HC Deb 20 May 1982 vol 24 cc457-8
7. Mr. Tilley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to amend the immigration rules to enable all women who are legally settled in the United Kingdom to be joined there by their husbands or fiancé.

Mr. Raison

No, Sir.

Mr. Tilley

Does the Minister recall that, during the debates on the British Nationality Bill last year, he gave a clear pledge to review the rules? Does he accept that, if he does not change the rules, young women in Asian families—of which all the members are full British citizens—will often be second-class citizens, because they alone among British citizens will not have the right to live here with their spouses? Does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, when the British Nationality Act comes into operation, that rule will be both racially and sexually discriminatory?

Mr. Raison

During the passage of the British Nationality Bill I said that when the Act came into operation we would issue new rules and that, when we did that, it would be possible to use citizenship as the basis for a new scheme. The hon. Gentleman's question refers to those who are legally settled in the United Kingdom, which is a somewhat different matter.

Mr. Budgen

How many new immigrants would be allowed in if the rules were amended, as suggested by the Opposition?

Mr. Raison

I think that the number would be about 3,000 per year. It is not possible to be more precise than that.

Mr. Jim Marshall

Does the Minister accept that that part of the immigration rules is blatantly discriminatory against a small section of our community? Does he agree that if the rules were changed, on the figures that he has just given there would be no great increase in immigration, although such a change would do a great deal to improve race relations in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Raison

We introduced the changes because of our concern about the extent to which marriage was being used as a means of primary male immigration. As to what we might do in future, I cannot add to what I have said.

Mr. Edward Lyons

As the Government's new rules on this issue are being tested in Europe before the Commission and the Court, will the Government obey the likely decision of the Court that these rules are invalid?

Mr. Raison

The hon. and learned Gentleman is anticipating the conclusions of the European Commission of Human Rights. We do not have those conclusions. All we know is that three cases have been deemed admissible, but the question of merit has not yet been touched upon.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my right hon. Friend agree that these rules apply equally to all the people of different parts of the world and therefore cannot be construed as being racially discriminatory?

Mr. Raison

Yes, Sir.

Miss Joan Lestor

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if people are saying, and the Government have always said, that people in this country, irrespective of nationality, are equal before the law, he should not allow a law to exist that makes certain people unequal in relation to others? The argument that the rule was brought in, to avoid men gaining admission is not in accord with the facts, as a large number of safeguards have always been applied to prevent that happening. There are instances of women, legally married to men for some time, who cannot gain admittance because of the rule.

Mr. Raison

I can only repeat that there is solid evidence that the marriage route has been a means by which primary male immigration to this country has taken place. That was why we brought forward our proposals in 1980.