HC Deb 03 February 1977 vol 925 cc735-6
16. Mr. Budgen

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to restrict the number of male fiancés from Commonwealth or former Commonwealth countries entering the United Kingdom.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I am anxious to prevent abuse of the entitlement, not only by people from Commonwealth countries but by those from other parts of the world.

Mr. Budgen

Does the Home Secretary have in mind the comparatively recent statistics from the Home Office, which show that between the first quarter of 1975 and the first quarter of 1976 the number of immigrants from the Commonwealth in this category increased by about 50 per cent.? Does he agree that the right of entry of fiancés from the Commonwealth should now be stopped immediately, and that this should be done partly in the interests of Asian girls brought up in this country who find themselves forced into arranged marriages, but mostly in the interests of all the people of this country in an effort to improve race relations by restricting immigration?

Mr. Rees

The change was made by my predecessor. The numbers have risen in this respect. The hon. Gentleman suggests that because women who come into the country in this way are protected by the law—unlike the men—we should specifically deal with the matter in the way he suggests. That is not the way in which we should proceed. I am examining the question of abuses, and those abuses go right across the board. I have found significant abuses not just by Commonwealth citizens but on a larger scale from people in other parts of the world. I hope to come to the House with steps to deal with the matter.

Mrs. Jeger

Surely if my right hon. Friend sought to make a judgment between male fiancés and female fiancées he would run into trouble over the Sex Discrimination Act.

Mr. Rees

So far as I am responsible for that legislation, I am not unaware of that consideration.

Mr. Alison

The right hon. Gentleman referred to changes made by his predecessor. Does he realise that another change made by another predecessor—namely, the present Prime Minister, who was Home Secretary in 1968—restricted this very category of immigrants, because at that time the figures of immigrants, although lower than the present ones, were considered to be too high? Will he consider the need to take steps similar to those taken by the Home Secretary at that time?

Mr. Rees

On that occasion there was a particular purpose. I was pointing to a recent change in the law of this country —a law that I am in no position to break. There are aspects that could be developed, and there are abuses that need to be examined.

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