§ 16. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
How many persons have been found in possession of forged United Kingdom passports in the last 12 months for which figures are available. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien)
The only comprehensive figures available relate to foreign nationals seeking entry to the United Kingdom who are detected in fraudulent possession of UK passports by the immigration service at our ports or airports. There were 584 such detections between 1 October 1997 and 30 September 1998.
§ Mr. Prentice
I thank the Minister for that reply. What about individuals already in this country who have access to forged UK passports? My hon. Friend must share my concern at the revelations in The Observer a week ago yesterday, which alleged that Mr. Abdullah Azad of the welfare centre in Manchester was making forged passports available to people who walked in through the door. That is appalling. The same article said that Mr. Azad was suggesting to people whose immigration status was in doubt that they should apply for asylum. Is it any wonder that legitimate applicants for asylum status are disconcerted by the fact that persons such as Azad can make the queues grow ever longer by encouraging people bogusly to apply for asylum status, to which they are not entitled?
§ Mr. O'Brien
My hon. Friend makes a good case for regulation of immigration advisers. The Home Affairs Committee recommended such a measure in 1992, as did the Labour party during the passage of Bills introduced by the previous Government. The Conservatives did not do so, but we shall regulate unscrupulous advisers. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Grant) has, for many years, held a list of approved advisers whom he can recommend to his constituents. Other MPs should consider their experience of advisers, and should give clear advice to their constituents about which corrupt or incompetent advisers they should avoid.
§ Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)
Is the Minister aware of other recent press reports, which have detailed plans that the Government may offer an amnesty en masse to illegal immigrants? Will he comment on that, and confirm that, if any such amnesty is offered, it will not include anyone who is found to be in possession of forged documentation?
§ Mr. O'Brien
There will be no amnesty of people who have been refused asylum. The Conservatives left a backlog of cases: tens of thousands of asylum seekers, some of them genuine, had not been given a decision in six, seven, eight or 10 years. It was a shameful dereliction of duty. Now they complain when we are having to clean up their mess. If they had decided cases quickly, the mess would not have been created in the first place. We are 535 determined to restore integrity to our asylum system by tackling bogus applicants. We have taken the tough decision that the Conservatives ducked. They carp, we act. Where they failed, we shall succeed.