HC Deb 31 January 1985 vol 72 cc401-2
6. Dr. Marek

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to receive the Commission for Racial Equality report on immigration procedures.

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

I understand that the Commission for Racial Equality is arranging for publication of the report on 12 February.

Dr. Marek

When the Minister receives the report, will he look carefully at that part of it which deals with the treatment of immigrants at airports and other points of entry? Can he assure the House that in our civilised country all visitors and immigrants will at all times be treated with civility and courtesy by the authorities?

Mr. Waddington

I remind the House that the report has not yet been published, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman, from what I know of the report, that it does not contain criticisms of the conduct of individual immigration officers. What is suggested is that there is something wrong with the system as a whole because there is more pressure to emigrate from one country than from another. I should have thought that that was patently obvious. Plainly, people are more likely to want to get into this country from poverty-striken countries than, for instance, from New Zealand. As a result, it is obvious to everybody that it is more likely that people from Ghana will be refused admission than will people from New Zealand.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the Minister accept that a fundamental principle in the report is that there should be no discrimination on grounds of sex and that those who wish to come to this country to join female fiancées ought to be treated in the same manner as those who wish to join male fiancés?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that matter is at present before the European Court and that we shall have to wait and see what the court says. I believe it is well known that if we allow young men to come here as husbands and fiancés who would have been unable to come here under the work permit system, we are really allowing primary immigration, which we are continually telling people we have stopped.

Ms. Clare Short

Does the Minister agree that one of the things that is wrong with the immigration system is that its massive delays deprive people of rights to which in theory and in law they are entitled? Will the Minister apply his mind to this gross inefficiency in his Department?

Mr. Waddington

Obviously we are concerned to ensure that the system of entry clearance operates as efficiently as possible, but the hon. Lady is being very unfair if she is suggesting that in the last few years the position has worsened. In fact, the position has improved. In 1979 the waiting time for entry clearance in Pakistan was 22 months; in 1983 it had dropped to nine and a quarter months. In 1979 the waiting time for entry clearance in Bombay was seven months; in 1983 it had dropped to six months. In 1979 the waiting time in Delhi was 10 months; in 1983 it was seven and a half months. In 1979 the waiting time in Bangladesh was 24 months; in 1983 it had fallen to 20 months.

Mr. Dubs

The Minister will be aware that Parliament has recently decided to make racism by police officers a disciplinary offence. Will he make the same provision for racism by immigration officers?

Mr. Waddington

That is a nonsensical and thoroughly irresponsible question, because the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the first rule in the immigration rules enjoins immigration officers to carry out their duties without regard to race.