Does David Blunkett ever have a moment of self-doubt? Does he ever
wake up at 4am wondering whether the draconian measures proposed in
his asylum bill are either necessary or justified?
If he does he certainly gives no hint of it, although his sidekick,
Beverley Hughes, is starting to sound uncomfortable as she
struggles to defend the indefensible.
This government’s plans to remove benefits from rejected
asylum-seeking families and introduce unprecedented restrictions to
their right of appeal are opposed by a broad consensus. This
includes everyone from social workers and children’s charities to
rebel Labour backbenchers and Conservatives (although it is a bit
rich for the Tories to try to claim the moral high ground after
their suggestion to send asylum seekers to “an island far far
Despite the growing outcry, the legislation trundles on and this
week cleared the latest hurdle on its way to the statute book.
Hughes claims her aim is to spare children from “immigration
officers coming in the middle of the night” to take them away. But
she is happy enough to let social workers do her dirty work for
her, removing children from families deliberately made destitute by
the Home Office.
Can it really be a Labour government driving this through? It seems
scarcely credible that it will carry out its threat to have
children taken forcibly into care. Surely the whole thing is going
to backfire and instead of forcing families on to the next plane
back to their country of origin it will merely send them
underground and mean asylum-seeking children will drop out of sight
and become more vulnerable than ever.
How ironic that this distasteful piece of legislation is debated in
the Commons in the same week as the government is due to publish
its new Children’s Bill following on from the Every Child
Matters green paper. Clearly at least one group of children in
our society matters less than all the others. It is to be hoped
that the House of Lords sends the asylum bill back to the Commons
and demands some significant concessions.