HC Deb 19 February 1986 vol 92 cc456-60

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn—[Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]

1.34 am
Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston)

I am grateful to Mr. Speaker for giving me the opportunity to mention two constituency cases. The first case with which I wish to deal is that of Ijaz Ahmed Malik, who is a cousin of Robina Kauser, a constituent of mine, who is a British subject. Mr. Malik was originally from Jhelum city in Pakistan. Robina purchased a house in Preston so that she could marry Mr. Malik and settle down with him.

Mr. Malik arrived on 14 January 1984 to visit an uncle, and clearly had it in mind to establish further contact with his intended wife. They were interviewed on 24 May 1984 in Preston, having gone through a civil marriage on 21 February, and a religious marriage in April 1984. That interview led to the Minister describing Mr. Malik as an illegal immigrant. Against that background the Minister had to decide about his removal.

A child was born to that couple in April 1985, and is now about 10 months old. The marriage was arranged in accordance with Asian custom and practice. On 29 July 1985 Mr. Malik departed voluntarily taking with him his wife and child. His wife was in employment at the time, but she obtained leave to go to Pakistan with him. She subsequently returned and resumed her employment.

I am interested in seeing that that family is reunited with the least possible delay. Representations have been made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I understand that an application by Mr. Malik for re-entry is being considered on 1 April this year.

The Minister is not directly involved in the entry certificate procedure, which is a matter for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but I hope that he will do whatever he can and exercise such influence as he may have to ensure that the family is reunited with the least possible delay.

The second case is possibly more difficult. It is more pressing. It is the case of Gurmail Singh. He was engaged to Rabinder Kaur Geeta. Rabinder went to India on 12 April 1983. I emphasise that date because we are talking about a case that has some history. They married on 20 June 1983. It was a genuine marriage in accordance with their custom, and the husband and wife were interviewed on 12 March 1984. Unfortunately, because of the nature of that interview and some of the answers by Gurmail Singh to the questions put to him by the officer examining the case, he was subsequently refused entry. The wife returned to the United Kingdom on 2 April, and a child was born on 19 September 1984.

The Minister has alleged in no uncertain terms that the primary purpose of the marriage was to gain entry to the United Kingdom. I have known the family for some time, although not for a long time. Clearly there is a strong bond of affection between the couple. Gurmail arrived on 3 November 1985, and on 15 November they were both interviewed in Liverpool. Unfortunately, during the interview the immigration officer asked Mrs. Singh whether I had told her to invite her husband for a visit to the United Kingdom on the basis that I would see what could be done to help them. Such a question is completely out of order. I certainly made no such suggestion to her, and I suspect that it may be a breach of privilege for immigration officers to ask questions regarding the activities of Members of Parliament. The civil marriage took place on 9 January 1986.

The Minister seeks to remove Mr. Singh, leaving his wife—a British subject—with their son, who is now 18 months old. It is a genuine marriage. Only a few days ago the local press carried a pleasant picture of the husband, wife and son, together with an interview given by Mrs. Singh, in which she stated that they were married three years previously because they loved one another, that they had a baby because they loved one another, but that now they must live apart. Clearly she feels strongly about that and so do I.

The Minister may argue that the immigration rules have been followed, but a good family will be broken up. That is not the sort of policy to be pursued in a country which claims to be Christian. It is an illustration of man's inhumanity to man, and is in marked contrast to the case of Mr. Rabha, a Libyan, who was allowed to rejoin his family in the United Kingdom. He was present at St. James's square during the terrorist incident which resulted in the murder of WPC Fletcher. The Minister's decision was that he should not be readmitted, but subsequently an adjudicator took a different decision, and Mr. Rabha is now settled here with his family.

Despite the immigration rules, the Minister should look at the case of Gurmail Singh compassionately and do what he can, even at this late hour, to ensure that the family remains united in Preston.

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

The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Thorne) spoils his case and does not do himself justice when he drags in the case of the Libyan, which has nothing to do with the instant case. Mr. Rabha was refused permission to come to the United Kingdom by the Home Office but exercised his right of appeal and was allowed to come because an adjudicator found in his favour. This case deals with two people who do not qualify to come to the United Kingdom.

Obviously, the cases are important to the people involved, but they are also of public importance because the public is entitled to expect our immigration laws to be enforced, and the rules approved by Parliament to be properly applied. These are both marriage cases and I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of our immigration rules concerning marriage and in particular the primary purpose rule. I see that it is Labour party policy to abolish the rule—just one of the party's pledges that would drive a coach and horses through our control and, with its other pledges, increase immigration by tens of thousands. But it is not just a question of numbers. It is ridiculous that at this of all times the Labour party should be planning to make it easy for young men—many of them like Mr. Singh with no skills and never having had a job in their lives—to enter the country by using marriage as a device. Opinions may differ on whether parents should be encouraging children to marry boys abroad who have been brought up in an entirely different way rather than their contempories in British society. But the primary purpose rule is in the general public interest and those cases do not illustrate any defect in the rule, rather the refusal of people to accept immigration requirements approved by a democratically elected Parliament. All too often a girl goes through a marriage and has a child and then the Home Office is asked to pick up the pieces when—this is certainly true in the case of Mr. Singh—anybody with a scrap of sense could have seen before the marriage that the man would not qualify to come here and would have no claim to come here.

I shall deal with the cases and first with that of Mr. Malik. On 14 January 1984 he arrived in this country and sought leave to enter as a visitor. He said that he had three months' leave from his job in Pakistan and wanted to stay with his uncle. He said that he had no plans to marry here or in Pakistan, and on the strength of what he said he was given leave to enter for three months. Within little over a month he had married Miss Kauser and was asking to stay here as a foreign husband. In saying on arrival here that he had no plans to marry he was lying quite deliberately, because what unfortunately the immigration officer did not know when he admitted Mr. Malik but what we know now was that back in 1983 the hon. Member for Preston had approached me on behalf of Miss Kauser asking how she could obtain entry for Mr. Malik to come here as her fiancé. Far from the man having no plans to marry when he arrived in Britain on 14 January, the whole arrangement for marriage had already been entered into. At the interview which followed his asking to stay as a foreign husband, he lied again and so did Miss Kauser, because they both said that they had never met or even corresponded with each other before he had arrived in this country. That was nonsense, because the truth was that before his arrival the arrangements for the marriage had proceeded to such an extent that Miss Kauser had even bought a home for them to live in. One thing was certain; Mr. Malik had entered the country by deception and his entry was therefore illegal.

When the hon. Member for Preston made representations to me on behalf of the couple I looked into the case most carefully, but it seemed to me that I could not overlook the deceit and allow Mr. Malik to stay here, without his having obtained entry clearance as the rules provide, when thousands of others were having to wait in the queue for entry clearance in the Indian sub-continent and when, to put it mildly, there were doubts as to his primary purpose in entering into the marriage.

Mr. Malik is due to be interviewed on 1 April, which is good news for him. The case will be referred to me, and I can promise him that I shall consider it with great care and examine all the circumstances, including any compassionate circumstances that he may wish to advance. If he is refused entry clearance, he will have the right to appeal to the independent appellate authorities. However, I do not think that any rational person could say what the hon. Gentleman is quoted as saying in the Lancashire Evening Post: that Mr. Malik has been put in an impossible position because of a ruling by me. If ever a couple were the authors of their own misfortune, it is Mr. and Mrs. Malik.

As to the case of Mr. Singh, in 1981 he applied in Delhi to come here to marry Miss Geeta. At his interview with the entry clearance officer in December 1982, Mr. Singh said that the marriage had been arranged by his uncle who knew of his desire to go abroad and better himself; and before the marriage had been arranged he had planned to go to Dubai or to Iraq to work. When asked whether the marriage had been arranged to enable him to go abroad to work, he said yes. Miss Geeta, who was born in the United Kingdom, had not, at the time Mr. Singh applied to come, ever been to India. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, at the time of the application, she was only 16 years old.

Mr. Singh's application failed and it failed because the entry clearance officer was not satisfied either that the couple had met or that the primary purpose of the proposed marriage was not to obtain admission to the United Kingdom. But despite that clear—one might say inevitable—finding, someone, presumably the parents, arranged for this young girl barely out of school, who I am sure they expected to live in this country for the rest of her life, to go out to India and meet the man and marry him. Mr. Singh then made another application to come here for settlement, this time not as a fianće but as a husband. Almost inevitably, that application was turned down like his first one. Mr. Singh appealed to the adjudicator, but lost, and he was refused leave to appeal to the tribunal.

That is the history thus far. What happened next was that on 3 November last year this man, who had twice applied for entry clearance and twice been turned down, turned up at Heathrow claiming entry as a visitor. His wife had by that time returned here and given birth to a child, and Mr. Singh said that he wished to persuade his wife to return to India with him. However, his wife said—this is scarcely surprising—that there was not the slightest prospect of her doing this. In considering Mr. Singh's application for leave to enter as a visitor, the immigration officer took into account all the relevant facts of the case, including the details of Mr. Singh's attempts to gain settlement in the United Kingdom. He concluded that he could not be satisfied that he was genuinely seeking entry for the period of stay as stated by him—two months. Leave to enter as a visitor was refused, but temporary admission was given while I considered representations made by the hon. Member for Preston.

I have considered the case with care, but I cannot see how the immigration officer could possibly have been wrong in his decision. It is clear that Mr. Singh's intention was not to pay a visit, but to do that which he has long wanted to do—settle in the United Kingdom. Indeed, that is now accepted by the hon. Gentleman, who is asking me to allow him to stay, not as a visitor, but permanently as a foreign husband.

To insist that Mr. Singh should be removed from this country when he has now got here may seem hard, but if ever a person was the author of his own misfortune, it is Mr. Singh. If I were to allow him to stay I would be allowing someone to stay who quite clearly does not qualify to stay under the rules approved by Parliament, and I would be allowing him to stay when he must have known perfectly well and when his wife and her family must have known perfectly well at the time of the marriage that he did not qualify to settle here. It is, therefore, a step I am not prepared to take.

It is the job of the Government to apply a control that is fair as well as firm. It certainly would not be fair to the vast majority of genuine applicants waiting abroad to be interviewed to come here if individuals like Mr. Singh were able to circumvent the control by just arriving here. At the moment there is not even an outstanding application for settlement. He is here just on temporary admission, having formally asked to come as a visitor. If he still wishes to press a claim to come here for settlement, he must go back to the Indian sub-continent and apply in the proper way.

Those seeking settlement must go through the proper procedures. It must be made plain that those who pretend to the immigration service that they are merely coming, for a limited visit, and then, once in this country, seek to stay, help neither their own cases nor those of others who may be in a similar position. Being fair to others means that inevitably they must return overseas, unless there are indeed the most exceptionally compelling, compassionate circumstances. I am sorry for the girl, but I do not find any such compelling circumstances here.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at four minutes to Two o'clock.