HC Deb 28 November 1973 vol 865 cc386-7
15. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will set up a consular office at Ahmedabad, Gujarat State, India, to deal with applications for entry certificates for the United Kingdom.

Lord Balniel

No, Sir. This is a matter which can most satisfactorily continue to be handled by the office of the deputy high commissioner in Bombay.

Mr. Cox

Is the Minister aware that I have constituents who have relatives living in India, who have a right of entry into this country but have to travel hundreds of miles to Bombay at great expense, and who are often required to do that two or three times in order to have their papers examined? Is he further aware that the setting up of a small consular office, where there could be an initial examination of papers prior to the final examination taking place in Bombay, would be of great help to these people and, I suggest, to the high commission office in Bombay? Will he therefore reconsider this decision?

Lord Balniel

Of course I am concerned whenever difficulties are caused to people, or whenever any delays occur. But one of the main causes of delay is that the post must satisfy itself that there is no element of fraud in the application—that is very important—and setting up branch offices would only add to the delay. We believe that in Bombay applicants are normally interviewed on the day on which they apply, so there is no particular problem there.

Mr. Redmond

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that I, too, have Gujarati constituents, who have difficulty because their relations tend to turn up at London Airport without proper papers issued in India and are turned back, because of the tough nature of the Immigration Act? Will he make it quite clear to our people in Bombay that they should not allow people to leave India without proper papers, and thereby avoid a great deal of disappointment?

Lord Balniel

Obviously, my hon. Friend has raised an important point. There is a very real problem, due to the incidence of forged documents, or of genuine documents bearing false particulars. In these circumstances, it is really important that all applicants are interviewed and all documents checked very carefully by the High Commission Office.