HC Deb 20 March 1986 vol 94 cc399-401
5. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received on draft guidance concerning representations by hon. Members on immigration matters.

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

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) yesterday.

Mr. Madden

Will the Minister now scrap the revised guidelines, as they remain deeply offensive and are seen to be deeply objectionable by many hon. Members and their constituents? When will the hon. and learned Gentleman apologise for the serious allegations that he made against Members of Parliament, and which remain unsubstantiated, of abusing the immigration laws? When will he stop all his bluff and bluster and concentrate on what he should be doing—dealing with the crisis at Heathrow by appointing more trained immigration officers and qualified interpreters and providing for visitors to Britain proper conditions in which to be welcomed?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman has had his shout and he will have an opportunity to shout again when there is a debate on the matter. I understand that a debate is to be arranged in the near future.

As a result of the consultation exercise that we carried out, I am satisfied that there is wide acceptance among hon. Members of the need to tighten up the system of representations by Members of Parliament. Although we have dropped the proposal about contacting the ports, the rest of the proposals remain and they will be extremely useful.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that for most hon. Members the right to go to Ministers is an important right which must be cherished and that the appropriate restraint in cases of this kind is usually self-restraint?

Mr. Waddington

There never has been any intention to take away from hon. Members the right to approach Ministers. There has been a certain amount of misunderstanding and some deliberate misconstruction of our proposals by Labour Members. We set out to give hon. Members a new facility to go to the ports and receive information about the reasons for a refusal direct from the immigration officer. It is nonsense to say that there is anything unconstitutional in that, because at present when a Member puts on a stop that does not interest the Minister one bit. The Minister's office is no more than a channel for communications and a place from where a message is relayed to the port.

Mr. Corbyn

In view of the continued attacks that the Minister of State makes on Members of Parliament for taking up immigration cases, will he please explain what a new immigrant family is supposed to do if their Member of Parliament has views that are so racist that he cannot be approached or refuses to take up any immigration cases?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman is being unfair to his colleagues. Again, he is raising a matter that he will be able to raise in the forthcoming debate.

Mr. Budgen

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that, while it is important that the procedures should be fair and efficient, the interest of the country is overwhelmingly that immigration control should be firm and, in particular, that marriage should not be used in general as a means of entering the country?

Mr. Waddington

I agree entirely with the remarks made by my hon. Friend. He will notice that in the revised guidelines a passage has been added, because it became abundantly plain from the consultations that a large number of hon. Members wanted a specific mention of the problem which is caused as a result of people coming into Britain through temporary admission and then getting married.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the Minister aware that I am satisfied that the cases which I have referred to his Department—there have been quite a few — were handled with consideration and, indeed, in some instances, compassion? Will he assure the House that he will continue to allow Members to have access to his Department on behalf of constituents, while maintaining firm control of illegal immigration?

Mr. Waddington

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I assure hon. Members that my office will continue to deal with matters that they raise with consummate fairness and propriety. I repeat that hon. Members will be able to continue to raise immigration matters with the Minister.

Mr. Hayes

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on promising to review the immigration rules relating to child brides coming into Britain. However, does he accept that there is a major legal loophole in the Sexual Offences Act 1976? Will he consider carefully the legislation which will be coming before the House soon to prevent this outrage?

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that it is part of the question.

Mr. Waddington

I think my hon. Friend realises that the matter that he has raised is of great importance, but it goes very wide of the question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Soames

I broadly welcome the guidance of my hon. and learned Friend on this matter. Will he, nevertheless, assure the House that he is satisfied that there are sufficient immigration officers to deal with the many difficult cases?

Mr. Waddington

My hon. Friend has identified the problem. As a result of the number of representations having rocketed from only 1,000 in 1982 to 5,700 in 1985, far too many immigration officers are sitting in offices scribbling replies, which I have to sign and send to Members, instead of processing passengers who wish to obtain speedy entry into Britain. I am sure all hon. Members realise that, as a result of our dropping the port requirement, it becomes even more important that we should have firm time limits for making representations, so that cases can be dealt with speedily and efficiently.

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