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Chris Grayling: We need a new Government to sort out all of this mess

Can I join her in congratulating the police for the work they did in both the investigation and in making the arrests so promptly and without incident following the extremely unfortunate leak in Downing Street.

I was asked after the event in an interview whether I blamed the Home Secretary for the fiasco. I said no - for once she was blameless, and I am glad that she recognised immediately that Bob Quick had to go.

Such a blatant breach of the relevant protocols meant his position was completely untenable.

But that's as far as I am going to go, Mr Speaker, in praising the Home Secretary. The last few weeks have been another chapter of chaos in the Home Office.

We have warned for years about abuses of the student visa system for immigration purposes. But the emergence of a terror threat within the UK from this system is a worrying but unsurprising new development.

Will she confirm that the security services have previously issued a number of warnings about flaws in the student visa system?

Can she explain why the Home Office's response to these warnings has been to cut back the visa operation in Pakistan?

The UK Border Agency's Monthly Report for February says, and I quote,

'The UK hub started handling all .......settlement applications from Pakistan from 26th January. This will enable us to fully test the concept of the UK hub....... whilst enabling a reduction of staff in Islamabad (along with the hubbing of all other application categories in Pakistan to Abu Dhabi).'

Before she picks up the phone to Scotland Yard again, can I reassure her that the document I am quoting from wasn't leaked to me - it was published on the internet.

So why are student visa applications from Pakistan being handled, not from Pakistan, but from Abu Dhabi?

And why is Pakistan, of all countries, being used to "test a concept"?

Isn't she aware that high quality fake documents that will help applicants get visas are on sale for £100 in Pakistan?

Is she aware that there are companies doing what one described to a national newspaper as a "roaring business" in helping student visa applicants?

Will she confirm the extraordinary fact that the British High Commission in Pakistan previously estimated that half of all students to whom they grant visas disappear after reaching the UK?

So if the Security Services say it's a big problem - why is she cutting front line staff in Pakistan itself so we can't do adequate local verification? Why does she think that people in Abu Dhabi are better placed to judge an application?

Will she confirm that one of the suspects in this case was allowed into Britain even though he had suspect papers. If that's the case, doesn't that blow apart the absurd claims made by the Immigration Minister that all of this will be solved by the e-borders database.

And isn't it true that even biometric data won't help us catch previously unknown terror suspects?

As my honourable friend for Ashford knows, this Home Office is paranoid about bad news. Is it true that three years ago a Chief Immigration Officer who wrote an internal report criticising the way student visa applications in Pakistan are handled was disciplined and the report suppressed?

Mr Speaker, these are key issues that the Home Secretary has to address in relation to national security. But it is to her discredit that her statement fails to address many of the problems her Department faces. 

This should have been a statement where the House could ask her why her Department made wildly exaggerated claims about leaks and national security which led to the utterly unjustified arrest of a leading Opposition MP - the stuff of police states not democracy.

It should also have been an opportunity for the House to question her about the worrying issues that have arisen as a result of the policing of the G20 protests.

But it's hardly surprising Mr Speaker.

She is just the latest in a series of beleaguered Home Secretaries.

Three already in this Parliament.

And if we believe the Downing Street rumour mill - and despite everything it still seems to be operating - she will be on her way before long as well.

Of course Mr Speaker, the truth is that we don't just need a new Home Secretary.

What we need is a new Government if we are to sort out all of this mess.

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