As ever, it is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow), who gave a very thought-provoking account of Gido and of the experience he has had in Peterborough.
I want to start by thanking the Home Secretary, the Immigration Minister and the entire Home Office team for their hard work in bringing this Bill before the House. It has been a long time coming and I think all of us on the Government Benches are very proud to see it arrive.
Thanks to freedom day’s relaxation of restrictions, later this evening—depending on the time—I am hoping to attend an event with the Australian high commission. I mention that not just because it will be a lovely do with great wine, but because I have a great deal of respect for the way that Australia has handled the entire debate around immigration and asylum through Operation Sovereign Borders, which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) gave a great account of earlier.
Wanting to have integrity of one’s borders and an immigration system that suits one’s nation, yet some out there would have us believe that that is not only shameful, but thoroughly unpopular with the public. That is not my experience.
Shall we just remember the general election of 2019, in which one party stood on a manifesto with a promise to tackle immigration as a key tenet? Which party was it? It is the one represented on these Government Benches right now. May I say, it is shameful to see so few Labour Members on the Opposition Benches when they claim to represent people right across our nation?
If it is true that the Bill is not popular, that is not reflected in the communications that I receive from my constituents. Local people across Bishop Auckland have not been shy in letting me know their views on the channel crossings and the wider asylum system. Their overarching opinion is not bigoted or racist, but it is clear that we need to protect our borders. We must tackle illegal immigration. We must crack down on the criminal gangs and people smugglers and their exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people. Those who have a genuine need to uproot their families and move to Britain because of war, discrimination or persecution should be welcomed.
Despite the outcry from some, I perceive the Bill to have safety at its core. We know that those who board small boats or cling to lorries to make the perilous journey across the channel are often being exploited by sophisticated criminal gangs of people smugglers who charge thousands upon thousands for a ticket and a new life in the UK, and that is precisely what they sell. We heard in the Home Affairs Committee about carefully marketed images of a better life, with some even posting adverts on Facebook and TikTok featuring pictures of luxury cruise liners and promotional videos of the glamorous life people can lead in London. I will never ever criticise someone for wanting to lead a better life, but I will always condemn these lying criminals exploiting people for profit without any apology.
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend. There was a very interesting report in, I think, The Independent earlier this month. It went into the detail, talking about people effectively being kidnapped and their families being exploited to allow them to
make the next stage of their journey, which I think we would all agree is an absolute disgrace. It is exactly the sort of thing that the Bill aims to tackle.
For me, people smugglers are the key to cracking this issue. We need to crack down on them and get rid of these routes as a legitimate means of entry, and that is what the Bill seeks to tackle. There seems to be a very strange perception that the Bill seeks to stop us offering asylum to those genuinely seeking refuge, but would that not be thoroughly un-British? From the Kindertransport to the Bosnian genocide, the UK has a proud history of welcoming people fleeing war and persecution, and we should be proud of our reputation as a tolerant nation holding out its arms to the most vulnerable.
I am very proud that our nation has resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other European nation. With more than 25,000 refugees and 29,000 close relatives welcomed to the UK since 2015, our record shows global Britain in action. Earlier, I heard the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) say that I should be ashamed to support this Bill, but the Nationality and Borders Bill will fix our broken asylum system with a dual approach, tackling dangerous and exploitative illegal routes while honouring our moral obligation to provide safety and security for the world’s most vulnerable. [Interruption.] I hear an SNP Member on the Opposition Benches claiming that is rubbish, but where were they earlier in the debate to make that point? That is why I will be proudly and unapologetically voting for this Bill tonight.