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Mrs. Roche: I thank the right hon. Lady for her courtesy in giving way. I sought to make an early intervention because she is eminently predictable; there are no surprises with her. She should not believe all she reads in The Sunday Telegraph. Her party did not speak

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out or vote against the proposal in Committee, so why does she come new to the issue? Clearly she has no idea of what is going on.

Miss Widdecombe: It seems to me that the hon. Lady can tell us what is going on. Is there such a bond or not? If there is, will not it deter the genuine and make it terribly easy for those who are prepared to find the funds to get round our system?

Mrs. Roche: I am happy to help the right hon. Lady with her research. The proposal was debated in Committee.

Miss Widdecombe: Yes.

Mrs. Roche: The right hon. Lady says yes, but clearly does not know that. The proposal was debated extensively and the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) spoke on it. A consultation document was issued, inviting responses as to the level of the bond and where it should be applied. It was made clear that representations on visitors are often made from both sides of the House. She clearly thinks that the proposal is new and has completely failed to read the document. I am amazed that she has not done her research properly.

Miss Widdecombe: I want a simple answer. You will have noted, Madam Speaker, that Labour Members love answers and call out, "Answer!" Will she answer? Is there such a bond?

Mrs. Roche: Let me try, for the third time, to make the right hon. Lady understand. [Hon. Members: "Answer!"] I am happy to answer. When we discussed the Bill in Committee--[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. Let us hear the answer.

Mrs. Roche: I shall speak slowly for the right hon. Lady. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 contains powers for a bond system. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said in Committee that we would issue a consultation document. That has been issued. Some Members of Parliament have received a copy and doubtless responded, but clearly she has not even seen one. We shall introduce a bond scheme and are consulting on it, but it would help if she read the documents.

Miss Widdecombe: After all that, I think that we gather that there is a bond--in which case, all my comments stand.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): A moment ago, my right hon. Friend suggested that what might be called the bizarre bonds policy commanded widespread support on the Government Back Benches. Would she care to note for the record that it has incurred the justifiable wrath of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), who might be described as the conscience of the London Labour party? Last Sunday, on BBC On-line, he said that the proposed policy was discriminatory and possibly illegal. That raises the question of whether he has "heavied" the Minister of State.

Miss Widdecombe: That the policy is discriminatory is certainly true in the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

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I suspect that if we had proposed a measure that applied only to certain countries, involving a bond of such magnitude, we would have been denounced as racist. We would have been told that we were playing the race card.

What we did was implement tough solutions that worked. We now propose further tough solutions, which will clear up the mess that the Government have made of the very good position that they inherited. There must be an end to amnesties that only encourage more people to present bogus asylum applications in the hope of benefiting from the next. We propose the automatic detention and fast-tracking of asylum applicants from safe countries, and those who arrive without papers. The genuine refugee will have nothing to fear; our plans are aimed at the bogus applicants and economic migrants who constitute the vast majority of those who apply.

Currently, 71,000 applications for asylum are being made each year. The latest refusal rates are nearly 80 per cent., which means that tens of thousands of applicants have no right to be in this country, because they are not found to be genuine refugees. However, the Home Office's own figures show that only about 3,000 are being removed, and a similar number are leaving of their own volition. The Home Office admits that many of the remainder simply abscond and disappear.

We therefore propose the establishment of a new removals agency with tough targets and a remit to trace, detain and remove those whose claims the judicial processes have duly rejected. The number of failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants who simply disappear is too high.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): Does my right hon. Friend agree that such an agency will need the support of local police forces if it is to detect and detain illegal immigrants? What does she think of Home Office policy that has led to plans for the removal of 250 police officers from the Staffordshire force over the next three years? Even at its present level, the force is unable to detain illegal immigrants.

Miss Widdecombe: That is why it may be necessary to extend powers of tracing beyond the police.

It is undeniable, as the Kent constabulary have found, that the whole business of policing the results of illegal immigration and excessive bogus asylum seeking has put enormous strain on the force at a time when there are fewer police nation wide, police budgets have been slashed, and the police are finding it extremely difficult just to stand still, let alone to perform extra tasks.

Mr. Gwyn Prosser (Dover): Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Miss Widdecombe: No.

We must face the fact that efficient removals are part of the deterrent to those who would play our system. People who want to play the system need to know that if they come here, they are likely to be detained, that their claims will be dealt with expeditiously, and that they will

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then be duly removed. At present, the message is that if they come here and hang on long enough, they will probably benefit from an amnesty.

Mr. Prosser rose--

Dr. Iddon rose--

Miss Widdecombe: I have made it clear that I want to make progress.

Dr. Iddon: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Madam Speaker: Order. The right hon. Lady made her position clear a second ago.

Miss Widdecombe: I must say that being asked to give way on the point on which I wish to make progress strikes me as rather odd.

Dr. Iddon: Will the right hon. Lady give way on the issue of the amnesty?

Miss Widdecombe: On the amnesty, yes.

Dr. Iddon: If the right hon. Lady is so worried about the figures, why did her party allow an amnesty in 1992-93? Moreover, why did her party write off 26,000 asylum applicants? On both counts, why did it fail to tell Parliament?

Miss Widdecombe: The straightforward answer is that we have learned from that mistake and this lot have not. Applications rose following an amnesty. Following tough solutions, they fell, so the first thing that the Government do is to propose an amnesty. It is completely illogical. Our straightforward position is that we have learned from past amnesties and there should be no future ones.

I call on the Government to say whether they agree that there should be no future amnesties. Are they leaping up to say whether there will be any? They are not. Presumably, they do not dare.

Those are just some of the measures that we propose. By contrast, the Government are all talk and no delivery. On asylum and immigration, as on many other issues, they have said one thing and done another. They have lost their grip on the situation and are flirting with desperate measures and gimmicks, rather than taking the necessary tough decisions that are required to sort the situation out.

The Home Secretary and his Ministers are guilty of grave misjudgment, staggering mismanagement and horrendous incompetence. [Laughter.] Laughter greets that. There was rather an embarrassed silence when the Home Secretary explained why he could not even get a relevant amendment on to the Order Paper today.

Therefore, the House and the country should not be surprised when things get worse--as they will--rather than better, under the Government. I commend not only the motion, but the measures that we took and will take. Not only the House, but the country has realised that, under the Government, there is to be nothing except what they are getting: rising asylum applications; failure to control the backlog, which the Government trumpeted as a flagship measure; failure to remove those who are found to have no

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grounds on which to stay; failure to help local authorities that are picking up the bill for the Home Secretary's incompetence; and a general failure throughout the system.

One fact remains. In our last full year in government, asylum applications fell by nearly 40 per cent. They have risen by 130 per cent. under the present Government. If it had gone the other way, the Home Secretary would have taken the credit. Let him not try to pass the blame to his officials, his fax machine, or the immigration service. Let him take responsibility for the mess that he has inflicted on this country.

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