HC Deb 25 June 1996 vol 280 cc146-7
11. Mr. Purchase

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the number of children under 16 years old living in families seeking asylum who will not qualify for child benefit under the new regulations this year. [32982]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Andrew Mitchell)

Our changes propose that those people whose entry to the United Kingdom is on condition that they will have no recourse to public funds should not be entitled to child benefit. Original estimates suggested that about 12,000 families containing 20,000 children could be disentitled. However, the number of asylum applications was down by 5 per cent in March, about 25 per cent. in April and nearly 50 per cent. in May, so the actual number affected is likely to be lower.

Mr. Purchase

Is the Minister aware that many hon. Members on both sides of the House have been involved with refugee families and seen the tremendous strain and financial problems that those families encounter in those circumstances? After his humiliation in the courts last Friday, is it now public policy for the Minister and his party to visit the misfortunes of mums and dads on their innocent children?

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman should have a word with his Front Benchers. The Labour party wants to give child benefit to the families of bogus asylum seekers while taking it away from the families of hard-working 16, 17 and 18-year-olds in Britain. What sort of political party advocates ladling out taxpayers' money to those fraudulently seeking asylum while, at the same time, wanting to take it away from the families of British citizens with children at school working on their A-levels? The Government are opposed to giving away taxpayers' money to bogus asylum seekers.

Mr. Marlow

Who will pay the housing benefit for those bogus asylum seekers who are so generously allocated council housing by the politically naive judiciary ahead of those who have been on the waiting list for many months?

Mr. Mitchell

My hon. Friend is right to make that point. Last year, 95 per cent. of asylum claims were bogus. My hon. Friend is entirely right to say that, while certain categories of people are fully eligible for benefits, it is wrong that those who seek to enter this country bogusly should receive them.