Clause 17

Part of UK Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 13th March 2007.

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Photo of Joan Ryan Joan Ryan Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:45 pm, 13th March 2007

I accept that the hon. Gentleman does not view the process as never ending. However, support  until removal would make a significant change to asylum policy, would have a significant financial impact and would still be a significant pull factor, as point of removal is not determined. The difficulty that I have outlined certainly still applies.

We have talked about some of the solutions—the administrative solutions and the strengthening of our borders. Another key point to bear in mind is how we work in the European Union with our partners; that is also helping us to reduce the number of illegal entrants and, therefore, asylum seekers.

I do not think that it is simply a matter of there being less pressure; circumstances around the world change, but colleagues from Spain and Italy talk about the pressure and illegal immigration problems that they are experiencing on the southern maritime border. We are working with them in Frontex, the European Union border agency, to try to deal with such asylum seeking—not least because large numbers of people at sea in boats are at terrible risk, and some lose their lives. That kind of co-operation is also extremely important.

Across the piece, we have taken clear and determined action to deal with illegal entry and the level of unfounded asylum seeker application. The hon. Member for Rochdale will know that applications are at their lowest level since the early to mid-1990s. Those measures are having an impact and are the ones that we need to pursue to continue to deal with the situation.

I turn to health care, which is an important part of the hon. Gentleman’s new clause. The new clause would change the current entitlement to health care for those who have been unsuccessful in their asylum claims. As announced in our recently published enforcement strategy, we intend to shut down inappropriate access to services—those that are privileges intended for those in the UK legitimately. At its simplest, that is an issue of fairness.

On health care, we will review the rules governing access to the national health service for foreign nationals. We will work with the NHS to ensure that the implementation of the new rules flowing from the review is accompanied by a programme of communication and good practice.