Anthony NG

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd December 1972.

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3.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Madel Mr David Madel , Bedfordshire South

I warmly welcome the chance of a short debate on the decision of the Home Office to send Mr. Anthony Ng, the son of a constituent of mine, Mrs. Evans, back to Malaya by 15th January 1973. Let me first thank my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the courtesy and patience he has shown to me in interviews I have had with him in discussing this particularly unusual and heart-rending case. We have had two lengthy meetings. I am grateful to him and his officials for setting aside the time they did to hear me put the case of my constituent to them.

Briefly, the facts of the case are these. My constituent, Mrs. Evans, left Malaya in 1952 leaving her son Anthony with her parents. Mrs. Evans left Malaya with her husband who was serving with the British Army in that country. They hoped that in due course Anthony would be able to join them in England. On arrival in England not long after the end of 1952, Mr. Evans was demobilised from the Army. For various reasons Anthony was not able to join them early and he was, therefore, in the early years of his life, brought up in Malaya by Mrs. Evans's parents. It was not until December 1971, almost 20 years after Mrs. Evans left Malaya, that Anthony arrived in this country on a visitor's visa, initially for two months. I do not think there are many of us in this House or in this country who will not have seen our mothers for a period of 20 years. However, that is what happened, and the meeting of Anthony and his mother last December was the first they had had for 20 years.

The visa for two months I managed to get extended to six months, and it was then that Anthony applied and was enrolled at Dunstable College for Further Education for a course in the General Certificate of Education O-level. This was a different reason for his staying in his country, and there was a series of appeals that he be allowed to stay here as a student studying in this O-level course. The immigration appeals machinery was gone through. The final appeal that he be allowed to stay was dismissed on 31st October this year.

It was then that I was told by the Home Office that he had to leave the country by 15th January. I then saw my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and appealed to him, and to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that Anthony be allowed to stay in this country on humanitarian grounds. The first of these obviously is that here he is reunited with his mother and family and obviously, therefore, wishes to stay in this country, as they wish him to do. He is making good progress at the Dunstable College for Further Education and is now mid-way through his O-level course and is planning to take mathematics, English, geography and history next June. I asked my hon. Friend whether he would himself check Anthony's progress at the college to see whether he was making good progress, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend that he did this.

In a letter to me on 6th December this year my hon. Friend wrote: When you came to see me on 22nd November to discuss the case of Anthony I undertook to consider your suggestion that he might be allowed to stay here until the end of August next year in order to obtain some 'O' level passes before returning to Malaya. I said that it was most unlikely that I would feel able to alter my earlier decision, but in deference to your wishes I agreed to have inquiries made of the Dunstable College of Further Education about Anthony's progress. I have done this and the college gave him a good report. I checked with the staff at the college this morning and they confirmed what is contained in my hon. Friend's letter to me, namely, that Anthony is making good progress. I feel that it would be educationally bad for him to have to leave this country when he is in the middle of this O-level course.

The humanitarian reasons are equally powerful. Mr. and Mrs. Evans are popular and respected in the village of Kensworth in my constituency. More than 1,000 people in that village have signed a petition asking that Anthony be allowed to stay. Yesterday, on my annual pre-Christmas visit to hospitals and old people's homes throughout my constituency, I met a number of people who had followed this case in the local newspaper and supported my plea that Anthony be allowed to remain. In addition, there are many people in Dunstable who know Anthony and who support my plea.

The local newspapers support my plea. In yesterday's edition of the Evening Post, which circulates in my constituency, the editorial column commented: It is almost on the eve of Christmas. Surely it cannot be too much to expect of the Home Secretary, who dressed up the other day for all to see as Father Christmas, that he show some of the compassion and generosity of the season. Those words are widely supported and endorsed, not only in Kensworth but throughout my constituency.

Rules which allow a person who has not seen his mother for 20 years to visit her for a shortish time and then insist that he shall go all the way back to Malaya are not good rules and should be bent. I know that we have vigorously applied immigration controls and rules, but when rules are vigorously applied inevitably one comes up against hardship cases such as this. Mrs. Evans is now a British citizen—as British as any of us—and she has lived for 20 years in my constituency. Had she been British-born Anthony could have joined her as of right.

For years after Mr. and Mrs. Evans left Malaya in 1952 there was no control on Commonwealth immigration, and Anthony could have come here without difficulty. Mrs. Evans wishes her son to stay here for good. If that be unacceptable to the Home Office, I ask for a compromise: that at least he be allowed to stay here until his O-level course is completed. We know that he is making good progress.

I reiterate that Anthony is well cared for in the Evans home in Kensworth. He is making good progress at the Dunstable College of Further Education. He has a good attendance record, and it is vital that he should be allowed to stay in this country to complete his O-level course in June.

We are almost at the end of 1972 which, on immigration, has been a year of bending the rules. We bent the rules considerably for Uganda, and rightly so. I supported my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), the Under-Secretary, in doing what they did for the Ugandan Asians. We were right to do it, given the unusual circumstances in that country.

We have a history of bending the immigration rules. Before the Second World War we allowed many political refugees, refugees from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, into this country. Since the war we rightly bent the rules when there was the invasion of Hungary by Russia in 1956 and when there were the troubles in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and 1968. If there were any violent upheaval in Eastern Europe and people sought asylum in this country, I believe that we should bend the rules again.

Therefore I appeal to the Home Office to change the decision, on two grounds. The first is educational. Anthony is making good progress and there is every likelihood that he will pass his O-levels, which are vital to him. To be pulled away from a course in midstream is bad educationally.

Secondly, I appeal on humanitarian grounds. Reunited with his mother last December after 20 years, he obviously wishes, as she does, that he should he allowed to stay in this country. He is being well looked after in the village, and there is no reason why he should not be as useful a citizen of this country as anyone else if he is allowed to stay.

I very much hone that my hon. Friend will be able to change his decision that Anthony must leave the country by 15th January next year.

3.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Lane Mr David Lane , Cambridge

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) for his great concern with the case and his strenuous efforts on behalf of his constituent, Mrs. Evans, Anthony's mother, always made in a reasonable way, as I would expect of him.

My hon. Friend has written to us frequently and has seen me several times, including the occasions when we had two rather long talks. He has argued most earnestly that Anthony should be allowed to stay in this country. I respect my hon. Friend's feelings and Mrs. Evans's fervent wish that her son should be allowed to stay here with her. I know too that, as my hon. Friend said again today, there is exceedingly strong feeling in the area where Mrs. Evans and her son live in favour of his being allowed to stay.

But it should be said in fairness—and it came to me afresh last evening when I looked through the five files in the Home Office about the case—how much care has been taken on our side in trying to deal with the matter over recent years. At a time like the present, when there has been some criticism of our immigration arrangements, I am glad of this opportunity to affirm again my absolute confidence in the officials who operate our system of control. I have in mind not only the Immigration and Nationality Department of the Home Office but members of the Immigration Service at the ports and the entry certificate officers at the various posts overseas. They have an extremely difficult task and in this case, as in countless other instances, they have shown the combination of firmness and humanity that the House would expect of them.

Before coming to the facts of the case and the arguments my hon. Friend has advanced, I should remind the House of the general immigration policy within which this and similar cases must be considered. A key point in my consideration of this case is that many others have a great deal in common with this one or are fairly similar. Many people throughout the Commonwealth and other parts of the world would like to make their homes in this country. We cannot accept that everyone wishing to come here to settle should be allowed to do so. That would put an impossible strain upon community relations in this country as we are already an overcrowded island.

Since 1962, when control over Commonwealth immigration was introduced, the Government have followed a policy of restricting immigration. It is the declared policy of this Government that there should be no more large-scale permanent immigration. That is the purpose of the Immigration Act 1971, which comes fully into force on 1st January, giving us still tighter powers of control. The Act requires us to lay down broad lines of policy indicating for what purposes and on what conditions those who seek to come here may do so.

I am sure the House will be with me when I say that that means that we must deal justly with every case to the utmost of our ability, much as we may be moved by the circumstances of any case. If we cannot say that one person may be allowed to stay here consistently with our treatment of others, it would be unfair that we should allow ourselves to make unjustifiable exceptions. In other words, a policy which tries to be firm and humane must also try to be fair and consistent.

Unfortunately it is true that some people who wish to come here will seek to gain entry under one head of our policy—under one of our immigration rules—and having gained entry will seek to remain here by developing a case which would not have been accepted had it been advanced from the outset as the case for admission. That is what has happened here, and I turn now to the facts of the case before us.

Anthony Ng was born in Malaysia. His mother was born in that country and his father was a Chinese merchant. His mother later married a British Serviceman, Mr. Evans, and she and her husband came to this country in 1952. Anthony Ng was left in Malaysia to be brought up by his maternal grandmother. I understand that he has uncles and aunts in the same area. He left school at the age of 13—that is, about 13 years ago—and went to work. So far as I know there is no evidence that Anthony's mother has supported him in Malaysia and they do not seem to have met since he was about five years old until he came here in December of last year at the age of 25.

In 1967, now more than five years ago, Mrs. Evans asked through my hon. Friend's predecessor about the possibility of her son being allowed to come here and work. She was told then that he would have to obtain an employment voucher for that purpose.

Anthony arrived here on 13th December last year and said that he had come only for a visit to his mother whom he had not seen for more than 20 years. He had only a single ticket but said that his mother and stepfather would pay for his return to Malaysia. He said also that he had been promised work on the farm of one of his uncles on his return to Malaysia after his holiday in this country. Mr. and Mrs. Evans were at the airport to meet him and they gave similar assurances. He was than admitted for two months.

Our immigration officers who saw him when he arrived had some hesitation about his intention of coming simply for a visit. But in the end they decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. The doubts felt at that time were very soon confirmed because only a week after his arrival Mrs. Evans asked whether it would be possible for him to remain here permanently and to take employment. So already the case had shifted from a mere visit to permanent settlement.

There were no grounds on which permanent settlement could be allowed. Anthony did not qualify to come here as a dependant of his mother. He was 25 years of age and had been working for several years on his own in Malaysia and his mother had not supported him during that time. We had to say according to our rules that he could not be allowed to stay permanently. But we were glad to let him stay for the full six months which we usually allow for a visit.

Anthony had a right of appeal against our decision not to allow him to stay permanently. He gave notice of appeal and, at about the same time, inquiries were made on his behalf through my hon. Friend, as he has confirmed, into the possibility of Anthony being allowed to remain here as a student. However, we could not be satisfied that a man of 26, who had arrived here claiming to be coming only for a visit, and who had undertaken no studies for about 13 years, could be regarded as a genuine student. That is very much the crux of the case.

It is significant that before last summer there had been no mention of the study idea at any time since the possibility of his coming to this country was first raised in 1967. We had to say that he could not remain in this country as a student. Both appeals were heard by an independent adjudicator on 22nd September of this year. Anthony advanced no argument in support of his application to settle here and the appeal against our refusal on that ground was dismisssed. Anthony argued that he should be allowed to remain as a student. I emphasise that the appeal system has been established to provide a way by which an immigrant can have his case heard before an independent person where all the arguments can be developed and set against the case of the Home Office.

At the time the appeal was heard. Anthony was pursuing a course of O- level studies at a college of further education. The adjudicator acknowledged that Anthony's proposal to study was a realistic one but he could not say that he was satisfied that Anthony's primary purpose for coming to or remaining in this country was to study. He thought it significant that Anthony had no clear idea about the further technical course which he proposed to take after completing the academic course for which he had so hastily enrolled. Although the adjudicator sympathised with Anthony and his mother in their efforts to secure a better future for him, he was left with the impression that the proposal to undertake studies was merely put forward so that Anthony could remain in this country for as long as possible.

The appeal against our decision not to allow him to remain here as a student was dismissed. Anthony then appealed to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. The tribunal concluded, after taking all the evidence into consideration, that it could not accept that Anthony's application as a would-be student was genuine within the meaning of the immigration rules.

Since then, during the last few weeks my hon. Friend has seen me more than once. He has argued strongly that despite the decisions of the appeal authorities—and I will say a word in a moment about the involvement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department—Anthony should be allowed to stay here. However, no new considerations have come to light which were not known when the appeals were heard earlier this year. I realise that Anthony would sooner stay in this country than return to Malaysia, and I sympathise with Mrs. Evans in her strong desire to keep her son with her.

However, I explained to my hon. Friend that if I were to deal with this case fairly and consistently with other cases with which my officials and I had to deal, I could not find grounds on which I should be justified in treating it as an exceptional case and reversing the decision previously taken on appeal not only to the independent adjudicator but to the appeals tribunal. I told my hon. Friend that I had come to such a conclusion only after the most careful examination of every aspect of the case. I indicated that we must ask Anthony to leave the country by 15th January 1973.

My hon. Friend, even at the eleventh hour, has asked us to think again in view of the particular arguments that he has put forward—principally educational and humanitarian arguments. He gave details of the O-level course on which Anthony had already embarked and argued that it would be unfair that he should have to leave it in midstream.

When my hon. Friend put forward his compromise suggestion, as he fairly described it, of giving Anthony leave to study until effectively the end of the summer next year, August or September, so that he could complete his O-level studies, it was with a view to getting this further education behind him. However, we must ask ourselves realistically: is it certain that Anthony could achieve this even in the six months or so that remain, however well be applies himself? As my hon. Friend reminded the House, Anthony has had good reports so far from the college where he started this course. But we must bear in mind that for the last 13 years—indeed, since the age of 13—he has had virtually no education. Therefore, it is asking a lot to believe that he could achieve his 0-levels within the six or seven months remaining. If I am right in having these educational doubts, the same problem would still arise.

Aside from that, this is incidental to our basic decision whether the exceptional humanitarian grounds justify us in bending the rules to the extent that my hon. Friend has urged. He has put forward a very persuasive argument on humanitarian grounds. He has presented a picture of a mother and son reunited after more than 20 years. I fully accept the evidence of feeling in the locality, because my hon. Friend sent me a petition signed by neighbours who know the Evans family and have now got to know Anthony Ng during the months he has been there. But again I must remind my hon. Friend that we would be bending the rules to the extent of admitting a man now 26 years of age when, in all normal cases of this kind, we have to rest on the principle that someone who has been independent to that extent and reached that age can qualify to come here in the main only if he obtains an employment voucher. That is the present rule.

I must ask myself whether in that situation it would be right to bend the rules to that extent. I must also bear in mind that all the evidence since 1967, which I have tried to sketch to the House, amounts to an apparently determined attempt to get round our immigration rules. I must therefore conclude that it would not be right, despite my hon. Friend's appeal, to bend the rules to this extent.

This is an exceedingly difficult decision. We are dealing with a very poignant human situation and I dislike having to say "No". I discussed this matter with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary during the week, and both he and I are fully agreed that we would not be justified in altering the decision that has been taken.

Photo of Mr David Madel Mr David Madel , Bedfordshire South

Would I be right in thinking that it is open to Anthony, when he is back in Malaysia, to reapply for a work voucher? I do not ask my hon. Friend necessarily to answer that question right now. Perhaps he could let me know in due course.

Photo of Mr David Lane Mr David Lane , Cambridge

I am about to answer that point, because I know that it is very much in my hon. Friend's mind. I want to put the position as fairly as I can. In fairness to others whom we have had to refuse, we must aim for consistency. We cannot allow the immigration control to be flouted.

I remind the House that Anthony was originally admitted for two months. That period was extended to six months. In fact, because of his appeals and my right hon. Friend's perfectly fair representations, he has now been here for just over 12 months. I have considered my hon. Friend's representations further but regretfully have had to resist them. We had in mind asking Anthony to leave by the end of December but decided that we ought to extend the final date to 15th January 1973 so that he could spend Christmas and the New Year with Mr. and Mrs. Evans and their family. Having been over this case several times in recent weeks, I believe that Anthony has been fairly treated and he has fully exercised his rights of appeal.

I end, as my hon. Friend has asked, by reminding him that when Anthony Ng returns to Malaysia he can continue his O-level studies. I have confirmed only this morning that there is ample scope for him to do this in Malaysia. It will then be open to him to make a fresh application to come to this country in due course under whatever head he wishes, and I assure my hon. Friend that we will consider such an application very carefully if and when the times comes.

It being Four o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.