Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, yesterday led the attack in Parliament over the Government?s mismanagement of the asylum system. He criticised the Government for abandoning measures he had introduced which had halved the number of asylum seekers; presiding for five years over a benefits regime for asylum seekers which they now admit has helped double the number asylum applications; yet by handing over power to unelected judges made it impossible for Parliament to re-establish a sensible benefits policy.
Peter Lilley said after the debate:
“I secured the debate to expose the government?s failure properly to reform the provision of benefits for asylum seekers. Following my exchange with the Prime Minister on this issue last month, he pledged to halve the number of asylum applications by September. A High Court decision last week ruled that the government?s belated measures, which removed benefits from those who claim asylum after they arrive in the country, fell foul of the government?s own Human Rights Act ? casting new doubt on its ability to achieve the Prime Minister?s target.
“In 1996 I removed the right to benefits for all asylum seekers who entered this country on false pretences. As a result the number of such claimants fell from 30000 in 1995 to under 16000 in 1997.
“The Labour government vilified the changes I had made and restored the right to benefits. Over the last five years the numbers have soared to a record level last year.
“Now the Labour government has effectively admitted that it has been wrong for over five years and is trying to revert to the position I had established. Unfortunately it has since made that almost impossible because its misguided Human Rights Act has effectively handed over power to the judges to overrule Parliament ? which they did last week!
“The only way out is a regime change! We need to adopt the Conservative proposals put forward by Oliver Letwin to scrap the present Asylum system by renegotiating or withdrawing from the international conventions, which give asylum claimants endless opportunities for stringing out their claims. Instead we should accept a limited quota of refugees ? far below the present numbers of people who currently claim asylum.
“In the meantime, I shall call the government to account each time it says it is tightening up but actually undermines our immigration controls. I will watch with interest to see whether it fiddles the figures to meet its target of halving asylum applications by September.?