SUNDAY’S petrol bomb attack on a Home Office premises in Dover was truly appalling. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, and my thoughts are with all those affected.
Immigration has been a very topical issue recently, the Home Secretary made a statement on Monday to address the situation in Dover, and to update the House on the overcrowding at Manston immigration centre.
The facility at Manston was constructed to accommodate no more than 1,600 people. It is currently holding about 4,000 people, and many are being forced to sleep on the floors of marquees. The crisis at Manston is symptomatic of a system that is to all intents and purposes broken at every level.
Whilst the government has taken the bull by the horns and sort to wrestle with the existing problem, the current global migration crisis has only compounded it. Some 40,000 people have crossed the channel this year alone. Not only is this unnecessary, as many have come from other safe countries, but it is also incredibly dangerous.
Immigration is a key issue that needs to be resolved, and the Home Secretary made it very clear that if someone deliberately enters the United Kingdom illegally from a safe country, they should be swiftly returned to their home country. UK policy on illegal migration should not be derailed by abuse of our laws, or orders of the Strasbourg Court. The Prime Minister is also pressing the case with the French to secure a more ambitious deal to intercept the flow of illegal economic migrants further upstream.
The challenges the government now faces are many. Adding immigration to the wider problems of the cost-of-living crisis, social care reform, and delivering on the promises of the 2019 manifesto; you have quite the challenge!
With that being said, I was delighted to see that following my lobbying along with other MPs, the government is extending the energy bills support scheme to include people who pay their energy bills indirectly through a landlord or site manager. This is also going to be legally enforced, as the government intends to introduce legislation to make sure landlords pass the discount on to tenants.
Following on from last week’s meeting with housing minister Lee Rowley, I was delighted this week to attend the launch of the New Homes Quality Board. This new independent body will ensure that every aspect of buying and living in a new home is of the highest quality. The board have launched a new voluntary code of house building practice.
There is a requirement for those developers who do sign up to The New Homes Quality Code, to ensure buyers of new homes are not only receiving a quality service right the way through the process of purchasing, but also a quality product. I have had too many cases of constituents being dissatisfied with the standard of their new home. I am hopeful that most developers will sign up. If they don’t, then we should legislate.
I was also busy in the chamber this week asking the Minister of State for Health and Social Care if he would, as a matter of urgency, create an innovative new career pathway to get more health staff onto the frontline. This is desperately needed. One in 10 nursing places remain unfilled, and one in 8 mental health roles across the southwest are vacant. The gap is too big to be bridged by the current recruitment and training plans in place. We need to get creative and innovative, if we are serious about protecting our NHS.
This was a message I reinforced in the Public Accounts Select Committee this week at its hearing. And of course, I took yet another opportunity to ask the chief executive of the NHS to sort out the lack of dentists! Just increasing the quota of NHS patients a dentist can take immediately would make a difference- surely it can’t be that hard!