David Blunkett came under concerted fire from Labour MPs yesterday over his planned overhaul of the asylum system, including a proposal to put the children of rejected refugees into care.
The Home Secretary was accused of making youngsters suffer for the actions of their parents and urged to improve the quality of initial decisions on asylum applications.
But in a combative Commons performance he turned on his critics, saying they were avoiding a "sensible" debate and warning the Government faced "the devil's own job" in ejecting fraudulent claimants.
The clashes came during the Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration Bill, which strips benefits from failed claimants who refuse to accept a free flight home, with the result that their children could be handed into care. A series of Labour MPs backed a rebel amendment complaining the legislation "would make children destitute".
Leading the revolt against the "immoral" Bill, Hilton Dawson, the MP for Lancaster and Wyre, told ministers: "You are wrong, you are taking us a step far too far.
"It seems extraordinary to have to say this to a Labour Government but you should never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, whatever the parents have done, whoever they are, wherever they've come from ... remove the basic means of substance from children."
But Mr Blunkett said the immigration service would face no chance of dealing with failed claimants if parents knew they could still receive support because of their children. "Do we simply say if you're a family and you touch British soil you are here forever? We can't do that and have a credible system."
He also highlighted the growing problem of asylum-seekers destroying travel documents en route to Britain.
"Without a country to receive them [because of lack of documentation], we've nowhere to remove them to," he said.
"We can't eject them into outer space."Reuse content