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Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : Order. The hon. Gentleman is raising a point of order and I must respond to it. I hope that the House will understand that, but I also hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that a point of order has to be addressed to the Chair, to be within the Chair's responsibility and to be something that the Chair can answer. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come to his point of order immediately. Mr. Madden : I am sure that, as the guardian of Back Benchers' rights, Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be concerned that senior Government officials have been advising the Home Secretary and other Ministers, with the knowledge of the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister, that this House should be denied the opportunity of discussing either the principle or the detail of how entry clearance fees are to be increased to pay for a centrally organised DNA scheme.
Lastly, the document also makes it clear that a controversial DNA announcement with the immigration
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. What has this to do with the Chair? [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a point which should be made in the debate, the time of which he is now usurping. If he is wise, he may catch my eye. I suggest that he raises his points during the debate.
Mr. Madden : Further to the point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The document makes it clear that the Government's intention in combining a debate on DNA with the immigration rule change is to divert attention from the fact that the Government have no new provisions or promises to make to the people of Hong Kong. In conclusion--
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. The Chair must, of course, be open and ready to listen to points of order, and I am tolerant. However, the hon. Gentleman is now abusing the Chair and this House. I ask him to come immediately to his point of order, which must be a matter for the Chair, and something that I can answer.
Column 287who is in his place, to make it clear that, in view of the revelations made in this document,, the Government will do what they should have done in the first place, which is to make a statement about the DNA testing scheme and provide a debate at an earlier hour than this to enable the House to debate the scheme. The Government should abandon this debate on immigration changes and provide another debate, but at an earlier hour.
That is my request and in the interests of democracy, of Back Benchers and of the general public, having been found out, the Government should now--
Mr. Dalyell : It is a fresh point of order. It concerns the abuse of the House of Commons. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) showed me the document, which is signed by a senior civil servant. The point of order for you, Madam Deputy Speaker, is this. Is it right that a senior civil servant, in this case Mr. Stadlen, should produce documents that go into detail about how the House of Commons should be handled? No one quarrels with him producing documents about the substance of the issue, but surely the handling of the House of Commons is not a matter for senior civil servants. It is a matter for the Chair.
In these circumstances, may I make a suggestion, Madam Deputy Speaker? The hour is late. These documents are a disgrace. I suggest that you ask that the document be put before Mr. Speaker and that Mr. Speaker make a ruling at 3.30 pm tomorrow on the propriety towards the House of Commons of this kind of document being produced by a senior civil servant. Some of us think that it is entirely improper.
Madam Deputy Speaker : These are matters that should be properly raised in debate. I can assure the hon. Member that Mr. Speaker will certainly read the points of order in the Official Report. 12.20 am
Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central) : I beg to move, That the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (House of Commons Paper No. 388), which was laid before this House on 14th June, be disapproved.
The rules are a reflection of the Government's attitude towards a large number of citizens in this country. They further restrict the ability of people from selected countries to enter the United Kingdom. Sex discrimination persists in the case of female students. No changes are proposed that would facilitate family reunion. Double standards and double- talk are applied throughout the rules and the explanatory memorandum issued by the Home Office. Indeed, the whole thing is summed up by the ridiculous hour at which the House is being invited to discuss this crucial matter--in the early hours of the morning.
Column 288The mind of the Government is revealed in the internal memorandum that has already been referred to by my hon. Friends. That memorandum, which has been made available to us, should also have been published alongside the Home Office rules, because it makes it clear what the Government are really about. The rules and the explanatory memorandum are in many ways grossly misleading. I shall refer to the internal memorandum, because it makes clear a number of points of which the House and the public should be aware.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Tim Renton) : May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he withdraws his remark about the ridiculous hour? These new immigration rules were laid last week. They were prayed against by the Opposition, as is the Opposition's right. The debate could have taken place any time within the next 40 days but was purposely arranged, at the request of the Opposition, at an early time so that it could take place before the imposition of visas on Turkey this coming Friday. That is why the debate is taking place today.
Mr. Darling : With respect, I took the opportunity of consulting the Opposition Whips to find out exactly what happened. I would not have made my remarks without first checking the position. It is not the case that the Opposition said that they would accept a debate at this ridiculous hour of the morning. I understand that it was put to the Opposition Whips that we might use Opposition time, but this is Government business and ought to be discussed in Government time. Indeed, the memorandum that has been referred to makes it clear that the Government were keen that there should be a debate earlier than the imposition of visas on Turkey simply to deflect the otherwise understandable opposition if there had been no debate.
Mr. Renton rose--
Mr. Renton : Will the hon. Gentleman please accept that we were willing to have the debate yesterday at a reasonable hour? It was at the insistence of the Opposition that it is taking place at an unreasonable hour tonight. Why is it this week rather than next week or the week after? It is because the Opposition wanted to have the debate before the imposition of visas on Turkey this Friday.
Mr. Darling : The Minister should know that the Government regulate the business timetable. If the Government had wanted to discuss Government business yesterday, they could have done so. It is disgraceful that they did not want to do so.
The internal Home Office memorandum makes clear what is in the Government's mind. When it refers to the merits of the immigration rules, it refers also to problems facing the Government about an announcement on the future arrangements for citizens within Hong Kong. It talks about the timing of the announcement of the immigration rules. The postponement of tonight's debate was discussed within the Home Office team. The document states :
"postponement would arouse expectations which we cannot at this stage be sure of meeting, leading to possible
Column 289presentational problems later on. Proceeding with the rules now, by contrast, enables us to say that they have been in the pipe line for some time and are being introduced without prejudice."
It observes--how accurate this is--that new rules
"and a potentially controversial DNA announcement, are quite a handful without the Hong Kong dimension."
It is no wonder that the Government are trying to roll into the one debate the question of DNA and immigration rules.
The document continues :
"The Home Secretary will wish to consider how far he should volunteer to break surface more publicly on Hong Kong : should it be mentioned in the arranged Rules PQ, the Press Notice and the letter to Mr. Darling?"
It was not mentioned in the letter sent to me. We wait to see when it will be mentioned.
The attention that the public have focused on Hong Kong, quite understandably, demonstrates the problems faced by many other people. The Times thundered :
"People from Hong Kong should be admitted to this country as a matter of honour."
What about the British men and women who wish to be united with their children or elderly parents, or those who are refused leave to be joined by their spouses because of the primary purpose rule? We read recently of a blatant attempt by the Government to influence the immigration appeals tribunal system against granting admission. The people to whom I have referred want unity with their families like all other citizens. When we consider matters of honour, we should consider those people.
Mr. Janman rose--
Mr. Darling : We have responsibilities also to the east African Asian voucher holders. The Government say that they want to be flexible about Hong Kong. What is to happen? The internal memorandum states :
"As agreed, however, we have set aside for the time being the intention to increase the minimum financial resources required of business men and persons of independent means because of the potential effect that it might have on Hong Kong."
Note the passage
"set aside for the time being".
Does that mean that index-linked compassion is to be limited to Hong Kong? Perhaps it means that the limits are to be raised, but at a less sensitive time--for example, when Parliament has risen for the summer recess. Why is it that the Government are contemplating allowing rich people to buy a place in Britain when the great majority will not have that sort of money, and will apparently be excluded? That solution for the elite is no solution.
Mr. Janman : The hon. Gentleman has implied that the Government wish to allow only rich people to leave Hong Kong to come to Britain. Will he tell the House whether the Labour party believes that no one should be allowed in or that everybody should be allowed in?
Mr. Darling : With respect, the hon. Gentleman is missing the point. We think that it is thoroughly offensive that a rule should be made for those who are rich, who have assets of more than £150,000, that is different from the rules that will apply to others. The Labour party's position on Hong Kong is clear. We have said that we do not feel able to make promises that we would not be able to fulfil. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have made that clear time and time again.
The double standards to which I have referred--
The double standards--
"We shall hold discussions with the Governments of Malaysia and Hong Kong with the object of providing them with an effective Nationality with the right of abode."
How does that fit in with the hon. Gentleman's remarks?
Mr. Darling : The policy review document refers to the 10,000 people, in Hong Kong, in particular, who have no nationality whatever. [ Hon. Members :-- "Come on!"] It does say that. With respect, as I am one of the authors, I know what it says. With due respect, the Minister is trying to muddy the water. What he says has nothing to do with the point at issue.
The double standards that persist throughout the rules are nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the Government's attitude towards the provision of DNA testing. The Government had an opportunity to end the injustices that have been suffered by many people who have been wrongly refused leave to join their families. The Government, instead of abolishing the arbitrary, and frequently wrong, decision-making process based on subjective tests, have elected to allow DNA testing only after the same tests are applied and the entry clearance officer is still not satisfied that relationship exists. As a result, applicants will still have to go through bureaucratic, time-consuming and expensive interviews and be faced with the test if the entry clearance officer is not satisfied. The Government had an opportunity to do away with that red tape and those bureaucratic controls and to introduce a simple test that would prove, once and for all, and quickly, whether people were related.
In this statement, the Government imply that they have not yet reached a decision on costs, yet it is clear from the Home Office memorandum that that is not the case. The Government say in their internal memorandum that the statement
"does not indicate how the scheme will be financed, beyond reiterating that the cost will not be met by the taxpayer. The intention is to make a separate announcement on the funding arrangements shortly before the scheme comes into effect, to avoid a rush of applications aimed at beating the associated increase in settlement fee."
In other words, it is abundantly clear that the Government have already decided to increase settlement fees and that a statement will be made at some quiet time, perhaps during the parliamentary recess.
Column 291Will the Minister tell us what he proposes with regard to cost? We have a right to know what is being proposed. The Government know. If the Minister has any respect for the House, he will tell us what the arrangement is to be.
It is no better for applicants who, it now transpires, were wrongly refused permission to come to Britain. The Government have said that they are prepared to consider their cases provided that they pass several subjective hurdles that have been erected in their way. Again the memorandum makes it abundantly clear how limited the Government's compassion is to be. It says :
"we are looking for compassionate features which distinguish the particular case from the generality of average reapplicants. It would be crucial to hold this line to ensure that the concession remains the exception rather than the norm in cases involving overage reapplicants."
In other words, most applicants are effectively being told, "Don't bother. You need not apply because we will not exercise any compassion." These are people who have been wrongly refused as a result of the process that we have set up. They have been denied the right to come and live with their families. If it were happening to white people or anyone else, it would not be tolerated. The Government say one thing in public and another in private. The double standards that are employed to impose restrictions on people who want to study in the United Kingdom illustrate the point. Under the proposed changes to the immigration rules, visa nationals cannot switch from visitor to student status. Again the memorandum makes interesting reading. It says :
"the changes on admission for study are directed at bogus students, mainly from West Africa."
How on earth can any rational person make such a generalisation? Where is the evidence? Why can a United States visitor decide to study in the United Kingdom when a Nigerian national may not, no matter how powerful his or her case is? Are they not two individuals whose cases ought to be considered on merit rather than on their race? Has a United States visitor never abused the rules? The same double standards are applied to the visa changes. Visas are now to be imposed against Haiti because, we are told, it is the Government's policy to harmonise visa restrictions in the European Community. Since when? No public announcement has ever been made about it. We know about it because, thanks to some helpful source, we know that the Government have discussed, in secret, with our EC partners the harmonisation of procedures and the erection of a ring fence around Europe. Yet there has been no public announcement ; private discussions are the order of the day.
Which country is next? Will it be Jamaica? Jamaican nationals are now experiencing the same problems as were experienced by those countries that now need visas, with increasing numbers of people being refused leave to come to this country. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether it is to be Jamaica. The Government should think about the hardship caused by visas to those who wish to visit this country for a wedding or a funeral, but are told to come back and reapply at some future date. That is not an option for most people. Turkey is to be added to the countries requiring visas. What will happen to the Kurdish refugees who are leaving Turkey in growing numbers? The Government look on refugees as a problem, but if they stop them coming to this
Column 292country they will think that there is no longer a problem. Is it really the case that a man in fear of his life is expected to go to the British embassy in Turkey and queue for a visa in the full view of those he fears? That is not an option, and the Government know it.
The rules are discriminatory and riddled with double standards. The memorandum should leave no one in any doubt that the Government are prepared to treat many of our citizens in a second-class way. It shows that the Government have no scruples. A cynical attempt has been made to mislead the public and hon. Members. To the Government the rules are a matter of presentation, but to parents separated from their children and to husbands separated from their wives it is a matter of decency. That is why we will oppose them in the Lobby tonight.
Mr. Tim Janman (Thurrock) : I hope to keep my comments brief because I know that a number of hon. Members wish to speak. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on the rule changes, especially that which will prevent people from coming to this country on the false basis of a genuine short- term visit and then switching status to become students on temporary courses. They do one course, complete that, move to another, complete that and so on until they have been here for seven years, after which they can remain permanently. That has happened with large numbers of people. It is morally illegal immigration on a technically legal basis. My hon. Friend is right to introduce changes to close that loophole. The point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) about the changes being applied to west Africans but not to Americans was ludicrous. We do not have vast numbers of Americans entering this country on a false basis to secure permanent residency. The whole point of this legislative change is to direct it at where the problem lies--people from west Africa, not from America. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on the introduction of visa requirements for Turkish nationals. Many Conservative Members are well aware of the problem of illegal immigration of Turkish nationals. However what will my hon. Friend do in the next decade if Turkey's application to join the European Community is accepted? That would make it difficult to prevent the influx of unrequired, unwanted and unneeded immigration from Turkey that could ensue.
My hon. Friend is also right to make changes in DNA testing. That testing is vital to establish that there is a proper and bona fide relationship between the person wishing to come to this country and the rest of the family who are already here. I cannot for the life of me understand why that testing is not mandatory. It is the only real and genuine way of firmly and scientifically establishing the evidence necessary to prove that there is a bona fide relationship. I cannot understand why it is carried out on a voluntary basis. As we are debating immigration rule changes, it is appropriate that I should state in this debate that the vast majority of the British people see no need for immigration rule changes vis-a -vis Hong Kong. The British Government's first duty is to the people of this country, not to the people of Hong Kong.
Column 293with an overwhelming voice that they wished to be Chinese. They wished to follow a Chinese culture, be part of the Chinese community and be part of China. Would it not be ludicrous in those circumstances for the Government to take into this country 3.2 million people who have no wish to be British, no wish to abide by British customs and no wish to be part of our country?
Mr. Janman : The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) has made is absolutely right. He reinforces the point that I was making. The danger of making any immigration rule change to accommodate more than 3 million people in Hong Kong is that we might write a blank cheque. If that change were made in the belief that only a few thousand would take it up, we would be powerless in law to prevent the other hundreds of thousands or millions from taking it up if they so wished. The Government would be extremely foolish to write that blank cheque and it seems to be clear from comments made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that that blank cheque will not be written, and that is absolutely right.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : The siren voices from the Opposition Benches about the continuance of Labour's open-door policy-- which seems now to extend to 3.25 million Hong Kong Chinese--will not have escaped my hon. Friend's attention. Does he agree that if such a policy were followed the British Government would have an equal duty to tell the 800,000 or so white South Africans that they also have similar rights of abode in this country? With regard to exemptions, is it not interesting to note that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) refused to take an intervention asking him whether Labour would impose visas on South Africans? If a policy is applied to the 3.25 million people in Hong Kong, a similar policy must apply to white South Africans and people in other countries.
When I intervened earlier in the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, he was totally incapable of telling the House what the Opposition's view was on the Hong Kong issue, and whether they were in favour of writing a blank cheque or of taking a more illiberal and tighter view of who should be allowed into this country than that taken by the Government. We are still waiting for the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central to clarify the Opposition's position. I am sure that the electorate is also waiting to hear the Opposition's views.
Good though the changes are, they are too late. The door is being shut after the immigrants have bolted in. I shall give the House some figures, not from the Home Office but from the National Ethnic Research market research company--a Caribbean company which has done extensive research, for commercial reasons, into the ethnic population of Britain. The figure is not the 2.4 million that the Home Office trots out ; it is probably much nearer 4.2 million. The company, which is run by a member of the ethnic community, has produced figures to show that one in three children born in London today is of ethnic origin. Its definition of ethnic origin does not include the Arabs and the Turks : it relates only to Indian, Pakistani, Caribbean and African people.
Column 294That is a frightening concept for the country to come to terms with. We have already seen the problems of massive Moslem immigration, with the recent events in Parliament square and in Bradford-- [Interruption.] I am willing to give way to any hon. Member who stands up and wishes to intervene, but if no one wishes to do so, I suggest that Opposition Members remain silent. That figure of one in three children is true not just of London, but of Leicester, Nottingham, Bradford and many other cities.
I welcome the changes, but I must tell my hon. Friend the Minister that unless we want to create major problems in the decades or the century ahead, we must not only stop immigration but must move to voluntary resettlement to reduce the immigrant population.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West) : I fail to understand how my hon. Friend can make a differentiation on the basis of the colour of someone's skin between one person who is British and another person who is British. To do so is patently racist.
Mr. Janman : I have made no differentiation. We have not had mass immigration from Canada, Germany or the United States. What we have had, and what many British people, and I suspect the majority of my hon. Friend's constituents, object to, is mass immigration from countries which he knows have caused the immigration--India, Pakistan and the Caribbean. It is fatuous to suggest that we are talking simply about colour. We are talking about country of origin, culture and religion. Those factors are important, and they cause great anxiety to our constituents.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been listening closely to the speech of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Janman). Is it in order for an hon. Member to address the House in such overtly racist terms?
Those people who defend mass immigration and who are not prepared to find a civilised and practical method of reducing the immigrant population are courting massive civil strife in years to come. 12.49 am
Sir Nicholas Bonsor : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I find it grossly offensive that Opposition Members should seek to make such a point, given that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Janman) was speaking from his heart and in the interests of his constituents-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Fraser : In answer to the intervention of the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), may I say that that vicious streak of racism to which I referred may be sincere but that that does not excuse it.
Mr. Fraser : I was about to say that I believed that many Conservative Members would wish that streak of racism to be buried. It is regrettable that it should have reared its head tonight. I have only one good thing to say for the Minister. Having pressed him for some time to consolidate the immigration rules, I am glad that he has taken the opportunity to do so. Instead of nine or 10 instruments, we now have a single cat-o'-nine-tails with which to control those who wish to come to the United Kingdom. We thank the Minister, therefore, for the comprehensive nature of the rules, although certainly not for their content.
I suppose that there is a further tribute that one could pay the Minister because under his presidency there has undoubtedly been an increase in the efficiency--and to some extent the courtesy and responsiveness--of Lunar house, not least as a result of the pressure that the Opposition exerted on Ministers last time we debated the immigration rules. That is a good thing, because efficient immigration control is effective immigration control. I do not think that anyone makes any great complaint about that ; indeed, long delays and inefficiency can place people in a hopeless position. What is now happening, however, is that that efficiency, which I welcomed, has gone a stage further, to the point at which it has become a ruthless and summary execution of harsh immigration laws. Immigration officers are using administrative custody to cow prisoners into abandoning their rights and making so-called supervised departures. The Home Office is using methods that attempt to avoid the supervision of judges and magistrates that follows on the bare-faced abrogation of the facilities of Members of Parliament to approach the Minister or his Office. I am surprised that a Minister, who is a Queen's Counsel, should mastermind a policy intended to have the effect of bludgeoning people into leaving the country without access to a judicial system--except by way of judicial review, and that is not easy--or even an immigration appeals system. The bludgeoning is done by administrative imprisonment--literally detention without trial. One must conclude that the use of detention without trial under the immigration system is a concerted and deliberate Government--directed practice. Let me give two examples of detention without trial. The first involves the use of the notice of intention to deport. Suppose that an immigrant--usually a student--is working part-time. The Government seem to want all the other students to work part-time but not immigrant students. An immigrant student who is found working part-time--a perfectly honourable tradition-- [Interruption.] Can the hon. Member who has been making a noise return to the bar, Mr. Deputy Speaker? [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."]
That immigrant will not be charged with any offence. He will not have access to a magistrates' court. Instead, a deportation order will be made with considerable rapidity
Column 296and he will be detained in administrative custody. The Immigration Act 1988 will then be applied to him. He will be told that he will have no appeal on the merits of the deportation order but only on the power of the Minister to make that order. He will be given the choice between custody and an unwinnable appeal or what is known, under the immigration rules, as a supervised departure. That is what I describe as a use of administrative custody and detention without trial. The use of custody in connection with deportation orders should be used only rarely. Before any deportation order is made, full consideration should be given to representations made by the person who is affected. Deportation matters should be treated mercifully and understandably.
Deportation is being used not as a form of immigration control but as a hugely disproportionate--
The second form of detention without trial is the use of removal powers, as opposed to deportation, where there is at least the possibility of appeal to an immigration adjudicator. An example is of someone who comes here on a visit and then asks to stay as a student. That is common. Indeed, it has been institutionalised by the changes in the rules. If an immigration officer can get some kind of stated intention from that immigrant that at the back of his mind he thought that he would study when he came here, the leave to enter as a visitor is revoked, irrespective of the merits of the situation. The person is then kept in administrative custody and is removed from this country without any form of appeal, except access to the Divisional Court by way of judicial review. That is an abuse of the powers of removal.