Immigration Act 1971

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 Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his succinct answer. Does he agree that to repeal the Immigration Act 1971 would be disastrous both in terms of employment and community relations, not least for the members of the immigrant community? Is it not completely irresponsible of the Labour party to make such a proposal?

Photo of Mr Leon Brittan Mr Leon Brittan , Richmond (Yorks)

I agree with every single word of my hon. Friend. The continuation of firm but fair immigration control is crucial for race relations, as for many other aspects of our national life.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Is the Home Secretary aware that serious abuses of the Immigration Act 1971 are taking place and that the procedures he has announced during the last two weeks concerning the treatment of Tamil refugees seeking asylum in this country have met with enormous opposition from Members of Parliament and from all of the immigration advisory agencies and refugee agencies? Is he further aware that the 24-hour rule for Members of Parliament, concerning the time in which they can make representations, is completely inadequate, and that until Tuesday of this week the immigration officers at Gatwick airport were unaware that they had to inform the United Kingdom immigrants advisory service of any refugee-seekers arriving in this country? Furthermore, is the Home Secretary aware that on Tuesday of this week a Tamil asylum seeker was removed extra-judicially from this country to Colombo, that his whereabouts are unknown and that it is incumbent upon the Home Secretary to tell the House what has happened to that man, why he was removed and what steps are being taken to ensure that he is returned safely to this country? An inquiry ought to be mounted into the whole affair.

Photo of Mr Leon Brittan Mr Leon Brittan , Richmond (Yorks)

The only point that has not been widely canvassed in the statement that I made last Monday to the House is the hon. Gentleman's last point. The particular case to which he referred was considered in great detail. We concluded that it did not meet the requirements of the United Nations' convention and that the test of severe hardship had not been met.

Photo of Mr Leon Brittan Mr Leon Brittan , Richmond (Yorks)

In accordance with the administrative practice whereby the United Kingdom immigrants advisory service has been informed of cases where asylum is refused—

Photo of Mr Leon Brittan Mr Leon Brittan , Richmond (Yorks)

—it was given the opportunity to interview the person in question and it did so, but before the results of that interview and any representations were received he was removed to Colombo. This action was the result of a serious failure in communication. I have ordered an urgent and thorough investigation both into the organisational failure and into the actions of the individual members of staff involved.

The high commission in Colombo has been asked to contact the person in question, whose brother lives in Colombo. However, it is important to stress that I have no reason to doubt at present that the decision arrived at in his case was correct and in accordance with the policy that I announced. Nevertheless, the representations from UKIAS will be fully considered. If the judgment made in the light of that consideration is that the person in question meets the severe hardship test, contrary to the judgment that was previously formed, he will be granted a visa and returned to this country at public expense.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is a basic right of every country to define who its citizens are and then to enforce the appropriate immigration rules? Is he aware that many of the countries which criticise Britain have much more restrictive citizenship and immigration rules?

Photo of Mr Leon Brittan Mr Leon Brittan , Richmond (Yorks)

My hon Friend is absolutely right on both points

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

With regard to the extraordinary admission that the Home Secretary has just made in response to a question from my hon Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr Corbyn), can the right hon and learned Gentleman now tell the House what action is being taken to ensure that such a thing does not happen again? [Interruption ] It happened once, although the Government said that there was no danger of it happening, because the Home Secretary does not care about these matters He does not care that people may be sent back to imprisonment, torture and death, after which it is too late to put things right That is why we want an assurance that the Government will ensure that nothing like this will happen again, and that a further statement will be made to the House about it That is what we seek

Photo of Mr Leon Brittan Mr Leon Brittan , Richmond (Yorks)

The hon Member for Islington, North (Mr Corbyn) raised a serious point about a particular case He has been in no way assisted by the right hon Gentleman's note of hysteria I attempted to deal with that question in a serious way The position is exactly as I said it was last Monday, and I assure the right hon Gentleman and the House that the administrative practice followed since 1983, whereby UKIAS is informed of cases where asylum is refused, and is given the opportunity to make representations before anyone is returned, will be followed I have taken the strongest steps to ensure that it will be followed in all cases I should have thought that the right hon Gentleman might at least have the grace to accept that I gave a very frank and full statement to the House about what happened