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Mrs. Gillan: The hon. Gentleman is right that whether an applicant is a member of the family needs consideration. The definition will be determined by regulation, and it could be extremely restrictive. Does he agree that, for example, an unmarried partner may have no right of appeal under the regulation?

Dr. Harris: That is right. It is not clear whether an unmarried or civil partner is a dependent relative. Given that the Government are keen to recognise civil partners—I commend them for doing so—the point is important.

In Committee, I raised the question of conformity with European Community law, and the Minister expressed his willingness to return to that matter. If I have missed a letter from him, or if I misunderstood him in Committee, I apologise, but that question needs to be addressed. If the Bill is to conform with EC law, when will regulations be laid before Parliament?

In Committee, I also raised the question of returning residents. Returning residents are people with indefinite leave to remain in the UK who have been out of the country and who are refused entry when they seek to return. Will they lose the opportunity to return to their long-term home with no right of appeal, and if so, what is the Government's purpose? The Government must think again about clause 4.

I am giving the Government an opportunity to provide assurances on improving new clause 1, which would be something. The hon. Member for Walthamstow has said that he has found the kernel of something good in new clause 1, but he must have looked very closely.

Mr. Gerrard: The hon. Gentleman has put the words into my mouth, because I do not think that I said that new clause 1 is "good". New clause 1 is obviously necessary if refugees are no longer to be given indefinite leave to remain, which is a change that I do not like.

Dr. Harris: I take the hon. Gentleman's point. If new clause 1 is not improved, or if the Government do not indicate that they will consider our amendments, with
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your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we will seek to vote on amendment No. 47, which would delete clause 1. We would ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to support us in such a vote because of the real problems that the Bill will create. I feel that if we do not do it here, another place could, should and will.

Mr. Gale : I want to discuss amendment No. 3 and the right of appeal for would-be students, and I will use the example of a particular educational establishment to demonstrate why the Government's approach is profoundly wrong.

Before I do so, as a generality I endorse entirely the observations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) in her opening remarks. The measures undoubtedly damage the interests of universities in the United Kingdom, and, perhaps much more importantly, they also damage the interests of UK Ltd.

Mr. McNulty indicated dissent.

Mr. Gale: My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham    and Amersham has made the point that educational establishments—universities and colleges—are experiencing a decline in the numbers of foreign students. Those of us who have the good fortune to travel abroad as election observers in developing countries with the Inter-Parliamentary Union or the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association see China, which is the largest developing country in the world, moving into a whole host of other countries, where it seeks to gain an advantage in the same way as the former Soviet Union.

The British legacy—let us be proud of it—across the continent of Africa is significant, but scores of Africans are now looking to other places and other institutions both to the east and to the west of this country because they feel that it will be difficult to get here, that it will be expensive to pay their way and that they will not be made welcome. Nothing could be further from the truth: if one asks the university vice-chancellors, they say that they want to welcome overseas students with open arms, but the impression has been given—impressions are vital, particularly in the developing world—that it will be difficult and unpleasant to study in Britain and that overseas students are not wanted, which is a sad state of affairs.

I ask the Minister to consider the effect of that impression in a generation's time. All those people are ambassadors, many of whom have brilliant brains and very good qualifications. They have traditionally come to the United Kingdom, qualified, and gone back home having become the friends of this country. Now, they are going to be lost to us. It is no good the Minister shaking his head, as he did a few moments ago. The Bill will have a profound effect on British business and our power and influence throughout the world. That is the backdrop to what I want to say.

I want to take one very specific point to prove why I believe that this part of the Bill is nonsense and amendment No. 3 is so important. The Institute of St. Anselm in Cliftonville in my constituency is a highly reputable Roman Catholic college. Some of its buildings
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were opened by Archbishop Basil Hume. For most of the early years of my membership of this House, students—nuns, priests and ordinands—came from around the world, but particularly from Africa, to study theology there. In 2002, we suddenly experienced a spate of visa refusals for students to attend the institute.

I have a file on this subject that is more than 12 in high. I am holding in my hands 87 separate pieces of paper. Hon. Members will be delighted to know that I do not propose to quote from most of them, but I will quote from some of them. On 25 June 2002, I wrote to the right hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes), who was then a Home Office Minister, about the problems that the Institute of St. Anselm was having:

the students—

I have personally dealt with 19 cases that would have been ruled out of court under the Bill.

When I intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham to say that the Home Office's track record on defining a bona fide institution was not entirely brilliant, the Minister said from a sedentary position, "It's just as well that the DFES does it then, isn't it?" That sentiment was broadly echoed by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard).

Mrs. Gillan: Does my hon. Friend agree that is therefore important that the Minister tells us whether the Department for Education and Skills has made any representations—and, if not, why not?

Mr. Gale: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It would   perhaps have been helpful to hear from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well, because interdepartmental responsibility is involved.

On 25 July, following my letter to the then Minister, Lord Filkin—a Home Office Minister—responded. He said that

that is, Home Office, not DFES, officials—

We challenged that in the light of the institute's background and support from the Catholic church, including eminent people such as Cardinal Basil Hume.

On 8 August, I wrote to Lord Filkin. I said:

I had to write to him again on 17 September, saying:

Throughout this time, students were being turned away and having to appeal on grounds that would be denied under the Bill.
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2.15 pm

On 12 September 2002, Mr. Lawrence from the integrated casework directorate of the immigration and nationality directorate wrote to Louise Cuming at the Institute of St. Anselm, saying:

We thought that we were back on track—that the students seeking to apply would have their visas granted and there would be no need for them to appeal—but no. That is what the IND said in September, but on 1 October Lord Filkin wrote to me to say that

Although one part of the immigration service believed that the institute was bona fide, Lord Filkin was pursuing further inquiries.

On 7 October 2002, Lord Filkin wrote to me to say:

That was despite his having written to me on 1 October to say that inquiries were still going on, at the same time as students were still being turned down and required to go to appeal. Those appeals would be denied under the Bill. That is why amendment No. 3 is so important.

Following Lord Filkin's letter, the director of the Institute of St. Anselm wrote to me to say:

We can begin to see a pattern emerging.

Perhaps the Minister will begin to understand why I have very little confidence in the ability of the system—part of which may be the responsibility of the DFES and the FCO, and a significant part is certainly that of the Home Office—to ensue that fair decisions are reached. Unless we are absolutely certain that decisions are fair, students who are unfairly treated, or feel unfairly treated, must have some right of appeal.

After all that, one would have thought that things would be all right. Geoffrey Filkin had told me that it was a mess and that he was going to sort it out. However, I had to write to him again on 8 November of that year. I said:

I will not go through the whole sorry incident, but Mr. Khumalo was held for three hours. Investigations were conducted and correspondence was opened, and he was finally escorted to the plane and escorted off it when he arrived back in Johannesburg. Eventually he came back to the United Kingdom.
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In my letter to Lord Filkin, I went on to say:

The fact is that the undertakings given by the Home Office throughout this sorry episode have not been worth the paper that they are written on. I appreciate that I am talking about one educational establishment, but I have no reason to suppose that such errors are not being made time and again.

Lord Filkin wrote to me on 15 May—we are now in 2003, so this has been going on for more than a year—to say that

He was so right about that.

More time passed, and more students were affected. We are about halfway through the 19 cases now, Mr. Deputy Speaker—they are piling up. On 6 May 2004, a year later, I had to write to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who was by then at the Home Office, to say:

and more in the same vein. On 29 June 2004, I wrote again to the Minister to point out

On 30 June 2004, there was more of the same. The Minister wrote to me to address the issues, and effectively to apologise, mentioning an "error". He wrote:

This was two years after the Department had determined that everything was all right.

On 1 July 2004, Jessica Mabbutt, the head of the correspondence section at UKvisas, wrote to me:

Yet still the cases were coming in. Without the right of appeal that would be made available in the amendments tabled today, these students would have been denied access to the education that they were finally, in most cases, able to enjoy in the United Kingdom.

We come, at last, to this year. On 8 February 2005, I wrote to Bharat Joshi, head of section at UKvisas. I want to place on it record that Bharat Joshi is one of the most helpful and sympathetic civil servants that it has ever been my privilege to work with. He is a super guy, and he tries his level best to sort things out. I wrote to
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him, and he was immensely helpful, but even he could not sort this out. I received a letter from UKvisas on 21 March 2005, which stated:

this is 2005—

This is three years later—[Interruption.] The Minister says from a sedentary position that there was not one. If that is so, why does UKvisas go on to say:

What would Father Okora have done if there had been no right of appeal?

I wrote to the Home Secretary, the Minister's boss, on 30 March this year, to say that I would be grateful if he would look into the matter. The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) was by then the Minister in charge—we have got through quite a chapter of Ministers in the Department, have we not? Let us bear it in mind that the institute has been recognised, then not recognised and then recognised again. The Minister wrote on 14 April:

Four years? Are we serious?

On 8 July, I wrote to the head of correspondence at UKvisas, Peter Hooper—another extremely helpful civil servant—and told him that

On 1 August 2005—we are nearly there, Mr. Deputy Speaker—I received a letter from UKvisas concerning Sister Bernadette Mwita, saying:

What would Sister Bernadette Mwita have done about her education at the Institute of St. Anselm, had there been no right of appeal?

Sister Matilde Adong, Sister Joan Tombe, Sister Anna Patrick, Sister Teresa Hanh, Sister Mary Kim,   Yaqub Gill, Jabulani Khumalo, Mary Ebbele, Leopold Kashama, Cajetan Metu, Barthelemy Namdeganaramna, Rita Dube, Lourdes Manrique, Hye Ko, David Okeke, Leo Rozario, Ambroise Bahiya, Bernadette Mwita and Joyce Hoedoafia are all real people whose initial applications to come to this country to study—in many cases as sisters in the Catholic faith—were rejected by entry clearance officers because of the blinding incompetence of the Home Office and its inability to recognise this one institute. I recognise that this is one case, but it involves 19 real people. If this can happen in the case of the Institute of St. Anselm, what might be happening in all the other educational establishments across the country?

I am firmly convinced that the Government are making a profound error. In all equity, a right of appeal must be granted to students whose applications to come to this country to study on bona fide educational courses
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are rejected. I hope, for that reason, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will allow my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham to move amendment No. 3 and to press it to a vote. I shall most certainly support it.

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