Clause 17

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:30 pm on 13th March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough 5:30 pm, 13th March 2007

Like other hon. Members, I have a great deal of sympathy with the sincerity of the views articulated by the hon. Members for Rochdale and for Birmingham, Yardley. However, I think that the issue is one of principle, which is why Conservative Members cannot support the amendment.

Despite earlier comments such as those of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere about the skills of certain asylum seekers, as I have tried to explain throughout our consideration of the Bill, the problem is simply that we do not have enough reliable data and information on which to base a decision as to whether to support such a proposal. I think that the principle is very important. In the absence of hard evidence, rather than anecdote, we cannot reward criminality, which is effectively what the new clause would do. It would reward people who may well be seriously involved in criminal activity such as drug dealing, people trafficking and so on. There has to be a finality in the system. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have a fair, transparent, robust and humane system that people are obliged to go through when they seek asylum—when they are in fear for their lives or in fear of torture.

We have all had such cases. I had a case last year, where a man who was born a Muslim and who had converted to Christianity was being returned to Pakistan. That was a heart-rending decision for many people involved. I felt desperately sorry for him. He had exhausted every avenue and, despite the comments and support of the churches in my constituency, he went back. I prayed that he was safe and able to continue in safety.

These are difficult decisions. However, by agreeing this amendment we would entrench a hard core of people who have exhausted our system at great cost to the taxpayer.