HL Deb 14 January 1988 vol 491 cc1347-9

3.27 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

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 is their policy towards immigrants who are suffering from illness.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the immigration rules provide for passengers, who are subject to immigration control, to be examined by a medical inspector on arrival in the United Kingdom. An immigration officer may, on the advice of the medical inspector, refuse a passenger leave to enter on medical grounds, unless he considers that there are strong compassionate reasons to justify admission. Alternatively, the officer may admit the passenger, but require him or her to report to a medical officer of environmental health for further examination and, if necessary, treatment.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware of the specific case, about which I gave his department notice, of Mr. Ruda Patel, who entered this country in August 1986 when suffering from Parkinson's disease and who was promised by the Home Office that within a month a decision would be made on his application for permanent residence? Is he further aware that Mr. Patel left this country in November 1987 in order to attend the funeral of his wife in Kenya without having received any message from the Home Office, and when he returned was given only a temporary visa and refused any extension of that visa or permanent residence? Also, will the noble Earl confirm that the Member of Parliament for the constituency within which Mr. Patel lived refused to intervene on his behalf, and that that Member of Parliament was the Prime Minister?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am aware of the case to which the noble Lord refers. He is quite correct in saying that Mr. Patel came to this country. He came on a temporary visit, and having applied for a more permanent permission to stay required to have back his passport. When he asked for the return of his passport he was advised that he would need to obtain clearance from the authorities in Kenya before returning to this country. He failed to obtain that clearance.

Lord Rea

My Lords, may I say something which may not be relevant in this case? Does the Minister know that Mr. Patel is putting no charge on public funds, since, like his Member of Parliament, he obtains his medical care through the private sector?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I must reassure the noble Lord that it is not the medical condition which was the cause of Mr. Patel's rejected application; it was the fact that he left the country and was warned that he would have to start the application process again. He failed to do that and turned up without the correct clearance certificates.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, in the first instance, perhaps I may congratulate the noble Earl on his new Ministry and say that it is a great joy to see him return to the Dispatch Box, to which in the past he lent great distinction. I should like to ask him this question arising out of the discussion that we have just had. In spite of his Answer, is he aware that there is a general feeling that there is still too much of a bureaucratic attitude shown by immigration officers and even their medical advisers? At the start of what I am sure will be a very distinctive Ministry at the Home Office, will the noble Earl see that mercy and understanding are incorporated in the duties of immigration officers and their medical advisers?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for his kind welcome. I feel a little like the rubber ball that has bounced back, but I appreciate his welcome.

There is in the noble Lord's questions always an iron fist inside a kid glove. I shall give careful and sympathetic consideration—and I know that our immigration officers do that—but I must assure the noble Lord that in this case the individual concerned was warned of the conditions that would have to be entered into before he returned. He failed to meet those conditions. The immigration officers were quite correct in the action they took. Having said that, I should add that Mr. Patel's case is being considered further and he is at the moment in this country.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, in his Answer to me the noble Earl revealed the difficulty about Mr. Patel and many other immigrants. He had applied for permanent residence in August 1986. He was promised an answer to that application by the Home Office within one month. Yet 15 months later he had received no notification. Is this not a scandal with regard to the attitude of the Home Office'? He was not able to satisfy the conditions for the return of his passport simply because the Home Office had not fulfilled its promise. Is it not the duty of a Member of Parliament to intervene on behalf of a constituent in this kind of case, which I understand was postponed only on the intervention of a Labour councillor?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it would be quite improper for me to say what points should be taken up by a Member of another place, whoever that is. I can only assure the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that these matters are considered very carefully. While there may be reasons about which the noble Lord is concerned, this gentleman was warned that if he went back, and removed his passport, the process would have to start again.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, if my noble friend were to refrain altogether from responding to supplementaries which contain no element of the interrogatory he would enjoy a great deal of sympathy and even some applause.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am not sure whether or not that requires a reply!

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