rise in the number of cases categorised within the ‘criminal exploitation’ category, with 40% of all child referrals for criminal exploitation being flagged as county lines.”

It is clear that children who are the victims of vicious county lines gangs will be among those most detrimentally affected by these changes. Just this week, we heard that the Government were getting tough on county lines gangs, but if they pass these proposals today unamended, child victims trapped by those gangs will be met with unnecessary barriers to both freedom and justice.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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The hon. Lady is talking about an exceptionally important issue, the trafficking of children. While we in this country probably lead the world in looking after adult victims, we fail our child victims. Do the hon. Lady and her party support a revision of that situation, so we can protect children in the same way that we protect adults?

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister will recall, we pushed for that time and again in Committee. The Bill makes no distinction between adults and children who are victims of trafficking and slavery. That failure to recognise the age-related vulnerability of a child constitutes a glaring omission, and I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s support for seeing what else we can do to press the issue during the Bill’s subsequent stages.

If the Government require any further persuading, the legislation in its current form contravenes their own existing statutory guidance, which states:

“Whatever form it takes, modern slavery and child trafficking is child abuse and relevant child protection procedures must be followed if modern slavery or trafficking is suspected.”

The changes introduced in the Bill mean that a child can only access protection from abuse if they disclose details of their trauma, against a Home Office-mandated timeline, or else have their credibility as a victim discredited, and can only access NRM support if they are not deemed to be a threat to public order as outlined in clause 62. The Government’s own guidance rightly says that a child who has been trafficked must be protected—no ifs, no buts, which means no clause 57, no clause 58 and no clause 62. I urge the Government to rethink all the modern slavery provisions, but as a minimum, in order merely to deliver on their own commitment to the general public this week, to adopt our new clause to prevent changes that would leave children more vulnerable to criminals and traffickers.

I want to make clear our support for independent victim navigators, who have already been mentioned by other Members. New clause 30 seeks to build upon the successful pilot programme launched by Justice and Care in 2018, which has now been extended, with eight victim navigators currently in post in five different police forces. I recently had the opportunity to visit the modern slavery team at West Yorkshire police with Justice and Care to gain a better understanding of the incredibly impressive work undertaken by those navigators in providing vital support to victims to rebuild their lives, which is what then facilitates prosecutions. An interim report has shown that, up to June 2021, the programme has provided strategic advice to 392 modern slavery investigations and given intensive support to 202 victims. Significantly, 89% of the victims supported by those navigators have chosen to engage with police investigations, compared with just 33% nationally, and 120 suspected exploiters have been arrested in cases supported by victim navigators. I know this is something we can all celebrate.

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Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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I fully endorse what my hon. Friend says. We will continue to make the case against this Bill, although we all know that that case will be rejected. People who are watching will see our alternative proposals, and they are a strong argument for independence indeed.

In addition to saying yes to new clause 47, we support new clause 3 from the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North. I mentioned at the start of my speech that Stormont, Westminster and Holyrood had all passed important legislation in this area, and that brings me to the key point that we have just touched on. Large parts of this issue are a devolved matter, and that is only partially recognised in the Bill. The same is true of the age assessment provisions in part 4. There are very good arguments for saying that legislative consent motions should be required from the Scottish Parliament for various provisions in parts 4 and 5, and that is why we have tabled amendment 129.

The whole disreputable scheme of trafficking notices, plus most law in relation to the recovery period, is surely within devolved competence, but clause 49 also sees the Secretary of State interfering in how local authorities go about discharging their duties in relation to devolved children’s legislation. I would be happy to share with the Minister a legal opinion by Christine O’Neill QC that has been published by the Scottish Refugee Council and JustRight Scotland, and that makes similar points. I am sure that devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland and Wales will also want to look closely at these points.

Our view is that this is a disaster of a Bill and, as the shadow Minister said, the whole legislative process leading up to it has been a disaster as well. The consequences for many vulnerable people will also be disastrous. That is as true of the provisions in relation to trafficking survivors as it is for asylum seekers and refugees. Although we have tried to ameliorate the worst aspects of the Bill, the whole rotten lot of it needs to be canned.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald). He supports new clause 74, which is the main thrust of what I want to talk about today.

Across the House, we have seen support for measures to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking, but I think we should start at the beginning. Only a few years ago, this House did not even recognise human trafficking. I can remember when I came into the House and Tony Blair was Prime Minister, the great Anthony Steen tried every week from the Opposition Benches to persuade the Government that human trafficking existed. The Council of Europe brought forward proposals about human trafficking, and, to the great credit of former Prime Ministers David Cameron and my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), we produced Europe’s leading anti-slavery legislation.

We should start by congratulating the Government on doing that, but we are here today to see how we can improve on that legislation. I will briefly mention my dissatisfaction with the way child victims of human trafficking are dealt with. As I have said on many occasions, we should follow the methods that we use for adults; we should not just put children into the care of local government, where they are routinely re-trafficked. That is not particularly to do with the clauses that we are debating today, but it is something that we need to look at.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) made the very fair point that we are not talking about asylum, and we are not talking about economic migrants. With economic migrants—people coming here who should not be—the victim is this country. Human trafficking victims are people who have been tricked or coerced into coming to this country, mainly with the thought that they will get a job or a career.

Let me give an example. Somebody from Hungary came into this country thinking they were going to get a job in Belfast. Instead, they were locked up in a terraced house in Belfast. The locks were on the outside of the bedroom and that girl was repeatedly raped. She was rescued by the police and looked after. That is human trafficking, and it is completely different from people coming across the channel in small boats.

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Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While we are talking about Tatiana—she has been phenomenal in bringing cases forward and I pay tribute to her—it is worth reminding the House that she cannot be with us at the moment because she is about to give birth. We congratulate her on that.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I can give the House an update: birth has not yet occurred and she is watching today’s proceedings. I wish her very well with the new baby.

Let me go back to the national referral mechanism. One thing that people misunderstand about new clause 47 is that they think it refers to when people go into the NRN, but it does not. It would apply for people who have “conclusive grounds”—people the Government agree are real victims of human trafficking. The difference between me and the Government is about what happens next. We have always looked after victims of human trafficking—it has been a really sensible process, with overall control given to the Salvation Army and then distributed through all the different charities and voluntary and religious groups that help to look after victims. But I want there not to be any victims in the first place. I want these evil gangs stopped. By the way, this is organised crime: they are ruthless and horrible and they do not care about people. They are quite happy to murder people. If we can shut them down, we will not have the victims, which is why the prosecution of these gangs is so important.

When we have discussed the failure to secure prosecutions in the past, it was argued, “Well, we prosecute on lesser offences so that we get convictions,” but these people are put away for only a small amount of time. We want to nail the people at the top and put them away for a very long time, to make it a dangerous thing to be involved in. If it is dangerous and they are likely to get caught and put away for a long time, they will not carry out this evil trade and will try something else.

The difference between me and the Government in respect of leave to remain, which is the crux of new clause 47, is that I think it should be given as a right to people who are confirmed as victims of trafficking if their immigration status is irregular. I say that for two reasons: first, they are much more likely to help to prosecute the evil gangs if they know that their immigration status is secure for a year; and secondly, if we do it not that way but on a piecemeal basis, there is a possibility, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green referred, that the lawyers will go to the court and say, “The only reason why this person is saying that is because it is the only way she could have got leave to remain,” whereas if it is a right, they cannot use that argument at all.

I will listen with great interest to what the Minister says in response to the debate. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green pushes new clause 47 to a Division, I will indeed support it. I know that the Minister and the Government share my desire to get these evil gangs; we just have a little difference on this point. Why doesn’t the Minister accept the new clause and perhaps add a sunset clause in the other place? Put two years on it, and if in two years nobody extra is prosecuted, we were clearly wrong. But if a lot more people are prosecuted, as I believe they would be, the Government could renew the sunset clause.

Everybody is trying to do the right thing here; we are just discussing the best way forward. I go back to the start and say well done to Anthony Steen and to all the Governments who have moved forward and made our country the best place to prosecute modern-day slavery. But we can do better, and we can and must do better with children. New clause 47 would help us to prosecute more evil gangs, so I very much support it and hope that the Government will accept at least its principle.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Numerous constituents have written to me with their concerns about the Bill. They fear that it will harm refugees and victims of trafficking and slavery and that it undermines our international commitment to human rights and the right to asylum. I share their concerns.

The Children’s Society has said that it is

“concerned that the provisions of the bill will have a significant impact on all child victims of trafficking”.

Notably, the charity has expressed support for Labour’s new clause 6, which would exempt victims of modern slavery, exploitation or trafficking from many of the provisions in part 5 of the Bill if they were under 18 when they became a victim. Statistics show that 3,140 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the Home Office in the second quarter of 2021—the second highest number of referrals since the national referral mechanism began in 2009—and 43% of them claimed exploitation as children.

Serious concerns have also been raised about, and many Members have referred to, the proposals in the Bill to allow the Secretary of State to serve trafficking information notices on potential victims of modern slavery and expect a response within a fixed timescale. Dame Sara Thornton, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, has said that

“will make it harder to identify those who have been exploited… Traumatised victims cannot disclose their suffering to order—it takes time to build trust and confidence.”

That is absolutely right.

The Government’s own statutory guidance on modern slavery states:

“Victims’ early accounts may be affected by the impact of trauma. This can result in delayed disclosure, difficulty recalling facts, or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Why do the provisions in the Bill run contrary to the evidence in the Government’s own guidance? This point relates to amendments 5, 6 and 7, which were tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) and have cross-party support. I also support my right hon. Friend’s incredibly important new clause 3, which would create an offence for arranging or facilitating the travel of another person with a view to that person being sexually exploited in the UK.

We debate the Bill less than two weeks after the tragic loss of 27 lives in the English channel, yet the Government are intent on pushing ahead with their cruel pushbacks plan, despite Border Force officials saying privately that it is dangerous and unworkable, and despite the Joint Committee on Human Rights having said that pushbacks would

“create a situation where state actors were actively placing individuals in situations that would increase the risk”

On behalf of my constituent, who has more than 10 years’ experience in maritime rescue, I ask the Minister how the Government expect Her Majesty’s Coastguard to operate in a situation that it deems to be search and rescue but that the Home Office considers to be a pushback situation? He wants to know who will have the veto authority in such situations?

As Families Together has pointed out:

“No one chooses to cross the channel…unless they have no other option.”

Amnesty International has said that the Bill

“will cost not save lives. It will enable and empower ruthless criminal gangs not break them. It closes safe routes and opens none. It will harm women and girls along with the men seeking asylum, to whom Ministers appear to take such exception”.

I urge members from all parties to vote against the Bill on Third Reading.

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Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)
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It is an absolute pleasure to follow my hon. Friend, and neighbour, the Member for Glasgow East (David Linden).

I have said repeatedly how disgusted I am with this Bill in its entirety, so I will not go over that again, and I am sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you would not let me. It is hard not to do it, but it is all on the record. In any case, whatever I say today is unlikely to change anybody’s vote, and that is what is so depressing about this. Today I will focus on what you want me to focus on, Madam Deputy Speaker, which is modern slavery and human trafficking. I will highlight two aspects of the many that I find greatly disturbing.

First, there is late disclosure. I am deeply concerned by the measures in the Bill that aim to damage the credibility of victims of modern slavery or human trafficking. Using late disclosure as a reason to damage their credibility only serves to create barriers to effective and vital identification and engagement with those victims. The Government, of course, in their usual, cynical way, believe that claimants are abusing the system and attempting to frustrate removal. They point to the rise in the number of trafficking claims, but that is down to a range of factors, including greater awareness of modern slavery among detention workers and others and an improved ability to recognise vulnerability, as a leading Hibiscus report highlighted. All the awareness-raising campaigns, supported by all the Governments on these islands, including this Government, were always going to increase those numbers—that is what we were looking for, surely. To use that increase as a reason to now cynically attack people is just despicable.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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The hon. Lady seems to be welcoming what Governments have done against slavery, and she says that raising awareness and encouraging people to report has created more victims. Does she support what this Government and previous Governments have done to make this country the leader in the fight against modern-day slavery?

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin
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I support any attempts to help people who are victims of modern slavery, of course I do. Some good measures have been taken—of course they have—but it depresses me that this Government continually assume that anyone displaying signs of vulnerability, who for a number of reasons might not be able to come forward and present their story to the authorities immediately, is somehow acting in bad faith or gaming the system. There is a distinct lack of compassion and understanding in equal measure regarding the severe trauma suffered by some victims and its impact on their testimony.

There are reasons why people are late in coming forward. I want to read something from the guidance for this Parliament’s Modern Slavery Act 2015. It states:

“Victims’ early accounts may be affected by the impact of trauma. This can result in delayed disclosure”—

the thing that we are now saying damages their credibility—

“difficulty recalling facts, or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder…Victims may also be reluctant to self identify for a number of other reasons that can make understanding their experiences challenging”.

Who wrote that? This Government did, so they know, yet they seek to punish victims by accusing anyone who fails to recount their traumatic experiences in time.

To state that someone has experienced exploitation is in many ways similar to domestic violence in terms of how complicated it is. Exploitation is often committed by someone the victim knows or is close to, and it can happen very gradually over a long time. Some victims of exploitation are unaware there is even a crime being committed against them until it is too late, which this Bill will only prove to exacerbate.

Some victims might not want to admit they have been exploited, particularly in cases of sexual abuse, where cultural sensitivities could mean a victim feels ashamed—shame that they should not feel, but do feel anyway. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) pointed out, men who are exploited may feel ashamed or degraded by their lack of agency. Let us not forget that a lot of victims are terrified that if they reveal information, they or their family, here or wherever they have come from, might be punished by the traffickers. That is how they get them. The Met police said recently that it takes two years on average to get a west African victim of juju-induced slavery to reveal what happened to them.

Then there are those who simply block it out. They do not consciously block it out; their unconscious mind cannot cope with it any longer. I had a friend many years ago who I used to visit every six months or so. One time I went to stay with her for the weekend. She worked as a cleaner in a local primary school. She had a normal life. She built a life for herself. She had a family and everything and this job. She was cleaning, and suddenly she had a flashback—for anyone who does not know, a flashback is not a memory; it is reliving the moment—to when she was eight years old and her stepfather was raping her. It was the most terrifying thing, clearly, but she was then in her 40s, and she only remembered it all those years later. She had the courage to speak to her siblings, one of whom had remembered it and had not told anybody. Sometimes it is simply that it is gone from someone’s memory, but it can come back, and we should not be punishing people in those cases.

These measures will not prevent false claims. Instead, they will create an even deeper mistrust and suspicion of the authorities, and the only people who will gain from that are, as others have said, those who are seeking to exploit and extort these vulnerable victims. Traffickers use the fear of the authorities as a means of control, and this Bill will just give them, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) said, a broader set of tools. I cannot work out whether those supporting these measures do not realise that, or just do not care. It is increasingly looking like the latter, particularly over the past couple of days and throughout Committee.

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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I am afraid that the intervention is a disappointing one, in the sense that I would not for a moment suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is doing anything that supports people traffickers—of course not. However, I think he is giving credence to their business model, and that is highly unacceptable and disappointing. He should reflect on his position on these matters. As I have set out, nobody needs to get into a small boat to seek to cross the channel to reach safety. The idea that anybody is in danger in France is utterly farcical. The bottom line is that France is a safe country with a fully functioning asylum system. That is a fact and he needs to reflect on it.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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Of course, what the former leader of the Labour party was trying to say was that the French are failing to look after the people in their own country. In that regard, he is right, isn’t he?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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It is probably fair to say that those on the Benches of the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) quite regularly try to reinterpret his comments. In the end, it is highly unacceptable for anybody to get into a small boat for this purpose. I think it is fair to say that this House speaks with one voice in saying that people should not be making dangerous crossings, and we perhaps just disagree about how to render the route unviable.

The Government have brought forward a comprehensive Bill as part of the wider package of measures that we are seeking to introduce to address this issue. It is disappointing that some of us in the House seem to have quite a lot to say in complaining about our approach, but do not actually have a viable alternative to our policy.

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Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The Bill will fail if there are not reciprocal arrangements, and that is deeply worrying. Not having those arrangements will encourage more dangerous crossings.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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Will the hon. Member give way on that point?

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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I will, but then I must make progress.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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The hon. Member is making his speech in a quiet and reasonable way, but does he not think the problem is that the French are refusing to allow returns? It is not this country; it is the French.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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I agree with the hon. Member, but that is directly because we no longer have reciprocal arrangements. That is the crux of the problem with the Bill. We need more reciprocal arrangements with our international partners to allow other measures to be put in place.