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Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook) : I beg to move, That this House deplores the Government's continued determination to operate laws which are racially discriminatory, as evidenced by their newly amended and consolidated immigration rules and the statement on their attitude towards DNA testing in immigration cases ; and condemns the creation and perpetuation of second class citizenship which is the inevitable consequence of such laws. The motion provides an opportunity for hon. Members on both sides of the House to express their opinions on any aspect of immigration policy. I know that that is the intention of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends. However, I propose to concentrate almost exclusively on one aspect of immigration policy, which is the Government's proposals for the use of DNA testing as a means of establishing parentage.
I choose that one aspect of policy on which to concentrate in this essentially time-limited debate, because it is a new and major aspect of policy, and the proposals for dealing with that new situation, as set out by the Government, will undoubtedly cause hardship and distress to many British families.
Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : [Interruption.] I am a little confused as to why the right hon. Gentleman did not raise this matter, which obviously is dear to his heart, in the immigration rules debate on 20 June or at Question Time on 11 May or on 15 June. Why has he been absent so many times and not raised the matter before?
Mr. Hattersley : I am afraid that there was so much discontent at what appears to have been a wholly irrelevant intervention that I did not hear what the hon. Gentleman said. If he wants to raise that irrelevancy again, I shall listen to him and try to answer him.
Mr. Devlin : I was wondering why the right hon. Gentleman did not raise those points on a number of occasions in the last few weeks, such as on 11 May, 15 June or 20 June, when he was here but said nothing. If the Opposition are going to raise these matters in debate, they should have raised them at other times, too.
Mr. Hattersley : I am glad that I gave the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to make his point, because it enables me to say what I was not going to say, but is worth saying. Most of these matters were discussed in the House at 12.30 am during the week before last. I conveyed my personal view to the Home Secretary in a conversation behind the Chair that the introduction of the new rules, our prayers against them, and his introduction of DNA testing were not suitable subjects to be debated in the middle of the night. I also conveyed to the Home Secretary my view that, had the Prime Minister either sufficient courtesy or sufficient courage, she would have answered my letter and justified the policy on DNA testing. Although I wrote to her three months ago, I have not yet received a reply. It is for such reasons that the Opposition took the proper decision, and this entirely legitimate chance, to debate this matter in our time. If the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) would like me to expand on that theme, I would be happy to do so. [Interruption.]
Column 369As the hon. Member for Stockton, South would not, I shall say why I want to deal almost exclusively with one aspect of immigration policy. I repeat that the policy proposals on DNA testing, as set out by the Government, will cause hardship and distress to many British families. I want to emphasise that. The men and women who are asking and have asked for the entry of their sons and daughters into this country are British citizens. They are as British as any hon. Member. We are talking not about our attitude towards alien people, but our attitude towards British citizens. They may happen to be Moslems, or brown or black, or have been born outside Britain or be the children of men and women born outside Britain, but they are British citizens. It is citizens in that category against whom the Government are operating.
The new proposals were set out by the Home Secretary in a written answer rather than in a proper statement to the House and, if I can command the attention of the hon. Member for Stockton, South, that is another reason for this debate today. Those crucial proposals affecting civil liberties were not given in a proper announcement to the House, but by way of an arranged written answer to one of the Home Secretary's cronies on the Conservative Back Benches. My second reason for concentrating on DNA testing is to illustrate the truth behind the Government immigration policies. When DNA testing is examined, all the talk of matching firmness with fairness is revealed as simple humbug. The Government's immigration policy is not based on any set of consistent and defensible principles. It is not based on any effective criteria against which legitimate rights can be measured.
Too often we describe visitors as immigrants when they are no such thing. Too often they are treated as immigrants who want to settle here when all they want to do is to spend a few weeks with their family and friends. The Government's policy towards those visitors and to immigrants is based on the simple principle of keeping the numbers down to an absolute minimum--at least, keeping numbers down to an absolute minium when those visitors come from Africa, the Caribbean or the Indian sub-continent. [Hon. Members :- - "Hear, hear".] I hear Conservative Members below the Gangway saying, "Hear, hear".
There was a time in the House when even the Tory party would have been ashamed to espouse such attitudes openly. Perhaps the Secretary of State will take this opportunity to disown such opinion. He may want to take this opportunity to disown some of the speeches made in that late night debate.
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) : The right hon. Gentleman started his speech, as he normally does, on the basis that the Government are wrong in trying to keep numbers to a minimum. Is he totally convinced that every visitor who comes here is a genuine visitor and that every visitor returns to his home once the time during which he is allowed to remain here has expired?
Mr. Hattersley : Of course I could not be convinced that every visitor is genuine and that every visitor returns to his homeland. What I know as a certainty--it will be confirmed by my hon. Friends who face this problem day by day--is that hundreds of genuine visitors who want to come here for a brief period and who are genuine and honest in their offers to return home at the end of their
Column 370alloted span are not allowed to come into this country. That is especially true if they come from the Indian sub- continent.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : Would my right hon. Friend care to contemplate that the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) supported the right to citizenship of Zola Budd? She came here and jumped every queue. She gave an undertaking to remain here permanently, but she has now returned to South Africa. She remains a British citizen and, as far as I can judge from the latest Government proposals, she will be entitled to vote at the next general election.
The canard about the bogus visitor is easy to express in the House and it is easy for it to be taken up by our worst newspapers. In the past 25 years I have dealt with thousands of visitors who have come to this country for a brief period, before and after the visa system was introduced. In that time I do not believe that the Home Office, the immigration department or the police have had to deal with more than 25 overstayers. If I am in error I trust that the Home Secretary and the Minister of State will prove me wrong by quoting from their records. Most of my experience relates to visitors from the Indian sub-continent and from Pakistan and often those visitors come here for a specific purpose, be it a family party, a wedding or a religious festival. They have every intention of returning home and do so. It does Conservative Members below the Gangway no credit to hiss about overstayers when they cannot provide any proof. They do so because they find it racially satisfactory to continue the rumour.
Mr. John Carlisle : What evidence does the right hon. Gentleman have to prove that such overstaying does not take place? How does he know that all visitors are genuine? Under what system can he absolutely guarantee that such visitors return to their homes?
Mr. Hattersley : What sort of question is that? How do I know that the hon. Gentleman does not cheat on his tax returns? The only way that I know that is because I rely on the authority of Government and on the agencies of Government to abide by the law. How do I know that the hon. Gentleman did not burgle a neighbour on the way here this morning? The only way I know that is because I believe that the Home Office and the agencies of the law operate properly. I know about the integrity of my constituents in exactly the same way as I know about the hon. Gentleman's integrity and, frankly, I would gamble on them with rather more certainty.
Before the hon. Member for Luton, North made his unsubstantiated allegations I said that there was a time in this House when the sort of stuff that we heard a moment ago would have been disowned by a series of Home Secretaries who genuinely believed in a racially equal society. Today the big difference is not in the attitude of the Home Secretary, but in the attitude of the Prime Minister, who colours, dominates and determines such matters.
Yesterday the Prime Minister was asked in the House to justify the new DNA rules. She did not even attempt to justify their objectivity, justice or fairness. She did not even
Column 371give the sort of apologia that we shall hear from the Home Secretary shortly. The Prime Minister simply said that the reason why we have the new DNA rules was that she was not prepared to allow any more immigrants into the country. That is, of course, unless they can buy their way in at £150,000 a time. That is one of the principles of fairness and firmness applied to immigration by the Government.
Mr. Tim Janman (Thurrock) : The right hon. Gentleman has denounced the Prime Minister and Government policy. He says that it is wrong to allow people to buy their way in. India is another country which operates such a system and its high commission told me : "The Indian Government decides each application on its own merits and the applicant's financial position or sponsorship would probably be taken into account." There are plenty of countries across the world that, intelligently, operate a qualitative sieve of the immigrants that they allow in.
Mr. Hattersley : The hon. Gentleman may hold the view that if the Indian Government do it, it is bound to be right, but that is not a principle to which I subscribe. The idea that, because the Indians do it, we should do it as well is a new dictum in British parliamentary democracy. The Indians are wrong in that particular, just as we are. It is important to consider the effect of the DNA rules and what they show us about our immigration system. The new DNA rules will deny entry--it is not a matter of dispute or doubt--to men and women who applied to come here as children, believing that they had a legal right to do so, but whose legal right was denied. We now know from DNA testing that some applicants--the numbers are uncertain--who had the legal right were denied entry on the wrong evidence as examined by an immigration officer and subsequently by an adjudicator and possibly a tribunal. Under the new DNA rules, although a child had the legitimate right to enter this country and although his right was proved beyond any doubt or disagreement subsequent to it being denied initially, there will be no redress for the wrong done. The Government will not make up in any way for their initial error. I find it indefensible that children who were prevented from joining their parents in this country by what was at best a mistake and who have undoubtedly been done a grave injustice should not have that wrong righted. It is worth repeating that they would be allowed in if they possessed £150,000. Notwithstanding that, I am sure that, as I predicted during an intervention, the Home Secretary will tell us of his determination to be fair in the application of immigration policy. He will not be surprised that we do not believe him. I hope that he will consider the evidence suggesting the unfairness demonstrated by the new DNA rules.
The new DNA rules also highlight a complaint which the Opposition have made during the past 10 years. Men and women who are entitled to enter this country, even under the present oppressive rules, are often kept out because of the harsh way in which these rules are implemented. The best that can be said about the implementation of the rules, the way in which they are used at ports of entry and the frequent attitude of officers towards them, is that the Government are so anxious to
Column 372keep one illegal immigrant out of Britain that they exclude a dozen legitimate applicants just to make sure. That is certainly the result of the primary purpose rule, which divides many genuine families by denying husbands the right to enter this country because they cannot answer the negative question.
Those husbands cannot demonstrate beyond any doubt and dubiety that marriage is their only reason for entering this country. I know from my own experience that there are thousands of women in this country who entered into an honourable, honest and lasting marriage who have been denied the support which a Government who talk about the family should provide by allowing their husbands to enter the country. I saw that, in his egregious way, the Minister, the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) shook his head when I criticised the primary purpose rule. All hon. Members know that, if we had said two years ago that many children had been denied entry into this country even though they were related to their parents as they claimed, he would have reacted in just the same way. He would have said that there was no evidence to support that claim, that every genuine child was allowed in, and that every son and daughter whose father and mother were genuinely and properly resident here were allowed in. The Government have been proved wrong over that, and I have no doubt that they are equally wrong in the way that they apply the primary purpose rule and separate legitimate husbands and wives who are party to an honest and honourable marriage.
The obvious conclusion to be drawn from the DNA rules is that the Government cannot be trusted to apply policies on ministerial discretion. When I met the Home Secretary and others to discuss this subject last week, he said that he believed that the best possible protection for the DNA- proven son or daughter whose relationship was once denied, but which had now been incontrovertibly proved, was to allow the Home Secretary discretion to use the compassion which we must trust him to possess. I do not accept that, because I do not believe that the Home Secretary will act with objectivity and compassion, or do anything when presented with individual cases other than use all his power to prevent the individual who has previously been excluded from entering this country.
I shall tell him the reasons for my judgment about his future conduct. I have seen, as have many hon. Members, the Home Office's official working document which constitutes the beginnings of the rules which officers of the Department are to use and apply. It talks about the compassionate entry of, for example, the young man of 20 who should have been allowed in three years ago when he was 17, was told that he was not the son of his father and has subsequently been proved to be the son of his father. When deciding whether he should be allowed into this country, even though he is above the age of 18, the immigration services have been instructed to implement the following rule outlined in the Government-produced document : "It will be crucial to hold this line to ensure the concession remains the exception rather than the rule."
The discretion based on the compassionate agreement that a man or woman should enter is to be calculated by the arithmetic of immigration. What happens if a majority of the cases involving men and women who should have been let in years ago, were turned down but have now proved the legitimacy of their application, come to him
Column 373and say, "My father in Britain is frail and needs attention," or, "My mother in Britain is sick and on her own," or, "I am ill and need the help of my parents now living in Britain"? According to his own rules, if a majority of cases are like that, the Secretary of State will say, "Don't worry me about compassion. My rule is that it is crucial to hold the line to ensure that concession remains the exception rather than the norm." To tell us that the rules will be implemented with fairness as well as firmness makes a mockery of the English language and does nothing for the Home Secretary's reputation.
The DNA issue illustrates another point which I have already mentioned : the fallibility of the present procedures for determining the legitimacy of an immigrant's claim that he or she has the right to entry. We have always known that applications for entry which are legitimate under the present rules are turned down at the point of entry. We have always known that the examination of appeals by adjudicators was no guarantee of justice. We have known of those two points because the attitude of port officials when examining an application is unavoidably influenced by the climate created by the Government who employ them. If the officials think that the Home Secretary expects them to be tough or if, having read what is said in the House of Commons, they think that the Home Secretary has neither the inclination nor the courage to repudiate some of the statements made by Conservative Back Benchers, those officials will believe it their duty to use the rules to keep people out rather than let them in.
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : The right hon. Gentleman talked about arithmetic a few moments ago, and referred to the Prime Minister's reply the other day and an immigration level of 40,000 or 50,000. If the Labour party was in government and had repealed the legislation as it says it would, what would the level of immigration be then? Would it not be three or four times as high?
Mr. Hattersley : I urge the hon. Gentleman to focus on the important point, which is to let in people who deserve to be let in and not those who do not so deserve. For example, I think that under the next Labour Government, more husbands will be allowed in and fewer men and women will be allowed to buy their way in at £150,000 a time. One rule cancels out another. Does the Home Secretary agree with the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) if he is saying that we should establish a number and not worry about the merits or care whether those seeking entry are genuine husbands or dependent relatives? That is one sort of immigration policy, but until the Prime Minister gave her answer on Tuesday it was a policy which not even this Government had said they operated.
The Government at least pretend that they do not add up the numbers, but let people in according to the individual merits of the case. It so happens that the Prime Minister blew the gaff last Tuesday. The hon. Gentleman may be pleased about that. Frankly, I am ashamed to be a citizen of a country in which the Prime Minister holds such standards.
The DNA tests demonstrate that the Government and their agencies made mistakes, partly because of the pressure placed on individuals by the Government's attitude and partly because of the adjudicators. The more
Column 374I read of adjudicators' determinations on immigration cases, the more worried I become, not about immigration, but about adjudicators' standards and forensic abilities. Having made the mistakes, partly because of the atmosphere created, the Government--in the judgment of every reasonable man and woman--have an obligation to provide some redress to those men and women who were wrongly excluded two or three years ago and who should now be allowed in. It is shameful of the Home Secretary to defend keeping out men and women who should once have been allowed in--we can demonstrate that--by inventing retrospectively a new rule about the entry of sons and daughters. When I saw the Home Secretary last week he told me that the rule governing the entry of sons and daughters was always related to their dependency status. That rule has never been written down anywhere in the immigration regulations and I had never heard it expressed until the Home Secretary invented it to defend what he is doing. Until the DNA testing procedure showed that sons and daughters who should have been allowed in were not, the fact of being a son or daughter of a British citizen and under the qualifying age of 18 automatically meant that a person had a right to enter. Such people had the automatic right when they were turned down, so it is wholly unacceptable in a civilised society that the Home Secretary should say that they may have been dependent at the time of refusal but that they are not now, so the Home Office does not intend to make up for the mistake that it made, thereby compensating them for their legitimate grievance.
Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : I want to understand what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. If someone has been excluded--wrongly, as it now seems--but has established a family in his own country, is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that he should be allowed to settle permanently in Britain with his family, despite having made a life for himself abroad?
Mr. Hattersley : I am. I make no apology for doing so. Governments should be responsible for their mistakes. The hon. and learned Gentleman is hoping to raise the spectre of what is called "paving" in certain circles-- that of a man getting in and then bringing his wife and three children--a spectre that some Conservative Members are pleased to welcome. Most of the people who applied to come here did so because they wanted to maintain their links with families in the United Kingdom. Many of them wanted to help elderly parents in their declining years and all whom we have discussed this evening had a legitimate right to enter. The Government cannot deny a person a right which is his in law and then say that, having denied him that right three years ago, they have no obligation to make up for it. The Government are not entitled to say that they may have taken money off a person wrongly but that they do not have to pay it back because that person is well off now.
The Government have made mistakes and they should make up for them now. I have no doubt that if they had made such a mistake in respect of any community other than the Asian community in this country they would have redressed it by themselves. They believe that Asians in general and Bangladeshis in particular can be tyrannised, but they would not do that to anyone else--
Column 375the Government in relation to the Helsinki Final Act--the right to family unity applies to some families, but, it appears, not to Asians?
Another example of the Government's double standards is this : before DNA testing became available, someone who was over 18 and who later proved that he had been wrongly refused entry was allowed entry provided that he had not formed his own family. The Government are now going back on that because DNA testing would prove that so many wrong decisions had been taken. So even the Government's former practice is being torn up--they are going backwards.
Mr. Hattersley : I share my hon. Friend's contempt for this continual deterioration of standards in the immigration laws of this country. To put it as kindly as I can, year after year the Government have tightened them up in a way that is intended to exclude rather than to examine on merit.
Of course there must be strict controls and a major policy of immigration which prevents a large number of people who want to enter the country from doing so, but the controls must be based on honest and objective rules which can be defended openly and which are not changed as we go along when the Government see an opportunity to turn the screw tighter and to prevent people from entering who have honourable and legitimate--and previously lawful--reasons for doing so.
I have spoken for rather longer than I intended, largely because of interventions, and I want to give other hon. Members a chance to express their position. I conclude by telling the Home Secretary what we believe should happen.
All men and women who were unlawfully excluded as a result of Government inadequacy, mistakes or incompetence should be allowed into the country now. The idea of allowing the Home Secretary to judge which of them may or may not be allowed in does not seem tolerable, as we have seen the Home Office make such judgments before.
Another issue is that of what should be done about DNA in the future. I shall outline to the Home Secretary what we believe the procedure should be, not all of which divides us from him but some of which differs crucially from the proposals that he has been kind enough to reveal to the House in written answers and from the proposals that we know of from the leaked Home Office memorandum. First, a man or woman applying for entry to this country as a son or daughter of a British citizen should be offered two alternative methods of proving that relationship. Such people should be allowed what I will call the traditional procedures--arguing on the evidence, supported by interview, that they are related as claimed. I hope that, if nothing else, I have made it clear today that we should like that procedure to be a good deal more objective, exact and dispassionate. Secondly, such people should be allowed the DNA route of proof as an alternative. Applicants should be allowed to choose which route to follow, and there should be no inference that following one route is a confession of failure. To be precise, no one should think, let alone write down, that if a person was really a man's son he would have taken the DNA test. Both routes should be regarded as legitimate.
Column 376Such people should also have the right to switch from the traditional method of interview and evidence to DNA while the procedures are under way, if they want to and if, more importantly, they discover that they can afford to. I hope that the Home Secretary will make it clear in public--I am grateful to him for having made it clear to me in private last week--that if an applicant follows the DNA route and the DNA evidence is conclusive according to the scientists who do the test, that in itself will automatically be enough to ensure the entry of the person who has taken the test.
However, taking the DNA test is, as the Home Secretary knows only too well, only the beginning of the problem. DNA testing can cost, experience suggests, anything from £350 to £600. The figures at either end of that scale are beyond the pockets of many of the applicants who would most need the test. I do not understand the logic or the justice of a system which gives a person the right in law to bring in a son or daughter but prevents him from exercising that right because he cannot afford the proof. That is the very negation of a liberal and free society. It is essential that men and women who cannot afford the necessary proof to establish their legitimate claim be helped to provide the proof by the state, just as other legal systems are subsidised by the state so that other forms of juctice can be obtained by the poor and disadvantaged.
Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would also be very helpful if people were allowed to have blood tests taken at clinics in rural areas, since otherwise the expense and difficulty of travelling long distances is another disincentive?
Mr. Hattersley : I agree with my hon. Friend, and I go further. I know that one of the great disincentives to immigrants coming here from the Indian sub-continent is that, having turned up in Karachi after travelling overland for a day and a half to have an interview, six months later they get a letter saying that the interview was not conclusive and they have to travel overland again for a day and a half and have another interview. The entire system of examining immigration applications is based on the theory that if we can make it difficult for them to get in, we do so. The day has to come when we end that overt, conscious and deliberate disincentive. I conclude by saying what it is essential should be said about the cost of DNA testing. It will be intolerable if individual applicants are required to pay their own fees, for that will simply mean that only the rich and never the poor will have conclusive DNA tests. It will be equally intolerable if the cost of this comparatively expensive test is borne by every other applicant to enter this country. That is clearly the Government's intention. In the memorandum that many of us have seen, one paragraph says that the Home Secretary, or perhaps the luckless Foreign Secretary, should make a separate announcement about the cost of the scheme shortly before the scheme comes into effect, to avoid a rush of applications aimed at beating the associated increase in settlement fees. That can mean only one thing--that the cost of DNA testing is to be spread across every visitor who wants to come here, every husband who wants to join his wife, or every dependent relative. A second conclusion can be drawn, since the Home Secretary said that he has not yet
Column 377made up his mind how the fees are to be levied, but I am not sure how I could express that conclusion and remain within the rules of order.
What ought to happen is that, as with the whole business of legal aid, which is intended to help poor families to obtain justice, the cost of DNA testing should be a legitimate charge on the state. If it is not, the net result will be a perpetuation of the scandal that caused this debate. Young men and women who are entitled to be in this country with their parents will be denied the right to enter and live here, because they will not be able to afford the DNA test. That is an abomination and I should be more than grateful, I should be delighted, on behalf of my constitents if I heard from the Home Secretary that not even this Government are prepared to go that far. 7.52 pm
commends the Government's determination to operate an immigration policy which is both firm and fair, as evidenced by their new amended and consolidated immigration rules ; and welcomes the Government's announcement on the use of DNA testing in immigration cases.'. Although the motion tabled by the Labour party goes wide, quite legitimately, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) confined himself to a narrow illustration of it. I shall range rather more widely, although I shall come to the point that he made. I shall deal also with the general background, and say a word about students, who are involved in the immigration rules changes covered by the motion, and about refugees, as Turkish Kurds are also covered by the immigration rules.
I shall begin by talking about the background, and what I have to say I have for some time hoped to have an opportunity to say in the House. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and I cross swords on several matters and I have come to the conclusion, rather reluctantly, that this is the one on which we probably differ most strongly. As the right hon. Gentleman said tonight, he regards our policy as arbitrary and prejudiced. I regard the Labour party policy on these matters as being composed of one part idealism and nine parts opportunism and muddle, the most charitable analysis being that the Labour party has not thought it through.
During the 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s, large numbers of people arrived here for settlement and in the early part of that period, there was no let or hindrance to that under the law as it stood. The first immigration restrictions were imposed in 1962 and they were substantially strengthened in 1971. Both those measures were strenuously opposed by the Labour party in opposition, but both were enforced and strengthened by it when in power. Whatever the rhetoric of Opposition, the facts, when they have to be faced, are obstinate but clear. This massive change set--and to some extent continues to set--substantial problems, particularly in our cities. The dangers of resentment and prejudice, which lead to blindness and inhumanity, were and still are very great. I defy any Labour Member who represents a city area to deny the truth of that.
Successive Governments of both parties have had to deal with those dangers and there is no difference between us on that. We believe as strongly as any in working
Column 378strenuously against discrimination and for equality of opportunity, to encourage members of the minorities--many of whom, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are British citizens--to live in peace and harmony in our cities and to climb, without hindrance or discouragement, all the professional ladders that exist in a free and varied society. I yield to no hon. Member in my desire to see that happen. For example, I am glad that, although the figures are still low, since 1976, when there were 182 members of the ethnic minorities in the police forces of England and Wales, that figure has increased to 1,209. It is still too low, but it is a sign of the progress that we have been making and that we are encouraging.
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) : I am fascinated by the Home Secretary's history lesson. I was one of the immigrants who came to this country, on 15 August 1965. The right hon. Gentleman can hear this from me. What causes most fear and resentment in inner-city areas is, first, inflammatory speeches made by politicians such as the one made in 1968 by Enoch Powell. The second cause is speeches such as those made by the Home Secretary and his colleagues recently in Bradford and Birmingham, in which they lectured the immigrant community about being law-abiding citizens. The third cause is the Government's immigration policy, which denies people the right to family unity.
Mr. Hurd : I shall refer to that 1968 speech, the importance of which I acknowledge. However, the hon. Gentleman is an example of the process about which I was talking. I was not going to refer to him because I do not want to be patronising, but I welcome the day, which will not be long delayed, when the Conservative party also has members of the ethnic minorities as duly elected Members of Parliament. That is part of the process about which I am talking, and it is to be encouraged.
A condition of that progress and of the effort for equality of opportunity, however, is firm and fair immigration control. If it were felt by the majority that that control was severely weakened, I promise Labour Members that the patient work that we all do would be undermined and would fail. That is not a hypothesis--it very nearly happened in 1968. I do not wish to go into the merits or circumstances of that speech or of what happened to the Kenyan and Ugandan Asians, but I remember that period vividly. I was working for my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and I remember going to the west midlands with him. I came to the conclusion then, and I hold to it now, that if we are to work seriously for harmony, non-discrimination and equality of opportunity in our cities, that had to be accompanied by firm and fair immigration control.
Of course there should be understanding in individual cases. Of course there should be compassion--I do not shy away from that word. I hope that Opposition Members will say in public what they often say in private--that those qualities are evident in the way in which individual cases are handled by my hon. Friend the Minister of State and his officials. There are arguments about the outcome, but let no one say in public that those cases receive no human understanding.
Column 379a discretionary right to stay. The young man had been left in Pakistan at the age of 14. Eventually, when he reached the age of 21, it was admitted that he could come to this country, and that has been proved conclusively since. When the Minister refuses to stop such deportations, however, attitudes in the community are hardened. The Government's racist approach forges a new feeling.
Mr. Hurd : I do not think that the hon. Lady could substantiate her claim that my hon. Friend deals with individual cases in a racist way, or that there is a lack of understanding of such cases. She does her own cause no justice by making such observations.
So far, I have dealt with the general principle. I have to do that because it is so often neglected, although in my view it is fundamental to bringing about peace and harmony in our cities.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : Before the Home Secretary leaves the general principle, may I ask whether he recognises that his stated objectives of firmness and fairness cannot be achieved if the criteria that inform the Government's policy are those spelt out by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, when she spoke of her unwillingness to allow any more people in? How could that possibly constitute a criterion of fairness?
Mr. Hurd : I have read Tuesday's Hansard. My right hon. Friend talked about annual incoming numbers of 40,000 to 50,000 and said that, in her view, that was enough. What she said was hardly a detailed statement of immigration policy.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook did not object to our setting up a DNA scheme. Before we get deeper into controversial waters, let me confirm that for some months now we have accepted the outcome of such a test as a conclusive answer.
There are two conditions for the admission of relatives under the law and the rules. One is relationship, and the other is dependence. Since 1977, 30,000 people applying to come here as dependants from the sub-continent have been refused on relationship grounds, the entry clearance office concluding that they were not relatives as they had claimed. Of those 30,000, 8,000 were lodging a claim for citizenship. That is a separate argument. If they sustained those claims, the question of relationship would not arise and the claims would be agreed.
A further 14,000 are still under 18 and, if the DNA test established the truth of their claims to relationship, they would be allowed in. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook glossed over that point. He gave the impression that we were excluding children who had now been found to have relatives here, although he did not actually say as much. Let me take the opportunity to deny that. The 14,000 who are still under 18 and who were rejected because their claims to relationship were not believed would be admitted if a DNA test established that their claims were correct, because both conditions would have been fulfilled.
Mr. Hattersley : If I gave the impression that the Government would deny children under 18 who had been turned down before the DNA test was established the chance to exercise their rights by means of that test, I concede at once that I was wrong, although I do not think that I gave such an impression. While we are in this ecumenical mood, however, will the Home Secretary confirm that a child under 18 who had been turned down because no proof had been provided in the traditional way would not, if he or she obtained a DNA certificate proving the relationship, be required to return to what is in many cases an over-long procedure? Would that child obtain a certificate there and then, or would he or she have to wait for years?
Mr. Hurd : I gather that the Foreign Office is considering the procedure. [Interruption.] I am trying to give an accurate answer off the cuff, but my hon. Friend the Minister may be able to spell it out.
Of the 30,000 applicants whom I have mentioned, 8,000 may or may not turn out to have relatives. If they reapplied, the answer might depend on the result of a DNA test. I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's strictures --I do not think that it makes sense to assume that those 8,000 should be admitted whatever their present circumstances, and whether or not they are in the position described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence). Although the law provides the assumption that someone under 18 is dependent, it does not provide the same assumption in regard to anyone over that age. If those applicants were admitted regardless, one of the conditions laid down by Parliament would no longer be fulfilled.
I will repeat the conclusion that we have reached in case it is not clear. Some of those 8,000 may apply for a DNA test, and may prove a relationship previously denied, but they are now over 18. We propose to proceed on a case-by-case basis. If the applicant has settled into independent adult life, we see no reason to go beyond the existing provisions of the immigration rules. If, however, he is still dependent on his sponsor in the United Kingdom, and if there are compassionate circumstances, we shall be ready to use our discretion as sympathetically and flexibly as possible. It is a difficult decision to make, but I believe that that is a fair and reasonable way of approaching it.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston) : Leaving aside the question of manifest injustice, may I ask whether any Conservative Members have children over 18? Would they be prepared to say that those children should be compulsorily and permanently separated from their families in this way?
Mr. Hurd : When the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook brought a delegation to see me, one of his colleagues produced the case, which was not argued out in detail, of an elderly lady from Bangladesh living, I believe, in Tower Hamlets in the east end of London. She was frail
Column 381and receiving income support, but it was said that she had, I believe, three sons who had successively had their relationship to her denied but who were doing well in Bangladesh and would be able to sustain their mother and keep her off income support. It was argued that, for the sake of family unification, it would be sensible to admit the three sons. It strikes me, however, that it would be common sense for that frail old lady to go back to Bangladesh where her sons would be able to maintain her. In such circumstances, I would not accept the argument about family unification put forward by the hon. Member for Preston.
I shall deal briefly with a point that is included in the rules to which hon. Members are objecting because it is an important test of attitudes. I refer to the student question. The vast majority of overseas students are genuine students and they are welcomed as such, but some people who enter this country as students are bogus students who do not come here to study. They come overwhelmingly from countries with similar regimes to our own. It is important not to stop people coming here as students, but we should say to them, "If you want to come here as a student, you should say so from the beginning--you should not come here as a visitor and then slide into being a student." I regard that as a test of attitudes. It is reasonable that the rules to which the Opposition object should include such a provision.
Mr. Hurd : I regard it as reasonable where the mischief has arisen. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook wishes to remain blind to the facts he can do so, but if he wishes to study the evidence of abuse, where it exists, and the proportion of it to be found in those countries where visas are required for entry to this country, we can provide him with it.
I turn to a matter about which we are constantly criticised and which may be dealt with by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) because it is very close to his heart. I refer to the treatment of refugees, with particular reference to that part of the immigration laws which deals with the Turkish Kurds. The United Nations 1951 convention defines the test of asylum, the granting of refugee status, as
"owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion or nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."
That definition is about 38 years old and it was devised for different circumstances, but it holds up very well. The United Nations draftsmen drafted the definition well and the text is still valid in changed circumstances. Those changed circumstances are very much on my mind as well as on the mind of every Minister who has to deal with these matters.
Large parts of the Third world and of eastern Europe are in ferment of one kind or another, and many people are suffering as a result of disorder or poverty. That puts a responsibility on us, as a substantial power and as a member of the international community, to do what we can to help. For the first time, however--this is the change
Column 382which has come about--many people who live in those troubled areas have just enough information and just enough money to move to European countries, including this one. That has led to the new phenomenon of middle men. We saw it with the Tamils a few years ago, and we are beginning to see it again with the arrival of the Turkish Kurds. Middle men go to such people and gull them into parting with part of their savings in order to come here or to other European countries. They promise that it is all fixed--that when the people arrive they will get a job and a house and that it will be easy. In the face of that change, which may continue for a long time, the question that should be argued through in the press and also in this House is whether we should stick to the 1951 convention and the definition that I quoted, or whether we should enlarge it and say that people unfortunate enough to live in countries less peaceful and prosperous than our own should for that reason be admitted. The 1951 convention provides--and we honour it--that every request for asylum should be individually examined. I believe that it is right to stick to the 1951 convention. Again, I believe that it is right to be flexible in individual cases and to make use of the right that I have to grant exceptional leave to remain in this country.
I should like to make the point--it would be interesting to have the Opposition's view on this--that if everyone who asked for asylum were to be admitted, as some press criticism comes very close to urging, the loophole in immigration control would be so wide as to amount to a drastic weakening of our immigration laws. [Interruption.] I have read a good deal of comment in the last few weeks which comes very close to advocating such a policy. [Interruption.] I have read consistent advice to the effect that we should be very much more lax, that we should move beyond the 1951 convention and its definition, which I have quoted, and be much more sympathetic to admitting people who come here not because of any well- founded fear of persecution but because they come from a disorderly or poverty-stricken part of the world. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would deny that.
Mr. Hattersley : Until his last little flourish, the Home Secretary was wisely redefining his original assertion out of existence. As he wishes to pursue the case, I ask him in terms who has suggested that a person should have the right to enter this country simply because a man or woman designates himself as a refugee, and who has suggested that poverty should be one of the criteria for refugee status?
Mr. Hurd : There is a raft of press cuttings suggesting that in the context of-- [Interruption.] I am not saying and I have never said that the right hon. Gentleman has advocated that at any time, but I am trying to coax him into a little strictness of expression about these matters, which I believe to be necessary.
Between May and the time when the visa regime came into effect on 22 June, 3,700 Turks asked for asylum in this country, 140 of whom went back without waiting for examination because they found that the conditions here were not as they had expected them to be. That is not a characteristic of a genuine refugee. So far, 171 have been interviewed, 15 of whom have been granted asylum, while 49 have been granted exceptional leave to remain and 23 have been refused asylum and removed. More than 77 are still in this country and our initial view is that they are not