HL Deb 01 May 1969 vol 301 cc959-64

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made in another place about the Immigration Appeals Bill. I will use my right honourable friend's own words.

"The Government have been concerned with the situation that arises from the prolonged examination at London Airport and other places of arrival of the dependants of Commonwealth citizens whose credentials for settlement in this country need detailed investigation, sometimes spread over several days.

"We have decided that it would be more humane and lead to improved efficiency if those with claims to settle here have their cases scrutinised and decided before they set out on their journey. The effect will be that Commonwealth dependants who satisfy the requirements will be issued before they leave their own country with an entry certificate by the British representative overseas. They will be admitted here only if they have such a certificate. The requirement will apply to wives and children up to 16 who have statutory rights of entry, but by instructions to immigration officers the entry certificates will also be necessary for dependants, chiefly older children and parents, who have no statutory right of entry.

"The Government proposes to make similar changes in the admission of alien dependants for settlement so far as the arrangements about visa abolition permit this to be done.

"Possession of an entry certificate will not be a requirement for those Commonwealth citizens coming for a temporary period, nor will it be a requirement for people other than dependants, such as visitors, including business visitors.

"The Government accordingly propose a new clause for inclusion in the Immigration Appeals Bill, which is due for the Committee stage in another place"—

he was of course referring to your Lordships' House—

"on Tuesday. The new provision, if approved by Parliament, will take effect when the Bill is given Royal Assent.

"It is important that there should be a right of appeal in cases of refusals to grant an entry certificate for settlement as a dependant, and so from the same date appeal arrangements will be made. These will enable Commonwealth dependants to appeal if they are refused an entry certificate for settlement, or if having been granted a certificate they are refused entry. I propose to introduce this at once, notwithstanding that the appeal system provided for in the Immigration Appeals Bill cannot be brought into effect until later. This change does not of itself reduce the number of Commonwealth immigrants, nor are any rights of entry taken away. The change is in substance an administrative one."


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for repeating this Statement, and I should like to say straight away that I, for one, find this proposed change not only eminently sensible but long overdue. I have only one question to put to the noble Lord, and that is to ask him whether he could let me know what type of appeals machinery the Government propose to establish to deal with these cases.


My Lords, may I join in thanking the noble Lord for repeating this Statement? I welcome the desire of Her Majesty's Government to make the procedure more humane, and to reduce the prolonged examination at the airports and other places of entry, but I should like to pursue a little further this question of the procedure for appeals. As I understand it, the granting or refusal of an entry certificate will be at the country of origin. In those circumstances, where will the appeal be heard? I think it was made clear in the Second Reading debate that the tribunals would, in effect, be exercising some degree of discretion. if discretion is to be exercised, how can the appeal be held in this country if there is no opportunity for seeing the person wishing to leave the country of origin? I am not objecting to the proposed reform, but I think this information would be helpful.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for his welcome to the Bill, and to the noble Lord, Lord Wade. They both, in substance, asked the same question about the type of appeals machinery and how appeals would be made. When the statutory appeals system is in force, a Commonwealth citizen who is refused an entry certificate will be able to appeal to an adjudicator in this country, and, if given leave, to appeal to the Tribunal. One who arrives with an entry certificate but is refused admission will be able to appeal to an adjudicator, and to appeal as of right to the Tribunal. We cannot bring that provision into operation immediately the Bill receives the Royal Assent—that is, Part I of the Bill. Therefore, we propose making extra-statutory arrangements so that there can be appeals immediately in these cases, and the appeal will be decided by one of a number of independent lawyers to be nominated by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary undertakes to abide by the decision.

Appeals against refusal to grant an entry certificate will be dealt with in this country in accordance with what will eventually be the permanent procedure, and in accordance with the procedure recommended by the Wilson Committee. They conform to extra-statutory arrangements which are already made for dealing with appeals of this kind from United Kingdom passport holders in East Africa, and that is how it will be done.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? These are obviously very important Amendments and, so far as the appeal procedure is concerned, they may be pretty technical. I am not entirely happy at the moment with what the noble Lord has said, but we are not debating it now. The exercise of discretion under the Bill has no guidelines at all, so far as I can recollect. Can the noble Lord say when these Amendments will be tabled and when copies of them will be available for your Lordships? I know of the printing difficulties, but if we are to debate this matter next Tuesday the Government's Amendments should be available for their Lordships to consider between now and then.


My Lords, I am in complete agreement with the noble and learned Viscount. These are highly technical points and I look forward to discussing them on Tuesday. Despite the emergency difficulties with which we are confronted, printing will resume, as I understand it, at six o'clock this evening. Arrangements will be made for first priority to be given to this particular matter, and the printed copies of all the Amendments which I shall be tabling this afternoon will be available not later than nine o'clock in the morning.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there are those of us who will find these proposals somewhat disturbing, although, of course, we shall have to look at them very closely. Is it not a fact that the Government, having introduced a wholly admirable Bill to provide a fair appeal procedure, are now at this very late stage introducing a radical Amendment which will render the Bill almost useless? What is the reason for the Government's not adhering to their original intention of passing the Bill as introduced?


My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend has that view. I think he will be almost alone.

A NOBLE LORD: Hear, hear!


Certainly on this issue he would find himself disagreeing with his and my noble friend Lord Brockway, who, unfortunately, cannot be here. Noble Lords will have observed that my noble friend Lord Brockway had an Unstarred Question down which would have been debated to-day, but he took it off the Order Paper. That Unstarred Question indicated, of course, that he was wholly in favour of this change. We are taking this opportunity to make the change because legislation is necessary. This will be the last opportunity for some time, and it is desirable to make the change before the statutory appeal system is introduced.

The situation has changed very greatly in the last two years since the Wilson Committee reported. I would emphasise again that if my noble friend went to London Airport he would see the evidence for himself, as I did yesterday, that this has become imperatively necessary, because of the long delays and long detention periods which are occurring. I saw a 10 years old boy at London Airport yesterday and he had been there for 15 days. I also saw a mother with five children who have been there for five days. This is increasingly happening and, in our view, this is a way of preventing it.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Lord a question, in order, I hope, to obtain a reassurance. While recognising the difficulties which his announcement seeks to ameliorate, there are, of course, many immigrants from countries other than those with which we are principally concerned. For example, if an American company sends over an American manager to run a company in England for a year or two, will his wife who follows him later, and perhaps his 12 year old son, be subject to the same procedure? Will they have to obtain an entry permit from some consular office in the United States? Will these procedures also apply in the case of a French or German manager or scientist coming over to this country? If so, can it be established—and I hope it will be—that they will be able to obtain their entry certificates promptly and securely and without delay?


My Lords, I do not want to debate the subject now, because we shall have an opportunity on Tuesday, but I would advise the noble Lord that entitled Commonwealth citizens come in as of right to this country. No alien comes in as of right. Therefore, in the instance he cited, the American businessman could come in only with our agreement, according to the nature of his visit and its purpose, and if his wife and dependants came in they would come in under the same ægis.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the position of bona fide students will be altered by this arrangement, or will it remain substantially as at present?


My Lords, there will be absolutely no change whatsoever in relation to students and visitors. That was made clear in my Statement, but it can be made much more clear in the debate on Tuesday.


My Lords, I do not want to detain your Lordships, because I know that you want to get on with the question of the 6d., and all the rest of it. But there was one point in his reply to my original question on which I am not quite certain I heard the noble Lord correctly. I thought I heard him say that if those Commonwealth citizens who received an entry certificate were refused admission, they would then have the right of appeal. Can he clear that point up? How can you receive an entry certificate and then be refused admission?


Very simply, my Lords. Precisely the same thing happens now. It is because you have given false information and made lying statements which have enabled the certificate to be granted. We know that they are lies and therefore we refuse admission. We do this now to the extent of some 3,000 cases.