HC Deb 23 March 1972 vol 833 cc1665-7
25. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will, at an early date, introduce legislation to remedy the discrimination currently practised against British women who marry Commonwealth citizens and are afterwards expected to reside in the country of their husbands.

Mr. Sharples

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend's predecessor decided in January, 1969, to withdraw the concession under which a Commonwealth citizen was allowed to settle here in right of his wife, and the reasons he then gave are valid today.

Mr. Latham

I know all about the statement of my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary's predecessor. But in these days of moves towards women's rights, women's liberation, equality in pay and social equality, is it not reasonable to abandon the concept of the wife as part of the husband's chattels? Should we not accept that a woman has as much right to expect her husband to live in the country of her origin as the husband has to expect his wife to live in the country of his origin? Should we not bring ourselves up to date in these matters and leave it as something to be settled between the two parties to a marriage rather than something for decision by the Government of the day?

Mr. Sharples

No, Sir; I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. The change was introduced in 1969 because of the large and increasing number of men taking advantage of the existing concessions as a means of circumventing the employment voucher scheme. Now that the number of admissions is very much smaller there is all the more possibility of an abuse occurring in this way.

Mr. John Fraser

In drafting the new immigration rules, will the Home Office make it quite clear as respects women who are United Kingdom citizens, not Commonwealth citizens, that their husbands will be allowed to stay in this country unless the marriage is a transparent evasion of the immigration restrictions?

Mr. Sharples

I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman says in the drafting of the immigration rules. The matter was discussed at considerable length in Committee during the passage of the Immigration Act.

Mr. Bidwell

Is the Minister also aware that there are some overhang cases where betrothals were entered into by Indian women and men, under their marriage system, having regard to the circumstances that prevailed before January, 1969? Will he undertake to look favourably at those cases, a kind of residue, which are still in the papers and have not been cleared up, where there is still considerable anxiety? Is it not a fact that the provision is not an automatic ban on allowing husbands to join wives in this country?

Mr. Sharples

As I think the hon. Gentleman knows very well, individual cases of this kind are considered on their merits.

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