HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc1155-6
10. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many appeals by Ugandan Asian refugees not holding British nationality, but wishing to reside with their families who are domiciled in the United Kingdom, have been allowed during the past year; and how many have been rejected.

Mr. Lane

In the time available it has not been possible to establish how many of the appeals determined during the past year come within the category which the hon. Member has in mind, but the number is likely to be very small. I will write to him when I have further information.

Mr. Whitehead

I acknowledge that in a pre-election year the Government may be sensitive to those who regard even a single successful appeal as evidence of a Communist conspiracy in the Home Office. However, will not the Under-Secretary agree that, in the small number of cases involved, it is fundamentally inhumane and absurd to deny to families domiciled in this country the services and prescence of a breadwinner, often the only member of the family who is not allowed to enter the United Kingdom?

Mr. Lane

I remind the hon. Gentleman that this situation basically derives from the change in the immigration rules made by his right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary in 1969 because the former rules were being abused. In the present situation, in general about one appeal in four is successful—that is, appeals over the whole immigration system; so to that extent the appeal system is working generously towards the people who are appealing.

The hon. Gentleman knows the rules that we are operating in these cases and he knows, too, that we look at all their individual circumstances. There are provisions in Rule 47 concerning cases in which there is exceptional hardship. Up to the middle of October, 74 husbands had had applications for entry clearances refused and had been given rights to appeal, and I have no doubt that some of them will be exercising those rights.

Mr. Redmond

Will my hon. Friend make clear to the country how effectively the 1971 Act is preventing immigration? Will he bear in mind the correspondence that I have been having with him on this subject?

Mr. Lane

Yes, that is certainly the case; I have corresponded regularly with my hon. Friend. The latest information is that the total figures for Commonwealth immigration in the first half of this year were 25 per cent. down on the same period last year, and this was the lowest rate since control was imposed in 1962.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

There is no appeal against a decision of the Home Secretary in the exercise of his absolute discretion, and perhaps the Government will consider the machinery for that. May I call to the hon. Gentleman's mind the plight of many spouses, particularly in India and Pakistan, who have waited a long time for decisions from the high commissions and embassies in those countries about their right to come here? The delay is now becoming serious.

Mr. Lane

The final appeal is surely to the House of Commons, where instances when Members think that we have taken a wrong decision, even after appeal, may be brought up. I know that there are delays. The delays result mainly from our determination to operate this control fairly as between one person and another and also, regrettably, from the degree of subterfuge employed by people trying to get round our controls.