§ 5.51 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton) rose to move, That this House takes note of the Command Paper Proposals for revision of the Immigration Rules (Cmnd. 8683).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the White Paper sets out the Government's proposals for changes in the immigration rules. The immediate reason for this White Paper is that the British Nationality Act 1981 will come into force on 1st January 1983. The Act changes the categories of nationality and renders the existing rules obsolete. The new rules, therefore, need to come into force at the same time as the Act.
§ The White Paper was published last month to allow time for a proper study of the changes before the debates here and in another place. My right honourable friend, the Home Secretary, made it clear that we would give time for these debates because we wished to have the views of Members of both Houses of Parliament before the final statement of changes in the rules is laid later in the year.
§ The function of the rules is to lay down the practice and procedure to be followed by immigration officers and by officials acting on behalf of the Home Secretary, in the administration of the Immigration 672 Act 1971. They apply to every person who is subject to immigration control. Some changes have, as I said, to be made in the rules because at present they are expressed in terms of our present citizenship law. Specifically, they refer to citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies; a status which will disappear when the Act comes into force. The present rules will also be obsolete in that they are silent on the position of children who are born here but who are subject to immigration control because they are not British citizens.
§ Some changes therefore have to be made. Those which I think may interest your Lordships most are those in the rules governing the entry of foreign husbands and male fiances who wish to join women in this country. Under the present rule, a husband or fiance is admitted if his wife, or fiancee, is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who was either born here or of whom one of the parents was born here. There are also tests relating to the marriage itself, which I shall come to later, but so far as the woman herself is concerned she has to qualify by her citizenship and by birth.
§ Under the previous Government's rules, any woman settled here could be joined by a foreign husband or fiance subject only to limited tests of the nature of the marriage. It offered an open door, which undermined immigration control. Marriage was being used by men as a means of obtaining settlement here; more men were being admitted as husbands than under the work permit scheme.
§ When we took office we made clear our commitment to firm immigration control and to limiting the number of primary immigrants to the minimum. By primary immigrants, I mean heads of households coming here for settlement. But we did not think it right that in exercising that control we should compel a woman who had substantial ties with this country to choose between either living in a foreign country (which might be quite alien to her) or living apart from her husband. If she had close ties here, then we considered she should have the choice of staying here with her husband if she wished.
§ When we changed the rules in 1980 we therefore gave the right to bring in a husband or fiance to women who had a close connection with this country; we did not give it to others. Our nationality law contained no definition of people who belong here. We therefore had to devise a separate test to identify them. This is the one in the present rules. Some change now has to be made in that rule because of the changes which have been made in nationality law. Our approach to this issue remains none the less the same. It is that the right to bring in a husband or fiance must be confined to women who have a close connection with this country. To explain the Government's approach I want to refer briefly to the Act.
§ I think it is generally recognised in this House that the 1981 Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation to have been passed in recent years. Nationality is fundamental to society; it is not often that we legislate on it. Indeed, it is over 30 years since the present law was passed. It was based on a state of affairs—the days of empire and colonial possessions—which has long since ceased to correspond with our position in the modern world. The 1948 Act created a common citizenship for 673 everyone in the United Kingdom and Colonies. Of course, there was an assumption underlying the Act that people would, by and large, stay put. But over the years it became essential to control the immigration of people who held our common citizenship, but who had no close ties with this country. As a result, citizenship and the right to live here parted company. A person could be a citizen and not have the right to live here. Conversely, a person could have the right to live here without being a citizen.
§ The British Nationality Act 1981 replaces the present citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies with a new scheme of three citizenships. The first category of citizenship is that of those who belong here. They are British citizens. They have the right of abode in this country. Those who have no close ties here are either British dependent territories citizens or British overseas citizens. The rules we are now considering do not and cannot alter those categories. The function of the rules is simply to lay down the procedures for controlling the movement of people in and out of this country when the Act comes into force; they respect and apply those categories—they cannot change them.
§ The 1981 Act has created a rational and sensible framework for nationality law. It defines quite clearly who those people are who actually belong here, and it thus provides a far better basis than there has been in the past for an effective and consistent immigration policy. And it serves, of course, to identify as British citizens, among others, those women who have a close connection with this country. We therefore propose that, subject to the safeguards I shall mention, all female British citizens shall have the right to be joined here by a husband or fiancé. We propose that they should have that right regardless of whether or not they were born here. To distinguish according to the place of birth would mean that some British citizens would have this right and others would not. We do not believe that it would be fair or consistent to discriminate between British women citizens in this respect. They should all be treated alike.
§ It will doubtless be said by some that the rules should go much further and allow women who are settled here to bring in their husbands even if they themselves are not British citizens. We believe it is right to insist on a woman having a substantial tie with this country. The test of that substantial tie is her citizenship, and it is open to women who are settled here to acquire it. They will have to be resident here for five years and satisfy the relevant tests. Under the present rules there has been what has been described as a Catch 22 position under which a married woman could not acquire citizenship. We have changed that practice. A wife will have to demonstrate that her long-term intention is to settle here. Where she can, and if she meets the other tests, she will be able to qualify. But it will take that important step of acquiring our citizenship to demonstrate her commitment to this country.
§ A woman who is settled here but who is not a British citizen does not have the same ties with this country. Her status here is simply that she is a resident. She is subject to immigration control and if she goes away for more than two years she does not have a right to be 674 re-admitted. She will still have the citizenship of another country, and it is reasonable to assume from her retention of that citizenship that her first loyalties lie there and not here. Equally, we consider that if she marries a foreign man the couple should expect to live in the country of which one of them is a citizen. We see no reason for them to look to this country.
§ In saying this, my Lords, I enter a reservation. Sometimes there are cases of special hardship. My right honourable friend made it clear in 1980, and it applies equally now, that he is willing to consider exercising discretion outside the rules in certain cases. These would be cases in which undue hardship would result for a woman who could not meet the requirements—that is to say, the present requirement of birth and citizenship—or the requirement we now propose that the woman must be a British citizen. The changes we are proposing should. I think, make such cases less frequent. But there could still be some. An obvious example would be if there was no other country where a couple could live together. In any case of special hardship, where the woman has close ties here, even though she is not a British citizen, my right honourable friend will continue to exercise his discretion to allow a husband to enter.
§ I said just now that our proposal to allow British women citizens to bring in a foreign husband or fiance was subject to certain safeguards. They are necessary, they are as follows: We intend to retain all the existing tests against marriages of convenience. This is important. We strengthened the tests in 1980 because we were concerned about the way in which the rules were being abused. Under the rules a man is not allowed to enter as a husband or fiance if the marriage is primarily for immigration reasons, if one party does not intend to live with the other, or if the parties have not met. Fiances are allowed to come for only three months in the first instance. At the end of that time they must produce a marriage certificate to prove that the marriage has taken place. They are then permitted to remain for a further 12 months. Husbands are allowed to come in for only 12 months in the first instance. At the end of that time there is a check to ensure that the marriage is still subsisting. All these important safeguards will still apply.
§ My Lords, a number of people have tried to stir up anxieties about this proposal by making exaggerated estimates of the number of men who may, as a result, be admitted to this country. It is not in fact possible to give any precise estimate of the number. Any estimate must be based on many uncertainties because one is speaking of people's future intentions. All I can say is that we think that there might at most be as many as 2,500 to 3,000 extra applications a year by men in the Indian sub-continent, and some of these applications would not succeed. This figure is certainly a maximum, and we would expect it to be less.
§ Another criticism of the proposals is the claim that the rules discriminate unfairly against women. Our proposals would in fact remove one of the main differences in treatment; but there remains the difference that while men who are settled here, but who are not citizens, may bring in wives and fiancées, we are not proposing to extend this concession to women in the same category.675
§ I come back to the point I made at the outset concerning the Government's commitment to limiting primary immigration. We are living in times of high unemployment. Neither we nor any other country can accept an unlimited number of extra breadwinners coming here to compete for scarce jobs. And men still are the principal breadwinners, my Lords, particularly in the families we are now talking about. The effect upon employment of the immigration of husbands and wives is, therefore, very different. Our immigration rules have to reflect economic and social reality. In short, the fact that we have in the past made generous provision for wives and children does not mean that this country can now afford to treat husbands and fiancés in the same way.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, if the noble Baroness could contain herself she will have an opportunity to speak or intervene, and I shall reply to questions in the wind-up rather than in my introductory speech.
Before leaving the subject of the rules on husbands, I should refer briefly to complaints which are now before the European Commission of Human Rights. Three cases have been ruled admissible. That is to say that the only decision the commission have reached on them is that they raise an issue to be considered under the convention. They have not yet reached any decision on their merits. The views of the commission are, in any case, as your Lordships will know, only advisory. The final decision will be either for the Committee of Ministers or for the European Court of Human Rights. One of the cases concerns a woman who will shortly qualify to become a British citizen. The other two women are settled here but are not citizens. In each case the husband is a citizen of another country and there is no obstacle to the couple living in that country.
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will wish to contribute to the debate later on, but I hope he will allow me to complete my own speech first. These are the brief facts. The proceedings themselves are confidential. We have always said that we believe there are strong arguments to justify the rules if they are challenged under the convention. That remains our position. The rules are being changed, as I have said, because of the changes made by the British Nationality Act 1981.
I turn now to the position of children born here who are not British citizens. Your Lordships will recall that in the British Nationality Act we moved away from the idea that any person born here was automatically a British citizen. This was consistent with our idea that citizenship should signify that a person had a close connection with this country. Under the Act most children born here will be British citizens. But if their parents simply happen to be passing through, as visitors, for instance, or as students, they will not. Under the Act one of the parents will have to be a British citizen or else to be settled here for the child to become a British citizen at birth.
I might add that by allowing a child of a settled parent to benefit we are offering qualification on a less stringent basis than any other country in the European 676 Community. Where a child does not become a British citizen at birth he will normally have his parents' citizenship. It is quite wrong to suggest that he will be stateless. Some people have suggested it, but the House will not expect me to go over ground which was covered in our debates on the British Nationality Bill. All I need say is that, bearing in mind that the parents are here only temporarily, then it is reasonable in the very rare case where a child is stateless to expect the country of the parents to put that right on their return. Nonetheless, if the child stays here, then he will be able in due course to acquire our citizenship.
My Lords, all this is set out at great length and in great detail in Schedule 2 to the 1981 Act, which keeps us in full conformity with out international obligations. That is the position as regards the nationality of the children concerned. During the debates on the British Nationality Bill we undertook to make specific provision for them also in the immigration rules. Our proposals for doing so are set out in two new sections in the draft rules now presented for your Lordships' consideration.
Our aim, broadly speaking, has been to treat them in exactly the same way as their parents. If they stay here they will not need to apply at all under the Immigration Rules; but if they or their parents wish to apply, then they will be given leave to remain here for the same length of time as their parents. The leave is not necessary. It is provided only as a means of reassurance for people who may feel uncertain of their rights.
My Lords, if the children leave the country they will have to obtain permission to re-enter. The rules take account of the fact that, unlike other people coming through our immigration controls for the first time, these children will be returning to a home already here. It never was our intention to create obstacles in the path of a child already established here returning to his home, after perhaps quite a short trip abroad. Therefore, the rules waive various requirements which would otherwise apply as regards maintenance and accommodation, entry clearance and the presence of both parents. But once a child is away for more than two years it is reasonable to regard him as having lost any special connection with this country, in the same way as a returning resident loses any special claim to enter after two years' absence. Therefore, he would have to qualify to enter, in the same way as any other child under those circumstances.
These rules are consistent with what we said we would do for these children. They will put them in line with their parents. They are designed to avoid difficulties for parents who are lawfully here; and there is special provision for exceptional, compassionate cases. But that apart, children of persons who are not lawfully here will not be given leave and will be liable to be deported with their parents. This will allow us to exercise a more consistent and effective immigration control.
Your Lordships may think that the other changes in the rules are relatively minor, and I shall therefore deal with them much more briefly. People wishing to enter as businessmen, self-employed people or persons of independent means are already required to have a certain minimum amount of capital or income in order to be admitted. The reason for admitting people 677 in these categories is that their wealth can be of benefit to this country. The best means of establishing this is to have minimum financial limits, and we introduced these in our 1980 rules. The limits need to be raised from time to time to preserve their effectiveness. The income limit was in any case rather low when it was set. The present change in the rules gives us an opportunity to increase those limits now. If your Lordships wish to consider any other of the remaining changes, I shall do my best to deal with them when I reply to the debate.
In conclusion, I would remind your Lordships of the context within which the new draft rules must be considered. The Government are firmly committed to effective immigration control. We demonstrated this with our rules of 1980, which were made after a comprehensive review, and they led to a strengthening of immigration control in all respects. The number of people accepted for settlement has dropped sharply since we took office. The figure for the 12-month period ending on 30th June of this year was the lowest for any 12-month period in the 20 years since the passing of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. The British Nationality Act has provided a settled and logical framework for the future. Because of that Act we now have to change the Immigration Rules. The proposals in the White Paper are, we believe, the right ones in the new circumstances created by the Act, and I invite the House to take note of them. My Lords, I beg to move that this House takes note of Proposals for the revision of Immigration Rules, Command Paper 8683.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the Command Paper Proposals for revision of the Immigration Rules (Cmnd. 8683).—(Lord Elton.)
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I think my first impression on listening to the Minister explain the proposals before us tonight—and he explained them with as great a clarity as he could command—was how complicated these rules are. I am sure that all of us in this House, on all sides, were listening very carefully and felt some sympathy for the Minister, having to explain something which even people who have taken an interest in this subject and perhaps know a little about it find extraordinarily complicated. If this is so, then how much more complicated is it going to be for immigrants themselves and for those people who are attempting to advise them?
May I then start with something which is very much simpler in words, and much clearer? That is the statement in the Conservative Party Manifesto of 1979, at page 20. It says quite simply:The rights of all British citizens legally settled here are equal before the law whatever their race, colour or creed, and their opportunities ought to be equal, too".That is admirable: brief and clear. However, it then goes on to say on the same page:We shall end the concession introduced by the Labour Government in 1974 to husbands and male fiancés".Perhaps I may take up a minute to put this in the historical context of what has happened in relation to immigration. From 1969 to 1970 the Labour Government had a blanket ban on all husbands or fiancés. This was sex-discriminatory. It would be quite wrong 678 of me not to agree that it was, and in that way it was wrong. It was not, however, racially discriminatory, so at least it scored on one half of this very difficult problem, though not on two.
Indeed, in April 1974 my noble friend Lady Jeger introduced a Bill in another place which sought to amend the law so that non-British men marrying British women should have the same rights with regard to settlement and citizenship as non-British women marrying British men. This was not opposed by the Conservative Opposition at that time. An election intervened, and the new Labour Government then introduced rules along the lines of the Bill which was presented by my noble friend and which received its Second Reading. These rules were then reversed by the Conservative Government, and now we have these rules.
It would be churlish of me not to extend a welcome to the relaxation which has been put into these rules as far as husbands and fiancés are concerned and which has caused such a furore in the Minister's party. He himself I think referred to the Tory Back-Benchers who are bruising the Home Secretary at the moment by describing their claims as "exaggerated". I hope the Home Secretary is not being bruised by them, or at least that he will not give way to them.
The fact is that these people are frightened that giving rights to female British citizens will bring in waves of black men. They are not looking at the quality of family life; they are not particularly concerned with the human emotions involved; what they are concerned with is the colour. It is the colour which counts here; and so far as they are concerned, black is out.
Let us look, then, at the present complicated proposals which have just been explained to us. In paragraph 50 it sets out the point about the wife having to be a British citizen and not United Kingdom born, or having to have parents born here, as under the previous Government. The Minister said that the reason for this is that the rule must be confined to women who have a close connection with this country. How can he explain the difference between somebody who has been able to become naturalised and has not been in this country for many years, probably less than a decade, and people who have been settled here from the time they were children but who, though they have not taken out British citizenship, nevertheless have a very close connection with this country? If that is the criterion, then in that case I think one can knock that one.
The Minister will no doubt reply that such persons, if they wanted to become British citizens, ought to have done something about it. I think there are two answers to that. In the first place, it costs £200, and you do not get a grant from supplementary benefit to help cover the cost of naturalisation. Secondly, it is true that it does not occur to numbers of people. They do not think about it. They just go on living as they are, and they consider themselves British. That is the point. They are even taken by surprise. It was quite clear, throughout the long and unhappy discussions on the Nationality Act, that there were people—examples were given from all sides of this House—who were not even aware that they had to take out British citizenship or would have to do so under this new Act, until 679 suddenly it hit them in some way and they found that they were not British citizens.
The Minister made a great point of saying that the Home Secretary would certainly consider cases of special hardship. In view of the fact that he has himself admitted that the numbers involved are not very great, what he is saying is that there will be more administration and more administrative problems, more bureaucratic pen-pushing, and above all more anguish. Talk about a sledge-hammer for a nut. I would say, with great respect, that that is not a very good argument for making the legislation so restrictive.
There will be a tiny number of women involved—probably around 1,200, but nobody knows the exact figure. Again I repeat that the tests of British citizenship exclude women who are settled here but who are not British citizens. In 1982–83 it is estimated that the Home Office will make £1.2 million profit out of the fees it charges for naturalisation. If that is something—the Minister laid stress on this—which people who want to become British citizens should make the effort to take up, then it should not be something out of which the Government make a profit when there are so many people who will find it difficult to pay it.
When we come to the tests as regards men applying, which are covered in paragraph 50 and some of the conditions in paragraph 126, we find that they are very stringent tests. They are carried out at two points. First, when an application is made for an entry clearance in the country of origin and, secondly, when the person arrives and has an entry clearance to this country, then the immigration officer can make a decision.
Basically., the conditions are more or less the same, namely:that the marriage was not one entered into primarily to obtain admission to the United Kingdom".I think that that will be very difficult to show once a marriage has taken place and a wife is over here. Secondly, it must not be the case:that one of the parties no longer has any intention of living permanently with the other as his or her spouse".It seems to me that it would be very odd if they came over and that were immediately the case. However, if that were so, then there is a point in it. But as regards a number of marriages in this country or any other country, it would be difficult to say that they were going to last permanently. If one were faced with an immigration officer who asked one whether one was married unto death, one would say that one hopes so, but one could not really state one's life on it.
Clearance will also be refused if:the parties to the marriage have not met".We went over that point at considerable length when we discussed the immigration rules in December 1979 and it also came up during our discussions on the Nationality Act, It seems to me that it is a sign of intolerance if a society cannot sustain the different customs and cultures of other societies. Where there are arranged marriages—and they are quite a small percentage of the whole and there is a difference between that type of marriage and a marriage of 680 convenience—it seems to me that one should have respect for people's customs in the same way as one does in other fields. That is the mark of a civilised society and a democracy.
In the end, it comes down to the following: After very exhaustive tests, conditions and interviews which take place in the country of origin and which can in some cases go on for 18 months, two years and up to five years, men will come over with an entry clearance. They will then be at the mercy of an arbitrary decision of an immigration officer here. That does not mean to say that the immigration officer sets out to stop people coming in. However, the whole aura, the whole climate, in which this has been conceived seems to me to put the onus much more on trying to show the negative rather than the affirmative on the part of the officials interviewing these people. Even with the best will in the world people make errors. As we are also aware, the whole system and machinery of appeal is cumbersome, long-winded and can also turn out a tremendous number of injustices.
Even when the man, the husband, gets here—and that is provided that his wife is a British citizen—he then is allowed to remain for 12 months in the first instance. That puts marriage on probation for 12 months. Let us assume that it is a genuine marriage; they have a child and the marriage breaks down. That happens to many marriages—it does not have to be an immigrant marriage that breaks down even after a year. In those circumstances the child will be left fatherless. It could be much worse for children if this restriction were extended to two years.
There have been a great many rumours and a tremendous amount of press comment since the abstentions in another place last week, that the Home Secretary is being pressed very hard to tighten up these rules rather than, as we would prefer, to relax them further. I ask the Minister—and I would like an answer when he replies—whether consideration is being given to the view which I understand is held by some people that the Home Secretary is considering that the restriction on the limit of stay should be extended to two years, which might be a sop to the people who are opposing this? I would like to know whether the noble Lord can say that he knows that or that there is definitely no intention of this or whether it is being considered.
Apart from the effect on marriage, there is also the effect on employment. We know that we have problems of unemployment, but there are other problems—which we are not dealing with tonight—concerning why there are certain jobs which are not filled by some of the people who are unemployed who may be trained or skilled in other jobs. London Transport—which has always employed a number of black people many of whom were born in this country but many of whom are immigrants—will not employ men who have a limit on their stay. Therefore, if the Government are considering extending this restriction it will affect the employment of immigrants here who will then become an even greater burden on the state because at some point some benefit would have to be paid out to them.
The Minister tried to make out a strong case as to why there should be a difference between the rights which have been given in the past to men to bring in 681 foreign wives or fiancées and now the restricted right given to women to bring in foreign husbands or fiancés. The Minister said that the Government were limiting primary immigration. I wonder whether those Peers who perhaps are not quite familiar with the following quotation could guess where it came from. I quote:Women are not necessarily bound to compete for employment and are unlikely to be breadwinners. Women as breadwinners are unusual, for society still expects the man to go out to work and the woman to stay at home".Your Lordships may think that that came from some opposition to the suffragettes at the beginning of this century. It did not. It came from the Home Office as part of its defence which it presented to the European Commission on Human Rights in May 1982 when arguing the case against extending the rule in the way in which the European Commission on Human Rights wanted it to be extended. As the Minister said, they decided that there was a case to answer in the three cases brought before them on the basis that we could well be breaking the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Minister did not mention EEC citizens, where an entirely different situation applies. For instance, an Italian woman settled in this country who wants to marry, say, an Indian, is in an entirely different position. The Indian can come over here and she can marry him. This, of course, is our problem with the European Commission. So we are even as regards our partners in the Community.
With respect, I think that the Minister was wrong when he said that under these rules there would not be any stateless people. We had this argument at very great length on amendments during the passage of the Nationality Act. In particular, my noble friend Lord Pitt—who I am sorry to see is now not speaking in the debate tonight—made out an unanswerable case to show that this could be the result in certain cases. It was a case that went unanswered by the Government. In the end, when the vote came, that is what happened.
I turn briefly to children, which is the other area where we think that this is so grossly unfair and so wrong. The Nationality Act did away with the concept of jus soli, which is something which we bitterly opposed. Because of that, those children born here now who are not British under the Nationality Act have no absolute right of residence in this country. It is to the credit of your Lordships' House that a tremendous battle was waged during the passage of that Act. In fact, I believe that the relevant amendment was moved by a bishop from the Bishops' Benches and supported by many of us on all sides of the House. In fact, with that wide support the amendment was nearly won. I hope that tonight the House will show the same sense of compassion and common sense, because the Home Secretary said that he would read carefully what happened during the debate in the House of Lords before these proposals were turned into rules.
Taking into account that we now have the Nationality Act, the least the Government can do is to give the children a clear immigration status. Briefly, I shall take the example of a Cypriot child. Between 1974 and 1982 Cypriots were given yearly leave to stay. By the middle of 1982 a substantial number was 682 refused an extension of their leave on the basis that it was safe for them to return home. I want to take the situation of a Cypriot child where neither parent has current leave to stay but both of whom are in the process of appealing. If that child leaves the country to stay with his grandmother in Cyprus, he is in danger of being unable to return. Paragraph 65 of the Immigration Rules says:If a child does not qualify for leave to enter under paragraph 63 because neither of his parents has a current leave (and neither of them is a British citizen or has the right of abode) he will normally be refused leave to enter. However he may"—and I stress the word "may"—be granted leave for a limited period only, if both of his parents are in the United Kingdom and it appears unlikely that they will be removed in the immediate future, and if there is no other person outside the United Kindgom who could reasonably be expected to care for him.There are two points to be made here. Surely the word "may" when it says:he may be granted leave for a limited period onlyshould be "shall", because already it is made conditional. By putting in "may" it makes the uncertainty even greater.
Secondly, this could go against the last sentence where it says:… no other person outside the United Kingdom who could reasonably be expected to care for him".It could be said of the child who goes to Cyprus to stay with his grandmother, who is living in an unoccupied part of Cyprus, that there is someone outside the United Kingdom who could look after him. Yet he has gone on a visit to his grandparents and the place he should be is at home with his own parents. Therefore, there is doubt about that. It is known that so much doubt will occur over these cases that advice has already been given informally that it would be safer for children to have something in writing when they go abroad for any reason, so that they can be sure of re-entry when they return.
If indefinite leave were given to children, it would take away the fright and muddle that parents and children are in; it would disperse this aura of uncertainty; it would also reduce a tremendous amount of expensive bureaucracy. For a Government, that are always saying that they want to cut down the number of civil servants and to cut public expenditure, to increase public expenditure and the continuous use of a large number of personnel for such a very small problem is almost beyond me.
We have read recently of the papers and objects that have been buried in Castle Howard to be dug up in 2,000 or 3,000 years' time. I only hope that a copy of the Immigration Rules will be among them, because it will give people a very interesting insight to what went on in our society in 1982. If, of course, the child stays and the parents go, the child can stay more or less forever, particularly if, after the age of 10, a child born here becomes a British citizen if he applies. So we are in the theatre of the absurd. The parents can go and the child, as a child, has the right to stay here on his own. It really is too absurd.
I just want to take a couple of minutes to turn to the point on which the Minister did not spend much time, that of businessmen. Here I would quote from the Economist of 30th October this year:As a sop to the anti-immigrant faction, the rules for admitting businessmen who want to live in Britain are also to be tightened.683To qualify, the intending immigrant will now have to show control of £150,000 instead of £100,000; and the minimum private income qualifying an otherwise unqualified would-be immigrant for entry is raised from £10,000 to £15,00 a year. The gateway to Britain is one needle's eye that the rich can squeeze through without slimming. It's harder for lovers.I do not know about the line saying that it is harder for lovers, but that is in line with the Labour Party's view on the question of businessmen and professional men and also the financial conditions that have been imposed. We believe, as it was in the past, that as long as people can show that they either have independent means or that they would not be a financial burden on the state, they should be allowed in. The Economist, which is not a Labour newspaper, points out the iniquity of upping it in this way.
Finally, the rights of Britain's immigrant population extend to the right to have a secure family life. One concession for British women to have husbands or fiancés, which other women who are generally resident will not, cuts right across this particular concept of dividing the citizens from the rest. In my view, it is no good spending money and using masses of words trying to deal with problems in our inner cities, talking about the integration of immigrants into our community, trying to improve relationships between various sections (whether it is the police, Government officials or whoever)—between the immigrant population and the resident white population—if at the same time one is creating uncertainty, and hardship right in the centre of family life for the fathers, the mothers and the children. It is so counterproductive that, in view of what we have seen happening in our inner city areas, it is amazing that the Government have not grasped this point.
I would like to think that the Government will make a further relaxation, but I doubt whether they will. But we want a clear and loud assurance from the Minister that the Government will not be forced by their own rebels to retreat and make the rules more race and sex discriminatory. This would be a bitter blow to immigrant communities and a loss of faith in the fine words addressed to integration, security and a sense of belonging to a country of which they rightly feel a part.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, asked me to say that he was sorry that he could not remain for the debate. He was good enough to indicate to me the sense of what he had intended to say, and particularly on the questions of husbands and children we found ourselves in broad agreement, and he authorised me to say that the remarks that I am about to make on these matters coincide with his own views.
May I take up where the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, left off. Your Lordships may remember that on 11th December 1979 I moved,That this House deplores the White Paper Proposals for Revision of the Immigration Rules as racially and sexually discriminatory, incompatible with our international obligations and contrary to the principles of natural justice". [Col. 1022.]I ventured to suggest then that we were likely to be dragged before the European Commission on Human 684 Rights for denying entry to the husbands of women belonging to a class which is mainly of other than European ethnic origin while allowing entry to husbands of the remainder, who are mainly white.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, then dismissed the whole of the argument put to him in that debate with a single sentence, and I should like to remind your Lordships of what he said in that debate at column 1126:We believe that we have strong arguments with which to justify those proposals if they should be challenged".The noble Lord, Lord Elton, repeated that almost verbatim this afternoon. But when pressed to say what these arguments were, on several occasions Ministers have always refused to answer. In behaving in this manner the Government showed then, and continue to show now, a contempt for Parliament which undermines one of the main pillars of the British constitution, which is that the proposals of Governments should be subjected to fair and searching examination in both Houses of Parliament. I do not think it was good enough to plead the confidentiality of proceedings at Strasbourg because they had not been initiated at the time that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, spoke. But if the level of argument being adduced by the Government in Strasbourg is on a par with the quotation which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, produced, then I am not surprised that the Government should wish to conceal their arguments.
If only one side of the case is heard, as it has been, and the Government decline to enter the lists, then we may never fully expose the weakness of their case before the public. It may well have been assumed by many people that there really were things to be said on the other side, even though the Government would not disclose what they were. But now we know that so far as one large group of complainants and potential complainants are concerned the Government have nothing to say at all, because of course they withdrew at the last minute in a case that was to have come before the European Commission at Strasbourg.
The Government then proposed to exclude the husbands of women born outside the United Kingdom if both the woman's parents were also born outside the United Kingdom. Now of course they are prepared to admit those husbands where the woman concerned is a United Kingdom citizen, but still not where the woman is merely settled. I have to maintain that the new stand is also racially and sexually discriminatory. The man who is settled here may bring his wife in to join him, and that has always been the rule; but the woman who wants to bring her husband in has got to be a citizen, and that is plainly discriminatory on the grounds of sex. I do not believe that the Government would attempt to deny it, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, virtually gave us an admission this afternoon.
On the other hand, they have always pretended that their policy for husbands was not racially discriminatory. The fact is that the proportion of women belonging to certain ethnic minorities who can comply with the rule is in its new form, as in its old one, substantially less than the proportion of native white women who can comply with it, which is of course 100 per cent. Therefore, I believe that the European Commission of Human Rights is bound to find against the United Kingdom in the cases which are still before 685 the commission, and thus also on the others awaiting the decision on the test cases.
I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Elton, when he replies what is the number of cases pending of which the Government have been notified. I know that the Home Office are masters of procrastination, as they demonstrated so ably in the case of Mrs. Dahanayake, as well as in some of the cases which have been brought against the Government by prisoners, which they managed to string out for years by manipulation of the procedures. But what is the likely result of the policy in the long-term in the case of these women? The victims of discrimination presumably will have to be offered a higher amount in settlement of damages. As time goes by there will be more and more of them.
I said that the Government have withdrawn from the field in the case of Mrs. Dahanayake, but they are still fighting another case of a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, mentioned; the case of Mrs. Balkandali, who is going to be entitled to bring her husband in as from 1st January anyway, and I cannot see the point of continuing to resist that case. All that is going to be achieved presumably is an increase in the amount of compensation that will have to be paid to her.
Perhaps I could also mention the case of Mrs. Arcely Cabales, who is a citizen of the Philippines resident in the United Kingdom now for 15 years, and who works as a state enrolled nurse in the Bethlem Royal Hospital. The noble Lord will be aware that Mrs. Cabales' case was found admissible by the European Commission on 10th May, and it is not true, as I said in an intervention when the noble Lord was discussing this, that no obstacle exists to this lady returning to the Philippines. Mrs. Cabales has not seen her husband since April 1980 when they were married over there, and the separation is an enormous strain on her. She would like to travel to her country of origin to be with her husband but she cannot afford the fare. Her work is as a psychiatric nurse, and that obviously adds enormously to the strain she has to endure, but she is a woman who is very committed to her vocation. If she gave up her nursing career and returned to the Philippines, she would be unable to work in a hospital there because, as the noble Lord probably knows, the state enrolled nurse qualification is not recognised almost anywhere else in the world, and certainly not in the Philippines.
The Tory Party constantly declares its commitment to the family. But surely the first duty, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, of anybody who seeks to uphold the ideal of family life is to ensure that husbands and wives are able to make their homes together. We brought Mrs. Cabales here because, as a nation, we wanted her, and many people similar to her, to work in the most unpopular corners of the National Health Service which were shunned by the indigenous population. We gave them a training which made them unemployable almost anywhere else in the world, and now, in effect, we are trying to kick them out after having used them for 15 years. This is a despicable way to behave, and I hope that the Ministers responsible for this policy feel some twinges of remorse as they contemplate the trail of ruined lives that they leave behind them.
686 I want to mention two particular cases. One is the case of women who are British overseas citizens and who come here on quota vouchers and who of course are not able to get married while they are still in the country where they were resident before, because as soon as they do that they then forfeit the right to be considered under the quota voucher scheme. A woman who is in this situation may have had to wait for five, six or seven years in the queue overseas. When she is finally admitted to this country we are, in effect, telling her that she cannot get married for another seven years because it will take her five years to acquire the right to apply for registration as a British citizen, and then another two on top of that for the application to be considered and granted. A woman in this position is being told that she is not entitled to have a husband from overseas where she may have been brought up until she may have reached the age of something like 30.I do not consider that that is fair or just. I am sure that most people, if it was put to them, would say that it was an unacceptable feature of the rules as we now have them before us.
Secondly, there is the case that the noble Baroness touched on of the person who comes here, perhaps as an infant brought by her parents from the country of origin. The country of origin may have become independent while she is in this country, and she automatically acquires that citizenship without even knowing it. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, went into this subject in some detail when we were talking about the Nationality Bill. When she grows up and starts to look for a husband, she finds that, unlike all her contemporaries and peers, she is unable to seek a husband from the country of her origin.
Take, for example, the case of a girl who came from Guyana in 1963, the year before independence, with her parents, who became Guyanan citizens, as she did. She is now aged 20 and has spent 19 out of the 20 years of her life in this country, so she has established, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, a very close connection with the United Kingdom. I cannot think of anything much closer than that—having spent 19 of her 20 years living in this country—but now she is being told that she is not able to enjoy the privilege that citizens can exercise, of marrying whom she likes. That is quite intolerable. Whatever a handful of extremists may say about the changes that are being proposed, they do not go nearly far enough and we must insist that the Government review them more closely than they have.
I come to the provisions for children which are a direct consequence of the infamous Nationality Act. We are talking about children who were born in this country to parents who were not settled at the time of their birth. That means, for example (the Minister gave two examples) students, businessmen or—a particular category that I mentioned in the proceedings on the Nationality Act but which the noble Lord did not give—applicants for refugee status, as well as those who asked us for refugee status but were given the lesser status of asylum or were granted exceptional leave to remain.
There is no time to consider all of the categories, so I will take the last one I mentioned. Many people who managed to escape from the Ayatollah's régime in Iran, for instance, cannot prove they are refugees in the 687 formal sense of complying with Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on Refugees because they cannot produce evidence that they have a well-founded fear of persecution as individuals, even though they may belong to a group which has suffered persecution in Iran, such as the Armenian Christians. So these people may often be given exceptional leave to remain, one year at a time, but they never become settled and therefore their children are not British citizens when they are born in this country and they are subject to immigration control, in common with all others in the same circumstances.
The parent may apply for leave to remain if the child goes abroad and returns, though the parent is not obliged to do so. It would be much simpler—this is a suggestion I should like the Secretary of State to consider—if the child were to have indefinite leave to remain on the basis of his birth in the United Kingdom, so he can come and go freely so long as he is not abroad for more than two years. I realise that that suggestion was floated in another place, and the only objection then raised by the Minister was that the child would be able to re-enter the country without the parent. So he would, but what parent, having returned to the country of origin, would send her child alone to the United Kingdom?
I suppose one might construct an artificial example where the mother, having returned to the country of origin, sends the child back to be, say, with an uncle who is settled here and to join his parents overseas at intervals, but never being absent for more than two years and thus maintaining the right of residence here. Such an upbringing would obviously be very unsettling for any child and it is a scheme which I believe would be unlikely to appeal to more than a handful of families, and thus the risk which the Minister suggested in another place is not one we need entertain. In any case, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, pointed out. if the parents are so determined that their child should acquire permanent residence in the United Kingdom, they could easily do that by leaving the child here when they return overseas because, when he reaches the age of 10, he can be registered as a British citizen.
The Minister said that only a handful of people would be stateless under the provisions we are discussing. But the position of the illegitimate child may be very different, as we tried to show during the proceedings on the Nationality Act. If the person I mentioned—who was granted exceptional leave to remain—has a child fathered by a United Kingdom citizen to whom she is not married, then of course the child is not British, and unless her country of origin has a citizenship law which provides for the transmission abroad through the female line, the child is born stateless and must wait until the age of 10 before he or she can acquire British nationality. If, before then, the mother returns overseas taking the child with her, the child will have no right of re-entry, even if a court of law grants access to the father.
No legal right of transfer of citizenship exists in respect of female citizens from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I have not had time to go through all the list of Commonwealth countries from which many people may come here, but it is obvious to me that we 688 shall be faced with statelessness. I am not able to measure exactly the scale on which it will occur, but I think the Minister would be deluding the House if he did not accept that we have a serious problem here which arises directly out of the Nationality Act and these rules.
Another serious problem which we raised in the proceedings on the Nationality Act is the question of what happens to a child who is treated as a British citizen on the assumption that one of his parents was settled, and it then turns out that the parent in question was in fact an illegal entrant by virtue of having failed to disclose some material fact to an immigration officer maybe many years before. That child, who was British from birth and was treated as such, and who may even have a British passport issued to him or her, is then deprived of that status when the mother is declared an illegal entrant by a Minister at the Home Office, and there is no appeal. That was made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in a Written Answer that he gave me to a Question two days ago. Thus, this child was born in the United Kingdom and everybody thinks it is a British citizen, then years later the parents are declared to be illegal entrants and the child forfeits that status and the passport is immediately taken away.
One of the main anxieties expressed to us during and after the passage of the Nationality Act was the enormous difficulty likely to be suffered by people in ascertaining whether, and, if so, precisely how, they will be affected by these provisions. To use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, the provisions are set out at great length and in great detail in the schedule to the Nationality Act—I use his words, not mine—and that is particularly the case with children. We have substituted a number of rules which are opaque and complex for a single rule which everybody understood, and the result will be confusion and stress for the individual as well as a huge increase in bureaucracy.
There is one other matter on which I wish to touch. It is contained in the rules, although it was not altered on the last occasion. I refer to the position of elderly parents who are not primary immigrants within the meaning which the Minister mentioned; they are not heads of households coming here to settle, nor are they to be included in the unlimited number of extra breadwinners whom he feared. These are old people—people aged 65 and upwards—whose children in the United Kingdom have shown that they are able to maintain them, that they have adequate accommodation for them and that there is no danger of their becoming a charge on public funds.
In the last set of changes made by the Government, a new requirement was erected that these people must have no close relations in the country of origin to whom they could turn for support. This has created an almost insuperable barrier for these people, particularly from the Indian sub-continent, because they must have some relatives in the country of origin, and the adjudicators have determined that even in the case of a brother or a similarly close relative whom the person may not have seen for many years and may not in practice depend on at all, that is sufficient reason for their exclusion, ignoring the custom of the Indian sub- 689 continent that it is the primary duty of sons to look after elderly people.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, mentioned, in designing our nationality requirements and immigration rules, we should have some regard at any rate for the customs of people who will be affected. Everybody knows that in the Indian sub-continent, unlike in Great Britain, sons look after their elderly parents. They do not put them in an old persons' home. They believe that this is a filial duty which they must carry out. It is not a duty of daughters or of brothers or of sisters. Yet, with the rules as they stand, the adjudicators have got to exclude and refuse applications by elderly parents who comply with all the other provisions on the grounds that they have some relative in the country of origin.
I recently took a case before the adjudicator where an elderly mother wanted to come here to stay with her two sons. The two sons have the means to maintain her, they have the accommodation and there were strong compassionate grounds, in that the elderly mother had recently had a serious accident, had broken her femur and had been hospitalised. I took the case before the adjudicator—and I will not weary your Lordships with the long arguments about proving that she was wholly or mainly dependent and the difficulties which arose there, but on which we were able to satisfy the adjudicator. However, at the end of the day he had to say that, because this lady had a brother who was resident a day's journey away from the village where she lived and to whom theoretically she could turn, he was unable to grant the application under the rules. At the end of his determination, the adjudicator said that this was a case which ought to be submitted to the Secretary of State for the exercise of his discretion.
The noble Lord, in talking about the wives, underlined the compassionate attitude of the Home Office to hard cases. I must admit that, in some of the cases that I take to Mr. Timothy Raison, he is extremely compassionate and humane. But, in these particular cases of the elderly parents, for some reason they have got the knife into them—because I was told in the answer that I had from the Minister, when I appealed to him at the suggestion of the adjudicator, that the Tory Party in its election manifesto had decided that immigration must be reduced and, unfortunately, this elderly lady had got to be the one who was to bear the brunt of that policy.
I conclude with these words. The policy that we are now looking at, generally speaking, is a policy which derives from the election manifesto of 1979, even though in some respects the severity of it has been mitigated by common sense. But I do not believe that the Secretary of State is going to read the remarks of your Lordships and change his mind, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, suggested. He is under pressure from all sides, he is under pressure from his own Right wing to maintain the purity of the election manifesto. In the end, this may be the factor which determines what happens in respect of these rules, but there are many other people in this country who are either themselves going to be affected by the proposals or who belong to communities whose members will be affected, and in whose minds there will be anxieties 690 created absolutely unnecessarily as a result of what we are doing now, and particularly what we are doing with regard to the children. I believe that it is the voices of those people and not the voices of your Lordships which may ultimately perhaps secure some change of attitude on the part of the Government.
§ 7.4 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, in the debate on the Address earlier this month, I ventured to point out that there was no mention in the gracious Speech of community and race relations and I said that I felt this was particularly unfortunate because the British Nationality Act comes into operation on 1st January next year and there is still much anxiety in certain places about its implementation, as other noble Lords have indicated tonight. In his reply to that debate, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in acknowledging my concern for confidence in our society on the part of what he called its minority members, assured me that the party for which he spoke is founded upon the principle that we are one nation. He went on to assert with some firmness that Her Majesty's Government remain unshakable in their support of that principle.
I warmly welcomed the Minister's statement and I hope that he will keep this in mind when he responds to this debate and especially to the suggestions that the rules of which we are being asked to take note are open to the charge of discrimination and to impeding the promotion of that true family life for which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, reminded us, the Prime Minister and others have more than once declared their support.
I should like to suggest that there are three principles which must be considered when we are discussing these matters. First, I believe that it is always better to have clear rights established in any set of rules and that discretion (especially when it is to be exercised by officials of Government) should be kept within very well defined boundaries and should always be accountable. Secondly, I believe that we must be careful to safeguard our long legal tradition based on the principle that the prosecution must prove its case, and that if error is to be entertained, it is always better to err in favour of the innocent. Thirdly, not only Christians of all traditions but many others as well will, I believe, want specially to emphasise the duty of the law to encourage people to hold to their properly contracted obligations—and rules which undermine marital and family obligations are, I believe, particularly questionable.
I feel bound to say that, notwithstanding the welcome concession made to the husbands and fiancés of women who are British citizens, these immigration rules seem to me to raise questions in relation to each of the three principles which I have mentioned. I believe that this particular set of rules arouses anxiety in many quarters because of the amount of discretion given to immigration officers. I believe that there is further anxiety because there is a tendency for the boot to be put on the other foot and for people of sound intention to be denied their rights, often through a variety of mistakes and misunderstandings. I cannot but believe that, by their very complexity, especially in regard to children, these 691 rules are going to put certain families at risk rather than to strengthen their unity and their happiness.
My Lords, I do not need to remind you that the Churches of all denominations were profoundly unhappy about the British Nationality Act. The Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church were united in strong opposition to it at various points, and their views were frequently supported by those of us who sit on these Benches. We continue to be greatly concerned about the way in which this Act is implemented. We believe that the Ministers concerned and all the officials who operate in their name will need to exercise sensitivity and humanity if confidence in the principle that we are one nation is not to be further undermined. It will be important also for those whom the Minister called its "minority members" not to be alarmed and bewildered and made to feel that they are second-class citizens rather than equal partners in the one nation of which the Minister spoke. I hope that he will pay very close attention to the various points made by other noble Lords in this debate and that he will be able to give your Lordships a firm undertaking that he will secure the further revision of these immigration rules in the interests of both the parents and the children.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, when the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, started her speech she said that the only reason—I hope I am quoting her correctly—why certain Tories objected to any more immigration was because it was black and we were not concerned with the quality of life. With due respect to the noble Baroness, she was talking nonsense. We are very much concerned with the quality of life.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I wonder whether I can correct the noble Viscount. I did not say "the quality of life". I referred to the quality of the people concerned. I said that, whatever the Tories were concerned with, they were frightened they were black, I did not say "the quality of life" but I can quite understand how I used the word quality", and one often thinks of the quality of life.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness if I misunderstood her. I should like to point out—and we never hear it mentioned in this House—that we have about the highest density of population per square mile in the world. Actually, Belgium just beats us. If you deduct the Highlands of Scotland, where there are only about 250,000 people, then we have the highest density in Europe and a higher density than exists in the subcontinent of India, and that is counting Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. I do not think that ours is quite so high as Indonesia, but one must remember that in Indonesia, Java and those islands, the quality of life is very, very poor—indeed on the poverty level—as are many of the countries in the Far East. In this country we have an amazingly high standard—one of the highest levels of living in the world. The Government must therefore have some control on immigration. If I understood the right reverend Prelate aright, he would allow immigrants from all over the world to come here willy nilly.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
Well, my Lords, that is how I understood the right reverend Prelate, and I imagine some newspapers may also have so understood him. Regarding the European Convention on Human Rights, why is it that France, which has a Socialist Government, has far stricter immigration controls than this country which has a Consérvative Government? She has taken no notice of the European Convention on Human Rights. I am all for compassion where there is great anxiety or harshness or unfairness. Well, of course, you cannot have that, but the immigration officers have to decide these matters.
The figure of 2,500 or 3,000, which the Minister mentioned, of extra immigrants who may come in, husbands and fiances of women in this country, does not amount to much. But of course it adds up considerably over the years. I am frightened of the abuse of those privileges. In the past there has been great abuse despite the devotion of the immigration officers to their duty.
How can an immigration officer tell 100 per cent. whether an Asian marriage was one entered into primarily to obtain admission to the United Kingdom, or that one of the parties had no longer any intention of living permanently with the other as his or her spouse? It is almost impossible for them. One would have to be psychic, have a crystal ball, in order to be completely sure that the fiancé or the husband was genuine. One would need to use some form of lie detector.
May I quote from a letter written to me from the London and Counties Tenants' Federation. I have had so many letters, but I cannot read them all. They say that to judge from the opinion of an Asian lawyer, as stated in a newspaper cutting which they enclosed, about 50 per cent. of Asian men who came to Southall to marry had deserted their wives and were seeking permanent separation. There are many such instances. It could appear that many of these men are using the Immigration Act as a subterfuge to enter this country. I am sure that the immigration officers are alive to this, but of course there will be abuses. There is no doubt about that.
Regarding family life, one does not want to do anything to destroy that. I am a great believer in family life. But if, owing to immigration, our population grows and grows, we are destroying family life, because this country can support only a certain number of people. We have 3,500,000 unemployed and the more population we have the more expense there will be on the welfare state, which will destroy family life, as the standard of living goes down. We must be practical on this matter. In genuine cases we have always been almost a fairy godmother to the rest of the world, and I suppose that so far as it is economically possible we ought to try to continue doing this.
My Lords, I shall not speak further on this subject as we have had some very long speeches. I support the Government in this White Paper, but we must make sure—and this will be very difficult—that these privileges are not abused.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Viscount immediately in the central issue of his theme regarding the standard of living and the quality of life of this country as he referred to it. Does he realise that a great deal of the quality of life of this country over the past 30 years has been due to the work carried out by immigrants, who have been either voluntary immigrants from poor countries in the ex-Colonial Empire or who were recruited deliberately by organisations like London Transport in order to do the kind of work which many British people were less and less willing to perform?
If he has had the experience, as many of us have, of periods in British hospitals within the National Health Service—any aspect of the health service—I would have thought that he would be paying tribute to the great contribution to the standard of living of the people of these islands that has been made possible by immigrants, both men and women.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I am quite prepared to say that some immigrants have helped this country: of course they have. That is why I was rather surprised when the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said it was only the rich businessmen, immigrants, who have, I think, a capital of £150,000, who are going to be allowed in. Of course, immigrants who are businessmen and executives are, and have been, a great help to this country, and I agree with the noble Lord about that; but there are hundreds and thousands of immigrants who have not. I am not making any criticism of them, but it is a fact.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, perhaps the noble Viscount's definition of "facts" would differ from mine. I certainly doubt whether he could prove in any way that what he has just stated is a fact, and that there are hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have been, as he would say, "of no use to this country". But I want to pass on from that issue quite naturally to what seems to me to be the state of almost unbelievable hypocrisy which has come from the opposite Front Bench tonight, and which came from the Government Front Bench in another place just a week ago. When Government Ministers are claiming, as they are today and as my noble friend Lady Birk has already pointed out, that they are the party of the family and then they make proposals of this kind which are going to split couples and to divide children from parents, that seems to me to be the ultimate in hypocrisy.
When the noble Lord says that these proposals arise out of the British Nationality Act, this is really just a cover-up. Let me refer him to Clause 50 in the White Paper. What is there in Clause 50 that arises out of the British Nationality Act? In practice, what is happening is that the one concession which is made in these proposals—the concession contained in Clause 50—arises out of the cases that have been submitted to the European Court. That is why the Government have had to face the wrath of a section of their Back-Benchers, as they did just a week ago tonight, as the noble Lord must know, when a number of his honourable friends refused to support the Government in these proposals, on the basis, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, of the manifesto on which the Conser- 694 vative Party fought the last election. She quoted the sentence:We shall end the concession introduced by the Labour Party in 1974 to husbands and male fiancés".It was not until the issue was taken to the European Court at Strasbourg that the Government found themselves entrapped in this web and had to bring in this concession.
Let me remind your Lordships of the way in which the Conservative Party has applied the principle that they laid down in that manifesto. First of all, they were going to apply a literal application of the principle they had stated; they were going to end the right of husbands and fiancés to enter this country. Then what did they find? They found it would then affect white British women as well as black. So what did they do? They changed the rules. They said that British women who are either British citizens or who have at least one parent born in this country should have the right to bring husbands into the country. That was in practice racial discrimination because it was the white British women who were allowed to bring their husbands into the country, being either British by birth or British by having at least one British parent. But the black women, women who were British by registration, were forbidden this right.
These proposals are trying to rectify this part of that situation and everybody on this side of the House supports that proposal within the White Paper. What we cannot understand, and what I totally fail to understand, is how it is possible for Ministers—who after all are honourable men and women—to deny that the proposals contained in this White Paper are not based upon sex discrimination. The noble Lord's right honourable friend in another place denied that there was discrimination. Will the noble Lord tonight deny that there is discimination? When he got to that part of his speech, his argument was so feeble and distorted that it cannot have been equalled since Lewis Carroll.
As I understand it, the best he can do, after all these weeks of thinking, is to tell this House and the country that the reason why a man, who has been settled in this country but is not a British citizen, shall be allowed to bring a fiancée or wife into this country, but that a woman in the same position—settled for as long and with as close a relationship with this country—shall not be allowed to bring in her husband or fiancé, is because there is high unemployment.
I could not detect any other argument than that—just because there is high unemployment. Is he saying that unemployment is simply a male prerogative? Or is he saying that it is only males who have the right to employment? Or is he saying that only the male shall be allowed the right to live in this country, without citizenship but with a wife? What is his argument, and will he give us a direct answer tonight? Does he accept that this provision is based, clearly and solely, upon sex discrimination going back to the 19th century—not just the 19th century, but the 1930s in Germany—when the woman's place was in the kitchen and the bed, and that it is the man who is the rightful, and the only rightful, breadwinner?
Of course, that is not what the noble Lord himself thinks, nor, do I believe, is it what his right honourable friend the Home Secretary thinks. Why, then, is there 695 this discrimination? Quite simply, it is because the noble Lord, or his masters in another place, are frightened to death of the people behind them—not the people over here, not the people in the country, but the 50 or so people behind them who abstained in the other place last week. They are frightened that they will be attacked by the Right-wing of their own party—they have already been attacked—and that they will be held to have broken the manifesto on which they were elected. But, after all, as they have broken so many other aspects of that manifesto, why be so concerned about this one, which is an issue of humanity which concerns the family? I should like the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, to answer a direct question. Does he admit that the proposal, so far as the change in the rights of British women citizens is concerned, is a proposal which can only be described as one of sex discrimination?
There is one other point which I should like to draw to the noble Lord's attention for his reply. We are presented with a White Paper and, therefore, we are entitled to discuss all the issues in it—not just those issues which are proposing changes in the law. I want to refer the noble Lord's attention to the appendix on the back cover page of the White Paper, in which there are listed the conditions and provisions for the granting of visas for the United Kingdom. I want to draw his attention to one point on this and ask him for an explanation about it. This is a list of countries which are exempt from having to grant visas for the entry of their nationals into the United Kingdom. I want to ask him why this list includes the Republic of South Africa. Why is it that citizens of the Republic of South Africa do not have to obtain a visa to enter this country? It seems to me that one of the very few things that one could expect this Government to do, in support of their frequently professed detestation of apartheid, would be to insist that South African nationals entering this country should have to apply for a visa.
But I shall give one even more practical and serious support to this suggestion. We know, and the Government know, that there have been many South African agents sent to this country. We know, and the Government know, that there are in this country agents for the security forces of the South African Government. We know that they are in this country. We know that they are all over Europe, some of us have had friends who have suffered at their hands. Many people know of anti-apartheid property which has been damaged by them.
May I suggest to the noble Lord that he brings to the attention of his right honourable friend the very small, but very important, measure which could be taken, and which arises from this White Paper, which is that South African nationals wishing to enter this country should have to apply for visas, in the same way as so many other nationals have to do, so that some control on the immigration of South Africans into this country can be exercised by the immigration authorities. That control can be exercised not in any racial way, not in any prejudiced way, but in order to keep out those who are doing the very dirty work of the South African security forces, such as has been seen in London and other parts of this country over the past few months.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before I proceed to the more contentious part of these proposals, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Elton, a brief question about paragraphs 72 and 146, which have the effect of absolving EEC nationals who are resident in this country from having to report at periodic intervals to the police. I think that there ought to be total reciprocity in these matters. Can the noble Lord assure us that there is now no EEC country where resident United Kingdom citizens have to report periodically to the police? If such a requirement should persist in any EEC country, then, surely, nationals of that country who are resident in Britain should, in turn, have to report to the police here. If the noble Lord does not have the answer by the time he comes to wind up, perhaps he could very kindly write to me.
Many noble lords have mentioned the desirability of compassion and. in theory, of course, that is admirable. The difficulty is that, as a history don at Bristol University, in a most stimulating article in The Times confirmed only the other day, the irresponsibility of the Establishment, one might almost say their criminal irresponsibility, in allowing such excessive primary immigration—and I stress the word "excessive"; I am not suggesting that there should have been none at all—20, 25, 30 and 35 years ago, against the wishes of the majority of the people, whose fears were sneered at. has, sadly, but inevitably, led to a hardening of hearts against borderline cases, such as those cited, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.
There are one or two exceptions to this general public attitude; for example, the Vietnamese boat people. The boat people have been readily accepted, partly because of the horrendous nature of their plight, and partly because, like other South-East Asians and the Chinese, as well as the Poles and the Hungarians before them, they are happy to take this country as they find it and do not ask for special laws or dispensations.
The first thing to be said about the male fiancé proposal, as other noble Lords have pointed out, is that it breaks an election pledge, just as the failure to set up a register of dependants breaks an election pledge. Of course, there are occasions when totally unforeseen events necessitate the breaking of election pledges, but the present state of affairs cannot have been entirely unforeseen and there is bound to be a suspicion that there was never any serious intention of fulfilling these particular election commitments in the first place.
I have asserted on more than one earlier occasion that as many as 15 marginal seats were won by the Conservatives in the 1979 general election on the strength of Conservative promises—and even more on the strength of Conservative hints—that a really tough line would be taken over immigration, and I have never been contradicted. Some might now claim, though not I, that these seats were won under false pretences.
The blame for the volte face is laid partially upon the European Commission. But the European Court has not yet ruled, and when it does there is no guarantee that its decision would be unfavourable to this country if the law were to remain unchanged. The attitude of 697 the Commission to sex discrimination is by no means consistent. For example, I understand that it has specifically ruled that differing retirement ages for men and women are not discriminatory, yet no greater form of sex discrimination can be imagined than compelling a man—in particular an unskilled man occupied in a heavy labouring job—to work until his 65th birthday, while a woman can retire on full pension at the age of 60. Nor in those countries where national service is still compulsory, as it is in most Continental countries, has the commission or the court ruled that girls should be equally liable to conscription, whether for military or civil purposes. So I do not think that the European Commission argument is entirely valid.
Why are the "fiancé proposals", as we might call them as a form of shorthand, objected to by so many—and not only by right wing Conservatives, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, alleges? I think the noble Lord will accept that not only the majority of Conservative voters but also, according to public opinion poll after public opinion poll, the majority of those who vote Liberal and the majority of those who vote Labour also believe that immigration has in the past been excessive, whatever their leaders may say or think at any given time.
The first objection concerns the numbers involved in this new source of primary immigration. It has been claimed that only an extra 2,500 or, at the most, 3,000 new immigrants are likely to enter each year if these proposals are implemented. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, repeated that assurance this afternoon. The trouble is that the Home Office has so often underestimated the figures in the past that nobody has much faith any longer in its projections for the future.
More important is the possibility and, indeed, the probability of abuse. Some countries have a static or declining population. This applies, among others, to all Western European countries, with the exception of the Republic of Ireland, and to all Eastern European countries, with the exception. I think, of Rumania. But there are many other countries where the fall in the death rate, consequent upon the introduction of modern medicine and modern hygiene, has not been matched by a corresponding fall in the birth rate. As a result, these countries have a growth in population of 3 per cent. per annum compound, or even more. This being so, it is almost a law of nature or, at any rate, a law of physics that the overspill from the pressure cooker of over-population is bound to force its way in the direction of those countries with static or declining populations, unless all possible loopholes are plugged. The Americans are finding out that the Rio Grande is a loophole which cannot be plugged. The influx of Mexicans, other Latin Americans and now Haitians, is reaching flood proportions. Of course, one cannot feel too morally indignant about all this. No doubt if one were in the position of these people one would do the same thing oneself, but happily we are not in the position of these people and our primary duty, surely, is to put our own country and our own countrymen and countrywomen first.
That abuses persist and are likely to go on persisting cannot be doubted. On 30th January 1979, Mr. James Callaghan, who was then Prime Minister, told the 698 House of Commons that it seemed that marriage was being used by many young men of working age as a means of entering, working and settling in this country, which he went on to describe as an abuse. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, quoted briefly from a newspaper report in the Middlesex County Times concerning the views of an Asian solicitor who said that he was fed up with the abuses of the immigration laws, particularly in relation to marriage. He went on to say that, once the men have had their passports stamped and are legally allowed to stay in Britain, they ask for a divorce. And within the last few days we have read about the Lovers Marriage International Bureau of Lahore.
If there has to be any new primary immigration, why can it not be confined to husbands—in other words, excluding fiancés? If a woman takes the trouble to go abroad for her wedding, it is fairly conclusive evidence—not cast-iron but fairly conclusive evidence—that the marriage is a genuine one. It is with fiancés, or alleged fiancés, rather than husbands that abuses are likely to occur. Even the admission of husbands would represent a backtracking on the Conservative election commitment, but a backtracking which might just be made acceptable to the public.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, I have some sympathy with the Minister this evening. I am sure he must feel that he has been here before, with, on the one hand, pressure on him to be careful and not to go too far and, on the other hand, pressure on him to extend the changes that are envisaged in the White Paper. It may be some consolation if I tell him that perhaps I can claim to have had a longer history than he in this connection. It was in 1976 that as chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission I first made representations to a Home Secretary on this matter. Referring to nationality and all related administrative procedures, I said on that occasion that the commission's sole concern is for parity of treatment for men and women within the Government's overall policy in relation to numbers. It is in that context that I want to speak tonight. It is also in that context that I must declare my interest as the chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission. The commission has assumed that one of its statutory responsibilities is to press successive Governments to bring about a state of equality between the sexes in relation to nationality and immigration. The purpose of the White Paper which we are debating this evening is to bring the immigration rules into line with the new British Nationality Act. In so far as its proposals give rights to British citizens, whether or not they were born here, I welcome it, but I must point out that if the immigration rules are to be logical then they should follow through the principles of the British Nationality Act.
If we look at this White Paper, there are, as the Minister himself has admitted, some differences in the treatment of men and women. I would refer to three of them. The first is one to which the Minister himself and many other noble Lords have already referred. Although the Nationality Act, in principle, gave equal rights to women as citizens of this country, the immigration rules are not going to give equal rights or 699 parity. They will be imposing on women three tests which are not imposed on men. In his opening remarks the noble Lord the Minister made reference to the need to stop primary immigration. I believe I am quoting him correctly and that he said we cannot admit more men to compete for scarce jobs. He was of course saying that primary immigration means men, and he went on to say that men are still the principal breadwinners in the area we are discussing. We are discussing the area of British citizens; of women who have British citizenship.
I suggest that, if the Government do want to control numbers, then they should not seek to do so by limiting the rights of British women to bring in husbands and fiancés and impose upon British women tests which are not imposed on British men. Nor should they try to hide behind the outdated concept of "head of the family", because even among the Asian and West Indian women who are living here as British citizens, the whole concept of a man being the head of the household is disappearing in the same way that it is disappearing in other groups.
The arguments which the noble Lord the Minister used apply also to what he was saying in relation to non-British citizens who are settled here. Again, there are differences in the treatment of non-British citizens who are women and non-British citizens who are male. In that connection, I was very interested to hear the Minister talk about our right to insist upon a substantial time with this country; if a person does not have a substantial time with this country, then that person should not seek to bring in a husband or fiancé. That is, if the person happens to be a woman, but if the person happens to be a man it would seem that the time with this country is not so important. Here again we preach a fundamental principle.
The third area to which I want to refer is one which I would have thought had no significance at all in terms of the numbers and areas which the Government are concerned about. It is those groups of people who are allowed to come into the country for specific purposes—such as students, people coming in for employment and who are permitted to come in for employment, business people or people of independent means. Here again there is no attempt in the White Paper to amend those sections of the immigration rules at present in existence which admit, and I quote, "a wife and children". In other words, men in these groups are able to bring into the country a wife and children but women who come into these groups are not entitled to bring in a spouse and children. I do not see any justification in any of the arguments which the Minister has put forward this evening to substantiate those discriminatory rules.
I know that the Minister and his colleagues are being subjected to a great deal of pressure but the Government really do need to sort out their principles. I would remind the noble Lord that, while I am saying this to this Government, I have said the same to previous Governments. Our principles do need to be sorted out and if we are giving rights under our nationality laws or immigration rules then they should apply evenly to both sexes. While I would give a limited welcome to the White Paper, in that it does take us a little further, I hope that the time is not far off when we can really treat this matter on the basis of equality of the sexes.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Baroness Hornsby-Smith
My Lords, I must apologise for the fact that I did not put my name on the list of speakers because I was not certain that I should be here. I wanted to speak tonight because I get more and more saddened as I listen, as I have listened over the years, to many immigration debates (in which in the other place I had officially to participate quite often). This country is always depicted as the monster. I get a little tired when I realise that there is no country in the Commonwealth which has been more generous over entry nor more sympathetic than has the United Kingdom. We should not forget that a very large proportion of the Asian population now in our midst are here simply and solely because their African brothers threw them out. We should not forget that we have made a great humane contribution to problems not of our making. We too often give the idea, which is so quickly taken up by our enemies abroad, that we have inhumane Governments—whether they be of the present party or of others. We over-exaggerate our self-condemnation from time to time and forget the good which respective Governments of both political parties have done.
On the general principles which my noble friend is presenting in the White Paper, I fully agree as a woman that it is right that UK citizens should be treated equally whether they are men or women. I therefore agree with the basic justice of the proposals he has outlined; that a female citizen should be able to bring in her spouse. Where I do have reservations is in the field of abuse. I was for three years with responsibilities for immigration at the Home Office before we widened the regulations as they had been under successive Governments since the 1960s. I saw what devious tricks were entered into and what efforts were made by people who desired to set foot in this country and stay here by one means or another. Some of them were crooks. Some of them were dope-peddlers.
I do not believe that any section of the Civil Service gets more abuse than our unfortunate immigration service, which does an outstanding job. One never hears about the undesirables they have kept out but only about the hardship cases which they have not let in. We do an injustice to the service and I am sure that Members on the other side of the House who have held office in the Home Office appreciate far more fully how difficult the job is and how sincerely the immigration officers carry it out. It is about time we recognised how difficult their job is.
I have reservations in regard to abuse—first, as regards the African and Asian ethnic groups. We cannot ignore—and it amazes me that the Council for Civil Liberties does seem to ignore it—the fact that it is in itself discrimination against women where there are arranged marriages. Had my noble friend Lady Vickers been able to be here, she would have participated in the debate tonight, giving examples of weeping young women who have come to her appalled that this legislation is going to allow their fathers to arrange a marriage for them. One in particular was being packed off to Singapore in order to meet the husband found by the uncle of the family. I have met young women, highly educated, born in this country, educated in this country, brought up in our environment, some of them now 18 or 20, who are terrified 701 that they will have to bow to the family decision. They will be sent out to India to meet the young man under the strict aegis of the family. I think we are forgetting an aspect of the equality of women if we turn a blind eye to what, in our idea of equality, our idea of the way of life in this country, are the rights and liberties of those young women.
I also regret that any debate on immigration is always polarised as if it affected only the coloured population. Here, I would disagree with my noble friend on the Front Bench, because I think we have underestimated the abuse that there will be. I am almost willing to bet that there will be just as much abuse by white, by Latin, possibly by Arab, and by people who are not coloured at all, some coming from countries where they have a harsh régime, some thinking there are pickings in the great city of London, some involved in nefarious activities who will use every opportunity. It may be a romantic ploy to some young woman they meet on holiday; it may be hard cash with somebody this end arranging it. We are living in cloud cuckoo land if we do not think it can happen. I therefore hope very sincerely that, where we are not certain that the girl is willing, there should be some organisation which will interview these girls without the parents, so that we can be sure there is not the sexual discrimination which I am sure we all deplore. I believe it will be extremely difficult to carry through this legislation and minimise the abuse, because to many people this is still a very advantageous country to come to. I think there will be efforts towards as much white abuse as there might be from those who are African or oriental.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, will she tell the House whether she agrees with the Government on the issue of sex discrimination between the settled non-citizen male living in this country and the settled non-citizen female?
§ Baroness Hornsby-Smith
My Lords, I think we have got to draw the line somewhere, because throughout the world the husband, or in some cases the father, still chooses the bride. Whether it is from a Latin Mediterranean country or from an Asian or African one, the girl has not the same dominance that an independent Anglo-Saxon girl in this country has in making her own decision. I think it would widen the abuse. I think that the Government have gone as far as it is reasonable to ask them to go at this moment of time. I think we should see how these regulations—which I believe at the moment are fair and of enormous help to those who quite genuinely should be here—work.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am grateful to all of your Lordships, whatever the colour or temperature or direction or pressure of your contributions to this debate. Perhaps I should make that clear at the outset in case some of my responses to individual interventions are less generous than that. My Lords, this is a "take note" debate; it is therefore, if I may so put it, a take away debate. My principal function is to take 702 away from this place the attitudes which your Lordships have revealed and the criticisms which your Lordships have made of the White Paper which I put before your Lordships some time ago. I will try nonetheless to respond as best I can to a range of the points your Lordships have brought forward. If I do not respond to them all it does not mean that they have fallen on barren ground, at least in the extent that the ground will be cultivated; whether they will sprout depends on their quality.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, was much displeased with the rules as a whole. I would like to set her mind at rest at the outset on one particular thing. We are not engaged on a profit-making exercise. Certainly it is true that receipts in the last year from naturalisation and registration fees exceeded by £1.2 million the costs to which they gave rise. But this was a once-for-all exercise, and it occurred because of a change in procedure under which fees are now being collected when an application is made, whereas previously they were collected when an application was granted. As a result, two years' fees have been collected in one year. Obviously this will not happen again, and our policy is as she said it should be, to set fees at a level which will cover costs and no more. I shall return to the noble Baroness.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester reminded me, quite properly, of my party's commitment, which I reiterated in the debate on the humble Address in reply to the gracious Speech, our dedication to the philosophy that we are one nation. In much of what he said he suggested that the way in which the rules are framed and the Act implemented would destroy the confidence of what I think we now both for the purposes of this discussion term the minority members of our community in the rest of the community. I understand what he says; I will bear his concern to the proper quarter. But I hope he will understand that Government must be concerned not only with the confidence of one part of our community but of all parts, and that includes the majority, and without mutual confidence we will never have a relaxation of tension. We need to establish in the public mind, therefore, that immigration is controlled, and that it is controlled in a logical manner on logical principles.
My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard has demonstrated better than I could that this is perhaps a task which needs careful consideration. My noble friend did, however, agree with the right reverend Prelate that compassion is necessary in the administration of these rules. I think I should say that a great deal of care is exercised and will be exercised, not only by Ministers but also by officials, in deciding difficult individual cases.
I would like now to express my heartfelt gratitude to my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith for giving voice, from the position of experience, to the astonishing amount of work which officials and indeed Ministers have to do, the amount of care which they take with individual cases, and the number of brickbats they receive for their recompense. Where there are special compassionate circumstances Ministers are willing to exercise discretion outside the rules. I should say that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary personally dealt with about 10,000 letters, a number 703 of them emanating from the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in the past year. I have experience of that; for three weeks I was dealing with these letters, and I am amazed at both the volume and the detail, and the compassion which they reveal.
This has been particularly true in the case of applications by women wishing to be joined here by a foreign husband or fiancé, where we have taken careful account of a woman's connection with this country and whether she would suffer undue hardship through living in her husband's country. At the same time, discretion has to be confined to cases where there are exceptional compassionate circumstances, and there will always be hard cases on the borderline. But to exercise a wider discretion would be to undermine the rules and would be unfair to other applicants. I think my noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith was right to emphasise the fact that we have a scope of accessibility to this country which is rarely acknowledged; and it is, as my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said, a country with a very high level of occupancy already.
Perhaps I may now turn to the category of statelessness of which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, spoke. In particular, I come first to the illegitimate child of a non-British wife whose home state does not transfer citizenship through the female line. If the mother is settled in the United Kingdom at the time of the birth, the child will be a British citizen at birth. If the mother becomes settled or becomes a British citizen after the child's birth, the child will be able to acquire British citizenship.
The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, asked me to state the position of the Home Secretary on a possible extension of the probationary period from one year to two. I think I can best reply to this by quoting his actual words in another place when opening the debate there, in which he said;I shall listen with care to suggestions that may be made here and in another place for modifications in these proposals. After these debates, and in the light of what is said in them, I shall lay a statement of changes in the rules . . .". [Official Report, Commons, 11/11/82, col. 692)I can scarcely go further than that, and I hope the noble Baroness will be content to see what he does.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also referred to children of refugees. I can tell him that the child of a refugee or of anyone else who is given an extension of leave for a year will qualify for an extension of leave in line with the parent. There is no question of the child being required to leave. Should the parent be granted settlement, the child would qualify for settlement too. In order to qualify for British citizenship, a person must have lived here for five years and been granted settlement for the last year, as well as satisfying certain personal requirements. Where the parent of a child born in the United Kingdom becomes settled, the child himself has a right to be registered as a British citizen.
As to the marriageability of women refugees and British overseas citizens, a woman who is accepted as a refugee or is granted asylum will be granted settlement after four years. She can qualify to naturalise as a British citizen after five years here. She must be settled for the last year. I do not think it is unfair to expect such a woman to live here for five years herself before she can qualify to become a British 704 citizen and to bring her husband or fiancé into this country. The same is true of a British overseas citizen who is accepted for settlement.
If I may revert to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, she referred with some heat to paragraph 65. Paragraph 65 regulates the admission of children to this country to join their parents. While I will read again with care what she said, I ought perhaps to remind her and your Lordships that the parents here referred to are parents who are not British citizens, who have not settled here, who have no leave even to be here themselves, and in respect of whom the expectation is, of course, as indeed is the law, that they will leave.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, my point was that it could be—and I think I am right about this—people whose leave has ended and who are appealing. It is while their appeal is pending that this could happen and the child could be affected. Also, while the noble Lord is answering that, I would like his comments on what I suggested, that "shall" should be substituted for "may" on that particular point.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, on the first point, which is narrower than I thought, I will think about it and write to the noble Baroness. She has, by putting this on the record, performed the purpose that this debate is supposed to serve, anyway. As to the words "shall" and "may", many long and fascinating hours have been spent between these Benches on the subject of which words should be used where. Where it is a discretionary power, I should have thought that the word "shall" was a contradiction of the word "discretion", but I will also look at that. The speech of the noble Baroness was rendered charming, I thought, not only by her own personality but by the theme that it ought to be at least as easy for lovers to come here as it should be for businessmen, which I think appeals to our hearts perhaps a little more than our heads.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury—and it is the shuffling of these papers which has brought the two Peers into alternate positions—referred to the Strasbourg cases. In addition to the three cases to which I referred, there are about 20 other cases pending before the Commission complaining about the rules on husbands. Of the three cases referred to by the noble Lord, those of Balkandali, who will become a British citizen, and of Cabales have been declared admissible by the Commission, together with another one which is known as the case of X. Mrs. Dahanayake's case was declared inadmissible by the Commission. My right honourable friend decided to allow her husband to remain on the recommendation of an adjudicator.
The Government do not accept that the present rules are either sexually or racially discriminatory; nor that the rules infringe the Convention on Human Rights at all. The Government similarly do not accept that the rules we now propose are discriminatory on these grounds and would violate the convention. At this stage I am not going, as the noble Lord would like me to do, to deploy the arguments which we shall need to deploy on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, if I may refer briefly to his question, mentioned police registration. I 705 cannot, I am afraid, say what the position is in other European Economic Community countries. The reason we have proposed that Community nationals should not normally have to register with the police is that we have found that registration causes duplications of work with no significant benefit to the immigration control. The noble Lord will know that EEC nationals here for more than six months have to obtain a resident's permit from the Home Office anyway, and that has very similar effects.
As to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, about South Africans being allowed in without visas, the question of making visas necessary has been considered not only by this Government but by previous Governments and rejected because so many South Africans have dual United Kingdom/South African citizenship that it would be ineffective in any case, and the work involved would be largely unproductive.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, bestowed on me a literary accolade, I think I owe him a compliment of some sort. He said that what I had said equalled the works of Lewis Carroll. May I say that, certainly in his interpretation of our motives, his equals those of Freud? I hope he will take that compliment and be as pleased with it as I was with his to me.
But our motives are not all sexist—and I must say this to all those interested in this aspect. It is indeed no good the noble and charming Baroness, Lady Birk, saying that things are different from what they are. There is a notable difference, and it is an economic difference, between heads of households and their dependants. Some of your Lordships may regret it, but all of us must recognise the fact that in our society the head of the household (by which I mean the principal breadwinner) is still more likely to be a man than a woman. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, may regret this, but it is the case. In the society of the Indian sub-continent, from whence the vast majority of these applicants will come, it is infinitely more so.
The first reason that I advance, therefore—it is made infinitely more pressing by our present uncomfortably high level of unemployment—is that we simply cannot afford to let an indefinite number of breadwinners into this country at the same time. To admit a finite number, a maximum of 3,000 a year as we now propose, is one thing; but to add unquantifiably to that would have an adverse effect on the economy—indeed, not only on the economy but on public confidence in the rules which, as I said to the right reverend Prelate, we cannot sensibly afford.
Equal treatment to men and women could, of course, be achieved by levelling down if entry were restricted to women coming to join British citizen men. But such a restriction could not be introduced for wives and fiancées of men settled here before 1st January 1973 by means of these or of any other rules. It would require an Act of Parliament to amend the Immigration Act and it would in any case mean breaking pledges which have been given by Governments of both complexions. It would result in very many unsatisfactory decisions and I might add that it would make it more difficult for this country to attract skilled people as work-permit holders, businessmen and so on.
706 I have heard reference in this debate—as I expected—to the manifesto pledge. I will only say that the undertaking given in the manifesto was to end the concession introduced by the Labour Government in 1974 to husbands and male fiancés. That concession was granted to all women settled in this country. We have revoked it. We do not propose to reintroduce it. What we propose to do is to give to women who will be British citizens the right, under strictly supervised circumstances, to be joined by the men to whom they are married or to whom they intend to be married. The supervision which I have already described extends not merely to establishing the bona fides of the men before their arrival, but to verifying the genuineness of the marriage when it actually takes place and even to ensuring that it subsists a year after it is entered into. That is a very different kettle of fish from the general permissive rules which it will replace.
The British Nationality Act 1981 has introduced fundamental changes in a central area of our national life. For many years we have had a citizenship which did not give us a definition of who actually belongs in this country. Now we have one, it will give us a far better basis for effective and more understandable immigration control. We should build on the framework provided by the Act and this is what we have done in the rules. We will take careful note of what your Lordships have said, but I now ask the House to take note of our proposals which I am confident are the right ones.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty-three minutes past eight o'clock.