Illegal Immigration: Costs — [Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 12:25 pm ar 7 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery) 12:25, 7 Mai 2024

That is not a policy conversation that I have had. What I will say is that when it comes to the Rwanda policy, to which I think the question is relevant and pertinent, the Prime Minister has been consistently clear that we will not allow a foreign court to prevent us from operationalising it. I believe that through the legislation we have put in place and the determination of the Government to see it through, we will fulfil the commitments that we have made under the legislation to operationalise the policy, relocate people to Rwanda and put an end to journeys over the channel and the business model underpinning them.

I also make the point that Albanian arrivals are down by 90% in 2023 compared with 2022. Again, that is evidence proving that deterrents work. That partnership focuses on the point of deterrence, and it is yet more evidence that the general approach we are taking, which is developed further through the Rwanda policy, will deliver, with deterrence at its core to help put these criminal gangs out of business and disrupt their work.

Specifically on asylum grant rates, I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood that the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 changes that she and I voted for are making a difference. I anticipate that colleagues will see grant rates coming down. We are also making decisions much more quickly. Asylum caseworking productivity and the learning that has taken place over the course of the last 12 to 18 months are making a real difference in reaching decisions on individual cases much sooner.

I know that my hon. Friend is also a strong supporter of the changes we have introduced around legal migration. I was pleased that we were able to have the first statistical release on that front last week, which demonstrates the changes and the way in which they are beginning to make a difference. We saw numbers down 24% across key visa routes. We obviously saw a considerable fall in student dependant numbers, having stopped individuals being able to bring student dependants on the route, and we will sustain that progress as well. The objective is to bring inflows down by 300,000 relative to the year prior. Again, that is a credible plan that delivers on the commitment we have made to bring those numbers down to more sustainable levels, and I am grateful for the support shown by my hon. Friend in that regard.

In today’s debate we have touched a little on the Rwanda policy, which is front and centre in allowing us to kick on and make further progress. The changes we have introduced and the progress we have made are not insignificant, but undoubtedly we need to go further in order to achieve our ultimate aim of putting the criminal gangs out of business. I have said that a few times in the course of this debate, but it is what the British people expect and it is the critical challenge that we face. It is not tenable for any party not to have a credible plan about how it would do that. I will not go into the operational specifics of the policy today.

We have consistently seen efforts to thwart the progress of the Rwanda legislation, and I have no doubt that we will see further efforts from certain quarters to make the delivery of the policy as difficult as possible. We have seen incidents in the last week or so of people trying to disrupt perfectly lawful Home Office business to facilitate relocation in the asylum accommodation estate. We cannot have a mob trying to prevent through criminality that lawful Home Office business from taking place. There is always a right to peaceful protest, but it is not acceptable to behave in such a way that is counter to the law and prevents perfectly lawful business from moving forward and taking place in the way that the British people as a whole would reasonably expect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood raised a point about judicial capacity and being able to get on, process claims and ensure that appeals are dealt with as expeditiously as possible. The Government are working particularly hard to ensure that the justice system can meet increases in demand under the Illegal Migration Act. We have reviewed anticipated workloads introduced by the Act and will increase court staff and secure hearing rooms and judicial capacity to meet those projections. To make effective use of the Act’s provision for first-tier tribunal judges to sit in the upper tribunal of the immigration and asylum chamber when requested to do so by the Senior President of Tribunals, the judiciary has identified and trained about 150 experienced first-tier tribunal judges to sit in the upper tribunal to hear Illegal Migration Act appeals. The additional judges, if deployed, could provide more than 5,000 additional sitting days.

The Lord Chancellor also asked the Judicial Appointments Commission to recruit more judges for the first-tier and upper tribunals of the immigration and asylum chamber. The recruitment is now concluding and new judges will be appointed and trained and will start sitting from this summer. This should increase capacity in both the first-tier and upper tribunals to hear routine cases and, in due course, Illegal Migration Act cases. Again, we are taking a root-and-branch approach, increasing resource and capacity and ensuring that we have the infrastructure to deliver not only on the partnership with Rwanda, but on getting through cases more quickly. That will facilitate greater volumes of removals not just of foreign national offenders, but of individuals who are failed asylum seekers and have no right to be here.