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The Lyons review set out a comprehensive plan for how the next Labour Government will tackle this crisis and get at least 200,000 homes built a year by 2020. A clear conclusion of that review was that we are overly reliant on a small number of builders and we need much more diversity in the housing market. Custom and self-build can be a part of that diversity.

Earlier this year, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds), who apologises to the hon. Member for South Norfolk for not being here today, set out Labour’s plans to boost home building, including measures to support custom and self-build and a register, as proposed in the Bill. Our hope is that as well boosting the level of custom and self-build, we will see an increase in take-up among those on low to middle incomes as a result of having such a register. Custom build should be an option for all those who want their own home—not just for a wealthy few.

In many other countries, the housing market is made up of a much more diverse number of builders, including self and custom builders. This often means the output in house building is much higher, while the homes are also attractive and of good quality—essential if we are to win the support of communities across the country for new homes in their local areas. While the Bill stops short of proposing the fundamental change needed, as set out by Labour, to tackle the housing crisis, it proposes concrete steps that will help boost the self- build and custom house building sector. The Bill is to be welcomed and the hon. Member for South Norfolk is to be congratulated on it. I wish him further luck with it.

12.22 pm

Brandon Lewis: I start by endorsing the cross-party harmony and join the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) in congratulating my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) on introducing the Bill. He has carried it through to this stage with his usual passion and individual flair—including mince pies in Committee, which I am still working off on my training bike. It is a testament to my hon. Friend’s passion as well as the necessity for legislation that the Bill has been received so positively across the parties in this House. I am particularly pleased about the cross-party consensus on the Bill’s aims, which will help to give the custom build sector further impetus across the country, and I especially welcome the Opposition’s support.

We had a good debate on Second Reading and in Committee, so I shall not go into too much detail on the Bill’s content. If the House will allow me, I will take a few minutes to explain why the Government support the Bill so strongly and how it will help to take forward our proposals for a new right to build.

The Government are committed to increasing housing supply and helping more people achieve their aspiration of owning a home of their own. When we came into office, the housing market was stalled. In fact, we inherited from the last Labour Government the lowest level of house building since, I think, 1923, which puts things into context. Prospective buyers could not get mortgages, and developers were not building. We have spent the last four and a half years fixing it, and we can see that our efforts are paying off.

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I appreciate the comments of the hon. Member for West Ham on the Lyons review and the aspiration for 200,000 homes to be built. I shall come on directly to the number of homes in a few moments, but let me politely point out that this is the third target that Labour has set in the last 12 months. I will be interested to see where the level falls to the next time Labour announces a housing target.

The facts are that we have seen 500,000 new homes built since April 2010 and the number of starts on new homes last year totalled 139,500—up by 15% on the previous year and the highest number since 2007, which should provide some context. The construction industry, furthermore, has been hiring at the fastest rate since 1997. I am sure that my hon. Friends will have seen that the number of first-time buyers is at its highest since 2007, according to a Halifax review published just this week. That is proof that our policies, such as Help to Buy, are working.

We can see light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still more to be done. We want to increase house building rates further and encourage improved standards of design and sustainability. I believe it is through greater diversity in our housing market that this can be achieved. With more competition, more new entrants and more new development, we will increase the speed and, importantly, keep, develop and improve the quality of house building in respect of build, construction and design.

Our volume house builders play a vital role in our housing market, but we know that there is no “one size fits all” model for our market. As the economy and the construction industry recover, we want to see more small and medium-sized builders back in the market. We know how important they are. In addition to their role in increasing the supply of housing, they provide local jobs across the country, as Members will know. They provide a more personalised product and services for local people, and they strengthen the capacity of the house building sector more broadly. They are the reason for the changes in planning terms for small sites, which we announced just before Christmas and they are direct beneficiaries of this Bill.

We are already actively supporting the small and medium build sector. Our support for smaller builders through our £500 million “Get Britain Building” investment fund for smaller builders’ work has already helped to deliver thousands of new homes and to commence work on a further 12,000 sites. We have opened our £525 million builders finance fund to small and medium builders to deliver schemes as small as five homes. Again, that could benefit directly from the Bill and the work behind it.

However, we want to look at more innovative ways of diversifying the market such as the custom build sector, which leads me directly to why we are all here today. I strongly believe that custom and self-build housing can play a central role in securing greater diversity in the housing market and help us to deliver the homes people need. We know we live in a country where there is high demand for custom and self-build. That could be met by the small and medium building industry, as I have outlined.

According to research by the Building Societies Association, one in three people in the UK is open to building their own home, and 1 million people want

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to build their own home in the next year alone. In fact, according to the website PlotSearch, January is apparently the peak time for subscribers to plot-finding services. It is no surprise that this high level of interest exists; custom build can be cheaper, greener and better designed than conventional market housing.

As I mentioned on Second Reading, a report published by the Lloyds Banking Group in 2013 concluded that self-builders can save between 20% and 25% on the cost of the equivalent home on the open market. According to the National Custom & Self Build Association, a typical three-bedroom home costs just £150,000 to build. It is interesting to think about some of the available options. Just before Christmas, I visited my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk in his constituency to visit Beattie Passive, a Norfolk company that showed us how it works. If I recall correctly, it let me have a go at trying to build one of the homes that it can supply. The kit can be supplied for somebody to build their own home at a cost of just £7,500. That makes house building, and custom house building in particular, affordable at a level that people often do not realise is available to them. For many custom and self-builders, the key advantage is the potential for more energy efficiency than can be achieved in typical developments. The Beattie Passive homes are a good example of that. Home owners who can influence the end product tend to have a longer-term interest in their properties, which may result not only in more energy-efficient homes, but, frequently, in better design and increased investment in the community. In fact, custom and self-build residents remain in their homes for about 14 years longer than the average resident.

Despite the advantages of custom building in diversifying the market and producing high-quality, sustainable homes, the market is stymied at present. Custom build currently accounts for only about one in 10 homes in Britain, just over 10,000 a year. That is a far lower proportion than we see in the United States and in other European countries. I think that the state of the market is caused by three main barriers: the limited availability of land, limited access to finance and advice, and the problem of red tape.

Since 2011, the Government have worked with the industry to overcome those barriers and develop the custom building sector. We want to double the output of the sector over a decade, so that well over 20,000 homes a year are built. I have been talking to finance houses—in fact, I did so only this week—about how we can make finance more accessible to those who wish to develop and build their own homes.

We are already encouraging the provision of more land through the planning system. Since 2012 councils have been required, through the national planning policy framework, to assess and plan to deal with the need for housing, including the requirements of those who wish to build their own homes. We have identified 12 Government-owned sites, which have been released for custom and self-build development by the Homes and Communities Agency.

Sir William Cash: The Minister has just mentioned the national planning policy framework. As he knows, today I am due to present a Bill that touches on that issue in a variety of ways, and in a fairly investigative

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fashion. Does he agree that, whatever instructions may or may not have been given to the Whips in respect of that Bill, it will be possible for us to continue our discussions about the planning and land implications of the NPPF at some future date?

Brandon Lewis: Absolutely. I am always happy to continue any discussion with my hon. Friend, and that certainly applies to discussions about how we can ensure that our planning system is fit not just for today but for tomorrow. My hon. Friend’s intervention gives me another chance to make the point that local authorities who are making plans for housing provision in accordance with the NPPF should concentrate on what housing is appropriate for and required by their areas, and that custom building should form part of that.

Developers have already been selected for six of the 12 Government sites. They include the award-winning Trevenson Park site in Cornwall, which Igloo Regeneration is currently developing. The Park Prewett site in Basingstoke is the largest of the custom building sites in the programme, and will generate 1,250 new and affordable homes. We can see the potential for more custom building in sites such as Ebbsfleet and Bicester. Yesterday I visited Brighton and met representatives of KSD Housing, which has a fantastic “modular build” proposal that could work well in the custom building sector as well. It could provide a very good model for the delivery of, in particular, affordable housing in the future.

I mentioned my visit to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk to see the housing built by Beattie Passive. That company has also built homes in my own constituency—council homes. It is great to see, under this Government, the first council homes to be built in Great Yarmouth for a very long time. Beattie Passive is able to work with the custom and self-building industry not just to deliver homes, but to teach people how to build their own homes. It enables them to develop new skills as well as new houses. That is important because, although we all enjoy watching great programmes such as “Grand Designs”, many people do not realise that custom building and self-building can be affordable. It is not necessary to have a lot of money in order to build a home; indeed, it is possible to buy a home-building kit for £7,500. The Bill does a great deal to make people more aware of the options that are available.

We are working to improve access to finance for all who are involved in custom and self-build. Following on from previous funds, earlier this year we launched a £150 million five-year serviced plot investment fund to finance up to 10,000 plots. We are also exploring with lenders how we can increase the number of custom and self-build mortgages. More lenders are already offering self-build loans, and gross lending on self-build is predicted to increase this year to £1.9 billion annually. It is clear from our discussions with lenders that the more that this sector develops, the easier it will be for them to assess it and ensure that mortgage funds are available. They are very interested in the sector.

Mr Bacon: Will the Minister take this opportunity to commend Mr Stephen Noakes, who is the chair of the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the head of mortgages at Lloyds Bank? He has not only supported the work of

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the all-party parliamentary group on self-build, custom-build and independent house building, but has demonstrated a sustained commitment to developing mortgage products for the self-build sector.

Brandon Lewis: I am happy to commend Mr Noakes. My hon. Friend has made a good point. Lloyds, Nationwide—whose representatives I met this week—and, indeed, other finance houses are very interested in this market, and want to see it grow. It is obviously a challenge for them to make assessments and provide funding on the basis of those assessments, but they are also keen to ensure that the market is as de-risked as possible, so that their finance can be as affordable as possible for consumers who wish to build their own homes.

Advanced technology and advanced manufacturing may provide one solution. If the National House Building Council and other organisations recognise that if a property carries a lower risk, it will be a better lending proposition for mortgage companies. Another solution is the provision of land specifically for local planning purposes—the Government sites that I mentioned earlier are an example of that—so that mortgage companies can focus on a particular area rather than adopting a scattergun approach. All those measures would help the market to develop. The more the market develops, the more secure it becomes, and the better the prospects become for lending and the affordability of lending.

We are actively reducing the amount of red tape. Self-builders are already exempt from the community infrastructure levy, and last year we announced additional changes to section 106 affordable housing contributions. Those changes have the potential to save custom and self-builders many thousands of pounds.

We are continuing to work closely with the National Custom and Self Build Association. I join others in congratulating the association, and thanking its members for the excellent work that they have done in promoting the sector. We are also working with others in industry to increase the amount of information that is available to consumers. The online self-build portal should be the first port of call for anyone who is interested in custom and self-build. I am sure that it will provide more information and advice this year, and that that will be enormously helpful to all who are interested in custom and self-build but lack the experience or confidence to embark on a project. We can see that those polices are having an impact. According to the National Custom and Self Build Association, more than 5,000 new plots are in the pipeline. However, if we are to achieve our aim of doubling the size of the sector over the next decade, we shall need to go further.

We believe that the main barrier that is stopping more people from building their own homes is the lack of suitable plots of land. That is why, in the autumn, we engaged in consultation on a new right to build that would give prospective custom builders the right to a plot of land from their local council for the first time. The consultation set out our vision for that right. Eligible prospective custom builders will be entitled to register with their local planning authority for a suitable, serviced plot of land on which to build or commission their own homes. The demand on the right to build register for custom build will be taken into account in the preparation of local plans, so that there are appropriate planning

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policies for the provision of enough plots of land for custom build. Registered custom builders will be offered suitable plots of land—with planning permission—for sale through the local planning authority, at market value.

Many prospective custom builders, local authorities and members of the custom building industry, as well as other professional bodies, have contributed to our consultation, and we are now considering all the responses. We are working with 11 local authorities to test the way in which the right to build will work in different contexts throughout the country. I want to clarify that our intention is to legislate for the full right to build in the next Parliament. This is a new area of policy that requires careful consideration and we want to make sure that we get it right. The Bill is an important part of this process.

The role of local authorities in bringing forward land is particularly novel and needs further consideration, and we want to make sure that the right forms an integral part of the planning system. It must support the local plan making process and existing planning designations. This will continue to prevent inappropriate development and protect precious landscapes such as the green belt. That is why we are proceeding carefully and will ensure that the views from the consultation and the vanguards inform the full legislation for the right to build. However, this Bill will legislate for the first element of the right, namely that local authorities will be required to establish registers of custom builders in their area.

I will explain our proposals for the register. First, the register will be a useful indicator of the scale and nature of demand for custom build in each local area. It builds on national planning policy by putting the requirement on a statutory footing—something I know Opposition Members fully support. It will also collect valuable information on the precise nature of this demand. By asking what size of plot, what location and what price range, local authorities and the custom build industry will be more able to respond to demand for custom build.

The register will also become a useful tool in the making of local plans. Many local authorities have been proactive in planning for custom and self-build, as national planning policy requires. However, as Minister for housing and planning, I know of aspiring custom builders who have contacted me as their local authority is not planning to meet their needs. By creating the register and creating this statutory duty, we will improve the local plan-making process so it meets the needs of custom builders. We must ensure that there is enough transparency to allow the information on the nature of demand for custom build to be used by the custom build industry, while, obviously, the data of individuals are well protected. The register will be useful in this way only if it demonstrates actual local demand for custom build plots. Local authorities should be confident that those on the register genuinely intend to build or commission their own home and consequently have the financial means to do so—which touches directly on the point my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk made a few moments ago.

This is why we are proposing that eligibility criteria be set out in the regulations that flow from this Bill. That will ensure that local authorities have the right to reject an applicant, should they fail to meet these eligibility criteria, and be confident that applicants will not waste

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their valuable time and energy. Local authorities should also have the power to remove individuals from the register in certain prescribed circumstances, to ensure that it remains an accurate and reliable source of information.

Of course, we are keen to allow a necessary degree of flexibility. There are areas of the country, such as areas of low demand, where the local connection test is counter-productive. We want the register to help develop affordable custom build housing and propose that individuals can register through registered providers.

The Bill will require that local planning authorities publicise their register. Custom builders must be aware of the register if it is to provide information on the nature of demand. The Secretary of State has the power to issue guidance to ensure that registers are adequately publicised. How precisely the register is publicised will be at the discretion of the local authority, once this guidance is taken into account.

We are currently testing how the custom build register and the entire right to build will work in practice with 11 vanguard local authorities across the country. There was a high level of interest from local authorities to pioneer the right to build. I believe we are now working with some very innovative local authorities who are a great example across the country. I particularly appreciate the diversity of authorities that submitted expressions of interest.

These vanguards are committed to establishing registers and making suitable plots available to those on the registers. They vary in location from Teignbridge to Oldham. They vary in size of project from thousands of units to single figures. They vary in context from cities, such as Sheffield, to national parks, such as Exmoor and Dartmoor. They also vary in experience. Every single vanguard brings something new to the table.

I also want in particular to mention South Norfolk, the local authority where my hon. Friend’s—he is the owner of the Bill—constituency lies. It shares his passion and is getting other authorities and institutions involved in custom build. I am sure that we will see much more custom and self-build demand met in that area in future. Its work alongside neighbouring local authorities, including with the Broads Authority, is an excellent example of co-operation in more complicated administrative areas.

All these vanguard projects will help design the right to build that we will legislate for in the next Parliament. However, they will additionally inform the regulations for this Bill, and I am pleased to say that all the vanguards intend to have custom and self-build registers, like those that this Bill would require, online this month. The vanguards will also give us a greater understanding of the resource requirements of the register. This experience will inform the regulations of this Bill to ensure that the costs of the register are proportionate and not burdensome on local taxpayers. In case anyone is concerned that we have somehow “forgotten about London”, we are working with the Greater London authority to test the feasibility of a pan-London register.

Our experience with the vanguards and the responses to the consultation will help us to ensure that the right

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to build supports the development of affordable housing as well, and I have outlined today the £7,500 example from by Beattie Passive. We want the right to build to support the development of affordable housing.

I am pleased to say that there are examples that demonstrate that this is possible across this country. Many registered providers have produced affordable housing and shared-ownership schemes through custom build, such as Coastline Housing in Cornwall. Some of our vanguards are working with registered providers to bring forward custom build development in this way. Custom build affordable housing offers a unique approach to shared ownership as the level of finish that the homeowner takes responsibility for can give them a greater equity share and help get them more firmly on the property ladder. I saw a direct example of this with a housing association I visited in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith) just before Christmas.

New affordable housing solutions are one result of the diversity that custom build and this Bill will bring to the market. If we look to Berlin, we can see how much further this could go. The building groups of Berlin, formed of ordinary citizens, have come together with support from the local government, and have now produced thousands of homes, many in the last five years. If we look to Holland, we see another model of custom build development for urban extensions. I have touched on yet another model that could significantly improve build-out rates, which custom build opens up. Advanced housing manufacture harnesses technology to increase the speed of construction without sacrificing design. It is used worldwide to support housing delivery, but is a relatively small industry in this country. Custom build is the perfect part of the sector to see it develop and to benefit from it. Nevertheless, housing groups, such as the Accord Group in Birmingham and others I have mentioned, are taking the lead in developing the advanced housing manufacture industry, and they can produce a wide range of high-quality and environmentally friendly timber frames, and specialist insulation and innovative techniques that can be put up in just one day, as I have seen for myself.

I have explained how custom build could change the housing market with our support. This Bill will put in place the legislation for the first part of the right to build, allowing individuals wishing to build their home to register with their local authority for a suitable plot of land. As such, it builds on national planning policy and guidance which already requires local planning authorities to identify and plan for local demand for custom build in their local plans. I hope, following the outcome of the consultation and the experience of the vanguards, that we will be able to bring forward legislation in the next Parliament to implement the full right, giving registered custom builders the opportunity to be offered a suitable plot of land for sale through their local council.

With that in mind, and clearly with the support of the entire House today, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk again. I am more than happy to support and endorse this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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European Parliament Elections Bill

Second Reading

12.49 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is the first of three Bills that I hope we shall have the chance to discuss today. In a sense, this is my contribution to manifesto development for the Conservative party in the run-up to the next general election, and I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Jonathan Evans) is here in the House today, as he has a great deal of knowledge of this matter: he is a former MEP and, indeed, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament. He understands what our policy used to be. The Conservative policy used to be in favour of open lists for European Parliament elections, rather than the closed lists we have at the moment. I hope the Minister will say that he agrees wholeheartedly that open lists are more democratic than closed lists, and that open lists are likely to encourage more people to participate in European elections, because they will have a real choice, rather than having choice limited by the closed list system. This would be a good thing for democracy. As you know well, Madam Deputy Speaker, if you have a good point, there is no need to labour it, so with that, I have the pleasure of moving the Second Reading motion.

12.50 pm

Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North) (Con): It is a great pleasure to rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) on the introduction of this Bill. He rightly informs the House that the Conservative party has historically been in favour of open list elections to the European Parliament. Of course, we used to have individual first-past-the-post elections until 1999, but in the run-up to the introduction of proportional representation in the European Parliament elections in 1999 the House had to give its attention to what form of elections should be undertaken. One requirement we had to take into account was that for proportional representation itself.

Although this House has generally set its face against change in favour of proportional representation, let me clearly declare my hand: I have always been a strong supporter of proportional representation. Being a Member of Parliament who serves the Conservative cause in Wales, I know that there would have been significantly more such Conservative MPs in this House over the years had we had a proportional system rather than the first-past-the-post system. The Conservative party has generally had the support of about 25% of the Welsh electorate—on occasion, it has increased to about 33%—yet in two general elections we ended up with no Welsh Members, notwithstanding the fact that one fifth of the electorate voted for our party. That has its impact on the way in which people look at the provenance of a political party.

The Conservatives have suffered from that in Wales and, in fairness, the Labour party has suffered in vast swathes of England from exactly the same phenomenon. I therefore make no apology for the fact that when proportional representation was introduced, I was very much in favour of it. When I was subsequently selected

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as the lead candidate for Wales in the European elections in 1999, I was in the happy situation of saying that I had no embarrassment about topping the list in an election on a proportional basis, given all the support I had publicly given to that change.

What I found to be absolutely unacceptable, however, was that the choice by my party members to put me at the head of the list meant that every vote cast in the Conservative cause was a vote for me to be a Member of the European Parliament. I say that notwithstanding the fact that, perhaps slightly differently from my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch and for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of British membership of the European Parliament. I do not claim for a moment, however, that all the party members in Wales shared my view. They selected me to head their list, but they have a range of views and undoubtedly some among the electorate would have found it more acceptable to cast a vote for a Conservative who shared their more cynical views about our European engagement. That was not permitted because of legislation passed immediately before the elections in 1999—in 1998, I believe.

At that time, the Conservative party argued strongly against that legislation, taking the battle up to the other place to hold it off, in order to ensure that we had an open list system. Clearly an open list system is thoroughly more democratic, so one has to wonder why we have a closed list system. I must tell hon. Members that the reason goes back to an advertisement published in The Guardian at the time of the debate on the scrapping of clause IV—its removal was led by the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The advertisement was a direct challenge to his authority and it was signed by 10 Labour MEPs. After the introduction of the closed list system, all 10 were purged from the European Parliament by the Labour party in subsequent selections, so we can begin to understand why we ended up with legislation that is anti-democratic: it was an opportunity to control what happened in Strasbourg and to control the choices voters would be permitted to make. Our party rightly opposed that, but, bearing in mind the immediacy of the election in 1999, there had to come a time when a system had to be agreed and eventually the Conservative party’s opposition was withdrawn so that we could have a system we could work with. It is a matter of great disappointment that in the intervening period no effort has been made to change the system.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is not trying to reinvent the wheel here, because eight other countries in Europe operate an open list system—I do not know how welcome that news will be to him. Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Finland and Sweden all have variants of open list systems. Those countries all allow their voters to make a selection among individual candidates who may well all be from the same party, if they wish to support that party in the election.

Only five countries have a closed system. During my time in the European Parliament I found the French system to be the most pernicious, and it is therefore disappointing that in certain aspects we follow that example. At least we can say that we have a regional closed list system. France has a national closed list system, which means that the votes for the respective parties are counted across the republic and the seats

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allocated thereafter, but not to the people who stood in those elections—they are allocated to the parties. Hon. Members who have visited France during European elections may recall seeing photographs of the main party leaders, because their names appear at the head of the European list, even though there is no prospect whatsoever of their accepting a seat in the European Parliament. What happens thereafter is that that person’s name is expunged and the seat allocation is decided by the parties in the weeks following the election. For this House, we are used to seeing the television coverage of debates that take place during the election campaign and on polling night a declaration is made as to who has been elected as the Member of Parliament. In France’s European elections we do not know probably for two or three weeks after the election who will be serving in the European Parliament, because that decision has not been made by that stage by the leadership of the individual parties.

We can see that the closed list system concentrates power at the top of the political party. That is why it was introduced by Tony Blair, and it is why the Conservatives rightly opposed it back in 1998. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch began his remarks by saying that he wanted to make a constructive contribution to the formulation of the Conservative party’s next general election manifesto, which is why I very much hope the Minister will accept that all the arguments are in favour of the Bill and that it will make progress—if not perhaps in this Parliament, in the next one.

1 pm

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) on presenting this Bill. I concur and agree with my hon. Friend—indeed, he is a good friend—the Member for Cardiff North (Jonathan Evans) who has adduced some very powerful arguments for a change in thinking. Much as I admire the Minister’s independence of spirit, I accept that he is hardly like to change Government policy on a wet Friday in January, but I very much hope that he will listen to the very intelligent arguments that have been made.

In my view, and in that of most people, an open list system is a much more democratic way of electing Members of the European Parliament. It is undoubtedly entirely pernicious that a small group of people—sadly, modern political parties are quite small in their numbers—can decide on who heads a list and that person is then automatically elected. All they have to do for the next five years is attend every party meeting and ensure that they are well in with their regional party. They remain No. 1, and whatever the people want, they get elected. We have heard the history of the debate in the Labour party in the 1990s, so I will not repeat it, but it shows that this is not a party political matter. It is an issue that the Labour party could look at as well as the Conservative party.

If we believe in the European Parliament and want to create interest, we should want to have characters elected—people who stand up for something. It is surely right that if they are popular in their region, they can rise up the list and people can vote for them individually. The

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political parties should not fiddle around, decreeing that a certain sort of person should rise to the top; it is up to the people to decide, as the will of the people is seldom wrong.

Before I sit down—it is the will of the House that this debate is fairly short—let me say that there is a wider issue. A big debate will continue about whether we have elections to the House of Lords. Personally, for all sorts of reasons, I do not agree with elections to the House of Lords. If they do happen, they will undoubtedly be under proportional representation. It would be a complete disaster if people were elected to the House of Lords under a closed list system. It really would be ridiculous to put a load of party hacks in the second Chamber, which is not about people forming a Government but about rationally trying to reform legislation, because we had kept this closed list system. The arguments are very strong. We will not get a result today—

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Before my hon. Friend sits down, may I say that we have a system that is neither open nor closed; it is neither fish nor fowl. Yorkshire and the Humber region elected Edward McMillan-Scott as a Conservative on a closed list system. Basically, people were invited to vote for a party and they voted Conservative. He defected to the Liberal Democrats and carried on as the MEP as a Liberal Democrat, even though nobody had voted for him as an individual; they had only voted Conservative. The current system is complete nonsense; it is neither one thing nor another.

Sir Edward Leigh: It is also scandalous that someone can defect from the party to which they had been elected and then just carry on in the European Parliament. My hon. Friend has put his finger on it: this is neither fish nor fowl. It is actually completely illogical. Debate and reform are needed, and I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch for moving this Bill.

1.4 pm

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) on securing this bill. I will, if I may, speak just briefly.

We welcome this debate about the voting system at European elections. The hon. Gentleman is not known to be a constitutional and electoral reformer, or indeed an advocate of the European Union. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Jonathan Evans) said, he holds a rather more cynical view of that institution. For that reason it is perhaps surprising to find the hon. Gentleman advocating a system of election so popular on the continent. From Belgium and Denmark, to Greece and Cyprus, open list electoral systems are a prominent part of European democracies.

The hon. Gentleman’s contribution today is welcome. Labour supports the principle of proportionality. There are merits to an open list system, whereby voters can choose individual candidates from a list provided by each party. Closed party lists can be impersonal, and can arguably weaken the link between the representative and the regional area. They offer less in the way of voter choice. Power is in the hands of parties to select candidates who are more likely to win. Arguably, that can lead to similar types of politicians entering politics. Candidates are selected by party leaders, who

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may sometimes be tempted to pick what we may consider to be safer choice, which can further diminish the ability of Parliaments, both domestic and abroad, to challenge the Executive.

Closed lists, of course, can stifle independent voices, which is why I think the policy is attractive to the hon. Gentleman. That said, however, I respect the arguments that suggest that closed lists are more amenable to measures that can increase representation of women, ethnic minorities and other groups that are under-represented in our Parliaments. There are strong arguments on both sides of this discussion. We welcome the debate on this issue and look forward to continuing it as the hon. Gentleman takes his Bill forward.

1.6 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr Sam Gyimah): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) for bringing the issue of the voting system for European parliamentary elections before the House. He spoke with characteristic force and clarity, although with brevity on this occasion. He made his point clearly that this is a Bill that he wants to be considered in the next Conservative manifesto. I am sure that the powers that be will have noted that.

Clearly, the voting system that we use to elect our representatives is a matter of great importance and will have a significant impact on our democracy and the relationship between the public and those elected to serve them. I will try to set out the Government’s position. The Government take such matters seriously and welcome debate and discussion on proposals for changes that seek to enhance the democratic process. I therefore thank all Members for the debate so far. It is something on which there is a degree of consensus.

The voting system in use for European parliamentary elections has been debated at some length in both Houses of Parliament. Clearly, there is a range of views on the merits of the closed list voting system. It is fair to say that the closed list system is simple for electors, and it ensures that across a region seats are allocated in proportion to the votes cast.

However, I am conscious that there has been dissatisfaction with the closed list system both inside and outside Parliament and the debate today has highlighted that concern. Criticism has centred on the system being “closed”. The parties solely determine the order in which candidates are awarded the seats that they achieve. It is argued that that puts too much power in the hands of the parties and results in MEPs who are remote from the electorate. All those arguments are very strong indeed. We recognise that introducing an open list system might help to address the issue of MEPs being seen as distant from electors, because it will bring candidates closer to electors. However, the open list system is not currently used in any statutory elections in the UK.

Introducing an open list voting system at European parliamentary elections in Britain would require both primary and secondary legislation. Realistically, in terms of timing, it is not feasible at this late stage in the current Parliament to make the necessary legislative changes. In addition, there will be a number of practical and logistical implications that would need to be considered in changing the voting system for European elections.

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Political parties, candidates, electoral administrators and electors would all need to receive guidance and instruction in the workings of the new voting system. This would be a novel and potentially complex system for electors, but the problems are surmountable. There will obviously be the issue of redesigning the ballot paper, which would be significantly different under an open list system.

Jonathan Evans: Looking around the Chamber, I think that I am the only person here to have stood in a European election and I have done so on two occasions. Although there is a box on the ballot form by which one can vote for a party, where the names are listed it has been the practice on a number of occasions for people to choose to put the cross alongside the name of the candidate rather than in the box for the party. Generally, if it appears in the area where the party has its candidates’ names, it is counted as in favour of that party. That is another indication that my hon. Friend’s point is surmountable.

Mr Gyimah: My hon. Friend, as he says, has great experience of standing for election. He makes the point quite clearly about how the ballot paper would need to be redesigned. As I said, I believe the problems are surmountable, but it is worth putting on the record that moving from the current system to an open list system would mean that there would be some practical difficulties to surmount. Moving to an open list system would also raise cost issues, and given the Government’s central role in funding European elections, we would wish to consider it very carefully.

All that having been said, the Government can understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has tabled the Bill. The timing is an issue and practical implications need to be considered, but the subject should seriously be borne in mind in the next set of election manifestoes. With that in mind, I recommend the Bill to the House.

1.11 pm

Mr Chope: With the leave of the House, may I respond to the very encouraging words from my hon. Friend the Minister? It looks as though this is the revelation of a new part of the Conservative party manifesto. I certainly hope so. It is also good that we have so much support from the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed), because if such a measure is going to make progress it is best that it does so on a cross-party basis. There is cross-party support for the idea of increasing voter engagement in elections, whether one is a Eurosceptic or a Europhile, as it is in the interests of democracy and of the European Union that there should be maximum participation in the elections to the European Parliament. I should have tabled the Bill much earlier in this Parliament, but I will take it away and hope that I see it reflected in the Conservative party manifesto.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and Bill, by leave, withdrawn.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. It has been brought to my attention that due to a misunderstanding the motion in the name of the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) on the calendar of business for Friday 27 March for Second

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Reading of the Pavement Parking Bill did not appear on today’s Order Paper. I will therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to move his motion at the appropriate time, as I am reinstating it in the Order Paper after motion 5.

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UK Borders Control Bill

Second Reading

1.13 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Let me share a chilling thought with the House. The United States had both the suspects of Wednesday’s Paris atrocity on its travel ban list, but the two French citizens who are the suspects were freely able to come to and go from the United Kingdom should they have so wished. That is one of the consequences of our lack of control over our borders, in stark contrast with the control that the United States has over its borders.

The principal attribute of a sovereign country is its ability and rights to control which aliens, that is non-citizens, can visit or stay and which cannot. That is the issue that the Prime Minister has correctly highlighted in his various speeches on immigration during the course of this Parliament. On 14 April 2011, he said that

“for too long, immigration has been too high. Between 1997 and 2009, 2.2 million more people came to live in this country than left to live abroad. That’s the largest influx of people Britain as ever had…and it has placed real pressures on communities up and down the country. Not just pressures on schools, housing and healthcare—though those have been serious…but social pressures too.”

He went on to talk about those social pressures and issues relating to integration. The Prime Minister referred to 2.2 million extra people coming to this country between 1997 and 2009, and it is against that background that the Conservative party manifesto for the last general election said that

“immigration today is too high and needs to be reduced. We do not need to attract people to do jobs that could be carried out by British citizens, given the right training and support. So we will take steps to take net migration back to the levels of the 1990s—tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands.”

That led to the pledge.

What are the latest figures? They show that between June 2010 and June 2015—that is, over the course of this Parliament—we will have a net increase of migration into our country of a further 1.1 million. Roughly speaking, that is some 200,000 people a year for the first three years, 250,000 people last year and a similar number this year. That means that over the course of the five years of this Parliament, the rate of increase will be even greater than the rate of increase that was so rightly criticised by the Prime Minister in his speech in 2011 and that led to his concerns being reflected in the Conservative party manifesto. I welcome the Prime Minister’s recent reaffirmation in his speech on 29 November that he is determined to try to get net immigration down below 100,000 a year—in other words, to the tens of thousands.

It is worth considering a brief history of what has happened. The treaty of Rome in 1957 set out free movement for economically active people—in other words, for people who were working or self-employed. Everybody thought it was perfectly reasonable that someone who had a job could go and undertake it in another country within what was then the European Community comprising a much small number of nations. In the early 1990s, that right was extended to the non-economically active. Worst of all, article 8 of

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the treaty on the European Union conferred rights as European citizens on all those holding individual nationality of an individual member state. Against that background, this Government and this Parliament are severely constrained in what they are able to do about this matter unless we change the law along the lines set out in this Bill.

Clause 3 states:

“Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988 is hereby repealed.”

That section, which is entitled “Persons exercising community rights and nationals of member States”, says:

“A person shall not under the principal Act require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom in any case in which he is entitled to do so by virtue of an enforceable Community right or of any provision made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.”

It then goes on to explain how that will be implemented. Interestingly, although most of section 7 was passed into law on 20 July 1988, section 7(1) was not passed into law until 20 July 1994—six years later. I suspect that that is because the Government of the time realised in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we had Prime Minister Thatcher in charge, that the implications of implementing it in full would potentially be very significant. Let us remember that at that stage net immigration into the United Kingdom, including immigration from the European Union, was running at about 37,000 a year. Now, over 120,000 people a year are coming in just from other countries within the European Union. In my submission, we need to ensure that the people who are currently given a privileged position under section 7 have that removed from them so that each case can be treated on its merits, as I think the public would wish.

The problem is that because of European law and the judgments that are passed by the European Court of Justice, even groups that we thought were exempt from the provisions of section 7 are now being included. In the case of Chen, for example, the United Kingdom initially made provision to allow the primary carers of European economic area residents—self-sufficient children —to seek leave to enter or remain under paragraph 257C to 257E of the immigration rules. In that case, it was ruled that those people were entitled to come in anyway. Whatever has been passed by the European Community has been extended in its impact, making it more difficult for us to be able to take control of our own borders.

Clause 1 reasserts the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in determining which non-UK citizens may enter our country and the circumstances in which non-UK citizens may be required to leave the United Kingdom.

Clause 2, which is entitled “Regulation of entry by non-UK citizens”, says:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of the European Communities Acts, or of any other Act or Order, Regulation or Directive, the United Kingdom retains the exclusive right to regulate entry by non-UK citizens to the United Kingdom and to determine the circumstances in which non-UK citizens may be required to leave the United Kingdom.”

I have referred already to clause 3. Clause 4 deals with registration certificates. Obviously, we must have some system of ensuring that people who are in this country who are not United Kingdom citizens are able easily to demonstrate their right to be in this country. That is why clause 4 states:

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“From the date of the coming into force of this Act and notwithstanding the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972, any non-UK citizen resident in the United Kingdom without the authority to remain in the United Kingdom provided by a current visa, visa waiver, residence permit or other official document must apply for a registration certificate to confirm their right of residence in the United Kingdom.”

The clause goes on to set out how that would work. Certificates would be issued and administered by the Secretary of State, and the content of the forms and the grounds on which applications could be granted or refused would be prescribed by the Secretary of State.

The model that I used for those provisions is what is currently contained in the UK visas and immigration legislation, under which one can apply for a registration certificate. There is no requirement for a European economic area or Swiss national exercising treaty rights to fill in an application for such a registration certificate, but they are encouraged so to do because they can then demonstrate that they are entitled to be in the United Kingdom. Clause 4 would operate on that basis, except that under my Bill it would be mandatory for somebody to apply for a registration certificate and hold such a certificate.

As an aside, one can see what a farcical situation we have reached. The Government have said that they are concerned that a large number of people with criminal convictions from other European Union countries are coming into the United Kingdom, so I was encouraged when I saw that the application form for a registration certificate says under section 10:

“Please provide details as requested below of any criminal convictions you may have both in the UK and overseas.”

There is provision to set out all that detail. It is in the national interest that we should know whether people applying to come into this country have criminal convictions. There has been a series of well publicised cases where people with previous criminal convictions have committed further crimes in the United Kingdom, which has caused outrage.

That was fine, until I noticed that the form went on to say:

“However, please note that should you fail to provide this information this will not result in the rejection of your application.”

That is written in because the European Union will not allow us to require such information. This is just another example of the farcical situation that we are in at present, where we do not have control over the people entering and leaving our country.

Under clause 4, the registration certificate system would require people to fill in the form accurately and give information about their previous criminal convictions, in exactly the same way as anybody who wishes to go to the United States of America has to obtain a visa. If it is all right for the United States, why is it not all right for the United Kingdom, which is an attractive place to visit? People are not deterred from visiting the United States by such a requirement, and they would be no more inhibited from coming to our country if we had such requirements. The Bill would ensure that as far as possible people would be able to stay in the United Kingdom if they wanted to, provided they had registration certificates.

There is no point in issuing a command without having a sanction, so clause 5 states that anyone who is present in the United Kingdom after 31 December 2015

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without legal authority or without having applied on or before that date for a registration certificate shall be guilty of an offence, as would anybody who entered or attempted to enter the United Kingdom without legal authority after that date. Clause 6 sets out the penalties. Under the current regime, there are no effective penalties against those who come into our country and we do not know how many such people there are.

In March 2014 I asked the Home Office for its

“most recent estimate…of the number of illegal immigrants employed in the UK; and what change there has been in this number since May 2010.”

The Minister for Security and Immigration, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) answered:

“HM Government have not made any estimate of the number of illegal migrants currently employed in the UK. Given the clandestine nature of illegal migrants, any estimation is, by definition, extremely difficult and prone to considerable uncertainty.”—[Official Report, 3 April 2014; Vol. 578, c. 740W.]

He then went on to explain all the wonderful things the Government are doing.

On 7 April I asked the Minister

“how many illegal workers whose employment has been the subject of penalties pursuant to section 15 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (a) have been deported and (b) are still in the UK.”

He replied:

“We are better placed than ever to identify and charge those working illegally…It would not be possible to provide the information requested without linking immigration case outcomes to our data on civil penalties issued on employers. This would incur disproportionate costs.”—[Official Report, 7 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 116W.]

That was another completely useless response from a Government who are apparently trying to regain control over our borders, which has my full support, to ensure that the only people living here are those we really want to live here. As part of that process, of course, we need to know who those people are.

Where does one go for information about how many people are here illegally? One source of information is the Government’s December 2013 publication, “Sustaining services, ensuring fairness: Government response to the consultation on migrant access and financial contribution to NHS provision in England”. It estimates that, at any one time in England, there are about 2.5 million overseas visitors and migrants, of whom about 450,000 are from the European economic area, 1.4 million are from outside the EEA, 65,000 are ex-pats and 580,000 are irregulars,

“including failed asylum seekers liable to removal, people who have overstayed their visas and illegal immigrants”.

The Government document estimates that there are 580,000 people here who should not be here, and it goes on to explain the significant burden they are placing on the national health service in various ways and how they are not contributing as they should be.

That is the scale of the problem. There may be well over 500,000 people in this country who have no right to be here whatsoever. The Bill would, in a sense, flush them out, because if they did not have British citizenship, a residence permit or the right to stay here, they would be guilty of an offence.

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I have raised before in this House the issue of what the Government are doing to enforce the provisions that make it illegal to be here without authority. I have been told that there is no need to introduce new legislative requirements, such as those in clauses 5 and 6, because section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 is clear that people who are in breach of the provisions can be prosecuted. Section 24(1) on “Illegal entry and similar offences” states:

“A person who is not a British citizen shall be guilty of an offence punishable…with a fine of not more than level 5 on the standard scale or with imprisonment for not more than six months, or with both, in any of the following cases:—(a) if…he knowingly enters the United Kingdom in breach of a deportation order or without leave; (b) if, having only a limited leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, he knowingly either—(i) remains beyond the time limited by the leave; or (ii) fails to observe a condition of the leave; (c) if, having lawfully entered the United Kingdom without leave…remains without leave beyond the time allowed”,

and so on.

In the context of the very large numbers of people thought to be in the country illegally, one might think that we would exercise effective sanctions against them. I was therefore extremely disappointed, although I must tell the Minister that I was not that surprised, to find that in 2013 the number of defendants convicted for offences under section 24(1) in all cases of people overstaying their time limit for leave—there may be hundreds of thousands of them—was two in the magistrates court and four in the Crown court. There was only one conviction in the magistrates court and one in the Crown court under section 24(1)(b)(ii) for failing to observe leave conditions.

At the moment, even the existing law is not applied. People in this country illegally and in breach of their obligations are not prosecuted or proceeded against, which is nothing short of scandalous. That is another reason why the Bill would provide a fresh starting point. Everybody not here legally would have the opportunity to leave, to seek to regularise their position by applying for a certificate or to face the consequences of failing so to do.

If we won back control over our own system, we could require people coming into the country to provide fingerprints or DNA samples. At the moment, that matter is governed by the Eurodac regulations. I have done a lot of work on migrants crossing the Mediterranean, landing in Italy and finding their way into other parts of Europe. In Italy, they are often not processed at all: their fingerprints are not taken, so nobody knows that they have ever been in Italy, which means that they can ultimately present themselves in another country in the European Union and seek asylum. Some asylum seekers or migrants try to fight the system and refuse to give their fingerprints—the Italian authorities say they do not take their fingerprints because they refuse to give them—so I suggested that if such people do not want to give their fingerprints, we should take a sample of their DNA, but I was told that that would be illegal under the Eurodac regulations. This is crazy: what harm can there be in people seeking asylum supplying their DNA, particularly if they do not want to give their fingerprints?

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): My hon. Friend will perhaps recall that a short time ago, I presented the United Kingdom Parliament (Sovereignty and Jurisdiction over Borders) Bill, which contains a provision that

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would deal with any difficulties that we have in respect of immigration policy by bypassing the European Court of Justice and using the hallowed formula, “notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972”. All the regulations and provisions that would otherwise prevent us from getting proper control over our borders would be wiped away by taking that very simple step. What astonishes me is that that formula would return governance to this country. I hope that he will bear that in mind.

Mr Chope: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Not only have I borne that formula in mind; I have incorporated it into the text of my Bill in clauses 2 and 4. Clause 4 states:

“notwithstanding the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972”.

Sir William Cash: Superb.

Mr Chope: I am delighted that the Bill will have the even more enthusiastic support of my hon. Friend. I agree with him that there is no point in pretending that we can sort this problem out without distancing ourselves from all the European Union regulations. That is why I have drafted the Bill in a way that reasserts the sovereignty of this Parliament over the borders of our United Kingdom.

I am conscious of the time, Madam Deputy Speaker. I could carry on for a bit longer, not least to point out some of the practical shortcomings of the worthy proposals that the Prime Minister made in his speech on 29 November, but I will not do that and will instead sit down, having proposed the Second Reading of the Bill.

1.41 pm

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) has given a comprehensive description of his Bill. I do not need to follow him down that route and will speak very briefly indeed.

My hon. Friend was right to have this short debate to draw the attention of the House to what has become one of the most important issues facing our country. Managed migration works. We welcome people, in a managed way, who want to come here to live, work and make a contribution. That is good for the economy. There is no dispute about that, and neither was there any dispute in the early years of our membership of the European Union over whether the free movement of workers between economies that performed in fundamentally the same way worked.

Unfortunately, the whole system is breaking down. It is breaking down not just in our country, but across Europe. The reason it is breaking down is that we now have economies that perform on a very different level and that have very different levels of benefits—in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. I make no criticism of Romanians or Bulgarians—they are wonderful people, they work hard and they are welcome to come here in a managed way. I have always warmly welcomed people of Polish and Lithuanian extraction. Nobody disputes that they should be welcome. However, because there are economies with very low wage and benefit rates, the cardinal principle of the European Union, which perhaps worked in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, simply does not work now.

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This debate is exercising the whole nation, not just a small group of Conservative Back Benchers who are obsessed with European and want to criticise the European Union. Many people around Europe who take an intelligent interest in whether the European Union is functioning properly are concerned about this issue. There is concern about it throughout the Conservative party, from the bottom to the top, because we are simply reflecting public opinion. The public are concerned and, therefore, there is concern even at the level of the Prime Minister.

Mr Chope: Does my hon. Friend accept that another issue that concerns the public is the distortion of policy? If 120,000 people a year are coming in from the European Union and we cannot do anything about it, all the pressure is on trying to reduce the number of people who come in from outside the European Union, many of whom might be able to make a bigger contribution to our economy and society.

Sir Edward Leigh: Yes, and we have had that debate. Apparently there is also a debate inside the Government. Those such as the Home Secretary argue that we must effectively expel all people who have completed their course—as I think happens in the United States—so that the moment they complete their university or college education they must go back to India or wherever. We read in the press that, apparently, other members of the Government—such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is responsible for the good management of the economy—say that we must allow those people in. All the pressure now on the Home Secretary is to try and reduce immigration from elsewhere in the world, but those people may be essential to our economy. The whole system is not working well at the moment.

As I was saying, it is not only a small group of Conservative Back Benchers who are concerned with this matter, but the wider public and indeed the Prime Minister. We understand that when he was drafting his recent speech on immigration, right up to the last minute he was determined—indeed, he went to a parliamentary meeting and talked to colleagues—to take action in terms of having some control over our borders, such as an emergency brake or whatever. This Bill is a contribution to that debate, and we must have a serious debate, away from emotion, charges of racism and all that sort of nonsense, which obviously does not apply in this case. People simply want managed migration. The system is not working at the moment, and there must be a sensible debate.

It is simply not acceptable for the Chancellor of Germany to say that such a debate is a no-go area. If we are fortunate enough to see the return of a Conservative Government, there will be a referendum. At the moment we understand that the German Chancellor has said that the issue is a no-go area, and that if it is brought up in negotiations she will veto it and it will not happen. I do not think that is a good way to proceed. If we believe in the European Union but proceed in that way, all we are doing is fuelling the fire of Euroscepticism, and forcing more and more broad-minded people, who otherwise would support our membership of the EU, to say that we have to leave. If someone supports membership of the EU, they must believe that it needs to evolve. If we believe that because a principle worked well when the European Union had very few members it is some

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sort of religion that is set in stone and cannot be changed, all we do is fuel the fires of Euroscepticism, and indeed something much more sinister.

We see throughout Europe what I believe is the wrong view that states that everything is bad about our countries—I do not believe that for a moment; I think they are some of the most wonderful countries in the world—and that that is the fault of a particular minority. Today it might be Romanians, Bulgarians or Poles, but in the last century it was other minority groups such as Jewish people, and in the preceding centuries it might have been those of a different religious domination. If we do not have managed migration, and if the centrist parties—the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberals—do not have a sensible debate, all we do is fuel support for extremist parties that will run with this issue. There is no doubt about that. This serious matter needs to be addressed. It will not be resolved by my hon. Friend’s Bill, but we must have a managed, rational debate on managed migration. The Bill is the first step in the right direction, which is why I commend it.

1.48 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I rise briefly to support the Bill. Whenever I carry out surveys among my constituents, immigration is always one of the top two issues that they are concerned about, and no wonder given the figures cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) on the level of net immigration into this country, which is running at around a quarter of a million people a year. To me and many of my constituents that is simply unacceptable, but it is also unsustainable, which in many ways is the biggest issue. Immigration is putting a huge strain on our public services, whether the NHS or school places. We simply do not have the wherewithal to build the number of houses that would be needed to house such a level of immigration. It is perfectly obvious that it is unsustainable in the long run and that the numbers need to be brought down dramatically.

As my hon. Friend said, the Prime Minister made his pledge at the previous election, and I do not doubt the sincerity with which he did so. I am sure that he was certain in his own mind that that was what he would deliver were the Conservatives to win that general election. As a caveat, I should say that we did not win the general election, so the Conservatives had to form a Government with our gallant Lib Dem colleagues. Whatever anybody thinks about them, they are not renowned for being tough on immigration. It was inevitable that any coalition with them would result in a weakened immigration policy. I accept that backdrop, but I am sure the Prime Minister, even with a hand tied behind his back, would accept that he would have hoped to do better than he has on immigration.

My hon. Friend was right to make the point that the levels of immigration are similar to those under the Labour Government, but there is a difference. It is fair to point out that, in this context, Peter Mandelson made it clear that the Labour Government sent search parties out to find people from around the world to come to the UK. Having that level of immigration was a deliberate policy of the Labour Government, whereas it is not a deliberate policy of the current Government.

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Those levels of immigration have happened despite their intentions and best efforts. In many respects, they have faced a perfect storm.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Fascinating as it is to hear the hon. Gentleman’s views on what Peter Mandelson thought about immigration, thousands of people in this country today hope to hear a debate on Second Reading about the dangerous, costly and unpopular practice of pavement parking, my private Member’s Bill that is a little further down the Order Paper. As the hon. Gentleman promised to be brief, I wonder whether he will be able to bring his remarks to a close at some stage. That would be very helpful.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) was making a speech on the current Bill. It is not for the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) to stand up and give an advert for his Bill. The hon. Member for Shipley is in order and has been speaking for a very short period of time thus far. We should allow him to make his points without interruption. That might help the speed of business.

Philip Davies: I am grateful for that, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am not entirely sure what has happened to the patience of the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), but as you said, I have only just got started. He has ensured that the chances of getting on to his Bill have become more limited, but I shall make progress. I can see why he is anxious—he does not want us to talk about Liberal Democrat immigration policy and wanted to divert attention away from it.

The Government have faced a perfect storm. In some respects, this country will always have much higher immigration. Many more people from the EU want to come to this country rather than go to other EU countries. That is partly, or perhaps mainly, because of language. If a person is looking for a job, they will go to a country where they can speak the language. It is great benefit to all that English has become a universal language, but immigration is a downside, because people from the EU who speak English who are looking for a job are more likely to come here than go to other EU countries.

The benefits system is another factor. I applaud the Government for the efforts they have made to restrict access to benefits for people from the EU. It is much tougher for people coming to this country to claim benefits. The Government intend to make it tougher still, which I very much support. Many EU countries have a system of benefits under which people have to pay in before they can take something out. Under our system, people can to a large extent take things out even if they have not paid anything in. That is also a pressure on immigration into this country.

There is also—the Government could never have predicted this—the collapse in the economy around the EU and the fact that economic growth in this country has been so much better than in the rest of the EU. I think I am right in saying—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that this country created more new jobs in the last year than the rest of the EU put together. Of course, that will be a magnet for people looking for a job, and they will want to come to this country. I fully accept that there is no way the Prime

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Minister could have predicted that five years ago, when he made the promise that he did. He has faced a perfect storm.

That is why my hon. Friend’s Bill is so important. We may be a victim of our success in some ways, and other things may be beyond our control, but the fact is that, although people want to control immigration into this country, they also want something else: some honesty in the debate on immigration. Whatever anybody says, and no matter what rhetoric people use, the honest fact—the public know this, so I have no idea why politicians are so reluctant to admit it—is that while we are a member of the EU under the current regime, we cannot control immigration. We cannot say that a certain number of people will come into this country—we simply cannot. The Prime Minister made his promise in good faith, but it was one he was not entitled to make, because we do not have the ability to control the numbers of people coming into this country. My hon. Friend’s Bill allows us to do that.

In my view, we need to leave the EU; that is the only way we can control immigration into this country—not just the numbers, but the nature. My hon. Friend made the good point that the free movement of people may sound like a great principle to some, but it also means free movement of criminals. If we look at the nationality of the prison population, we see that there has been a massive increase in recent times in the number of Bulgarians and Romanians. If we had had proper controls, we could probably have stopped those people coming into the country in the first place because of the criminal records they have back home.

We need to control immigration—I think that is something the Minister agrees with, and the Government also seem to agree with it—but we have to be honest with people. We have to acknowledge and accept that the only way we can control immigration is by stopping the free movement of people in the EU. As long as we have that, we cannot control immigration, and we will just be spitting in the wind with the measures we take. I therefore hope that, to properly control immigration, the Government will accept my hon. Friend’s Bill.

1.57 pm

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) on securing the debate. However, his Bill is a reminder of the gap between what the Prime Minister’s Eurosceptic Back Benchers demand and what he says.

Only this week, at his joint press conference with Chancellor Merkel of Germany, the Prime Minister confirmed his support for the principle of free movement within the EU. To be fair to Conservative Back Benchers, it must be hard to keep up with the Government’s position. First, it was that the Prime Minister was going to “sort this out”, as he said in his conference speech. Then, there was the great retreat from that position in his pre-Christmas immigration speech. Now, when standing alongside Chancellor Merkel, he talks of his new-found love for freedom of movement.

The gap between the Prime Minister and his Eurosceptic Back Benchers illustrates his plight. No renegotiation in Europe could ever satisfy some of them, other than one leading to Britain’s exit from the EU. Europe does need to change, but the tragedy for Britain is that, since being

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elected, the Prime Minister has spent more time negotiating with his rebellious Back Benchers than with other EU leaders. His attempts at megaphone diplomacy, such as his ill-fated opposition to the appointment of the new Commission President have left him isolated and, dare I say, humiliated.

Dragging Britain closer to the EU exit door would be damaging enough if that was the Prime Minister’s thought-out strategy. Worse than that, however, he is marginalising Britain in Europe without even thinking it through. A British exit from Europe by default is an even bigger failure of leadership than exit by design.

I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman and other speakers on the Government Benches over their disappointment with the Government’s record on immigration. I do not think it is fair to blame that entirely on the Liberal Democrats either, who are a minority in the coalition. The Government have abandoned the Prime Minister’s “no ifs, no buts” immigration target. The chief inspector of borders finds that the Government make no attempt to check potential immigrants’ criminal records. In October last year, the Public Administration Committee found that 50,000 failed asylum seekers have been lost. We do not know where they are. What is needed is not exit from the European Union, but renegotiation, delays before new arrivals can claim benefits, more and properly trained border staff, proper entry and exit checks, and a requirement for applicants to provide criminal records.

What is remarkable about the debate over Europe in the Conservative party is that it thinks speculation about the UK leaving is Europe is costless. It is not. It places a huge question mark over British jobs, rights at work, investment and our place in the world. It is a growing national tragedy that the Prime Minister is too weak to stand up to the Eurosceptics in his party, or to engage our European Union colleagues properly.

Sir Edward Leigh: The hon. Gentleman is making a very serious point. We are all agreed that we want to stop criminals entering the country. Is he saying that the Labour believes there should be some sort of device by which we can require EU nationals entering this country to prove that they are not guilty of a criminal offence, or some way in which we can prevent criminals from other EU countries coming to this country? Is he saying that?

Mr Reed: The Labour party is very keen to negotiate from a position of solidarity with our European Union colleagues. That is what the Labour party would do if elected in a few weeks’ time.

In the meantime, I remain very disappointed that the Prime Minister has failed to engage our European colleagues and the leaders of our fellow EU states in proper negotiations. By failing to do so, he will never secure the improvements that I think Members on all sides of the House would like to see on this issue and in our relationship with the EU.

2.1 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Karen Bradley): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) on the Bill and on the debate he has started today.

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The Bill raises important issues on the control of immigration to the UK. That is a key priority for the Government, and we have taken significant steps to strengthen the border and immigration system, including in respect of who is allowed to enter the UK and who is allowed to remain. I therefore strongly commend the intention behind my hon. Friend’s Bill, but I do not believe that the measures it contains are necessary. There are also aspects of the Bill that would be unlawful.

The measures contained in the Bill do not reflect the extent to which the new powers and other reforms to control immigration, which the Government have put in place already, provide an effective basis for controlling our borders. For example, the Immigration Act 2014 put in place a series of fundamental reforms that will ensure our immigration system is fairer to British citizens and legitimate migrants, and tougher on those with no right to be here. The 2014 Act limits the factors which draw illegal migrants to the UK and introduces tough domestic reforms to ensure that our controls on access to benefits and services, including the NHS and social housing, are among the tightest in Europe.

A number of my right hon. and hon. Friends have mentioned net migration numbers. Our reforms have cut net migration from outside the EU by nearly a quarter since 2010, close to levels not seen since the late 1990s. Under the previous Labour Government, more than 1 million EU nationals came to the UK from 2004 to 2010. As my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) said, managed migration works. Like him, I am positive about both this country today and the future. We have a diverse population, which makes the UK a great place to be. It is also worth saying that there are pockets of the country where there has been significant amounts of migration, but there are areas that have not seen great changes in population. According to the Office for National Statistics, my own constituency saw an increase in population of 200 between 2004 and 2013, and some of them will, of course, be UK nationals returning.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) raised the issue of our economy. We have a booming economy in this country compared with the rest of Europe. The job is not finished, but our long-term economic plan means that the prospects for this country and this economy are better than they are anywhere else. He is right about the number of jobs created here in the UK. I understand that over the last four and a half years, we have created more jobs here in the UK than have been created in the whole of the rest of the European Union combined. That is why there is a pull factor for people. I can well understand that. I can understand why somebody sees an opportunity to get a job in Britain and thinks that it offers a better chance. We can all sympathise with that and understand it, but we have to be clear that migration policy must be fair to UK nationals living here today.

The Government have fundamentally changed the system we inherited, under which an EU national could arrive in the UK and claim benefits shortly after their arrival and for a significant period, with few checks on whether they had a real chance of finding work here. Now, EU national jobseekers cannot claim benefits until they have been resident here for three months, and

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then only for three months before we test whether or not they have a genuine prospect of finding work in the UK. Now, they have no access to housing benefit, and we have introduced new powers to remove EU nationals who are not fulfilling the requirements for residence and to prevent their re-entry for 12 months. We have new powers, too, to deport EU national criminals more quickly.

The Immigration Act 2014 will strongly reinforce our work to secure our borders, enforce our immigration laws and continue to attract the brightest and best to the UK. Implementation is well advanced: many of the measures have gone live and are already having a positive impact on the ground. For example, we have revoked more than 4,500 driving licences held by illegal migrants, and since July 2014 we have deported more than 150 criminals, using new powers provided by the Act. New measures in it, including the immigration health surcharge and measures to tackle sham marriages and civil partnerships, will be introduced on a phased basis between now and April 2015. The Immigration Act also makes it easier to remove those with no right to be here and ensures that the courts must have regard to Parliament’s view of what the public interest requires in immigration cases, engaging the qualified right to respect private and family life under article 8 of the European convention on human rights.

Mr Chope: I sympathise with the Minister, given the responsibilities she has. I have just been looking at the immigration statistics issued on 27 November, covering the period July to September 2014. It says there that there were 9% fewer enforced removals from the United Kingdom compared with the previous 12 months. If the Government are getting so tough on deporting these people—quite rightly—why were there fewer removals in that period?

Karen Bradley: I thank my hon. Friend for his question and I shall come on to his comments. We must be clear, however, that the Immigration Act gives us new powers. We have powers to remove people without regard to the number of appeals that they could previously have used. We should look at the powers that we have today and the criminals we can deport today.

Foreign criminals and immigration offenders are no longer able to hide behind weak human rights claims to prevent their removal from the UK—something that they could do before. We do not need the Bill’s provisions to enable us to deport foreign criminals or remove immigration offenders. The Court of Appeal has now confirmed that the consideration of a family or private life claim must be conducted in the light of Parliament’s view of the public interest, as set out in the Immigration Act.

The measures taken by the Government have significantly strengthened the legal framework for our border and immigration system provided by the Immigration Act 1971 and other legislation, which regulates non-UK citizens’ entry to, and stay in, the UK. The legal framework and operational measures we have put in place provide and implement the powers needed to examine non-UK citizens before or on arrival in the UK to determine whether they should be admitted or granted or refused leave to enter, in accordance with the immigration rules and regulations laid before Parliament.

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Mr Steve Reed: According to a recent survey of border staff, 98% of them have warned that they do not have enough resources to protect the border effectively. Why is that?

Karen Bradley: As the hon. Gentleman will know, it is this Government who dealt with the failing UK Border Agency and introduced Border Force and UK Visas and Immigration. My meetings with Border Force officials and guards on the front line are always positive. It is clear to me that those dedicated professionals are doing all that they can to protect our borders, because they understand just how important it is for them to do so. I shall deal shortly with the issue of criminal movement within the European Union and across our borders.

The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 provide for the admission of EEA nationals and their family members and the removal of those who are not entitled to reside, in accordance with European Union law.

While I agree with the thrust of my hon. Friend’s thinking, I believe that parts of the Bill would be unlawful. Its aim is to ensure that the United Kingdom has absolute control over the right to prevent non-UK citizens from entering the UK, and to determine the circumstances in which they may be required to leave. It asserts the absolute sovereignty of the UK in controlling its own borders, notwithstanding our existing international treaty obligations and the domestic legislation that gives effect to them.

The Bill would repeal section 7 of the Immigration Act 1988, which provides the basis on which those exercising European Union rights are not required to obtain leave to enter or remain in the UK under the Immigration Act 1971 and subsequent legislation. Essentially, it seeks to curtail the free movement of EU citizens to the UK under existing treaty rights. The provisions curtailing rights of entry are not compatible with EU free movement rights, and we cannot pass national legislation that does not comply with EU law.

Sir Edward Leigh: Does the Minister accept, therefore, that the Government’s settled position is to acknowledge that there can be no change in the treaties, and that EU nationals must have unrestricted access to this country?

Karen Bradley: I shall come to the restrictions that the Government place on EU nationals, particularly those with criminal histories.

The Bill would not achieve its intended objectives owing to the principle of direct effect, which means that EU nationals can derive rights directly from the free movement directive and the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, whether or not those provisions have been given effect in UK law.

Let me now deal with the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). Free movement is not without conditions, and I am keen to ensure that any free movement includes the free movement of criminal information. I want to ensure that a police officer in Leek, in my constituency, has as much information about an individual residing in Leek as a police officer in any other town in any other country in the European Union has about someone with a criminal past. The 35 measures that the UK chose to opt back into in December last year are vital to

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ensuring that criminal information moves freely between EU countries. If we are to keep UK citizens safe, we shall need to know about the criminal past of people who are trying to enter the UK.

EU nationals arriving at the UK border can be stopped and questioned by Border Force officers to establish their right of admission to the UK when that is appropriate. Border Force officers can refuse admission to EU nationals when such action is necessary and proportionate—for example, owing to their criminal convictions or conditions arising from a previous removal or deportation, or when officers have reasonable grounds to suspect that admitting them would give rise to an abuse of free movement rights. In the first three quarters of 2014, 1,205 EU nationals were initially refused admission at the UK border. Opting into the 35 measures means that we shall have more and more information about criminals, and we will—and do—exercise the right to refuse their admission to the UK.

Effective renegotiation is the way to bring about a real change in the basis for EU migration. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out his agenda for that in November. It includes the introduction of a four-year residency requirement before an EU national can have access to in-work benefits or social housing in the UK, the removal of child benefit for non-resident children of EU nationals, and further powers to deport EU criminals and tackle abuse.

I do not believe that the measures proposed by my hon. Friend are necessary for the proper control of our borders. For all the reasons that I have given, the Government cannot support his Bill.

2.15 pm

Mr Chope: Well, what a disappointment it is that the Government are not going to accept this Bill. I thought it was going to go through, but instead I am going to have to explain my disappointment to my constituents and to a wider audience. The debate has been useful, however, because it shows the extent of the constraints that this Parliament has chosen to impose on itself. [Interruption.] The Minister is agreeing with that. We have chosen to fetter our ability to control our borders, and this Bill would enable us to take the fetters off.

Karen Bradley: I just want to clarify what I was agreeing with. I thought my hon. Friend was going to talk about the great steps this Government have taken to ensure that we have managed migration. I apologise if I misunderstood what he was about to say.

Mr Chope: Nothing I have said, or that I intend to say, is designed to detract from the achievements of the Government. All I am saying is that despite the Government’s best efforts—as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) said, this Government have been working a lot harder and more effectively on this than the previous Government did—faced with the evidence I have educed today, I do not see how under the current legal regime we are going to be able to reduce net migration into this country to the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands as is the case at present.

The Prime Minister reasserted in his speech of 29 November his desire to get net migration down below 100,000. I agree with that. All I am saying is that I do not see how it is going to be done. We have got to

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have an open and honest debate about this, and it may well be that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley is right that the only solution—unless we can get our EU colleagues to change the treaties, which seems to be a rather uphill struggle—is to put this issue to the British people in a referendum. They have not had the chance to have their say on this before because when we last had a referendum we had no concept of European citizenship and free movement of people, as imposed on us now. We could say to the people, “Do you wish to retake control of your own borders and re-establish ourselves as a sovereign nation with control over our own destiny, or do you wish to remain in perpetuity subservient to a supranational power, the European Union?” That is a clear proposition and I think it is implicit in what I have been saying that when presented with that choice I would choose freedom, sovereignty and democracy—and the rule of law.

I am therefore sorry that this Bill is not going to make any more progress. I could test the will of the House on it, but if I was to do that, I would jeopardise the chance of having even a very short canter round on the next Bill on the Order Paper, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and Bill, by leave, withdrawn.

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Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill

Second Reading

2.18 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is my third contribution today to the manifesto development of the Conservative party for the next general election, and this Bill was inspired by the Bill of the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) to introduce a target of 0.7% of GDP for international development expenditure. It occurred to me that if the Government are in favour of that Bill, surely they must be in favour of a similar Bill on defence expenditure, in line with the communiqué from the NATO conference in Cardiff and what has been enunciated on numerous occasions by Defence Ministers from both the main parties. If NATO’s policy is that each country in NATO should spend a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence and we support that, why are we not prepared to incorporate it in statute?

The argument traditionally deployed against such a move is that the Exchequer should not fetter its own discretion, and therefore it would be unreasonable to have various areas of earmarked expenditure. As the Government have abandoned that principle in favour of having earmarked expenditure incorporated within statutory limits, as in the case of overseas aid, why not do the same in respect of defence expenditure? This is a straightforward proposition and, as far as possible, the drafting of this Bill is designed to mirror that in the similar Bill on overseas aid.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Given that it was supposedly so important that we introduced a 0.7% target because it was supposedly an international commitment made in 1970, does my hon. Friend agree that this international commitment on defence made in the 1990s should surely take precedence over the one made in 1970?

Mr Chope: My hon. Friend makes a compelling point, and I am sure it will find favour with the Government. If the Minister is going to say that he cannot do this because the Liberal Democrat minority do not support the NATO target, let him say it. In any event, I hope that the Conservative party will have no inhibitions about making clear in its next manifesto its commitment to spending in each year of the next Parliament—when it is the governing party—a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence.

2.22 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I do not support the Bill, because I do not believe any spending should be hypothecated in the way my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) is seeking to do. I understand his motives for introducing the Bill, and I certainly think that all those people who trooped into the Lobby to vote for our 0.7% target on overseas aid because it was an international commitment, albeit one made in 1970, should—if they are so bothered about international commitments—all be trooping into the Lobby to support this Bill, too. I do not see why one is so important and the other one is not, and I shall be interested to find out why people should think that is so.

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I do not believe that spending should by hypothecated, but the point I wish to make is this: if we look at the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts for the next few years, we see that the spending of every Department as a proportion of GDP will decrease, apart from the spending on overseas aid. That applies to health, education and everything else. There is a 2% target for defence, but the OBR says that by the end of the next Parliament—unless my hon. Friend’s Bill is accepted—defence spending will be down to 1.5% of GDP. I do not believe in hypothecated spending, but that amount of money is far too low and the Government need to address the situation. If it takes my hon. Friend’s Bill to do it, fair enough, but I would rather we did not have any hypothecated spending at all.

2.23 pm

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I oppose this Bill. I know where my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) is coming from, but hypothecating the expenditure of a Department in legislation is economically illiterate. It makes no sense at all, and we cannot right one evil by creating two evils. Although I am strongly in favour of the 2% commitment on defence expenditure, the Treasury must approach the defence budget in the same way as it approaches all other budgets: we decide what we would like to do, we decide what we can afford to do and we live within our means. Whatever our views on international development, I am strongly in favour of spending on humanitarian aid and of many other aspects of our budget. However, while we are going to cut expenditure on Lincolnshire police by £3 million, and we cannot afford to have more than one patrol car operating in my 600 square mile constituency at night, it seems that, because of the growing economy, we can afford to increase international aid development by £1 billion. I cannot believe that that is the right way to run the economy.

I understand why my hon. Friend has introduced this Bill. He is drawing attention to an appalling hole into which we are digging ourselves. We must get out of it and proclaim the principle that we believe in defence spending, international aid and all the other good things that we want to do, but, as a Government, we must live within our means and spend what we can afford to spend.

2.25 pm

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): The UK already exceeds the 2% target for defence expenditure. At the moment, we are one of the very few countries that meets its target. Obviously, it was on the agenda at the NATO summit in Cardiff, at which the allies agreed to aim to move towards the existing NATO guidelines of spending 2% of GDP within a decade. They also agreed that those countries that were already spending the minimum of 2% would aim to continue to do so. That is the international framework. The matter is now back on the political agenda after the global economic crisis slightly knocked it off course, with many countries being forced to make defence cuts.

Labour believes that the right time and place to take decisions on the future role, shape and capabilities of the UK’s armed forces will be in the next strategic defence and security review, which will take place in the next Parliament. We were concerned that the last SDSR was very much a Treasury-led exercise. It left the country

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with an aircraft carrier without any aircraft or maritime patrol capabilities. It is imperative that the next SDSR is strategically led and fiscally responsible. It cannot be just a Treasury-led exercise. Its fundamental starting point should be what we want our armed forces to do.

I wish to allow the Minister at least a couple of minutes on his feet, so I will conclude on that point.

2.27 pm

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Mark Francois): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for allowing me to chip in briefly.

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) on introducing this Bill and on giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject, albeit rather briefly. He has never been slow in making contributions to the Conservative party’s manifesto development process whether as a Minister or as a Back Bencher, and he has been most industrious in making a contribution today.

In the limited time available, I wish to point out that, as one of the 12 founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the UK adheres to the principles of its membership. According to NATO’s own figures, we have the second largest defence budget in the alliance, behind the United States, and the largest defence budget in the European Union. Moreover, the defence budget and the defence programme are in balance across the next 10 years. We have the assurance of a stable and well-managed budget, and confidence that defence is both affordable and deliverable, having taken some, at times, extremely difficult decisions to put right the mess that we inherited in the Ministry of Defence from the previous Labour Government.

The NATO summit in Wales proved a pivotal moment for defence spending and investment. It represented the first ever collective public pledge on defence investment made by NATO allied leaders and was a clear acknowledgement of the challenges we face from the rapidly evolving and diverse potential threats on NATO’s borders and the need to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets to tackle key capability shortfalls. Clearly, living up to the commitments made at the Wales summit on defence investment will be challenging for all allies and progress will take time. For many, even halting the decline will be a significant challenge. Importantly, however, along with reaffirming the continuing and unwavering commitment of allies to NATO as a transatlantic alliance, there is now a willingness and commitment among allies to try to turn around the decline in defence spending, particularly on the part of our European allies.

The Wales summit was a critical moment for the NATO alliance, coming as it did in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine, growing instability from the middle east to north Africa and the conclusion of the international security assistance force mission.

I conclude by pointing out that we still spend 2% of our GDP on defence. We will continue to do that to the end of this Parliament and going into the—

2.30 pm

The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 16 January.

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Business without Debate

Pavement Parking Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 27 March.

Railways Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February.

Dogs (Registration) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March.

Convicted Prisoners Voting Bill

Resumption of adjourned debate on Question (5 December), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 16 January.

Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January.

Road Traffic Regulation (Temporary Closure for Filming) Bill

Resumption of adjourned debate on Question (7 November), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

9 Jan 2015 : Column 570

Debate to be resumed onFriday 16 January.

Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill

Resumption of adjourned debate on Question (24 October), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Debate to be resumed onFriday 16 January.

House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January.

EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January.

Wild Animals in Circuses Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January.

Local Planning and Housing Bill

Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January.

Mutuals’ Deferred Shares Bill [Lords]

Bill read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

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Health Services (Lewes)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Greg Hands.)

2.33 pm

Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): I welcome the opportunity to discuss local health issues affecting my constituency. Of course, the debate comes at an opportune time given the attention that has been given to the NHS locally.

I welcome the funding the coalition has given to the NHS, which is of course more than the Labour party gave or would have given had it been elected to office. I also welcome the £1 billion reduction in management costs that we have secured as a coalition and the investment in extra doctors and nurses. There are elements of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 that I strongly welcome, too, including the decision to make public health once again a local authority responsibility, to integrate better health and social care and to give more say to our local GPs in decision making. They will be in a far better place to make sensible decisions than the alphabet soup of various bodies that they replaced. I also welcome steps that the coalition has taken to end the preferential treatment for the private sector in terms of financial arrangements that the previous Government introduced.

As everybody in this House will recognise, we have a serious challenge with the ongoing costs of the NHS, including the fact that NHS inflation is always greater than normal inflation and, most recently, with the pressure on accident and emergency places, and consequently funding. The chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has called for a real-terms funding boost of £8 billion per year by 2020-21, on top of efficiency savings and further reforms to the NHS. I believe—I support my Lib Dem colleagues in this—that we should maintain the additional £2 billion that was secured in the autumn statement. In addition, as we said at our conference, we should invest a further £1 billion in real terms in 2016-17. That would be maintained in future budgets, paid for by capping pensions tax relief for the very wealthiest, aligning dividend tax with income tax for those earning over £150,000, and scrapping the shares-for-rights scheme. Of course, once we finished the job of tackling the deficit, we would increase health spending in line with the growth in the economy.

So there are steps we can take, but we need to look at this in a more fundamental way as well. I suggest that we should prioritise, more than we have so far, the provision of primary health care in our local communities. That not only helps the people within those communities but takes the pressure off accident and emergency departments. I am particularly concerned about the pressure exerted on Brighton General hospital and Eastbourne District General hospital, which serve my constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) has written to the chief executive of Eastbourne DGH seeking urgent assurances that it is able to cope with the demands currently placed on it. Both hospitals are failing to meet the Department of Health’s target of 95% of patients being dealt with within four hours, which is a matter of concern. One of the ways to deal with this is to have better local services and investment in primary care.

I am going to raise a number of issues with the Minister; I am not sure whether he will be able to respond to them all today. If there are outstanding

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matters on which time does not allow for a response or on which he is insufficiently briefed, I ask him or his officials to write to me subsequently with answers.

I am particularly concerned about the situation in Seaford, the largest town in my constituency, with a population of some 25,000, where we have had broken promise after broken promise from NHS bodies over very many years. They have always promised to improve services, to provide more local services, to introduce diagnostic testing and the like, and one after another those promises have been broken by successive primary care trusts, strategic health authorities and the rest. I welcome the fact that we now have local GPs involved who live in Seaford and therefore have some chance, through the clinical commissioning groups that the coalition introduced, of bringing some services to the town that are not currently there.

Specifically, it is shocking that a town the size of Seaford with its population spread—there are many elderly people—has no minor injuries facility. Lewes, where I live in the constituency, does have such a facility at Lewes Victoria hospital, but Seaford, which is much larger, does not. I have been in discussions about this with the CCG and with the local ambulance trust. In my view, the local ambulance trust ought to provide paramedics to help with the provision of minor injuries facilities in Seaford, if only by stationing ambulances that are not required on urgent calls, thereby diverting people away from accident and emergency services and enabling them to stay in their own town rather than having to travel a very long way to Eastbourne or Brighton to secure treatment. My first request to the Minister is that he should have discussions with the ambulance trust to make progress on ensuring that a facility of some sort, even a mobile one, can be put in place for my constituents in Seaford so that they are able to have their minor injuries dealt with, sensibly, in the town rather than clogging up the accident and emergency unit at Eastbourne, which, as I say, is not meeting its target of delivering treatment to 95% of people within four hours.

We have a new facility in Seaford—the Horder centre, which I argued for and which is now delivering some services. It has taken over from Seaford Day hospital, which was a mental health facility. However, its range of services is inadequate, and I would like more NHS business to be put through it, given that there is capacity in the building. My second request to the Minister is to engage with the Horder centre to find out whether we can extend the range of services in that building to ensure, again, that pressure is taken off A and E departments.

Another issue relates to the Newhaven Downs facility, which is just to the west of Newhaven and not very far from Seaford. This is a relatively new facility and is of quite a good standard, but it is chronically underused. I want to know why, when we are short of money, we have a good facility that is not being used to anything like its maximum potential. It could be used to deal with people from Newhaven and Seaford in my constituency and from Peacehaven in the constituency of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Simon Kirby). What is the forward plan for improving and increasing the use of the Newhaven Downs facility?

I am conscious that one of the problems is that if we are to invest locally in primary care, we have to keep the A and E facilities and the acute hospital money there

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while the improvements are made. There is therefore a need for a one-year investment programme to ensure that both angles are covered until the primary care facilities take over. I imagine that this is a problem not only in my constituency, but elsewhere, so is there a plan to implement the Government’s aim, which I very much welcome, for far more people to be treated locally in their own communities? That is the right policy, but it needs pump-priming to ensure that it can occur. The question is how that happens when A and E departments and acute hospital trusts are still being funded as they have been.

The problems of the need to travel to acute hospitals have been exacerbated by the transfer of services from the Eastbourne district general hospital to the Conquest hospital in Hastings. The East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust runs those two facilities, which are some way away. The sad fact is that we are now seeing a two-tier acute hospital service in East Sussex, with Brighton and Hastings having pretty much the full range of services, and Eastbourne being downgraded. That is a matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne is very worried about, as is the local population.

My constituents in Seaford and Polegate are sometimes asked to make extraordinarily long journeys to Hastings, which is a very long way away. The hospital in Hastings is nowhere near the train station and is very difficult to get to. We have already seen maternity services transferred there—by sleight of hand, I might say— with a so-called temporary transfer which then became permanent, bypassing the normal consultation arrangements, not to mention bypassing public opinion. I have to say to the Minister—I do not say this lightly and I have not said it before in 18 years—that I do not have confidence in the management of that NHS trust to deliver the right thing for the people of my constituency or even to play straight with them. That is a matter of great regret to me.

If, at least for the short term, my constituents are required to travel a very long way for very basic services, which I hope will change, the NHS trust in Eastbourne and Hastings which has been responsible for that situation needs to take some responsibility for the transport implications. Will the Minister set out what he believes are the responsibilities of the NHS trusts which generate extra transport requirements, but then wash their hands of the consequences and say it is a matter for the county council as the transport authority, the commercial bus company, the rail company or somebody else—anybody apart from them—to pick up the pieces?

The hospital in Brighton, the Royal Sussex County hospital, which also runs the Princess Royal hospital in Haywards Heath has accepted that there is a need to do something about that. It has organised a bus running between Brighton and Haywards Heath, which is a good service used by patients and by those who work in the health service as well. No such arrangement has been put in place between Eastbourne and Hastings and I want to know why not. It is not sufficient to say that people can get the bus, because my constituents sometimes have to pay extraordinary amounts of money to get taxis from where they live to Hastings, and no money is paid back. Some of these are poor people who cannot afford to pay for taxis. That is an outrageous

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situation for them to be in. I ask for the Minister’s help in dealing with that important transport issue. I hope he will accept the principle that if an NHS trust causes a transport problem, it has a responsibility to deal with it, rather than washing its hands and pushing it on to somebody else.

I draw the Minister’s attention to another problem on which I would welcome some help. It relates to a retirement development called St George’s Retreat at the far north-western corner of my constituency. Hundreds of retired people are living there in a pleasant community, but it is right on the border. Those people naturally look across the border to West Sussex for their health services, but West Sussex does not want to know about them because they are technically in East Sussex, and East Sussex says that they are so near the West Sussex border that they should be accessing West Sussex services.

How can that particular conundrum be solved? People are in limbo without proper services. One approach—this is a bit like the solution for minor injuries—would be for a district nurse and other health visitors to pick up some of the casework at that large facility once a week, rather than expect people to travel very long distances because of where they happen to live.

I am also concerned that pressure on A and E in Eastbourne is being caused by the lack of facilities in Polegate, which is a long-running issue. Polegate is in my constituency to the north of Eastbourne. It has two doctors’ surgeries in Manor Park and Downlands, and they are chronically short of space. The doctors are ready, willing and able to deliver more services locally, which, quite rightly, is what the Government wants, but they are unable to do so because they simply have no space. When I visited those surgeries I was horrified by the lack of space.

There have been plans for a very long time—we have been let down by successive primary care trusts—to improve the facilities and have a new medical centre in Polegate by combining the two surgeries. That is a sensible suggestion and the Minister’s colleague, the Minister of State, Department of Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), came to look at the situation. The reality is that my constituents and, indeed, the doctors are being held back and asked to deal with an inadequate situation in inadequate conditions because of the lack of a medical centre. What pressure can the Minister bring to bear on the clinical commissioning group to ensure that the problem is dealt with?

The Lewes Victoria hospital, which is in my constituency, is in the county town of East Sussex and has a minor injuries facility. It is much loved, very well respected and hugely supported by the friends of the hospital, who have done so much over the years to make sure that it is a lovely place to be. I had a minor op there myself recently and I was extraordinarily impressed by the level of care and compassion shown by all the staff, to whom I am very grateful. I want to put that on the record.

Unfortunately, the hospital is also technically run by the East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which has no particular interest in the place. It is outside its catchment area. It was left standing when the music stopped and it should not be in the trust’s purview. I want the arrangements to be changed and for the Victoria hospital to be transferred to somewhere that has more interest in it than the trust. Will the Minister consider that? My view

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is that there should be a community trust across Sussex. Failing that, the hospital should be handled by Brighton, which is more local to it.

The hospital is losing facilities, such as the pacemaker clinic, which is shocking. At a time when we want to get more, not fewer, facilities in towns, they are disappearing. That simply clogs up A and E and other hospitals, where parking is particularly difficult.

My last point, which was raised with me by the chief executive of the South East Coast ambulance service, relates to a curiosity to do with ambulance waiting times. I would be grateful if the Minister looked at it and came back to me. Ambulances are being left waiting outside the A and E section of the hospital in Brighton. Why is that happening? The hospital does not want to accept the cases because they worsen its figures for the time people wait in A and E. Therefore, in order to, in effect, fiddle the figures, ambulances are wasting their time and patients are kept there until the hospital is confident it can see them within the four-hour limit. That is not sensible, and nor is it what the Government and Health Ministers want. Will the Minister look at that? In my view, the clock should start ticking as soon as the ambulance arrives on the forecourt or on the premises of the acute hospital. If he could give me an assurance that that will be the case in the future, I would be grateful.

2.48 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr Daniel Poulter): My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) has raised a number of issues and I will do my best to address them in the limited time available. I will, of course, write to him about any issues I am unable to get on to today.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing the debate. A number of the points he has made are of great importance to both him and his constituents. Before I continue, I want to highlight the extra work carried out every day by all those who work in the NHS in his constituency, including staff alongside whom I have worked during my time in the NHS. During a busy time in winter, we should be proud of our front-line staff and the hard work they continue to do, even with the increased demand caused by winter pressure on our health service.

My right hon. Friend was right to say that there is now less bureaucracy in our health service and more money for the front line. Thanks to our having stripped out some of the bureaucracy, we will have £6.5 billion more for front-line care over this Parliament than we would otherwise have had. That has been independently audited, and I am sure that all patients in Lewes and elsewhere are very pleased with that.

Primary care trusts have been replaced with clinical commissioning groups. My right hon. Friend talked about some of the historical frustrations with PCTs in his constituency. I hope that the changes made on the introduction of CCGs—their clinical leadership is provided by clinicians who have actually looked after patients and understand their needs—will already have led to improvements in care in his constituency. The fact that some of the reviews now taking place are led by clinicians who run the process of allocating local health care

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funding will ensure that the right decisions are made about local health care priorities and about meeting the needs of patients.

Health and wellbeing boards now ensure that health and social care services are better joined up, which is important for looking after vulnerable patients, the disabled and the frail elderly. Health and wellbeing boards provide an opportunity to integrate services further, which is particularly important in a very diverse county, such as East Sussex, with rural as well as urban areas. East Sussex health and wellbeing board is grasping the opportunity to join up the local provision of primary community care, the acute sector and social services care.

An important part of meeting some of the challenges faced by the local NHS—my right hon. Friend mentioned the issue of the throughput of patients at Brighton—is to join up adult social care with NHS services better to ensure that acute beds can be freed as quickly as possible for those who are the most sick, with others being transferred into the most appropriate care setting. I know that the local health and wellbeing board takes an active interest in that issue.

My right hon. Friend raised issues about health services in Seaford and Polegate. As he rightly outlined, high-quality premises are an important part of ensuring high-quality primary care services. I understand that NHS England’s Surrey and Sussex area team is working with the Old School surgery in Seaford to explore options for the improvement of its facilities. The capital funding to create new consultation rooms for the Downlands surgery in Polegate has been agreed, and the work is intended to be completed by April 2015. That will bring improvements to patients who attend that surgery. I understand that there have been some quality issues with the premises of another practice in Polegate, the Manor Park medical centre. From memory, it is on a crossroads in the town centre. That issue is in the forefront of the mind of the Surrey and Sussex area team, which reassured me yesterday that it is looking at how to improve the situation.

Such issues are not just for the local clinical commission group; there might be a role for the local authority—perhaps with contributions from developers, where available—to support the local NHS by building new facilities. In areas of housing growth, such as around Eastbourne, the local authority could work collaboratively to collect developers’ contributions to put in place local infrastructure for schools and the local NHS. I am sure that that will be considered as a result of this debate. There is also an opportunity for the local NHS to work more collaboratively with the local authority to address some of the premises issues and to improve the quality, size and capacity of places in which local patients are treated.

As I have said, local clinicians and local authorities have been empowered through the creation of clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards to bring together health and social care. That is particularly important in the context of the issues relating to Seaford that were raised by my right hon. Friend. I am aware of the changes made at Seaford day hospital, and he outlined some long-standing frustrations with earlier decisions made by the PCT. I understand, however, that Horder Healthcare has taken over the hospital to run services, and that physiotherapy services are being provided there, which is at least a step in the right direction.