HL Deb 10 July 1986 vol 478 cc453-4

3.14 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government what training in human relations is given to immigration officers who are in contact with people entering this country, both before taking up this sensitive work and during their service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, the training of immigration officers emphasises the careful handling of interpersonal relationships, and the need for courtesy, humanity, and impartiality. In particular, training in racial awareness is now given to all new and existing staff in the immigration departments.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for his helpful reply. I have been encouraged to read the positive comments of the Manchester Council for Community Relations in their reports on procedures at Heathrow Airport, in which they spoke of the sensitivity and understanding which immigration officers can and do bring to their work. The fact remains that on a recent tour of India—

Noble Lords


The Lord Bishop of Manchester—I received criticisms—

Noble Lords


The Lord Bishop of Manchester—and I should like to ask the Minister—

Noble Lords


The Lord Bishop of Manchester—what steps have been taken to encourage immigration officers to learn more languages from the Indian subcontinent or, if this is impossible at the moment, to provide more interpreters?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I certainly share the views of the right reverend Prelate about the Mancheser Council for Community Relations' report on Heathrow, Terminal 3.

With regard to training generally, certainly it is the case that the department do their best to ensure that all staff treat their clients as individuals and with humanity and respect both in handling written applications and in face-to-face or telephone conversations. We also ensure that all staff consider all individual applications impartially without discrimination on grounds of colour, race or religion. We also ensure that there is no discrimination in staff development and staff management. It is also important that senior and middle-line managers provide leadership and support in these objectives.

On language training, this is something which is developed, but I shall certainly let the right reverend Prelate have further details of it.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, is the noble Minister aware that in another place when I was chairman of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, a thorough investigation was made into the immigration services and the committee unanimously produced a report very favourable to the service?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for that remark. It is the case that the work that is carried out by these people is done with all the sympathy and understanding possible.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there are several hundred different languages which are spoken in the Indian subcontinent, and that this problem is dealt with to a very considerable extent by our very careful procedures to enable people to obtain entry permits in their own country before they ever leave it? Is my noble friend further aware that the immigration officers unfortunately have to contend with a number of people who try to evade our procedures, but they nevertheless show great patience in those circumstances?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, yes. I entirely agree with my noble friend on both points.