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Immigration (Port of Entry) (Amendment)

3.35 pm

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): I beg to move,

I seek to introduce the measure to draw attention to an old injustice. I am grateful for the support that I have received on it from hon. Members on both sides. The countries of the inner Commonwealth, those who recognise Queen Elizabeth as their head of state, are, on the whole, those with the closest ties of kinship with this country. A high proportion of the population of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many Caribbean countries have close relatives in this country.

The present immigration arrangements at our airports baldly reflect the law. What used to be the old British channel has been replaced by the British and EU channel, while everyone else is funnelled through the second--the "others"--channel. That reflects the legal reality of the EU, but there is more to life than legal and economic relationships.

In that frightening moment in 1940 after France had fallen, when Winston Churchill said that civilisation itself lay in the balance, this country did not stand alone. Those countries stood with us. We owe them a colossal debt. For example, a higher proportion of Australians and New Zealanders died in the two world wars than British citizens. Montgomery said that the fighting spirit of the Australian 9th division was an example to the whole 8th army.

Today, many men and women who were comrades of those who died are still alive. As one Canadian journalist put it to me, his father-in-law fought all the way through the second world war as a pilot, yet he will have to go through the "others" channel if he visits this country, while the Luftwaffe pilot, bless his heart--I mean him no ill--would come through the home channel for British and EU citizens. The Commonwealth division also fought with great distinction in Korea.

That may seem like ancient history, but it occurred within the lifetimes of some hon. Members who are currently in the House. Much more recently, Australia and Canada were among the first countries to declare their support in both the 1990 Gulf war and the 1998 Gulf crisis. In the Falklands war, New Zealand lent us one of its warships. Whatever one may think of the Kosovo operation, New Zealand was the only country outside NATO to provide troops in support, while Canada provided the fourth largest number of pilots flying missions.

Every time the ties of blood, language, loyalty and affection are raised in the House, people talk about changes in economic relationships. There has indeed been quite a big change in economic relationships: for example, those with New Zealand have changed since the butter agreement was phased out, which had an adverse affect on its economy. The same point could be made about many Caribbean countries as regards the Commonwealth sugar agreement; but Canada and Australia own a much bigger part of this country's industry than do most of our

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EU partners. We are the second biggest investor in both those countries. Surely, however, there is far more to life than economics. When the chips are down, again and again, we have found that shared ties of blood, values and heritage count for more.

We enjoy the same legal system. Indeed, many Caribbean countries are still plugged into our legal system. We all speak the same language, except the important French-speaking community in Quebec; but what is arguably one of its most important symbols, the Vingt Douze regiment, selected the Queen as its honorary colonel-in-chief.

I remember, some years ago, making my way through a huge crowd of holidaymakers in Cairns--it is now a favourite holiday spot for surfers--and seeing, in a prominent place, a war memorial that, if I remember rightly, started with the words,

I asked myself what made those men and women from Cairns--people such as my great-uncle, who came over from Perth, or like a cousin from Canada, who was in a Scottish-Canadian regiment--come such a long way to share in a cause that they could so easily have shirked. I realised that the ties of kinship and values do matter.

I am not proposing a great legal change to the rights of entry, but only suggesting that, as a gesture of welcome, we should establish a third channel in our principal airports, so that residents of countries that recognise the Queen as head of state have a fast channel of their own. Given the sacrifices of so many Indian soldiers in two world wars--my grandfather served in the Indian army in the first world war--I should love to extend provision of such a channel to the Commonwealth generally, but doing so would create very considerable problems both with asylum legislation and with the difficult position of certain countries vis-a-vis the Commonwealth, including Pakistan. For the moment, therefore, I am arguing only for countries that recognise our Queen as head of state.

All those generations ago, Benjamin Disraeli said that symbols play such a big role in the imagination of our people, and that the monarchy was the most important of those symbols. As they come to our airports and seaports, let us give a warm welcome to citizens of countries that share that pre-eminent symbol, with all that it represents, by giving them an entry channel of their own.

I am grateful for the support that I have received from both sides of the House in promoting the Bill. I now ask the House to support it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Julian Brazier, Mr. Charles Wardle, Mr. Ken Maginnis, Mr. Joe Ashton, Sir Teddy Taylor, Mr. Gerald Bermingham, Mrs. Ann Winterton, Mr. Crispin Blunt, Mr. Owen Paterson and Mr. Andrew Robathan.

Immigration (Port of Entry) (Amendment)

Mr. Julian Brazier accordingly presented a Bill to amend entry requirements at air and sea ports to provide three channels of entry, one for European Union citizens, one for subjects of Her Majesty and Her successors and one for others; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February, and to be printed [Bill 47].

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Opposition Day

[3rd Allotted Day]

Health Care

Madam Speaker: I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

3.43 pm

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): I beg to move,

On Saturday, at my constituency surgery, Mrs. Jones, from Portishead, came to see me. She told me that, since last July, although suffering from a serious illness, she has had a liver biopsy cancelled four times. That is serious enough; however, all the time Mrs. Jones has been waiting for her treatment, minor procedures have been performed in the same hospital. It is a classic example of priorities being distorted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) has been campaigning for a woman who has already waited 13 months, and may have to wait up to 17 months, for a triple heart bypass operation at Southampton General hospital. When she saw her general practitioner in December, 1998, she was informed that the wait would be about nine months. Last November, the wait was extended to between one year and 15 months. Now the woman has been told that, because of the winter crisis, the wait might be extended again.

In Staffordshire, Duncan Sheppard, a financial adviser, has had to remortgage his home for £12,000, to pay for a quadruple heart bypass. Mr. Sheppard had the operation at the private Priory hospital, in Birmingham, after being told that he would have to wait 14 months for the operation at the NHS Good Hope hospital. His wife said:

That is--the option of remortgaging his home to pay for health care.

Perhaps the most worrying case was brought to my attention yesterday from North East Anglia health authority area. A man writes:

18 Jan 2000 : Column 692

Those are not typical cases of what happens in our health care system, but neither, sadly, are they isolated examples. All hon. Members are getting an increasing post bag of sad cases in which our health care provision is failing our constituents. Just before the election the Prime Minister told voters that they had 24 hours to save the NHS, but three years into his term in government, people are asking what has gone wrong. The people to whom he made promises feel angry, frightened and, above all, betrayed. How right Lord Winston was when he said:

    "We have made health care unsatisfactory for a lot of people".

What an understatement that was.

What has been the response of the Secretary of State and his Ministers? In the midst of the current flu epidemic, then flu outbreak, then bronchitis outbreak, we discovered that the health care system of the world's fifth biggest economy can be brought to its knees by something cyclical, predictable and common. The Secretary of State's view is that the NHS is coping very well. The cases that I have mentioned and the hundreds of others that any Member of Parliament could cite show that it is not. The Government are guilty of complacency.

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