Baroness Smith of Basildon (Labour)
My Lords, asylum seekers sometimes wait years for a decision and delays are increasing. As we have heard, that leaves genuine refugees in limbo and makes it harder to send failed cases home. We currently have a shambolic situation whereby 300,000 people are trapped in the immigration asylum backlog, with 90,000 cases being written off so far or given effective amnesty because papers have been lost in some cases. I know the Minister will tell us that the Government are making organisational changes, but can he say something about the specific practical actions that are being taken to deal with the problem? Does he recognise that the dramatic cut in the number of staff at UK Border Agency has contributed to this backlog?
Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)
My Lords, I do not recognise some of the figures the noble Baroness has quoted. My information is that the expenditure on asylum support has gone down, as I said, from £1.2 billion in 2003 to below £300 million now. I accept that there is a problem in dealing with the legacy backlog, but the Question is about asylum seekers’ ability to work. The more we can reduce unfounded asylum claims, the better we can properly determine the genuine applicants and look after them properly.