Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Does the Home Secretary accept that while it is difficult for any modern country to control the flow of immigration and asylum seekers across its borders, it is considerably less difficult for an island such as Great Britain to control entry at a limited number of points of entry than it is for our continental neighbours to control a porous, continuous land border? Is it not therefore always in our interests to retain 100 per cent. entry control at our points of entry instead of trading that in for a one-in-25 say in a futile attempt to make non-porous borders with Ukraine, Turkey and other parts of the continent?

    Mr. Blunkett: But we are doing both. There is nothing at all in what has been agreed that stops us operating our border controls. The difficulty that we faced in the past?as a former Cabinet member the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of this?is that it was not until people reached our soil that our border controls came into effect so, by the time that they did so, they were entitled to claim asylum. By moving our border controls to France, operating pre-embarkation controls, photographing documentation and having liaison officers at airports across the world, we are beginning to be able to screen people before they reach British soil. Of course, it is beneficial to be an island when we can move our security and immigration controls to France and Belgium. Such controls are more essential for us than they are for continental nations that can turn people back at their borders so that they do not set foot on their soil. However, if people arrive here first we have responsibility for removing them, which is the root of the dilemma on asylum that we faced in the past, when being an island was not an advantage, and became a disadvantage. No one has yet invented a free zone in Folkestone that does not count as part of the British nation, although I imagine that some electors there wish that they could.