Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:33 pm on 17 December 2003.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett The Secretary of State for the Home Department 1:33, 17 December 2003

Before I move Second Reading, Mr. Speaker, I should be grateful if you forgave me because, in the light of the court judgment that Ian Huntley is guilty of the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, I felt that the House would want to send the families our love and concern. Our hearts go out to them this afternoon. I shall lay a statement before the House and, in conjunction with the Opposition spokesmen, take steps to initiate an investigation into some of the events that took place from 1995 onwards.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I understand that the shadow Home Secretary is ill, and send him our best wishes for Christmas. [Interruption.] There seems to be some demurral among Liberal Democrat Members, but I send good wishes on their behalf—let us be joyous for Christmas. The Bill is part of a jigsaw that includes not only the legislation already on the statute book but the administrative measures that we have been using to improve the operation of our border controls and immigration system. As the House knows, there have been substantial improvements in recent years, but we all accept that many changes are still required, both in legislation and to improve administration. To repeat what I have said when we have debated these issues over the past two and a half years, Ministers are painfully aware of the difficulties of achieving substantial improvement, given the significant rise in the number of people applying for asylum, while at the same time modernising and improving the rest of the immigration and nationality directorate. We often forget that asylum is only a small part of broader immigration and nationality responsibilities. There have been considerable improvements in the non-asylum elements of the service, but there is still a great deal to be done.