If the Home Office had a slogan it would be “do as I say, not as I do”. This phrase perfectly sums up the hypocrisy and incompetence that have plagued the department for years.

Many people are now wise to Tory immigration spin and there is a palpable shift in public attitudes against the Government. But there are still a few who are becoming more extreme and hardened by the Home Secretary’s anti-migrant rhetoric. In recent weeks, we have witnessed appalling scenes outside migrant accommodation, with angry mobs running riot on the streets in England.

There at least seems to be recognition in Downing Street that a volte-face on policy is urgently required. The latest plan by the Home Office to clear the gargantuan backlog of asylum claims has been leaked in the media and I have some very mixed feelings.

The Home Office has identified 12,000 older asylum claims from nationals of countries of which 90% or more of claims are granted – Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The plan is to send a questionnaire to each applicant, possibly removing the need for a formal interview and speeding up the ridiculously slow process.

As a constituency MP, I deal with a huge amount of asylum casework and see the brutal impact that the broken Home Office system has on people – some of whom have experienced unthinkable trauma. They are left waiting for years in poverty and substandard housing, banned from working or engaging in formal education.

Over the years I have noticed a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers coming to my surgeries for whom the endless wait has led to profound mental health issues. If it is possible to speed up the process for some of them, then it must be done.

The Home Office plan does not come without a trademark Tory twist though – one so cruel that it could make even Priti Patel blush.

The questionnaire, which will be provided in English and must be completed in English, is 32 pages long. Failure to return it within 20 working days will allow the Home Office to cancel the asylum application entirely.

I am sick to my stomach of the British Government’s treatment of vulnerable people, and this rank hypocrisy is too much for me to take.

Since last May, I have tabled 137 written questions to the British Government. Of these, 55 have been to ask why I have not received a response from the Home Office to individual constituent cases.

These questions are a blunt instrument with which to publicly shame the Home Secretary into issuing a reply, and are always a last resort for me. My office spends months sending chasing emails and letters to no avail.

The Home Office service standard for responding to Members of Parliament is also 20 working days – a target they rarely meet.

In 2021, the Home Office responded to just 61% of MP correspondence within its own target response time, with things getting worse as the year went on.

In the first quarter, they managed 71%. That fell to 65%, then to 55%. By the end of the year, just 46% of correspondence was being replied to within the 20-working-day standard.

The Government cannot blame pandemic lockdowns on these shameful statistics. If that were the case, we’d have seen a different pattern. We would also have seen the same pattern replicated across many other departments, which was not the case.

Given that 40% of my current written questions are dedicated to pinning the Home Office down on letters, I don’t imagine we’ll see any improvement in the next release of transparency data.

If the Home Office can’t meet its own deadline, how can it be acceptable for them to impose it upon asylum seekers – many of whom will require translation and interpretation services as well as assistance from someone legally qualified to provide it?

Immigration solicitors have been quick to point out the sheer unworkability of this plan. The demand for appointments, language barriers, and the length of time it will take to complete forms will cause chaos.

I can already foresee my own office being hit with a deluge of requests for assistance from some very desperate and worried people.

The Home Office will no doubt blame small boat crossings for these extraordinary measures. The truth is though, this is a mess entirely of their own making.

Chronically under-resourced, the department lacks the professionalism and expertise that were once great strengths.

Boris Johnson’s ‘oven-ready’ Brexit deal only made matters worse.

The UK is no longer bound by the Dublin Regulation, meaning it cannot return asylum seekers to the EU without a replacement returns mechanism being agreed – something the UK refused to do during the withdrawal negotiations.

By the time this column is published, the Home Office may have performed another U-turn. I certainly hope so.

But if the plan to impose a deadline that the Home Office itself cannot meet is implemented, it will only backfire badly on Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman.

I won’t hold my breath, but maybe they’ll learn the hard way that they need to practise what they preach.