I have received numerous representations on a wide range of asylum and immigration issues. My right hon. and learned Friend announced to the House on 20 November the further measures that he proposes to take to tackle the problems caused by unfounded asylum claims and illegal immigration.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, by speeding up the handling of applications by genuine asylum seekers, we shall improve the position for those who are in real need and reduce the social security budget? Will my hon. Friend hammer the nail home once and for all and stress that that will improve race relations? The vast majority of bogus asylum seekers are now Europeans from the eastern bloc.
My hon. Friend is right on every count. Nothing in our Bill is intended in any way to disadvantage the genuine asylum seeker. Britain has a proud record of looking after those in need of a place of safety, and we shall continue to maintain that record.
The Opposition have consistently accused us of introducing a racist measure. That sits ill with what was said by their spokesman, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz). Before Opposition Members accuse us of racism, perhaps they will apologise for their spokesman.
Did my hon. Friend read the story, earlier this week, of a man from Zaire on benefit who defrauded the British people of £1 million while awaiting a decision on his application for asylum? Does that not make our right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary's action on asylum applications and illegal immigration very welcome? Would not any political party that failed to support such measures—Labour, Liberal or Monster Raving Loony—be absolutely barmy?
That is perfectly true. Moreover, only the Conservative party is prepared to tackle the problem. Indeed, the Opposition have not made up their minds whether to acknowledge that there is a serious problem. They say that, even if there is a problem, we should not get round to tackling it. It is true that our asylum procedures are heavily abused. It is also true that our social security system acts as a magnet for the unworthy, as does the ease with which people can work illegally in this country. We shall support British taxpayers, no matter what their ethnic origin. We shall ensure that those who are here lawfully are not taken for a ride by those who abuse our system.
I welcome the assurance given by the Home Secretary last week that Nigeria is not now being considered for inclusion on the white list. Will the Minister now put the minds of many people at rest by giving a similar assurance in respect of Sri Lanka, where many thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in recent weeks because of the civil war?
We have made it very clear that, at an early stage of consideration of the Bill, we shall give an indication of our thinking on which countries should be designated. I am not willing to anticipate that announcement, and the hon. Gentleman must possess himself in patience.