Immigration and Asylum Bill — 22 Feb 1999

Order for Second Reading read.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill represents the most fundamental reform of immigration and asylum law for decades. The size of the Bill--nearly 140 clauses with 14 schedules--and the range of its provisions reflect the Government's commitment to delivering the comprehensive and integrated strategy set out in our White Paper last July. Within a modern framework of law, the aim--to quote the title of the White Paper--is to make the system fairer, faster and firmer. We want a fairer system that reflects our commitment to race equality and human rights; we want a faster system that is able to deal quickly with all applicants, whether visiting this country or seeking to remain here longer; and we want a firmer system, with strong controls at ports and effective enforcement against those not entitled to stay. This Bill is vital in helping to deliver those objectives.

The Bill is also essential in helping to deal with the increasing number of asylum seekers. We are not alone in facing such pressures: other European countries have faced similar increases. Indeed, when relative population is taken into account, 10 other European countries receive more applicants than we do. We will continue to protect genuine refugees, but we will deal firmly with those who seek to exploit the system.

Part 1 contains important provisions to make the operation of immigration controls more flexible and effective. For example, the Bill will enable a visa itself to confer leave to enter so as to streamline procedures at ports. The Secretary of State, as well as immigration officers, will be able to grant or refuse leave to enter and so minimise duplication of effort in handling certain types of casework. The current power to charge for settlement applications is widened to other after-entry applications and the powers of the immigration service to require passenger information are strengthened to enable better targeting of resources and improved inter-agency co-operation. However, those provisions will not change the fundamental basis on which our immigration control operates. All arriving passengers will continue to be seen by immigration staff and may be refused entry if they do not qualify.

Enforcement must be backed by the criminal law, so this part of the Bill extends the scope of the existing offences of obtaining leave to enter or remain by deception and increases the maximum term of imprisonment from six months to two years. However, as the House knows, the Government are as committed to stamping out racial discrimination as we are to ensuring a firm immigration control. Clause 13 re-emphasizes to employers their duty to avoid racial discrimination in their

22 Feb 1999 : Column 38

recruitment practices when seeking to secure the statutory defence under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996. It places on me a statutory duty to issue a code of practice aimed at ensuring that employers do not breach the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976.

I beg to move, To leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

"this House, whilst underlining Britain's commitment to genuine refugees but recognising the need to prevent fraudulent claims for political asylum and the widespread public concern on this issue, declines to give the Immigration and Asylum Bill a Second Reading because, before introducing it, the Government failed to establish an independent inquiry to consider what measures should be taken to combat such illegal immigration and because the Bill fails to create a situation whereby only genuine asylum applicants will be given permission to settle in this country."

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 135, Noes 346.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 133 (+2 tell)083.3%
Independent1 00100.0%
Lab306 (+2 tell) 0073.9%
LDem37 0080.4%
SNP2 0033.3%
UUP0 2020.0%
Total:346 135075.5%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

Sort by: Name | Constituency | Party | Vote

no rebellions

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