HC Deb 28 April 1966 vol 727 cc929-30
17. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will review the new arrangements for passport control at London Airport, which involve delays for holders of British passports returning to this country due to British and non-British subjects being grouped together.

18. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now stop the experimental reorganisation of immigration facilities at London Airport.

20. Sir W. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that the new immigration arrangements at London Airport are causing delays of over an hour, are making the work of the Customs officers difficult, and will damage the tourist trade; and if he will take steps to remedy this situation.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The experiment at London Airport will finish as planned at midnight tonight when the previous immigration control arrangements will be resumed. A detailed evaluation of the results will then take place, with a view to deciding whether a modified form of the experiment could achieve non-segregation without causing delays.

Mr. Lipton

In view of the fact that the new experiment which, mercifully, terminates tonight has proved a complete failure by causing much annoyance and delay to British subjects returning to this country, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that nothing like the same kind of experiment will be reintroduced?

Mr. Jenkins

I do not think that an experiment along precisely these lines is likely to work satisfactorily. My hon. Friend must bear in mind, as I am sure he would wish to, that over the years there have been a good number of complaints about the practise of segregating aliens and British subjects at London Airport, and I was anxious to try the experiment to see whether we could escape from this. The experiment has been tried, but has led to difficulties, though I visited the airport twice and did not find long delays on either of those occasions. We will not cause undue delays, but if it is possible to do away with segregation, I am sure that this will in itself be a good thing.

Mr. Goodhart

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the number of immigration officers who speak a foreign language is strictly limited, and that the new arrangements have made it rather more difficult to deploy these multilingual immigation officers effectively?

Mr. Jenkins

I did not gather that the point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman was the main cause of the difficulties.

Sir W. Teeling

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, to the average foreigner, immigration coming under the Home Office and Customs coming under the Treasury is not understandable, and that when they have been held up for ages after immigration they arrive absolutely furious at Customs, and it is there that the greatest amount of anger amongst Customs officials is to be found?

Mr. Jenkins

With respect, that seems to be a different question. I have already said that I would not propose to continue with an experiment which has led to undue delay, but I think it was right to try such an experiment, and I hope that we can reach a solution in the near future.