HC Deb 12 July 2004 vol 423 cc1112-3
3. Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab)

How many Spanish passport holders he estimates are resident in England and Wales. [183086]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart)

Figures taken from the UK labour force survey show that, for the period December 2003 to February 2004, there were an estimated 44,000 nationals of Spain resident in England and Wales.

Mr. Barnes

Is that not a fair swap with Spain, in that there are an estimated 300,000 UK passport holders in Spain, plus all the holidaymakers? Should not we consider these things in perspective—in terms of how the movement of labour throughout the European Union benefits everyone involved?

Fiona Mactaggart

My hon. Friend is right that the movement of labour throughout the EU has helped the prosperity of all the countries in the Union. It is striking that, since Spain entered the EU, it has become a country of net migration from other EU countries, unlike what was predicted before it entered.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con)

Is the Minister aware of a growing problem: numbers of South American economic migrants who are not entitled to come here can, and readily do, obtain in Madrid or Barcelona Spanish passports and travel documentation, on which they do a bit of work and then pass relatively easily, although illegally, into this country? Are her immigration officials well aware of that growing practice and receiving extra training to cope with it? Does she believe that last year's official figures for such fraudulent entry attempts tell us the whole truth?

Fiona Mactaggart

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the UK leads the world in passport detection technology. I am sure that he will be reassured by the fact that, following enlargement of the EU, we are not only improving the training of all our officers but checking every passport offered by an EU citizen when seeking entry to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Malins

What about South America?

Fiona Mactaggart

The hon. Gentleman referred to passports held by those not entitled to EU passports.

Mr. Malins

South America.

Fiona Mactaggart

The hon. Gentleman keeps saying "South America", and I am responding in this way because he made the claim that people are entering on EU passports to which they are not entitled. I am confident that, if his allegations are true, our checking and detection mechanisms and our good relations with the Government of Spain and other EU Governments will mean that we can stop that practice.