HC Deb 17 December 1975 vol 902 cc1381-2
12. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps have been taken at high commissions in the Indian sub-continent to shorten delays in interviewing applicants for entry certificates.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Edward Rowlands)

Immigration staffs in the sub-continent have been increased and special simplified procedures have been introduced for the more expeditious processing of certain categories of applications.

Mr. Bidwell

Will my hon. Friend ponder very seriously on that reply and think deeply about the social consequences of the effects on married life when married couples are separated for 18 months or two years—a separation that threatens the continuity of the marriage? Will he consider the possibility of a scheme being applied in both Delhi and Bombay, such as apparently applies in Islamabad—that is, that with six months' notice on this side of such applications by a couple they can come back to this country together if they choose to be domiciled here? Otherwise, with the present Home Office regulations under the 1971 Immigration Act, my hon. Friend is in danger of going down in history as the match-breaker and not the match-maker.

Mr. Rowlands

As a Welsh romantic, I should not like to be dubbed a match-breaker. I certainly contemplate the social considerations every day. I sign 150 letters a month to Members of Parliament on the problems of immigration, many of them involving separation. I shall consider my hon. Friend's point. We are doing our best. The process of applications has been accelerated, but I am afraid that the number of applications is also rising.

Mr. Kershaw

How many relatives are still to come? Will this list be wiped out in due course, or will husbands here constantly renew the numbers in the queue?

Mr. Rowlands

There are widely varying estimates of the figures. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office will be able to give the most accurate assessment. In many cases we are still processing applications, and we shall do that as speedily as possible. I appreciate the social consequences, but within the immigration rules we are doing everything that is administratively possible to help.

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