I thank Alistair Burt and the Minister for allowing me to make a short contribution to the debate. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing it. I agreed with all the substantive points he made, particularly about the need for independence on health care, preferably through the national health service. In the interests of fairness and balance, I would like to pick up on one point that the hon. Gentleman raised at the beginning of his contribution: the huge backlogs in the asylum system were growing in 1997 when Labour came to power; they were not invented by this Government.
The Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre is located about 4 miles from Bedford, so for a number of reasons I have a constituency interest in the subject, to which the hon. Gentleman has already alluded.
In my short speech, I shall focus on the detention of children. Increasing concern has been expressed about that by a number of organisations, including all the children's charities. In 2008, Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, drew attention to the negative impact of lengthy detention on children's well-being, and more recently the Children's Commissioner made some hard-hitting remarks. Last November the Home Affairs Committee said that detention should be short, and a last resort. Public awareness has also been boosted by Juliet Stevenson's "Motherland". I was pleased that, at my instigation, it was performed in Bedford last month to a packed Civic theatre.
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