In Parliament – December

Oral Answers to Questions – Home Department – 2nd December 2013

Nigel Mills MP: What assessment she [The Home Secretary] has made of the expected level of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria between 2014 and 2018.

Mark Harper MP (Minister for Immigration; Forest of Dean, Conservative): My hon. Friend will know that we consulted the Migration Advisory Committee on that question, and it advised us that making an estimate was not practical because of the number of variables, so we have not done so.

Nigel Mills MP: I am grateful for that answer. Having seen the numbers last week for the increase in migrants from the EU, does the Minister still believe that we can get total net migration down to the tens of thousands in this Parliament without having some restrictions on immigration by Romanians and Bulgarians next year?

Mark Harper MP (Minister for Immigration; Forest of Dean, Conservative): If my hon. Friend looked closely at the net migration statistics last week, he will have seen that what was interesting about them was not only the reduction in emigration by European Union nationals, but the fact that the increase in migration from the European Union involved people from not eastern Europe, or Romania and Bulgaria, but some of the southern European states, reflecting the weakness in their economy and the strength of ours.

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – 5th December 2013

Nigel Mills MP: What steps he is taking to encourage more people to become engineers.

David Willets MP (Minister of State for Universities and Science; Havant, Conservative): In September the Government announced a £400 million boost for science, technology, engineering and maths teaching. Last month we launched the first annual Tomorrow’s Engineers week, during which the Government worked with more than 70 partners. Our recently published Perkins review of engineering skills calls for action from employers, educators and the profession to work with us to inspire young people to become engineers.

Nigel Mills MP: Does the Minister agree with the importance of getting local engineering employers to work closely with skills providers to inspire young people to go into engineering, and will he join me in welcoming the soon-to-open Heanor studio college, which will do exactly that?

David Willets MP (Minister of State for Universities and Science; Havant, Conservative): We strongly support such initiatives, which are absolutely what is required to ensure that employers get the skilled engineers they need.

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – 10th December 2013

Nigel Mills MP: Although writing off anything is disappointing, will the Secretary of State confirm whether he has analysed what a comparable write-off would be for schemes in the public and private sector elsewhere?

Iain Duncan Smith MP (The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions; Chingford and Woodford Green, Conservative): In the private sector, programmes allow up to 30% or 40% for write-downs and reworks, which is well within the amount we have written down. I believe that this programme will roll out more efficiently than almost any other programme in the private sector.

Regulation of Payment Systems – 11th December 2013

Nigel Mills MP: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way one very last time. I am not sure that I agree with him that it is not for Parliament to decide roughly where the cap should sit, because if we set it too high it will be meaningless and if we set it too low we will drive too many people out of the loan market. What will the Minister do if the FCA pitches the cap in a different place from where the Government think it ought to be? Would he want to come back to Parliament to take another look at the situation?

Sajid Javid MP (The Financial Secretary to the Treasury; Bromsgrove, Conservative): I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I think that the FCA, acting independently and looking at the evidence, is the right organisation to set the cap. I do not think that politicians setting the cap would be as productive; actually, it could be counter-productive.

I now turn to the cost-benefit analysis that the FCA will have to conduct, which I think will help reassure Members that it will approach the task in the proper way. The amendment specifically requires that the FCA must consult the Treasury before it publishes and consults on any draft rules. To reflect the importance of keeping the rules current and effective, the FCA must report, each year in its annual report, on any rules it makes under its capping powers.

Finally, it is worth spending a moment on the issue of defining payday lending in primary legislation. Putting a narrow definition in primary legislation could lead to unintended consequences. Lenders may just try to circumvent the definition. The amendment therefore allows the FCA to specify precisely which types of high-cost, short-term loans are captured when it makes its rules to effect the cap.

Amendment (a) to Lords amendment 155, which was tabled by Cathy Jamieson, relates to data sharing. I am grateful to her for raising that important issue and the Government fully agree that urgent action is necessary to tackle it. The whole system needs to improve to support responsible lending. Lenders must make proper assessments of an individual’s ability to repay before they lend, based on accurate, timely and comprehensive information on their outstanding loans.

The FCA plans to put strict requirements on firms to undertake affordability assessments to ensure that a borrower can afford to make sustainable repayments. The FCA is not stopping there. It has warned the industry that it must improve the way in which data sharing works, including how quickly lending data are made available. The chief executive of the FCA, Martin Wheatley, has made a commitment to me today in writing that if the industry fails to improve, the regulator

“will not hesitate to act”.

The Government wholeheartedly endorse the message to the industry that the FCA will act if it does not respond quickly enough. This matter is a priority for the FCA. It is committed to improving the way in which data are shared and lending decisions made.

I therefore believe that amendment (a), although well intended, is not necessary. I hope that on the basis of those reassurances, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun will not feel the need to press it.

The hon. Lady also tabled amendment (b) to Lords amendment 155, which relates to the timetable. The Government want the cap to be in place as soon as possible. That is why we are taking this opportunity to introduce legislation that requires the FCA to impose a cap on costs. The FCA will then be able to get on with implementation without delay. Let us be clear that the Lords amendment provides a statutory backstop date for implementation. The cap must be in place by 2 January 2015. If the FCA can deliver it sooner, it will. However, it must not rush and risk getting the wrong result for consumers.

I will share with the House what Martin Wheatley told me today. I understand that he has published the letter on the FCA website. He wrote that

“it is very important that we are clear with you on the practical implications of any further shortening in the timetable, the principal one being that we believe it is impossible to have as strong a cap based on a shorter deadline. This cannot be the intended outcome from a consumer protection standpoint”.

I believe that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun has received a copy of that letter. I received it only just before I stood up to speak at the Dispatch Box.

I hope that Members from all parts of the House agree that a compromised outcome for consumers would not be the right result. The FCA’s current timetable for implementing the cap is ambitious, but deliverable. Crucially, it enables the FCA to draw on the findings of the Competition Commission’s current investigation of the market, which I referred to earlier. It is vital that the FCA can benefit from the Competition Commission’s insight into the market when designing the cap.

The FCA is already getting on with gathering the evidence and detailed analysis that it needs. It will consult in the spring on its draft proposals, at around the same time as the Competition Commission is due to publish its provisional findings. Consultation will take place over the summer and the FCA plans to make the rules in the autumn of next year. Again, that is likely to be at about the same time as the Competition Commission issues its final report. The cap will come into effect, at the latest, by the beginning of January 2015.

Nigel Mills MP: If the Minister had had the pleasure of sitting on the Bill Committee, he would know that I tabled an amendment to suggest we cap the market share that banks could have in certain markets. What will he do if, perhaps by 2020, we have not seen a great increase in competition and still have too few banks with too high a market share? Does he think further action by Parliament would be needed?

Sajid Javid MP (The Financial Secretary to the Treasury; Bromsgrove, Conservative): My hon. Friend will know that the Government have introduced many initiatives to increase competition in the banking sector. Just today we heard that Tesco Bank will enter the current account market next year, creating hundreds of jobs in Scotland. That is welcome news, and other innovations such as current account switching also help to engender more competition. I do not think any of us know what the situation might look like in the future, but I am sure a future Government will take that into account in 2020, and beyond, and see whether any further measures are required.

Backbench Business – Immigration (Bulgaria and Romania) – 19th December 2013

Nigel Mills MP: It is a pleasure to start this debate on an important topic of great national interest. I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for providing us with the time to debate this topic before the Christmas recess. I think that most of us here find it a pity that we cannot debate the matter on a substantive motion in the main Chamber, where we could have tested the will of the House with a vote.

Peter Bone MP (Wellingborough, Conservative): Can my hon. Friend explain why that is? It was completely in the power of the Backbench Business Committee to put this debate in the Chamber, rather than the Rag, Tag and Bobtail Adjournment debate happening there at the moment.

Nigel Mills MP: I think I am grateful for that intervention. It is not for me to answer for the Backbench Business Committee; my hon. Friend has more experience of that Committee, so perhaps he can explain later.

David Hanson MP (Shadow Minister (Home Affairs); Delyn, Labour): The hon. Gentleman tabled an amendment to the Immigration Bill, which was last debated on 19 November. Although the Bill has completed Committee stage, there is no date, even in today’s business statement, for when the Bill will be brought back to the House of Commons. Does he regret that his party’s business managers did not give him that opportunity?

Nigel Mills MP: That is the point that I was alluding to. It would have been better to have had this debate during consideration of the amendment to the Immigration Bill on Report, so that we could have dealt with the issue on the Floor of the House before the restrictions were lifted, which, sadly, is likely to happen in less than two weeks’ time. However, I am afraid that House business management is even further above my pay grade than the machinations of the Backbench Business Committee, so it is probably not wise for me to be drawn on that subject.

The right hon. Gentleman takes me to my first theme. The Minister and I—alone, sadly—have debated this topic before, at Committee stage. A month has passed, and a few things have changed. I was the lone signatory to the amendment at that point, but more than 74 MPs have now signed it for Report. A few of the facts have probably changed since then as well; obviously, there was already a petition with more than 150,000 signatories, but since that point, we have learned that despite the

Government’s many welcome measures over the course of this Parliament, net migration rose in the last year, which causes concern to those of us who are committed to our manifesto promise to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. Can that be achieved, especially if large numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians take advantage of the lack of restrictions? The Government have made a series of welcome announcements of policies to tackle immigration. Welfare measures were introduced to Parliament yesterday.

John Baron MP (Basildon and Billericay, Conservative): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate, but I put it to him that perhaps those measures, particularly the changes in benefits, risk being too little too late. They also risk feeding a minority’s views and prejudices about immigrants. My experience is that the vast majority come here to work, and they work hard. They come not because of the benefits, but because the average salary here is so much higher than in their home country. Would it not be a better option to extend the transitional controls and stop people coming in, to give us time to assimilate those already here? Given that whichever route the Government take, they will be challenged, they might as well go for the better option.

Nigel Mills MP: I agree with everything that my hon. Friend says. If he has read the speech I made in Committee, he will have seen that I focused on the argument about the impact on our labour market, which is already and still disrupted by the recession. If he has not read that speech, luckily I can give most of it again, seeing that we are debating much the same topic. I fear that I may have to give the same speech in a few weeks’ time, when we debate the Immigration Bill.

My hon. Friend is right that it is important to get the tone of any debate about immigration right. We are not looking to insult people or make untrue claims; we are looking at what is in our national interest and the public interest. We are still experiencing higher unemployment than we would like; it is higher than before the recession, and even though it has decreased significantly in recent months, it is still the main problem.

That is not to say that the Government are wrong to try to ensure that our welfare system is no more generous than those of other western European nations, and to tackle some of the potential weaknesses, such as the fact that we still have a system based on entitlement, not contribution. A fundamental reform of the system may well be required. I wholeheartedly support the measures announced; perhaps we could have gone further.

I have an interesting question that I hope the Minister will answer later: how many people do the Government think their new measures will catch? How many fewer people do they estimate will come over the next five years than would have come without the measures? I suspect that the number is not very large, but the information would be welcome.

Why are we concerned about the potential level of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria once the restrictions are lifted? We have talked about people coming here to abuse our welfare system, to the extent that that is actually the case, but there are real concerns about the impact on our health service. The fact that we have free health care, which is, of course, very welcome,

makes us a little more attractive a destination than many other western European nations where the situation is not quite as simple.

Douglas Carswell MP (Clacton, Conservative): I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising this important issue. The United Kingdom is one of only five European Union member states with a system in which non-contributory unemployment benefits are paid to people looking for work. Surely we cannot have totally unrestricted movement of people within the EU and retain our system of non-contributory unemployment benefits. At the same time, the European Commission is pushing to ensure that all EU nationals have the same rights as British nationals to claim non-contributory payments in this country. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is what is at stake? We must make a choice between the welfare system that the Labour party put in place after the second world war, and the grand project of the European grandees. We cannot have both.

Nigel Mills MP: I agree with what my hon. Friend says. He leads us to a fundamental tension. Can we allow freedom of movement when there are such disparities of wealth between the new nations joining the EU and others, and when the attractiveness of our benefit system means that it is very different from what people experience in their country? There is a tension between the welfare system that we would like and the impact that it has when there is free movement of people, and we must resolve that, one way or another.

It would be far better for the European Court not to produce such ludicrous decisions. Those of us on the Eurosceptic side of the debate probably welcome perverse decisions that further lower the reputation of the EU and the UK, but if I were in the Court’s shoes, I am not sure that I would be quite so creative.

The NHS is attractive to people coming here, and there are also concerns about whether we have enough housing to accommodate large influxes of migrants over the next five years. Those of us who are experiencing great discomfort due to local plans to comply with existing housing targets probably do not fancy adding a few more hundred thousand people throughout the country, and seeing how many more houses we will have to find on our green belt. There are also impacts on other public services, notably schools, in areas where there is high pressure from immigration.

Andrew Turner MP (Isle of Wight, Conservative): Does my hon. Friend not agree that 2 million new people in this country over the past 10 years is far too many? We must find out what the Government foresee in future.

Nigel Mills MP: I think there is general agreement that the level of migration over the past decade was clearly higher than the country could cope with. Members of the previous Government are now recognising that they made mistakes, especially relating to the accession of the A8 countries a decade ago. It is worth reminding ourselves that 5,000 to 13,000 people a year were predicted to come from those countries, and more than 1 million actually came. That was a spectacularly bad prediction.

Andrew Bingham MP (High Peak, Conservative): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate, which is hugely important to our constituents, on what is probably one of the prevailing issues that they face. On his point about previous accessions, does he agree that the last Government’s lamentable failure to control immigration has left a long and large shadow of memory across our constituents’ minds? They are fearful that it will all happen again. Some of those fears may be unjust, but the concerns are occupying our constituents’ minds greatly.

Nigel Mills MP: Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. It can be no surprise that the public have great concern about what might happen when new nations have unfettered access to free movement, given that our experience with other eastern European nations gaining such freedom is that so many of their nationals chose to come to this country. I accept that most of them chose to come here to work, but that leaves us with the fundamental question of how to deal with that when unemployment in this country is still far higher than we would like.

Brooks Newmark MP (Braintree, Conservative): I realise that my hon. Friend is trying to make progress, but he makes an important point about the contradiction between people coming from Europe, eastern Europe in particular, because they believe jobs are here, and the perception of people locally that they are taking jobs. The reality is that many local people simply will not take those jobs; that is why they are being filled by eastern Europeans. That is the skills gap at the low end. It is not that there are no jobs; many people locally will simply not take the jobs, because they do not want to work for such pay or in those particular roles. That is the issue.
Nigel Mills MP: My hon. Friend raises an important point. One of the drivers of the Government’s welfare reforms is to encourage people to take work if they are offered it; if they choose not to take work that is available, they do not get the benefits that they would presumably like to keep. For the welfare reforms to work, however, we need jobs to be available, so that people can be gently encouraged to take them, even if they are perhaps not their first choice. If the jobs that exist are taken by those who have just arrived in this country, those necessary and important welfare reforms become much harder to achieve. We must remember that a first job can be the start of the career ladder; it is not necessarily the end of it. Encouraging people to take jobs even if they do not think that they are suited to them, or if the jobs are not quite what they are after, is perfectly appropriate policy.I shall try to get back to the thread of my argument. Let me set out why I tabled an amendment in Committee to keep in place transitional restrictions—and I am grateful that 73 other MPs have chosen to sign that amendment for Report. Looking at the criteria in the accession treaties that allowed us and other western European nations to keep restrictions until the last possible minute, we were allowed the restrictions, and chose to keep them, because there was still serious disruption in our employment market.

Two years ago, the Government commissioned an independent assessment from the Migration Advisory Committee of whether the test was still being met. The

main criteria looked at were levels of employment and unemployment, the claimant count, and vacancies, both in 2011 and pre-recession. The pre-recession level of employment was 72.7%; two years ago, that was down at 70.6%. Unemployment before the recession was 5.1%; two years ago, it was 7.8%. The claimant count was 3% pre-recession and 4.6% two years ago; vacancies had been 621,000, but were down to 469,000. Those figures were the justification for saying, “We need to keep these restrictions for another two years. Our labour market can’t cope with the potential disruption of a large number of people arriving.”

Andrew Bridgen MP (North West Leicestershire, Conservative): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. He has the problem in a nutshell. In my constituency, unemployment is down to 2.4%, but many of those who remain unemployed are harder to place, and we need to do more work with them. The last thing that they need is competition from another wave of immigrants. We also need to look at the argument about what the level of immigration could do to the Romanian and Bulgarian economies. What effect will the departure of their brightest, young and best—the keen people willing to travel across the continent to find work—have on the Romanian and Bulgarian economies? That needs to be taken into account.

Nigel Mills MP: My hon. Friend is right. The idea behind those nations wanting to join the European Union was to grow their economies and to provide better living standards for their people. That must be harder to do if what looks like the best option for their brightest people is to leave for a better wage elsewhere.

I return to the test that was run two years ago. If we were to apply it now, with the excellent unemployment data from the end of November announced this week—we all accept and welcome those figures, which are a great improvement on where we were at the start of this Parliament, or even on the position two years ago, or at the start of the year—employment would be at about 72%, which is still down on where it was before the recession. Unemployment is still 7.4%, which is well up on the 5.1% before the recession; the claimant count is still at 4%, compared with 3%; and vacancies are up to 545,000, which is still down on 621,000. My contention is that if the treaty had allowed us to extend the restrictions for a further period, I can see no reason why we would not have sought to retain them, in the light of that analysis.

Bob Stewart MP (Beckenham, Conservative): My hon. Friend is right. The idea behind those nations wanting to join the European Union was to grow their economies and to provide better living standards for their people. That must be harder to do if what looks like the best option for their brightest people is to leave for a better wage elsewhere.

I return to the test that was run two years ago. If we were to apply it now, with the excellent unemployment data from the end of November announced this week—we all accept and welcome those figures, which are a great improvement on where we were at the start of this Parliament, or even on the position two years ago, or at the start of the year—employment would be at about 72%, which is still down on where it was before the recession. Unemployment is still 7.4%, which is well up on the 5.1% before the recession; the claimant count is still at 4%, compared with 3%; and vacancies are up to 545,000, which is still down on 621,000. My contention is that if the treaty had allowed us to extend the restrictions for a further period, I can see no reason why we would not have sought to retain them, in the light of that analysis.

Nigel Mills MP: That is one of those welcome problems, in that we all want our economy to be growing so strongly that we become a much more attractive place—but there are clearly down sides in dealing with the legacies of recession, with unemployment and especially youth unemployment still far higher than we might like. We need to get our own people who are struggling into the jobs that growth generates.

To return to my contention, if the treaty had allowed the restrictions to continue for a further period, I am in little doubt that we would have wanted to extend them, if we could, and that brings us to my next point. We signed that treaty a decade ago, but we had not at that point predicted a catastrophic recession, which would take many years to recover from—we are still trying to recover from it—and we had not appreciated just what the level of immigration from the previous accession wave would be, which was far in excess of our estimates. I suspect that had we known those two things when we were signing the treaty, we would never have agreed to restrictions on those two countries being lifted so soon or at this point in the economic cycle.

The question becomes, does Parliament say, “We have to accept that we approved the treaty”—it was passed by this House—or actually do we have the right to say, “With hindsight, that was a mistake and it is now not in our national interest to continue with what we agreed”? We need to change that. Let us simply keep the restrictions already in place for a further defined period—that is a proportionate response to a clear problem—at least until our economy is fully recovered from the shock experienced in the recession. That is not an unreasonable or disproportionate thing to do.

It is worth noting that I was only trying to keep the restrictions that have been in place since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU. That would not stop completely people from those two countries finding work here. If able to find work in this country and get a work permit, they have been permitted to work here since they joined the EU—that would not change. So my suggestion of not lifting restrictions that are already in place is proportionate at this point. If the Government are not minded to accept that relatively gentle and proportionate measure, I sincerely hope that they think again in the two weeks left before the new year and try to find some other way of keeping the restrictions.

Some interesting policy ideas have been announced as different ways to tackle the problem. I was quite attracted by the idea that accession countries whose gross domestic product per capita is well below the EU average should not get full access to freedom of movement until their GDP was nearer the EU average—perhaps three quarters of the average. That would tackle the issue raised by my hon. Friend Andrew Bridgen, because it would mean that the brightest people in those countries could not leave; they would have to stay there and find ways to grow their own economy.

The gross national income per capita in both Bulgaria and Romania is about $16,000, compared with our GNI of $37,000, so those two countries would fail the test, were we to apply it now. That test is attractive, but its prospective introduction would not fix the problem that might well hit us from 1 January. Surely it would therefore be better to keep the restrictions we have in place while we are trying to achieve those reforms.

The second idea, which was leaked this week, was to have a cap on EU migration. Again, that is an attractive idea and one that, I suspect, would contribute greatly to enabling us to meet our target of net migration in the tens of thousands, although there would be some practical issues with enforcing a cap, and I suspect that other EU member states might not be as keen on the idea. But I find it intriguing that although it is seemingly impossible

to try, in response to a clear issue in our employment market, to keep in place for a bit longer restrictions that have been allowed until now by the accession treaty, it is thought that a complete and utter unravelling of freedom of movement—even between the main western European nations—might be possible. I am afraid that I am not so optimistic that we could achieve that aim in a renegotiation; but even if it could, it is a measure for a long time in the future, not one that can help us out in the coming years if large amounts of people decide to come here.

Finally, I have some questions for the Minister. I understand that Governments have had their fingers burnt making estimates in the past, but will he set out whether the Government believe that a large number of people from Romanian and Bulgaria will try to come to the UK when the restrictions are lifted? Independent estimates suggest figures of between 30,000 and 70,000 people a year for the next five years, which would put the total at something like 350,000. I do not expect an accurate assessment, but do the Government think that number is way over the top, is an underestimate or is about right? The people of this country want to know whether their fears are unrealistic or entirely realistic.

Given that nearly all western European nations have kept the restrictions in place until the last minute, I would presume that those countries fear that there might be an issue. It is also worth noting that Romania and Bulgaria will not be joining Schengen on 1 January, as they were meant to, again because of concerns across Europe about what that might entail.

Douglas Carswell MP (Clacton, Conservative): My hon. Friend is looking at public policy responses to this problem and has outlined some important ideas, but surely there is one blindingly obvious policy solution that we need to consider seriously, which is to withdraw this country from the EU completely. Is it not absurd that people need a visa to come to this country from Singapore, a country with an incredibly high number of talented and able people—we would benefit from greater labour mobility for such people—but we have unrestricted movement of people from Bulgaria? If we were outside the EU, like Switzerland, where one in five members of the labour force is a non-Swiss national, we could benefit from all the advantages of labour mobility and have all the necessary requirements to control it.trictions in place until the last minute, I would presume that those countries fear that there might be an issue. It is also worth noting that Romania and Bulgaria will not be joining Schengen on 1 January, as they were meant to, again because of concerns across Europe about what that might entail.

Nigel Mills MP: My hon. Friend is clearly right. However, sadly, I do not think that we can convince the Government to pull us out of the EU in the next fortnight, and so we probably need to take some different measures in the meantime. He may have noticed that the five-year period I am proposing for keeping the restrictions will take us well past the referendum that we hope will take place on our EU membership. At that point, the people will have been able to choose whether they want to stay in and have unrestricted migration or to leave and reintroduce our border controls. I hope he would agree that a five-year time frame for keeping the restrictions would be one way of helping to meet his aspirations in that situation.

Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight, Conservative): My hon. Friend said that the Bulgarians and Romanians have not joined the Schengen agreement, although that had been expected. Is that anagreement that they made but have subsequently decided not to stick with, or an agreement that they made with the rest of Europe in which we were not involved?

Nigel Mills MP: As I understand it, Schengen is an agreement between nations rather than a treaty, and, fortunately, one that we are outside as we were thankfully not required to join. Having had a pleasant meeting with the Bulgarian ambassador in a TV studio not that long ago, I know that there is some annoyance among those nations because they feel that they have met the criteria for Schengen but are not being permitted to join it. There were some strong quotes from Mr Barroso on why that was not to be the case; he used language that I would not want to use in a debate in immigration, but there we go.I am a little over the time that I promised I would take with my remarks, so I will conclude. I do not think that any other measure has been trailed or announced that can tackle this matter in the right time frame. There is widespread concern, as anyone who reads almost any of the newspapers can see. I have already mentioned the Daily Express petition with 150,000 signatures; yesterday we saw a campaign in The Sun and today there is an editorial on the issue in The Daily Telegraph. It is an issue of great concern. The Government need either to give us convincing reassurance that the problem will not arise or to take some action to protect our employment market and protect those people in our constituencies who are struggling to find work. The only realistic answer is to keep proportionate restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians in place for a further period. I urge the Government to act before those restrictions are lifted on 1 January.

Peter Bone MP (Wellingborough, Conservative): Is it right for the House to interpret therefore that Her Majesty’s official Opposition will not be supporting the new clause?

David Hanson MP (Shadow Minister (Home Affairs); Delyn, Labour): That is perfectly correct. The new clause is trying to unpick treaties that are the responsibility of Government to negotiate. Primary legislation would not impact on that. Even the hon. Member for Amber Valley said in Committee a little later that“trying to get this country to breach various treaties it has signed is probably not a very sensible way of pursuing our diplomatic mission, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.”––[Official Report, Immigration Public Bill Committee, 19 November 2013; c. 401-02.]

I say that simply because the issue is important, and we need to address it, but I am not clear that the new clause or having the debate before or after Christmas would change the fundamental position.

Nigel Mills MP: For clarification, does he accept that I was saying that trying to do that in a Committee of a dozen or so MPs was not the right way forward; it was better for the whole House to consider it.

David Hanson MP (Shadow Minister (Home Affairs); Delyn, Labour): My contention still stands. Having said that, we have had a calm and rational debate, which is the best way in which to approach the issue—in a calm and measured way. I agree with the approach taken by Mr Ellwood, at least in the first half of his speech, on some of the benefits that wider immigration can bring to the United Kingdom.

In response to Mr Hollobone—I say this on the record for the House—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friends the Members for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) have said clearly that mistakes were made in 2004 when transitional requests and controls were not put in place. It is a reasonable presumption to say that now. It is something that I am aware of, although at

the time I was dealing with other matters in Government, and we have to accept that difficult, challenging and mistaken decisions were made at that time.