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Mr. Llwyd: That is absolutely right. It is understandable that that community support would exist in London, as there are many people in similar situations. Problems are always worse—or at least as bad—in rural areas. We do not talk about rural areas often, but they face problems too. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that is true even of parts of rural Wales.

It will be hard to monitor the denial of access to the higher courts, but I cannot accept that we should legislate for a second-class justice system. One significant cause of delay and inefficiency in the asylum system is flawed decision making. The Home Secretary has admitted that that needs to be improved. That is borne out by the large number of successful appeals.

Plans to remove judicial scrutiny are therefore worrying, and I shall refer briefly to the Law Society's position. It says:

In a letter to The Times last week, Roger Smith, the director of Justice, similarly said:

He went on to say:

Those quotes come from people who know what they are talking about.

The Refugee Council is worried about the package in the Bill and says that several of its provisions breach article 31 of the convention on refugees. It says:

as we know. Most seriously, the implication that children could be taken from their parents and placed in care flies against the aim of the Children Act, under

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which the well-being of a child is, and must be, paramount. The Government propose to reject that principle for young children, who will find themselves in an awful legal limbo, although the situation is nothing to do with them. Experience has shown that the removal of support under section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 has increased destitution and put refugee communities under further pressure, and the provision has resulted in 800 High Court injunctions. The withdrawal of section 20 of the Children Act will undermine the principles of that Act.

The Bill is insidious. If there is a blockage in the asylum system, the problem should be tackled by improving the quality of decision making. We do not need the Bill. Its proposals might look good in the Daily Mail, but it is awful. I shall be proud to vote for the reasoned amendment.

4.57 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words about the Bill. If one comments adversely about the themes and underlying principles of the Government's policy on immigration and asylum, one is often told that that is because one does not understand the problem and how people feel about it, or that one is trying to deny that a problem exists. My constituency probably has more asylum seekers, immigrants and economic migrants than the constituencies of most hon. Members—apart from half a dozen of my hon. Friends—so I am only too aware of the challenges posed by asylum.

My constituency has its fair share of casual bigotry about asylum seekers. I hear all the remarks that my hon. Friends hear, such as, "If I were an asylum seeker, I would get rehoused," or, "These asylum seekers come over here and get everything." I hear bigotry from British constituents who are white and from British constituents who are black. If I hear comments that have substance in fact, I deal with the facts, but if the comments are just casual bigotry, I name them as such. However, I do not come to the House to demand ever more draconian measures. I tell my hon. Friends that they will of course hear casual bigotry because people want to scapegoat asylum seekers for their many dissatisfactions, but Labour Members should be able to do better than colluding with that by coming back to the House to demand ever more draconian enforcement and legislation.

I want to speak about three things: removals, clause 7 and clause 10. There is no doubt that the level of removals is low, but I point out to Conservative Members that the level was even lower under their Government. But what does that prove? Does it prove that successive Conservative Home Secretaries, such as the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), were greater bleeding heart liberals than our own Home Secretary? No, not a bit of it. What it proves is that removals are extremely contentious and that they are difficult to achieve.

Mr. Malins: What it proves is that under the last Conservative Government there were fewer failed

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asylum applications because there were fewer asylum seekers altogether. The number in the last year of the previous Conservative Government was only a third of the number last year, under the Labour Government.

Ms Abbott: It is easy to demand more removals, but tricky to achieve them, not least because when it comes to forced removals one of the organisations that is most reluctant to get involved is the police force. Of course, we must have a more effective system of removals, but we should not fool ourselves that the mass removal of people who may have been settled in this country for a long time is either practical or desirable. We would be dealing with a few small areas where there are quite large groups of people. There would be scenes on our televisions and written about in our newspapers that the British people would not tolerate, whatever the Daily Mail and the Daily Express ran in their leader columns. Let us not be glib about removals. If it were so easy to remove people, the number of removals under the Tories would have been much higher.

On the issues relating to children under clause 7, I have heard the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration say, very reasonably, that reasonable, sensible parents, faced with the prospect that their children would be taken into care, would agree to go back whence they fled. They would do the reasonable and sensible thing, take the plane ticket and go back. She clearly has not done what some of my hon. Friends have been doing for 17 years: she has not sat across a table from people whose asylum or immigration case was going nowhere and told them what they have already heard half a dozen times from lawyers, advisers or social workers. She has not had to try to talk to such people only to see complete disbelief and terror in their eyes.

Reasonable people, people in the Minister's position, take reasonable decisions. Desperate people—those with whom I and some of my colleagues deal week in and week out—take unreasonable and irrational decisions. Tragically, some parents faced with that choice will take the ticket and go home, but many others will find themselves forced underground, or even more vulnerable and marginalised than they were before.

I do not care if most parents take reasonable decisions. If some parents are so frightened of going home to face torture, political persecution and, yes, economic chaos and destitution—something that we in this place cannot really get our heads round—that they are prepared to see their children go into care, that is a situation that no decent Government should bring about. The use of even one child as an instrument to enforce the removal of its parents is one child too many. As a Government, we cannot use the threat of destitution or losing a child as an instrument of asylum policy. There must be better methods than that.

One method would be to increase the efficiency of the system. Year after year, I have said in the Chamber that the biggest incentives for making phoney asylum claims and for working the system are the interminable delays—the dislocation between enforcement and removal. Why do not we get the system working properly? Why do not we cut out the delays caused by the Home Office itself? Why do not we ensure that we

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have an efficient system before we turn to people and say, "Guess what? We're going to use your child as a lever to remove you from this country."

We have heard what the British Association of Social Workers said. Even the Select Committee on Home Affairs said that we should defer the clause until we have some statistics on its likely effects. I cannot believe that the clause will not be challengeable under the Race Relations Act 1976. It will inevitably bear most heavily on children and families with an ethnic minority background. I put it to Ministers before it is too late—just as we tried to appeal to them on the issue of vouchers—that they should think again about a thoughtless and punitive piece of policy which I do not believe will bear scrutiny, and will hold them up to an extremely harsh light. Like so much that has been done under asylum and immigration policy over the past seven years, clause 7 wholly underestimates the desperation of the people with whom we are dealing.

I move on to clause 10. It is with a sense of timidity that I tread into legal matters—so many distinguished barristers are waiting to speak on these matters. The point at issue is the cutting off of a group of people who are currently resident in these islands. The clause will cut them off from proper review and appeal processes. I do not object to one tier of appeal, so long as there is some possibility that where necessary and where appropriate, they can take their case to a higher court.

I shall quote Lord Denning—I cannot do the accent—ex parte Gilmore. In 1957 he said:

I did not say that. It was not said by a member of an extreme left-wing group; as I said, it was Lord Denning. The issue that clause 10 raises goes wider than the issue of asylum—it goes to the heart of the way in which we organise our legal system. If we can get away with removing proper appeals and proper legal redress from asylum seekers, what other group that is not popular with the Daily Mail will we move on tomorrow and the day after? We cannot offer one standard of legal redress to one part of our population and another standard of legal redress to the rest of the population because that particular part of it, this morning, is getting negative leaders in Associated Press newspapers.

We could greatly improve the pure administration of immigration and asylum policy. I support Ministers who have recently begun to talk about the need for a managed system of economic migration. Sadly, this Bill, which is the fifth on asylum and immigration that I have spoken on since 1997, is yet another Bill that is more concerned with appeasing leader writers at the Daily Mail and the Daily Express than with building a coherent, a fair and a non-racist system of asylum.

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