PRITI Patel has reenforced the UK Government's commitment to take tougher measures against asylum seekers in her speech to the Conservative party conference.

The Home Secretary said the current system was "fundamentally broken" and she wanted to make it "firm and fair".

It comes after a week of leaks from Whitehall about possible strategies to reduce the number of people trying to claim asylum in the UK.

Included in the suggestions were using Scottish islands to detain people while their claims are being processed - an idea roundly ridiculed and opposed by MPs from all parties, including Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross.

Read more: Douglas Ross rejects plan for asylum centre on Scottish island

It was also suggested that retired ferries and North Sea oil rigs could be used as detention centres, or wave pumps could be installed to 'push' the small boats carrying desperate asylum seekers back into French waters when they try to cross the Channel.

In her speech, Ms Patel promised legislation that would see the "biggest overhaul" of the system in "decades" and said those who were against her plans were "defending the indefensible".

The MP said: "We made the British public a promise that this Conservative Government would end free movement, and we will. "For the first time in decades, the British Government will determine who comes in and out of our country.

"We will welcome people based on the skills they have to offer and the contribution they can make, not where they come from."

She added: "For years people have risked their lives to enter our country illegally like those crossing the Channel in dangerous small boats.

"If the solution to stop this was simple and straightforward, then believe me, this issue would have been resolved by now.

"A fair asylum system should provide safe haven to those fleeing persecution, oppression or tyranny. but, ours doesn’t.

"Because our asylum system is fundamentally broken and we have a responsibility to act."

Read more: Scottish islands firmly "on the table" for Priti Patel's asylum detention centre plans

She said more than 40,000 people were "stuck in this broken system" with claims taking "a year of more" to resolve, costing billions.

She pledged to bring in a "firm and fair" system, which would stop the "abuse" and explained: "Fair by welcoming people through safe and legal routes, firm because we will stop those who come here illegally making endless legal claims to remain in our country at the expense of the British public. "After decades of inaction by successive governments we will address the moral, legal and practical problems with the asylum system."

She said criminal gangs would be 'hunted down' and there would be quicker returns of people who come to the UK illegally.

The Home Secretary also hit out at the Labour party 'peddling false claims that lives will be lost' arguing that many lives were already being lost. 

To her critics, she said: "As for those defending the broken system – the traffickers, the do gooders, the leftie lawyers, the Labour Party – they are defending the indefensible. "If it means being unpopular on Twitter, I will bear it. If it means Tony Blair’s spin doctor mocking my accent so be it."

She said she would "stomach" Labour MPs who try to "silence me because I do not conform to their idea of what an ethnic minority woman should stand for." 

Read more: Home office leaks: Oil rigs, ferries and waves to push asylum boats away among bizarre ideas

In response, Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas Symonds said: "The Tories talk about a broken immigration system, but they have been in power for a decade and are the political party that broke it. 

“Recent experience suggests they have not learned any lessons, with unconscionable proposals about creating waves in the English Channel to push back boats and sending people thousands of miles away to process claims. The Tories are devoid of compassion and competence.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie also hit out at Ms Patel's comments, saying: "There’s no question that the current brutal, racist and inhumane asylum system must be overhauled, but it’s clear that the Home Secretary’s planned changes will only increase the cruelty inflicted on the most vulnerable. 

“To be asked to provide asylum is a privilege, yet in the UK we currently treat those fleeing unimaginable horrors appallingly."