Made it very clear again in the House of Commons today that tackling illegal Channel crossings has to be a top priority. I’ve been making the case repeatedly at the highest levels over recent months how we must do everything we can to stop these crossings immediately. But we also need to have a further plan of action ready to go for when we are out of the EU transition period and we’re able to break with things like the EU’s Dublin Regulations which have restricted our ability to deal with this issue robustly.
Steps like a blockade in the Channel and the plans for an offshore processing centre which the Home Secretary has been considering this week have my full support. And we now need to deliver them as soon as possible. Once we’re out the transition period there can’t be any more excuses and any further delay to getting a grip of this issue would be completely unacceptable. No more time can be lost and I’ll put this point to the Government at every opportunity.
Action not words. That was my message last night when I met with the Immigration Minister Chris Philp along with a number of other Conservative MPs. I was invited as one of the MPs who has repeatably raised concerns about illegal channel crossings we’ve been seeing over the past few months. I one hundred percent share the same concerns as the majority of my constituents. This was a significant meeting and I feel confident that there is a solid plan to deal with the issue, for the first time since this really shot up the news agenda there is a real prospect of the issue being nipped in the bud in the not too distant future.
New legislation is likely soon to reform our failing asylum system (likely to be furiously opposed by Labour) as is robust action to stop the channel crossings in their tracks. I am limited in terms of the specific information I can reveal at this time but more will be announced by the Government soon. People are right to be extremely frustrated by the situation but I am confident that action is on the way. I feel significant compassion towards genuine refugees and its right that we have a process in place to legally accept those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries. But under no circumstances should we accept these illegal crossings where the individuals in question are coming from other safe European countries, not war torn countries.
Today I asked an urgent question to Home Office ministers about illegal channel crossings and to call for urgent legislation to get a grip of our easily exploited asylum system. Illegal migrants know that once they’re in our asylum system, the chances are they’ll be able to stay for good and this is a major reason why they continue to put their lives at risk to come here.
We must close ridiculous legal loopholes like those that allow failed asylum seekers to make repeated claims on entirely new grounds and avoid deportation. And end the unacceptable situation where tax payers’ money is spent on legal aid to support people who have broken our laws claim asylum. Over the last few months, I’ve been working with other Conservative MPs in the Common Sense Group to keep up the pressure on the Government on this issue by writing joint letters and meeting with the Home Secretary. And now Parliament has returned it’s important to continue this in the Chamber. I was glad to hear today that the Government is developing legislation to close these loopholes. This can’t come soon enough for many of my constituents who like me find the current situation unfair and unacceptable. And I’ll be monitoring developments very closely.
It was also disappointing today to see Labour accuse the Government of militarising the problem in the Channel and lacking compassion. This demonstrates how completely out of touch the Party has become with the law-abiding majority. And the real lack of compassion comes from those who defend the status quo, where migrants from safe European countries are incentivised to make dangerous crossings. And where our asylum system isn’t geared towards the most needy genuine asylum seekers around the world who want to come here legally.
I went on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon to talk about the unacceptable surge in illegal channel crossings and the letter I sent with 22 other Conservative MPs calling on the Home Secretary to take action so that illegal migrants are immediately returned.
I like many am completely fed up with the lawlessness in the Channel and the slap in the face it represents to the law-abiding people of this country and genuine asylum seekers who wish to come to this country legally. All of those who try to come here illegally across the Channel have left a safe European Country to do so and there is absolutely no justification for them to break our laws to get to the UK.
As we set out in our letter, action, not words, is what is needed now. It’s been over four years since we voted to take back control of our borders but our hands are still tied by EU and international rules which don’t allow us to put the people of this country first.
It is good that after the letter we sent, the Prime Minister has said we need to look at changing the law and efforts are underway to get the French to do more. But I’m also clear that our ability to control our borders must not be dependent on the whim of France or any other third country. We must be prepared to turn all illegal boats around and escort them back to France. These dangerous crossings will only stop when we have made it completely clear that all attempts will be futile as the Australians did when they were confronted with a similar problem.
I’ll keep working with other MPs to secure swift action and ensure this issue is treated with the seriousness it deserves and the public expects.
This week I’ve written about the pressing need for pet theft reform and how this campaign has become even more important during the Covid-19 lockdown. Cases of pet theft have increased significantly since lockdown begun, robbing people of their pets just when their companionship is needed most.
This cruel crime causes great distress to victims which can stay with them for years but the theft of a pet is currently treated under the law in the same way as the theft of an inanimate object like a mobile phone. This means that pet thieves, if caught, often only receive pitiful fines of no more than £250. We must make pet theft a specific offence under the Theft Act so prison sentences of up to 2 years become more readily available to judges. The current punishments clearly don’t represent justice for victims or a sufficient deterrent to stop pet theft from continuing to rise.
Following my virtual discussion with campaigners behind the pet theft reform petition last month, we have now received a written response from the Government which says that they have no plans to change the law. This is disappointing but it’s no means the end of the campaign. I’ve asked Ministers to meet with me directly to discuss this issue and I’ll be calling for a debate on pet theft reform in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The status quo doesn’t reflect how important our pets are to us and needs to change.
Yesterday I made a speech on the Counter Terrorism and Sentencing Bill which will see the most dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in prison. This is a crucial piece of legislation which will punish those who would try to spill blood on our streets out of their hatred of this country and its people. And it will also provide a strong deterrent others who might be thinking about doing the same.
After I raised the case of terrorist Shamima Begum last week on the news, I again raised it in Parliament yesterday to underline just how angry many people are in the country at the Court of Appeal’s recent decision to allow her to return to the UK. The out of touch decisions which continue to come out of our courts must be addressed as we continue to build on the work of this Bill and look to put the public interest first. And I was glad to secure reassurances from Government during the debate that they will be appealing the Begum decision with everything they have.
I also used the speech to argue against amendments Labour were seeking to make that would limit the impact of this Bill on young adult terrorist offenders between the ages of 18 and 21 because of their immaturity. At 18 for all intents and purposes you are an adult with the same rights and responsibilities as every other adult. And you’re certainly old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and that actions which could result in the deaths of many people are inexcusable. I’ve frequently heard Labour politicians make the case that 16 year olds are mature enough to vote and it seems they change their view on where adulthood starts depending on what suits them.
I’ll continue to do everything I can as Ipswich’s MP to make sure we are as robust as possible in the fight against terrorism.
Written a piece about the approach I believe we ought to take in tackling the illegal crossings we’ve seen over the past few months. In short, I think we need a more robust approach, one that is prepared to do whatever it takes to get a grip of the situation in the short term. It’s all well and good looking to come to an agreement with France but ultimately if this is not possible we need to be prepared to take the situation into our own hands regardless of international opinion or convention. Australia took a very robust approach and were successful in dealing with a similar challenge.
Our ability to tackle illegal immigration should not be dependent on our ability to strike an agreement with another country. Taking back control of our borders must mean that we are able to deal with this issue by ourselves if necessary. I know a number of you are very concerned about the illegal crossings we’ve seen and I’ve received hundreds of emails and letters on the matter. I share your concerns which is why I’ve published this opinion piece.