HC Deb 22 July 1976 vol 915 cc1983-5
3. Mr. Lawson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will bring to an end the practice by which persons who enter the United Kingdom on a visitor's permit or on any other temporary basis are subsequently accepted for settlement.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I have examined this suggestion carefully, but I do not believe that a blanket prohibition would be appropriate.

Mr. Lawson

I am grateful that the Home Secretary has examined the suggestion carefully. Will he reconsider the matter? Is it not the case that the only effective form of immigration control—and he is in favour of it—is control at the point of entry? Is it not further the case that the practice of coming here on a temporary basis, overstaying and then maybe later applying for acceptance for settlement is a major loophole in the existing system of immigration control? If the Home Secretary wants to make immigration control effective, will he end this back-door immigration?

Mr. Jenkins

I am against back-door immigration and very much in favour of effective immigration control. I said "blanket prohibitions", which would mean that anyone who came here and entered into a genuine marriage would have to remove himself or herself, and that no one who had been here a long time could ever be given the right of settlement. Trying to extend the period of stay to defeat controls no longer works as it did before. The length of period here alone does not give immunity from removal.

I would not like to say that anyone who came here and whose circumstances changed would always have to go away. That would be different from the practice of settlement which has applied to English people going to America and to Americans coming here over a long period of time.

Mr. Fernyhough

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the door to immigration was opened to a greater extent than ever before when we entered the Common Market?

Mr. Jenkins

It may be that the door was opened, but the number of people who want to pass through it is very few indeed.


Are the Home Office records yet computerised? Many of us believe that that would be an important step forward in stopping the kind of abuse which has developed in this very difficult area of immigration control.

Mr. Jenkins

I know that the hon. Gentleman has a lot of experience in this matter. We endeavour to keep track as far as we possibly can, but I am not sure whether computerisation would be a complete answer. There is certainly a problem in keeping track of people once they are in this country and of what they do.

Mr. Whitelaw

Perhaps I may indulge in a personal remark. I am one of those who deeply regret on personal grounds the right hon. Gentleman's removal or change from this Parliament.

In the Hawley Report there was emphasis on the position of graduates from India at the present time when there is considerable unemployment there. It referred to their desiring at all costs to come here as visitors and then stay on. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this situation carefully and agree that only in very exceptional circumstances should such people be granted the right to permanent settlement?

Mr. Jenkins

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. Indeed, I thank him for the way in which he has discharged many of the difficult tasks he has faced as Shadow Home Secretary.

I wish to make it clear that, although, as I said to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) I do not think that a blanket prohibition is necessary, I am firmly against people coming here temporarily and being allowed, as a general rule or as anything approaching a general rule, to stay on.

What I am aiming to do is to apply, in the most effective way I can, the immigration rules. It does not necessarily mean that the solution advanced by the hon. Member for Blaby, while well worth consideration, is necessarily right. I am not convinced that it would help to solve our particular problems, and it would produce certain undesirable features. I agree, however, with the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) that no one should think that, by coming here for a particular purpose and then trying to change that purpose and trying to play out time, he will acquire immunity.

Forward to