Peter Bone debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 17th January 2022

(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.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Peter Bone Excerpts
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
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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
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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
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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)
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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.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Peter Bone Excerpts
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.

Registers of Births and Deaths Bill

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall
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Grudgingly so.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I was not going to speak and am sort of in favour of possibly supporting this Bill, but my hon. Friend’s speech is making me doubt it. Surely having a paper record is a safeguard if someone hacks into the digital one. He is making a good point, and I think he is persuading me to vote against the Bill.

Tom Randall Portrait Tom Randall
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I hope that as I develop my argument, I will begin to show my hon. Friend the error of his ways and how I have convinced myself that my Tory instincts are, on this occasion, perhaps not entirely right.

As I have read further into this matter, I have come to realise that what we have had for so long is not some handsome bound volumes on a shelf to be admired in libraries for years to come, but essentially computer printouts, as I understand it. We have not been recording history beautifully; we have just been duplicating a process—printing out what is really part of a spreadsheet almost and putting it in a loose-leaf binder that is then stored in some secure box in some office somewhere. I am intrigued to know what happens to that secure room in a sub-district departmental office somewhere, perhaps forgotten or secured to some rather dreary out-of-town facility. The glamour and the romance I thought we perhaps had with the way we recorded this important information is a completely inaccurate picture. For that reason, I now realise the error of my ways and I hope the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) will also come to realise that progress, digitisation and computerisation are things to which we will all, reluctantly, have to subscribe.

This issue speaks to one of the core functions of government: record-keeping of births and deaths, and knowing who is in the country. The circumstances of where people have been born and where they have died is one of the very core functions of government. Therefore, getting the Bill on the statute book in the right way may not be glamorous, but it is important to get it right and done as accurately as possible.

The other point that doubters perhaps need to hear is that we have a duplication system. It is not the case that we have bound volumes that are the record. The paper copies we have at the moment are already redundant. It appears that we have an electronic system, which is really the primary system, and the paper copies are an adjunct. They are already redundant. One might ask why we have them at this point anyway, as they have already been proven to be beyond their use. I have not had the experience of registering a birth and I am very fortunate that, so far, I have never had to register a death, but the important point has been made, and I can very well imagine and sympathise, that those experiences can be very emotional and traumatic. They happen at a time when we have 1,001 things that we need to do, and making a trip to do something very bureaucratic and burdensome is something an ordinary person could really do without. We have to remember that government is supposed to work for people, certainly at very emotionally difficult periods of their life.

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Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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I thank my hon. Friend for explaining that point. Obviously with all electronic information storage it is vital that we have the right security and that legislation is kept up to date to ensure we are always one step ahead of those who wish to do us harm.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
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My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech, and she is persuading me even more to vote against the Bill. She rightly says there is a problem with paper records, because they can be stolen, but there is a problem with computer records because they can be hacked. Surely the current system of having both is the right way forward, unless she can guarantee that it is impossible to hack the records.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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I do not think we can guarantee that anything cannot be hacked, but the fact is this is a good Bill. It would cut costs and protect the environment, and this is something we must modernise.

The Bill would streamline processes to bring the registration of births and deaths into the 21st century, which we need to do. I am sorry to my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Tom Randall), but at times we need to modernise. Modernisation and conservatism run hand in hand, and that is what we are good at. The goal of the Bill is clear and achievable, and it would cut bureaucracy, saving time and resources. A well-developed, modernised and functioning civil registration system would promote transparency and safeguard efficient Government planning, including the effective use of resources. This Bill deserves the support of the House.

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Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not have any evidence on that either way. The whole purpose of the 2009 regulations was that we would still have the hard-copy back-up system. Now, having put those regulations through on the basis that there would be a hard-copy back-up system, the Government say 11 or 12 years later that we do not need one, and can rely on the electronic system. That, I think, is playing fast and loose with the House. Why did the Government introduce regulations in 2009 to amend the system while still assuring the House that hard-copy records would be retained, and why, all these years later, are they seeking to abandon them? I am very concerned about that, but let me now finish the story about my constituent.

As I said earlier, I received a reply on 26 November saying that if my constituent required the return of his documents urgently he could submit a request, but I had already submitted a request for the return of his documents to the Home Office on his behalf. The letter made no reference at all to the fact that while this delay continues, and this muddle continues unresolved, he is unable to work. It is outrageous.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Suzanne Webb) said that this was just one example. I do not want to detain the House with a whole lot of other examples, but we do know that the hacking of computer records is prolific. It is widespread. It has led to large public companies, and indeed Government Departments, suffering severe fines, penalties and reprimands because of their inability to keep accurate data and protect themselves against hacking processes.

Even in the corridor just outside my office in this wonderful building, there is a great big poster—I think it is the only poster up there—about how we in this place are under continuous cyber-attack. If we are indeed under continuous cyber-attack, why are some of my colleagues so relaxed about it? I see no grounds whatever for being relaxed, and I think we should be very vigilant and protective of our paper record system.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
- Hansard - -

The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is that there must be some great injustice in the current system if it needs to be changed. If the only reason for changing it is modernisation, we as Conservatives should not be supporting it—but perhaps my hon. Friend knows what the problem is with the current system.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That takes me on to the question of how we got to where we are now. For those interested in the background to this, let me explain that one of the former Members for the Christchurch constituency, George Rose, proposed a Bill to overhaul the registration system. He did that in 1812, and Hansard reported at the time:

“It must, he thought”—

this refers to my predecessor—

“be universally allowed, that parish registers were of great importance to all ranks and classes of people from the nobleman to the peasant; and it was highly desirable they should be regularly entered, and safely deposited. At present, instead of being kept in the house of the clergyman of each parish, they were kept in a very slovenly manner in the dwelling of the parish clerk, and he had found, as Treasurer of the Navy”—

in those days you could double up these jobs—

“numberless instances of the widows of seamen, who, from this culpable negligence, were not able to prove their marriages.”

The legislation was passed, and proved to be inadequate. That ultimately led to the 1875 Act, which is the core of our current system. Under our current system, almost all the people who are born have their details recorded. I think that, according to the latest information available, there are about 20 cases a year in which people are born without having their details accurately recorded.

Fundamental to the issue is that it is a basic legal requirement to have a birth registration, and birth registration—I hope the Minister agrees—is one of our most fundamental human rights. The United Nations convention on the rights of the child acknowledges that every child should be registered immediately after birth. We now say that should be six weeks, and we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden and others that it can be very burdensome for someone to go off and get their child registered.

All I can say is that my daughter gave birth to a little baby girl about a fortnight ago, and she and my son-in-law are much looking forward to going to the district register office in Lymington to record the details, including the name, of their daughter. Whatever happens, that record will be on paper as well as being an electronic record. How sad that it seems to be the intent of the Government that, in the future, people who are lucky enough to have children will not be able to have the privilege of a proper written birth certificate—a hard copy holograph birth certificate. I think that that is quite an unnecessary restriction on those fundamental freedoms.

--- Later in debate ---
Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What my hon. Friend is referring to is like saying, “When I print off an email, it’s a hard copy.” It is not a hard copy; it is emailed and printed off. The Minister is talking about an electric record that can be reproduced in hard copy form. If we are talking about hard-hard copies, then, as I asked earlier, how does that fit in with the Forgery Act? Obviously, hard copies depend on having holograph signatures, and we hear that in this Bill there is the power for people to be able to register births without having to provide any signature at all unless they can send their signature by electronic means to the registration district. This is a very serious issue.

Without dwelling any more on the history of the Act, let me just say that throughout the mid-19th century, the only blip on issues relating to birth registrations, which were increasing the whole time, was the Vaccination Act 1853, which tied compulsory vaccination of all infants to their registration and gave powers for parents to be fined for non-compliance. As always happens with the law of good intentions, it ended out quite differently because as it was the local registrar who informed parents of their legal obligation to vaccinate their children, parents who feared vaccination avoided the registrar. Plus ça change, as they might say, in the context of today’s attempts to try to require compulsory vaccination for everybody in this country even if it means depriving them of their right to work in a care home or in the national health service.

The Bill itself contains a number of provisions about which I raised concerns with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield when he brought it forward originally. One of those is the fact that there are lots of regulation-making powers in the Bill. I said to him that I thought it was desirable that those regulations or orders should be available in draft at Committee stage so that they could be properly examined in Committee. He said that he thought that was a really good idea. However, when we got to Committee, no such draft regulations were available.

I presume, because the Government attach urgency to this Bill and more than a year has elapsed, that those regulations and draft orders are available. I look forward to the Minister confirming that they are, but if they are not, why not? When will they be available? Why can we not see them before the Bill goes into Committee? These draconian measures give great power to the Government to set out regulations and change the existing law. It seems bad practice that people should be expected to go through a detailed Bill such as this in Committee without having any inkling of what the Government are hiding away in the regulations that are held in the relevant Department and are not being openly disclosed. I fear that that total lack of transparency is almost endemic in so much of what the Government do.

My next concern about the Bill is that under clause 1(3), section 28 of the 1953 Act, in relation to the custody of registers, would be repealed. That would remove any requirement for registration officers to hold registers. As a consequence, the hard copies that so many people look at when they examine their family history would not be available and accessible. Clause 4 states that such a repeal of section 28 would not affect the requirement that every superintendent registrar should keep records that were already in existence, provided that that did not cover records issued between 2009 and the day when this Bill comes into effect.

I was assured by my right hon. Friend and the Minister, who responded to the debate on the previous Bill, which is on identical terms, that the requirement to keep existing—or what might be described as old—records would not be affected in any way. However, when one looks at clause 6 of this Bill, one sees that the Government are taking the power to make further consequential provisions on any provision of this Act, including clause 4, which is meant to be a safeguard. That power

“is exercisable by statutory instrument”.

It includes the powers

“to make different provision for different purposes”

and

“to make transitional, transitory or saving provision”,

and it

“may, in particular, be exercised by amending, repealing or revoking any provision made by or under primary legislation”—

in other words, this is a Henry VIII clause writ large—

“passed or made before, or in the same Session as, this Act.”

Under the powers in clause 6, all the assurances and guarantees on the operation of clause 4 and the safeguards under what is now section 28 of the 1953 Act are completely worthless. We, as a sovereign Parliament, do not have the power to bind our successors, but we do have the power, if we so choose, not to make it too easy for our successors to change the rules against the wishes of the people. That is why I think it is outrageous that the Government should be taking powers to change by regulation the guarantees that they say are in existence in clause 4 of this Bill. That is just the sort of issue I would like to address in Committee, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden will be able to give me some indication that he will accept amendments facilitating those safeguards for existing registers and records.

Another concern I have about the Bill, which my hon. Friend alluded to in introducing it, is the way regulations could be amended to change the requirement to actually sign the register. Those provisions, set out in clause 3 of the Bill, amend the 1953 Act by inserting a new section 38B after section 38A. An extraordinary lack of information is attached to what the Government intend here. It has been alluded to in the speeches of some of my hon. Friends, who seem to think it is really desirable that we should simplify what has been a solemn and historic process of registering births; I will come on later to the issue of registering deaths.

The proposed new section says:

“Where any register of births or register of deaths is required to be kept…otherwise than in hard copy form, the Minister may by regulations provide that—

(a) a person’s duty…to sign the register at any time is to have effect as a duty to comply with specified requirements at that time, and

(b) a person who complies with those requirements is to be treated…as having signed the register”.

In other words, somebody who has not actually signed the register will be treated as having signed it. Are we seriously going to legislate to create the pretence that somebody who has not signed the register has signed it and is deemed to have signed it, that, in the case of a duty to sign the register in the presence of the registrar, they are deemed to have done so in the presence of the registrar, and that accordingly in such a case the entry in the register is to be taken for the purposes of the Act as having been signed by the person when it has not been? Why are we allowing that?

What is one of the biggest safeguards of the integrity of our births register and our deaths register? It is the sanction against forgery. A sanction against forgery is nugatory if we do not require holograph signatures. My hon. Friend who so ably introduced the discussion on the Bill seems to be slightly poleaxed—I think that might be the expression—by the references to that. We have not yet had any help from the Minister on how the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act fits into this, but maybe the regulation-making powers under clause 6 of this Bill will be able to change the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act so that it applies not to actual forgery as we would know it, with people using pen and ink to change something, but to something that is deemed to be pen and ink.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Will he tell me what happened during covid? Unfortunately, I was involved in registering a death during the covid period and it seemed to me that this was all done electronically, with no signatures required. In the case I was involved in, that did not work particularly well. Does he have any views on that?

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When we were discussing earlier the issue of registration of deaths, I drew my hon. Friend’s attention to the fact that I have had lots of constituents—he probably has the same situation—raise with me the fact that their loved ones were given death certificates that inaccurately reflected their covid status. In a sense, the Government are hoist with their own petard on that, because it was all part of what has been described as a “scaremongering propaganda campaign” to make it seem as though more people were dying from covid than were actually doing so by saying that they may have had covid within the 28 days before their death. Extraordinarily, if one asks questions about whether people have died within 21 days or 28 days of having received a vaccine against covid, the Government get very coy about that. I do not know why that might be, because I think that the more transparent the Government are, the more they will be able to counter the vaccine hesitancy that is an increasing problem in this country as people find out that some things relating to the vaccines are being suppressed if not fully exposed to public view. I will not go on about that, but I referred in this House a few weeks ago to my Covid-19 Vaccine Damage Bill and I do so once again, without going into any more detail about it.

There is a real problem if the Government put provisions in a Bill and then are not willing to spell out all the implications. What do the explanatory notes say about clause 3? Obviously, in the absence of anything else, one looks at the explanatory notes, but they do not help, because the notes on clause 3 just repeat the content of clause 3 without explaining what the Government have in mind. Why are we in that situation? Why has no cost-benefit analysis or regulatory impact assessment been published in respect of this Bill? We know that the requirement to do this does not apply to private Members’ Bills, but if such a Bill is, in essence, a proxy for a Government Bill, is there any reason at all why those things should not be published? Again, the Government are intent on bringing this measure forward, but wish to do so without sharing with the House and the public all the implications that flow from it and the Government’s thinking about what might happen.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone
- Hansard - -

I have been thinking long and hard as the debate goes on. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Bill does appear to be a Government Bill but not in Government time, so it does not have an impact assessment? For that reason alone, when we vote later, I urge hon. Members to reject it to make sure that the Government bring it forward properly for proper scrutiny in Government time.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s suggestion and it would be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say in response. [Hon. Members: “Hurry up, then!”] If the Minister wishes to intervene, I shall happily give way.

It is the Government’s prerogative to bring forward their legislation to the House. When they do so in the normal way, a Bill has a regulatory impact assessment, a cost-benefit analysis and so on. The Government should not avoid that system, and avoid the need to be transparent, by using the proxy system whereby a loyal Back Bencher takes on a Bill as a handout Bill.

My hon. Friend the Minister is a man of absolute integrity who has participated in almost as many Friday debates as I have over the years. In all those debates, I have not once found him wanting in terms of dealing straightforwardly with the subject matter under discussion. It is open to him to say that he will bring forward a regulatory impact assessment before we get to Committee so that we can examine it and we know the Bill’s full implications.

There is obviously no discipline or requirement on the Government to publish the impact assessment if they think that they have a majority of 80. I imagine that the Government will now bring forward the Bill as a Government Bill because my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and I are expressing concerns about it and it is not making progress in the House as quickly as they might wish. If they do that, there will be a proper Second Reading, Committee and Report, which is fine.

I hope that we will then have the regulatory impact assessment in front of us and we will be able to assess what the Government have in mind and what they are hiding from us. Having had the experience in the previous Session of being told one thing in the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) about what would happen when we got to Committee, and those promises, or certainly expressions of intent, not materialising, I am very suspicious about the Bill.

People up and down the country will wonder why we are spending so much time discussing the issue of removing proper paper records of births. What will we do about all the people who will be adversely affected by that? I have another example of a constituent who is a South African citizen whose child was born in the United Kingdom and is therefore entitled to United Kingdom citizenship. To take his child to South Africa, he has to provide a hard-copy, holographed birth certificate. How will he do that in future if those hard copies do not exist?

That is another practical example of how the Bill’s provisions will adversely affect people of foreign citizenship who have children born in this country for whom they wish to have an old-fashioned birth certificate rather than one that has been put on a—

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can assure the hon. Lady that I meet the independent anti-slavery commissioner and she plays a very important role in informing the Government’s policy. I can also assure her that the Nationality and Borders Bill is going to strengthen the Government’s response and support for the victims of modern slavery. We have a world-leading system to support and protect victims of modern slavery that we have backed with significant Government resources and investment. The legislation that we are passing will enable us to respond more compassionately to those victims.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
- Hansard - -

While the Minister is absolutely right to say that we lead Europe on modern-day slavery, the question asked by the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) goes very much to the heart of the matter: if we want more prosecutions, we need more victims to come forward. The way to do that is that if they are coming into this country irregularly they need a year of leave to remain here so that we can get at these—please excuse this if it is not parliamentary—evil bastards. Will the Minister reply to the hon. Lady’s question: can we have that year?

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can reassure my hon. Friend and all Members in the House that those victims who are working closely with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are looked at on a case-by-case basis. Where they are assisting the police and the criminal justice system with their inquiries, they are permitted to stay in this country, and our legislation that we are bringing forward will clarify that further. [Interruption.] I have met victims of modern slavery, thank you, I say to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), who is speaking from a sedentary position.

Channel Crossings in Small Boats

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 22nd November 2021

(2 months 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

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On France’s legislation, I have had discussions with my counterpart on that issue in the last week. Legislation is passing through the French Parliament because France has different surveillance laws. We have always been clear about that.

The right hon. Lady asked about technology. I have made a range of propositions to the French Interior Minister about surveillance and technology and the use of various other types of technology equipment—sensors on the beach and ANPR in particular. From my conversation and bilateral discussions with the Interior Minister last Monday, I tell the House now that he has accepted the use of all those.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Would the excellent Home Secretary agree that the sensible and humane way to deal with this problem is for the French to agree a returns policy? In that way, we could give immigrants turning up on our shore a hot cup of tea and ensure that they had warm clothing, and they could be put back on the first ferry to Calais. That would make the cross-channel route unviable. It would be good for France, it would be good for the United Kingdom, and it would be devastating for the criminal people trafficking gangs.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend has made a very important point about returns agreements, in particular with France. France assumes the presidency of the European Council next month, and this is an ongoing discussion that we are having with them. I am actively pursuing the issue, but I want to be very clear and realistic: it is only one aspect of the wider situation of dealing with illegal migration.

People are not just coming from France; they are coming from the Sahel, from Africa and from Libya through the Mediterranean route—this is a much wider issue than France. But obviously, returns agreements are crucial, absolutely pivotal, and they are one part of our wider plan.

Pedicabs: Women’s Safety

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

We move on to another important debate. While people are getting into place, there are some housekeeping rules. I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when they are not speaking in the debate. This is in line with current guidance that the House of Commons Commission has provided. I remind Members that they are asked to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. That can be done either at the testing centre in the House or at home. Please give each other and members of staff space when they are seated and when entering and leaving the room. I apologise for it being so cold in the room, but you lot have only just come in and I have already been here for one and a half hours.

I call Nickie Aiken to move the motion. I will then call the Minister to respond. There will not be an opportunity for the Member in charge to wind up, as is the convention for 30-minute debates.

Oral Answers to Questions

Peter Bone Excerpts
Monday 18th October 2021

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I note that the hon. Lady met the Home Secretary recently to talk about this issue. Events have moved on since; we have flexibility on visas and the issues around cold storage are being addressed. However, it is clear that this is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution. We must continue to focus—I think people in our country would rightly expect us to do so—on what more we can do to make sure that we improve skills, training, wages and terms and conditions so that the domestic labour market is able to fulfil these roles in the longer term. We have been responsive to industry’s asks, and of course our ears continue to be open.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
- Hansard - -

It would have been very appropriate today if David Amess had been the first to welcome the new Minister to the Dispatch Box, because the three of us worked together on Grassroots Out, and David held the first rally for us. That is appropriate to this question: is it not right, Minister, that coming out of the European Union gives us the ability to decide on these issues?

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for his question. It will not surprise him to hear that only a couple of weeks ago I received a note from Sir David congratulating me on my appointment. It is something that I will absolutely treasure in the years ahead. His encouragement was always second to none. The truth is that people like he and I campaigned in the referendum for a global immigration system, which is exactly what we have delivered. I genuinely believe that that is the right approach to immigration for the years ahead, based on skills—recruiting the skills that we need, but making sure that we do right by the domestic labour market and people in this country by improving skills, opportunity, training and terms and conditions, and making sure that we can recruit more readily to these roles.

Strategy for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls

Peter Bone Excerpts
Wednesday 21st July 2021

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady is diligent in her campaigning in this important area. We believe that the public space protection orders regime that is in operation in three local authority areas provides balance in protecting women who are seeking medical care and only that. However, as I have said, the Government are determined to keep this area under review and to ensure that women are not intimidated or harassed.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for making this statement to the House before the summer recess and for letting us scrutinise her. Girls in this country are trafficked into sexual exploitation—imagine being a girl forced into sexual exploitation. Thankfully, because of the excellent work of police forces and our Modern Slavery Act 2015, forces are breaking up these gangs and rescuing the girls. Unfortunately, we do not support girl victims of human trafficking as well as adult victims. My private Member’s Bill, the Human Trafficking (Child Protection) Bill, which will have its Second Reading on 21 January 2022, would put that right. Will the Minister and the Department work with me to ensure that that Bill becomes an Act of Parliament?

Victoria Atkins Portrait Victoria Atkins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend, who has been a strong campaigner for some time on modern slavery and on the care of victims of modern slavery. On the care of children, the national referral mechanism applies to adults, but children go into children’s services because of the statutory requirements under the Children Act 1989. I am, however, interested to hear how he believes support could be improved. The Government have, as he may know, set out plans to refresh the modern slavery strategy in the coming months and I would be pleased to meet him to understand where he believes that could be improved.

EU Settlement Scheme

Peter Bone Excerpts
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(6 months, 4 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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think what I have to say is actually quite crucial given the reference to the position of half a million people in this country. Let us be absolutely clear: a person who applies by the 30 June 2021 deadline will have their existing rights protected pending the outcome of their application, including any appeal. That includes the right to work and the right to access healthcare. This is achieved not just by me saying it at the Dispatch Box but by the Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020—a law passed last year. The firm message that I would give is that people should get their applications in by the deadline tomorrow, but if they have made an application in time, before that deadline, their rights are protected pending the outcome. Therefore, those half a million people will not be exposed to some of the issues that the right hon. Gentleman set out.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
- Hansard - -

Was what we just saw, Madam Deputy Speaker, a preview of what is going to happen at 5 o’clock so that people who are here for the estimates day debate can do two things at once? The great success that the Government have had with the EU settlement scheme contrasts rather heavily with the failure to stop illegal immigrants coming across the channel escorted by French naval vessels. Does the excellent Minister have any reassurance for this House that that will be the next item on the agenda to be dealt with?

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I can reassure him that this time next week we will be introducing in the House legislation to do just that and to fix our broken asylum system.