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Mr. McNulty: I could cite at length coverage in the Scottish media that talks about tear gas and riot police, as well as armies of police dragging children from their beds and kicking down doors at 4 am. None of those things are a substantial part of what the immigration service does in Scotland or elsewhere. The debate is ever so slightly skewed in the Scottish context. I freely accept that it is my job to make sure that we never reach a stage where people who make applications, whether or not they are successful in obtaining refugee status, languish in the system for four or five years, as that has an impact on integration, the putting down of roots and so on.
Mr. Carmichael: On the Scottish context, will the Minister say why the Government tabled new clause 3 on access to the housing list in Scotland, which is clearly a devolved matter, and why they then withdrew that provision?
Mr. McNulty: I shall cheerfully do so. The new clause was tabled on Report. I thinkpeople far more expert than I will tell me if I am wrongthat was at the behest of the Scottish Executive, not least because there was an assumption that there is a grey area between what is a UK matter and what is devolved in regard to what we are doing in the Bill. Between the tabling of the new clause and our considerations today, there was a court case that rendered the form and the language of the new clause inappropriate.
Mr. Carmichael: I am grateful to the Minister, who is being exceptionally generous at this late stage in the debate. Is he saying that the Scottish Executive asked for new clause 3 to be tabled or to be withdrawn? I did not understand.
Mr. McNulty: I apologise for my lack of clarity. Working with the Scottish Executive, it was determined that the clause needed to be tabled. The Court of Appeal in the case of Morriswe got the final judgment this weekmade a declaration of incompatibility in respect of section 185(4) of the Housing Act 1996, holding that that provision was within the ambit of article 8 of the European convention on human rights and breached article 14, as it discriminated on grounds of nationality, immigration control, settled residence and social welfare.
New clause 3(1)(d) is in the same terms as section 185(4) and, although it does not apply to persons subject to immigration control, but only to other persons from abroadessentially European Economic Area nationalswhich was the point of the new clause, it has the same potential for discriminatory effect. A petition has been filed in the House of Lords seeking leave to appeal. That is the present position. As the new clause was incompatible with section 185(4), it was withdrawn. I shall let the hon. Gentleman know in more detail about its gestation, but it originated from discussion between the Home Office and the Scottish Executive. If the hon.
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Gentleman understands that, he is a better man than me, but that is why the new clause was withdrawn in the end.
Mr. Hollobone : I welcome the Minister's comments on the need to get tough on deporting those whose applications have failed and who are in the country illegally. The other day, I asked his Department a written question: how many people in this country are awaiting deportation owing to failed asylum and immigration applications? The Department's answer was that that information was not available. Is that not the problem? The Government have not got a grip on illegal immigration.
Mr. McNulty: I shall follow your exhortation, Madam Deputy Speaker. Suffice to say that a confrere of the hon. Gentleman made a stupid and ignorant statement in the general election"Which part of 'Send them back' don't you understand, Mr. Blair?" In the context of the Bill and more generally, that shows a profound lack of understanding of the individual. Let me make it clear: it was not the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker); it was the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink).
We need to understand each individual's case, assess their level of documentation and establish that there is agreement with the country that they are going to about whether they can go or not, and that they are who they say they are.
If the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) makes that comment in the context of the five-year plan, regardless of what is in the Bill, with a modicum of satisfaction about the level of removals between 1979 and 1997, I wager him that the figures were not very good then, compared with now. In the context of the Bill and generally, one must understand that these are difficult matters. We have gone from a position where, at best, those who had unfounded claims in the end were being removed at a rate of 200 a month at a time when applications for asylum were pushing 10,000 a month, to a position now where, roughly speakingwe are always about three months behind in these matters1,400 or 1,500 are being removed at a time when new applications are about 2,000 a month. That is huge progress. Prior to that, the position was even worse.
Elements of the Bill will assist us in reaching a stage where there is a robust asylum system that defends the rights of those who secure refugee status, and put us right back where we have always been collectively and across parties. The UK has a proud history, in the main, as regards refugee status.
If the public are to have confidence in immigration policy, we must have a controlled, managed migration system, which we announced in February with the
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introduction of the points system. The quid pro quo for public confidence in a transparent, simplified, managed migration system isthis goes to the heart of the Billa proper regime, which includes employers taking responsibility for dealing with illegal working. The two elements that I have mentioned are reflected in the Bill, outlined in the five-year plan and the strategy document, and go to the heart of a progressive system.
As I have said, provisions were added to the Bill after the cross-party deliberations in July. They concern denying asylum to terrorists, extending the power to strip citizenship from those who act in ways contrary to the UK's interest and speeding up the appeals process in national security deportation cases. I agree with those who suggest that it would nice if the other place were to have a detailed discussion on that point, reflecting our discussion in Committee rather than today's truncated debate. Those elements, too, form a measured and proportionate response to the real threat that we face. Some hon. Membershappily a minoritythink that the threat is not significant. The measures are aimed at people who threaten the UK's national security and engage in unacceptable behaviour that creates a climate in which extremism can take root.
As I said in Committee, I do not believe that the measures will impact on large numbers of people in practice. As ever, some hon. Membersthey were not members of the Committeeseek to take a universal position, assume that every attempt to counter terrorism affects everybody rather than just a small minority, and pollute and distort the argument.
We shall utilise technology where we can in the context of this Bill and beyond, and we are introducing biometrics now rather than later for foreign visa nationals. This country has a chance to introduce a progressive asylum and immigration system rooted in a context in which refugees are welcome. If we need a debate about community cohesionour communities are now third, fourth or fifth generationwe can have it, because the Bill and the strategy that surrounds it will hopefully lance the Powellite poison and Mickey Mouse Alf Garnett impressions that have characterised discussions about asylum and immigration thus far. That way lies madness, so I am pleased that this Bill gets us to a place where we have a progressive asylum and immigration policy.
I thank the official Opposition Front Benchers for their constructive contributions. I will not thank the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael), who chickened out and worked on another Bill rather than joining us. Liberal Democrat Front Benchers made some productive contributions, but not a whole lotI might add that those contributions were always at length, too. I thank the Whip, who did an expert job, and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham). I also thank the army, nay legion, of lawyers, policy officials and Home Office people who have helped us make what on the face of it looks like a small contribution to asylum and immigration policy in this country. In the wider context of the five-year plan and the strategy, however, the Bill has a significance way beyond its actual provisions.
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