Home Affairs and Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:13 pm on 23rd May 2005.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 4:13 pm, 23rd May 2005

I shall bring the hon. Gentleman something for which there is a shorter wait.

More than a year ago, we exposed the chaos and shambles that the Government had inflicted on our immigration system. From the Government, first we had denial, then we had cover-up, and then the lid came off the whole show and a Minister had to resign. At long last, the Government are now beginning to respond to the crisis in our immigration system. We welcome some of the measures planned, but the Government's proposals for e-borders will take around five years to set up fully. That will be 12 years after they did away with extra European Union embarkation controls, and this is a time of high national security threat. That is nothing short of irresponsible.

We welcome the 600 extra immigration officers announced by the Prime Minister in his speech in Dover, but let me remind the House that the number of failed asylum seekers had to exceed 200,000 before action was taken. The Government are in a state of perpetual crisis management and, I am afraid, they are still more prone to crisis than to management in this regard.

This week, the Government were trumpeting their success on asylum applications, which they have managed to get down to the level that they inherited from us. That is their success. Of course we welcome the reduction, but at the same time the number of removals has fallen for the past several quarters from 5,000 to fewer than 3,500. There is little chance that the Government will achieve their target of more failed asylum seekers being removed than arriving if that trend continues.

Astonishingly, this Government are still complacent. In the Home Secretary's introduction to his five-year plan, he stated:

"the system that we have . . . works well"— a system that has seen the cavalier disregard of the rules become the norm in the Home Office; a system that has seen immigration triple; a system that has seen the immigration and nationality budget grow from £200 million to nearly £2 billion. I hope that we never experience a system that the Home Secretary thinks is working badly.