§ 11.18 a.m.
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
My Lords, at the outset, I should like to say that it is a great pleasure to find that the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, has chosen this particular Bill as the occasion upon which to make his maiden speech.
My Lords, many of us have found making a maiden speech in your Lordships' House a rather daunting experience; some of us still feel daunted when making speeches. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, will not find it such a daunting experience today and we look forward to hearing what he has to say. He will always find a warm welcome here, not only for what he says but also for his presence.
Over the past 30 years or so, Britain has experienced a level of immigration which has been unprecedented in our history. During the 'fifties, 'sixties and 'seventies, Britain became a multi-racial society. And now, in many of our towns and cities, a substantial proportion of the residents are of Asian, African or Caribbean origin. They regard themselves as British. Very many of them are British in law, and they are entitled to all the privileges and bear all the responsibilities of any other citizen of Britain.
It is the Government's intention to ensure that every one of our citizens is treated fairly, and that no one is discriminated against on grounds of race or colour. The maintenance of good community relations is and remains among our highest priorities. At the same time, for many years now, successive governments have also recognised that the maintenance of good community relations depends upon and demands firm immigration control.
It is a simple but undeniable fact that there is a limit to the number of newcomers which any society can absorb and we in Britain could not possibly accept all those who want to come. We could not provide the houses, the schools, the hospitals, and the rest of the structure, which would be required let alone the jobs.
364 So, with that in mind, a previous Government in 1971 drew up the first comprehensive immigration statute. The Immigration Act 1971 established a system of immigration control, which applied to both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth citizens alike. It reflected the reality of the continuing need to limit the level of primary immigration by heads of household. The 1971 Act remains the principal statute for the regulation of immigration into this country. It has provided a legal framework which successive governments have found to be satisfactory and sound.
Since coming into office in 1979, the Government have used the 1971 Act as the basis for an immigration policy which is both firm and fair. It is a fair control. The rules apply to all, regardless of race, and immigration officers are required to carry out the mechanics of the control without regard to race. It is certainly not an ungenerous control for those who are settled here and who want to be joined by their families. Since 1971, over half a million wives and children have come to settle in this country, the substantial majority of them from the new Commonwealth and Pakistan.
But that is a control which also recognises that the time is past when we could afford to have young men coming here to work, unless they had very special skills, and that there is great pressure to get into this country from poorer parts of the world. Careful checking at the ports in necessary, therefore, to prevent people masquerading as visitors and from getting into the country with the intention of staying permanently.
In the Government's view all that is common sense. The debate about immigration policy has not always been so muted, and in the past bitter emotions have been stirred up by the issue. It is, therefore, all the more important that it should be dealt with sensitively and constructively. It is in that spirit that the proposals which are contained in this Bill have been brought before your Lordships for consideration. Over the past few months the Bill has been the subject of some unfair and misleading publicity. The proposals which it contains make up modest but necessary changes. They are intended primarily to reinforce the existing framework of immigration control which is contained in the Immigration Act 1971, and to make it possible to maintain a fair, but firm, immigration system for the future. Important though these changes are, the Bill does not make radical alterations to the present system of immigration controls.
It may be helpful if I were to summarise the main provisions of the Bill, and their effect. This is a short Bill, of 11 clauses and 1 schedule. Clause 1 repeals Section 1(5) to the 1971 Act. That subsection sought to preserve the position of Commonwealth citizen men, who were settled here at the time of the 1971 Act, and their wives and children, in order that they could not be adversely affected by subsequent rule changes. And, in particular, in order that such men, who wished to have their families join them here, would be exempt from any requirement to show that they could provide adequate financial support and 365 accommodation for them without recourse to public funds.
That remains the main effect of Section 1(5), but its terms are very wide. Some 15 years ago after it originally came into effect, we believe that there are sound reasons for considering that the time has come to repeal it, and to place those who currently benefit from it on the same footing as everyone else who wishes to have their family settle with them in this country.
Section 1(5) applies, not only to those who were themselves adults when the 1971 Act came into force, but to any Commonwealth citizen of whatever age who was settled here at that time. If it continues in force, it will have an effect which will last well into the next century, as those who were settled here as small boys before 1973 themselves marry and have children.
Since Section 1(5) benefits only the wives of Commonwealth citizen men, and not the husbands of Commonwealth citizen women, the prospect would be of the continuation of what is in fact a sexually discriminatory provision for possibly decades to come. The Government do not believe that it is right that that element of sexual discrimination should remain. It gave a commitment to the European Court of Human Rights following the case of Abdulaziz that it would be removed. That we are seeking to do.
Section 1(5) is also difficult to administer. It gives rise to some wholly unacceptable outcomes in some cases, as, for example, in the case of Huseyin towards the end of last year. In that case, the Court of Appeal found that a woman, who is liable to deportation for whatever reason, can render herself wholly immune from deportation action by marrying a Commonwealth citizen man who was settled here on 1st January 1973. Any such marriage need exist in name only to afford that protection. In delivering his judgment, the Master of the Rolls said:the marriage need only be an 'immigration marriage' i.e. the parties need have no intention of living together permanently as man and wife, and indeed may never even have met before the wedding, the sole object of the ceremony being to secure a right to remain in this country.I do not believe that any of your Lordships could reasonably think that it would be right to perpetuate such a position, so, I believe that it is right to repeal Section 1(5).
That does not mean that those who are settled here before 1973 will be unable to bring their wives and children to join them. It merely means that they will have to satisfy the same requirements in the immigration rules as those who do not at present benefit from Section 1(5).
It is entirely fair and reasonable that people should riot come here without having somewhere to live and some means of support, without recourse to public funds. It really is no service to community relations for families to come here if they are then either homeless or destitute.
There will, of course, be some applications which have already been made by the wives and children of Section 1(5) men, and there will be more by the time that Clause 1 comes into effect. We recognise that it 366 would be unfair, in effect, to penalise those who apply to come here from parts of the world where there are queues for entry clearance. Our intention is, therefore, to frame the commencement order so that applications from Section 1(5) beneficiaries, which are outstanding when Clause 1 comes into effect, are dealt with in accordance with the law as it stood at the time of the application. We propose to adopt the same approach in dealing with applications from polygamous wives under Clause 2.
Clause 2 of the Bill is concerned with polygamy. At present it is possible for a second or a subsequent wife, who has no other connection with this country, to acquire the right of abode here through her polygamous marriage. This clause seeks to prevent the entry of more than one wife of a polygamous marriage in such circumstances. The number of polygamous wives coming here is, in fact, very small. We estimate that perhaps 25 or so polygamous households are set up here every year.
So the formation of polygamous households here is not a serious problem in immigration terms, but we take the view that polygamy is not an acceptable social custom in the United Kingdom, and that it is contrary to the traditions of this country. We, therefore, propose to take steps to ensure that only one wife of a polygamous marriage can come here for settlement. In order to do so, we need to repeal subsection (5) of Section 1 because of the protection which, as I have already explained, it gives to certain wives, and to amend Section 2 of the 1971 Act, as Clause 2 does. When Clause 2 is brought into effect, we intend at the same time to make new immigration rules which will prevent the admission of second polygamous wives who do not have the right of abode.
Clause 3 deals with a loophole which emerged just over two years ago. Between November 1985 and October 1986 some 1,500 women and children arrived here claiming to have the right of abode but without having first established their claim abroad. When they were refused leave to enter, they claimed a right of appeal in this country, and the appellate authorities ruled that under the existing provisions of the law they did have such a right. This represents a loophole which we need to close. We cannot expect immigration officers at the ports to be able to decide on someone's claim to citizenship when this may depend on the production of documentation which is not available at all, or, if it is available, which can be much more readily obtained in the claimant's home country.
These claims ought to be established before coming here. It is not sensible to try to settle them either on or after arrival. The number of arrivals in the last year or so has been small, but we need to close the loophole. Clause 3, therefore, extends to the people whom it covers a requirement which already applies to other people who claim citizenship—namely, that they should establish their claims before coming here, by obtaining a British passport or a certificate of entitlement in advance of their coming. If they arrive here without the necessary documents, they will be able to be removed and they will not have a right of appeal in this country. This will reassert, so 367 far as this limited group of people is concerned, the principle that people who seek to come here for settlement should first confirm that they qualify to do so before travelling.
Clauses 4 and 5 both strengthen the enforcement arrangements in the 1971 Act in order to make it possible for us to take quicker and more effective action against those who flout our immigration control. Clause 4 restricts the scope of the rights of appeal against administrative deportation which is available against those people who overstay the period of their leave to enter this country, or who breach a condition of leave. In future, where such people are to be deported, the right of appeal which is available to them will be confined to the facts of the case. That is to say whether they did overstay or not, or whether or not they breached the conditions of their leave. It will not be possible to plead compassionate reasons for failing to comply with the law. The person concerned will still be able to argue that the Home Office has got the facts wrong, but if that fails he will not be able to go on to argue that he should nonetheless not be deported because of some compassionate ground.
We accept that a person who has been here for more than seven years should be able to make an appeal both on the facts and on the merits. Those who have been here for more than that time will retain the present full rights of appeal. There is an exception from the general rule for those who claim asylum before a deportation order is made. We have undertaken to the European Court of Human Rights that an overstayer who claims political asylum should be able, in certain circumstances, to appeal against deportation to the appellate authorities in such a way that they can consider the asylum claim as well as the question of overstaying.
We shall give effect to this by means of the order-making power in Clause 4(2). That order will also cover the position of those who may have been here for more than seven years in total, but who will be entitled only to a restricted right of appeal because their stay has been interrupted by a trip or trips abroad. We accept that such people should be regarded as not having broken their leave, so that if it subsequently becomes necessary to take deportation action against them, they will be entitled to a full appeal on the merits of the case.
Clause 5 does not seek the introduction of new powers, but it makes it possible to exercise the existing provisions of the 1971 Act more effectively. As the law stands at present, following the findings of the divisional court in the 1973 case of Gurde v. Singh and of your Lordships' House in the case of Grant v. Borg in 1982, the position is that overstaying is not a continuing offence. It is only committed on the first day after someone's leave to be here expires. This means that, however deliberate the overstaying subsequently becomes, it is not criminal if on that one day the person concerned does not know that he is committing the offence. These judgments seriously restricted the ability to prosecute for overstaying. Although there are other means of dealing with overstayers, it is necessary to restore the current 368 offence to an effective and workable means of prosecuting such people where that is the right course. Clause 5 seeks to do this.
Clause 6 is concerned with Europe. The 1971 Act was drawn up before we joined the European Community, and it is, in some respects, inconsistent with European Community law. The present Bill gives us an opportunity to bring the underlying legal framework in the 1971 Act into line with Community law. Clause 6 therefore makes it clear that nationals of European Community states and their family members who come here in exercise of free movement rights do not require leave to enter. It is our intention to make an Order in Council under the European Communities Act 1972, setting out the position of people claiming free movement rights. We expect to bring forward the Order in Council, which will be subject to affirmative resolution procedure, after the Bill has received Royal Assent.
Clause 7 is related to Clause 8, which makes it possible for additional services to be provided against payment at the request of port operators or carriers. One of the most important of the services which is likely to be provided on this basis is the process known as pre-clearance. This involves immigration officers in travelling abroad in order that United Kingdom immigration control procedures can be completed either at the port of embarkation abroad or during the journey to this country.
Arrangements of this kind have featured for many years at certain cross-Channel ports and at Southampton for generations of liners, although recently they have been restricted to the QE2. But as Clause 8 of the Bill permits the extension of such arrangements into wholly new areas we think it right that we should now formalise the position, and that is what Clause 7 will do. The last of the main provisions of the Bill is Clause 8, which enables the Secretary of State to charge for providing special immigration services and for granting settlement in this country.
The first of these will make it possible to respond favourably if a commercial operator asks for the attendance of additional immigration officers at a specific time or place for special reasons. In future, it will be possible to agree on charges which can be made for such services, assuming that the necessary immigration officers can be made available. As I have just indicated, one of the services in which we think it is likely that carriers may be interested is that of pre-clearance.
In a pilot scheme which we ran last year, pre-clearance, particularly for traffic arriving at Heathrow and Gatwick in the early mornings, has been found to be a good way of mitigating some of the difficulties and delay which is experienced in passing through the immigration control.
As regards charging for settlement, the imposition of a charge in these circumstances would bring the position into line with what is already the case with applications for visas, entry clearance and citizenship. We think it right that we should be able to charge for the grant of settlement, in view of the significant benefits in immigration terms which settled status confers upon its holder.
369 I hope that the explanation which I have given to your Lordships will have reassured your Lordships that this is not a major new piece of legislation. It is a small Bill. The changes which it makes, although important in themselves and necessary in the interests of good community relations, make no fundamental alterations to our immigration law.
The Bill will ensure that the Immigration Act of 1971 can continue, as it has done for over 15 years now, to provide us with the framework for a sensible, flexible and humane system of immigration control, and I commend it to the House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the Minister knows that he has the respect and affection of all parts of your Lordships' House. However, the only tribute that I can pay him on this occasion is that of mental ability and intellectual clarity in moving the Second Reading of a Bill which is without a heart and without a soul. I say that advisedly. I hope that all sections of your Lordships' House at the later stages of this Bill will see that it is at least suitably amended.
We from these Benches will be appealing to all sections of your Lordships' House to do so. We know that we shall be met by the hoards who sometimes visit your Lordships' House when a matter of importance to the Government by way of legislation comes before us. Perhaps I may be forgiven in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and of the Commonwealth, and indeed in the presence of the right reverend Prelate if I adapt the words of the psalmist in describing those who descend upon this House on these occasions. They have eyes that do not see this Chamber except to go into the Division Lobbies and they have ears that do not hear the debate before they do so.
The reason I use these words in connection with this Bill is that I should have thought that in regard to immigration control, the basic principles of which are accepted by all parties of your Lordships' House and I am sure on the Cross-Benches too, we have reached a certain stage. I shall quote in a moment the words of the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he spoke to the Second Reading of this Bill in another place.
I should have thought that we had reached the stage where we say, "Yes, we have achieved the control. What about concentrating on the social measures that we ought to be taking in order to see that those who are here and who have entered our shores with an amount of welcome and encouragement and who have become part of this glorious country as its citizens should have the benefits of those social backgrounds and fundamental bases that we know make up for a good citizenship?"
I am referring quite obviously to the benefit of family life upon which as I know many speakers in the Conservative Party have rightly concentrated. But they must show a little bit of sincerity when they 370 talk about the values of family life. That is an aspect which certainly has a relevance to this Immigration Bill.
I said that I wished to quote the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he introduced this Bill in the House of Commons. At col. 785 of the Official Report of the House of Commons on 16th November 1987 he said:Since the 1971 Act, mass primary immigration has, indeed, ended".At col. 786 the Secretary of State quoted some figures:Between 1979 and 1985, the number of people coming here for settlement fell from 70,000 to 55,000. The figure for 1986 was even lower at 47,000, but there were special factors in that year following the rule changes in 1985 and a change of practice in right-of-abode cases.The Secretary of State was obviously not able in November 1987 to quote the figures for 1987. But I hope that when the Minister replies he will be good enough to give us the figures for 1987. I have reason to believe that they are comparatively low.
So this Bill comes before your Lordships' House not in any sense of crisis because figures are rising to a worrying extent. As the Secretary of State said mass primary immigration has ended. So, as I said, one would hope that an Immigration Bill brought before Parliament at this time would have concentrated on the fact that mass immigration was ending. What do we do to see that our immigration has this sense of success about it?
We have encouraged integration. We have encouraged a sense of justice. We have stopped prejudice. No one black or white in our country can say that there is any lack of encouragement for good citizenship to prevail and for the family to be a well knit family despite the fact that that family may be undergoing pecuniary privation. What do we find at the very beginning of this Bill? The Minister talked in terms of Section 1(5) of the 1971 Act. As one would expect, he told your Lordships with complete accuracy what that provision meant.
It meant in one sentence—but there is a history to it—that looking at the date of the enactment of 1st January 1973 all Commonwealth citizens who had come to this country and were settled here were entitled to have all their rights as they existed at that date. They would be entitled to have their wives and their children under 16 brought here without examination by way of means tests or otherwise. There is a history to this. There is a question of conscience attached to this because of the speeches made at that time in another place by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and indeed in your Lordships' House where the noble Lord, Lord Wade, who many of us remember with great respect, moved an amendment. That amendment was carried in your Lordships' House with certain results in the other place when the Immigration Bill 1971 was returned there for consideration.
Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of what happened at that time. In order to put into statutory form the undertaking that the Secretary of State had solemnly given that those rights incorporated in Section 1(5) meant what I and the Minister have said, Mr. Maudling, the then Secretary of State for the 371 Home Department, said, when the Bill returned to another place on 19th October 1971:I said on Second Reading—and I was very anxious that this should be made known—that Commonwealth citizens already here free of condition, which means, broadly speaking, all working immigrants, will not be affected. There will be a right to work where they wish, as at present, and a right of automatic citizenship, as at present. There will be no new papers to be carried, and they will be allowed to bring in dependents. That was the undertaking I gave, and I have not departed from it in any way.It has been suggested more than once that that undertaking should be embodied in the text of the Bill. That was not an easy thing to do. Amendments were moved in another place"—a reference to your Lordships' House—with that purpose in mind, but they were not satisfactory. However, we now have from another place the Amendments before us, with that purpose in view".—[Official Report, Commons, 19/11/71; col. 551.]With your Lordships permission, I shall skip several paragraphs which are not material. Mr. Maudling then said:By these Amendments we are giving statutory form to the undertaking I gave on Second Reading that people already accepted for settlement in this country would not be prejudiced by the Bill."—[col. 552.]Fourteen-and-a-half years after that speech was made, the Government are breaching their undertaking. They do so in a way which I cannot imagine would ever commend itself to this House. They say that the reason for that is a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Can one imagine that that Court in its judgment was thinking that a British government, of all governments, would remedy in this way a situation in which the court complained that they were not giving benefits to husbands which were being given to wives or vice versa?
Perhaps I may put this analogy to your Lordships. There is a storm outside. One of your Lordships decides to open the door and bring somebody in from the storm. That person then says, "Please, there is somebody else outside. It is my friend". Is the answer that you then push out the person to whom you gave shelter? Is that a way of improving human rights as a result of a court judgment which asks why the benefits which were given to one sex were not given to the other? Is the answer to deprive both sexes of the right? What an answer, from a British government of all governments.
I would not be arguing in this way over a technicality. What is now going to happen to such people? When they try to bring over a wife who may have been waiting patiently, or to bring over children under 16 who have been longing to be with their families in this country, where there has been a settlement for many years, the answer will be: "No, you cannot come in now without passing various tests. We in Great Britain now have a means test for family unity". The question will be: has that person got a job and can he afford to bring his family over? Another question will be whether accommodation is available. Your Lordships, of all people, know that local authorities often say that you cannot get family accommodation unless you have your family here. The answer might therefore be, "I do not have accommodation". Such accommodation will not be available unless the family is here.
372 What other tests will be imposed? I suppose that one of the tests will be the primary purpose test. That is known to be one of the harshest tests for the intellectually inferior, if I may put it that way without being offensive. What response will be made when questions are put concerning the primary purpose of immigration?
I could go on to talk about the other clauses of the Bill. I have concentrated on this clause on purpose. Perhaps I may also speak about Clause 2. The Minister, with his usual frankness, says that very little was involved. He says that we do not like polygamy in this country. He says that we have time to put in a Bill affecting the average of 25 households which he mentioned. We wish that the Government could find time for legislation of greater social benefit than that. However, they have found time for the clause affecting the 25 households.
We look at this clause with great morality in a country where one-parent family figures have grown to a proportion of which many of us are ashamed and where there are social and family conditions of which we are not proud. Then we say that from our point of view polygamous marriages are beyond the pale—and possibly the phrase "beyond the pale" is the correct expression in this context. We find time in this Parliament to deal with a clause concerning polygamous marrage.
I have exercised your Lordships' patience long enough. There are other clauses upon which I should wish to concentrate, such as those concerning the right of appeal against administrative actions. In this Parliament we have been appealing for more rights against administrative decisions. Now Parliament is asked to say that there will be no right of appeal under Clauses 3 and 4. Those rights exist now and they will be removed. To hardship cases we shall be saying, "Oh no, you can't do that. You arrive in this country; you may have lost your papers and there may be a very good excuse for you not having them. But there is no question of appeal against the administrative decision of some civil servant or other. You can't come in. Out you go. There is no right of appeal now; there was before". When such people come before the courts we shall say to them: "You can come before the courts but you can't talk about hardship cases—that's all wrong".
Another part of this wretched Bill says: "You have overstayed your leave; you have broken a condition". The Minister says: "Of course, we have the right to act upon that and to deport. But we are now going to make it very definitely a matter which is brought before the criminal courts". Are your Lordships aware of the fact that the very people who have objected to that clause are the police? The Minister is. The police have objected to it on the grounds that they are trying their hardest to improve their relationships with the immigrant minority in this country and they regard this provision as not helping in that cause.
In order to show no discrimination, to show justice, mercy and everything else, we incorporate in this Bill a clause which says that the British citizen may have grave difficulties in bringing a foreign spouse into this country as from now. But we put into 373 this clause and announce to the world that if you are a member of the European Community you can bring your family and no questions will be asked. This is how we have evolved our right of citizenship and entry into this country.
I said that this was a Bill without a heart and without a soul. I hope that when it has been through the various stages in your Lordships' House it will emerge without a body.
§ 12.1 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I join the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in saying how much I look forward to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits. I congratulate him on choosing such an appropriate occasion on which to make his maiden speech, but in my view he will have difficulty in making a maiden speech on this topic which is not controversial.
I have great pleasure in following the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the devastating critique which he has just deployed against this Bill. I shall do my best not to repeat some of the words which he has used. The noble Earl has not succeeded in reassuring me that this is not a major piece of legislation, if by major legislation one means legislation which raises matters of major principle. Nor has he reassured me that it does not represent a change in our immigration legislation. It represents a change and it represents a change for the worse.
Let me say straightaway that neither I nor my colleagues deny that governments have a right and duty to control immigration into their country and that the population to whom they are responsible can reasonably expect to be protected from immigration by undesirable persons, be they spies, criminals or drug racketeers. However, such considerations are not the primary purpose of immigration law in this country, least of all of this mean little Bill.
If we look back at immigration law, disregarding the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 and the Bill introduced during the Napoleonic wars, which was repealed in 1826, the first immigration Act was the Aliens Act 1905. As noble Lords will know, that Bill was designed to check the Jewish immigration of 1870 from Eastern Europe. It was backed by a proto-fascist movement called the Band of British Brothers. The primary purpose of laws of that nature is not to keep out undesirable people in the sense to which I have referred to them—in the criminal sense—but nearly always to exclude members of certain racial or religious groups. In 1905 it was Jews from Eastern Europe, more recently it has been people from the Caribbean or the sub-continent of India.
In my view this kind of legislation is objectionable both in principle and in practice. The people who are excluded are judged not on their merits, they are judged because they are Jews, or blacks, or Asians. The difficulty with that in this country is that we also have on the statute book race relations legislation under which unlawful discrimination is defined as treating people unequally. That legislation demands that people should be treated equally irrespective of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin. So at 374 the very start we encounter a stark contradiction between our domestic law and our immigration law.
In my view this kind of immigration legislation is not only bad in principle, as I have tried to demonstrate, but also bad in practice. It is arguable that the effect of such immigration legislation since 1962 has been in fact to increase the numbers settled in this country of those groups against whom it was directed. That argument rests on two legs. First, patterns of immigration up to 1962 conformed very closely with job opportunities. When employment was full immigration rose and when employment dropped immigration also dropped. The conformity was very close indeed. When there was the prospect of legislation there was a surge of immigration in order to beat the ban. The effect of legislation was actually to increase the numbers coming into this country at any one moment.
The second effect of immigration legislation was that it led people to bring in their families because they thought that there might be further legislation which would prevent it or make it more difficult for them to do so, as indeed there has been. Directly wives and children are brought in people put down roots and they will not return home.
The legislation of 1962, 1964, 1968, 1971, 1981 and 1988 is in my view stupid in another way as well as dangerous. It has damaged the quality of life and degraded the standard of administration in this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, pointed out, the effect of those laws and the way in which they are administered is to keep families divided. Those consequences are recorded in devastating detail in the CRE report, Immigration Control Procedures. Report of a Formal Investigation. That formal investigation showed beyond any doubt whatsoever that administrative delay was used as a means of reducing immigration numbers, particularly from Bangladesh. Until 1982 applicants from Bangladesh were waiting one and a half to two years before their first interview. To take one case, it took one Talal Jabbar 12 years to persuade the immigration authorities to allow his wife and two sons to join him here. After a small improvement things have once more slipped back, both in Bangladesh and in Lunar House (known throughout the world as Lunatic House), where there are now scenes approaching chaos.
An American publisher who is working for a very distinguished firm over here went to Lunar House in January to get his visa extended. He had to wait eight hours before he had any interview. He asked whether he should leave his passport there so that they could send it on to him with a visa. He was told that if he left it it might remain there for months. He took it away with him and they promised to give him a visitor's visa. That was in January but he has still not received it and he is probably over-staying.
The cases of Talal Jabbar and of my American publisher are very different. But they have one thing in common. They reveal a standard of administration that is a disgrace to the Home Office and to this country. In fact the whole business is very stupid. Almost everyone agrees, I believe, that it is undesirable to have in a community large groups of single men. They are a source of crime and a health 375 hazard. On grounds of pure self-interest, it is to the advantage of the community to have families over here as soon as possible—and by that I mean not only wives but also children. When wives join their husbands, crime and health hazards are reduced.
Moreover, if the children are to join their parents it must be right to let them do so as early as possible. If a boy comes to this country at the age of 14, like Talal Jabbar's boy, he will not learn English as well as if he had come over at four; nor will he acquire the qualifications that he would have obtained if he had had a wholly English education. This system of administration piles up problems for the future.
When the House was debating Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has remarked, we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I am sorry that the noble Lord is not present today. The noble Lord said a great deal in defence of the clause on the grounds of the importance of parents, children and their families. I hope that today we shall hear from the opposite Benches some reference to the importance of families, to the sanctity of family life and of some measures which will make it easier for families who happen to come here from the sub-continent of India to enjoy those advantages about which so much has been said in recent debates. It is hypocritical in the extreme to call yourself a party of the family and then to allow legislation of this kind to be put on the statute book.
The right policy is to facilitate the entry of families as quickly as possible and the entry of children who are as young as possible. Administrative procrastination is simply piling up problems for the future. The Bill before your Lordships' House today does not deal with any of the problems to which immigration gives rise. I believe that it will simply add to those problems.
When he introduced the Bill the Home Secretary said that it would deal with overstaying (which it does, in Clause 4), with polygamous settlement (which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, admirably dismissed), the position of those claiming British citizenship (dealt with in Clause 3), and the disgraceful repeal of Section 1 of the 1971 Act.
What all those changes have in common is that they level down and restrict rights rather than establish them. Needless to say, we have had no reference made to any change in the rules, in particular that awful rule about the primary purpose of marriage. In each and every case the measures are more restrictive than those which preceded them. And, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said, this is being done at a time when primary immigration is declining, when the number of dependants entering the country is declining, and when DNA could speed up the processing of applications.
The Bill goes back on a pledge made 14 years ago. A pledge is meant to last for ever, not for only 14 years. The legislation endows the Home Secretary with additional discretionary powers; it overturns decisions of the courts; and it does nothing about the rules. The claim so often is that the Bill is firm but fair. I would describe it as profoundly prejudiced, profoundly inhumane, and profoundly unfair.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Lord Jakobovits
My Lords, several reasons prompt me to ask for your Lordships' indulgence today. I am deeply touched by the warm and gracious welcome extended to me by the noble Earl, which has been supported by the other speakers. Notwithstanding the reassuring words that I heard from the noble Earl about maiden speeches, I can assure him and other noble Lords that I share with every new Peer, whatever his or her past experience in public life, some trepidation in speaking for the first time within earshot of these venerable walls that have listened and still often listen to some of Britain's finest minds and most eloquent orators. In fact, I feel somewhat like my ancestor and namesake the Patriarch Jacob who slept on a stone which, by legend, is not unconnected with the early history of this House. He awoke in the morning and exclaimed, "How full of awe is this place. This is none other than the House of the Lord".
My awe is all the greater because, unlike most other noble Lords who have been elevated to this upper House from the ground floor of common citizenship, I was lifted from the basement of refugeedom—indeed, from the even lower sewers of Nazi oppression and humiliation. I am ever conscious that but for the grace of God and the compassionate haven of this great country, I should today be an anonymous speck among the ashes of millions defiling the soil of Europe.
A third factor daunts me. As the only rabbi ever to take a seat in this House, I am, as it were, a Peer without peers, and I feared that I should be a little lonely. However, that fear was dispelled at my introduction by my most distinguished supporters—and I should like to say how privileged I feel at seeing both in the Chamber at the present time—as well as by the extraordinary warmth with which I have been received by so many noble Lords and illustrious friends, most notable among them being the most reverend Primates the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York. Perhaps I may say at this point that I join countless other citizens in wishing to see their primacy preserved among the nation's religious and moral leaders.
Moments before my introduction I began to feel at home when I was robed in the Moses Room with its painting of Moses, the law giver, holding the Decalogue—presumably as the foundation of laws enacted in this Mother of Parliaments. And since Jews traditionally regard Moses as the first rabbi, I am clearly here as the second rabbi, still upholding the same Ten Commandments.
My experiences as both a refugee and as a rabbi have a bearing on immigration policies. The conventions attaching to maiden speeches prevent my saying anything provocative or controversial on this occasion. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, that my temptation is great to break those conventions. But I am occupationally committed to overcoming temptation. Nevertheless, I hope that I am qualified to draw a lesson on the philsophy of life applicable to both hosts and immigrants.
377 An ancient saying in the Talmud has it that,according to the hardship is the reward.When one climbs from below the ground floor one has to work harder. What one gets for nothing is worth nothing. People who have everything usually enjoy nothing. Having too much can be as debilitating as having too little. Too many of our children no longer know what it means to struggle, nor have they ever tasted the thrill of triumph over adversity through some special effort. The experience of treasuring freedom is often alien to them.
Our youth might learn from minorities who are fighting for equality that one should never take anything for granted. And the newer arrivals might feel encouraged that by rising the hard way they are making a special contribution to the moral dynamic as well as the cultural richness of the nation. Hosts and immigrants alike, I am convinced, are bound to be beneficiaries of benevolent policies.
However, there is also an obverse side. Even more important than liberal immigration laws is the prevention of oppression which causes the dislocation of refugees in the first place. All involuntary migrations from one country to another testify to some human failure and every political refugee dramatically epitomises some violation of human rights in his native land. Welcoming strangers is not enough. The supreme effort must be to ensure that no one will need to leave his country, fleeing from intolerable conditions of discrimination, persecution or alien conquest.
I am acutely aware that the most poignant contrast on the fate of refugees is today provided in the state of Israel. There are jewish refugees who arrived from lands under oppression by the hundreds of thousands in a miracle of absorption and integration; and there are about the same number of Arab refugees who have suffered under different regimes and who still languish in wretched refugee camps—an unspeakable tragedy of rejection and human indignity. What started as a conflict between two rights—between two peoples claiming the same land—has now become a conflict between two wrongs with Israel still being denied the right to exist under the threat of war and terror and with Palestinians still widely denied their national aspirations and subject to conditions that they are not prepared to accept without hope of amelioration.
In the context of our debate on immigrants and refugees, what are the lessons, individually, nationally and internationally? Perhaps I may suggest that they include the following: to accommodate opposing rights before they become opposing wrongs; to befriend newcomers before they become hostile aliens; to secure decent conditions for citizens in the lands in which they live before they become frustrated minorities in places to which they are driven; and, above all, to remember that we are all, each one of us, temporary residents on this planet where we have to learn the art of living together in harmony before our visa expires and we are called to migrate to another world.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Ripon
My Lords, it gives me enormous pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, in this debate and to have the opportunity to offer, on behalf of your Lordships' House, our congratulations to him on a notable maiden speech. He has been for over 20 years the Chief Rabbi of the Hebrew congregations of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. During that time he has been an outstanding religious leader of moral conviction and high principle.
I have had the privilege of working with the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, on a number of matters of common concern. I have long admired his integrity, his moral fervour, his compassion and his deep concern for good community relations. Those qualities and others will be an enrichment to your Lordships' House. He has already demonstrated them in this, his maiden speech, and we look forward with eagerness to the contributions that he will be making in the future. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all noble Lords when I say how glad we are that he is among us to enrich our deliberations and to offer him our warm congratulations upon a moving and eloquent maiden speech.
I should like to thank the Minister for his gracious and measured introduction to the Bill which is now before us. Nevertheless, I have to say that his commendation has not persuaded me that this is a Bill which should be welcomed. The Church's opposition to the Bill is well known. It is regarded as a piece of legislation which will unsettle and disturb many members of the ethnic minorities in this country. The Government represent the Bill as a modest measure concerned to ensure the removal of discrimination and to encourage good community relations. That is not the way it is perceived among the Churches, nor, I venture to suggest, among many of the ethnic minority communities. The Churches have been accused by the Government of,exaggerated and inaccurate statements … which arouse needless fears among our ethnic minorities".I quote from a Home Office press release of 13th January 1988.
It is not the Churches who are arousing such fears. They are already present and the Churches are voicing the anxieties that are already being felt. The Churches are uniquely placed to hear those anxieties. Our networks of congregations, parishes, clergy and ministers are in close touch with the ethnic minorities. Indeed, some members of our congregations and of our ordained ministries are themselves from the ethnic minorities. We are doing what it is part of our tradition to do; namely, speaking on behalf of those who are relatively powerless in our society.
It is one of the tasks of government to act not only on behalf of majorities but also on behalf of minorities in our country. A weak government may find it difficult to do this but our present Government are not weak. They are strong. Therefore, they have the responsibility and the capacity to protect minorities in our midst. The Churches are urging that they also exercise the will to do so.
Our country has a great record of welcoming immigrants. The city of Leeds, in my diocese, has in 379 the past 130 years welcomed Irish, Jewish, east European, Caribbean and Asian peoples and has enabled them to take their part in community and civic affairs. We are asking that the Government do not unsettle the most recent of these immigrants by the legislation now being considered in your Lordships' House.
Why should the Bill be regarded as unsettling and arouse anxiety? I draw attention to two clauses which I believe to be of particular concern. Both have already been mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon, and Lord Bonham-Carter. The first is Clause 1. The need for such a clause springs from a decision of the European Court of Human Rights that immigration law and rules should not be sexually discriminatory. Section 1(5) of the 1971 Immigration Act promised Commonwealth citizens who were settled here that when the Act first came into force in January 1973 that they and their wives and children would retain the immigration rights that they then had. Its abolition in the Bill means that no British or Commonwealth citizen settled here has an automatic right to live here with a foreign spouse. That right will be qualified by whatever tests are considered to be appropriate by the government of the day.
Noble Lords have already spoken—and I am sure that other noble Lords will wish to speak—about the manifest injustice of withdrawing a right which was promised to a group of people and was written into the statute book. It would have been possible for the Government to have taken care of the matter of sexual discrimination by way of an equally brief Clause 1. They might have stated that the word "wives" in Section 1(5) of the 1971 Act should be replaced by the word "spouses". Wives would then have been able to bring in their husbands, as husbands had the right under that section to bring in their wives. However, the Government have chosen to take care of the discrimination not by extending the right to wives but by withdrawing it from the husbands.
I should like to draw attention to one effect of the clause and to which attention has already been drawn; namely, the damage that it does to family life. It is a common pattern to find that an Asian man may have come to this country before 1973, returned to his own country, married, and then returned to this country leaving his wife and perhaps a child in his country of origin. He may have been saving to bring his family to join him, secure in the right afforded by Section 1(5). He now finds that he must pass the tests imposed by the Government. If he fails to pass those tests, his family cannot join him. Another possibility is that he has become a British citizen after the birth of the child who has remained with the mother in the country of origin. He is now able to bring his wife, but not his child, to join him. In either of those cases, the damage done to family life is clear. The feeling of someone deprived of the right, touching himself and his family in such a close way, will be strong. It is not surprising that anxieties and fears are aroused in his community.
The tests imposed by the present immigration rules include the housing and maintenance tests. They require that the housing and maintenance of the 380 family shall not be a charge upon public funds. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has already pointed out the Catch-22 situation which exists for some men. They are unable to obtain a council house large enough for a family because they are treated by the local authority as being single men. Until their family joins them, they cannot be considered for a house of suitable size. However, their family will not be permitted to join them under the immigration rules. They are trapped by a set of regulations which leaves them no way through.
The Government have made clear the fact that they wish this to be a mutual and fair Bill. I have argued that Clause 1 makes it a biased Bill. If Clause 1 remains in the Bill, I believe that the Government should make some other gesture to the ethnic minorities to show their concern and goodwill. Such a gesture might be made by the reforming of the immigration rules which set out the tests to be passed if a husband wishes to bring in his wife to live with him. At the moment, the tests include the primary purpose test to which noble Lords have already referred. It is that the primary purpose of the marriage should not be to gain entry to this country. I believe that such a test is almost impossible to pass. How does one prove that one is marrying someone for love when one is accused of doing so in order to gain that person entry into the United Kingdom? It is a difficult proposition to justify. If one is told that one is wrong, one can repeat one's affirmation. If it is not believed then there is little more that one can do. The rules on bringing elderly parents into this country, and children of single parents, are also in need of reform. Such a gesture would at least reassure those in ethnic minorities that the Government are recognising some of their difficulties, and that, instead of being increasingly restrictive in legislation and regulation, they are allowing them some liberty.
The other clause of which I speak is Clause 4 which removes the right to appeal on compassionate grounds against a deportation decision, unless the person facing deportation was last given leave to enter the United Kingdom more than seven years ago. I am no lawyer and I hope that other noble Lords with more knowledge than I will be able to speak about the legal aspects of the removal of appeal. I shall point out only what is in my view a lack of humanitarian concern. This clause will prevent people who have overstayed, but have humanitarian reasons for wishing to remain in the UK, from challenging the decision to deport them. They may wish to stay because they have families here, because they have been here for some years or because they may be in some danger upon their arrival in their country of origin. They will have no way of putting forward compassionate grounds on which the deportation order might be reversed.
It is true that appeal rights to the higher courts will not be affected where a person is recommended for deportation following criminal conviction. However, the right of appeal to the immigration appellate authorities against a decision of the Minister to deport is withdrawn. Ministers have made much of the possibility of compassionate circumstances being aired at a previous stage in the application or at a 381 previous appeal against refusal to vary leave. However, an adjudicator hearing an appeal against refusal to vary leave can consider only whether the Home Office has acted correctly according to the immigration rules. He or she has no power to decide a case on compassionate grounds.
Under the Bill the Home Secretary will have power to make an order against some people, or groups of people, from the effect of this clause. The Minister has said that included in the order will be those seeking asylum under some circumstances. However, we do not know precisely what those circumstances will be. We should be in a much better position to judge if the exemptions were made by statute and not by order. For instance, will it be possible to exempt a Tamil who comes to study in this country from Sri Lanka, who overstays and then finds that the situation in his own country has altered and he may be at risk from extremist groups? If he is refused exemption he has no right of appeal. Clause 4 is designed to prevent delay in removing someone whom the Home Office has decided to deport. It is a clause for the convenience of those who administer the enforcement of immigration control. Yet it removes an essential safeguard for those threatened with deportation.
During the past five years approximately 17 per cent. of those threatened with deportation appealed against that decision. As a result, 11 per cent. of those appealing—that is 184 people—were successful. Under the Bill now being considered those 184 people would not have had the opportunity to make their case. The numbers may be small but for those people appeal is a vital safeguard. If the possibility of appeal is not available, it may be that the power to make deportation orders will be used more often and with less careful consideration, knowing that it will not be subject to independent challenge.
On humanitarian grounds, the removal of the right of appeal is a disturbing feature of the Bill. One consequence may be increasing pressure on the consciences of those responsible for religious buildings to allow those buildings to be used as sanctuary. Of course, there is no legal right of sanctuary in this country and those who feel that the case of an "overstayer", with compassionate grounds for remaining, must at least be heard will be placed in a very difficult position. They will not wish to break the law but will feel in conscience that opportunity must be provided for justice to be done. The pressure on such people to offer sanctuary will be very considerable.
A declaration of opposition to the Immigration Bill has been sponsored by major Church and race relations bodies including responsible bodies from the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union and the Roman Catholic Church. It has been signed by 130 organisations representing an estimated 100,000 people. Many of these organisations represent members of the ethnic minorities.
The Government have said that this is a modest Bill and that their concern is to foster good community relations. If that be the case then the Church's argument is that they should listen to the 382 voices of those affected by this Bill and modify the Bill to meet their fears. The number of people affected may be small but each is an individual and some of those individuals may find themselves being treated by our immigration law in a way which should not be possible in a humane society.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, although I disagree with much of what the right reverend Prelate has said and will be interested to deal with some of the points in Committee, I should like to join him in the tribute he paid to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, which was not only moving, but charming and witty. It was restrained to a remarkable degree in the context of this debate and we should congratulate him upon that also.
Perhaps I may make one comment upon something on which I agree with him. He said that we must secure decent conditions for immigrants, whether they are refugees or other immigrants. I agree with that but I ask him and all noble Lords on both sides of your Lordships' House to bear in mind that the more immigrants we have, the more difficult it becomes to secure those conditions; and I should like to say more about that later.
Although I am a Gentile I have many Jewish friends—some very close friends—and I am deeply grateful, as I think perhaps the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi, may remember, to the Jewish community because I have a severely handicapped daughter who is looked after at Ravenswood which is a Jewish foundation. I felt it a great honour when I was asked to be a patron of that foundation.
At one time as part of my constituency I had the ancient borough of Huntingdon which Oliver Cromwell represented in another place. When he was Lord Protector—but by no means protector of Lords—he allowed the Jews to come into this country for the first time for 300 years after they had been excluded. I hope that I am not being frivolous or irrelevant if I say that his motives were not quite those with which the noble Lord the Chief Rabbi would have agreed. He wanted them in partly in the hope of converting them to Christianity, a matter in which there was no great success, but also because he thought it would be good for business. It was and has been ever since. I am happy to say that many Jews have emigrated to this country, many from oppression in other parts of the world, and they and their descendants have made a notable contribution to the commercial, professional and religious life of this country. There are now several hundred thousand Jews in England, some very distinguished Jews in Scotland and there are also some Jews in Wales. With regard to all of that, I for one rejoice.
I now come to a point which I consider has been overlooked by speeches from the Opposition Front Bench especially; namely, the background to the Bill. The background is that England as a separate territory—and apart from the small island and city states—is, according to the official information which I have been able to discover, the fifth most densely populated territory in the world—England taken as a separate territory. Only Bangladesh, Taiwan, the 383 Republic of Korea and Puerto Rico have a higher density of population than England. Those figures relate to 1984. England then had a density of 361 people per square mile. It is true that we have our great open spaces but so have all countries, except the small island and city states.
The truth is that we are a very heavily populated country and to the extent that we become more populated, our problems of unemployment, housing and education become more acute. There is no doubt about it. Although a few more skilled people may possibly be needed, we have to acknowledge that immigrants and their families add to our unemployment problems and add to our problems of housing and of education.
I had a letter the other day from an experienced school teacher in London whom I have never met and whom I did not know. However, it was obviously a sincere and well composed letter written, I must confess, in another context. He was protesting about the running down of ILEA. He was pointing out the difficulties that ILEA has. Some of those difficulties are these: 16 per cent. of primary school pupils in ILEA are not fluent in English; 25 per cent. of inner London children—that is over the whole of ILEA—speak a language other than English at home. He then gave me a fact which I find hard to believe but I have no reason to think that he has it wrong. He pointed out that 160 different languages and dialects are spoken. I see the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, who knows London so well nodding his head. There are 160 different languages and dialects spoken in the homes of ILEA pupils; that is a solemn thought.
That is the background to this Bill. It is known that in some of the other large towns and cities in the North and the Midlands there are similarly acute teaching and unemployment problems. One must acknowledge, because it is a fact, that with regard to those problems many of the children of immigrants still have their speaking and language problems and when they grow up they grow into unemployment problems.
I hope I may be allowed to draw on my rather distant experience. I was Minister of State at the Home Office when the late Lord Butler of Saffron Walden was Home Secretary. With him I had the responsibility of preparing and piloting the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. At that time we were desperately worried because there were 100,000 immigrants who came into this country in one year.
We were very surprised at the Labour and Liberal oppositions who in those days voted against us 43 times, including on the Second and Third Readings. I feel bound to say, having heard the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Bonham-Carter—although this applies especially to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—that when they are in opposition they do not hesitate to criticise the Government. They now say, although they used not to, "Yes, we have to have immigration control and everyone accepts that." However, when it comes to considering whether that control is effective, whether it is being abused and 384 whether there are matters that should be dealt with in order to adjust the control and make it right and more efficient, we are told, "Oh, no. That is without soul. We cannot have it." That seems to be the noble Lords' attitude to this Bill.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Lord is always gracious in giving way. I thought I made it abundantly clear (so that political points of that kind could not be made) that, of course, we realise that immigration control was necessary. I dealt specifically with the social issues involved in the provisions of this Bill. No example was given by the Minister of where things were going wrong and therefore had to be put right.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, with deep respect to the noble Lord—I hope I have as great an appreciation of his parliamentary attitudes as he was so kind as to say he has of mine—that is not an answer to that point I am endeavouring to make. My point is that if we are all anxious about the ever-growing numbers in this country, this heavily populated country, and if we are all agreed that there should be effective immigration control, then we should not cavil at genuine sincere attempts by the government of the day to try to put it right. We did not cavil when the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, was Home Secretary and had to strengthen our Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 because unforeseen large numbers of East African Asians came here. We supported him. However, there it is. We are accused of having no soul. That is an unfair comment and I am sorry to have to say so.
As to the way in which this legislation has worked over the years, I understand that although the 1962 Act was intended to stem mass immigration—to use the expression used today—as were later Acts, no fewer than nearly one-and-a-quarter million people have been admitted for settlement in this country. I make no point of colour because the figure includes people from all over the Commonwealth. It includes people from countries not in the Commonwealth; namely, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Those one-and-a-quarter million people and their descendants now number about three million people in this country. Although the number has been reduced a little in recent years, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, pointed out, quoting the Home Secretary, nevertheless in 1986 there were still 47,000 people admitted for settlement.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to give also the figures of outflow from this country, having made such a big point about the inflow?
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, yes. We have a large number of Commonwealth people, and people from all over the world, entering and leaving this country all the time. Of course there is an outflow figure but most of the people who come to this country for settlement remain to settle here. Their children born here are, rightly, British subjects and they stay here, as do their children; and their grandchildren and great grandchildren will be here. We cannot get away from the fact that there is still a large degree of immigration.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I am reluctant to give way yet again. I will have given way three times altogether if I do. I have spoken for 14 minutes though I had hoped to speak for only 12. I still have a little more to say and I hope that the noble Lord will reserve his further controversy for the Committee stage.
As I said, 47,000 people came here in 1986. That is more than half the average size of a parliamentary constituency of another place. It is too many. Therefore, it is not a question of whether this Bill goes too far. The question is whether it goes far enough to stem this still very considerable flow.
I have said that in 1962 we were worried about 100,000 people entering this country in one year; and they were not all going to stay. I feel that we should be just as worried about 100,000 people coming here over a period of two-and-a-half years. There is still the same build-up. In that respect, I should like to make this comment on several of the speeches made today. It is a most interesting and well-known fact in the administration of immigration control which I experienced myself when I was responsible for alien control before the Commonwealth Immigrants Act came in, that as soon as one person obtains a foothold in this country, however he got here, a build-up follows. It is a family build-up, sometimes spurious, mostly genuine, but it is a build-up that gives rise to constant pressure.
The British people already here, whatever their colour or creed, are at the receiving end of that process. It affects the whole of our social services and, as has been said by the right reverend Prelate, it affects the lives of all our people. Surely, we have a duty, first and foremost, to the people already in this country. We should also bear in mind that the world now has five billion people. That number doubles at shorter intervals as time goes on; and it will double fairly early in the next century. The increasing pressure on people to come to this country cannot be ignored.
This is a modest, small Bill. For goodness sake, do not let us say that because there are abuses which are not widespread and offences which are not frequently committed, we should let people get away with it.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will permit me to break the rules and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, on his excellent maiden speech. I was very impressed and touched by much of what I heard and I am looking forward, as I know will many Lords, to hearing him on many future occasions.
I should like also to thank my noble friend Lord Mishcon, the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon for their speeches. I want particularly to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, for explaining—though he obviously failed to convince the noble Lord, Lord Renton—what, in fact are the consequencies of the immigration laws. I do not intend to say any more on that because I think that the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said it as well as it could be said, but 386 I suggest that noble Lords study his remarks in Hansard. The figures are there and they speak for themselves.
I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, again and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon for dealing with the question of family life and the consequences to family life of this Bill. I am always saddened—and I use the word advisedly—at the way in which Members of the party opposite talk about family life but, when there is any need to show that they care about it, there is no way you can get them to do it. I have always found that quite shocking.
I am speaking today more in sadness than in sorrow, because in 1971 we accepted the word of the Home Secretary and I went round the country presuading the black community that it had nothing to worry about. Not only did the Home Secretary give his word but it was in statute. I now have to face such people again because I have been persuading them about other things as well—I take the view that if people are living in a country they should take out citizenship. I have been persuading most of my friends to take out British citizenship and I have been persuading people who come from places like Trinidad, which do not give dual citizenship, to revoke Trinidadian citizenship and to take up British citizenship. I have got to face them now. They tell me—and at first I pooh-poohed it—that if we can take away the rights of people who were living here before 1973 there is nothing to prevent us taking away not necessarily their citizenship but their right of abode.
Then I looked at the clause, and I thought that they were right. Just as you come here with a clause to say that Clause 1 repeals Clause 1(5) of the 1971 Act, you can have a Bill which says, "This clause amends Section 2(1) of the 1971 Act by removing all words after 'birth'." That would mean that only people who are citizens by birth can have the right of abode. Therefore I recognise that what some of my friends had been telling me since the Bill came out has some bearing. I know the Minister will assure the House that no government will do this, but his reassurances have no meaning. Reginald Maudling did just that, and actually put it in statute. Then a subsequent government just says, "Oh, it doesn't really matter: we will repudiate it." That is what we are being invited to do in this Bill in Clause 1: to repudiate the undertaking that was given in 1971.
Of course no Parliament can bind its successors—we know that—but successors hesitate to change obligations undertaken by previous Parliaments unless there are exceptional circumstances. There is no exceptional circumstance. There is nothing that is known that in effect was not known in 1971—except of course that none of us thought 15 years later that people who had families would still be having difficulties getting those families in here. That is probably the only development that was not foreseen in 1971. Of course it was sexist, but so was the Nationality Act, up to then anyway. Therefore if a court says that the clause is sexist, as was pointed out by the right reverend Prelate, the solution is quite simple: change the word "wives" to "spouses" and it will no longer be sexist.
387 So there is no exceptional circumstance which would justify a Parliament completely repudiating the obligations undertaken by a previous Parliament. I am afraid the noble Lord the Minister needs to convince the House that there is some exceptional circumstance which would warrant the House being asked to take such a drastic step; and he has not done so. I read all the debates in the other place, and nobody has done so. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, spoke earlier about people coming in here and there being a build-up. That is not enough to justify a complete breach of faith. If you are going to renege on an obligation, there must be exceptional circumstances. Nobody has pointed out any exceptional circumstance and therefore Parliament is being asked to do something which is completely wrong and for which there can be no proper grounds.
Therefore, as the other place does not seem to understand that Parliament's obligations should be respected, I hope that your Lordships' House will do so. There is only one way of dealing with Clause 1 and that is to reject it and to omit it from the Bill. We must do that. The Government talk about community relations. My God!—we cannot do more harm to community relations than by making people fearful of their future. And that is what we are doing because we are saying, "It does not matter what we say to you today, a government can come tomorrow and change it." Nobody can feel safe. It does not matter what a government say or do. I really wish there were more of us who could see that. There is not a sufficient gain to warrant taking that sort of action.
The consequences to people that would flow from the removal of that have already been dealt with by other speakers, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the right reverend Prelate, and so I shall not go into that. I merely want to point out that as the Nationality Act made all British citizens Commonwealth citizens, by removing Clause 1(5) we are saying to all British citizens, be they white or black, that before they can get spouses here from abroad, before they can bring in any foreign wives, they will have to pass whatever tests the Home Office is willing to put forward. I hope that is very clear not only to members of the Government—because they ought to have known what they were doing—but to members of the parties who will in fact be supporting them in doing it.
That is the effect of those provisions and it is in that context that the question of reaffirmation of the rights of EC citizens is so pointed. What we are saying is that people from other EC countries will have more rights, in family terms, than people of this country. That is really what it amounts to. We are saying that if British citizens—because all British citizens are Commonwealth citizens according to this Act—can bring in their wives and children only on conditions that are laid down by the Home Secretary while citizens of other EC countries do not have such rules laid down but have an absolute right to bring here not just their wives but their grandchildren and their grandparents, that is all right. We are saying that the Bill downgrades the British citizen in comparison with other EC citizens in the British 388 citizen's own country. I hope that the Home Office has thought this one through.
The other point I want to address has been dealt with very well by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon. I refer to the abolition of the right of appeal. Of course it is convenient for civil servants and Ministers to be able to take decisions to deport and of course it is more difficult if the people can appeal. I had a hand in the establishment of the appeals procedure. I was then chairing an organisation which was trying to fight against racial discrimination in this country. We advocated the appeals procedure very strongly and the government of the day accepted it, acted upon it and we were very pleased.
The committee that was appointed to investigate whether we should have the appeals procedure recommended that it should be available not only for immigration appeals but even more importantly that it should be in existence for people who were threatened with deportation, because deportation could have much more serious consequences. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will look at that one again too. We must refuse to accept Clause 1. There is no other way. The clause which deals with the right of appeal can be amended.
I was glad to hear the Minister say that the seven years' provision means seven years living here and that during those seven years people can go abroad for a visit and come back. I think I understood the Minister to say that and I should be glad if he will reaffirm it when he comes to reply. This issue has been raised with me by many people. I give as an example the case of someone who is living here and six years later his mother dies. He goes off because there are family matters to settle and therefore he is abroad for a while. When he comes back a problem arises because he did not look at the application at the right time and overstayed. There is a worry that he could be deported without even an appeal. From what the Minister said I think that that would not be true because he would then have been here for seven years anyway. I hope the Minister will reaffirm it when he replies. It is important to satisfy people that they will not be dealt with in too summary a fashion.
Finally, there is the whole question of making overstaying a continuing criminal offence. This can have serious consequences for police and community relations. It is another area in which I have been involved for years. I am still involved. The police still ask me to chair their meetings and to take part in their discussions. To encourage policemen to ask people, when they stop them, how long they have been here is going down a silly road. As the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said, the chief police officers are worried about it. I wish that the Home Office would think more deeply and more thoroughly about the consequences of the steps it is taking.
This is not just a simple little Bill. I agree that it is not a long Bill but its consequences could be serious for a great many people. It could have serious consequences for the social cohesion of this society. I again beg the Government to think a little more before they act.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, this is the first Immigration Bill we have been asked to consider since the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Bill to which we devoted what time we were allowed in April and May of last year. During the passage of that Bill several of your Lordships drew attention to the dangers which it posed, unintentionally I am sure, to the genuine refugee or asylum seeker who might find himself swept up the in the net and deported amid the generality of illegal immigrants against whom that Bill was aimed.
We also pointed out the deterrent effect that the Bill might have on carriers whose humaner instincts might well be deadened by the threat of not inconsiderable fines, so that the refugee without the right documentation would not even be allowed to board a ship or an aeroplane travelling to this country. In this way it might well happen that a man fleeing for his life would never even start on his flight to safety, never have a chance to put his case to our officials or to appeal to our surely honourable tradition of hospitality for the oppressed.
We moved amendments. We argued. On more than one occasion, it seemed to me, we won the argument. But there was an extraneous, fortuitous circumstance about that Bill which was extremely unfortunate—not for us, for we had nothing to lose, but for the refugees whose cause we were trying to espouse. It just happened that at that time the mind of the Government was obsessed, as must happen from time to time in a democracy, with considerations of electoral chronology. The edict had clearly gone forth that no amendments were to be allowed. To have to take the Bill back to another place would upset the timetable for the impending general election. Against such a paramount imperative what chance did we have with our irritating, pettyfogging arguments about such trivia as basic human rights? None whatsoever. The Bill eased its way through the House with all the delicacy and finesse of a runaway bulldozer.
Therefore, now, when the Government have four clear years ahead of them, one might have hoped that they would be taking this opportunity to look again at some of the points we raised last summer and to remove some of the dangers inherent in last year's Bill. One might have hoped, I said. Well, if one had been optimistic almost to the point of imbecility, I suppose one might have entertained such hopes, but they would not have survived even the most cursory examination of the Bill before us today. It is another mean-minded, screw-tightening, loophole-closing concoction imbued with the implicit assumption that almost everybody who seeks to enter this demiparadise of ours has some ulterior, sinister and very probably criminal motive and the sooner we get rid of him the better. That is the kind of Bill it is.
Nevertheless, it is our duty as this is a Second Reacting debate, to examine it and not to confine ourselves to regretting the absence from it of things which might have been in it but are not. We shall, I hope, at later stages be trying to remedy some of what we regard as its sins of omission. There is nothing to prevent your Lordships putting new things—even 390 whole new clauses—into any Bill that comes before you. Indeed, the Government show an increasing tendency to do so with almost every Bill that rolls off the assembly line. However, it is also our duty to scrutinise the contents of the Bill in the hope that we can either increase its effectiveness, if we approve of it, or mitigate its defects if we do not.
The first example of the latter process to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is Clause 4. That clause severely restricts the rights of appeal of people subject to a deportation order under Section 3(5)(a) of the 1971 Act. At present, the adjudicator and the Immigration Appeals Tribunal can take a number of factors into consideration, including "compassionate circumstances". A submission can be made, and heard, that even if an asylum seeker is held not to qualify under the strict terms of the 1951 convention, he may nevertheless, in all the circumstances of his case, be given what is called "exceptional leave to remain". All those provisions disappear under Clause 4 of the Bill. The appeal is limited to the purely factual question of whether the appellant entered the United Kingdom fewer than seven years before the decision to deport. In my view that is arbitrary, bureaucratic and objectionable.
Clause 5, which amends Section 24 of the 1971 Act, raises several questions which can perhaps be better dealt with in Committee. There is a letter from the Home Office to UKIAS which gives certain assurances, but we need to find out what legislative form those assurances will be given.
In conclusion, I revert to a matter not mentioned in the Bill but the inclusion of which would greatly improve it, and indeed make it something of which we could all be proud. If our oft repeated claim to be a land in which the oppressed and persecuted can find sanctuary—a claim which our ancestors could justly make with conviction—is to mean anything other than hypocrisy, we urgently need a general right of appeal for all asylum seekers against hasty administrative deportation. That is the basic policy of the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees: the clear doctrine of non-refoulement, to which we have added our signature. It is also backed by the British Refugee Council, Amnesty International and Charter 87 to which many of your Lordships have given your support.
We should ask ourselves what we have at present in grim almost unbelievable reality. The answer is that we have legislation under which an asylum seeker who reaches our shores—from no matter what human hell-hole—can unless he has managed to obtain the right pieces of paper, the right rubber stamp or the right passport, be sent back from whence he came; and only then, after his deportation, can he appeal against such a decision. One might think that such a rule could only be the product of some supernatural collaboration between Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller (who gave us Catch-22), with perhaps a little help from Lewis Carroll. But, no, that policy was thought up by some warped genius in the Home Office, That is the law of this land; but we in this House can put it right.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, as the only other speaker from the Cross-Benches in the debate, I hope that I may be permitted to say how much we appreciated the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, not least for what he said on the subject of refugees in Palestine. He also mentioned the importance of accommodating opposing rights. I feel that that gives great light to the present situation, for instance, in Northern Ireland.
There are many questions that still need to be asked about the Bill. For example, does it take account of the situation that will emerge within the European Community in 1992, when we expect to have a unified market? Many of us hope to see at any rate the beginnings of a situation similar to that which pertains at present in the United States of America where a visitor, or a citizen, can travel freely from the Atlantic to the Pacific, or from the borders of Canada down to the frontier with Mexico.
We already know that steps are being taken to initiate common European passports as a first move towards some sort of common citizenship; the introduction of which I very much look forward to and desire. I hope it will be achieved within my lifetime. However, I think it will demand consideration of a harmonised European immigration policy. Therefore, I ask: is the Bill just a little interim measure, or are Her Majesty's Government at least beginning to give some long-term thought to the future? Voluntary bodies have already come together in the European Consultation on Refugees and Exiles and have published an important report A Refugee Policy for Europe which came out in September last year. The report was warmly received and welcomed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and by several European governments. Surely it is becoming clear that there will have to be harmonisation of the various widely differing regimes that apply to refugees in the various European countries. Visa and airline questions will require careful thought. I think there is a need to understand refugees as people who need our care and assistance, in line with many international conventions which we helped to draft and have signed and ratified.
It is important to understand the background to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. It is, alas, all too well known that there are some 12 million to 15 million refugees throughout the world. But, very few of them come to this country. For example, between 1980 and 1986, the applications for asylum varied between 2,000 and 4,800; averaging probably some 3,500 per year. That figure is tiny, minute, in comparison with all the refugees of the world. It is even small in comparison with the annual inflow and outflow of persons to and from the United Kingdom—the point I was endeavouring to make with the noble Lord, Lord Renton.
It is also true that more than 70 per cent. of those who apply for asylum are afforded either full refugee status or exceptional leave to remain. Another fact we ought to take into account is that when violence and repression end in particular countries, or 392 dictators fall, many refugees then return to their country of origin. We found that situation arose in relation to Uruguay, Argentina, and Zimbabwe.
I therefore follow the noble Lord, Lord McNair, in pointing to the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act 1987, which was passed in the face of strong criticism in your Lordships' House, and indeed in the country. That Act flies in the face of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. The effect of that Act is that asylum seekers may be removed to third countries, which are not signatories to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. That can put them at severe risk. First, we need—and the noble Lord, Lord McNair, touched upon this point—just and humane entry procedures. Secondly, we need a right of appeal, and here we should take note of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which again we helped to draft and which is binding upon us. Thirdly, we need the minimum possible use of detention for asylum seekers. Finally, we need protection for all, most especially for young people and children.
I now come to and will quote from an important statement made during the Report stage of the Immigration Bill 1971 on 11th October 1971, when the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, replied to an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Wade. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said:noble Lords who have spoken … can be assured that the present Administration, and no doubt succeeding Governments, have every intention of honouring and observing to the full this country's obligations under international instruments … notwithstanding that they are not contained in an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament".He went on to say:These obligations have been written into the immigration rules … and these paragraphs set out the long-accepted ambit of political asylum in this country, and do so in words whch are drawn from the wording of an actual Convention. They make it clear that a person is not to be refused entry or expelled where the effect would be his going to a country where he would be at risk of persecution.A little later the noble Lord said:I have said enough to show the noble Lord"—that is, the noble Lord, Lord Wade—that we should adhere in this respect to the traditional practice in this country."—[Official Report. 11/10/71; cols. 218–219.]I therefore have to ask whether the suspicion is founded that the Government are whittling away the safety net for asylum seekers. That is the implication of the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act and of this Bill. Will the noble Earl confirm that Her Majesty's Government stand four square behind the assurances given in 1971?
I follow previous speakers, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon, in deploring Clause 1. Surely, most of those people who were entitled to protection previously, by being resident before January 1973, have already taken advantage of their rights. The Government say that many who are still protected by it would qualify under other criteria. If so, why deprive the few who do not qualify of the right that they now have?
Again, following the right reverend Prelate, why not widen the scope of the protection because of the alleged sexual discrimination rather than abolish it? I think that I am right in saying that a widening process was followed in the matter of fiancés.
393 As to Clause 2, I hold no brief for polygamous marriage. But I fear that the clause, as drafted, which the noble Earl admitted would probably affect about 25 persons a year, will mean that those persons will be put into a worse position than, for example, the wives of certain diplomats or visiting Arab notables who may well have two or more wives, in accordance with Koranic law.
If there is to be any discrimination against polygamous marriage it should surely be exercised so that it discriminates against persons not at present married; that is to say, against new wives and not against existing ones. I hope that the Bill will be considerably amended in Committee.
§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, today's debate on immigration has been a notable one. The subject has been of concern to this island since my forebears, the Celts, welcomed the first Angles and Saxons. I do not know that they came here exactly as invitees, or even as refugees. They came as conquerors, but we soon put them in their place. The debate has been of great human and legal interest. If I may say so, it has been highlighted by a series of distinguished speeches; and of course brilliantly enlightened by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, whose moving and entertaining speech impressed us all greatly. How privileged we are, sir, to have you with us.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I was about to say that we look forward—using the noble Lord's expression—to a time when he is no longer occupationally committed to overcoming temptation. I mean that entirely of course in the context that he used the phrase. We are indebted to him and thank him for his contribution.
One cannot win debates by counting heads, but it is of interest that one noble Lord, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, whom I respect—an old friend—has supported the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers; otherwise he stands, or sits, alone in this debate, which has received powerful condemnation, on many grounds, from all parts of the House.
It is the first immigration legislation to be passed since 1971. It is deeply regrettable that, apart from the provisions for citizens of EC countries, as the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said, it is wholly restrictive in its terms. None of its provisions seeks to extend basic human rights. On the contrary, they almost all tend to diminish them: in immigration law, in the right to family life, in regard to a right of appeal, and other matters which have been highlighted.
It is a small Bill, as the noble Earl described it, but I am afraid that in the extent of its potential damage it is a big Bill and one which I believe and fear we shall have cause to regret. Fortunately there is before us a Committee stage, as the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has indicated. We hope greatly that we can alter the Bill at that stage sufficiently to make it worthy of Parliament and of this country. As it stands at the moment, it is not.
394 Clause 1 of the Bill has been examined by a number of noble Lords and if it comes into law it will have the effect of removing from Commonwealth citizens settled here before 1st January 1973 the absolute and unqualified right to bring their families, their wives and children into this country. That right, as we have been reminded, was conferred upon them by Section 1(5) of the Immigration Act 1971. My noble friend Lord Mishcon, in a devastating speech, I venture to suggest, cited the commitment of the Government at that time to preserving the current statutory right to bring in wives and children under the age of 16, as expressed in the eloquent speech of Reginald Maudling. That is not the only commitment that has been made by the Government, nor the only promise. Indeed, one was made very recently by the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, on 28th June 1982, when he said in the course of a debate in another place:The right honourable Member for Sparkbrook rightly referred to the danger of breaking up families. I remind him, however, that the Government have remained firmly committed, as they said they would, to allowing in the wives and dependent children of men settled here. The new rules did not in any way affect the continued acceptance of wives and children. Nor have the Government any intention of going back on that commitment".—[Official Report, Commons, 28/6/82; col. 644.]That was said in sincerity, I am quite certain, by the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw.
What has been lacking in this debate from the Government side is any explanation of why this Bill is suddenly cast upon us. Clause 1 will have the effect of throwing the main weight of the Bill—as do other clauses—particularly on Commonwealth citizens from Bangladesh. The Bangladeshis are the most recent of the communities which have arrived in large numbers in Britain and it is among them that the problem of divided families is already most serious and acute. So we shall be aggravating situations of difficulty by removing the undertakings given so solemnly in 1971 and repeated since then by the Government.
As the Joint Council For The Welfare of Immigrants has stressed, the Bill in its content confirms the greatest anomaly of all in British immigration law—namely, that EC nationals living in Britain have more rights than any British citizen living here. A German, French or Irish man or woman has an absolute right to bring in his or her spouse without any tests at all. After the Bill has passed, no British citizen will have that right. It is a remarkable situation that the Bill is creating.
Clause 2 is something of an oddity. It deals with the somewhat rare problem and phenomenon of polygamous wives. The noble Earl, introducing the Bill in characteristic honesty, indicated that it relates to a problem which produced a mere 25 cases last year, I think, 75 cases in previous years. Surely it would have been much better to deal with this problem, so far as it exists, by considering each case on its merits as the problem arises.
Noble Lords have referred, particularly in the notable speech of the noble Lord, Lord McNair, to the wickedness of Clause 3 of the Bill. It prevents British citizens from entering the United Kingdom unless they can present documents proving their status. In my submission—and other noble Lords 395 have spoken on the same lines—it is wrong that a person with a well-founded claim to be British should be excluded from entering the United Kingdom solely because he or she does not have one of the two necessary documents: a passport or a certificate of entitlement to prove the claim. To restrict the ability of British citizens to arrive here and to make their claim when they are here is, we submit, unprecedented in legal history. Both at common law and under statute that right has hitherto been respected. If I may say so, the noble Earl glossed too lightly over that deplorable change.
Then Clause 4 has been generally condemned because it restricts the right of appeal against deportation of anyone who is accused of overstaying and has been in Britain for less than seven years. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon made a most clear denunciation of this and reminded us in his speech that the whole weight of opinion of Churches of all denominations has been registered against that and other parts of the Bill.
At present a person who is accused of overstaying can appeal to an independent tribunal. That tribunal has the right to decide whether compassionate circumstances outweigh the public interest in a deportation case. That right disappears if Clause 4 becomes law.
It is a draconian step that the Government propose to take. In future the person involved will have to show that he or she has remained in the United Kingdom for seven years before he will be entitled to appeal. The right of appeal now enables the merits of an individual case to be considered by the tribunal. But that is to be removed and the power given to the Secretary of State is one which is not limited as it should be. At present, overstaying is a summary offence which attracts moderate penalties under our law. Usually the maximum penalty is six months or a relatively small fine. But the penalty here is deportation, which is a ferocious penalty. It means breaking up families, losing a job, depriving the children of their parent and, for refugees from an oppressive regime seeking asylum within our shores, it can mean imprisonment, torture or even death.
The refusal to grant a right of appeal which the Bill perpetrates is in itself sufficient to condemn it as an outrage. In my submission Clause 4(2) of the Bill has serious constitutional implications in that it enables the Home Secretary to decide who may and who may not appeal against his decision to make a deportation order. We shall have to examine that and indeed almost all these provisions with most careful attention when the Bill goes to Committee.
Clause 4 will remove for the citizen a valuable check—indeed not only for the citizen but for those properly seeking to enter our shores—against the abuse of power. We submit that if it becomes the law it will achieve a serious erosion of appeal rights and civil liberties.
I have wondered to what extent there has been consultation by the law officers on some of the provisions of the Bill in regard to their standing in international law. It seems to us that many of the provisions are in flagrant breach of our international commitments in the human rights field and we shall 396 expose those with great care when it comes to debating them.
We meet at the end of an arduous week. Therefore, I feel that I should be encroaching on the goodwill of the House if I dwell at any further length on this subject. But I do submit that while we concede that immigration control is of course a regrettable necessity, it must be even-handed and fair and be seen to be even-handed and fair. On that test this Bill fails. Several noble Lords have spoken admirably in this debate. But the Bill in our submission will do great damage to family life, to community relations here and to Britain's reputation abroad as a country which values justice and humanity.
§ 1.53 p.m.
My Lords, whatever else this debate has produced it has been remarkable for one thing, and that is the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits. I said in my opening remarks that I for one, and I know a great many other noble Lords, look forward to his future speeches.
If I may say so and it is an impertinence to say so, his speech was one of enormous humanity, great wisdom and great personal experience and one which showed a philosophy of life which I found peculiarly attractive. He said that those who have not experienced hardship have not experienced true values. Those were not his exact words but that was their implication.
I remember my father used to say to me that whenever I thought that the whole world was against me and that everything was going wrong for me and when I was wondering why everything was going wrong for me and for nobody else I must remember that there would always be somebody who would consider that I was a lucky man and that that person would wish he was me.
I do not say that many people would have said that about the experience which the Chief Rabbi has had, but without doubt his experience has enabled him to contribute a speech today which has been remarkable in its content and a delight to listen to. It is no platitude when I say to him that we shall all look forward to hearing him on many occasions giving forth his views with I hope the equal restraint with which he was able to give them today. Whatever his views may be we shall look forward greatly to hearing them.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, quoted for him a psalm. I should have thought that the noble Lord would have quoted psalm 122 which states:I was glad when they said unto me,Let us go into the house of the Lord.However, I daresay, had the noble Lord done so, that might have inferred an even greater and more expeditious elevation to the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, than has been conferred on him at the moment.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, started his speech in the courteous and felicitous way which is remarkable of him. That needless to say quietly sent me purring. Then, if I may say so, the noble Lord behaved like a bull charging through the door into a china shop. He said that the Bill had no heart, that it 397 had no soul, and that he hoped that it would have no body. The noble Lord then went on to say that the Government had done the most terrible things and that now there would be no appeal against this provision. He said that people who were already here would be prejudiced against and made other such terrifying remarks.
As the noble Lord spoke, I was reminded of the words of the late Lord Fisher of Lambeth, the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he said that there was no unreasonable argument that could not be proved reasonable by reason. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, might have been adopting that philosophy.
This is not, I respectfully suggest, an unreasonable Bill, although I can see that it has been interpreted as such in some places. I have taken note and I shall take note of the very detailed points which have been made by your Lordships this afternoon. But if I may I should like to rest on two or three of the main points of concern. To have heard the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Bonham-Carter, one would have thought that it was almost reasonable to allow no forms of control on entry.
My Lords, I meant to say that one might have been forgiven for thinking that. I know perfectly well that the noble Lord knows that there must be control over immigration. I know that everyone knows that if only for the very reasons which the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, put forward; namely, that we have to look after those who are here, and that we cannot allow limitless immigration. Therefore, the argument is not over whether there should be a control but on how that control should be exercised. Inevitably, there will have to be criteria connected with that control.
Most noble Lords complained, including the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon, Lord Bonham-Carter, Lord Hylton and the right reverend Prelate—in fact almost everyone I regret to say except for my noble friend Lord Renton. I am enormously grateful to my noble friend Lord Renton whose wisdom outshone everyone elses. But, nevertheless, everyone including the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, complained about Clause 1 of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, asked what figures there were for immigration. We do not have the figures for 1987, but I can tell the noble Lord that in the first nine months of the year the total number accepted for settlement was 35,200. But Clause 1 does not prevent people from bringing in their children or their wives. I wish to make that perfectly clear. It simply means that they would have to be able to show that they had reasonable accommodation for their family and that they could support their family in this country without recourse to public funds. If they can do so the family can still come here.
Some noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said that an Act was passed in 1971 which granted certain conditions and that now it was being repealed. There is nothing new in 398 repealing any Act. There is nothing new about changing any Act. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, admitted that. What was expected in 1971 was that we could give to those people who were already here in 1973—that was the operative date—the right to bring in members of their family without any consideration of whether or not those members would be an imposition on the state. They had that right.
What was not expected was that that right should be a continuing one and that it should continue to such an extent that those children born before 1973 could get married 20, 30, 40 or 50 years later to someone in another country and bring that wife and any child up to the age of 16 into this country without any consideration as to whether or not that would be an imposition on public funds, housing or anything else. Therefore, it could well be that those born in 1972 would have that right up to the year 2020. I do not believe that is a "right" right.
We say that the right of those people to enter before 1973 was fine then. Now all that they have to do is to be able to qualify in the same way as anyone entering after 1973 must qualify. Those people have had 15 years in which to bring their families to this country. They will now be subject to the same rules as everyone else. Many families who are not protected by Section 1(5) succeed perfectly well in meeting the requirements of the immigration rules every year. There is no reason to believe that most of those previously protected by Section 1(5) will not also succeed in meeting the tests. I know how concerned are noble Lords opposite and how genuinely they feel in these matters. However, it is not the case to say that we are breaking up families with this legislation. It merely gives us reasonable control on those coming here.
Perhaps I may give an example of the way the Act bites at the moment. Let us take the example of a Bangladeshi family who settled here with three children; a girl born in 1970, a boy born in 1972 and another boy born in 1974. The girl would now be 18 years of age, the older boy would be 16 and the younger boy would be 14. If they return to Bangladesh and apply to bring their spouses to the United Kingdom, as the law stands their applications will fall to be considered in three different ways. The boy who was born in 1972 will be able to bring his wife in without any consideration. But his elder sister will have to meet the full requirements of the immigration rules, including the requirement of showing that her husband can be supported and accommodated without recourse to public funds. However, the younger brother, who was born after the Act came into force in 1973, if he wishes to bring in a wife, comes under the conditions which now prevail. We therefore have a family with children born around that time who are all subject to totally different forms of immigration controls. I do not believe that that is reasonable.
Several noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate, asked why we do not change the word "wives" to "spouses", saying that that would solve everything. It may solve some things. But I tell the right reverent Prelate with the greatest respect that it creates other anomalies. It would have been possible 399 to remove the sexually discriminatory aspect of Section 1(5) but the provision would still have discriminated in favour of Commonwealth citizens as against non-Commonwealth citizens, and in favour of those who settled here before 1st January 1973 as against those coming afterwards. The only way to remove such discrimination is to repeal it.
It is right and in no way unreasonable to expect people who wish to bring their families here to be able to accommodate and support them. That is all that we are saying. The repeal of Section 1(5) does not discriminate against people. It says that those who were here before 1973 have had 15 years in which to exercise their right; for reasons best known to themselves, they have not done so. Now they can still do so, provided they show that they are not creating a drain on public funds.
The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said that there was enormous administrative delay in dealing with incoming immigrants and that Lunar House was—I do not know whether he used the word "disgraceful", but he certainly implied it. I am sure that the noble Lord knows that an enormous number of applications are dealt with by Lunar House. He and other noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, made a mistake. If I may have the attention of the noble and learned Lord, although I do not wish to interrupt his conversation—
Do not let him reflect too hard, then. He said that we were doing away with the right of appeal. There is no question of doing away with the right of appeal. Perhaps your Lordships are not aware of the sorts of problems which are encountered. Clause 4 has been complained of as being too draconian. That was a phrase which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, used. The clause is designed to get to people who are already breaking the law. Perhaps I may give the House an indication of what may happen.
If a passenger arrives at Heathrow, he can claim to have come for a family visit. He can be given leave to enter for six months. Towards the end of that period, it may be that he will apply to Lunar House to be permitted to remain as a resident. That is perfectly fair. Following inquiries, he may be given leave to remain for 12 months. Towards the end of the new period of leave, the passenger may apply for a further extension. Inquiries may reveal that he has failed to attend the course for which he said he had applied and to which he intended to go, and so the application is refused. He still has a right of appeal and the passenger appeals. The appeal is heard by an adjudicator and is determined formally on the basis of the rules. It is dismissed because the adjudicator accepts that the passenger is not a genuine student. The appellant then seeks leave to appeal to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal and that appeal is dismissed because the case does not raise a point of law and the facts are not in dispute. All those are appeals. The passenger is informed that he has no 400 basis for staying in the United Kingdom and is advised to leave. During all that time the passenger can say he has a wife and child and his mother is dying; he can bring all those compassionate grounds to bear. He still fails to depart.
A decision is then taken to deport the passenger and notice of intention to deport is served on him. He still has the right to appeal against the facts behind the decision to deport, the merits of the decision and the destination to which he is to be deported. The passenger appeals and the appeal against the deportation order is heard by an adjudicator and dismissed. Only then is the deportation order submitted for the personal signature of the Secretary of State.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, says that we are doing away with appeals and there is no appeal; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, says that we are removing the right of appeal. That is not so. All those appeal processes must be gone through. All that this Bill does is to state that the last appeal against deportation which is to be heard by an adjudicator is to be judged on the facts alone and not on compassionate grounds. Should that man be here or should he not? That is based on a fact of law and it is only at that point that that substantial change is being made. At that stage the passenger cannot say that he has his wife and children here and everything else—by that time he might have been here for seven years when he had permission to come for only six months.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, will the noble Earl give way for one moment? He was fair enough to quote a possible example of a mother dying. Is he really saying that in these circumstances there would be no appeal against a deportation order on the grounds of mercy when a civil servant had issued the deportation order after the last appeal?
My Lords, the noble Lord is always careful and clever. If he will be kind enough to read what I say he will see that all the way through there is the possibility of appeal when compassionate grounds can be taken into account. Only at the final stage when it is a matter of deportation, and every other hoop has been gone through is the question: Is that man here legally or not? If it is decided that he is here illegally then perhaps he has been here illegally for up to seven years.
I am bound to tell your Lordships that being new in this organisation I made a great mistake for when I read the Bill and spoke to those who were kind enough to advise me I thought that the whole thing seemed so reasonable that I could not believe that there could be any complaint whatever. Therefore it was with some slight astonishment that I found that there was a certain degree of complaint this afternoon.
When I heard the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, speak of all the terrible things that will happen because there is no appeal I inquired to find out how many cases were involved. During 1986 some 13,000 appeals were considered by adjudicators. The noble and learned Lord, Lord 401 Elwyn-Jones, cannot say that we are doing away with appeals—there were 13,000 of them. A further 1,000 cases were subseqently considered by the next tier of the appeals system, the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. My right honourable friend the Minister of State has dealt personally with some 13,000 cases. I think that I am right in saying that in addition about a quarter of a million cases were dealt with by officials in Lunar House. In view of the number of cases dealt with it is not surprising that the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, might find that on occasion there is some delay. The reason why those cases are dealt with so thoroughly is to try to ensure that there is no inhumanity.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that there are some 100,000 letters waiting to be dealt with at Lunar House?
My Lords, it does not surprise me. Well, it does surprise me in one respect because that is a lot; but it does not surprise me in another because I have seen the volumes of letters and the amount and procession of appeals that can be gone through in order to obtain a just and fair answer.
The noble Lord, Lord McNair, described this Bill as "mean minded", "loophole closing", and "screw tightening". I do not think that it is mean minded; it tries to be fair. I agree that it is loophole closing; but I do not think that there is anything wrong with trying to close a loophole.
The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, asked about the period of seven years. I repeat what I said, that we accept that a person who has been in this country for more than seven years should be able to make an appeal both on the facts and on the merits and those who have been here for more than that length of time will retain the present full rights of appeal. We intend to make an order under Clause 4(2) to ensure that short trips abroad will not disqualify a person who would otherwise have been in this country for seven years and consequently would have the full right of appeal under Clause 4.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was concerned about our commitment to refugees. We remain committed to fulfilling our obligations under the 1951 United Nations convention and preserving our tradition of offering hospitality to the genuine refugee. We shall not allow the procedures by which that tradition has been achieved to be misused to the detriment of those whom they are intended to serve.
I am aware that many of your Lordships have produced a number of points of detail. Of course I shall study them, and after your Lordships have been kind enough to study what I have said I think they will find that the host of amendments which noble Lords were considering putting down will be unnecessary.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.