HC Deb 12 February 1976 vol 905 cc598-600
6. Mr. Brittan

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria he applies in deciding whether to reverse immigration appeal decisions taken by an adjudicator or by an immigration appeals tribunal.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon)

We exercise my right hon. Friend's discretion to act outside the Immigration Rules where an adverse decision taken in strict compliance with the Rules and upheld on appeal would, in his view, result in injustice or undue hardship.

Mr. Brittan

Is the Minister in a position to say whether the percentage of cases in which the initial decision has been reversed is increasing? If so, does he agree that it is undesirable that the decision initially taken should be reversed on the basis of such extremely vague criteria?

Mr. Lyon

No, because the adjudicators and the appeal tribunal have to work within the rules. The exercise of immigration control is the exercise of a prerogative under the discretion of my right hon. Friend. The rules are guidance to the officials and the tribunal about how they should operate, but there is still a reserve discretion, which all Governments use.

Mr. Lawson

Is the Minister aware that the rate of acceptance for settlement of immigrants from the new Commonwealth and Pakistan who entered provisionally and were given revocation of their conditions has more than doubled since the Labour Government took office? Is he satisfied with that rate of increase? How far will it continue? How is it possible to present a rational policy if the hon. Gentleman has no idea of the number of people already here who are not accepted for settlement but whom he cannot deport?

Mr. Lyon

We do not count the number of people here who are not eligible for deportation until we give them unrestricted leave to settle. The difficulty about the hon. Gentleman's onslaught is that it was the Conservative Government in 1971 who legislated that no one who had been resident in these islands for more than five years could be deported. It is on that basis that we remove the conditions after five years. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures—which I shall be glad to publish—he will see that the two major increases have been on this account—which the Conservative Government approved in 1971—and on account of marriage—which the House approved last year.

Mr. James Lamond

Is my hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members on the Government Benches appreciate the fair-minded way in which he listens to representations made on behalf of our constituents who are immigrants, but will he please try to get decisions arrived at a little more quickly?

Mr. Lyon

I am doing my best on the latter count. I am always interested to see how many similar representations I get from Opposition Members.

Mr. Burden

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when he confirms an appeal decision he should take into consideration matters which are known to him but which the appeal tribunal cannot take into account, to make sure that justice is done?

Mr. Lyon

My objective in using the discretion, which is used only in a minimum number of cases, is always to try to do justice. I seek to apply an emollient between the rules as they are cast and the circumstances of a particular case.