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In considering applications for entry clearance by husbands of British citizens entry clearance officers apply the immigration rules approved by Parliament in the light of the decisions of the immigration appellate authorities.
Does the Minister admit that the rule that requires a man to prove that it is not his primary purpose to come to the United Kingdom when seeking entry for marriage discriminates unjustly against British women of Asian origin, and that hundreds of them are unable to marry the man whom they wish to marry? Even worse, does he agree that there are couples who have children, and whom the Minister accepts have genuine marriages that will last for life, whom he is refusing to allow to be together in the United Kingdom? Can any civilised country defend that rule?
No Sir, and the hon. Lady is obviously referring to a particular case in which she has taken a great interest. That case proves clearly that it is perfectly easy to apply the primary purpose test and that it is fair to do so. If a person who is interviewed on the Indian subcontinent says that it has been his ambition to come to Britain for a long time, since his cousins are here, that he wants to come to Britain to earn more money and that he decided to achieve that ambition through marriage, it is not difficult to conclude that his primary purpose in marrying was to get here. The House must face the fact that it would be absurd if, having tightened up on work permits for young men who would do unskilled jobs here, we allowed exactly the same young men to come on to our labour market by using marriage as a device.
As my hon. Friend knows, there is a very sophisticated appeals machinery. In the case which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) has in mind, a person whose application was turned down, appealed to the adjudicator and then to the immigration appeals tribunal. In both cases—
It is right that I should point out that in the case to which the hon. Lady referred the decision of the entry clearance officer in the subcontinent was upheld by both the adjudicator and the immigration appeals tribunal.
Is the Minister not aware that Asian people actually fall in love and want to get married? By what right does he set himself up as judge and jury between people who want to get married out of love, and people who, in his mind, want to get married for the sake of convenience?
I want to make it plain that the primary purpose rule is not an attack on marriage and is certainly not an attack on the system of arranged marriages. What it does attack is marriage being abused and used as a means to get entry into this country.
Does the Minister accept that the primary purpose rule referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) is unjust and unfair? Will he also accept that the inhuman and bureaucratic delays to which all these cases are subject are also inhuman and unfair? Finally, will the Minister do something about these delays, instead of subjecting the House to an arrogant monologue as he has done this afternoon?
I think, first, that I have explained adequately that the rule is not unfair. It would be grotesque if people were able to use marriage as a device to get into this country when they are not qualified to come here to work under work permit rules.
I have given the House the figures on delays on many occasions. Delays are shorter now than they were under the Labour Government.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the number of unemployed in this country is already too high and that to import more people to do the same few jobs is not a good idea?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. We simply cannot allow marriage to be used as a device to enable people to come here and go on to the labour market at a time of high unemployment.
How can the Minister possibly defend the primary purpose rule when he admitted in this Chamber that one out of every four cases falls foul of the rule? That means, in effect, that nearly 1,000 people a year are being refused access to the fiancées they propose to marry.
Will the Minister also tell the House that the reason for the rule is to play to the racists on the Government Benches and has no real value whatsoever as an immigration control?
The hon. Gentlemans is wrong in his statistics. The failure rate of applications by husbands and fiancés to come to this country has dropped quite dramatically. In 1982 the overall refusal rate was 63 per cent. In 1983 it dropped to 47 per cent. Refusals on the ground of primary purpose are running at about 25 per cent., and on primary purpose and another ground at 33 per cent.
I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend is referring to, but I am sure that hon. Members do not wittingly set out to abuse their privileges. I think that sometimes the facility allowed to Members of Parliament to approach a Minister to ask for a man's temporary admission, while they make representations, can be abused. I recollect that recently a person affected by the primary purpose rule remained in this country for months and months, and is still here, as a result of a Member of Parliament making representations.
The Minister has displayed the naked racism that underlies the way in which this rule is administered. The hon. and learned Gentleman is completely distorting the statistics. Since the period 1980 to 83, refusals on the ground of primary purpose have risen 25-fold, and the Minister takes pleasure in causing that rise. Is he not aware that this deliberate and inhumane distortion of the primary purpose rule is persecuting British women who want the same right as everybody else to live in this country with the husbands of their choice? The Government should be downright ashamed of themselves.
As shadow Home Secretary, a right hon. Member should have more than one speech. We have heard that one before. I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that one can take any statistic and find that the rates of refusal under this Government compare favourably with those under the previous Government. As usual, the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to distort the statistics. He refers to the proportion of refusals on the ground of primary purpose compared with the total number of refusals on other grounds. In fact, the only realistic way to assess the matter is by the number of primary purpose refusals as a percentage of all applications. Those figures show that it was easier for husbands and fianćes to establish a right to enter the country in 1983 and 1984 than it was in 1982, before the 1983 rules came into force.