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19 Nov 2002 : Column 616—continued



Natural Health Products

10.15 pm

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): I present part of a large petition, signed by more than 1 million people, that expresses concerns about the potential effects of two recent European directives on the health foods industry. Tonight, I present more than 350,000 signatures. Many celebrities have signed the petition. More then 20 other Members of the House have presented, or shortly will present, other parts of the petition on behalf of their constituents.

The petition is addressed to the House of Commons on behalf of Consumers for Health Choice and its supporters. It declares:

To lie upon the Table.

Dog and Cat Fur Products

10.17 pm

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): It is my pleasure to present the petition from my constituent Sandra Edwards of Ardglassie Farmhouse, Rathen, near Fraserburgh, who has helped to collect 2,500 names in an online internet petition for the group Voice 4 Dogs. It covers the same subject as an early-day motion signed by 229 Members, including myself. You will be interested to know, Mr. Speaker, that the issue

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featured in the Sunday Post in October this year. I know that you take a substantial and keen interest in that paper.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

Free Bus Travel

10.19 pm

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will take my two petitions separately.

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It is probably well known, certainly in the House, that the Coventry British Pensioners and Trade Unions Action Association has campaigned for a number of years for the restoration of the pensions link and the extension of free bus travel.

To lie upon the Table.


Mr. Cunningham: This petition is from the Coventry branch of the British Pensioners and Trade Unions Action Association. It states:

To lie upon the Table.

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Immigration Control

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]

10.21 pm

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise a case that concerns a young constituent of mine, Madeline Effala. It is very much a tale of two cities—of London and Paris—so I suppose that I should be grateful that at least it involves no guillotine. It is certainly an unfortunate case of somebody being caught between two countries, of responsibility being passed to and fro between those countries, and of my constituent finding herself at the moment with no settled status.

In that context, I ask the Minister—I understand why she is replying to the debate; after all, I chose to call the debate XImmigration Control"—to ensure that her colleagues in the Foreign Office are fully apprised of the contents of this Adjournment debate. I ask her to ask them to consider in turn ensuring that the French Government are aware of the problem. I shall make it clear later why I say that. I tried to make an approach via our embassy in Paris—but of that more later.

Madeline Effala was born in Cameroon on 24 August 1975. When she was 11 years old, her mother went to France to work in the Cameroon embassy. Madeline remained in France, where she was lawfully resident as the child of a diplomat, throughout the rest of her childhood. When she was 22 years old, she came to the United Kingdom—again, perfectly lawfully; her passport was stamped with leave to remain for one year—on a work placement. That was where her problems started.

Madeline's mother and siblings applied for French citizenship and were granted it on the basis of the length of time that they had been in France and of the fact that they were at that moment resident in France. There is no doubt—nobody so far throughout the case has disputed this—that had Madeline been with her mother and siblings and made her own application at that time, she too would now be a French citizen. However, as it happened, she was not in France and could not do so. She was in the UK.

Madeline's visa enabling her to live in France was due to expire in 1997, so she went to the French embassy in London in order to renew it and to ensure that at the end of her work placement in Britain she would be allowed to return to France. The French embassy in London told her that to renew the visa she had to go to France, so she went to France. When she applied in France, she was told that she had to apply in London, so she came back to London. Once Madeline had returned to London, the French embassy refused to accept the form.

By that time, Madeline's right to remain in this country had expired and she was told that she had no right to return to France. She was told that she could not stay here, and that she could not go back to France. Despite the fact that she had resided there for many years perfectly lawfully and that those who had resided with her had been granted French citizenship, and despite the fact that the authorities here knew that she was trying to return to France, she was told that she had no right to remain. After negotiation, it was agreed that

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she should have a six-month extension to her visa to remain in the United Kingdom, but she was still refused permission in that period to go to France. The authorities refused to accept her form and would not allow her to go to France, and her stay in this country, while lawful, was only temporary. In the end, her visa expired, and although she is known to the authorities and has various outstanding applications, she has had no settled basis for living in this country since 1998, despite the fact that she is working legally and paying national insurance and tax.

In 1999, Miss Effala's solicitors advised her to apply for a two-year permit to remain in this country, but the Home Office turned it down in December 2000. At that point, I became involved and endeavoured to intervene first with the French consulate, arguing that it was unreasonable, given the background to the case, that Miss Effala could not at least enter France and make her application. I also wanted to go out to talk to our embassy in Paris, but it advised me that there was no point, as Miss Effala was not a British citizen, so it could not make representations on her behalf. Once again, Madeline Effala is being passed between two countries, neither of which wants to take any responsibility or is prepared even to entertain making representations. I therefore hope that my comments will be drawn to the attention of the French embassy.

The only course open to Miss Effala is to go back to Cameroon. She has no contacts whatever there since she grew up in France, where her family live. She has a job and is using the money she earns to assist her family. She has been in a relationship for four years with a British citizen. It would be very easy for her to solve the problem by getting married—it is much to her credit that she does not want to do that, but wants to resolve the problem in its own right and settle lawfully either in France or Britain. Bearing in mind the fact that marriage is often abused to overcome immigration problems, that is much to her credit. As a result of my intervention, the Home Office asked for another raft of material, which was provided on 11 October, but no further contact has been made with Miss Effala or, at this stage, with me.

This is a sad and sorry situation. Doubtless both countries can defend their decisions technically, but they defy common sense, humanity and reason. I should have thought that sensible people could find a way through, accepting that but for Miss Effala's bad luck in being this country when the rest of her family got French citizenship and but for her perfectly lawful work placement, she would not be in her present difficulties. Indeed, she might not have got into that problem had she not been advised in 1997 that she had to go to France, then been told by France that she had to come back to London, then been told when she came back to London that the French would not take the form. Where does that leave her?

I appeal to the Minister to speak to her counterparts in the Foreign Office, to look at whether her own officials could apply reason rather than technicalities to this case, and to see whether something can be achieved. The French have now offered, very much at the last minute, to allow Ms Effala to return to France on a tourist visa. If she returns to France on a tourist visa and her application is turned down, she will have no right at all to return to this country and no right to stay in

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France. She feels that the tourist visa would put her in an extremely vulnerable position, but at least it would get her back into France.

If proper representations could be made, the case would be cleared up very quickly. It is nonsense. It has taken four years to persuade the French to issue a temporary visa, and my constituent naturally feels extremely vulnerable as a result of all that has gone before. I should be grateful to hear the Minister's comments and observations.

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