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Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): The shadow Home Secretary is making an interesting point, but he cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that we should have a quota and not put a figure on it. What is his limit? What does he consider to be the correct figure?
David Davis: The whole point is that Parliament would make that decision each year on the basis of a number of things, just as Australia does. The decision would be based on information about skills shortages and pressures on housing or public services. Without such information a decision cannot be made. It is perfectly possible for the Government to come up with a proposalit would be easybut it depends on information. Facts first, decision second.
The shadow Home Secretary makes a perfectly fair point but all those factors are in the public
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domain; they are known to him, as they are to the press and to the Home Secretary, at least in ball-park figures. The right hon. Gentleman is in a position to say what he thinks the limit should be when all the factors that he correctly enumerates are taken into account. What sort of figure is he talking about?
David Davis: I am afraid that the facts are not in the public domain. In Australia, there are regular consultations between the national and provincial Governments on such informationwhere there are skills shortages and pressures on housing and public services. I do not know about such matters. We need to know about them not just for the present but for the year ahead. It is a perfectly practical, sensible and easy thing to understand, but the data are not available and I do not intend to make guesses about information that is not available.
I take what the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) says about a limit, but I disagree with him about imposing an annual limit and I shall briefly tell him why. Setting an annual limit is a dirigiste system where the state decides on the number of people to be let in each year. What the Government are proposing is a system led by employers, which is flexible and can respond to the needs they identify. That is why he is wrong to try to set an annual limit.
David Davis: If the hon. Gentleman's economics is up to it, he will recognise that employers do not meet all the costs of the pressures on housing, public services and so on, so their decisions might not necessarily be right for society as a whole. That is why the Government occasionally have to impose restraints. I am sorry to give him lectures on how immigration policy is supposed to work in theory, but he asked for it.
What is the point of the system if there is no limit? Once again, the Government's policy seems half-baked. I hope that the Home Secretary, or the Minister when he winds up the debate, will tell us when the points system will be brought in, whether we shall have a chance to debate in full how it should work and how many points he thinks someone should have before being allowed into Britain, and how that will work. We need to know whether there will be a cut-off, and therefore a de facto limit. It must not be another example of the Government promising one thing before an election but doing something else after it. The Government were
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elected on a manifesto that promised to introduce the scheme. I hope that they will go ahead with it quickly, but I also urge the Home Secretary to think seriously about how they will limit the number of people coming into Britainor is he simply going to recognise that there will be no limit, and will he tell the British people so if that is the case?
We cannot continue to have an open-ended immigration policy, driven by the need to prop up key areas of our economyby stripping other countries, incidentally, of people with important skills. At the end of the day we must focus on improving our own skills base so that we no longer have to rely on the immigration lottery. A responsible Government would put a limit on immigration. The consequences of an uncontrolled, unlimited immigration system are potentially too great. It is the glaring hole in the middle of the Bill and it is the glaring hole at the heart of the Government's five-year strategy.
Over the past two weeks we have witnessed the Government trying to meet the debts that they ran up during the election campaign. First we had the unnecessary plan to limit freedom of speech by criminalising people who question religious beliefa debt that they promised to Labour voters in marginal seats. Then we had their illiberal Identity Cards Bill, to change for ever the balance of the relationship between the citizen and the statea price they paid for playing political games before the election. Today we have a Bill that genuinely addresses an issue of serious public concern, yet it contains very little that will repay the faith that the people placed in the Government on 5 May. On that day, the people gave the Government one last chance. They believed that they would take their concerns seriously. They believed what they said about getting the system under control. They trusted them to get the job done. For that to happen, we need a sea change in the way that the Government approach the issue. We must break the two-year cycle of announcement, headline and failure; break the complacent approach of a Home Office characterised by chaotic management and administrative failure; and break the web of distortions and half-truths that seems to surround this important issue. If, over the coming years, the Government prove capable of doing that and taking the tough decisions necessary, they will have our support. If not, the debt that they owe the British public will be called in. Then no amount of spin and cover-up will be able to hide the truth that they have failed in a basic duty of any Governmentthat of securing our borders, protecting our communities and keeping our country safe.
Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): The Government have introduced several Bills on immigration and asylum since 1999. This Bill has several aspects that are very welcome, notably measures to control the unscrupulous and thoroughly irresponsible employers who have exploited immigrant workers. I welcome those aspects of the Bill and commend the Home Secretary for them.
I want today to address the asylum aspects of the Bill, not in the terms that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) has just
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referred to, but looked at from the point of view of fulfilling our international obligations, which I think he recognises are serious.
Each of the Bills the Government have introduced since 1999 has in various ways curtailed the rights and protections of those who turn to Britain for asylum because their life and liberties are threatened in their own country. Ministers, including this Home Secretary, are committed to our living up to our international obligations and I recognise and believe that they are honourable in those commitments. However, too many aspects of the policy as displayed by those immigration Bills have been driven not by a sense of responsibility to our international obligations but by what the Government see, I think wrongly, as the British public's impatience with those seeking asylum, and too much by the popular press. The policy is rightly hostile to those who apply for asylum when what they actually want is to come to this country as economic migrants and who mislead and abuse the asylum system, but it is also hostile to genuine refugees or those who are seeking asylum because of the horror that they face at home.
David Davis: The hon. Gentleman knows that I am a great admirer of him and his parliamentary performances. May I put a difficult question to him? One of the things that concerns me about the way our asylum system works is not just the numbers, but who actually ends up claiming asylum in Britain. About 60 per cent. of the people who claim asylum are young mena disproportionate numberand the indications are that the filter applied is whether people can find $10,000 to pay the Chinese people traffickers to get to this country. Does he accept that the way we operate at the moment seems to encourage people traffickers and not to get the right people to come here?
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