HC Deb 22 February 1996 vol 272 cc541-56

Amendment made: No. 50, in page 12, line 8, column 3, at end insert— 'In Schedule 2, in paragraph 5(1), the words "Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below,".'.—[Mr. Kirkhope.]

Order for Third Reading read.

6.18 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Government are committed to maintaining an open and tolerant society that is free from the blight of racial discrimination. We want a society that fosters respect for and understanding of the diverse cultures and backgrounds of all people lawfully present in this country. Firm but fair immigration control is a necessary pre-condition for such a society.

The Government are determined to maintain the United Kingdom's honourable tradition in providing a safe haven for those fleeing persecution. We shall continue to meet in full our international obligations, including those under the 1951 United Nations convention on refugees.

The Bill aims to improve our asylum and immigration procedures in three ways: first, by strengthening our ability to deal rapidly with bogus claims; secondly, by countering the economic incentives to illegal immigration; thirdly, by combating the despicable crime of immigration racketeering.

The Bill received its Second Reading on 11 December. Since then, the need for its asylum provisions has become even more pronounced. The number of asylum claims in the last quarter of 1995 was a record, bringing the total for the year to nearly 44,000, which is nearly double the level of claims in 1993. The number of asylum seekers awaiting a decision or appeal has risen to 84,000, and the average time for completing a new asylum claim now stands at 19 months. Queues and delays of that magnitude represent a threat to the integrity of our immigration control. The measures that we are proposing in the Bill are essential to prevent abuse and to allow us to give help speedily to genuine refugees.

To enable us to deal quickly with unfounded claims, the Bill provides for designation of countries of origin, wider criteria for certifying claims as without foundation and a more robust application of the safe third country rule. We have also amended the Bill to deal with the growing number of asylum claims in which the applicant has destroyed his documents or persists in maintaining that forged documents are genuine.

Mr. Madden

Can the Home Secretary tell the House when the Foreign Secretary expressed his satisfaction at the inclusion of India and Pakistan in the list of designated countries?

Mr. Howard

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a date, not least because no final decisions have been taken, and will not be taken, as it is necessary to follow the procedures set out in the Bill. In consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend, the Foreign Secretary, I have listed the countries that we are currently minded to designate. It is right that we should have done so for the convenience of Parliament as it considered the Bill.

Other western European countries have strengthened their legislation since Parliament last enacted an asylum Bill in 1993. It would be very unwise for us to allow this country to be seen as a soft target. Asylum claims have been falling across Europe for the past two years but rising sharply in this country. We now receive the highest number of asylum claims of any country in Western Europe, apart from Germany. The key proposals in the Bill are already in place elsewhere in Europe. Designation of countries where there is no serious risk of persecution, fast-tracking manifestly unfounded cases, making appeals against removal to a safe third country non-suspensive and making it an offence to employ someone who is not entitled to work are measures which have already been introduced by many of our continental neighbours.

It has been suggested that the solution to the backlogs and delays in the asylum system lies in greater resources and efficiency rather than in legislation and stricter procedures. The truth is that we must do both, and we are doing both.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

The Home Secretary was not in the Chamber yesterday when I raised the important point about the way in which Ministers respond to hon. Members, although I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) has written to him and I have spoken to him myself about the letter that I received from his junior Minister, the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope). Will he, please, look into the issue of the way in which Ministers respond to hon. Members? Does he agree that it is important that Members should be told of the outcome of cases which they have raised with Ministers? If he cannot give me an assurance today, will he at least meet hon. Members to discuss the matter further?

Mr. Howard

I think that my hon. Friend the Minister of State said in the debate to which the hon. Gentleman referred that she would write to him about the matter. I shall certainly discuss the matter with my hon. Friend. I understand and acknowledge the point made by the hon. Gentleman, whose company I look forward to later this evening at the Asian "Who's Who" dinner and the presentation of the Asian of the Year award.

Mr. Vaz

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

I hope it is for the Chair?

Mr. Vaz

It is, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I make it clear that I am not accompanying the Home Secretary; we are on different tables.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. When the Chair asks a question of an hon. Member, a proper response is expected.

Mr. Howard

We have increased the number of asylum caseworkers eightfold, from fewer than 100 in 1988 to almost 800 now, and we are investing £37 million more over three years to provide even more caseworkers and adjudicators. The new short procedure in the Home Office, which does not require legislation, enables straightforward cases to be decided in three to four weeks. We are using that procedure in a growing number of cases. Overall, we have increased the number of decisions taken from 21,000 in 1994, to 27,000 in 1995, which is a 29 per cent. rise. This year, we expect to take at least 37,000 decisions, which is a further rise of 37 per cent. In January, for the first time ever, we took more than 3,000 decisions in a month.

Our major programme to introduce new information technology will reduce bureaucracy and further streamline all caseworking procedures.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and West Devon)

The Home Secretary is speaking about the system. Does he agree that a two-year wait when an in-country application is submitted is far too long? Does he agree that it generally takes two years before an interview opportunity is given once an in-country application has been made? Does he also agree that, once the interview is concluded, the file is put on hold for another caseworker to consider—which may take another two years—and that the second caseworker does not have the benefit of the knowledge of the first caseworker, who will have had the applicant face to face? Will the Secretary of State, therefore, look into the possibility of ensuring that the caseworker who has conducted the interview and heard the evidence first hand makes the proposal about granting asylum or otherwise? That is currently not the practice. Does he not believe that the practice that I have suggested would be fairer in terms of time and justice—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady can make a speech of her own on Third Reading. Interventions should be short.

Mr. Howard

I am told that the relevant period referred to by the hon. Lady is nine months, not two years. If she had been paying a modicum of attention, she would have heard what measures we are taking to deal precisely with the problem to which she referred in her intervention.

The output of the appeal system is also increasing dramatically. The number of appeals determined has risen from 2,500 in 1994 to 7,000 last year; but even those substantial improvements are not enough. The number of asylum applications is rising faster still; backlogs are still growing; and we are still having to deal with far too many bogus applications that should never have been made in the first place. That is why we need the asylum and employment provisions in the Bill.

The measures that we are introducing on entitlement to housing assistance are also important. Social housing is a valuable and costly resource. People whose leave to enter the United Kingdom was given on the understanding that they would make no recourse to public funds should not have access to assistance provided by local housing authorities at the taxpayers' expense, nor should those without valid leave. Those groups do not now have entitlement to social security benefits, except if they have claimed asylum on arrival and are awaiting a decision.

The Bill will enable entitlement under homelessness legislation to be brought into line with those changes. It will also enable us to ensure that people in this country with limited leave will not be entitled to council housing, which is intended to meet the long-term needs of people who are entitled to live here. It is also essential that entitlement to child benefit should be brought into line with the new policy. That will reduce public expenditure by £45 million over the next three years.

The Bill also contains substantial new measures to combat the growing problem of immigration racketeers and facilitators. Their pernicious trade undermines the integrity of our immigration control and feeds on often needy and desperate people in pursuit of misbegotten personal profit.

All the proposals in the Bill are grounded in the Government's long-standing commitment to maintaining this country's good race relations. We have consistently taken the view that that requires effective immigration control and a readiness to intervene to deal with abuses.

The Bill is fair. It is compatible with our international obligations. It involves no change in the status of those persons who are currently entitled to come here to live. It is a balanced, sensible and timely measure, and I commend it to the House.

6.28 pm
Mr. Straw

No one doubts the need to tackle the problem of bogus asylum seekers. That has never been an issue in any of our debates; what is at issue is how we should tackle the problem. The measure is unbalanced and disproportionate to the problem. It will harm race relations. It has already led to the prospect of refugee families being left without any effective support, and it could lead to a number of applicants whose applications are well founded being denied their rights under the United Nations convention on refugees, which this country voluntarily signed.

That is exactly the anxiety of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who said: UNHCR is concerned that the proposals currently before Parliament focus on restricting access to asylum procedures in a way that may make it just as difficult for genuine refugees to enter the process as it would for fraudulent applicants. Throughout the debate on the Bill, Ministers and Conservative Members have sought to insinuate that only a tiny minority of applicants are genuine and that all the rest are bogus, but the facts tell a different story. Four per cent. of applications are accepted as within the convention and another 19 per cent. are accepted as within the stringent tests for the granting of exceptional leave.

That leaves 77 per cent., but it does not follow for a moment that all those applications are bogus. Many are genuine and fit the Government's test of genuineness on the Scott report—the test by which Ministers who deceive the House may be exempted from responsibility. After all, that test involves a "sincere self-belief' in the genuineness of an application. Many asylum applicants, however, would meet an objective test of the genuineness of their application, as their fear of persecution is high—as I know from a constituency case with which I am dealing—even though it may not fall within the strict tests imposed by Ministers in their interpretation of the convention or in their granting of exceptional leave.

After the Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech, we said that it should be thoroughly examined under Special Standing Committee procedure. No Bill has been more in need of such scrutiny. The motives behind the Bill are open to question, the policy has not been properly settled and the Bill has been poorly drafted—much of it is simply a skeletal enabling measure, which will rely on subordinate regulations for its practical effect.

Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East)

Is my hon. Friend interested to know that last night I lodged with the House a petition with more than 1,000 signatures, from people who attend churches in the Greater Bristol region? They believe that the Bill will lead to refusals and deportations of legitimate asylum seekers and that the introduction of sanctions on employers will increase race discrimination in employment and lead to a worsening of race relations in this country. Does my hon. Friend agree that the most amazing thing about the Bill is that the Churches have been unanimous in their hostility and opposition to it?

Mr. Straw

I accept what my hon. Friend says. Another remarkable thing about the Bill is that, as the debates have progressed, the opposition to it among decent, non-political people has mounted.

Within the limits of the existing Standing Committee procedure, my hon. Friends have done an excellent job in exposing the Bill's inadequacy. Ministers have had to back down on some of its least defensible parts, but much of it remains offensive. There will still be a white list, from which it will be assumed that applications are unfounded. In addition, there will still be the whitewash of so-called "country assessments". Such an assessment gave the Nigerian Government a clean bill of health even as that odious regime was preparing judicially to murder Ken Saro-Wiwa.

The Secretary of State and Ministers say that race relations will not be damaged by the Bill. They should reflect on why no one with any knowledge of race relations shares their complacency. For the first time, under the Bill, some people who happen to have black or brown skin, who do not have a United Kingdom passport, but who have made this country their home with the full approval of the Home Office, and who may have been here for years paying taxes, are to be classified as "immigrants". Ministers are taking a power to withdraw their child benefit. Ministers say that they will not use the power in that way, so why put it in such an offensive way in the Bill in the first place? In many circumstances, benefits for genuine applicants and housing assistance are to be withdrawn, placing those people at risk of destitution and increasing the burden on local authorities.

As we heard in the debate on amendment No. 57, because of the lack of security on birth certificates and national insurance documents, employee checks are unlikely to be effective in stopping the employment of workers here illegally, but they will almost certainly be effective in limiting further the employment of Asian or black people who are lawfully here, and in damaging race relations. In September, that was the view of the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, who said: There is a danger that employers will concentrate checks on prospective employees whom they see as a risk, if not simply exclude them from consideration for the job. Either way there could be racial discrimination". Her hostility to the Bill has been echoed by the Commission for Racial Equality and the Federation of Small Businesses.

The Government and the Secretary of State never cease to complain about burdening small firms and the labour market with bureaucratic and inflexible rules, regulations, and practices"— to quote from a little-noticed 1993 speech by the Secretary of State for the Home Department—but, against the wishes of many representative business organisations, the Government are doing just that: regulating ineffectively where they should not, but refusing to regulate where they should.

Everyone knows that many bogus applications for asylum and for settlement generally are manufactured by unofficial profit-making immigration advisers operating at the margin of criminality. At every stage, we have pushed the case for effective regulation—with criminal sanctions—of those so-called advisers. We did so again last night, but received the usual complacent "do nothing for the moment" response from the Minister. What a bizarre spectacle the Government's position is. Ministers refuse to regulate the crooked advisers, to stop their rackets and to end the burden that those advisers place on the Home Office, but the Bill imposes a new burden of regulation on decent, hard-working small business people and the threat of criminal sanctions.

No wonder so many people have doubted the motives behind the Bill. After all, it was introduced less than three years after the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993. On that occasion, Ministers not only predicted that applications would rise—that was one of their reasons for introducing that measure—but promised that the Act would cut delays to three months and increase efficiency. As the Secretary of State has just admitted and as we predicted, far from increasing efficiency and cutting delays, the Act has increased delays and decreased efficiency.

Although Ministers have always been coy about their motives, we have never had to look far for a motive, not least as the present Conservative candidate for South Cambridgeshire let the cat out of the bag in his notorious article in The Observer last September. We know that Conservatives wish to keep their motives quiet. They may be ungrateful to Mr. Andrew Lansley. On this occasion, Labour Members are grateful to him and we shall continue to repeat what he said in that article, because nothing has more graphically illustrated the real motives behind the Bill. He said: Immigration, an issue which we raised successfully in 1992 and again in the 1994 Euro-elections campaign. played particularly well in the tabloids and has more potential to hurt. Few measures have received such excoriation as the Bill from people who, whatever their wider political beliefs, care about justice and decent race relations in this country. For example, The Economist said that by promoting anti-immigrant policies the government risks encouraging racism and undermining liberty. It deserves contempt, not votes, for proposing this nasty little bill. Most damning of all, however, has been the condemnation of Mr. John Taylor, the Conservative candidate for Cheltenham, who last week complained that his party was pandering to xenophobic voters with promises of crack-downs on immigration". That is the truth about the Bill, which is gratuitously harmful to race relations and much of which is unworkable. We shall oppose it in the Lobby tonight.

6.38 pm
Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

I have followed the Bill since its Second Reading some months ago. I accept entirely my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State's emphasis of the need for the Bill. He has given hon. Members figures for 1995, which show what a problem bogus asylum seekers present to the Home Office and to its machinery.

During the Bill's consideration, I had a constituency case that underlined just what the problem is. An Albanian wanted to stay here. When all the processes of applying for legitimate permission to stay had been exhausted, what did he do? He applied for political asylum. The application was entirely bogus; he knew that, as did those who had advised him to submit it. Although the application has now been withdrawn, the case underlines the reasons for which my right hon. and learned Friend felt it necessary to introduce the Bill.

I remain concerned about clause 8, however. The burden on small businesses could indeed be difficult for them to bear: that is one point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). Since the Committee stage, further possible problems have been brought to my attention. It has been suggested, for instance, that people running a country pub who wanted to take on staff at short notice might have to make a 20-mile round trip in order to obtain photocopies of relevant documents. Moreover, a publican who employed someone who turned out to be an illegal immigrant could subsequently be prosecuted and receive a criminal conviction under the Bill. He could lose not just his good name, but his livelihood and his home. That should have been taken into account in Committee.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State, whose replies in Committee and on Report were always good humoured, courteous and careful. I believe that we need the Bill: as my right hon. and learned Friend has said, we need measures to surmount the huge problem of bogus asylum seekers. I for one will have no difficulty in supporting it.

6.41 pm
Mr. Alton

I gladly associate myself with what the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) said about the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State, who always dealt courteously with matters raised by hon. Members of all parties in Committee. I do not agree with him about the Bill, however. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) was right to remind us of what that dispassionate commentator The Economist said about this "nasty Bill" in December. It was The Times that said: Britain is anything but a 'soft touch' for would-be refugees…the way to cut these costs is not to pauperise innocent refugees, and their children, along with illegal immigrants; it is to speed up Britain's sluggish asylum procedures. That is the one thing that the Committee stage failed to achieve. We are doing nothing to speed up the procedures, but we are introducing more punitive, penalising measures against immigrants and asylum seekers.

The adversarial tone was set on Second Reading. On 11 December, by 314 votes to 287, we refused to set up a Special Standing Committee. Calls for such a Committee, which would have led to a more informed debate and might have helped to remedy significant flaws in the Bill, were rejected by the Government. That has resulted in inadequate pre-legislative scrutiny, and the problem is increased by the absence of the systematic post-legislative review that should have taken place. Only three years after passing the previous asylum Bill, here we are having to introduce more legislation. In the absence of any procedural rules—which the Committee was promised at the outset—how could hon. Members discharge their responsibilities properly?

This is a thoroughly bad Bill. It sacrifices the rights and freedoms of highly vulnerable individuals to administrative convenience and political expediency. It contravenes many of our obligations under international human rights law. It compromises the already fragile balance between individual freedom and the ever-increasing arbitrary powers of the state, and it encourages racial discrimination and social division. It is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

This is a bad Bill because clauses 1 to 3 make it more difficult for genuine refugees to enter the asylum process, by compromising the fairness and effectiveness of the asylum appeals procedure, including the right to due process. The proposals will erode important safeguards against mistaken refusal of refugee status, and will abandon many more people to the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to which they may be subject in their home countries. It is a thoroughly bad Bill because it creates a designated list, and extends the fast-track appeals. It has serious implications for the right to due process, compromising supposedly independent adjudications by placing certain asylum applicants within a category that prejudices their chances of a fair hearing. That violates one of the key principles of the 1951 United Nations convention on the status of refugees—that each asylum claim should be examined on its merits.

The Bill will almost certainly deter genuine asylum seekers from designated countries from trying to enter the United Kingdom and applying for asylum. Instead, they may decide to remain in hiding in their home countries, facing prosecution, torture and even death. The alternative is to attempt to enter this country illegally, which will simply exacerbate one of the problems that the Government said that they wished to address. Full appeal rights are essential for all those categories of asylum seeker, providing vital safeguards against miscarriages of justice.

This is a bad Bill because it ushers in a new era of internal immigration controls. Clauses 4 to 8 mark a dangerous intensification of such controls, without establishing corresponding safeguards against the potential for abuses of public power that those controls will foster. It is a bad Bill because it sours race relations, and erects a sophisticated system of snooping and snitching in the workplace. As well as increasing race discrimination in employment, the Bill threatens to turn all employers into yet another arm of the state, involving them in the policing of fellow members of the community and undermining the delicate balance between the freedom of the individual and the power of the big state.

This is a bad Bill for parliamentary democracy and public accountability. The Home Secretary had the effrontery to tell the House earlier that there would be parliamentary control over matters such as the designated list, but anyone who knows anything about the negative procedures in the House knows that all that will happen is that a Committee will consider the matter, and that all that the Committee will be able to do is dissent from the decision. That will place no binding power on the Home Secretary, and there will be no debate on the Floor of the House.

We have adopted all the worst features of the systems of other countries such as Germany, without introducing any of the safeguards that apply in those countries. Elected politicians are becoming increasingly irrelevant to our law-making process. One of the most dangerous trends in recent years has been the growth, and the increasing scope, of insufficiently defined delegated powers, which are often arbitrary and not subject to adequate parliamentary scrutiny. There are three glaring examples of that in the Bill. Clause 1 leaves membership of the white list to the discretion of the Home Secretary, who is empowered to designate whatever countries he likes as posing no general or serious risk of persecution. Clause 8 empowers him arbitrarily to add to the categories of people who may not be specifically prohibited from working. Clauses 9 and 10 empower him to withdraw entitlement to housing assistance and child benefit from unspecified categories of immigrant with the wave of an executive wand.

The Bill is an arbitrary and—in places—deliberately unintelligible and inaccessible piece of legislation. It gives one Minister far too much power. The Bill and the new social security regulations are symptomatic of the inherent dangers of written rules from above. We can never hope for a fair and just asylum and immigration policy until we address the fundamental flaws of a system of government in which basic human rights are not deemed worthy of special protection in law; in which power is concentrated in the hands of the Executive; in which Parliament has become little more than a sideshow; in which checks and balances against the abuse of public power are entirely dependent on the good will of the ruling party of the day; and in which outdated notions of national sovereignty automatically take precedence over our wider obligations to the international community.

Human rights, a love of justice, a willingness to show mercy and a passion for the dispossessed are the hallmarks of a civilised society. They are not the hallmarks of this thoroughly bad Bill. I hope that it will be given a very rough ride in the other place; tonight, we should decline to give it a Third Reading.

6.48 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

The Bill is a deeply obnoxious piece of legislation and yet another nail in the coffin of any reputation that this country has ever had for being a haven for the civil liberties or safety of people fleeing from oppression and danger. It is rooted in xenophobia and the sort of populist jargon that successive Home Secretaries have thought necessary to use at successive Tory party conferences.

The Bill is based on a deliberate misuse of the figures for people seeking asylum. Europe has far fewer asylum seekers than any other continent in the world. This country has the fewest asylum application acceptances per head of population of any country in Europe. The problem is the creation of the Home Secretary and his cohorts in the Daily Mail and other newspapers. The Bill is yet another example of the Tory Government blaming the victim rather than looking at the causes of people seeking asylum. It represents a refusal to look at the destruction of democracy in so many places. Indeed, it involves taking part in a hunt against individuals such as Dr. al-Masari, who will be disgracefully thrown out of this country if the Home Secretary has his way.

We are coming up, by the way, to the first anniversary of the incarceration of Ademole Onibiyo in Campshill detention centre. He is there because he is unwilling to join his father—who has been missing for more than four months—in Nigeria for an unknown fate. So much for the Government's concern for the safety of individuals—either while they are in this country or when they are evicted.

The Bill makes employers into agents of the Home Office, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) pointed out. It denies housing rights to people who seek asylum. In fact, it will create a new underclass of people, who will be forced to live on charity, handouts and begging. Total deprivation beckons such people as a result of the combination of the Bill and the Social Security (Persons from Abroad) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 1995 that go with it.

The Home Secretary has misjudged the opposition to the Bill—not only in the House, but outside. I have never known a piece of immigration legislation to generate such opposition. That opposition will be apparent on Saturday when—I hope—thousands of people will demonstrate against the Bill by marching through London to a rally in Trafalgar square. That will show that there are people in this country who care about asylum, refugees and human rights—something in which the Home Secretary clearly has no interest whatever.

6.51 pm
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Ever since the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, debates on immigration have been code for a debate on race. This Bill is no different. Ministers expressed concern in Committee about the millions of refugees criss-crossing the globe. If the Government are seriously concerned about the refugee problem, they ought to look to their own policies on economic relations with the third world, their policies that quietly prop up military regimes such as that in Nigeria, and above all, their policies relating to arms sales. Those policies are at the root of the refugee problem in 1996.

One of the most unpleasant aspects of the Bill has been Conservative Members' recurrent use of the term "bogus refugees", which tends to stigmatise and criminalise all refugees. The truth is that most refugees genuinely believe that they have something to flee—even if it is the threat of starvation. The majority of refugees are no more bogus than the Home Secretary's parents were when they came here so many years ago. We might wish that this country offered the same mercy to refugees fleeing their home countries in 1996 as it did to his parents.

The Bill is a misconceived attempt to catch a very small minority of people who might be abusing the regime. It is unfair, unjust and—probably—unworkable. I have found that the more that ordinary people—black and white—know about the Bill, the more they are opposed to it. Opposition Members look to the other place to improve further the Bill and make it more just. My hon. Friends and I will be proud to vote against it.

6.53 pm
Mr. Madden

The Bill will inevitably stir racial tension and incite racial hatred, which is why my hon. Friends and I claim that it represents the playing of the race card by the Conservative Government. It is an effort to deter people from seeking asylum in this country—even those who bear the scars of torture. It will make the lives of those who seek asylum so intolerable that they will be coerced into leaving the country.

We all know that if the Government really wanted to deal fairly and justly with those who seek asylum, they would agree that we need people and resources to ensure that claims are examined properly and quickly, and adjudicators and accommodation, so that appeals can be heard promptly and fairly.

The Bill is flawed, nasty, bad and unnecessary. I trust that the House will deny it a Third Reading on those grounds, which the Opposition have contested throughout its stages. I hope very much that if it reaches the statute book, the next Labour Government will repeal it and replace it with fair and effective measures that accord with natural justice.

6.55 pm
Miss Widdecombe

I shall not be long in answering the debate. I do not need to be because not one argument advanced by Opposition Members provides any good reason for opposing the Bill.

In quoting the much-maligned and much-misquoted Andrew Lansley, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said that the Bill was designed to hurt. It is and it will. It will hurt the bogus claimant who clogs up the system and makes life difficult for the genuine claimant. It will hurt the racketeer who lives off those who are vulnerable and too easily exploited. It will hurt the exploitative employer who makes a living by undercutting and exploiting people to the detriment of the genuine employer. It will hurt those who have imposed on the British taxpayer needlessly, fraudulently, frivolously, maliciously and unfoundedly.

The Bill will also hurt the Opposition, because it exposes their real attitude towards fair immigration measures. The Opposition opposed immigration measures solidly in 1981, 1988 and 1993, and they are opposing the Bill because they cannot bear firm and fair immigration measures that underpin good race relations in this country. The Bill is firm and fair. It is to the detriment of the bogus claimant—and it should be—but to the great benefit of the genuine asylum seeker. I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 280, Noes 250.

Division No. 60] [18.56 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Body, Sir Richard
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Booth, Hartley
Alexander, Richard Boswell, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Amess, David Bowden, Sir Andrew
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Bowis, John
Arbuthnot, James Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Brandreth, Gyles
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Brazier, Julian
Ashby, David Bright, Sir Graham
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Browning, Mrs Angela
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Budgen, Nicholas
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Burt, Alistair
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Butterfill, John
Baldry, Tony Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Carrington, Matthew
Bates, Michael Carttiss, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Cash, William
Bendall, Vivian Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Beresford, Sir Paul Chapman, Sir Sydney
Biffen, Rt Hon John Churchill, Mr
Clappison, James Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Horam, John
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Colvin, Michael Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Congdon, David Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Conway, Derek Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunter, Andrew
Couchman, James Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cran, James Jack, Michael
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Day, Stephen Jenkin, Bernard
Deva, Nirj Joseph Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Devlin, Tim Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dover, Den Key, Robert
Duncan, Alan King, Rt Hon Tom
Duncan-Smith, Iain Kirkhope, Timothy
Dunn, Bob Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Durant, Sir Anthony Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Knox, Sir David
Elletson, Harold Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Legg, Barry
Evennett, David Leigh, Edward
Faber, David Lidington, David
Fabricant, Michael Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lord, Michael
Fishburn, Dudley Luff, Peter
Forman, Nigel Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Forth, Eric MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman MacKay, Andrew
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Madel, Sir David
French, Douglas Maitland, Lady Olga
Fry, Sir Peter Major, Rt Hon John
Gale, Roger Malone, Gerald
Gallie, Phil Mans, Keith
Gardiner, Sir George Marland, Paul
Garnier, Edward Marlow, Tony
Gill, Christopher Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gillan, Cheryl Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mates, Michael
Gorst, Sir John Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Merchant, Piers
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mills, Iain
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grylls, Sir Michael Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Moate, Sir Roger
Hague, Rt Hon William Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Needham, Rt Hon Richard
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Nelson, Anthony
Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Sir Michael
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hannam, Sir John Nicholls, Patrick
Harris, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Haselhurst, Sir Alan Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hawkins, Nick Oppenheim, Phillip
Hawksley, Warren Ottaway, Richard
Hayes, Jerry Page, Richard
Heald, Oliver Patnick, Sir Irvine
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Patten, Rt Hon John
Hendry, Charles Pawsey, James
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence Pickles, Eric
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Sumberg, David
Porter, David (Waveney) Sweeney, Walter
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Sykes, John
Powell, William (Corby) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Rathbone, Tim Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Redwood, Rt Hon John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Temple-Morris, Peter
Richards, Rod Thomason, Roy
Riddick, Graham Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Robathan, Andrew Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Thurnham, Peter
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Tracey, Richard
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Tredinnick, David
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Trend, Michael
Sackville, Tom Twinn, Dr Ian
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Viggers, Peter
Shaw, David (Dover) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Walden, George
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford) Ward, John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sims, Roger Waterson, Nigel
Skeet, Sir Trevor Wells, Bowen
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Whitney, Ray
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Whittingdale, John
Spencer, Sir Derek Widdecombe, Ann
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs) Wilkinson, John
Spink, Dr Robert Willetts, David
Spring, Richard Wilshire, David
Sproat, Iain Wolfson, Mark
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Wood, Timothy
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Yeo, Tim
Steen, Anthony Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Stephen, Michael
Stem, Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Stewart, Allan Mr. Simon Burns and
Streeter, Gary Mr. Patrick McLoughlin.
Abbott, Ms Diane Campbell-Savours, D N
Adams, Mrs Irene Canavan, Dennis
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cann, Jamie
Allen, Graham Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)
Alton, David Chidgey, David
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Chisholm, Malcolm
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Church, Judith
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Clapham, Michael
Ashton, Joe Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Austin-Walker, John Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Clelland, David
Barnes, Harry Coffey, Ann
Barron, Kevin Cohen, Harry
Battle, John Connarty, Michael
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Beith, Rt Hon A J Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Corbett, Robin
Bennett, Andrew F Corbyn, Jeremy
Bermingham, Gerald Corston, Jean
Betts, Clive Cousins, Jim
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Cox, Tom
Blunkett, David Cummings, John
Boateng, Paul Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bray, Dr Jeremy Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Cunningham, Roseanna
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Dafis, Cynog
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Dalyell, Tarn
Burden, Richard Darling, Alistair
Byers, Stephen Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Caborn, Richard Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth)
Callaghan, Jim Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Denham, John Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Dewar, Donald Janner, Greville
Dixon, Don Jones, Barry (Alyn & D'side)
Dobson, Frank Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Donohoe, Brian H Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dowd, Jim Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Eagle, Ms Angela Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Eastham, Ken Jowell, Tessa
Evans, John (St Helens N) Keen, Alan
Fatchett, Derek Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S)
Faulds, Andrew Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Khabra, Piara S
Flynn, Paul Kilfoyle, Peter
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Foster, Don (Bath) Litherland, Robert
Foulkes, George Livingstone, Ken
Fyfe, Maria Lloyd, Tony (Siretford)
Galbraith, Sam Llwyd, Elfyn
Galloway, George Loyden, Eddie
Gapes, Mike Lynne, Ms Liz
Garrett, John McAllion, John
George, Bruce McAvoy, Thomas
Gerrard, Neil Macdonald, Calum
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Madden, Max
Godman, Dr Norman A McFall, John
Godsiff, Roger McKelvey, William
Golding, Mrs Llin McLeish, Henry
Gordon, Mildred Maclennan, Robert
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) McMaster, Gordon
Grocott, Bruce McNamara, Kevin
Gunnell, John MacShane, Denis
Hain, Peter McWilliam, John
Hall, Mike Maddock, Diana
Hanson, David Mahon, Alice
Hardy, Peter Mandelson, Peter
Harvey, Nick Marek, Dr John
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Henderson, Doug Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Heppell, John Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Martlew, Eric
Hinchliffe, David Maxton, John
Hodge, Margaret Meacher, Michael
Hoey, Kate Meale, Alan
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Michael, Alun
Home Robertson, John Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hoon, Geoffrey Milburn, Alan
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Miller, Andrew
Howells, Dr Kim (Pontypridd) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hoyle, Doug Morgan, Rhodri
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Morley, Elliot
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mowlam, Marjorie
Hutton, John Mudie, George
Illsley, Eric Mullin, Chris
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Murphy, Paul
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Snape, Peter
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Soley, Clive
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Spearing, Nigel
Olner, Bill Spellar, John
O'Neill, Martin Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Steinberg, Gerry
Parry, Robert Stevenson, George
Pearson, Ian Stott, Roger
Pike, Peter L Strang, Dr. Gavin
Pope, Greg Straw, Jack
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Suteliffe, Gerry
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Timms, Stephen
Primarolo, Dawn Tipping, Paddy
Purchase, Ken Touhig, Don
Randall, Stuart Trickett, Jon
Raynsford, Nick Turner, Dennis
Reid, Dr John Tyler, Paul
Rendel, David Vaz, Keith
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Walker, Rt Hon Sr Harold
Roche, Mrs Barbara Walley, Joan
Rogers, Allan Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Rooker, Jeff Wareing, Robert N
Rooney, Terry Watson, Mike
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Welsh, Andrew
Rowlands, Ted Wicks, Malcolm
Ruddock, Joan Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Salmond, Alex Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Sedgemore, Brian Wilson, Brian
Sheerman, Barry Winnick, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wise, Audrey
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wray, Jimmy
Short, Clare Wright, Dr Tony
Simpson, Alan Young, David (Bolton SE)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Tellers for the Noes:
Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Mr. Joe Benton and
Smith, Liew (Blaenau Gwent) Mrs. Bridget Prentice.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.