LONDON (AP) _ A woman hit the chairman of the ruling Conservative Party with a bag of paint Wednesday to protest the government's plans to restrict immigration and political asylum.

The demonstrator threw the small plastic bag of orange paint at Brian Mawhinney as he was on his way to a news conference after the opening of a new session of Parliament. She and two other protesters were arrested.

Mawhinney, who discarded his paint-sodden jacket and did interviews in his shirt sleeves, said the incident just shows ``the broad mass of the British people will support'' the measures.

The measured form the centerpiece of the government's plans for the last full session before national elections. The 16-bill legislative package, announced by Queen Elizabeth II as she formally opened the parliamentary session, is designed to revive the fortunes of Prime Minister John Major's unpopular Conservative government.

The queen, wearing a crown and long white gown, read the speech to a chamber packed with members of the House of Lords clad in scarlet robes. Major and other commoners stood crowded at the back.

The pageantry and the short formal speech read without interruption to a silent chamber masked briefly the increasingly acrimonious political atmosphere as the Conservatives, in office since 1979, are threatened with the loss of power.

The government says the surge in asylum-seekers from 4,000 in 1986 to an expected 40,000 this year reflects bogus applicants seeking a better economic future and prolonging appeals while living on British welfare.

Under the bill, expected to become law early next year, people who apply for asylum after entering the country _ for example, students due to finish courses _ would not get welfare benefits. Nor would applicants who appeal against refusals. Appeals take months or, in some cases, years.

Refugee advocates say the move will leave thousands of asylum-seekers destitute and force them to return to their native countries, where they could face reprisals from authoritarian regimes.