Primary Purpose Rule

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley 12:00 am, 6th June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish the instructions to entry certificate officers regarding the primary purpose rule.

Mr. Simon:

Hughes asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now introduce legislation to abolish the primary purpose rule for financés and husbands wishing to join partners in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

I will, with permission, answer this question and question No. 6 together.

Mr. Hughes:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can these two questions be answered by the Home Secretary rather than by an Under-Secretary?

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Member knows that that is not a point of order for me. Who answers questions is a matter for the Department concerned.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

Instructions to immigration staff are being reviewed, in the course of which the extent to which they can be published will be considered. The issue of guidance to entry clearance officers is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The Government do not intend to abolish the primary purpose test.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this rule causes more difficulties than most other aspects of immigration policy? In view of the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights, may we have an assurance that, when changes are made, men coming into the country will be treated on the same basis as women coming here? Is the Minister further aware that that does not mean any change being made adversely? We want change in the right direction, so that the position as it now applies to women is extended to men.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

It would be absurd if, having tightened up the work permit system to prevent young men coming here and going on to the labour market, we were to allow those same young men to come here by using marriage as a device. The judgment to which the hon. Gentleman refers does not directly concern the primary purpose rule, but obviously we are now considering the whole position in the light of the judgment and will announce our conclusions in due course.

Mr. Hughes:

Perhaps one day the Home Secretary will take some responsibility for these matters. In the meantime, will the Government respond — as the Government, whom they assert they are, of law and order —by obeying the 12th finding against this country by the European Court of Human Rights? As the Government, as they assert they are, of the family, will they allow husbands and fiances to come to this country with their families? As the Government, as they assert they are, of equal opportunity, will they ensure that we have a new set of immigration laws before the House rises for the summer? May we also be assured that nobody who is at present in breach of the rules which have been found to be contrary to human rights is penalised, and that that will apply from the date of the Strasbourg ruling?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

It seems to have escaped the hon. Gentleman's notice that we first accepted the right of individual petition to the court back in 1966. Only in 1981 did France accept that right. In those circumstances, and as many other countries still do not accept the right of individual petition to the court, it is not surprising that more judgments have been made against the British Government than against other Governments.

The country would be immensely surprised if, having willed a firm and fair immigration control, we now took the view that anybody who enters into a marriage, irrespective of whether that marriage is entered into for immigration purposes, should be able to come here.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

On the question of the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, are the Government content that a group of unelected foreigners should legislate for this country on matters of political and social importance?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

We adhere to the convention and we shall abide by it. We shall make rule changes, but my hon. Friend will have to be patient, because we shall have to study the judgment carefully.

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

Does my hon. Friend agree that the primary purpose rule is an essential safeguard for many brides, such as those in my constituency, about whom I have written to my hon. Friend, who were abandoned by their husbands when the two-year period necessary for their husbands to have an unlimited right to remain here expired?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

The justification for the primary purpose rule is that it is a necessary part of our immigration control, but we should be stupid not to recognise that social problems are involved. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to hint at them today. We all know of cases where the primary purpose rule has been a safeguard for young women here.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Battersea

Is the Minister aware that he made an astonishing blunder in answering an earlier question this afternoon? Is he further aware—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot ask that. We have passed that question.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Battersea

Is the Minister aware that he made an astonishing blunder in answering a question just a moment ago? Is he further aware that he said that he was considering what to do about the European Court decision, yet earlier he said that the Government did not intend to abolish the primary purpose test? As the primary purpose test was the subject of the condemnation of our immigration practices by the European Court, because it is a key element in sex discrimination, how can the Minister say that he is open-minded and considering the result? He has already said that he has made up his mind.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

The judgment does not directly concern the primary purpose rule. I repeat that we shall study the judgment with care. and do that which is necessary.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I apologise to the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs), but I got the meaning of his question wrong.