HL Deb 27 October 2003 vol 654 c12WA
Lord Haskel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to reform the asylum system. [HL5142]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

We have today announced new legislative proposals for asylum reform. We are writing to a number of key stakeholders outlining these proposals and inviting comments. Copies of this letter will be placed in the Library and on the IND and DCA websites. The major proposals include: reform of the immigration and asylum appeals system into a single tier of appeal with restricted access to the higher courts; measures to tackle the problem of asylum seekers deliberately destroying or disposing of their documents to make unfounded claims; provisions removing NASS support from families whose claim for asylum has been rejected and enhancing the effectiveness of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 has enabled us to make significant progress in reforming the UK's nationality, immigration and asylum systems. In the asylum system this has meant that the number of people claiming asylum has halved, removals are at record levels and the number of claims awaiting an initial decision is at the lowest for a decade. The Government determined that there should be a balanced approach in asylum and immigration policy so that we bear down on those who would seek to enter the UK illegally and who make unfounded asylum claims, while ensuring effective help for refugees who need our protection. Our policy on asylum has to be seen in the wider context of managed migration, through which we are opening up routes for people to enter the UK legally. That is why we are committed to continue reform, as necessary, of the asylum system to ensure that those in need of protection are identified quickly and those who try to exploit the system are prevented from doing so.

We believe that these reforms should be in place as a matter of urgency and will introduce legislation to enact the measures as soon as parliamentary time allows. We are therefore urgently seeking comments from interested parties on the proposals. We would welcome views on the proposals by 17 November.