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David Davis: Home Office putting avoiding political embarrassment ahead of public safety

Responding to Jacqui Smith's statement on the SIA shambles, Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said:

"Mr Speaker, I thank the Home Secretary for advance sight of her statement. When Gordon Brown became leader of the Labour Party he heralded:

'…a different type of politics - a more open and honest dialogue: frank about problems, candid about dilemmas, never losing touch with the concerns of people'.

Faced with one of her first tests, why wasn't the Home Secretary frank and candid about the 5,000 illegal workers licensed to work in sensitive security posts?

She has now admitted to the House that she was first told on 12 July, but instructed officials that the matter was 'not ready for public announcement'?

There are two key issues. Has she dealt effectively with the original crisis, and has she been open and honest with the public?

The response of the Home Office so far has been blunder, panic and cover up.

The blunder when they set up the Security Industry Authority, they did not ask it to check automatically whether they were granting security licenses to illegal workers.

The panic when they were first told about this last April.

The cover-up when they she decided not to tell the public because, according to one of the leaked emails "She did not think the lines to take that we have currently have are good enough for Press Office or Ministers to use."

She says because the analysis of this issue was not complete.

Let us be clear about this. They have known of the problem since April. She says they had not completed the analysis by August.

It is now November and this House has been sitting since the beginning of October.

Is this really the first opportunity she has had to tell the House about this?

Is she telling the House it had nothing to do with the advice she was given that said:

'If the media become aware of this issue, they are likely to focus on the various negative stories associated with the SIA licences.'

I have a number of specific questions and I hope the Home Secretary will answer each of them.

Can she confirm that eleven illegal workers were guarding Metropolitan Police buildings? In the case of the illegal worker guarding the site where the Prime Minister's car was parked, how can she be sure there was no actual or potential security threat?

How many more illegal workers were guarding Government Buildings or other critical national infrastructure?

Can she guarantee that no illegal worker is today still guarding any Government, police or military building, or any other part of our critical national infrastructure?

Of the five thousand illegal workers identified, how many have been caught, and how many removed from this country?

Given her stance on employers, how many employers have been prosecuted because of these discoveries?

Does the Borders and Immigration Agency now notify the SIA immediately when a work permit for an SIA license holder has expired? If not, why not?

And why hasn't the Home Secretary made proposals to place a statutory duty on the SIA to check immigration status before awarding a license, given the Home Office position that 'an SIA licence is seen as a demonstration that the holder is a fit and proper person to work in positions of trust within the security industry' ?

Mr Speaker, the Home Secretary no doubts regrets not making this statement some time ago.

The Prime Minister spoke of frank and candid Government.

Yet, in one of her first actions as Home Secretary, she put avoiding political embarrassment ahead of solving the problem and informing the public. That is neither frank nor candid."

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