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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I had not intended to say much at this stage, but your Lordships have tempted me; I feel driven and compelled to make a long, interesting and perhaps incisive speech!
Perhaps I may make one or two points. My noble friend Lord Hacking raised two issues; they are both under consideration. I am happy to continue the dialogue and correspondence with him to try to resolve those matters in a way which we both find satisfactory.
I should like to follow the gracious way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, so kindly and generously thanked Ministers and other Members of your Lordships' House for the way they conducted themselves throughout the passage of this Bill. As most noble Lords are aware, I came rather late to this Bill. I am still learning and the learning curve is steep, but I am enjoying the experience. This has been one of those experiences which has been more pressing and demanding than many of the others I have had to confront in the short time that I have been privileged to be at the Dispatch Box.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the courteous way in which she and her colleagues on the opposition Benches--I include in that noble Lords on the Conservative Benches--conducted themselves throughout the different stages of this Bill. We focused on the practical. We have been hard-headed. As Ministers, we tried to answer as precisely as we could the questions and difficult and wicked issues raised from all quarters of the House. I trust that we have done that in the best traditions of your Lordships' House.
Matters of substance were raised when I moved that the Bill do now pass. I can say, particularly to the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Hylton, in relation to the way we see this legislation working, that we inherited, as a government, something of a mess. That is widely accepted and acknowledged. We all know that we need to improve upon the quality of the service. We all accept that resources are an issue. It is for that reason that the Government seek to put in place legislation which is effective, firm and fair, and which will deliver a faster, better and more efficient service. We are committed to that. We have put in place measures which will release an additional £120 million to the IND. We have put in place measures which will speed up the decision-making processes--everyone welcomed that--and we recently recruited 300 additional staff and plan to recruit 250 more.
That is a fair indication of our commitment as a government to getting the immigration, nationality and asylum services on a firm, effective and efficient footing. We believe that this legislation will lead us in that general direction. We have put the resources in place to do it. We look forward to enjoying support from all quarters in making the new system work much better than that which went before. It is in no one's interest that we have a system that does not work; one that is ineffective, full of delay, chaos and inefficiency. Our staff have worked tirelessly to improve the situation and for that we must all be grateful.
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