§ 9.38 p.m.
§ The Earl of Listowel rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to take to implement the recommendations of the Report on Immigration Control Procedures of the Commission for Racial Equality.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, in view of the lateness of the hour I am sure your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I shall be extremely brief. I am asking the Government this Question because I am deeply concerned about race relations. I think my concern is shared by every Member of this House. I am also extremely alarmed by the report from the Commission on Racial Equality about the effect of immigration controls on race relations.
§ I hope the Government will agree that this report to which I have referred is the most serious and comprehensive survey on immigration procedures that has been produced in this country since the Immigration Act 1971. Whether or not the views and recommendations in the report are acceptable to the Government—and I have a feeling that some of them at any rate may not be acceptable—they surely deserve the most careful consideration from those responsible for the administrative controls that are criticised.
§ May I remind your Lordships that the Commission for Racial Equality was charged by Parliament expressly with the responsibility for race relations in this country, so that anything it reports to Parliament must be of the deepest interest both to us and to the members of the Government. The report has taken no less than five years to complete and it is based on information collected very widely both here and overseas. It would have appeared a good deal sooner but for the reluctance of the Government to authorise an inquiry. The commission's original suggestion of a public inquiry was flatly turned down and that refusal was followed by an appeal to the High Court against the commission's proposal for an internal inquiry. It was only when the High Court decided in favour of the commission, after a delay of 18 months, that the inquiry was able to go ahead with, I thoroughly concede, the full co-operation of the Government, and Government departments came forward with the evidence required for the preparation of the report. The delay of a year and a half was certainly unfortunate, but it was not the fault of the commission.
Let me make it perfectly clear at the outset that I am not making a criticism of individual immigration officers at home or overseas. They are doing a difficult and controversial job as conscientiously and efficiently as any other civil servants in a less exposed and controversial position. The procedures they follow are laid down for them by their training and in the guidance and instructions that they regularly receive from the Home Office. The report itself makes it abundantly clear that it is criticising the system and not the individuals who work it. Perhaps I may be permitted to quote one sentence on page 132 of the report:
It would be entirely unjustified to place on staff the responsibility for the fundamental criticisms which can be made of the adminis-
tration and operation of the control; the criticisms we have made are of the system that the staff operates, and we stress that distinction".
§ I do not think anyone would question the need for immigration controls, or the two-fold purpose for which such controls exist. On the one hand, they must admit to this country those who are eligible; on the other hand, they must exclude or remove those who are not eligible. But in any administrative system problems of priorities arise. In this instance the need to exclude the ineligible means that checks have to be made to determine who is eligible and who is not. The greater the emphasis on excluding the ineligible, the more intensive those checks have to be. The more intensive the checks and the more complicated they become to carry out, the more delay and expense to those who are eligible.
§ Furthermore, if the objective of excluding the ineligible is taken to extremes in dealing with matters which are often not susceptible to documentary proof, the risks of excluding those who are eligible to enter the country but lack the resources to prove it, become serious. That is what the commission believes is actually happening today.
§ The heavy and excessive emphasis on excluding the ineligible, rather than giving prompt and sympathetic attention to the rights of the eligible, has lead to administrative practices which, in the commission's view, bear with particularly adverse effect on people from the New Commonwealth, Pakistan and other third world countries. Indeed, it is this obsessive preoccupation with the risk of evasion that has been doing so much damage recently to race relations. It has meant delays of months or even years in the processing of legitimate applications from wives or children of people who are resident here, and in some cases it has lead to refusals where entry should have been granted. For example, before 1982 wives in Pakistan and Bangladesh were waiting a year and half to two years for their first interview. Since then waiting times have been reduced in most of the Indian subcontinent, but I think your Lordships will agree that it is impossible to calculate in human terms the damage done to family life by these long separations, and this damage will continue until the present priorities have been reversed.
Perhaps I may be allowed to quote the key recommendation on page 55 of the report. It is as follows:
There should be a major change of emphasis in the operation of the procedures
that is the control procedures—
giving less priority to the prevention of evasion and overriding priority to ensuring that genuine applicants are enabled to exercise their rights with a minimum of delay and difficulty.
If it is argued, as it sometimes is, that this might result in a marginal increase in the number of evasions, that would surely be a small price to pay for the effect on race relations of confidence in the fairness and lack of discrimination in the system of control.
§ There are three other matters which are mentioned in the report to which I should like particularly to draw the attention of the Minister. The first is this: I think generally the conditions attaching to the entry of aged 1411 parents or grandparents—and I think that this is something which might appeal particularly closely to Members of your Lordships' House—and also of a child applying to join one parent, and, besides, the husbands and fiancés of women in the United Kingdom, are at the moment too restrictive and could be relaxed without adding substantially to the flow of immigrants.
§ The second matter to which I wish to refer is that of the United Kingdom passport holders, the so-called East African Asians. Many of these people missed their opportunity for a voucher from the quota allocated to East African Asians before they left East Africa for India. Now they are at the end of the queue, but as the East African quota is unused it should surely be made available for them in India while the quota system itself has to continue. I hope it will not have to continue indefinitely, but while it continues they should be given a voucher on the old quota.
§ Finally, I should like the Minister, if he would, to say something about the appeal system, which is very important. The commission points out that arrangements which allow the Home Secretary to draw up rules of procedure and appoint adjudicators in appeal cases, which often of course lie against his own decisions, are bound to appear biased. The difficulty could be avoided if these responsibilities were transferred to the Lord Chancellor, who already appoints the Appeals Tribunal, which is the tribunal which is above the adjudicators.
§ In view of the importance of these appeals on which the fate of so many people can depend, a panel of three adjudicators would be preferable to one sitting alone, and this would make it possible to include a representative of the ethnic minorities. I am here, of course, repeating a recommendation made in the report.
§ Again I should like to remind the House that the Commission for Racial Equality is the statutory body charged by Parliament with the responsibility for race relations. It has produced a report with a number of recommendations which cannot possibly be ignored. What I am asking the Government to do is to implement these recommendations so as to stop the deterioration in race relations resulting—as the commission is convinced it will—from the present administration of immigration controls. My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is absolutely right to point out that the more the emphasis is placed on eligibility the greater likelihood there is of denying the rights of those who ought to be admitted to this country. In the last 15 years or so I have dealt with many thousands of immigration cases and very often, after voluminous correspondence with Ministers and sometimes, at the end of the day, meetings with the Ministers in their own offices, the original decision to deny somebody entry has been reversed. When that happens, I always think about the far larger number of persons whose cases will not come before the Minister but whose 1412 cases might have been just as meritorious as those which were fortunate enough to be taken up by some MP or noble Lord.
I think it was predictable that any impartial investigation of immigration control procedures such as we have before us would find that too great an emphasis is placed on the detection of bogus applicants at an unacceptable cost to genuine families and to race relations generally. It is also inevitable, I am afraid, that the Government having (as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, pointed out) fought tooth and nail to prevent the inquiry in the first place to the extent of causing the Commission for Racial Equality to go to court and waste 18 months of time, they would then, after the report was written, seek to delay the publication of it—as they did—and then to rubbish the findings when they were finally published.
As far as I am concerned, it is as plain as a pikestaff that the immigration rules are racist; and the most obvious example of that is the rule on husbands, which has been discussed several times in your Lordships' House, where the Government went into contortions to ensure that as many white husbands as possible would be admitted and as many Asian husbands would be excluded. We said, when that rule was first published, that it was racist. We said that it will be shown to be unlawful at Strasbourg. The Government at that time replied that if a case was brought they believed that they had good arguments to defend themselves—although we were never told what the arguments were and we are none the wiser today.
Similarly, the provisions regarding elderly relatives (which the noble Earl has mentioned) were designed to keep out the parents of those who came from the Indian sub-continent. Everybody knows that that was the motive of the Government in tightening up the restrictions on this category of immigrants as they did in 1980, because that was where elderly parents were coming from. They were not coming from the white Commonwealth countries. The rule on single-parent families, on the other hand, was aimed at the West Indian immigrants because, as the report points out, in the West Indies their cultural patterns do not see marriage as something of high importance. Children are frequently brought up by their mothers alone with the aid of the extended families that they have in the West Indies. When the mothers came to England, they often left the children in the care of an aunt or a grandmother while they were getting started in this country. But the rule for a child coming here to join a single parent is that the parent must have exercised "sole responsibility" for the child; and that provision "has discriminated particularly against West Indians", as the CRE report plainly says.
Then, as regards the iniquitous system of quota vouchers, mentioned by the noble Earl, under which the Government created an artificial queue of our own citizens wanting to enter the country, the European Commission found (as the CRE reminds us) that the scheme was racially motivated. The effect of it has been not to reduce the numbers of people entering the country over, say, a 20-year period. but to delay their arrival by as much as eight years. This has meant that in the meanwhile some applicants have become destitute who might have brought capital with them 1413 had they been allowed to enter when they first applied. Secondly, it has meant that children who would have been brought through British schools instead come here as young adults with social and educational handicaps.
The distinguished American historian, Barbara Tuchman, in her latest book, The March of Folly, which I commend to the noble Lord the Minister, discusses an inexplicable characteristic of leaders—their propensity to continue with policies which are directly contrary to their own self-interest and that of their people, in the face of well-reasoned advice. She cites as examples the medieval Papacy, the rule of the British in North America and, finally, in a very long chapter, the experience of the United States in first becoming embroiled and then persisting in the military conflict in Vietnam. I think that if one wanted to add a chapter, particularly for British readers, no better subject could be found than our treatment of the East African Asians, because they have got so much to contribute to this country that it was an act of inconceivable folly as well as of racist inhumanity to make them kick their heels for years in front of British high commissions in Nairobi or Bombay.
When you look at the splendid example they set, in terms of industry and efficiency and in the management of small businesses (and some now that are not so small), their well-knit family life, their great respect for the law and their love of education, I think it is impossible to deny that their presence here is an enormous asset for the nation.
I mentioned family life. A further review of the Helsinki Accords is to be held in Ottawa in May this year and among the topics to be discussed is the reunification of families, to which principle the signatories are supposed to be committed. As your Lordships know, the Soviet Union continues to violate this agreement by denying her citizens the right to emigrate to join their wives or parents in Britain. Israel or the United States. We rightly condemn that policy; but are we any better, when our immigration law equally separates husbands from wives or parents from children? Are we not, on the other hand, just as guilty as the Soviet Union in that our policy is directed against people of particular ethnic groups?
I should like to mention a particular case which I took up with the then Minister, in March 1981, of an elderly lady who wanted to join her two sons in England. The reference number is A219549/2(s), if the Minister wants to look it up. She had been unsuccessful in her application because it was said, erroneously, that she had substantial resources in the shape of land which had been inherited from her late husband.
I conducted her case before the adjudicator and proved to his satisfaction that she had not any land. She relied on her two sons in this country for support. But the adjudicator nevertheless turned down the application on the ground that she had a brother to whom she might have turned in India, even though he lived several hundred miles away from her and no evidence was brought to show that he was willing to look after her, should it prove necessary.
1414 This lady, not long before the hearing, had had a bad fall and broken her hip. That necessitated an operation and the adjudicator said that as the appellant had suffered what at her age was likely to be a serious injury,no doubt the Secretary of State would be prepared to look at the matter outwith the immigration rules".Accordingly I wrote to the Minister, expecting in the light of such a clear recommendation that my plea would be successful. But the then Minister, Mr. Raison, rejected the submission in these terms, which I should particularly like your Lordships to note, because what he says in this letter to me applies to every case and not just to the one I am quoting. He says:I accept that the provisions relating to the entry of parents and grandparents are strict. We made it quite clear in our manifesto that … they ought to be".This was a deliberate act of policy, to exclude parents and grandparents even in the cases where, as the adjudicator said, they merited the sympathetic attention of Ministers. Even when last year the brother to whom this lady was supposed to be able to turn for support in her own country had a prostate operation and her sister-in-law had a stroke and was totally incapacitated, the Minister still said that she was unqualified to come here. It was only after she had arrived in this country as a visitor and been granted temporary admission, and it was found that she was medically unfit to travel back home, that after four years' struggle the Home Office finally relented. As the CRE comment in their usual measured language:It is not fundamental to the overall control of immigration to place difficult obstacles in the way of families making the best provision they can for elderly dependants, nor it is helpful to the promotion of good race relations to do so".In the case of husbands the CRE make the important point that the guidance and criteria established for applying discretion under the 1980 rules were neither published nor subject to test through appeal, yet they came close to being a subsidiary rule in themselves. Now that the rule is partially revealed by the CRE's report, we see that there are many cases which have been determined since then and which, in the light of the changes, would not have been refused if they had been determined under the present guidance given to the immigration officers.
But the CRE believe—and I heartily agree with them—that it is fundamentally unfair to demand that a marriage was not entered into with the primary purpose of establishing a right to settlement, because that is a highly subjective criterion and one that is extraordinarily difficult for even the best-intentioned immigration officers to apply.
Here, again, I am going to cite just one case to show the lengths to which the Home Office goes to get rid of one single black immigrant. This is the case of a Nigerian who entered Britain originally as a visitor in 1977. He has been here continuously for eight years and his reference is Y.30641. This man is married—I should add to a British citizen. He has two children by her, with another one on the way, and he also acts as a father to another child that his wife had from a previous relationship. He has been running a successful small business selling security systems. So one would have thought that if he were not black, he would 1415 be the kind of person who would endear himself to the Tory Government, with their love of small entrepreneurs.
I accept that he had no entitlement to stay here under the rules, because when he got married he was not within his permitted leave to remain. But one would have thought that the Minister could have had regard to the circumstances and exercised compassion, particularly when one considers the principles outlined in the IND bulletins, which are summarised in paragraph 5.9.7 of the CRE's report—and very interesting reading they make. The rules were not intended to disrupt genuine, established relationships. The wife's connections with the United Kingdom were to be taken into account. The interests of the children were also to be taken into account. The wife in this case is English by birth. She has had a hard time with her pregnancies with two or three caesarians, and was dissuaded only with difficulty from having an abortion this time. She cannot face going through another confinement without the support of her husband. One of the children has suffered mental illness as a result of the threat of losing his father.
When the Minister, in spite of all the circumstances that I have summarised here, decided that he would throw the husband out, leaving a pregnant woman destitute with three small children. I sought the help of an excellent solicitor who thought that the court might agree to hear an application for judicial review of the Minister's decision. With only a few minutes to spare before the husband was to be removed, the solicitor lodged the application. The Home Office nevertheless sent the police round to the flat where this family lived the next morning, without waiting to see what the court would decide. The Minister tried to pretend that no application was at that time before the court, because the table application had been rejected, which is quite normal, and the Minister knows that the procedure then is for the solicitor to renew it orally before a judge of the High Court or the Divisonal Court. Fortunately, the husband was out when the authorities came round and he made himself scarce until the hearing which, in the event, was successful. But if he had not been able to keep out of the way until he had the protection of the court, he might have been bundled out of their jurisdiction and the decision of the court to allow him leave to apply for judicial review would have been of no effect.
In this case the Minister also violated his own rule for dealing with cases submitted for the exercise of his discretion—that is, that he will always allow the constituency Member the right to make representations before reaching a final decision—because the Minister knew that in this case the Member was Mr. Clive Soley. He knew that Mr. Soley was intending to make a submission on behalf of the husband. The Minister now tries to make out that when he originally promulgated the rule that constituency Members of Parliament would always have the right to make representations it was to be qualified by the unwritten rule that, where someone else had already made lengthy representations, the constituency Member was to be excluded. That really is changing the rules in the middle of the game.
1416 I am very sorry that the Government should have tried, as they have done in their published comments on the CRE report, to brush aside as misguided or as of no importance a painstaking, comprehensive analysis, which has been produced by the very body which they set up to advise them. When the CRE, with the enormous weight of their authority, endorse the complaints about the immigration control system which have been made over the years by every organisation representing ethnic minorities, by all the law centres which try to help the thousands of victims of the immigration rules, as well as by the churches and the trade unions, then surely the Government might reconsider their attitude.
We are not talking about a vast increase in the number of people who are permitted to enter this country. In the case of United Kingdom passport holders the net addition over the longer timescale is nil, and the same is true of the elderly parents and grandparents who would not in any case have very long to live with their descendants in this country. A few thousand more husbands and financés might come in if the primary purpose rule was abolished, and an even smaller number if single parents did not have to satisfy the Minister that they held sole responsibility for the child.
The net effect of all the changes which are mentioned by the CRE is really trivial compared with the movement of peoples in and out of this country. But the effect of continuing with the policies of the Government is not at all negligible. It makes blacks and Asians in this country feel that, whatever may be said about racial equality, there is an undercurrent of hostility towards them in the top levels of British society which will ensure that they never get a fair deal.
We believe in genuine equality between all the communities of the United Kingdom. We believe that we must eradicate discrimination at the ports of entry just as we smash it within the boundaries of the United Kingdom.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Birmingham
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for raising this matter of immigration procedures and for the terms in which he has done this, and I should like to associate myself with what both he and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, have said.
I should like to start with some compliments. I am sure that all who have been concerned with this subject have been helped by the Home Office publication, Report on the Work of the Immigration Nationality Department, which was published last year. In particular, I welcome the greater openness which the department has shown in the more recent past. For example, I am glad to say that there will be an official visit by members of the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England, as a result of conversations we held with the Home Office last year, to Lunar House, the headquarters of the department. I much look forward myself to a visit later this month to Heathrow so that I may observe some of the immigration procedures at a port of entry.
While all this marks a new and welcome openness on the part of the Home Office, this is not to say that 1417 difficulties have been resolved, and all awkwardnesses have been removed. It is surely significant that the report of a formal investigation by the CRE was published at about the same time as one by the UKIAS, and another report authorised under the Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church. I mentioned the latter to show that the Church of England is not the only Church in this country which has been greatly disturbed by our immigration laws and control procedures.
I am grateful to the Commission for Racial Equality for its comprehensive report, and also for the sobriety and calmness of its style, which is not always to be seen when people deal with this very sensitive area. Those of us who have criticised the nationality law and the immigration procedures have done so on two accounts: first, because the law seems to us in some respects unjust; and secondly, because of additional injustices which seem to have been caused by procedures. I do think, however, that sympathy is due to the Home Office because undoubtedly there have been fraudulent attempts to gain illegal entry and settlement in this country, and I even have some sympathy with them in imagining that those who make fraudulent tax returns are not likely to make fraudulent entry applications. I wonder whether the Commission for Racial Equality has been sufficiently understanding on this aspect.
It is not always easy to cope with the sheer numbers of people who wish to enter the country. One must agree that some delays are inevitable. It is good to see, according to the 1984 Home Office document, that delays in entry clearance have been reduced—although almost 20 months in the main queue at Dhaka is too long. I hope that steps are being taken to reduce that delay.
I rise to speak in your Lordships' House tonight for two reasons. First, I have to deal with this matter as best I can as chairman of the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England, secondly, as Bishop of the See of Birmingham, which in some respects has the greatest concentration of ethnic minorities in any city in the United Kingdom. For example, within the city as a whole 15 per cent. of all householders come from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan. For the inner areas, the figure is 43 per cent.
All these are in parishes manned by priests of the Church of England, some of them having more than 80 per cent. of ethnic minorities in their parishes; I should rather say, ethnic majorities. We are therefore in a good position to know the sentiments among those families who have relations overseas. I must tell your Lordships that there is no question that the operation of the immigration procedures, taken in conjunction with the new nationality law, has caused much fear and resentment among the black population.
Fortunately, because of the policies in the city as such, there is not much racial unrest—but the fact that our ethnic minority communites are peaceable does not mean that they do not feel deep hurt at what is happening. I may say that this impression, which has been given to me through my pastoral contact in these areas, is borne out by the experience of Members of 1418 another place who have been trying to help these people secure their just rights of settlement without too much delay and with dignity
I appreciate that Her Majesty's Government have stated that they cannot regard reunion of the family as a fundamental human right, but I hope that applications for family reunion can be treated more sympathetically than they are being treated at the moment. It is on the subject of the family that I will concentrate most of what I have to say.
It is important that Recommendation 36 of the CRE should be taken very seriously by the Home Office—namely, that the criteria and test used by entry clearance officers in assessing whether the parent has exercised sole responsibility for the child should be reviewed, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has suggested; that appropriate criteria and standards should be defined in the fullest possible detail; and that instructions and guidance should be issued to ECOs to ensure that they are applied consistently and fairly.
As your Lordships will know, a child may join one parent settled here if the other is dead—but if only one parent is settled and the other is not, or is not being admitted for settlement at the same time, then the child has no automatic right to join that parent. In such circumstances a child may be admitted for settlement only if the parent settled in the United Kingdom has had sole responsibility for the child's unbringing.
The operation of this regulation can be very unfair on West Indian families. Considerable numbers of West Indian women migrated in their own right to the United Kingdom, leaving behind children to be looked after by others—usually the maternal grandparents. The definition of sole responsibility ought to be revised, as the CRE suggests. Obviously it cannot be applied rigidly or literally since the very fact that a child was left behind shows that someone else was bound to be looking after it. I would have thought that for the wellbeing of the family—and I hope that Her Majesty's Government have the wellbeing of the family in mind—it would be appropriate for ECOs to be given discretion to admit children in all cases where the mother is able to give evidence of being able to look after them, to maintain them, and to care for them.
It is most important that children should be with their mothers. Do not Her Majesty's Goverment think that? I cannot understand why there is discrimination between a child joining two parents on the one hand and a child joining only its mother on the other. If we wish the family to remain strong and healthy surely we should at all times try to have children in the care of their own mothers.
I also think the current rules bear very hardly on the admission of elderly and other distressed relatives, as has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Plainly the rules are devised to minimise the numbers admitted into this country. Originally they were only admitted if they were "without close relatives in their own country to turn to". Happily, the High Court judgments have considerably improved the interpretation of this phrase—an improvement which I should have thought would have been made by the Home Office in the first place. It would seem humane 1419 to me if the rules could be interpreted in such a way that aged parents and grandparents were allowed to join their children or grandchildren if the latter could show that they could provide the necessary support and accommodation. Incidentally, it would greatly reduce the work of the immigration officials.
A more difficult matter concerns the admission of husbands and fiancés, as has been mentioned. The amended rules which were laid before Parliament in 1983 extend to all women British citizens the right to have their husbands to settle with them in the United Kingdom. The change seems to have been caused by the finding of the European Commission on Human Rights in 1982. Nonetheless, the amendment has twisted the rules. Now, if a man wishes to enter the United Kingdom he has to prove to the ECO that the marriage was not entered into for the purpose of securing settlement and that the parties intend to live together permanently as man and wife. In other words, the burden of proof has changed and those who are married or intend to be married have to explain their reasons for marrying.
Changes in the rules have had very significant effects on the numbers procuring settlement. Hypothetical questions can now be asked by ECOs in order to try to get a man to admit that he is marrying a woman in order to settle in this country. Those of us who have to face hypothetical questions know how very dangerous they can be. The reasons we all marry are often complex, and it is even more so in the case of arranged marriages such as are customary on the Asian continent. Arranged marriages there are usually made for the economic and other benefit of the parties and their families and the present procedures of ECOs do not seem to distinguish this from marriages made specifically for the purpose of immigration.
Under the 1983 rules, according to the CRE report, the ground that marriage was primarily for immigration purposes accounted in part, or wholly, for three-quarters of the refusals. Yet how can proof be available that one marries for one purpose rather than another? Many of us would find it very difficult in those circumstances to satisfy the ECO. I hope that the Home Office will take action on Recommendations 37 and 38 concerning the admission of husbands and fiancés into this country. Great pain is caused to many families and I fear that in many cases wrong decisions have been made. Those whom God has joined together the immigration rules put asunder.
I am also concerned about entry clearance for visitors, especially members of a family. Questions are even asked on why parents wish to visit their children or grandchildren. Visitors have been refused on the ground that such visits are inopportune. I should have thought that grandparents have a natural desire to see their children or grandchildren. No doubt your Lordships have received much pleasure and satisfaction from such visits. I hope that ECOs can be instructed to be more sensitive and understanding in this area. I do not in any way blame them; it is a question of the insensitivity of the rules. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will look with greater sympathy on the work of the Commission for Racial Equality than has been shown in another place, where the report has been claimed to be fundamentally 1420 flawed and unrealistic. We have as yet had no detailed response to this series of 56 reasoned recommendations by the statutory body charged by Parliament with responsibility for race relations. I hope, as others have said, that the Minister will give us some undertaking that this will be done in detail.
The Government have complained that the report does not face up to the fact that there is more pressure to emigrate from some countries than from others. It has been said that to deny that flies in the face of common sense. It is that assumption, I fear, which underlies the reversal of the norm of British justice. In the law courts it is assumed that a person is not guilty until he is proved guilty. But it is clear from reading the report that the attitude of the entry clearance officers should be that a man is likely to be making an application which contains lies or flaws. That is the assumption underlying the immigration rules. It is that negative attitude towards people who are often ignorant and even unable to speak our language that causes such concern among the ethnic minorities of the city of which I am bishop. I think that we need clear evidence that there is pressure to emigrate from certain countries before we accept it as a sufficient reason for large numbers being turned down from those countries.
I should also like to express the hope that recommendations in the report for the training of ECOs will be implemented. I should like to urge that the secret instructions to immigration and entry clearance officers, which seem to have been made available to the Commission for Racial Equality—and I am delighted that they have been—be made available to all. Why should they not? Surely we have nothing to hide in the matter; or, if we do have something to hide, then would it not be better for the rules to be changed so that they may openly be published?
The scriptures say that there is much need to show consideration and kindness to the poor and to the deprived, and especially to the strangers within the gates. This is one of the reasons why the Church of England in General Synod has called the nationality law and the immigration rules in many ways unchristian. We know that there are obvious difficulties in the ending of a great imperial chapter in the life of this nation, when millions of people overseas were subjects of the Queen, many of whom consequently received British citizenship. At the same time, these people deserve justice and to be treated with respect and with dignity, despite the strains that that may at times place on the mother country.
So I should like to end by once more, very genuinely, thanking the Minister for the greater openness and the greater information that he has made available. But at the same time, I should like to renew my expression of hope that the recommendations made by the commission should not be dismissed out of hand. I think we deserve to know in detail the reasoned comments of Her Majesty's Government upon this important report and, indeed, their defence against those who have believed that their policy is racist.
§ 10.23 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for 1421 asking this most appropriate Question this evening. My involvement in the matter of immigration procedures is twofold. First, for the greater part of my life I served in the third world as a diplomat, and I was there concerned, although most of the time not directly, with entry clearance procedures. Secondly, since my retirement from the diplomatic service I have concerned myself with refugees, although not of course to the same extent as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and perhaps other noble Lords; and many of those with whom I am associated and have been trying to help are applying for political asylum here.
I should like to open by adding my own very warm tribute to this really splendid report. It is detailed, it is clearly expressed, and I think that its recommendations are wholly admirable, although perhaps I shall be forgiven for saying that it is a little long-winded on occasions. But it has one very important lacuna which I cannot understand. I have searched high and low in this report and I cannot find any reference to refugees or to the problem of those who seek political asylum; and that is, of course, as I am sure the noble Lord the Minister will confirm, a very important concern of the Home Office.
Let me start by dealing with overseas immigration procedures, which are fairly fully covered in this report, although unfortunately the investigators confine their remarks mainly to the Indian subcontinent. In most of the Foreign Office posts in which I have served immigration matters are very often dealt with by junior officers, some of whom—let us face it—have no specialist knowledge in this sphere. Others—again, let us be frank—are not all that keen on the work and find it hard to adjust themselves to the people and their problems. These problems are set out, I think admirably, in pages 34 to 39 of the report; and indeed how evocative they are. One can visualise these junior officers—some very junior indeed, in their early twenties—struggling to separate the sheep from the goats among these applicants, struggling very often against a background of heat and other discomforts and frustrations of which many of your Lordships will be aware.
I fear some succumb. I remember one case of a man who was serving with me in Uganda at the time when we were having great difficulty over the Ugandan Asians. They were then under threat of expulsion. Many of them wanted to come to Britain but a quota system was applied and very few of them could come. This officer was so concerned that he staged a kidnap. He persuaded two of his Asian friends to remove him to an island over the week-end. It was a fake kidnap to draw attention to their plight. Another officer on my staff was so concerned with the problem of immigration and all the applications he had that he almost worked himself to a breakdown. He would never leave his office until 8 or 9 o'clock at night. Yet other officers—forgive me for saying so—adopted a somewhat cavalier and curt approach to these applicants.
In that connection, I direct your Lordships' attention to recommendation No. 10 of this report, which I will not read out. It deals very clearly and very helpfully with the problem of interviews. Chapter 9 of the report deals, again in an extremely useful way, with training. But here again it is confined mainly to the 1422 training of Home Office officials, ECOs working in the Home Office, a few of whom of course work abroad.
I should like to consider particularly the training of those Foreign and Commonwealth personnel for whom short courses are now arranged. This arrangement has only been operating since 1978 but I think it ought to be extended. It must also—this is most important—be reinforced by adequate training and direction in the post, because overall instructions issued in London cannot cover the needs of every individual post.
Another very important consideration which concerns overseas applications is the delays which arise. In some cases, a matter of nine or even 10 months will elapse before applicants are called for their first interview and that is only the beginning of a very lengthy process. In that connection, I should direct your Lordships' attention to recommendation No. 27 which deals with this point very clearly.
My second main area concerns refugees seeking political asylum in Britain. Here, if your Lordships will forgive me, I think I must enlarge a little on the speech I made in your Lordships' House on 27th February when introducing a debate on refugees in the third world. On that occasion, as so often happens in short debates, I was fighting the clock. In the end I won my fight against the clock, but at the cost of leaving out quite a lot of things I wanted to say. One of the main points I tried to make was about the delays which inevitably arise in this country in processing applications for asylum.
Before referring to that point, I should like to counteract any impression I may have left in that speech and perhaps on earlier occasions in your Lordships' House and pay a warm tribute to the Home Office officials who deal with these applications. Many of my friends who have had to deal with them have said that they are considerate, courteous and conscientious, and even, if I may say so, compassionate. Yes, they are all those things. I do not underrate the difficulty that these officials face in trying to sort out genuine from fake applications.
But the problem of delays is very real. It is perhaps the crucial issue that affects so many people applying for asylum. I mentioned this in my debate. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, in reply, expressed surprise that some applications should have to wait several years. I can quote the case of a Ugandan lady who made her first application on 17th February 1983. She was told on 31st January 1985 that her application had been refused. The decision may have been quite right: I am not to say. But it was refused, and she has no right of appeal.
These two points of the length of time and appeal are important. If your Lordships will forgive me, I should like to quote from memoranda submitted by the British Refugee Council to the Home Affairs Committee on Race Relations and Immigration:Some asylum-seekers have to wait up to two years before receiving a decision on their application. This 'pre-asylum period' during which the applicant is not allowed to work"—that is a most important fact—is a most depressing and debilitating time. In some cases permanent psychiatric disorders may result. The Home Office has said that their aim is to speed up the procedure. We warmly welcome this. However, it is to be expected that there will always be a few cases which are not decided within a reasonable period".1423 In regard to the right of appeal, according to this very interesting memoranda:Certain categories of asylum-seekers have no right of appeal against a refusal of refugee status. Whether or not a particular applicant has a right of appeal does not even bear any relation to the merits of his or her case, but is dependent entirely on the immigration status of the person at the time of lodging the asylum application. We believe this to be quite wrong".Indeed, it is quite wrong.
Another procedure that is used from time to time by the Home Office, again quite rightly, is what is known as "exceptional leave to remain". This means that the applicant is not given permanent asylum in Britain; he or she may not work; they are merely allowed to remain here, and every year their permission to stay is renewed. There have been some cases where this permission has been renewed annually for 10 or more years. One friend of mine came to Britain in the spring of 1974. He is still waiting for a permanent answer, in the spring of 1985. According to the memoranda, permission to stay should be permanent after a period of four years.
Finally, I shall deal with a matter that is perhaps closest of all to my heart. I mentioned this in my speech in the debate on refugees; and, again, I shall mention it briefly. It is the fear that so many refugees experience over the delay. They feel that there is a Sword of Damocles suspended over their heads. It is a heavy sword and it is a sharp sword. That sword represents their fear of what will happen to them if they return to their own countries. That applies forcefully to Uganda. I have had assurances from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that there are some signs of improvement. I am sorry that I cannot accept that. All the information that I have from the Minority Rights Group, from Amnesty International and particularly from Ugandans here in Britain indicates that people who return to Uganda from Britain are in great danger of their lives. This is partly because the governing party in Uganda knows that there are opposition elements here. Even if these refugees in Britain have not been associated with them, they are in danger. I wish to make that point very strongly.
To conclude, I should like once more to commend this report to your Lordships and to express the hope that the noble Lord the Minister will take note of the points I have raised.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I should like to express my profound gratitude to my noble friend Lord Listowel, with whom I worked for so many years on this kind of subject, for putting down this Question. He has saved me doing the same thing. I feel that the House has not measured up to its reputation for dealing with crucial human issues, because of the very sparse attendance for this important debate.
I wish to ask the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government a number of questions divided into two broad sections. First, I should like to ask him to explain—I know he cannot defend—the response and the attitude of the Government to the whole procedure for the examination of immigration regulations by the Commission for Racial Equality, which, as my noble friend has pointed out, is a statutory body. It seems to 1424 me that the Government have attempted to undermine this report at every stage. Initially the Government attempted to ban the investigation until it was unsuccessful in taking court action. Even before the report was completed, it was held up for 12 months in the Home Office. After it was published the Minister responsible for immigration claimed, as the right reverend Prelate has pointed out, that the report was fundamentally flawed and unrealistic, and then he went on to describe himself as appalled because the report was disappointing. I should like to ask the Minister whether he shares those sentiments.
Secondly, up to now the regulations and guidelines for immigration control and immigration officers have been very largely secret. This report has exposed them publicly for the first time. Are not the things that have been exposed appalling? I am referring to the way in which some immigration officers—I emphasise "some"—have been dealing with immigration control. Are not the revelations about the way in which immigration officers are being trained, and the attitude to that training, appalling also? We are told that the staff at Terminal 2 at Heathrow prepared what is called a Moroccan survey, which concluded that:Moroccans seem to be both simple and cunning".Immigration officers are being trained with the aid of a paper which, according to the quotation, states:Like Ghanaians, Nigerians tend to have ambitions and plans out of all proportion to their capabilities and circumstances".How can we in this country maintain any pretence of a non-racial attitude with comments like that flying around the immigration officers?
On the other side, we read of officers describing in writing their refusal to grant entry permits with phrases like, "Well done", "Looks as though you have hit the jackpot again". Is that the language of a Britain that has accepted non-racialism as a principle of national life? Moreover, they go on to describe a possible acceptance as, "I may have to issue here". I do not believe that the noble Lord the Minister who is to reply can agree with any of those sentiments. If he does not agree with them, then we are entitled to ask him what he intends to do about them, because the commission has made suggestions as to how this situation can be rectified.
Before moving to those recommendations, there is one further issue arising from the criticisms that I should like to draw to the Minister's attention. I am referring to the general principle that appears to have entered into the immigration control procedure as regards pressure to emigrate from some countries more than from others. This has not been substantiated so far by any statistics or by any evidence. I suggest that the Home Office should either publicly withdraw it or substantiate it. Again the commission points out that this concept has been used as a camouflage for direct racial discrimination.
What I should like to appeal to the Minister to do—and do it tonight—is to throw his weight on to the balance of probabilities and to attempt to get all genuine applicants into this country, even if that means that certain bogus applicants are also admitted. Is he able to say specifically that the Government would prefer to get 100 per cent. of genuine applicants admitted to this country even if that includes a tiny 1425 percentage of bogus applicants, rather than to put the emphasis on keeping out those bogus applicants and thereby keeping out a number of genuine applicants? It is surely a matter of approach, a matter of attitude, which is all important both to race relations and to international relations.
It is unfortunate that the noble Minister's colleague in another place does not appear to be concerned about the revelations in the report of the racist behaviour of certain immigration officers. His comment was that their remarks were:unprofessional but certainly do not warrant stringing up entry clearance officers by their thumbs and flogging them."—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/85; col.459].Surely that is not a serious comment on what has been a very serious, but calm, quiet and rational criticism of the attitude of some—but only some—of these officers, but a serious comment on a system which allows such officers to influence profoundly the lives of many men, women and children. I would just ask Mr. Waddington, who has made these comments, how he justifies the revelations that have been made in the commission's report alongside the permission given to Zola Budd to enter this country within a few days of application. Whatever we may think about it here, I believe that the noble Lord the Minister would agree with me that in the outside world it looks like nothing short of blatant racial and colour discrimination.
So far the Government do not seem to have expressed any worry about the number of wives and children in particular who, as this report reveals, have been refused entry to this country unlawfully. As the right reverend Prelate has pointed out, this is an attitude which is keeping families apart. In some cases it is unlawful, and has been shown by the commission to be unlawful.
Have the Government any plans to right this breaking of the law by their own officers? I believe that we have a right to ask that question of the Minister, and I believe that the Minister will want to do something about it. This is an opportunity in which he can give a clear assurance on behalf of the Government that the law will no longer be broken, and that the regulations will be so tightened that there cannot be any further law-breaking.
May I quote again from the report in support of the plea I am making to the Minister. The commission says:Too great an emphasis has been placed on the operation of the procedures on the detection of bogus applicants at an unacceptable cost to genuine families and to race relations generally. In our view"—goes on the commission—of the basic mistakes which it is possible for an administrative system of this sort to make, it is far worse wrongly to refuse a genuine applicant than to admit a bogus one.I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to that.
The report makes a number of recommendations. We look forward to the Government responding to them. I know that it is too early to respond in detail tonight. I hope that the Minister can respond by creating a new and positive atmosphere in the place of the negative attitude that has been taken so far. I hope he will see that, as the commission says, the promotion of good race relations should be a central concern in 1426 immigration control, not the exclusion of people that the Government do not want (simply through statistics and numbers) to enter this country.
The report goes on to say that the Race Relations Act should be extended to cover immigration control. I think that the Minister may be able at least to respond conditionally to that recommendation tonight, because that recommendation is crucial. It is fundamental to the cleaning up of the immigration process, so that no longer can be there be the slur of racialism upon it.
It is clear from the commission's report that better information and better training facilities are necessary for the immigration and entry clearance officers. Will the Minister give a promise that he will look into this matter not only sympathetically but avidly, and will see that the training and the information services are improved in the way that the commission recommends?
Finally, and perhaps again of equal importance with the application of the Race Relations Act, is the suggestion that an independent body should be set up to investigate complaints of unfair treatment; to make inquiries; to publish reports; to arrange to oversee the Home Office administration of control; and to show where that maladministration can best be tackled.
May I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in another Bill before this House, the Administration of Justice Bill, it has already been pointed out that Clause 43, which would have disallowed the right of appeal on judicial review (which applies particularly to immigrants) has already brought fear to many immigrants that their opportunity to question and to examine Government officials on immigration issues is being whittled away. Fortunately, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has withdrawn that clause and we are still to debate his suggested alternative. But let me put it to the Minister that that fear was created by the inclusion of Clause 43 in the Administration of Justice Bill in the first place. That fear was created among immigrants. And this fear was expressed on all sides of this House. Surely, this recommendation of the commission to set up an independent body capable of correcting the mistakes which are inevitably made by human beings acting in the position of officers in this very delicate task and the creation of such a body would restore confidence to the administration of the Home Office and to the reputation of the British nation.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, this is a debate—and a very important one—initiated on an Unstarred Question put down by noble friend Lord Listowel, to whom gratitude has already been expressed. I, in turn, in trying to wind up this debate from the Opposition Benches wish to associate myself with that expression of gratitude. If, in winding up I were to take a lot of your Lordships' time, I believe that that might lead to the emigration of certain of your Lordships as against the immigration that we are looking at this evening. I do not propose to do that, but I must make the following comment, and I do so in all sincerity.
The report that we are talking about tonight is a report of nearly 200 pages and, as has been mentioned, it took some five years of solid work to produce. I tried 1427 to trace—and the noble Lord the Minister will, I am sure, correct me if I am wrong—what debate has so far taken place in Parliament in regard to this important report which affects so many of our present fellow citizens and their families. I can trace only a question and answer session in another place on 28th February, at column 459 of the Official Report. It occupies less than half a column and much of it is made up of some remarks of the Minister, Mr. Waddington. Knowing him as I do and respecting him as I do, I think that on review he would wish to withdraw some of the remarks that he made on that occasion to which reference has been made. I say that because—and I am now looking at Hansard—he said that he was,certainly appalled because the report is disappointing and does not address itself to the real problems with which we are faced".That is one quotation.
The other quotation, to which reference has already been made, deals with the unfortunate remarks made about some immigration officers. It is in rather exaggerated language and is quite untypical of the Minister. He must have been rushed when those very short questions and answers were put to him. He used words that were never even suggested by the report. He could not see why immigration officers who had been "unprofessional" deserved,stringing up … by their thumbs and flogging".This language is so untypical of the Minister that it is quite obvious to me that he had not got real time to consider the report or his reaction to it.
Here we are in this House, in this bulwark of freedom that we so often call it—and, I believe, rightly so—discussing this important report at five minutes to eleven at night with only a few Members of your Lordships' House present to hear the debate. It is not the right way for Parliament to treat a report of this nature. Indeed, if I use the Minister's word in another place—"appalling"—I think it would be more appropriate than its use on the occasion that I referred to.
The whole question of race relations, which we regard, and rightly so, as one of the great problems of our country, is an important matter. Now that it is a multi-racial country we can be proud of that; but it is a great problem and I suppose it would be true to say that the first reaction of a family coming to this country, be it from Africa or be it from any part of our old empire and now our Commonwealth, to earn the hospitality of these shores, if they come within certain regulations, and the whole attitude, I suppose, of the children who are listening, will be governed by their treatment when they arrive here at the point of entry. The whole question of the interviews—how long they last, the cross-examination, the attitude of the people examining them—will make them feel either that they are walking into a just country, into a country that, if they merit entry, will welcome them, or that they are just not wanted. And even if they attain entry, is not that a disastrous way in which to start upon their citizenship, or at least their residence in this country?—and one which may be repeated, unfortunately, by many examples of finding that they are really not wanted: no jobs and not wanted.
It is therefore so important—I do not think I have to tell the noble Lord the Minister, with his obvious 1428 attitude of humanity to these matters—that these officers we are talking about get it right and are told to get it right. That does not mean that I am not going to pay a tribute, as I readily do, in two respects. First, the majority of the officials do get it right. It is the minority that we are talking about tonight, and the minority have got to be told, "This attitude is untenable".
The other thing I want to say concerns something the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, was talking about. He said there was no reference in the report to political refugees. I want to pay a tribute, as somebody who has had some experience with the Home Office of trying to get political refugees, be it from Iran or from other places of persecution, into this country. I have found complete humanity shown by the immigration officers who have examined the cases of political refugees, and I want to pay my tribute to the Minister, Mr. Waddington—having said what I did about him—for his absolutely merciful and understanding reaction to the applications that I know have been made to him.
My Lords, having said that, why is it that the procedures and the instructions are so secret? We have had debates in this House on instructions that are issued to the police, and the noble Lord the Minister, when dealing with this matter only a matter of a week or so ago, in answer to an amendment that I had the privilege of moving, readily conceded after reflection that yes, there should be reports about the guidelines issued to the police—or issued, rather, to a prosecuting department by the Director of Public Prosecutions and that the general guidelines should be made public in a report.
Why is it that in the case of immigration procedures one finds that instructions to immigration officers and entry clearance officers are confidential, that they are supplemented by unpublished guidance notes and papers and that the interview notes are not available to applicants or their advisers, even on appeal? I do not understand the reason. If we are proud of the way we do things, and we do them fairly, why should all this be secret? Why should we not publish these things to the world and say, "This is how we handle our immigration policy. These are the instructions that we give to our immigration officers"? Why should it just be that the members of this commission were allowed to see the remarks that were made and then commented on them? If they were public, I am perfectly sure that the immigration officers would never make those remarks. They would know perfectly well that it would be scandalous if they were published, and obviously people would take them up.
There have been comments about the recommendations on training of immigration officers. I think that the recommendations that have been made in this report are worthy of very considered judgment by the Home Office Minister who normally deals with this matter, but whose responsibility is put upon the shoulders of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, tonight in our House.
I was very glad, as I am sure we all were, to hear the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, whose work in this field on the spiritual side. I suppose, about equals the work of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the lay side. We pay our tribute to both 1429 of them for their great understanding of these problems and I am so glad, as I am sure are all your Lordships, that they participated in the debate tonight. I also pay my tribute to my noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby, who takes a prominent part in these matters and is always heard in your Lordships' deliberations whenever a question of immigration occurs.
The last two points that I want to make are the following. We have talked about the onus of proof. When you are in a court of law, it is very easy for the trained advocate to talk to a jury about the onus of proof, about what the balance of probabilities means in a civil court, and what the very exacting onus of proof is in a criminal court, before somebody is found guilty. Could it not be an instruction in simple language, that the balance of probabilities means that when you have an immigrant you take it for granted, unless the contrary be proved, that he is telling you the truth?
Of course, you must examine what he is saying, but one gets the impression from this report of, I am sure, fair-minded people, that the onus is quite the other way; that it is taken for granted that the applicant who is asking for entry for himself is most likely telling a pack of lies, and that what one has to do is to take that for granted and only when he has proved conclusively that they are not all lies do you say, "This is a proper application and it should be granted."
My last point arises out of the whole question of procedure and has to do with appeals. We have quoted so often that it becomes almost a truism the phrase that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. I almost apologise to your Lordships for quoting it once more. But when anybody comes from abroad and parts of the Commonwealth where there is not the freedom that many of us prayed would come when they got their independence—there may be reasons for this and it may evolve; but I shall not bore your Lordships with a diatribe upon that tonight—and finds that the adjudicator is appointed by the Home Office, whose official had first turned him down, how can it appear to be a just form of procedure? At once, I say that I have had experience of adjudicators, and I can only tell your Lordships that I have found many of them just people, who have listened with great care and consideration to what is before them. But how does it appear to the applicant immigrant?
There is no point in repeating all the things that have been said about family life by the right reverend Prelate—and how right he was!—and by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, with the examples he gave. You do not want from me when summing up a repetition of speeches that have been so adequately made by others. But I wonder whether, as a result of this debate, even at this late hour, and before this attenuated House, instead of it just being a reply by the noble Lord the Minister on what he has been told are the facts of the case, we have moved him enough for him to say to himself tonight, "The hour was late but I believe that there was so much sincerity in the debate that took place that I am going to have a word with my colleague about whether or not we can make this whole procedure not only seem to be more just but in fact to be more just, and accept at least some of the main recommendations of the report which we have been debating tonight".
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)
My Lords, we are all indeed grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for directing our attention to an area of considerable public importance. I am grateful to him also for acknowledging, as have others of your Lordships, the full co-operation of the Home Office once the locus of the commission had been established, as I believe it was reasonable to require it to be, before they began their inquiry.
We now have a debate which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in a speech which contained both trenchant criticism and generous praise of my honourable friend the Minister in another place, said is vastly overdue. The fact that it is overdue of course lies not at the door of the Government but with those who could have put down Motions earlier. It cannot be said that the Government do not regard this report as a serious event.
The Commission for Racial Equality are dedicated to achieving fair treatment for all racial groups and good relations between them. Let me make it absolutely clear that the Government, too, are committed to those aims. I have been asked to give that commitment, and I give it gladly, but the Government believe that one essential prerequisite of good community relations is firm but fair immigration control. Particularly at this time of high unemployment, it could only be damaging to good community relations if it were thought that there was not that firm control and job opportunities were to be lost as a result of a substantial influx of newcomers.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, himself pointed out the delicacy of the question of who is unemployed, and its relation to the question of the way different ethnic groups see each other. The control must, however, be seen to be fair; and how better can it be seen to be so than by our having rules approved by Parliament which state who is entitled to come and who is not, and by giving to the individual who feels that the rules have not been properly applied in his case an appeal to an independent appellate authority? I shall return to that. Of course there must be a residual discretion to deal with the exceptional case, but when people talk of fairness as often as not they are thinking of consistency, which means treating people in like circumstances in like manner.
The report accepts that a review of the law is beyond it; and it accepts that it is the implementation of the law that is its chief concern. It also states at paragraph 2.2 of chapter 2 that the investigation was not concerned with general Government policy on immigration control. Nonetheless, as a Member of Government, I find that my view of the matters under discussion has a small but important difference of perspective from that of the commission. I could illustrate that best by referring to the arguments set out in paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2 of chapter 2 of the report. Here the commission refer to the balance they feel should be struck between,the objectives of detecting and preventing evasion and abuse on the one hand and ensuring that genuine applicants and passengers meet the minimum delay and difficulty on the other".The commission believe that we have that balance wrong.
1431 Elsewhere, they dismiss the statistics we have produced, which illustrate the incidence of evasion, as misleading or skewed. They themselves, I might add, produce no statistics whatever on which to repose this conclusion, but the conclusion robustly expressed is that the balance struck has been wrong. The control is there as a means of allowing someone to establish his entitlement to come here under the rules. The control is not there just to sniff out abuse; but when somebody comes and claims an entitlement it has to be tested and a sensible balance struck between the need to detect evasion and the need to see that people get their entitlement.
Of course we want ease of access at our airports for those who are entitled to come here—and the evidence points to the fact that, in the main, we secure it. The statistics which leap to my eye first in that respect are these. British and EEC citizens go through immigration control, as we all know, at a very brisk pace indeed. The average time taken to clear each passenger from every other country in the world is exactly one minute. The scenes of congestion some of your Lordships have observed at Heathrow and other airports arise not from excessive administrative caution but from the habit of long-range jumbo jets to arrive in larger numbers during just four hours of the morning.
In that context, the throughput of immigration control is, in my view, remarkable and laudable. It is worth reminding your Lordships that the number of people arriving from, for instance, the Indian subcontinent who are then refused entry is very small indeed; barely more than 1 per cent. in the case of those from Bangladesh and Pakistan, and a mere 0.6 per cent. for those from India.
A less conspicuous but more important queue, as I believe all your Lordships have emphasised, is the queue for entry clearance on the sub-continent itself. It is not in doubt, I think, that some control should be exercised, as the Act provides, for people to enter and settle in this country. I acknowledge the frank and welcome recognition by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham of the quality of work and increased openness of the Home Office, and the effects of that work on the entry queues.
When they published their report the Commission for Racial Equality drew attention to their claim that one in five wives of black men settled in the United Kingdom were refused entry, as were two in five children. The immigration rules give dependants wide rights to join heads of households settled in this country, but those seeking to exercise those rights must establish their entitlement.
It has long been a requirement of immigration procedures that those who want to settle here must establish their entitlement by obtaining entry clearance at our post in the country from which they are coming. This helps to avoid difficulties for them at the ports of arrival. Under these provisions we have allowed a great many wives and children to come here for settlement. A total of about 16,800 wives and 12,700 children were accepted in 1983 alone. Over the past 10 years the United Kingdom has accepted more than one-third of a million wives and children for 1432 settlement. Over two-thirds of them were from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan. The figures noble Lords quoted need to be seen in that context.
Not all of those who apply, however, are eligible dependants. Many of those refused have tried to evade the rules, and have, indeed, admitted doing so. To suggest that the process of entry clearance can be accelerated without considerable expenditure of resources is to ignore the facts. To increase the number of village visit teams, as the report suggests, would in particular soak up a very great deal of effort, and other parts of the system would inevitably suffer by their removal.
Before I speak further about the recommendations in the report I shall try to pick up a number of points noble Lords have made. They came at me rather thicker and rather faster than usual, and what I have before me is not the orderly arrangement of material I like to provide for myself at this stage but something more like an indifferent hand at rummy. If your Lordships do not receive answers in the same order in which the questions were asked, I apologise. It is also absolutely certain that I shall not be able to answer every point, but I shall of course reply by correspondence to your Lordships' unanswered questions. I need hardly remind your Lordships that under the new convention those letters will be placed in the Library of the House so that all of your Lordships can see the material I have sent to the others.
The first card I draw refers to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, who made a point about unlawful decisions which ought to be rectified. What the commission said was that some decisions were found to be incorrect in law as a result of judgments of the appellate authorities and the courts. This is very different from saying that the decisions were unlawful. Where applicants think that subsequent judgments affect their case they can reapply and that case is then reconsidered in the light of the new interpretation of the law.
The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, is concerned with refugees. I share his concern, having myself been to the borders of Kampuchea shortly before I came into Government and seen the refugee camps there. Refugee applications inevitably often take an especially long time to decide. We are very conscious of the need to reach a decision as quickly as possible in the interests of the individual concerned but the circumstances are often generally confused because of the state of affairs from which the refugee is fleeing. It is not always a straightforward question, therefore, whether or not an applicant qualifies for refugee status. Often it is possible to do no more than to allow temporary leave to remain on an exceptional basis while the inquiries proceed. As regards appeal rights, someone who is refused leave to remain has a right of appeal; not, of course, as a refugee but the right is there as an entrant.
I draw the first card in the suit of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, which deals with what happens to a case which is under inquiry, as it were, by a Member of either House of Parliament. When a Member of Parliament takes up an individual case removal action is suspended while the representations are given full consideration. But it is accepted, and I am not quite certain if the noble Lord touched on this or intended to, that only one Member of Parliament should take 1433 up any particular case at any one time. That will normally be the constituency Member of Parliament. Noble Lords will understand that the difficulty is that if you deal with one inquiry and it is disposed of and you are about to come to a conclusion, another one arises and the process can be repeated a number of times.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, the noble Lord has left out an important element in the procedure. Where the case is taken up by someone who is not a constituency Member and then subsequently the Minister discovers who the constituency Member is, he undertook in writing to notify the constituency Member and to give him the opportunity of making representations, notwithstanding the fact that some other Member either of another place or of your Lordships' House may already have been involved for some considerable time. That is the undertaking which the noble Lord should know his colleague in another place has broken.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the noble Lord has made a serious allegation and I shall have to inquire into it. I cannot, of course, answer him immediately and off the cuff. It is not, I might say, in the character of my honourable friend to break undertakings but I accept that the noble Lord is sincere in what he puts forward and I sill attempt to give him a factual reply.
Both the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the right reverend Prelate were concerned about husbands and fiancés. The Government take the view that, particularly at a time of high unemployment, it is not realistic to provide for the admission of husbands and fiancés without additional tests. The immigration rules therefore provide that husbands and fiancés may not be admitted to the United Kingdom for settlement if the primary intention is to obtain admission to the United Kingdom.
In the Government's view it is right and necessary to prevent new immigration by men of working age through marriage. This is not a question of separating husband and wife. The refusal of admission means that the couple must live in the husband's country, but this applies only where the primary purpose of the marriage is immigration. I would say to the right reverend Prelate that in fact he often places the onus of proof on people who come to him for the right to marriage; and it is not entirely outwith the traditions of this country that when somebody seeks a benefit as of right they have to prove the right before the benefit is granted. The test can be passed, and in fact more husbands do pass it than fail. To say that the immigration laws keep asunder those whom God hath joined together ignores the fact that we are actually in that context talking of fiancés.
If I may go on to other difficult ground—that of elderly relatives—I do not think that, attractive and compassionate as the appeal is that the right reverend Prelate made, we can be expected to take parents, or indeed other more distant relatives, simply because they would prefer to live here. Their children have, after all, chosen to leave their parents. We are ready to accept other relatives where there is a strong case on humanitarian grounds; and I gladly recognise the acknowledgement of my right honourable friend's 1434 compassionate nature to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was kind enough to refer.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, were concerned with joint immigration service and police operations. Following a comprehensive review of the arrangements for joint operations by the immigration service and the police against over-stayers and illegal entrants, new instructions were issued to chief officers of police on 12th December 1980. Among other things, they drew attention to the delicate task faced by those seeking to enforce the immigration laws and the care which is needed to avoid any action likely to cause justifiable complaint. They specified that before an operation takes place every effort shall be made to identify those who are suspected of committing immigration offences in order to minimise the risk of arresting innocent people. They also made clear that where people were questioned and could be eliminated from suspicion immediately, they should be subjected to no further inconvenience. Where it was necessary for a person to be taken to a police station, all the inquiries should be conducted as a matter of urgency to reduce to a minimum any period of detention.
Since the review, only 10 joint operations have been conducted, as a result of which 153 people have been interviewed; and I should tell your Lordships that of those 130 have been found to be here in breach of the immigration laws. Only two joint operations were carried out in 1983, involving interviews with 44 people in all. In 1984 only one major operation was conducted, involving interviews with 10 people, of whom, I might add, nine were found to be in breach of the immigration laws. It does appear to me from that that the power has not been indiscriminately used over recent years.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that the effect of the rules was to delay the arrival of applicants by up to eight years and so, he added cogently, to delay the process of integration as well. This applies, I take it, to special voucher applicants in India only. A special voucher encompasses the whole family, and it is therefore at least worth noting in passing that it does not involve the division of families, which is a matter, I entirely accept, of very great concern.
I may be repeating myself when I say that the Government note the comments which the commission makes about the test which should be applied to the admission of elderly parents and children. So far as the former are concerned, the report notes that the High Court has laid down generous provisions. These have been conveyed to the entry clearance officers and arrangements have been made to ensure that delays do not occur again. So far as children are concerned, the basic principle is that children should be allowed to come to this country to join the family unit.
The sole responsibility test is intended to cover the case where parental responsibility is divided and entry cannot be justified to establish family unity. But there is flexibility in applying the sole responsibility test. However, I can tell the right reverend Prelate and others that we shall be looking carefully at what the commission has to say on both elderly parents and children.
1435 As I say, the Government do believe it necessary to maintain a firm immigration policy. This means that the rules must be strict, even where elderly parents are concerned. Without notice, I cannot comment on the case which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned, although he was kind enough to give me the reference number. But paragraph 52 of the Immigration Rules gives generous provision for this. I think I have said enough as I do not wish to be drawn into individual cases.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, suggested the involvement of the Lord Chancellor. This recommendation will be given careful consideration. But the provision of three adjudicators instead of one does not seem to us practicable, as it would either increase threefold the cost of the appeals system as more adjudicators would be needed—not exactly pro rata, but it would greatly increase the cost—or it would triple the delays as fewer hearings could be heard by the same number of adjudicators. We are not convinced by the argument that, because decisions often turn on complex matters, it would be more appropriate for appeals to be heard in the first instance by a board of three adjudicators.
I return to the point, though I shall dart out of it again. I apologise for the length of my reply but always on these occasions I feel that the curiosity of your Lordships is greater than the impatience of those who try to regulate the length of time which I stand at this Box. A central passage of the report is devoted to a premise upon which the commission rests it case. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has declared himself particularly interested. It is devoted to the Government's perception of the motivation for immigration and the inference that we draw from it.
The commission accepts that there can be a variety of reasons for migration. The economic standards, the political régime or the social custom as between two countries can all, either separately or together, give numbers of people a sufficient reason to move from one to the other. We are not unique in this. Many other developed countries are the objectives of countless third world would-be settlers, just as many other Western countries are the chosen haven of many would-be emigrés from the Eastern bloc. However, our chief concern is with the countries which generate the greatest flow to Britain.
We have come to call the combination of differences between those countries and our own, which give rise to that flow, "the pressure to emigrate". This is not a constant factor: it fluctuates. For instance, your Lordships will remember the surge of Cypriot immigration following the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey. I expect your Lordships will also be aware of the recent very considerable reduction of immigration from the West Indies.
Pressure to emigrate does fluctuate; but it is real, and it cannot be discounted. It can make a move into this country a compellingly attractive prospect; and it seems to us to be logical, with a logic based on experience, to expect the greatest efforts to make that move to come from people living in places where the pressure is greatest—for instance, in Bangladesh or Ghana. It further seems to us to be absolutely 1436 common sense to expect the most determined and numerous efforts to immigrate illegally to be made by those subject to the greatest pressure.
It must be right that the proper, logical way to deploy our efforts to prevent unlawful immigration is to exert ourselves most where the risk of such illegal immigration appears to us greatest. It is in those simple and to me obvious logical steps that the commission has been unable to follow us. This, in turn, has led them to regard our deployment of effort not as a proper and impartial response to the pressure of numbers, but as an improper and potentially racist response to quite other considerations.
The Home Office case did not rest simply on the statement of the obvious that I have just paraphrased. It was illustrated by statistics, for example, which showed the differential rates of refusal of leave to enter the United Kingdom. Of course it would be very surprising if refusal rates were identical for all parts of the world. What is in issue is the interpretation to be placed on the variations. It is our contention that the different rates reflect different pressures from different places. In 1983 the refusal rate happened to be highest in respect of Ghana; 3.2 per cent. of passengers from Ghana were refused leave to enter in that year. It is worth remembering, in passing, that that figure means that the huge majority, nearly 97 in every 100 passengers from Ghana, was admitted. Nevertheless, the rate is higher than that from other countries.
What is the proper interpretation of the fact that evasion is not evenly distributed? That there is evasion of immigration control is not, after all, in dispute, certainly not with the commission. Passengers do arrive making fraudulent claims to be visitors. People do present forged or altered documents. Those who obtain admission, for example, as visitors or students, stay on unlawfully and so on. Sometimes there are organised attempts to evade control. Last year, for example, one organised attempt—by Ghanaians, as it happened—was uncovered to use marriage for immigration purposes. Twenty-five people have been found guilty, not by Government but by the courts, let me emphasise, of offences under the Immigration Act and the Marriage Act, and of perjury and conspiracy. The right reverend Prelate will sympathise with us in this discovery, but it lends a certain reality to the need for the inquiry.
I grant that cases of evasion, whether individual or multiple, do not prove that the pressure to immigrate is greatest from the countries that feature most. But the pattern is consistent. Thus, the highest number of notices of intention to deport served for overstaying in 1983 concerned people from Ghana. So the Government's contention is that it is common sense that the pressure to come here is greater from some places than others. This leads to attempts to evade the control, and this is reflected in the pattern of statistics. The great majority of people who come here do so lawfully. But the differential pattern affecting the small minority reflects attempts to come here outside the rules, and it does not reflect bias in the system. It really is not very helpful to race relations to suggest that the Government are somehow using the statistics to pursue a covert racist policy.
The broad brush reply of the commission to those statistics was that the figures from high-pressure-to- 1437 emigrate countries were, of course, higher than those from low pressure because it was against just those countries that we deployed our greatest protective effort. In effect, they said, "your proposition is unproven because we are finding most attempted evasions exactly where you are making the greatest effort to find them". They then assume that an equal volume of attempted evasion may exist around the world and in countries where there is far less pressure to migrate. They offer no statistical support for this, and their conclusion therefore rests on somewhat flimsy logic. It is contrary to the clear and entirely probable perceptions we have gained in the field. Yet it has been taken by the commission as the premise upon which much of the rest of the report is founded. That means that we have to examine its recommendations with very great care indeed.
I cannot say that the result will be that we readily accept the great bulk of these proposals. There are 70 in all, although the report itself acknowledges that 14 of them go beyond the terms of reference. Of the 56 strictly relevant recommendations, a number relate to matters of detail. Of the matters of substance, we can accept some. Proposal 23, that entry clearance officers should take what are termed split decisions when it becomes clear that some members of a group are genuinely members of one family and others are not, is one that we have accepted and implemented. Entry clearance officers have also been instructed, following Recommendation No. 24, that where applicants have a prima facie claim to a certificate of entitlement they shall be told of it and asked whether they wish to be considered for one. We have also, for a variety of reasons, as Recommendation No. 3 suggests, discontinued the practice of making checks on past tax records. Moreover, entry clearance interviewers now place, as Recommendation No. 8 proposes they should, a greater emphasis on family relationships.
The remaining matter on which we are in agreement with the commission is probably more important than these, however. We do accept that, as is suggested in Recommendation No. 54, training given to the staff of the service should be kept under continuous review. That we seek to do at present. We are more than content to take into account suggestions put forward by the commission in this important area and the strictures that several of your Lordships have made. In the same vein, I should add that we are reviewing our staff instructions. A number of bodies here made the comment which the right reverend Prelate made, namely, that the instructions should be published. We shall consider this in the light of our review.
I think I really must discard the attractive prospect of answering many more of the points your Lordships have made. I have shown that there are some things which we can accept. What I cannot undertake to do is to remove our perception that there is a greater pressure to emigrate here from some places than from others. This is bound to affect the way the on-entry control works, and it is of course control on or before entry which has attracted the commission's chief criticism. I ask your Lordships to consider the implication of relaxing our on-entry control. It must be an increase in the effectiveness of post-entry control.
1438 We have the good fortune to be an island, and it seems to us that we should profit from that and not have the sort of internal supervision by the police and immigration authorities which is prevalent in other countries where you have to carry identity cards and piece d'identité in order to prove your right to be in the country at all. The report expresses anxieties about the level of post-entry control itself, and I have given your Lordships the figures for the 10 IND exercises in which your Lordships are interested. The point is that if you do not have effective on-entry control you must have effective post-entry control.
The last word I want to say is in my view the most important. I ask your Lordships, in your anxiety to change the Government's perceptions, not continually to reinforce the view that our policies are based on racist intentions. The Home Office is actually in the business of trying to improve inter-community relations in every respect, including the difficult one of policing. If it becomes a sort of watchword round this House or another place that these are racist considerations it does nothing but harm to that effort, and we all share the need for it to succeed. Therefore, I ask your Lordships to consider carefully what I have said about the reasons for the decisions we have taken. I shall write to your Lordships about everything else.