HC Deb 22 November 1984 vol 68 cc389-90
4. Mr. Meadowcroft

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the current waiting period for interviews experienced by applicants for entry clearance corning from the Indian sub-continent.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Waddington)

At the end of the second quarter of this year, waiting time to first interview for applicants in the non-priority queue in Delhi was 10 months, in Bombay six months, in Pakistan 10 months and in Bangladesh 22 months. However, many applicants were placed in a priority queue and were interviewed in two months in India or Pakistan and in six months or less in Bangladesh.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the Minister agree that those figures hide the fact that a Government who profess to believe in the unity of the family actually divide families by making it more difficult for people to rejoin their families? Does he also agree that there is discrimination in that male fiancés have more problems coming here than female fiancées?

Mr. Waddington

Families are divided due to a decision of members of those families to emigrate. That seems to have been forgotten. It is nonsense to say that our policy is to divide families when in the past 10 years no fewer than 350,000 wives and children have joined men settled here. A large number of husbands and fiancés are in fact entering this country. The primary purpose test is certainly not impossible to pass, as only 25 per cent. fail it. So it is also absurd to say that we are imposing an insuperable barrier against the entry of husbands and male fiancés.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Is it not almost contemptible of the Government to suggest, when one fiancé in four fails the primary purpose test, that that test does not amount to an unsurmountable barrier? Clearly, there is a high probability that fiancés will not be accepted. Does not the length of the waiting lists also show that the Government hold the fiancés of British citizens in contempt? Should not the Government devote more resources to the entry clearance procedure?

Mr. Waddington

On the question of resources, there are more people employed at our post in Dacca to deal with entry clearance than at any other post in the world. The time must come when one decides that one cannot concentrate any more resources on a particular matter.

On the question of husbands and fiancés, the Government decided some years ago that we simply could not afford large numbers of young men coming here and entering the labour market at a time of high unemployment. It would be absurd to say that young men cannot come here to work with work permits, but that they can enter the country by using marriage as a device.

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