15 April 2024
Home Office Questions

Home Secretary, James Cleverly MP, answers MPs’ questions to the Home Office.

Net Migration

Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)

1. What recent progress his Department has made on reducing net migration. (902316)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Cleverly)

I put on record my condolences for your loss, Mr Speaker.

The Government have implemented a number of measures to reduce net migration. Those include restricting overseas students from bringing family dependants to the UK while they study, stopping overseas care workers from bringing family dependants, increasing the salary threshold for skilled worker visas—ultimately to £38,700—and increasing the minimum income requirements for family visas. We recognise that levels of migration have been too high and, upon my appointment, I immediately took action to bring those figures down.

Miriam Cates 

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, but one of the main drivers of immigration over the past 20 years or so has been labour shortages caused by falling birth rates. According to projections by Philip Pilkington and Paul Morland, if birth rates do not increase, immigration will have to rise to over a third of the population over the next 50 years if we are going to maintain a sufficient working-age population. Immigration on this scale has no democratic consent and obviously my right hon. Friend has promised repeatedly to reduce net migration, so what discussions has he had with colleagues in the Treasury about this issue? Does he agree that the Government must have a strategy to address falling birth rates, to ensure that we do not always have to rely on ever-increasing rates of immigration?

James Cleverly 

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Birth rates are driven by myriad social and economic factors, which I have to concede are beyond my control, but I have spoken with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about related issues and recognise that GDP per capita is an important metric, as is overall GDP. We are ensuring that we invest in a British workforce: my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary is passionate about apprenticeships and lifelong learning. We want to be a high-skilled, high-income economy, rather than a low-skilled, mass-migration economy. That remains the Government’s priority, and we are taking action through our immigration policy to reflect that desire.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)

Trhas Teklehaimanot Tesfay is one of the elite female cyclists chosen to lead RideLondon next month. She is also an asylum seeker, living in a hotel in my constituency where the food is so bad it makes her sick and unable to compete. Last month, an investigation by Sustain found food for asylum seekers that was undercooked, past its sell-by date and infested with insects, which in some cases left them malnourished and hospitalised. Could the Secretary of State investigate this scandal and the responsibility of the contractor Clearsprings, so that asylum seekers such as Trhas are not subject to such dangerous and degrading conditions?

James Cleverly 

Mr Speaker, I can assure you, the hon. Gentleman and the House that our contractors are expected to maintain standards and, where they fall below those standards, they will be held to account. I will absolutely take note of the case that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood) (Con)

I welcome the measures my right hon. Friend has taken to tackle the levels of legal migration, but could he inform me what assessment he has made of the expected impact of the new immigration salary list and what impact that will have on the net migration figure?

James Cleverly 

My hon. Friend is at the frontline of our fight against illegal migration, but legal migration is important. We have recognised that, for a number of reasons, the figures have been too high in the most recent couple of years and I have listed measures we have taken. The combined impact of that is that, by our estimations, under the new regime that I have put in place, 300,000 people who would previously have been eligible will no longer be eligible. That is the order of magnitude of change that we will eventually see once these proposals are fully implemented.

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)

The refusal to allow care workers from overseas to bring a spouse with them comes at the same time as, in Cumbria, we are finding it impossible to fill at least a fifth of all the social care jobs. Would the Home Secretary explain to constituents of mine who are unable to find people to care for them and their loved ones why it seems sensible to make the lives of people from overseas so miserable in coming over here to care for our loved ones that they do not come at all?

James Cleverly 

I recognise that, in rural communities, recruitment and retention of staff is difficult and in the hon. Member’s constituency—a wonderful, beautiful, but very rural constituency—there are particular pressures. I can assure him that the global supply of potential care workers is very significant. Actually, the issues about where in the country those people work are more about the internal dynamic within the UK economy than the quantum of people around the world who would seek to work in the UK. There are plenty of people who would wish to work here, recognising that they are not allowed to bring their dependants with them, but the issue of where in the country those people work is actually a broader issue.

Mr Speaker 

I call the SNP spokesperson.

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)

The cruel Conservative hikes to the visa minimum income threshold have caused deep distress—deep, deep distress—to many. Does the Home Secretary understand the pain that these changes have caused, and what message does he believe it sends out to those who would do us the honour of making their home in these islands that he puts such a high price on love and family life?

James Cleverly 

It is absolutely right that any nation in the world puts conditionality on the people it accepts within its own borders. This country has a long-standing tradition—in fact, I am a product of this, as are the Prime Minister, the Business and Trade Secretary and many others in the Government—of being open and welcoming. However, when we see the orders of magnitude of legal migration that we have seen over the last couple of years, it is incumbent on us to take action. We have made it clear what action we will take, and we have given notice of the changes so that people can make their plans accordingly. When there are special cases, there is a special cases exemption, so that we can both control immigration and do our moral duty to protect those people who seek our protection, and be an attractive place for people to come and work.



Violence against Shop Workers

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)

7. What steps his Department is taking to help tackle violence against shop workers. (902322)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Cleverly)

Violence and abuse towards shop workers is not and will never be acceptable. Last October the police published a retail crime action plan, which the Government have embraced and enhanced. Last week we launched the fighting retail crime action plan, which includes a commitment to create a new offence of assaulting a retail worker, as the sector has been calling for.

Ruth Cadbury 

Last week I met a shopkeeper in Hounslow who has been repeatedly targeted by shoplifters. The family who own the shop cannot afford security guards or to lose a large amount of stock, unlike the big chains. It is welcome that the Government have finally backed Labour’s 10-year campaign, along with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and other campaigners, to introduce a stand-alone offence of assault against a shop worker, but will the Minister go further and scrap the unfair £200 minimum, which leaves offenders getting away with impunity?

James Cleverly 

Shoplifting is still a criminal offence, irrespective of the financial value of what is taken. We have made a clear commitment to ensuring that shopkeepers are protected and that the retail environment is safe. That is why we have put in place funding to put more police officers on the street and why, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) just mentioned, neighbourhood policing numbers are up. We have committed the police to pursuing all reasonable lines of inquiry, and I am proud that we have put in place a specific criminal offence of assault against a retail worker.

Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)

For our high streets to thrive, people need to perceive them as safe places to be, but there is real concern that the Mayor of London is failing to get the Met to take retail crime seriously enough. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need a new Mayor for London, Susan Hall, to ensure we have more effective policing on our high streets?

James Cleverly 

Quite frankly, the Mayor of London has been a massive disappointment when it comes to the policing of London. The Met is the only police force in the country to see its police numbers reduce. It has failed to meet its recruitment targets. Quite frankly, Londoners deserve better.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)

As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on retail crime, I welcome the announcements, as I am sure will shop workers everywhere. When will the announcements be operationalised, and what is the monitoring process, so that we can all judge whether they are not just words but action?

James Cleverly 

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We are putting the changes through as amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill. The sooner it makes its passage through the House, the quicker we can put these specific changes in place, but we are not waiting for that. We have had conversations with police forces to ensure there is visible policing on our high streets and that they respond to every reasonable line of inquiry, sending a signal to retailers and potential criminals that we take this issue incredibly seriously, and that the police will respond to this important type of crime.

Matt Vickers (Stockton South) (Con)

I realise the Home Secretary may be sick of hearing from me about assaults on retail workers, but I welcome the huge and comprehensive package announced last week to support them. Will my right hon. Friend implement the measures as quickly as possible to benefit retail workers across Stockton South and the rest of the country?

James Cleverly 

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned vigorously on this issue and met me on a number of occasions to go through the specifics of the proposals, working closely with the Secretary of State for Justice, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), to ensure that both the policing response and the criminal response send a very clear deterrent to those who may be tempted to assault retail workers. It is not acceptable and we will take action.

Mr Speaker 

I call the shadow Minister.

Feryal Clark (Enfield North) (Lab)

In January, the Government voted down our latest attempt to introduce a stand-alone offence tackling violence against retail workers, continuing a pattern of years of failing to address this issue while such violence reached epidemic proportions. Last week—surprise, surprise—they U-turned and an offence is now to follow. When will the Government follow that up by stealing the other ideas they keep denying: a restoration of neighbourhood policing, which was down between 2015 and 2023—not the response officers they have been talking about, but proper neighbourhood policing; and getting rid of the £200 limit?

James Cleverly 

Members should recognise that just because a clause might have a similar sounding name, it does not mean it is the same. The simple truth of the matter is that the Opposition clause was deficient in many ways. The clause that we will put forward in the Criminal Justice Bill will address the issue. On local policing, the hon. Lady should recognise that there has been a 6,000 uplift.



Antisocial Behaviour

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)

9. What steps his Department is taking to help tackle antisocial behaviour. (902324)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Cleverly)

Last year, we launched the antisocial behaviour action plan, backed by £160 million-worth of funding and over 100,000 hours of police and other uniformed patrols undertaken to target antisocial behaviour hotspots, extended to every single police force in England and Wales. We banned nitrous oxide, increased fines for fly-tipping, littering and graffiti, and are strengthening powers to tackle antisocial behaviour through the Criminal Justice Bill that is making its way through the House.

Justin Madders 

One of the aspects of antisocial behaviour that really annoys my constituents is persistent cannabis smoking by people in their own homes, particularly, but not exclusively, in blocks of flats. When I raise the matter with the police, they tell me that they are not going to go into people’s homes and deal with it. I do not think that that is good enough; does the Home Secretary?

James Cleverly 

The police should take action when there is credible reporting of criminal behaviour. I have had this conversation with police leaders from areas around the country, and it is a conversation that we will continue to have with the police. People need not only to be safe but to feel safe, in their communities and in their homes.

Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)

My condolences to you, Mr Speaker.

Protesters who recently created an obnoxious stunt outside the home of the Leader of the Opposition belong in jail, as do the trust fund vandals who caused tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of damage outside the Ministry of Defence last week. The truth is that frontline politicians of any political hue, and our military personnel, are prepared to put themselves forward to serve and protect this country, which is, of course, a concept that the vandals would know nothing about. When it comes to this type of antisocial behaviour, will my right hon. Friend consider increasing visibility at high-profile locations such as those that I have mentioned?

James Cleverly 

My right hon. and learned Friend has raised a couple of points. First, it is completely unacceptable to try to intimidate parliamentarians whatever their political hue, and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with them regardless of their political party in defending their right to do and say what they believe to be in the best interests of their countries and their communities without fear of intimidation. That is an absolute red line, and it will be enforced. Secondly, these petulant acts of vandalism in the name of protest are unacceptable. When criminal damage occurs, it will be pursued, and in the Criminal Justice Bill we are taking specific actions to remove the veneer of a defence that criminal behaviour is somehow justified because people are not getting their way at the ballot box.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab)

Too many residents in Nottingham South tell me that antisocial behaviour is making their lives a misery. They never see a bobby walking the streets, and under the lawbreaking Tory police and crime commissioner, Nottinghamshire police has been placed in special measures, with His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services saying that the force is letting victims down. My constituents tell me that they will be voting for Labour’s Gary Godden on 2 May, in order to rebuild neighbourhood policing and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour. They are right, are they not?

James Cleverly 

They would be very wrong if they voted Labour expecting that that would increase a policing presence. Across the country we have seen over and over again that the best-performing police areas are typically controlled by Conservative police and crime commissioners. I know the situation in Nottinghamshire very well, and I have spoken directly to its police and crime commissioner, who has a clear plan of action to ensure that she continues to put police officers on the frontline. Labour-run police forces in the area have been sadly lacking in that regard.

Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)

Following an increase in antisocial behaviour in Tunstall, I was proud to work with more than 500 local residents to gain support for new CCTV, new alley gates and better street lighting through the safer streets fund. However, when I met the Labour leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, she told me that there would be no money for Tunstall—and, to make matters worse, she has dumped some undesirables in the Sneyd Arms hotel in the town centre, which has led to further criminal activity that is blighting high street stores throughout our community. Does the Home Secretary agree with me that, thank God, Ben Adams, Staffordshire’s police, fire and crime commissioner, was listening and ensured that we received that safer streets funding so that those in our communities would feel safer, and that people should vote for Ben on 2 May?

James Cleverly 

I could hardly have put it better myself. I recently visited the wonderful town of Stoke and saw the passion of its people. This is a classic example of local leadership in the hands of the Labour party failing people, and local leadership in the hands of Conservatives defending them.



Topical Questions

Sir John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con)

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (902342)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Cleverly)

We have increased the volume of asylum cases processed. We successfully met a ministerial commitment to close over 50 asylum-seeker hotels by January 2024, and we had closed over 100 by the end of March.

Last year, I brought forward measures to make legal migration fairer and to radically reduce the numbers; 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not now be eligible to do so. Anyone who wants to bring a family from abroad must be able comfortably to support them financially.

In the Budget, the Government put forward £75 million to roll out violence reduction units and hotspot policing across England and Wales, and £230 million for technology that will save the police time and money and make sure that police officers are on the frontline doing the job that they were recruited to do.

Sir John Whittingdale 

May I add my condolences, Mr Speaker?

My right hon. Friend will be aware that police numbers in Essex are at record levels and that overall crime is down. However, there has been a rise in vehicle thefts. Will he therefore welcome the efforts of our excellent police, fire and crime commissioner, Roger Hirst, in establishing a stolen vehicle intelligence unit that has so far recovered £14 million-worth of vehicles? Will he look at what further support can be given to Roger Hirst to tackle this crime?

James Cleverly 

My right hon. Friend is right to highlight the fantastic work of Roger Hirst and the stolen vehicle intelligence unit. A number of large-scale seizures have been made against attempted vehicle exports. The Government have reduced vehicle-related crime by 39% since 2010, and we seek to go further through the Criminal Justice Bill. We want to see more innovative approaches like the one taken by Roger Hirst, which is why I am very proud to campaign alongside him. He has done fantastic work to protect the people of Essex.

Mr Speaker 

I call the shadow Home Secretary.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)

Mr Speaker, I remember the kindness that your father showed me and our long discussions on rugby league. I add my condolences.

The Hillsborough tragedy was 35 years ago to the hour. We remember the 97 who were lost and support the families’ campaign for a Hillsborough law.

We strongly condemn Iran’s attack on Israel this weekend, and we must do everything we can to prevent further escalation in the middle east, but there are also domestic security issues in relation to Iran. The Iran International journalist Pouria Zeraati was attacked on the streets of London a few weeks ago following repeated Iran-related security threats on British soil, including threats to kidnap and kill. Does the Home Secretary believe it is now time to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the UK?

James Cleverly 

The right hon. Lady will know that we keep our response to Iran under constant review, and of course we have done so in the light of the attack in Wimbledon. We do not speculate about future designations or sanctions, but she will know that the IRGC is sanctioned in its entirety and a number of its members are sanctioned as individuals. As she knows, we will keep this under constant review.

Yvette Cooper 

The Home Secretary will know that we have raised this many times. I understand the complexity of the issue. The proscribing legislation was drawn up more than 20 years ago to address terrorist threats such as al-Qaeda, rather than state-sponsored threats that have both domestic and international security objectives. Our bottom line must be keeping this country safe, which is why Labour has proposed new security legislation to allow the Government to put appropriately targeted proscription-style restrictions on the operations of state-linked organisations such as the IRGC. The Government previously resisted this, but will he look at it again in the light of recent events and work with us on any legislation that is needed to keep this country safe?

James Cleverly 

We have the National Security Act 2023 and a range of tools at our disposal. Defence against state threats is one of the Department’s priorities, and my right hon. Friend the Security Minister leads on its practical implementation. I can reassure the shadow Home Secretary and the House that we constantly review the range of options at our disposal and deploy those that are most appropriate. Protecting the UK and the people living and working here against state threats will always be a priority of this Government.



Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)

T3. The murder of Gracie Spinks in Chesterfield sent shockwaves through the town, and the report on Derbyshire police’s handling of this desperately unhappy situation was salutary. There is still far too much inconsistency in how stalking and violence against women are handled, so will the Home Secretary back Labour’s plan to bring in mandatory national standards, and mandatory training on tackling violence against women, so that we see consistency in policing on stalking right across the country? (902344)

James Cleverly 

I reassure the hon. Gentleman and the House that, under my leadership, the Home Office and policing across the UK will maintain its focus on preventing violence against women and girls. We have a roll-out of police guidance and training when it comes to women and girls. I will listen carefully to the proposals he has put forward, because we want to make sure that women and girls feel safe in this country.



James Murray (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)

T8. My constituent Maysara is a British citizen, and his parents live in Gaza. His parents successfully applied for visas to visit him in the autumn last year, but they were unable to travel after 7 October, and their visas expired. I contacted the Home Office on Maysara’s behalf to ask if those visas could be extended, but I was told that his parents would have to make new applications. However, there are no functioning visa application centres in Gaza, so will the Minister explain what exactly my constituent’s parents should do? (902350)

James Cleverly 

I am more than happy to look at the details of the case. The hon. Gentleman has to understand that the circumstances on the ground changed dramatically after Hamas’ brutal mass murder rampage on 7 October, and our security posture in the region has had to be enhanced. I am not making any implications about his constituent’s family, but he and the House will understand that we must be careful in everything we do when it comes to accepting people who are leaving Gaza in these circumstances.