Richard Robinson is an Investment Manager, former European Parliamentary candidate and Chairman of Surrey Heath Conservatives.

At the heart of Conservative values is the belief that each individual should have the freedom to support themselves, and to go as far as their own efforts will take them.

When we enable people to do this, we achieve strong communities, a prosperous economy and a thriving United Kingdom.

For me, as a lifelong Conservative, it’s why banning asylum seekers from working and forcing them into welfare dependency is fundamentally un-Conservative.

I am not alone in this view, Conservative voters up and down the country, from the Blue Wall to the Red Wall, support change. In my own constituency of Surrey Heath, MRP polling estimates that 73 per cent of people want to let asylum seekers work.

The Labour government stripped asylum seekers of their right to work in 2002, instantly forcing thousands of people into a position where they had no option but to claim state support.

The Government says it will process most asylum claims within six months. The reality is rather different. The average waiting time for an initial decision on an asylum claim is between one and three years. And the situation is getting worse. Home Office data shows that the number of people waiting for more than a year for an initial decision increased almost 10-fold from 3,588 people in 2010 to 33,016 in 2020.

While cash support is available, it is set at £39.63 per person, per week. That’s just £5.66 a day for essentials such as food, sanitation and clothing.

This ban is a wholly un-Conservative policy. As a party, we believe that the State is a safety net, a hand up not a hand out. We know that work is better than welfare. We want people to ‘get on your bike’ to look for work. And yet for one group we make work illegal. The cruel truth is that in this case we have mandated that some people must live off benefits.

With increasing delays in the asylum system, the bill for housing and supporting people is mounting.

Some level of spending on support will always be necessary. We have, after all, a responsibility to make sure people in our asylum system, most of whom have valid claims for refugee status, do not become destitute and homeless.

But we also have a responsibility to minimise that cost by making the common-sense and hugely popular change to let people seeking asylum work.

The Lift the Ban Coalition, which includes economists, businesses, recruiters and trade unions as well as refugee charities, has calculated that allowing people seeking asylum to work could reduce the burden on the taxpayer by an estimated £181 million a year in increased tax and national insurance contributions, and a reduction in asylum support spending.

The UK is an outlier to Australia, Europe, the US and Canada in preventing people from working. Yet evidence from these countries shows work plays a vital role in helping people integrate better into their communities once they receive their refugee status.

Lifting the ban will allow them to become tax-paying, economically active members of society. Work would give asylum seekers the opportunity to meet and socialise, as well as provide a strong incentive to improve English language skills.

The ban means we leave asylum seekers prey to predators. Unable to work legally, they are tempted to work for below minimum wage in the black economy, or worse, for drug gangs or sex traffickers.

One issue Conservatives are rightly concerned about is the integrity of our borders. The claim is often made that allowing asylum seekers to work is a pull factor that will encourage migrants to choose the United Kingdom over other safe destinations. While fears around the right to work and increased asylum claims feel intuitive, they are in fact wholly unevidenced and discredited.

The Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee says a delay in access to the labour market does long-term damage to integration, and notes that there is no evidence that work rights would be a pull factor to the United Kingdom.

As we move forward from the pandemic we must give everyone the opportunity to succeed and contribute to this country, both economically and socially.

The time to act on this is now. The Nationality and Borders Bill presents an opportunity. Baroness Stroud has put her name to an amendment to the Bill that would give people the right to work. It strikes at the very core of our values as Conservatives and we should do all we can to make this happen.

Giving asylum seekers the right to work would allow them to support themselves financially, to meet their basic needs, lift themselves out of destitution and be afforded a basic level of dignity and autonomy. This is a Conservative policy change that is long overdue.