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Asylum Cases (Backlog)

Volume 512: debated on Monday 28 June 2010

10. What recent progress the UK Border Agency has made on processing the backlog of outstanding asylum cases. (4228)

Under the previous Government, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency wrote to the Home Affairs Select Committee periodically to update it on this issue. However, in the interests of transparency, I am happy to update right hon. and hon. Members in the House today. Until the end of May 2010 the UK Border Agency had concluded 277,000 cases.

I thank the Minister for that answer. As he is aware, Yarl’s Wood family detention centre is located outside Bedford. Does he agree that the Government’s determination to end the detention of children for asylum purposes will be most welcome to people as a measure of fairness? It will be regarded as something that is long overdue and that shamefully eluded the previous Government.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, which I regard as important. In a spirit of non-partisanship, I think it is regarded as important on both sides of the House. When we held a Westminster Hall debate on the subject last week, I was struck by the fact that there was universal approval of the new Government’s desire to end the detention of children—although the point was made that it might have been the last time as Minister for Immigration that I ever got universal approval for anything. However, we should welcome such steps forward while we have them.

I sincerely welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box, and I wish him all the best in a very difficult job.

In the light of the Minister’s answer about the backlog, I was pleased to see recognition of the UK Border Agency’s success but will he confirm the reasons behind the answer to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), at column 143W, on 22 June, about the dropping of the language requirement for dependants of people who successfully apply for asylum? What was his rationale?

The rationale, as with all our proposals on language, is that those who wish to come to this country need to be able to play a full role in its life. If as many people as possible who live and settle in this country are able to speak English, they will lead more fulfilled lives and be able to integrate better in our communities. That would be extremely helpful.