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Before I call on the Front Bench spokesmen, I should announce that no fewer than 30 right hon. and hon. Members have indicated their wish to take part in this important debate. I have no control over the length of speeches, but it would be helpful to all concerned if they could be as brief as possible.
I beg to move,
That the Statement of Change in Immigration Rules (Cmnd 9914), which was laid before this House on 8th October, be disapproved.
On 15 October a visa requirement came into force for those travelling to this country from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although the Government had been contemplating such a change in immigration rules for several weeks, inadequate preparation had been made for implementing it. In posts overseas, where ito was announced that 39 additional entry clearance officers were to be sent, only two were in place on that date in Pakistan and none in the other two countries.
Here in Britain preparations were even more unsatisfactory. It was fully anticipated by the Home Office that advance knowledge of the introduction of visas would produce a rush of people anxious not to become enmeshed in the bureaucracy of the new system. The Home Secretary has sought to imply that the visa date produced a rush of people ineligible to come as visitors but anxious to sneak in as subterfuge settlers. However, a large number of those who arrived two weeks ago were eventually admitted as bona fide visitors. Of those who were returned to their port of origin, it is impossible to know how many were wrongly returned since chaos at Heathrow prevented relatives from securing proper consideration of the merits of decisions in many cases. There is evidence from several of my hon. Friends to show that some of those who arrived were wrongly removed despite a stop having been put on their removal under current arrangements. In common decency, the Home Secretary should arrange to have the victims of the breakdown of his own administrative arrangements returned here at public expense. His administrative arrangements did undoubtedly break down.
Mr. Dellanos, assistant chief inspector at Heathrow, not only told me that a rush was anticipated but admitted that the contingency plans were indequate. The result was that relatives who had come to meet their visitors were compelled to wait for days without information. Some had to stay at hotels and others, without the means to do that, slept night after night in their cars. Others travelled home and returned to Heathrow day after day. All of those people, in addition to their anxiety and uncertainty, were put to considerable financial expense through no fault of their own. That often included a substantial loss of earnings which they could ill afford. The Home Secretary was directly responsible for those financial penalties on innocent citizens and I believe that in common decency he should compensate them for what they have lost.
The position of those who arrived seeking entry as visitors was even worse. Some, it is true, were accommodated at expensive hotels. It is deplorable that, in a Government who pride themselves on financial control, the Minister of State has been unable to tell me how much that all cost the taxpayer. Is he truly unable to reveal the cost, or is he simply unwilling to disclose the financial consequences of his own incompetence? Others were made to wait in a series of ante-chambers until the hard-pressed immigration staff could interview them. Some were held in large numbers in the gate rooms, which is where passengers usually await the call for departure. I saw them there and the conditions were grossly overcrowded. Some had to sleep on the floor. Some, when wanting to go to the lavatory, were sent in batches of 10 under escort as if they were prisoners.
At night many were held in a detention centre. Others were held in a youth custody centre. One group was sent as far afield as Canterbury prison. All of these people sent to penal institutions, whether admitted to this country or sent home, were citizens of friendly countries innocent of any crime. They were not even charged with any crime. The treatment of these people was shameful. We all know that they would not have been treated like that if their skins had been white.
Why did the Government change the policy? The decision to impose a visa requirement, which was responsible for these disgraceful scenes, will impose hardship on future visitors and their relatives— relatives settled in this country, often citizens of this country and, in every case but one, citizens of the Commonwealth which the Tory party claims so much to champion. The Home Secretary has advanced a collection of statistics to justify his decision. Most of the statistics do not stand up to a moment's examination. He cites the increasing numbers of refusals of admission as a justification for action. He cites a rise from 18,000 in 1985 to 22,000 in the year ended June 1986. Despite that increase—and the rise is offered on a very dubious statistical basis—the increase of 4,000 does not seem large against the figure of 8·5 million arrivals in Britain from non-EEC countries during 1985.
The statistical comparison is invalid because the 22,000 figure claiming to show an intolerable increase on the 18,000 figure actually includes part of the 18,000 upon which it is claimed to be an increase. That is an example of the statistical juggling in which the Home Secretary is involved. However, even if we accept these rigged figures from the Home Secretary, the rise in refusals of visitors from the five countries on which visas are now imposed is fewer than 3,000 in a 12-month period.
Last year the number of those coming to this country from the five countries as a proportion of the 8 million arrivals—those arriving from non-EEC countries—was 0·07 per cent., fewer than one in every 1,300 arrivals. In human terms of course the impact of refusals was considerable but in statistical terms it was scarcely noticeable. Yet that is the Home Secretary's evidence in support of his action. It was noticeable that there was a disproportion between refusals of people coming from those five countries and people from other countries. The figures which I have just obtained today show that in the year ended May 1986 a Bangladeshi had one chance in 20 of being refused entry to this country. For a Canadian the chance of being refused entry was one in 7,857. A Bangladeshi was 393 times more likely than a Canadian to be refused admission.
No, I will not give way because many hon. Members wish to speak.
Last Tuesday I alluded to such comparisons. With reference to people coming from countries whose inhabitants have predominantly white skins, a Conservative Member intervened from a sedentary position and called out, "They go home". The question is, do they go home any more than those people from the five countries to which I have referred?
Last Tuesday the Home Secretary said in another batch of rigged and selective statistics that the number of absconders, as he called them, in 1985 was 255 and that in the year ended June 1986 that figure had risen to 430. He did not say whether these so-called absconders were all from countries from which visitors now need visas. However, let us accept that that is what he meant. Let us consider the figures as if they referred only to nationals of the five countries.
It is indubitable that the alleged absconders amounted last year to 0·003 per cent. of the 8·5 million non-EEC arrivals in this country. That is one in every 33,333. If we consider arrivals at Heathrow alone, the figure was 0·005 per cent., one in more than 19,000. I would not have said that those proportions were a great menace to the stability of the state or of our society. However, it may be claimed that, tiny though the figures may be, they may be much higher than for those of white or white-dominated countries and therefore they are statistically significant.
In a parliamentary question last week my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) asked for information about over-stayers. Over-stayers are not precisely the same as absconders, the definitions are different and are obtained in different ways, but nevertheless they are roughly comparable. My hon. Friend wanted information on over-stayers from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. She asked for the numbers of people from those countries not known to have returned to their country of origin within the time limit specified within their original admission. The Minister of State provided this illuminating reply:
Recordings of landings and embarkations from these, as from other nationalities, is selective.
Yes, it is selective. The Minister continued:
information is not available as to numbers or proportions within these totals not known to have left at the end of their permitted stay.
We have absolutely no idea of the number of over-stayers from these countries. The numbers may be small or substantial. We simply do not know. The Minister of State in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock made a confident assertion:
We have no reason to believe that the overwhelming majority of visitors to this country do not leave at the end of their stay."—[Official Report, 21 October 1986; Vol. 102, c. 801.]
He has no justification, rationality, information or evidence for that assertion. He simply offers it as a hunch about people from those white countries. However, from the Home Secretary's statistics about absconders, we have no reason to believe that the overwhelming majority of visitors from the five countries on which visas are being imposed do not leave at the end of their stay. From the statistics of absconders which the Home Secretary presented to the House, if we accept them for the purposes
of this argument, we see that of visitors to this country from those five countries, 99·95 per cent. return home. I would have thought that 99·95 per cent. was an overwhelming majority. However, it does not seem to be enough for the Government. The 400 or so people whom the Government say are absconders unfortunately, for them, have black faces. Yet we do not know how accurate those tiny figures of absconders are.
The way in which those figures are compiled was set out for me in a parliamentary answer from the Minister of State. That explanation gives no confidence in their reliability. The figures are an aggregate of the different kinds of guesswork from which the Government provide a total which they try to use as evidence of malfeasance of people coming here and not returning. Can we trust the figures? Are they accurate, or botched together to bolster a poor and partisan case?
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) had better accuse his hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State. I have never known the Minister to massively under-estimate anything that would cause discredit to the black communities in this country.
Even if the figures are accurate, are they sufficient to justify creating a bureaucracy requiring the screening of 500,000 applicants, 99·95 per cent. of whom come here and go home voluntarily at great delay and great expense?
I would not have intervened but for the fact that the point is highly germane to what my right hon. Friend is saying. Among the statistics on absconders is a recent case that I had — there may well be others. A chap was called an absconder because he did not turn up for his aeroplane—he had left voluntarily a week earlier and notified the immigration authorities that he was doing so.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is an excellent example of how the Government rig unsubstantiated figures to prove a point.
The Minister of State said that the recording of statistics is selective. It is the Government's entire case, not just statistics, which is selective. A Home Office circular frankly stated last year:
It is impossible to draw any conclusions from the figures about the extent of overstaying by a particular nationality in relation to any other.
The Home Secretary is doing what his Department says should not be done. He is invalidly drawing conclusions which his Department says is impossible. We have to ask whether he is doing that to bolster a poor case and whether it is an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. Why has the visa policy been adopted? The answer may lie in the manoeuverings of the Immigration Service Union, an organisation which broke away from the Civil and Public Servants Association five years ago, has not been accepted by the Trades Union Congress for affiliation, was banned from membership of the Council of Civil Service Unions and the spokesmen and spokeswomen of which have, during the past few days in particular, but for some time
also, been given to making outspoken statements that are often politically controversial and are sometimes racially prejudicial.
Last Tuesday, the Home Secretary offered the House statistics detailing the increase in the number of refusals of nationals from the five affected countries. He asserted that, despite the increase, there had been
no change … in the practice of immigration officers."—[Official Report, 21 October 1986; Vol. 102, c. 948.]
We have no more than the Home Secretary's word for that. His claim is unsupported by any confirmed evidence. We know that last year the Immigration Service Union met the Minister of State and thrust at him a series of complaints and allegations about the system then in operation. We know too that it was after that that the drastic rise in refusals by those same immigration officers began. We know that the announcement of the introduction of visas was made on 1 September — only 24 hours before the ISU was due to ballot on industrial action in support of demands. We also know that, even after the visa announcement, an ISU spokesman asserted that the policy change would not be enough to prevent strike action unless it was accomplished by a ban on intervention by hon. Members.
According to The Independent, the union was even more precise and threatening. A recent report in that newspaper said:
The union reminded Mr. Waddington of its mandate for industrial action if the strain on their members was not lifted. It said this could only be achieved by an end to MPs' representations.
The Home Secretary abjectly surrendered to that blackmail. It is a surrender by the man who, one month ago, in a most notable speech, denounced the machinations of pressure groups. He described them as serpents and said:
Members of Parliament and Ministers both in my view need to shake themselves free to some extent from the embrace of pressure groups and interest groups.
The pressure group of the 1SU has dictated the Home Secretary's policy on this issue.
The Home Secretary caved in to the ISU and introduced a visa regime. Last week, he first leaked and then announced a proposed change in the handling of hon. Members' representations—what has become known as the stop system. Last week, the proposed change to the guidelines was published. The relevant amended paragraph is so vague as to be meaningless. The key sentence in the new version of paragraph 3 reads as follows:
If the passenger was refused entry because he did not have the required entry clearance under the immigration rules, action to remove him will not automatically be deferred.
What on earth does that mean? Hon. Members need to understand it and have it explained because they will have to act in accordance with it unless it is amended and made more comprehensible.
That a removal will not automatically be deferred seems to indicate that a removal will be deferred in certain circumstances. What are those circumstances? How are we to be sure? We need to be sure because the interests of our constituents depend on these conditions being specified, and we, as representatives of our constituents, have a right to know.
I shall give the Home Secretary some examples to which I should like him to respond specifically. What about a family emergency? What about somebody in one of the affected countries who hears that his or her parent is dying, at the beginning of the weekend when the embassy or high commission is not open? If such a person arrives here, will he or she be admitted? Will such a person's relatives have a right to ask their Member of Parliament to put a stop on removal if the passenger is not admitted? The Home Secretary might say that such a person will be refused admission and have to rely on his or her right of appeal, but, by the time the appeal is heard, the parent will be dead. Is that what the Home Secretary wants?
It is the same for somebody who arrives for a funeral. Unless a stop is permitted, the funeral will be held and the grieving relative will be forced to miss it.
What about those who seek asylum from an authoritarian regime? Are they to be summarily removed to a country where they may be executed, tortured or imprisoned, without a Member of Parliament having the right to intervene? What about the category of would-be visitors whose predicament was raised last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser)? I refer to students who come here to arrange their admission to colleges and who may encounter difficulties. Are they to be denied their educational opportunities because of lack of access to a Member of Parliament?
What about those who arrive with visas and whose visas are queried or challenged? Mr. Dellanos, the assistant chief inspector at terminal 3, told me that a visa does not guarantee admission to the country. The Home Secretary was forced to admit that during our exchanges in the House last Tuesday. We need to know whether a person whose visa is challenged will be able to obtain help from a Member of Parliament without being returned in the interim.
What about visitors who are already in the country? Many are already here having been admitted after obtaining temporary admission. Will Members of Parliament still be able to secure a stop on their removal by making the secondary representations that are referred to in the existing guidelines? Many who are here have been admitted not on temporary admission but for periods as visitors without visas, and many will in future be admitted for visits with visas. Will a Member of Parliament have the right to stop their departure or removal while an application is made for an extension of the visit that is perfectly permissible within the law?
What about returning residents who have been away within the permitted period? Will their Member of Parliament be entitled to secure a stop on their removal if they encounter difficulty on arrival in Britain? The Home Secretary says that they should obtain an exemption stamp to avoid problems, but an exemption stamp is not a legal requirement. Are people to be penalised for not abiding by the Home Secretary's advice, as distinct from a legal requirement?
What if people travel, acting on the misplaced assumption that they are free citizens and do not know that they need an exemption stamp? Will they be bundled out of the country without their Member of Parliament having the right and power to help?
The Home Secretary has not begun to think through these problems. He should show some humanity by retaining the stop rights of Members of Parliament in these and other cases, with which we shall acquaint him.
The new system and the removal of essential safeguards are riddled with potentiality for inefficiency, unfairness and injustice. We do not know how the appeal system, by
which the Home Secretary sets such store, will work. We do not know how long the process will take. I cannot say that I have very great confidence in either the speed or the reliability of the system, because today I received a reply from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office whom I had asked about the appeals procedure. He said:
… an entry clearance officer, in consultation at larger posts with his senior officer, reconsiders his decision in the light of the grounds of appeal put forward.
All of us will have great confidence in that procedure. The reply continues:
If the entry clearance officer maintains his decision, he prepares an explanatory statement which is forwarded to the independent appellate authorities in this country." — [Official Report, 24 October 1986; Vol. 102, c. 1006.]
So there will be a procedure for people who simply want to come here on a short visit and who are refused visas for reasons that will take months to resolve. [HON. MEMBERS: "It will probably take years."] I shall not quarrel with my hon. Friends about that.
These exceptionally expensive arrangements can be compared with alternative uses to which the money committed to this purpose could be put to ease problems at the ports of entry. Tonight we are scrutinising a policy change that is based upon the assumed need to screen 500,000 people a year — if we extend to the Home Secretary the unnecessary courtesy of accepting his selective statistics — with the aim of catching 400 who might not return home if they are admitted. Is it worth it financially?
The Government are erecting a cumbersome bureaucracy. Last week the Home Secretary said that there is no reason why an Indian should not need a visa to come here if he, the Home Secretary, needs a visa to go to India. Other considerations apart, however, if the Home Secretary is seeking parity of treatment, why is it that an Indian will have to apply for his or her visa at least one month in advance while anyone in Britain—either the Home Secretary or anybody else—can obtain a visa for India in 48 hours? It is an expensive bureaucracy. The Minister of State told my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) that it costs about £10,000 to maintain an immigration officer. We know also from another answer to my hon. and learned Friend that it costs £126,000 to maintain an entry clearance officer in a post abroad.
The Home Secretary claimed—some regard it as an extravagant claim — that 300 additional immigration officers are required at Heathrow significantly to improve conditions there. That may or may not be true. Even if it is true, the Earl of Caithness, who spoke for the Home Office last week in the House of Lords, admitted to the House of Lords that for the £14 million that the additional 39 entry clearance officers will cost abroad, we in Britain could have an additional 700 immigration officers. If we had 700 additional immigration officers, all the problems that have been complained about would vanish overnight. If the Home Secretary claims that additional costs will be involved in sustaining that extra number of immigration officers, let us be clear that the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office told my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) in another parliamentary answer that for four of the five countries, in addition to the annual costs, start-up costs alone will amount to another £6·3 million. The extravagance of this new system will be huge.
Last year, the total cost to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office budget for entry clearance worldwide was £19 million. Of the £19 million, the amount allocated to dealing with visitors was £12 million. Therefore, for these five countries the Government, to deal with a problem of their own creation, are more than doubling the amount that they are spending on clearance for visitors to this country.
The work will seriously distort the work of the missions that are affected. Last December, when the Sub-Committee on Race Relations and Immigration of the Home Affairs Select Committee was considering the possibility of visas for visitors, an assistant under-secretary at the Foreign Office, Mr. N. J. Barrington, spoke against the introduction of visas for visitors and asked
whether it is worth setting up a system where you will be imposing a bureaucratic system on 90 per cent. of the people who do not need to have any pieces of paper or any trouble at the moment.
However, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have overruled the Foreign Secretary and gone ahead with this costly, unnecessary and discriminatory sytem. They have done it partly to meet the demands of the Immigration Service Union. They have also done it—this is to the particular discredit of the Home Secretary who likes to pose as a liberal-minded man — because they have deliberately decided to play the race card during the approaching general election. As the Conservative party becomes increasingly discredited on issue after issue —unemployment, health, social security, education and the record crime wave—it turns to its murky, perennial fall-back position and seeks to garner the racialist vote.
Despite the Home Secretary's bleatings about parity with India, these immigration rule changes are racially discriminatory. In a most revealing Freudian slip, a couple of weeks ago the Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Waddington), said that the new visa regime was not racialist because it did not include the West Indies. We do not prove our anti-racialist credentials by boasting that a measure that affects only black countries is not racialist because it does not affect even more black countries. We prove our fairness by showing that our action does not affect black countries alone. But the Home Secretary cannot do that. He cannot claim, either, consistency in reciprocity.
No. I am about to turn to the hon. Gentleman's right hon. and hon. Friends. The Home Secretary needs a visa to go to India. An Indian now needs a visa to come here. The Home Secretary also needs a visa to go to South Africa, but a white South African does not need a visa to come to this country.
This measure is specifically aimed at black people alone. Furthermore, its authors are seeking to imply that these measures are not simply against visitors but are designed to control primary immigration. They say that by our opposition on these Benches to the changes we are somehow, as they put it and as their lackey newspapers put it, wanting to open what they call the floodgates of immigration. The Financial Times put it best in a leading article. It said:
The Government's decision … needlessly confuses the subject of tourist entry with the quite separate subject of immigration.
It went on to say:
It adds overtones of racial discrimination.
Last week the Home Secretary made a racially prejudicial comment. He expressed surprise at the number of young men who all happened to choose the third week of October to come and see the Tower of London. Does the Home Secretary realise that one can be a bona fide tourist or visitor to Britain without going sightseeing in London? People from the Indian subcontinent have a tremendous feeling for family, of the kind that I thought the Government admired. They save fares from very low incomes. They are sent tickets by relatives here so that they can make family visits to see parents, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces. Why does the Home Secretary dismiss that commendable and warm-hearted feeling with his own aloof brand of patrician scorn?
In an even more loaded remark, the Home Secretary alleged that
the right hon. Gentleman"—
he was referring to me—
and his colleagues want to tear a hole in immigration control so wide as to make it meaningless." —[Official Report, 21 October 1986; Vol. 102, c. 951.]
What a squalid fabrication, deliberately designed to stir up nasty racialism.
Let me make it clear, as I have done several times in many debates in the House and in other forums, that a Labour Government will maintain firm immigration control which will be non-racialist and non-sexist. My hon. Friends and I are opposing racially discriminatory controls on would-be visitors to this country. Far from wishing to tear a hole in immigration control, we wish to make visitor control more effective by increasing the number of immigration officers here in Britain, at a fraction of the cost of the Government's new scheme. We also want to protect the constitutional rights of Members of Parliament to assist their constituents effectively.
Indeed, it is the Government who will make immigration control ineffective. The whereabouts of those who have been admitted, even on temporary admission, after hon. Members' stop procedures, are known to the authorities. Almost all of those people returned without quibble. If the Government are as suspicious of visitors from the Indian subcontinent as they claim, they ought to know that those who obtain a visitors' visa would, if they wished, be able to regard it as a licence to abscond. However, they will not do so because that is not what they want to do. Even according to the Home Secretary's loaded statistics, 99·95 per cent. of them do not do that. Those visitors want to pay visits there and then to return home, just like white tourists from whom the Home Secretary separates them in his own private apartheid policy.
Despite the Home Secretary's cynical resort to electoral racialism, I tell him here and now that we shall not be deflected from our beliefs. We shall go on fighting for the civil rights and the human rights of the people of all ethnic origins whom we are proud to represent.
I make no complaint about the comments of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), either about myself or my colleagues, because he had a rough time the other day and it is natural that he should try to recover from that as best he can. However, it is a pity that he should attack those who administer immigration control on our behalf. It does not matter what union they belong to. Indeed, they belong to different unions. They do a difficult job, and they do it well.
Today the right hon. Gentleman argued, without giving any proof—and the onus of proof is upon him—ghat immigration officers have changed their methods and standards of operation in the past few months, without any change in the immigration rules by which they are bound. It is unfortunate that he should make that charge without any substantiation.
The changes which we have made, and which the right hon. Gentleman has attacked, are, I believe, overwhelmingly supported in the country. The changes have been made, not because of pressure put on the Government by any union, but because of the pressure on Heathrow airport in particular. This pressure has been building up for some time. Any effective system of immigration control must screen visitors. The question is not whether it should be done—we are not introducing any new principle — but whether it should be done here or overseas.
Before answering the right hon. Gentleman's main argument, I should like to give the House the latest information. Contrary to many predictions, the new system is working smoothly. The airlines of all four countries are co-operating with it. Hardly any passengers requiring visas have arrived without them on direct flights. Of those who did arrive on 14 October, there are still some 80, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in detention, mostly Bangladeshis. All have been detained because a right hon. or hon. Member has intervened on their behalf—we are still honouring the system which we propose to change. Under its guidelines, right hon. and hon. Members have, as they all know, 12 working days from the date of their intervention to make representations. We are awaiting these. Much interviewing remains to be done of those given temporary admission after their arrival in the crowded days earlier in October. Since 16 October, 382 people have been removed to the four countries, either from Heathrow or Gatwick.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary tells me that the introduction of the regime overseas is so far working smoothly. All personal applicants are seen, most of them are issued with their visas the same day and many postal applications are processed on the day of receipt. A fair verdict on the scheme to date is "So far, so good".
If the hon. Lady puts those questions when the scheme has been in operation for a longer time, she will get the answers. All I am saying, and I know that the hon. Lady will be pleased to hear it, is that whether one is talking about Heathrow or about posts in the subcontinent, the evidence to date, which she has not contradicted, is that the new scheme is working smoothly—a great deal more smoothly than the old one.
Without going back over our exchanges last week, I should like to correct one point which is continually raised and which the right hon. Member for Gorton put at the centre of his arguments today. Although he was invited to do so, the right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question whether a future Labour Government would remove the visa scheme.
I am delighted to hear that, because it will confirm in many people's minds the thought that the Labour party is not serious in wishing to have effective immigration control. The right hon. Gentleman argued that the problem, on the scale that he described, could have been dealt with by employing more people at Heathrow and the ports. I believe that people who say that are either not putting the case genuinely or have not studied the problem.
The problem, as I tried to show last week, is one of surges—periods of relative calm and then large numbers coming in. It is nonsense to suppose that the latest surge was the only one. There was a surge in the spring of 1985, particularly of people from Sri Lanka. There was a surge in the summer of 1984, particularly of people from Bangladesh. In the early part of this year there was a sharp increase in refusals from the five countries now affected, and in the summer of 1986 there was a surge in the inflow, in particular, from West Africa.
Faced with that situation, however many immigration officers we were to employ, however many interpreters we were to recruit, however many new detention centres we were to build around Heathrow — however great the investment and recruitment—the old system was likely occasionally to be overwhelmed with great delays and inconvenience to all, not least bona fide visitors, their sponsors and relatives.
The right hon. Gentleman made great play with his percentages. He said that the mischief was statistically not noticeable. It was very noticeable at Heathrow, and not only to members of the ISU. The fact is that periodically the system came under intense strain so that the case gradually built up for saying that control should be practised overseas rather than at Heathrow to the great inconvenience, and worse, of large numbers of people.
An interesting point that has occurred to me during the past few days is that exactly the same problem confronted the Government in 1969 with regard to those coming in for settlement. I have looked at the statement made by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), who then held my position, and I was struck by the arguments and phrases that he used at that time in making entry clearance compulsory for settlement overseas. He used exactly the same arguments. For example, on 1 May he said:
We have decided that it would be more humane and lead to improved efficiency if those with claims … have their cases scrutinised and decided before they set out on their journey."—[Official Report, 1 May 1969; Vol. 782, c. 1631.]
Of course, that is settlement, but the point is the same. What we have been seeing since 1962 is a series of administrative adjustments designed to ensure that our traditional on-entry port controls can continue with all their advantages for most travellers, but be supported by effective pre-entry controls where merited—in 1969 on settlement cases, and in 1986 on visas.
That seems to us to be a much wiser approach than to let our on-entry controls crumble to the point where we shall be forced to the much more difficult and unattractive option of relying more heavily on after-entry controls.
I shall give way to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) because he has a standing and a particular interest in the matter. I do not intend to give way again.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary. Does he recognise the important distinction between permanent settlement and those coming for a visit? Rightly or wrongly in 1969, in the debate on the matter to which he referred, I supported the entry clearance system, but I was not to know that within a few years we would reach a position where people could wait literally years before applying and before their case was decided upon. That is why many of us fear that, as a result of the system that he is introducing, there will be much more delay than he is now telling us.
Of course there is a difference between visitors and would-be settlers. In each case there is a procedure, and in 1969 the Labour Government decided that the procedure in respect of settlement, precisely because of the pressures building up, should be conducted overseas, and we have taken an identical decision in respect of visitors.
The Opposition clearly want the control, in one way or another, to be relaxed and a higher proportion—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—of those claiming to be visitors to be admitted. The whole thrust of the argument that we have heard month after month from the Labour Benches has been precisely that. What is the complaint against the immigration officers unless it is argued that they should be letting in more people?
No, I shall not give way.
Let me illustrate the sort of trouble that existed under the old system. I have given the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) notice that I would mention this. The sort of trouble that could arise under the old system is well illustrated by the case of a group of 16 young Bangladeshi entertainers who arrived here in October 1985. They sought admission for two months to undertake a number of cultural engagements. The Immigration Service did not believe their story, but the right hon. Gentleman, who has always handled such matters with great responsibility in my experience, made strong representations. In the light of those I overturned a refusal of the immigration officers and let that group in for two months. Of the 16, only nine have gone back to Bangladesh, one has applied to stay on as a student and the other six have vanished without trace.
In all, we have information about 11 groups claiming to be Bangladeshi entertainers, involving 201 performers. Of the 138 who were granted leave to enter, 26 have embarked, nine applied for extensions and 103 have disappeared. Of the 42 allowed in under temporary admission, 36 have absconded. That is the measure of the problem under the old system, and that is the farce that we have brought to an end.
Let me respond to some of the practical points which the right hon. Member for Gorton put to me. Those that I do not reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will pick up.
Possession of a visa means that people can travel confident of obtaining admission. Under paragraph 13 of the immigration rules a visa holder—or a holder of any type of entry clearance — may be refused admission only in closely defined and limited circumstances—for example, if the visa was obtained by fraud, or if there had been some material change in the holder's circumstances after issue which effectively invalidated the basis of issue.
Under paragraph 14, immigration officers are told that examination of visa holders should not be carried further than is necessary for determining whether any of those kinds of exceptions apply. In addition—this is a crucial point—where a visa holder is nevertheless refused admission, he has, under section 13(3) of the Immigration Act 1971, a statutory right to remain in this country to exercise his right of appeal. No other passengers have that right, and it was deliberately intended to emphasise the special position of visa holders.
Therefore, anyone who is refused a visa overseas has the right of appeal overseas. Anyone who is given a visa, but is nevertheless refused entry in the circumstances that I have talked about, has the right of appeal here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I have just answered that question. It should be remembered that we have not insisted that people already legitimately here for reasonable periods need invariably obtain visas. There are exemptions for those settled here who return after less than two years away, and for those here for a limited but long-term purpose, such as work or study, who make a trip abroad.
This is the first time that there are such exemptions. There is no operational need to require visas in such cases and we hope that the exemptions will avoid unnecessary inconvenience. While people in these categories are exempt without any need for action on their part, we have introduced, as has been said, arrangements to endorse their passports confirming the exemption if they wish to travel and are concerned that airlines or other Governments may not appreciate the visa exemption. This is an attempt to be helpful. If the right hon. Member for Gorton thinks that we would be better off without that concession, we can consider that, but that is not what he is saying. If he has practical points about the effectiveness of the exemption stamps, let us look at them.
The right hon. Member for Gorton did not give way and he gave as his reason the perfectly valid point that a large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak. The same applies to me and I have given way, I think, three times more than the right hon. Gentleman.
As a result of those arrangements and the steps that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has taken from abroad, bona fide travellers should not suffer. Indeed, their admission should be made easier. Those who would be disadvantaged by the new visa requirements are those who are trying to take advantage of the form of our control by turning up at the ports hoping to slip through and establish a foothold.
The right hon. Member for Gorton asked about the guidelines for the handling of representations by hon. Members. The great majority of such representations have been made on behalf of passengers from the five countries who have sought admission as visitors but whom the immigration officer has judged—and that is the crucial word—do not meet the requirements of the rules. Under the present system, an hon. Member may ask for a passenger's removal to be delayed while a Minister considers the case. Such requests for delay have always been conceded.
An hon. Member has the right to make representations to any Minister. That cannot be diminished in any way. The power to stop removal is a different matter. This is a unique privilege, with no parallel in any other field. I am aware of no other instance where an hon. Member may, without any argument either on the facts or merits of the case, simply stay the execution of powers accorded by law.
Under the new system, it would not be right to stop removal automatically if a passenger had been refused entry because he had arrived without a visa or other form of entry clearance, which is a clear requirement under the rules. In that case, the immigration officer would no longer be making a judgment on whether a passenger was what he claimed to be, but would be applying an objective test as to whether the foreign national had a visa. It is fundamental to the scheme that the decision whether an individual qualifies for admission is made overseas. If a person arrives without having obtained a visa, he should return to his country of origin to make his case.
An automatic stop on removal could become a device to enable those who have not established that they are qualified for admission to remain in Britain. Airline staff and travel operators would consider themselves to be under no effective requirement to ensure that their passengers were properly documented. To retain an automatic stop on the removal of passengers would frustrate the visa system. That is not to say that there will be no exceptions. Passengers, airlines and hon. Members should not believe that passengers who are refused entry because they do not have a visa or entry clearance will normally be allowed to stay simply because an hon. Member is prepared to express an interest in the case, but there may be exceptional cases where a passenger could not reasonably obtain a visa before travelling, and compelling reasons why he should be admitted to Britain without one.
As I have said, an immigration officer can already exercise discretion and admit the passenger. If that does not happen, but there is clear and compelling evidence to justify the exercise of discretion, it is open to an hon. Member to argue that representations on the passenger's behalf should be considered before his removal. The right hon. Member for Gorton said that he wishes to discuss how that system might work in practice, and arrangements for that are in train.
I shall answer two of the specific matters that the right hon. Gentleman put to me. As I said last week, there is no change in the arrangements or obligations for asylum. Rule 24 of the immigration rules covers the case which the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) raised and which was echoed by the right hon. Gentleman. I refer to students who do not have a university place here but who are coming for interviews in the hope of obtaining a place. I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman reconsiders the rule, he will discover that that case is provided for.
I must emphasise that we shall be prepared to delay removal only in the most exceptional of cases where the hon. Member presents the relevant facts at the time any representations are made. The House will not expect me to lay down particular circumstances in advance. Posts abroad will have arrangements to deal with urgent applications and they should be capable of accommodating such cases. It follows that passengers who arrive here without the required entry clearance must normally expect to be removed without delay. Of course, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State and I must listen carefully to what hon. Members say on this subject—that is part of the debate's purpose — and we must adjust our practice in the light of experience, but we should not reinstate under the new procedure the system of stops which had some justification under the old system.
No, I shall not give way. The hon. Lady will have an opportunity to intervene later.
Opposition Members claim that they do not believe in unrestricted immigration. The right hon. Member for Gorton has a cheek to say that it is we who have played the race card. It was the Leader of the Opposition who, after a long period of relative quiescence on this front, went to India and made a thoroughly irresponsible statement. The right hon. Member for Gorton has been trying to sweep up after that statement ever since.
The extension of visa requirements, supported by the change in the guidelines for the handling of representations by hon. Members, is necessary to restore effective control. The changes will improve conditions for all passengers arriving at our ports and for all those in this country who come to greet them. There is increasing evidence that constituents realise that. The changes will help genuine visitors and hinder only those who would like to try their luck at establishing themselves in Britain when they have no claim to do so.
I was sorry that the right hon. Member for Gorton dragged in all this business about racism. He knows that it is nonsense. Let the right hon. Gentleman look at the list of countries from which people coming here are required to have visas, and the list of countries from which they are not. If the right hon. Gentleman can devise a racially-based principle on which those two lists are constructed, he is even more fanciful that I suppose him to be. The systems are not racist. They are constructed for operational reasons, and we have just had a strong example of why that is necessary. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the two lists he will discover that his accusations are unjustifiable. The changes will help genuine visitors and hinder only those who claim to be visitors but who in fact are here for another purpose.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that we should distinguish, and that we should encourage the press to distinguish, between visitors, the great majority of whom are bona fide, and those who wish to settle here. If the right hon. Gentleman supposes that that distinction holds without a rigorous examination of that minority who present themselves as visitors but who wish to stay, he is entirely mistaken. Our commitment to firm and fair immigration control is illustrated and strengthened by the steps that we have taken. We have shown that we are prepared to act in that way, and I ask the House to approve that.
The Home Secretary's speech must rank as extraordinary by any measure. One would have thought that at the very least he would have begun with an apology to those British citizens, including many of my constituents, who spent days on end in the most appalling conditions at Heathrow airport due entirely to the Government's action, and especially that of the Home Department.
A few words of apology would not have gone amiss, but the Secretary of State said nothing at all, except to suggest that it was all our own fault and that there was a surge completely out of the blue at Heathrow airport just prior to the imposition of the visa requirement. Anyone with any experience of the matter must have known that a surge would be created, entirely by the Minister's Department. Of course there was a surge. I certainly could gauge that I would receive many more telephone calls than normal from constituents expecting me to help them with their problems, and that expectation was realised. I received dozens of telephone calls during that period from constituents asking me not just to try to obtain a stop on removals of immigrants but to try to get through to the immigration department, whose telephone number seemed to be constantly engaged, to discover whether their relatives were at Heathrow airport, whether they had been removed to some other place, or whether they were in prison. Some of my constituents allege that their visitors were put into prison uniform and even handcuffed while they were detained until they were examined and questioned, perhaps for the first time, or perhaps on a subsequent occasion following representations by me.
It is difficult for me to express not only my anger about what has happened but the anger and dismay of my constituents. It has caused tremendous difficulties for the Oldham Committee for Racial Equality. Those who represent constituents of mine originating from the Indian subcontinent are adamant that the Home Secretary's action was racist. I try to be as open-minded as possible, and to act in the interest not of party politics but of my constituents.
The Home Secretary said that he thought that there was tremendous public support for his action on visas. But he later said that he wished that the press could distinguish better between those who come to Britain as visitors and those who come to Britain as immigrants, in that they want to live here. I agree that anyone who relies on the popular press for his information must find it very difficult to understand the position. I shall disregard The Sun, which is not even the gutter, but rather the sewer press, and which is, unfortunately, read by quite a few people who may believe what they read. But judging by the price, there are some newspapers that think that they are above the gutter press but whose journalists do not understand the situation or deliberately set out to confuse the public. I think, for example, of the Sunday Express.
Did my hon. Friend see the article in yesterday's edition of the Sunday Express? In it, the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) accuses Labour Members of operating a corrupt system because they may contact the immigration authorities if the sponsor's Member of Parliament refuses to do so. Is that not a grave charge to make against us, and is it not playing the race card to the full?
My hon. Friend has reinforced my point. I read that article, and was appalled by it, because the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) understands the situation. Consequently, the excuse that could be made for others who write for the Sunday Express, that they do not quite understand what they are talking about, cannot apply in his case.
When the hon. Gentleman read that article, did he not realise that it began by citing the assertion made in India by the Leader of the Opposition that a Labour Government would repeal the 1971 and 1981 Acts? Those are the twin pillars of entry control, yet he did not make any mention of what structure was to replace them. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what that structure is to be?
I apologise for allowing both of those interventions. I am trying to be brief, and I had not intended to refer to that article. However, it falls into the same category as the article that appeared on the front page of the Sunday Express on 19 October. It said:
As Britain began yesterday to send back some of the thousands of immigrants"—
immigrants, not visitors—
who tried to beat new tougher visa regulations the frightening costs of absorbing the new wave began to emerge.
But it cannot be that difficult to absorb visitors. Not long ago the Prime Minister went on television to beg the Americans to return here after they had been frightened off because we had allowed America to use this country as a base for an attack against Libya. Millions of American visitors are to be made welcome, but there is some problem about "absorbing" visitors from the Indian subcontinent.
The article continued:
Many of the Asians arriving here are homeless,
What does that mean? How can they possibly have homes if they are visitors? The article goes on:
and tend to head for the areas where they have friends or relatives".
Of course those people go to their relatives or friends. They go to areas such as Oldham where their sponsors live. That is where they are to live and be supported. Those guarantees have to be given before they are allowed into the country as visitors.
I can only imagine that Mr. Eric Flounders, leader of the Liberal-controlled council in Tower Hamlets, was misled by a Mr. Andrew Alderson's questioning, because according to the latter's disgraceful article, Mr. Flounders said:
We are simply not able to deal with a problem of this size. No local authority could.
But no local authority is required to deal with any such problem. The article continues:
Council leaders up and down the country have expressed concern at how people go to already overcrowded areas to stay with 'relatives' "—
the author has used quotation marks as though those people were not really relatives, when we all know that they are—
and in months go on to the housing list.
That was a disgraceful and misleading article. If that article and the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) form the basis of people's ideas, it is no wonder that the Home Secretary should find it difficult to believe that people understand the problem. People are being misled. They should understand that most of those arriving at Heathrow do riot want to settle here but are still held up. If we could get that point across to the public fairly and squarely, it would remove many of the problems that led the Home Secretary to introduce this measure.
The Minister's office staff are exceptionally kind in the way that they deal with hon. Members, and I thank them for that. They have great patience, even though they have been placed in some difficulty by the Government. But hon. Members should not have to take up such cases. Perhaps the Secretary of State thinks that he can fool us into believing that everything will go well now that visas have been introduced. But the fact that the great bulk of those arriving here will have visas means nothing. It will show only that those trickling through have visas. Yet I believe that great difficulties will arise. For example, Bangladesh will not have the resources to enable it to deal expeditiously with visa applications.
The problem the Home Secretary perceives is largely of his own making, particularly in the past few weeks. If the work is shifted to Bangladesh or India without any adequate resources to enable them to deal with it, there will be problems at the other end. Many people come to visit relatives here, and have a different idea of what a holiday means. For example, it would be unusual for an hon. Member to visit relatives in the United States for six months, but it would not be unusual for someone from the Indian subcontinent to want to visit his relatives for that long. Yet people are often stopped and prevented from coming in as visitors because they may wish to stay in Britain for three, four, five or six months. They are asked how long they want to stay here, but they may not have discussed that in precise terms with their relatives.
In Oldham there is one family with 300 relatives. No one should be surprised at that because people come to Britain and go to areas in which relatives have established themselves and for that reason families grow in size. When somebody comes to visit his relatives he needs some time to see them all, but he may not know exactly how long he needs. If he says that he wants to come for three months and someone else says six months, that is sufficient for the immigration officer to say that there is a conflict, a discrepancy, and that that person will not be allowed in. It may sound extraordinary, but I have heard of discrepancies of even less than that that have prevented people from being admitted to Britain as visitors and they have been sent back.
It may seem to be a good thing to have an examination of people who want to come to Britain carried out in their own country before they embark on the expense of air tickets. But they may have to travel long distances to have the interview and to get a visa. They may have difficulties in their own country just as they have difficulties at Heathrow airport. They may have no one to help them, no relative with a knowledge of Britain or, perhaps, a knowledge of the language to assist them in getting into Britain. They can have the help of such a person when the examination is carried out here.
I share the anxiety and distrust of some of my constituents who have hopes of relatives visiting them in future. I discussed this matter with such people before I came to a decision about my own attitude. By a large majority, all those with whom I discussed it are fearful and feel that their relatives, difficult though it is now, will have even greater difficulty in coming here in future. I cherish my right to assist my constituents with all their problems, problems like housing and taxation, and I certainly do not want to lose my right to assist them in bringing their relatives to visit them. I intend to vote against this legislation.
I am sure that the House will agree with the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) in his tribute to the office of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State for the patience, skill and fairness with which the personnel there tackle the enormous quantity of casework. It was the same in my time and I believe it is the same today. I have never heard any hon. Member deny that.
I listened carefully to the speech by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). One point in his generally unconvincing speech carried no conviction whatever and that was when he accused my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary of trying to play the race card. At no point in this Government's tenure of office have they tried to play the race card, as the right hon. Gentleman put it. I am proud that that should be so and that there is no evidence in this current controversy to imply that on the part of my right hon. Friend. He is simply not in that kind of business.
I know from experience the difficult problem that we have to face in operating an immigration control policy which is effective and fair. It is a remarkably difficult task and it is extremely important that we should get the policy right. We will not get very far in discussing the problem unless we are prepared to face some of the facts. One inescapable fact is that there is pressure from certain countries for continued immigration into Britain. I do not want to embark in great detail on an analysis of how I see this pressure being applied, but from countries like Bangladesh, where the pressure is heavy at the moment, 10 or 15 years or perhaps longer ago there was for the most part a perfectly legitimate influx of primary male immigrants. We are now at the secondary stage and the original migrants are settled and prosperous and want to bring in their families and their relations. Under the law they are entitled to do that to a considerable extent, but there are limits.
As the right hon. Member for Gorton said, we are today seeing a tremendous family feeling. There is perhaps a natural desire on the part of those who have arrived here and have made it good to bring in their relations. Immigration control prevents that. It is that pressure that is causing the problems faced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It does no good to try to duck that and hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent constituencies with substantial numbers of people from the subcontinent or whose origins are in the subcontinent know that this is the case.
How do we deal with the problem in a fair and effective way? The problem facing us in recent years is that if somebody wants to get into Britain without an entitlement to do so the best way is through a visit. As some hon. Members will remember, there was a time when we had landings at the dead of night on Dover beach or on airstrips in fields in Kent. Those things are a matter of history, and for a number of years people have recognsied that the best way of getting into Britain without authority is to come in as a visitor and then disappear. Of course, such people form only a small minority and nobody would argue otherwise, but we all know there is great difficulty in quantifying the extent to which that illegal entry is taking place. From my experience I know that this was happening a few years ago and all the signs are that it is tending to intensify. That is coupled with the phenomenon to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke —occasional surges in applications for visitors.
As the House knows, there are three ways in which we can approach the problem. One way is to have control or to have a tight examination in the country of origin. The second way is to have a rigorous appraisal of immigrants and visitors at the port of arrival. The third way is to go down the path of much more intensive internal control. I have always believed that the third of these methods is the least attractive. If we intensify internal control, we land ourselves with problems of race relations that we all wish to avoid. Of course it would be ridiculous not to have some form of internal control, but by and large it is better to have firm and effective control either at the port of entry or in the country of origin. That is the path that my right hon. Friend has gone down.
My right hon. Friend's decision to introduce a system of visas for certain countries is not in any sense discrimination. It is simply a pragmatic response to a problem which must be faced. We know that the system in operation has become grossly overburdened. In my time as Minister of State at the Home Office I received a great deal of sympathy for the enormous case load that I had to undertake. But the volume of that has increased almost beyond belief. In 1980 something like 1,000 visitor cases landed on my desk. I understand that last year some 4,500 landed on the desk of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State. I am told that the rate this year is substantially higher than that. Nobody can argue that such a quantity of cases coming to the Minister for decision is a logical and rational way of tackling this problem.
The right hon. Gentleman is right that the number of cases coming to Ministers and Members of Parliament is heavy and has been increasing and causing a great deal of work for everyone. Given that only a minute proportion of those admitted on temporary admission and refused a normal visit do not return, is it not the case that too many people are being refused a normal visit? Should not the Minister give the appropriate instruction to immigration officers at Heathrow to allow a higher proportion of people in as normal visitors?
It may be a wilful refusal to understand. When people are admitted on temporary admission they are, in a sense, under scrutiny. They must go to a stated destination, the time of their arrival must be carefully agreed and recorded and so on. It is well understood in the ethnic minority communities that people on temporary admission who do not return will cause a great deal of trouble on all sides. It is not surprising that the proportion of those on temporary admission who abscond is low. The problem of visitors settling in this country is most likely to arise from those who have full permission to visit, not from those on temporary admission.
Some people say that the system looks illogical, but that it may work in practice. From time to time it has been argued that temporary admission given on an extensive scale means that visitors may spend three or four weeks here.
Often visitors may spend a substantial period before returning to their countries, having seen their families. It is argued that, although the system is out of line with the law, it is not too bad pragmatically. That is not an acceptable view and that is not the right way to approach the problem. First, it is out of line with what the law envisages and, secondly, it imposes a tremendous strain on Ministers. Ministers are expected to work hard and the present Minister is as hard working as anybody else. But only cases of long-term, substantial importance should be referred to them.
Some immigration cases will shape the pattern of a person's life. They may concern whether an illegal entrant who has lived here for 10 years should be returned or whether relationships are false or genuine, or they may concern adoption. In those cases the Minister is faced with questions about the shape of a person's life: will that person live here or elsewhere? In such cases it is entirely proper to involve the Minister. It makes nonsense of the system automatically to refer to the Minister cases involving a short-term visit. It is equivalent to someone who loses a case in a magistrate's court asking the Home Secretary to up-end it.
When will the right hon. Gentleman get the matter straight? We are talking not about people who wish to enter the country for permanent settlement, but about visitors. When will Ministers start to correct the terrible allegation in all newspapers that these visitors are coming to settle? The right hon. Gentleman has had ministerial experience. When people are refused entry and given temporary admission they are given a cross in their passport which blights them while the passport is in circulation and when they travel to other countries, so even people on temporary admission have a stigma attached to them.
I am talking about visitors. The position of the visitor who wants to come for a short time is different from the case of a person whose pattern of life is in question. It is absurd that the Minister should have to cope with the enormous number of cases which are not of crucial importance. If everyone is let in as a visitor, we shall be faced with the pressure of migration.
There is a way to approach the problem other than through the visa which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has chosen. I have often wondered whether it would be possible to have an effective system of appeal for visitors which does not entail them returning to their country. A useful point which has been established in this debate, of which the right hon. Member for Gorton was wholly unaware, is that if one comes to the United Kingdom with a visa and is refused entry one has the right of appeal here. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not know that that right already exists. The question is whether visitors should have a right of appeal in the United Kingdom.
If a right of appeal meant that people took root here, lawyers had long wrangles, months passed and queues lengthened, that would be nonsensical. But it may be possible to have an overnight appeal system which could deal with cases the following day at Heathrow or wherever. I think that that possibility was envisaged some years ago and it is certainly worth thinking about. However, we must be realistic and admit that the practical difficulties of that could be great. There would be the pressure of numbers, the difficulty of hearing the appeal as quickly as possible and the temptation to spin the case out. Nevertheless, it is worth considering the appeal system over time.
When I was at the Home Office I put forward a consultation paper with many ideas, including the right of appeal for long-term illegals. Unfortunately, the reaction of bodies such as the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants was so hostile and unreasonable that we did not manage to make much progress and we have been left with the system as it is. It is worth considering whether the appeal system is as it should be.
The fact remains that my right hon. Friend must deal with the present position. I have no doubt that, by proposing visas for some countries where the pressure is intense and there are serious difficulties, he is acting from good sense rather than from any sort of racialist motive. We are already seeing signs that this will be a workable proposition and that it will be possible to handle the applications with the necessary speed. Clearly, if people must wait a long time in Islamabad, Karachi or Dhaka that will be a serious weakness in it, but providing the post can tackle the applications fairly and quickly, the measure will not impose great hardship. Moreover, the nonsenses that have been growing will be curtailed.
Let us not kid ourselves that the hon. Member's right to obtain temporary admission is part of the British constitution. We have an immigration law which covers rights of appeal, but what has appeared is a gloss On the law. To put one's hand on one's heart and to pretend that my right hon. Friend is aborting some sacred constitutional privilege is complete nonsense.
The right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) said that Ministers should deal only with matters of substance, but whether matters are substantial depends on whether one is the judge or the appellant. The matters that we are discussing are substantial to all the appellants because they may be sent back to their country of origin without anyone reconsidering the refusal to allow them entry.
When the Home Secretary faced questions in the House last week I said that many of us viewed the imposition of visa requirements in this instance with considerable concern and suspicion. Frankly, I think that it is just another Government cock-up. It is 14 years to the day since I was elected as a Member of Parliament and in those years I have seen many examples of cock-ups from both Labour and Conservative Governments. This is just another monumental one.
The essential point about immigration and race relations laws is that they must be fair. To be fair, they must be applied equally to everyone, irrespective of race, colour or creed. If the Home Secretary had said, for example, that in future the nationals of any country that required visas for British entrants would require visas for our country, that would at least have been fair. If the Government had applied their visa requirements to various countries where more than one colour of skin was involved, that would at least have had an appearance of fairness.
However much the Home Secretary wriggles and says that if we go through all the lists we will find that they balance, the fact is that we are discussing an extension of the existing requirements. That extension applies only to people with black skin. That has inevitably laid the Home Secretary and the Home Office open to charges of racialism, and that is exactly what it is—racialism, pure and simple. It is a veiled attempt to prevent coloured people from coming here, and the Home Secretary should not have been surprised at the Heathrow influx some days ago. I do not accept that that influx demonstrated a desire to cheat. It demonstrated a real fear about the change in the system and fear about how people would be affected. The result was that they got here as fast as they could in an attempt to get in before the system was implemented.
Like other hon. Members, I have applied for many people to be granted temporary admission and I know of only two in five years who have failed to return to their country of origin. However, I have many—I emphasise "many" — letters in my files from the Home Office advising me that people had returned from temporary admission before being required to do so.
The Home Secretary must not wrongly state, as he did at Question Time last week, that hon. Members have had the power to change an executive decision. That is just not true. They have had the power only to ask for a deferment of the implementation of a decision until the case was reconsidered.
The Home Secretary said that in a case raised by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) he had overruled the decision of an immigration officer. I advised the right hon. Gentleman to frame the Home Secretary's decision in that case, because in my 14 years as an hon. Member I have never once had the decision of an immigration officer to refuse entry overturned, overruled or altered by a Home Secretary or his Minister of State.
Nevertheless, what is done is done and we now have to press for answers and for safeguards. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has pressed for some of those and I press for them again. What will happen in an emergency such as, for example, a death and an urgent Moslem funeral? Is there to be a night and a weekend emergency service in our embassies? It is all right saying that people must wait until morning, but every hon. Member knows that if a close relative died we would not go to bed and sleep until 9 o'clock the following morning. We would be phoning the undertaker, informing relatives and so on. We must have an emergency service for people abroad who find themselves in those circumstances.
What guarantee do we have that there will be sufficient staff to cope as waiting lists grow? The Home Secretary said that the system was working smoothly. Surprise, surprise! After only 10 or 14 days, of course it is working well. All those who would have come during the past 14 days came before the system was introduced. However, it will be interesting to see the situation in three months' time and note whether grossly inhuman waiting lists for visas have become common, as has happened with those applying for permanent settlement.
It may be pertinent to the point that the hon. Gentleman is making if I tell him that at my advice bureau on Friday evening I had visits from two constituents whose relatives — making applications to come here not as visitors, but for settlement —have had notice that the date of their interviews has been deferred for a full year. It seems that the point that the hon. Gentleman is making about the impact on the rest of the system is valid.
That raises an interesting question. We must ask whether the effort to deal with visa requirements will have an adverse effect on applications for permanent settlement. The cases that the hon. Member quotes seem to suggest that that is the case.
How quickly will appeals be dealt with? We are talking about visitors coming to this country, not about those coming for permanent settlement. If someone wants to come here, he does not want to have to wait 12 or 18 months for a visa. His holiday or his need is this year and it is ridiculous to suggest that he should wait for months and months. Whatever the Minister may say about speeding up cases, he has said that inquiries will have to be made over here and we all know from our constituency experience what that can mean.
The public imagine that all that people abroad have to do is to come here and they will get in. I must tell our public that that is not the experience of hon. Members. People coming here for permanent settlement, particularly those from the Indian subcontinent, have to jump through an enormous number of hoops. I am sure that all hon. Members know of people who have had to wait for two or three years to have their cases finalised. It can be 15 months before they get their first interview. After that, they must have another interview, the papers are sent to the Home Office, which loses them for six months, someone chases up the case, and so it goes on. I have in my files many cases of people who have had to wait two or two and a half years for final decisions on cases. Many of us are very worried that the extension of visa requirements could result in similar problems. We need answers and clarification to all these questions.
I do not challenge the need for immigration control. I have always thought that such controls should be fair and related to an ability to integrate. They should certainly be non-racial. Bad immigration law is a barrier to good race relations. Things such as queuing systems, primary purpose rules and rules governing the admission of elderly relatives are obstacles to good race relations.
I want those relationships to be improved. I doubt whether many of those employed in the race relations industry help to improve them. My experience is that they often do more harm than good by inflaming and arousing passions that would otherwise lie dormant. Indeed, that sometimes applies to the Commission for Racial Equality itself. It seems to practise racialism in as much as it displays a bias in what it will and will not investigate. In my view, the basis of good race relations should be fairness to all. I reject discrimination and bias because it is unfair.
I do not believe that one can legislate to stop discrimination. However, one can legislate to implement discrimination, as the visa requirements prove. One can and should legislate against racial injustice, but in the end positive action rather than positive discrimination is required. We need action to recruit more coloured police men and police women; action to ensure more adequate housing and fairness in its allocation; action to create more jobs for all in our society; action to ensure that our social services and health services are adequately funded to ensure discrimination does not take place.
I hesitate to say this, but the Labour party's record on racialism is not lily white or pure. The Labour Government introduced the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 which was blatantly racialist and which deprived citizens of the United Kingdom and the colonies who were not born in the United Kingdom of the automatic right to come to Britain. The Tory Immigration Act 1971, about which we now hear so much from the Labour Benches, was not touched between 1974 and 1979 when we had a Labour Government. Labour's record is not perfect.
I was a Member of Parliament between 1974 and 1979 and I had just as much trouble, if not more, with Labour Ministers about temporary admissions than I have with Tory Ministers. Let us not have too much humbug about racialism because it seems that one tale is told when in Opposition and a different story when in Government.
I hope that we shall have answers to my questions. I hope that we shall hear why more immigration officers could not have been employed at ports of entry rather than at points of embarkation. I also hope that the Minister will assure us that fairness will be the criterion and not limitation of numbers. We are not talking about visas for people coming here permanently but about people who want to visit their relatives —sons, daughters, parents, grandparents and perhaps friends. Principally we are talking about relatives.
I hope that the Minister will not seek to camouflage the issue by suggesting that we are dealing with anything other than visitors. I hope that he will remember that we are speaking of human beings and human souls.
I repeat that the new requirement is racialist. It is unnecessary. It is unfair because it is directed against one colour of person only. That is why my colleagues and I will vote against the rules. Fairness and respect for individual liberty and a respect for the dignity of men and women requires us to do so and that is what we shall do.
I listened to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) with interest. I have been in the House as long as anyone and I have had long experience of coloured people who come to the United Kingdom. I was a little disconcerted when I found that several countries were selected for particular attention. I should have preferred a visa system for all countries. That would be comparable with the United States system. That system is simple, operates effectively and does not require an enormous staff. If hon. Members wish to go to Australia, they will find a simple system which allows them to be checked in and out very quickly.
In my experience, when a person comes to the United Kingdom he wants to see his relatives in Coventry, Birmingham or elsewhere. But sometimes a visitor suddenly becomes ill and has medical reasons for staying on for a while. To my credit I have gone against the wishes of the Home Office. A man was put on a dialysis machine and it was essential that he remain here for treatment. That is an example of the problems that are generated. I agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale that we are dealing with human beings, who must be treated accordingly.
If we are to change the system drastically, we must be cautious and ensure we have the correct reasons for doing so. In 1985, of the 8,500 passengers who were given temporary admission after they had been refused entry from the countries concerned, 97·4 per cent. left the United Kingdom at the end of their time, so only a fraction of them went to ground. I am rather impressed by that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), who has considerable experience in these matters, can confirm that absconders or those who stay beyond their time are few.
I always insist that I have an opportunity to cross-examine those people. I find that if they or one of the elders of the temple give me a pledge, there is no difficulty in returning them to their countries. The whole arrangement has been somersaulted and put on a basis whereby certain countries have to comply by a certain date, with other countries to be included shortly. Can the Minister tell me whether the system is to be extended still further? Will there eventually be world coverage? Can he estimate the cost involved if it was extended and the number of people likely to be involved in the arrangements?
I was impressed by an earlier suggestion that we could improve on the appeals system. That is probably an intermediate way to deal with the position. However, with the current arrangements, if a person goes to New Delhi and applies for admission, it is a question of the presentation of his case. No Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom can help him with that. He cannot come to the United Kingdom because immediately he arrived here without a visa he would be turned back. Nothing would enable him to remain here. In all the years that I have been handling these cases, I have found that these people do return home and do not stay in this country. I am not impressed by the number who actually go to ground. If we had a system such as that in the USA or Australia, we could simplify matters drastically and find the answers that we need.
I do not wish to speak for too long, but I want to pay tribute to the Minister of State for the way that he has handled cases over the years. I am glad that he has not been elevated from his post — or perhaps I should be sorry, because he has done a remarkably good job. It is important that we have in post a man of understanding, and the Minister, like his predecessor, adopts the right approach.
I know that it is liable to be said against all political parties, "They passed this or that Act". However, we must remember that we are dealing with human beings. They are coming to this country for a holiday and are entitled to see their friends and relatives. They are also entitled to see a little of Britain. There must be fairly weighty reasons that the security services can provide if any of them should not be admitted. I find myself in great difficulty tonight and must decide precisely what I must do.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) on his important contribution to the debate, and also on having the courage to say what I hope many Conservative Members feel. Those of us who care about people know that this debate is about the treatment of our citizens and of their families and friends. Our complaint throughout has been that the treatment at Heathrow has been a disgrace to this country. The answer provided by the Government is to take the treatment away from Heathrow altogether and to shift it back to India and other countries. They have created a problem to impose a solution.
As the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North has said, there was no problem, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out in his most powerful speech, absconders are very rare. I respectfully suggest that they will not be less rare because the checking is done by post in Bombay instead of at Heathrow by looking at the application. I would be astonished if there were not more absconders rather than fewer.
The real problem is the treatment of our citizens and their families and friends at Heathrow, and it will not be solved by this system because what is happening is simply a transfer of the problem elsewhere. We are not discussing immigration, on which we have differing views, but the treatment of visitors. That treatment will become miserably worse as time goes on.
There are not enough interpreters or visa officers, so the Government have decided to have more officers sent out to India. The Government are meant to be concerned with costs to the taxpayer. I had two answers at the end of last week and I suspect that the Ministers concerned could not have known what the other was producing. I asked the Home Secretary
what he estimates to be the cost of the training and placement of visa or immigration officers at Heathrow airport; and what is the minimum, the average and the maximum cost of the employment of a visa or immigration officer at Heathrow airport.
In other words, what would it have cost to put in extra people at Heathrow? The answer was:
The information readily available is as follows. On first appointment, immigration officers undergo 10 weeks training comprising a six weeks course followed by four weeks desk training. Throughout this period they receive the basic salary in the range of £5,605 to £10,188, plus allowances. The average cost per place of non-residential courses at the Immigration Service training unit at Harmondsworth is in the order of £200 a week. Interviewing passengers from a number of countries, including in particular the Indian subcontinent, also requires the services of interpreters.
In other words, on average, about £10,000 is required to put somebody in at Heathrow.
The Government of business replied to the other question, this time to the Foreign Secretary. I asked
what he estimates will be the maximum and the average cost of sending a visa or immigration officer to India as a result of the Government's new visa requirements; how many such officers he expects to send; and what will be the total cost of training and sending such officers to India.
The reply was:
The maximum cost of posting an entry clearance officer to India is £126,000 per year based on 1986–87 prices. (This relates to Bombay, where costs are highest.) The average cost is £121,800.
I thought that a nought had been added on by mistake. We are all perfectly capable of doing that, particularly the business Government dealing with public funds in this sector. He goes on:
Twelve additional entry clearance officers are being sent to India at a total costs of £1·46 million at 1986–87 prices. Initially there will be no additional training costs because experienced immigration officers are beng sent to posts."—[Official Report, 22 October 1986, Vol. 102, c. 913.]
In other words, instead of £10,000 a head to do the job better at Heathrow, where one can see the people and the passports, it will cost an average of £121,000—at least 10 times as much—to do the job worse on the other side of the world. Why? It has nothing to do with efficiency. It has nothing to do with the taxpayers' pocket and neither has it anything to do with solving the problem of overcrowding at Heathrow. It is the Government's solution, determined as they are to impose it at whatever cost to the British taxpayer. British taxpayers do not know about this and I hope that after this debate they will say that the Government have cheated British citizens who want their family and friends to visit them and have cheated taxpayers generally by imposing a solution at 10 times the cost that would have been incurred had they done the job properly. The result is that the job will be done in a worse way, and I suggest that it is a disgraceful way of creating a problem to find a solution—to impose a solution — which is harmful, unkind, inconsiderate, inefficient and extremely expensive.
How is the pressure to be removed from the officers at Heathrow? Any sensible, decent Government who care about people would say, "We shall have more visa officers and interpreters at Heathrow." They might even say, "Let us remove the pressure from the Minister, poor fellow, and especially from his staff." I pay tribute to the staff, to the civil servants who do their best within the limits of the discretion which is not allowed to them to help in individual cases where they are able to do so. I have found that they act with persistent courtesy and patience in most instances.
I inquired how the job would be done where ordinary people were involved. In Leicester we are proud of our multiracial city. Life has not been easy and problems have been created, but on the whole people are living together well and are treated as people, irrespective of their colour or origin. In Leicester most of those who were immigrants and who are now citizens do not like being regarded as immigrants. They feel that they are citizens in the same way as the rest of us. Most come from the state of Gujarat. When they want their families to come, the families will have to apply for visas in Gujarat. How will that be done? I made inquiries about that and was told that the maximum distance that someone in Gujarat would have to travel to apply for a visa in Bombay would be about 875 km. I was told, however, that many of the applications will be dealt with by post.
Most of us want to treat people equally irrespective of whether they are wealthy or poor. Most of the families and friends of my constituents are not very well off and it is too costly for them to travel by air. If they take a train, it will take two or three days to travel to Bombay. There they will have to wait and hope for the best. They will then travel back to Gujarat and have still to return again to Bombay. That will have to be done to obtain a visa, and the system becomes an impossibility.
I said, I hope reasonably, "If you insist on having this rotten system, what about opening a consulate in Ahmedabad, a place where you will be servicing hundreds of thousands of British citizens and their families and friends who will come to you on lawful business?" The answer was one word, no, or nyet, which is the Russian approach to immigration, emigration, visitors and visas. That should not be permitted in Britain, because we should apply the same standards that we expect of others and other countries when we deal with other people in our country, when we have citizens who want their families and friends to come here.
Finally, we have the removal of the right of a Member of Parliament to make interventions on behalf of his constituents. My job and that of my father before me is and was to look after all the citizens of Leicester, West, irrespective of their background, colour or origin, irrespective of whether they live on council estates or in private houses and irrespective of whether they were born in Leicester, Glasgow or overseas. The job of every decent Member is to look after his constituents. In this great and marvellous democracy we have access to Ministers in a way that my grandparents, who came from what is now a part of the Soviet Union, never dreamed would be possible in a country. That access is to be gained through personal approaches and questions and debates in the House. But, above all, access is to be found in the right to approach a Minister on any subject on behalf of any constituent who believes that he or she is downtrodden. That is our right as Members and it is being taken away. That is the ultimate disgrace of this evil new system.
This issue is of very special interest and importance to my constituency, which immediately adjoins Heathrow airport. The interviewing of passengers at this major port of entry is a matter which has for many years involved me personally when, like other hon. Members, I am frequently asked to make representations to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State on behalf of visitors who are refused entry. Therefore, I am able to consider the proposed changes in the light of considerable personal experience of the way in which the system works.
I can speak, as can many hon. Members, from personal observation of the way in which representations by hon. Members have been dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend and his predecessors. Representations have grown over the years from a mere trickle to a substantial number. This is borne out by the increase from 1,000 representations a year in 1981 and 1982 to 9,000 this year. I join other hon. Members in paying tribute to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister and his staff for the way in which they have handled those representations.
Not long ago, the House had an opportunity to debate the extent of representations. Hon. Members have been asked to observe certain protocols in the way in which they make those representations. Because of that debate, the existing system has become widely known throughout the countries from which most of those visitors come.
I know from personal experience that some—not all— visitors who are refused entry approach, via a relative, one or more Members and ask them to intervene on their behalf. As we know, this results in a stop on deportation. Frequently, the persons concerned remain in the United Kingdom for three or more months until my hon. and learned Friend the Minister and his officers have considered the representations and eventually made the necessary decision. I tell the hon. Member for Rochclale (Mr. Smith) that, in my experience, as a result of those representations, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State has changed the view expressed by immigration officers. That has happened on a number of occasions. I heard of one such case only today.
Once an intending visitor knows that the system exists —many now do as a result of the debate some months ago—it is simple for those who wish to do so to second-guess the immigration officer's decision by means of representations by a Member of Parliament. The result is that many stay for three or four months, despite the refusal of entry. Many are subsequently removed because, after consideration, their explanation for coming to the United Kingdom is not accepted. In 1981, 13,000 people were removed. In the 12 months to June 1986, the number jumped to 22,000. That is substantial. It presents a clear idea of the burden resting on the Home Office in dealing with this difficult matter involving people who travel long distances to come to our country.
We also know that during that period—the past year for which figures are available — some 430 visitors absconded. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said that that is not a large number, given the number of people who come to this country from all over the world. However, it is sufficient to worry many people in this country who feel that it is not acceptable that over 400 people have disappeared into the community over the past year. They are illegal immigrants and most of them would not be here were it not for the ability to stay which is secured following representations by a relative to one or more Members of Parliament.
Some visitors who have sought the intervention of an hon. Member have been admitted as a result. Clearly, therefore, there is a need for a system of appeal against refusals. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is providing for that where a visa is refused under the proposed new arrangements. That appeal is to be considered in the country of origin. It will avoid the unnecessary expense of air travel by intending visitors who do not have a proper reason for visiting this country. It will also ensure for the relatives and friends of visitors, the people we represent, that a proposed visit can be properly planned and that entry will be swift, courteous and without the risk of delay or, at worst, detention. It will mean that a visitor from, for example, India will be able to come to Britain for a family wedding without all of the problems that have arisen in the past when for some reason they have been refused entry.
The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) raised what I thought was a valid point; that is the method by which an individual living in the Indian subcontinent applies for a visa. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Minister replies he will give an indication of the practical arrangements for making that application, that he will make it clear that it can be made by post and that long journeys from one part of the Indian subcontinent to another are not necessary. I hope that he will be able to tell the House that there will be an efficient and swift method of dealing with applications through the post.
I am sure that any fair-minded hon. Member will agree that there has been some abuse of the system of approaching an hon. Member in order to secure a stop on deportation. We all know that that is the case. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates) referred to a case last week during his remarks on the statement where he had decided, after careful thought, not to intervene on behalf of an intending visitor to this country. Within a comparatively short space of time after that decision the case had been raised with my hon. Friend the Minister by the office of the Leader of the Opposition. Doubtless it had been raised by another relative who lives in the Leader of the Opposition's constituency. The fact is that there is a certain amount of playing the system which amounts to abuse.
I shall not give way because other hon. Members wish to speak and the hon. Gentleman has had a good go already.
Hon. Members will still be able to make representations about particular cases, although they will not be able to place an automatic stop on deportation.
I was interested in the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) about the possibility of some form of overnight appeal system to deal with those who are refused visas when they come to this country. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister may be able to comment on that when he replies. It has been said by the right hon. Member for Gorton, and even by the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Gandhi, that the introduction of visas is a racist measure because it applies to black people from the Indian subcontinent and Africa. I have to reject that view. Why is it racist for Britain to demand an entry visa from, for example, an Indian citizen when India demands one from every British citizen? [Interruption.]
If hon. Gentlemen will be patient I shall develop my argument. I will not give way to the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) because he has had his say.
The same question applies to Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. All of those are Commonwealth countries. However, if we are talking about countries which have black citizens, and Opposition Members have made a lot of noise about black citizens tonight, I suggest that Opposition Members consider the many countries on the list of countries which require visas from British citizens. Opposition Members would then find plenty of countries having black citizens in that list which demand visas from us. I have a copy of the list and any hon. Member can read the question which I tabled to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary this week. That will prove that many countries with black citizens demand visas from British citizens.
In response to the sedentary intervention from the right hon. Member for Gorton, we demand visas from visitors from more than 50 countries seeking entry to the United Kingdom. If the right hon. Gentleman is not familiar with those countries—as I am sure that he must be—I suggest that he studies the list.
Australia is one of the countries demanding visas from British citizens. When I visited Australia I had to obtain my entry visa from the Australian High Commission in London. When I arrived I went through immigration control without undue delay. My name was entered on the master computer and when I left Australia from a completely different point from my port of entry, my name was taken off the computer. I do not believe that there is anything racist about the people from Australia, India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria or Sierra Leone demanding a visa from me to enter their countries. Nor do I consider that the United States is racialist in demanding a visa.
Each country is fully entitled to exercise control, by means of an entry visa, over who enters their territory. As I have said, Britain demands entry visas from more than 50 countries many of which have black citizens. The charge of racism is nonsense and humbug. It should be dismissed by the House.
That charge could only be made in such a cynical manner by the right hon. Member for Gorton in a speech which I thought reached an all-time low. The only conclusion that I can draw from his remarks is that he is cynically trying, by his opposition to visas, to secure the votes of British citizens of Indian and African origin. If that is what the right hon. Gentleman is trying to achieve, he will not succeed. Our fellow citizens want a proper system of entry which is fair and smooth running. I believe that the new system will achieve that. It will ensure the ability to visit the United Kingdom without the difficulties with which we have become so familiar.
With more than 37 million passengers having to be seen by immigration officers in 1985 and with the pressure most keenly felt at Heathrow, it is clearly necessary to take sensible action to ensure that people are not subject to delays of two and a half hours or more. Every time that I come through Heathrow airport from abroad, I sympathise with those people from all over the world who have to wait for an unduly long time. For those reasons I intend to vote for the Government's proposals in the Lobby tonight.
In conclusion, I listened with great care to the right hon. Member for Gorton about the Labour party's policy on this matter. He gave me the impression that it is the Labour party's policy to maintain firm and fair control over immigration. I was glad to hear that. I hope that he will be able to clarify that point if he has the opportunity because I was under the strong impression that when the Leader of the Opposition was in India he said that the Labour party would scrap all immigration laws on the ground that they are discriminatory and racist. For that reason I was glad to hear what the right hon. Member for Gorton said tonight. He gave an important clarification of Labour party policy which many hon. Members will be glad to have heard.
When considering this difficult matter, which affects our fellow citizens and human beings from all over the world, we must remember that we must ensure that entry to the United Kingdom is not spoilt by the system that we have had to endure for the past few months. We should move on to a system under which people coming to Britain can look forward to entry without problems so that they can meet their relatives and friends or come here for a holiday or any other proper purpose for which they are granted admission.
It is clear that those w ho have orchestrated the campaign for the introduction of visas had two objectives. First, they wanted to reduce the number of black and Asian visitors to the United Kingdom; secondly, they wanted to remove the rights of Members of Parliament to assist visitors who are refused entry.
The introduction of visas is perceived as racist by many people here and overseas. It is clearly damaging to promotion of good community relations in Britain, and it has further damaged the poor relationship between Britain and the black Commonwealth. The Government have argued that visas will reduce delays, especially at Heathrow, and the inconvenience and difficulties experienced by visitors and their sponsors and relatives here.
The most cost-effective way in which to deal with the delays, inconvenience and indignities experienced at Heathrow is to appoint more immigration officers and more interpreters and to provide better examination accommodation. The Government could have taken such administrative action long ago.
Like other hon. Members, during the past two years I have raised in the House the question of the inconvenience and difficulties experienced at Heathrow. I met the Minister of State in early June to urge him to appoint more immigration officers and to take other steps to deal with the looming crisis at Heathrow. I was told that there would be 11 extra immigration officers. None were appointed, because they refused transfers and appealed against the transfer instructions.
Some immigration officers and Right-wing sections of the Conservative party have campaigned for visas for at least 18 months. During that time there has been a deliberate increase in the number of refusals. When challenged about that, the Home Office has been able to offer no explanation. In the first quarter of this year, one in five Bangladeshis, one in 19 Pakistanis and one in 25 Indians who applied to visit Britain were refused entry.
Visas are resented by people who want to visit and by people who are settled here. They will now experience great difficulty in getting their friends and relatives to visit them. Moreover, they will have to apply for visa exemption stamps if they are to avoid difficulty themselves. Visas add to their sense of alienation. Visas underline their belief that they are unwelcome in the eyes of those who advocate visas. It seems that it is undesirable that they should have friends and relatives who want to visit them.
The introduction of visas is considered racist because their application is selective. That charge would not be made if we were also asking South Africans, Americans or Australians to have visas. The Home Secretary has today made one of the most inadequate speeches that the House has ever had to endure on an important constitutional issue. The fact that he skulked out of the Chamber during the debate demonstrates that he might have learnt something about the issue had he remained. It is also disgraceful that the junior Minister at the Foreign Office has left the Chamber. We have a large number of questions to ask, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has responsibility for these matters. It is therefore disgraceful that that Minister has left the Chamber and that he did riot hear the questions that were asked by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) and by many of my hon. Friends.
This system is widely perceived as being racist. It will cause delays and inconvenience. Before the junior Minister left the Chamber he muttered under his breath that visas would be issued on the same day as applications were made. It is a pity that he could not tell me that when I wrote to him. In the reply that I received a few days ago he said nothing about the average waiting time for visa applications, and he could give me no information about staffing arrangements.
The guidance issued by the Home Office states that applications in writing should be made at least one month before a person intends to leave his country to visit the United Kingdom. The same rule applies to personal applications. Therefore, one cannot assume that applications will be approved on the day that they are submitted.
I have also been told that applicants will have to choose which application form is appropriate for them. The forms are printed in English, and I understand that one question is:
Are you a British Citizen by descent or other means?
It will be impossible for many of the applicants to fill in the forms. It will result in a bonanza for corruption. Many of those who apply for visas will have to rely upon assistance from agents in their own area. This will provide the bread and butter for the corruption about which the Government say they are so concerned and which they advance as one of the reasons for the introduction of visas.
Visa control is wholly discredited. Speaker after speaker in the debate has told us why. People in India and Pakistan now have to wait for six or 12 months for an interview and a decision on their application for settlement here. In Bangladesh they have to wait for 25 months. When the Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Waddington), replies to the debate, we are entitled to an answer to the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) wishes to have answered: what will be the effect of these provisions on the applications for settlement that have already been made? Is the Minister able to give a guarantee that none of these applications for settlement will be further deferred by the introduction of visas for visitors? We are entitled to a clear assurance on that point.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Pariamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has circulated a leaflet about how the system will work? It says that he hopes that the consequential delays over entry certificate applications for permanent settlement will not be too great, thus admitting that the new system will have an effect.
There will clearly be delays. The surges will continue. The administrative arrangements are wholly inadequate to deal with the surges in applications. If the same criteria are to be applied to visa applications overseas as are applied now at Heathrow, we may expect the same rate of refusals overseas as there are now at Heathrow.
Visas were introduced in Sri Lanka over a bank holiday weekend—again without any consultation, and still less without the approval of this House. The rate of refusals in Sri Lanka has increased from 0·004 to 8·5 per cent. Exactly the same increase in the rate of refusals will be found in the countries that we are considering tonight.
The clear fact of the matter is that the Government and the ISU resent Members of Parliament being able to help and that is why they have promoted this visa campaign and have been so desperate to stop Members of Parliament from being able to assist their constituents. We have seen that campaign aided and abetted by Britain's gutter press.
On 16 October the headline in The Sun was "The Liars". As The Sun is so well known for the fiction that it prints, rather than the fact, and as the stories are dreamt up by the reporters on numerous occasions, I thought that the headline was referring to The Sun, but it was not. It said:
Harassed airport staff told yesterday of the '1,001 lies' used by immigrants trying to cheat their way into Britain.
It referred to tourists who say that they have come to see the sights such as Slough and Bradford. Is it surprising that many visitors here are coming to Slough and Bradford, when large numbers of their relatives and friends live in those areas?
The paper went on to say:
Others insist they have flown 6,000 miles to 'see the snow' or to attend a family wedding — though they cannot produce an invitation and do not know the names of the bride and groom.
That is in no way remarkable. An immigration officer is quoted as saying:
The biggest lie of all, of course, is that they intend to go back home after their visit. They produce a return ticket as proof that they intend to fly back. But in many cases they just cash in the return half of the ticket and disappear.
We know from the figures published by the Home Office that that is nonsense.
The Daily Express of 17 October had the headline:
Soft touch MPs. Loophole that gave a licence to vanish.
Order. The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) knows perfectly well that he must not shout across the Chamber in that fashion. I hope that he will restrain himself.
The hon. Gentleman is not raising a point of order, he is persisting in the disorderly conduct about which I have just warned him. I hope that he will restrain himself.
On 17 October the Daily Express said:
New rules mean that if anyone arrives at Heathrow, without a visa, they will not be allowed to phone an MP to intervene and stop immigration staff kicking them out of the country.
That is nonsense, as any hon. Member knows. Calls are not made directly by visitors refused entry to Britain, and our interventions do not achieve what the Daily Express says. The article continued:
Before the clampdown, once an MP took up a case, the new arrival had to be given temporary admission to Britain until an investigation by the Home Office.
Again that is nonsense, as any hon. Member who has experience of such matters knows.
The Home Secretary, in his deplorable speech tonight, said that there were people who were in detention only as a result of stops that had been made by hon. Members. If it were so easy for those people to be released, why have those 80 people now in detention not been released? The Daily Express continued:
That could take months—and by then, immigration staff say, many of the immigrants have vanished.
Again that is nonsense.
I come to an interesting quote from a Home Office spokesman. He said:
We lost count how many absconded while their case was being considered. And in most cases at the end of the review the original decision to refuse entry was upheld.
Again that is nonsense. I wonder whether the Minister of State has called that spokesman, speaking with the authority of the Home Office, to account for the quote which appeared in the Daily Express on Friday 17 October.
The debate has focused on the Government's racist decision on immigration. One of my constituents, a lady living in Lemington, on the outskirts of Newcastle, is married to a Yugoslav citizen. They both worked in Yugoslavia for some time after their marriage but decided to come to Britain to settle. They both had jobs to come to, but the husband had to apply for a visa although he is married to a British citizen. He lost the job that he was coming to in Britain because of the delay by the Home Office over his visa application.
That sort of case is familiar to many of us. I quote again from the Daily Express, this time from the editorial of 17 October. The headline stated:
Right to end MPs' abuse of power".
The editorial stated:
Some politicians are thought soft touches, who probably help visitors with no right to be here slip through the immigration net.
Those words are characteristic of the coverage of this issue by the so-called popular press during the past few weeks. It is noticeable that the Press Gallery, with the exception of the Hansard reporters, has been almost empty during most of the debate. Many members of the press, together with the Home Secretary, could have learnt a little about this subject had they taken the time and trouble to listen to the debate, rather than writing misleading reports and editorials.
When the Minister of State replies, I hope that he will be clear about the rights of Members of Parliament. In what circumstances will we be able to assist those who wish to visit Britain and who arrive here without a visa? How will hon. Members do that unless the Minister of State gives clear assurances that such people will not be removed within hours of their arrival, so that hon. Members have sufficient time to get information and to help such people and their relatives and friends in Britain?
I should like specific information on how Members of Parliament will assist constituents whose friends or relatives are applying for visas, especialy in emergencies such as family sickness and family death. How can hon. Members assist the relatives and friends of constituents who are refused visas overseas? How can we assist constituents whose friends and relatives are granted visas, arrive here and then wish to extend their visas while they are here? How will we help students? The Home Secretary garbled something about the circumstances in which hon. Members would be able to assist students, but the guidance issued by the Home Office, which the Minister of State was kind enough to send me recently, says that students must also have a letter of acceptance from the institute where they are to study and must show that they can meet the cost of their tuition.
If there are to be such effective visa controls overseas, how can any student arrive here without a visa? How can hon. Members therefore assist in any circumstances? I hope that the Minister will say something about students, because he knows that student bodies in Britain have expressed grave concern about the effect of visa controls on students and institutions of education in Britain.
Let the Minister be very clear when he replies. Will the Foreign Office provide the same sort of duty officer coverage as we have enjoyed from the Home Office for a long time? I pay tribute to those duty officers and to members of the Minister of State's private office for their considerable co-operation and assistance, but will the same facilities be available at the Foreign Office? Will the overseas posts be manned at weekends? The hon. Member for Rochdale raised the matter of night telephones, but will they be manned at weekends, so that emergency applications for visas can be made? Will our representations be transmitted to overseas posts by the Foreign Office?
Today I received a letter from a constituent, enclosing his mother's passport. He asked me to arrange for a visa exemption stamp to be put on the passport. If I send it to the Home Office, will that stamp be placed in that passport? I, along with many other hon. Members, will frequently be asked for that facility. I understand that the Home Office suggested that, on departure, immigration officers should be able to stamp passengers' passports with a right to return to Britain without a visa. I also understand that the Minister's good friends in the Immigration Service flatly refuse to co-operate in such a scheme. Will the Minister have the courage to go back to his good friends in the Immigration Service Union and say that such a facility would be extremely helpful to overseas nationals who are settled in this country, and who do not want to have to apply in writing or in person to London or to their nearest passport inquiry office to get an exemption stamp placed on their passports? The vast majority of these people find the whole thing insulting anyway.
I condemn the Government's proposal. It is nakedly racist and represents an incompetent blunder that will disrupt the promotion of good community and race relations in this country. It has brought our already deplorable relationships with the black Commonwealth to a new all-time low. Incidentally, we have heard little about when visas for Nigeria will be introduced. I wrote to all the ambassadors and high commissioners asking what consultations the British Government have had with their Governments. They all said none, and many of them have expressed their views very forcefully.
I received a particularly interesting letter from the high commissioner for Nigeria. He told me that he was invited to a private meeting with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 18 July
when the concern of the British authorities at the increase of Nigerians arriving at British entry points was discussed with me.
Why was the Nigerian high commissioner invited to that meeting? What makes Nigeria so different from the other countries? Why has an announcement not been made about visas for Nigeria?
I understand that visas are not likely to be introduced until well into the new year. I, and no doubt others, will wonder whether that has anything to do with oil or with capital receipts held in this country from Nigeria. Why was the high commissioner for Nigeria invited to a very private meeting with an Under-Secretary of State? Indeed, that hon. Gentleman saw fit to leave the debate some hours ago. I hope that the Minister of State will give us an explanation.
This shoddy, squalid measure will be repealed by the next Labour Government, as was made clear in the statement issued by the NEC at our last annual conference. A Labour Government will introduce nondiscriminatory legislation to replace the Immigration Act 1971 and the British Nationality Act 1981. There will also be a major overhaul of the immigration rules, as they cause great difficulty to those who have a legitimate right to enter and visit Britain. The Government have not won the debate, although they will win tonight by administrative means. However, fair and reasonable people will see this as nothing more than a squalid, racist measure that needs to be repealed at the earliest opportunity.
Order. Well over 20 hon. Members still wish to catch my eye, and some of them are going to be disappointed. Over-long speeches encroach on the right to speak of other hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) was so keen to get over his synthetic indignation that he totally ignored your previous exhortation to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not ignore that request, even though the hon. Gentleman was more concerned to express his hysterical views than to allow other hon. Members, who know as much about the subject as he does, to speak.
I had to listen to the tirade of humbug by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). I shall get on with my speech and I shall be more succinct than the right hon. Gentleman. Without hysteria I want to put over the proper case in support of this change in the regulations. I am not as close to Heathrow airport as my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) but we must all dispassionately and honestly say that we have become more and more anxious about the way the system is working. It is operating to the detriment of bona fide visitors from many countries and especially from the countries that we are debating.
Contrary to the fears of Opposition Members, the visa system will be fairer to visitors than the present system. That is because the present system is getting out of hand and any hon. Member who pretends otherwise for superficial reasons of currying favour with a section of our national community or seeking cheap votes in the coming election is making a big mistake. They are also wrong in thinking that many of the immigrants who have come in in the last decade or so agree with their spurious and superficial arguments. They do not, because they want a system that is fair to all visitors.
I am beguiled by the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) that perhaps we should extend this visa system to more countries as time goes on. There is a lot of sense and rationale in that suggestion. This is not a beginning, because we already apply the visa system to many countries. The idea that it applies just to countries whose people are black or brown and not to countries with white populations is absurd. For different historical reasons we have applied it to various countries over the years and now we are extending the system. It will make a lot more sense to visitors wanting to come to Britain to have those visas in their passports before they leave their national territories. They will be safe and secure in the knowledge that the processing at Heathrow or at other airports or ports if they come by other means of transport or if they come from the continent of Europe will be much more speedy. It is absurd to say this is a retrograde step. It is a good step.
I welcome the ending of unfair pressure on hon. Members. I do not say unfair in the sense that we resent the amount of work involved because we do not, but sometimes in my surgeries a large number of these cases prevent me from looking at many cases of domestic problems, often affecting members of the ethnic minority communities as well as the host community.
Does the hon. Gentleman not share my fear that the people who will not get visas will be those on low incomes in their home countries? They would like to come to see their families settled in Britain, but they tend to be discriminated against through the entry certificate system for permanent settlement. That is because anyone with a low income is suspected of having an intention to remain. When a visa system is in operation the genuine visitors coming to see my families settled in Ladywood will be turned down and visits for them will become impossible.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) makes a valid point. Unfortunately, under all immigration or temporary visitor systems in all countries the officers empowered to handle the systems are naturally psychologically more inclined to let someone in if he is prosperous and well dressed and coming from a wealthy background. We can build corrective elements into the system which will avoid that problem. The Government are advocating the implementation of the postal application system. That will be much better for those applying for visas.
Some hon. Members have talked about long journeys but it is not our fault that some of these countries are large and people have to travel long distances. [Interruption.] I am making a perfectly logical point but the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) is getting carried away. People have to come to the capital city or to a large city to make the air journey. We must avoid this awful problem of people arriving here, having paid the air fare, and then having to go back. That money has been wasted and those people are deprived of the opportunity to visit their relations. I predict that if, by some grotesque national misadventure, a Labour Government were to be installed next time, which I do not expect, they would keep the visa system in place and probably extend it. By then they would realise how well the new system was working. People could apply for their visas easily and speedily.
Obviously, we will have to send more officers and officials to the operating centres to handle the applications, including to Africa, but the system will work much better than the awful, humiliating nightmare of ghastly queues at Heathrow airport. I share with other hon. Members the feeling of sympathy for those people who line up, worried sick about whether they will be admitted, what will happen, the long explanations that they must give to the entry clearance officer, and the fact that they cannot properly contact people until after that stage, while we go through with our passports with no difficulty.
Then there are the visitors who come to our surgeries and say that before they left India they were told that if there was any trouble they should contact the nearest Member of Parliament who would put the position right. The whole system has become absurd. I do not doubt the validity of doing that in genuine cases, but how can hon. Members of Parliament judge that? We are not experts. We need the expert training of immigration and temporary entrance officers to do that.
We do not know how many people are misbehaving and breaking the rules, but we know beyond any doubt that even if it is a small minority, those who do so, like naughty boys at the back of a class, are spoiling it for everyone and causing tremendous trouble.
I shall not give way because of a lack of time. I shall be brief.
The visa system will be an ideal mechanism to overcome that problem. There will inevitably be problems when people apply, but I hope that they will be ajudged in their own country. I hope that the vast majority will apply through the new postal system. Applications must be and can be processed speedily. I hope that we shall see the system functioning rationally and smoothly, avoiding all the present nonsense. I hope that the hon. Member for Bradford, West was not suggesting that we on this side agree with the rubbish written in The Sun.
Every hon. Member who has spoken has embarrassed my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State by paying glowing tribute, rightly, to his office and officials, but let us also pay tribute to immigration and temporary entrance officers who will be listening to the debate. I am the first hon. Member in this debate to say that theirs is not an easy job. We should pay tribute to their painstaking work in the face of grinding hours of work, with long queues shuffling through the airports. They, too, deserve a pat on the back for the humane, fair way in which they operate. We must avoid the hysteria of the Opposition, lead by the right hon. Member for Gorton. They are seeking to make short-term capital for obvious purposes, but they will not succeed, least of all with sensible immigrants and temporary visitors.
Two weeks ago the nephew of one of my constituents arrived at Heathrow from Bangladesh. He is a young man, wishing to visit his uncle for six weeks. He has two children in Bangladesh, a job to return to and a return ticket. He was refused admission at the airport. Because I intervened on his behalf he is still in detention. He is one of many victims of the absurd rush with which the Government introduced visa requirements for visitors from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. He is one among many whose relatives I have met and talked to during the past three weeks whose relatives have been caused enormous distress by the appalling way in which they and their visitors have been treated.
Not only are visitors who wish to stay with their relatives living in appalling conditions at Heathrow, but their relatives must travel to and from the airport without information, with precious little assistance and without knowing what is happening and under what conditions their relatives are being handled. Those people have suffered because of the Government's decision.
We are also worried about people who will wish to come here in future to visit their friends and relatives. What sort of treatment will they receive under the Government's new proposals? I am glad that many of my hon. Friends have recorded our distress, disquiet and anger at the manner in which many thousands of people visiting this country have been treated over the past few weeks. They have had a bad welcome from the Government and the country. It is a shame and disgrace to us all, but particularly to the Home Secretary who decided to introduce the visas.
The Home Secretary claims that he is worried about people who are not bona fide visitors and who may abscond. Perhaps he should do as I did last weekend and speak to British Airways staff who deal with the cashing in of return tickets. That is one excellent guide to whether people intend to disappear into the community, as a Conservative member put it earlier. I was told that many people want to cash in the return half of their tickets, but the overwhelming majority are young, white Australians. Where is the Government's panic about Australian immigration? Where is the concern to impose visas on visitors from Australia? If the Government were really worried about people absconding, they would be taking action in that area.
We have to look elsewhere to find the reasons why the Government are precipitately imposing visa requirements on a selective group of five countries.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the panic created by the Government was essentially the product of a series of subjective and racist decisions by immigration officers over the past year to create just the atmosphere in which visas could be introduced and to create a racist hype for further restrictive immigration legislation later?
I certainly agree that there has been an absurd panic in bringing in these measures. If a Government announce that in 10 days' time they will impose a visa requirement, people will inevitably seek, in an urgent rush, to get in to visit their relatives, because they may fear that it will be their last chance for a long time to see people whom they have been wanting to see for many months or years.
I wish to put some specific questions to the Minister of State. First, what will happen to people in rural and remote areas of Bangladesh? Many such people have relatives in my constituency and they may wish to apply for visas to come here. The Government said that they will entertain postal applications, but what will be done about people who are not articulate, who perhaps cannot write or cannot read or write English? What provision will be made if the high commission in Dhaka decides to summon people for interviews because their applications are not clear? What provision will be made to enable people to travel to the high commission? Some may have to travel long distances or undertake difficult journeys to get the visa or even perhaps have their application turned down. Serious problems will arise and I do not believe that the Government have addressed them.
Secondly, there will be problems for people who are legitimately settled here, who hold foreign passports and wish to return here after visits abroad. The Government have said that a wretched visa exemption stamp can be put in passports, but how easy will it be to get one of those stamps? Will people have to queue for hours to have a visa put into their passports? Why is there not some provision for a stamp to be put in automatically at the port of departure when people leave to go abroad? Perhaps the Government might consider that as a genuine possibility to ease the plight of those who are legitimately settled here and wish to travel abroad.
The Government seem to be talking with two voices about how much of a guarantee of entry a visa will he. We listened to the Home Secretary's statement last week. We should have been justified in concluding that there was no guarantee that the provision of a valid visa would guarantee entry into this country. The Home Secretary appeared to make that crystal clear in his response to questions last week, yet today the Home Secretary said that someone in possession of a visa should feel confident about gaining entry into Britain.
Which Home Secretary's statement are we to believe? What provision will be made and what criteria will apply in assessing whether someone in possession of a valid visa will be allowed to come in without let or hindrance? Will there be a lenghty questioning procedure, as at present? Will there be two questioning sessions—one by the high commission in Dhaka and another at Heathrow? Alternatively, are we witnessing tonight the institution of two hurdles rather than one for people who legitimately wish to visit their relatives in Britain?
Many aspects of the proposals are inhumane, unwelcoming, over-complicated, discriminating and impose enormous difficulties for thousands of innocent victims and visitors whose only crime — whose only dastardly crime in the eyes of the Government—is that they want to visit their relatives in Britain. It is the duty of those who represent the relatives, it is the duty of the House in all sensible decency, to reject the Government's proposals and to ask the Home Secretary, even at this late stage, please to think again.
I shall be brief, but I must point out that the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) about his constituent who had to wait because of entry visa control will not be necessary once the visas are applied. The Government's intention is to try to stop the type of case to which he referred.
I rise because of the massive accusations levelled by the Opposition. Too much seems to be accepted these days because people shelter behind the argument that words or actions are anti-racialist. Sometimes an argument is accepted because it is against racialist tendencies. Equally, many people are afraid to express normal thoughts about our country for fear of being accused of being racialist, as we have heard today.
If anything has convinced me of that it is the speeches by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) and by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), who suggested that our actions were similar to those of the Russians. They prove to me that the Labour party has no intention of holding to immigration control as the majority of our people wish.
I speak with all the feeling of one who has many coloured friends. I have been chairman of the Anglo-Ghanaian parliamentary group for over 20 years. Tom Mboya and Kwame Nkrumah met me at my flat in Paddington in 1951 to discuss pan-Africanism, so no one need make accusations about my qualifications.
I do not believe that it will do anything other than good for the genuine Ghanaians who want to come here to have to obtain a visa before they leave their country, rather than face refusal when they arrive. I have had to intervene with the Home Office on many occasions about cases which, if a visa application had been made in Accra, would never have encountered difficulties.
The statistics prove that the accusation of racism is wholly false. It is because of the refusals that many of the new arrangements have had to be introduced. The refusals for entry during the six months to May 1986 had risen to 1,591—up 70 per cent.—for India; 971—up 38 per cent. —for Pakistan; 527—up 58 per cent.—for Bangladesh; 2,163—up 105 per cent.—for Nigeria; and 791—up 38 per cent. — for Ghana. Overall, that is a 68 per cent. increase in refusals, which must be a problem for the Home Office and for those working at Heathrow. By comparison, the refusals for Australia and Canada, using the same criteria, were 69 and 63 respectively. I hope that the Minister will make it clear that if the refusals for Canada, America or Australia rose by the same proportion as those for Ghana or Nigeria, the same requirements would be made of them as are being made of the five Commonwealth countries in question.
There are many aspects of the problem that people do not get up and speak about because they are afraid of being accused of being racialist. Many people want Britain to remain as Britain—they do not want it altered by a vast immigration factor. From the debate tonight it is clear that this country can have no assurance that if the Labour party were returned to power, immigrants would not flood into this country. That is the problem that we must face.
During a number of debates, I have, where appropriate, attempted to document the economic reasons why former Governments, especially Tory Governments in the 1950s, encouraged immigration to provide cheap labour for employers and industrialists. There is not time tonight to develop those points again, but it is necessary to state clearly that over the period that the British capitalist economy has declined from the illusion of the booms of the 1950s and 1960s to the realities of the recessions and slumps of the 1970s and 1980s, the very same Tory politicians, including the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), have changed their position. Now, together with the gutter press of this country, they are carrying out a relentless campaign, especially among the unemployed, the elderly and those in receipt of supplementary benefits, to portray black people as the cause of the increase in social problems through talk of floods of immigrants. Chief among them has been the Prime Minister who, on "World in Action" on 30 January 1978, said:
People are rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.
This evening, we are witnessing how that same reactionary campaign has been continued over the past few weeks. On 16 October, the Daily Star spoke of "4,000 would-be immigrants" at Heathrow airport. On 21 October it also spoke of
millions of immigrants who have received succour and comfort in our land … Britain finally began to drop the portcullis and raise the drawbridge against the alien hoards … the human tidal wave.
On 14 October. the Daily Mail spoke about
A flood of immigrants trying to beat a Government crackdown".
On 15 October, under one-inch headlines, "Asian flood swamps airport", the Daily Express said:
Heathrow airport was under seige early today after a mass invasion of illegal immigrants".
In addition to those journalists, if that is not too generous a description of them in view of the jobs that they carry out on those newspapers, there have to be added the news agencies that put out stories to every local newspaper
talking about "floods of immigrants" at Heathrow airport. Those stories were reproduced in many local papers, including mine, the Coventry Evening Telegraph.
These people were not immigrants but tourists, mothers coming to see daughters give birth, sons coming to bury fathers. But the Government decision has introduced apartheid into tourism, enforced by Douglas Botha. The irony of that clear and open racism is the unfortunate ability of the Home Secretary to demonstrate that the origins of much of that legislation stem from former periods of Labour Governments. I hope that that never happens again.
Whatever the excuses being given by the Home Secretary, and his denials that the visa restrictions were against tourists from the Indian subcontinent for any racist reason, those inflammatory headlines and reports by the daily press have given a direct provocation to racism. Within a couple of days of those headlines appearing in the gutter press we saw an Asian newsagent's shop in Hackney being attacked and the words "3,000 more" daubed across the front of the shop. The same deliberate and calculated mood is being engendered up and down the rest of the country.
Working people can draw only one conclusion from that experience. It is that the Tory Government, just as Churchill 60 or 70 years ago played the Orange card to divide the working people in Northern Ireland, are beginning to play the black card, the racist card, to sow dissension among working people in the run-up to the general election.
What was the reality of the conditions facing working people at Heathrow? The Tory press would have us believe that everybody was put in £60-a-night, four-star luxury hotels. Perhaps one or two stayed in such accommodation but the truth is that for hundreds of Asian families there was chaos, misery and frustration. They were virtually imprisoned, waiting for days on floors at Heathrow to meet relatives. Many visitors and tourists were put into detention centres and even police cells.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a constituent of mine, for giving way. In view of the racist filth that one sees on the front page of The Sun, will my hon. Friend join me in suggesting that all Asian newsagents should refuse to sell the stuff?
I have had the honour of being asked to address a mass meeting of Kent miners and Wapping strikers tomorrow and I shall make that point to those workers, to illustrate, apart from the nature of the dispute at Wapping, the reason why The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times and the News of the World, all the papers of Murdoch's empire, should be boycotted by working people.
The siege at Heathrow two weeks ago was reminiscent of a refugee camp. Frustrated and justifiably angry relatives were denied information. Some of them were herded 10 at a time, like prisoners, to go to the toilet. In a small way, I experienced that frustration by making numerous and largely fruitless telephone calls to the Home Office on these people's behalf. On their behalf this evening, I demand of the Minister that he announces the terms of compensation for their loss of earnings, for their trouble, for their accommodation and for the division of so many families that occurred for days and for weeks at Heathrow during this episode.
I am sorry, I must continue.
There were forcible removals from Heathrow. A family from Essex has told of a brother-in-law who was told by immigration officers that he was being given entry, and was to be taken with 45 other visitors from Bangladesh to the arrival hall in a bus. The bus was instead driven on to the tarmac where immigration and police officers forcibly put these people on an aircraft that was flying to Dhaka.
This evening we have heard an attempt to justify the Government's action by citing numbers. Let us consider the numbers briefly. In 1985, 8·5 million visitors came to this country and 18,000 were refused entry. That is one in 474. The Home Secretary has talked of periodic upsurges in the numbers, and there has been a campaign by the Immigration Service Union deliberately to create periodic upsurges. There were 452,000 visitors from the five visa countries and even on the Home Secretary's statistics, only 222 did not return on the date that they said they would. As we know, the right hon. Gentleman uses the word "absconders". We are talking about one in 2,036 visitors, one twentieth of 1 per cent. It is a measure of Britain's decline that out of 8.5 million visitors from non-EEC countries and of 36 million passenger visitors in 1985, we are asked to take the action that the Government propose because 222 did not return on the date when they said that they would do so. It cannot be seen as anything but a racist decision. Not one Tory Member, and certainly no one on the Treasury Bench, has talked about the 200 million EEC nationals who could come to Britain tomorrow morning. No visa restrictions are being proposed for them.
No, I cannot give way.
Instead, £40 million is promised to he spent on 50 officials being sent to the five visa countries. If 50 officials work 48 weeks of the year on a five-day week for eight hours a day, they will be expected to deal with one of these applications every 13 minutes. That is laughable. There will be immense delays for the families that are waiting in Dhaka, Delhi and the other places of application for visas to come to Britain. If there is £14 million kicking around in the Treasury, it would be far better to replace the 1,000 uniformed Customs officials who have disappeared under this Government and conduct a serious war against the illegal importation of drugs and the drug abuse that is taking place among young people.
The measure that is before us reduces the rights of Members effectively to represent their constituents and their interests. In many instances our power to stop is the only hope that families have for a review to take place of the ECO's decision. How will families in Coventry be able to challenge the decisions that are made in Delhi or Dhaka for example, not to issue a visa because of alleged discrepancies between the statements of potential visitors and sponsors? These decisions will be made when they are 6,000 or 8,000 miles apart.
An editorial in The Guardian 11 days ago adequately described the difficulties that will be faced by my constituents' families. The article states:
Earlier this year, the Guardian sent one of its own reporters, David Rose, to live and work with our immigration men in Bangladesh for a while. It wasn't, he found, like queuing for a US visa in Grosvenor Square. To the contrary, it was a battered, inevitably cynical mess. 'We don't send our
best people to Dhaka,' said an FO mandarin in Whitehall. Most of the Foreign Office staff came directly from Grade 10, the lowest clerical level. The secretarial back-up was pathetically inadequate, the job itself pulverisingly arduous. Endless travel, endless queues—around 12,000 long; endless waits and—in a land where paperwork is naturally scanty —judgments which time and again, could be based on no more than whether the supplicant immigrant seemed `shifty' or not.
Does anybody in their right mind wonder that when HMG grandly proclaims that all Bangladeshis seeking to come to Britain — whether as tourists or to join their (British) families living here—there's a rush to beat the ban?
Reasons such as those are why we oppose the restriction of Members' rights of representation.
This evening the Home Secretary repeatedly attempted to reject the charge of racism, but not once did he attempt to condemn the racist articles in the Tory press quoted by Labour Members. Is he aware of the attitude of some Heathrow immigration officers? According to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants:
After the visa announcement was made, the head of the Immigration Service, Peter Tompkins, wrote to all immigration officers. He thanked them for collecting the statistics which had 'enabled' the visa announcement to be made. That is not the language, nor are those the actions, of neutral civil servants, still less of people committed to providing a service to assist black people visiting Britain and to ensure family visits for people whose home is here.
The Home Secretary has not refuted the increasingly racial bias shown by members of the Immigration Service Union in their decisions at ports of entry. Whereas in 1983, 21 Indian visitors for every one Canadian were refused entry, in the first quarter of this year, 54 passengers from India for every one Canadian were refused entry. Between 1983 and 1985, passenger traffic increased by 20 per cent. But the staff of the Immigration Service increased by only 4 per cent. Far better to tackle those problems than to spend £14 million in five visa countries.
No, I have nearly finished.
The biggest increase in refusals from the five visa countries began only after the Immigration Service Union officials met the Minister of State last year demanding curtailment of Members' rights of representation. The statistics cited by the Home Office come from there.
I end as I began, with a general point about the effect of the imposition of the rules. The justification of the press and the Tories inside and outside the Chamber and of their friends in further Right organisations in British society is that Britain is a small, overpopulated island which cannot cope with more immigrants. What are the facts? From 1973 to 1982, 2·27 million people left this country; only 1·8 million came in. The population therefore decreased by 430,000. Despite that decrease, unemployment increased over the same period from 531,000 in 1973 to 3,167,000 in 1983.
Unemployment, poor housing and declining social services are not caused by the number of immigrants. Indeed, black and Asian families often suffer the worst from these problems. I look forward to a Labour Administration that will repeal all the racist legislation passed in the past seven years and abolish the 1971 and 1981 immigration and nationality legislation. Above all, I look forward to a campaign on and explanation of the immigration issue, to explode all the Tory lies that surround it and to explain how society needs a transformation along Socialist lines so that a programme of a full employment, decent housing, education and welfare provisions can be created for all in society and, by ending capitalist society, that disease of which racism is a symptom can be put in the dustbin of history for ever.
I add my tribute, as I have done in previous speeches—although it is no less sincere for that—to the private office of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State. Like other hon. Members, I deeply appreciate the officials' assistance and courtesy. I pay tribute also, as I am glad one of my hon. Friends has done, to the immigration officers. I have visited terminals 3 and 4 on three occasions. The officers were extremely courteous in showing me all the facilities available. They were courteous and helpful when I spoke to them on the telephone about individual cases. One should always bear in mind that they are working people.
We are assessing the effect that the rules will have on the balance between the right of visitors to come to this country and of our constituents to invite them, and the rights of the community to be protected against people coming to this country who are not entitled to come here and are not entitled to settle. As we are not changing the eligibility rules, one has to assess whether the new procedures affect those rights in any way.
If we look at the old system, we realise that anyone arriving in this country after a long flight from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh faces a long delay at the first point of passport control as people in front are questioned because the immigration officer is suspicious and they are suspected of not being bona fide. They then possibly face a secondary interview in cramped facilities, possibly having to wait for some time simply because there may be a discrepancy on their passport or for some other reason. They may then face detention in not very luxurious accommodation, and having visited Harmondsworth I can vouch for that. Even at that stage they face having wasted a lifetime, or many years, of savings on an air fare by being returned home.
Apart from all the inconvenience that a visitor may face under the old system, there is also the anxiety of the sponsors who, days or weeks before, contact their Member of Parliament because they are anxious about the fate of their visitor. The sponsor waits on the other side of immigration control wondering where his visitor is because he has not heard anything, and he phones his Member of Parliament at all hours of the day and night to find out what is going on.
If that system was just being proposed it would not even see the light of day. It would be ruled out as hopelessly inefficient, of no benefit to anybody and one which even the EEC Commission would not dream of. Under the new system, there is an application from a visitor, by post in most cases, or possibly by a visit. The evidence of applications that have been received so far overseas shows that the majority have been turned round in the same day. Any discrepancy that occurs is dealt with before people leave home.
People have mentioned the difficulty of contacting supporters to back up stories. Most of the evidence that visitors need to prove that they are genuine comes not from a sponsor within Britain, but from their friends and relatives in the villages of their own country. Therefore, if there is any discrepancy it is much better for them to sort it out in their own country, where they can get people to write in support of them or go to the British post overseas to help sort out any muddle that may occur. Any discrepancy that does occur is much better discovered in the comfort of their own home than in an overcrowded waiting room at Heathrow, and much better discovered before the money, which can be ill afforded, is squandered on an air fare and before they suffer the indignity of having to spend several nights in Harmondsworth. Instead, they can look forward to a smooth entry once they arrive at Heathrow straight into the welcoming embrace of their sponsor, who knows that they will arrive at the time they state.
On behalf of the large number of my constituents who will be affected, I have looked at the new system in the light of all the accusations that are being made. It is difficult to find anything that is restrictive in the new system. I find nothing that is discriminatory and nothing that is anything but of benefit to my constituents. Certainly the evidence that I have managed to collect so far shows that in the first week over 3,000 applications were received in India. Of those, fewer than 1 per cent. were refused entry and the vast majority were turned round in the same day. In Pakistan about 1,200 applications have been received and only 2 per cent. have been refused. In India the figure is less than the refusal rate at Heathrow, and in Pakistan it is the same. It proves that the system, certainly in its early stages, is working to great benefit. It is no wonder that yesterday, when I deliberately spent the whole day with my Asian community in an attempt to explain the visa system, I found that once I had explained it the system received a warm reception. One Sikh in the Gudwara said that it was the best thing that the Government had done.
The hon. Gentleman should know better. Sikhs do not observe christmas. However, they do send me Eid cards.
Through its knee-jerk reaction to the proposal, the Labour party is supporting a system under which the majority suffer because of the minority who abuse that system, rather than supporting a new system which benefits the majority while at the same time severely curtails the opportunities for people to abuse the system by entering illegally.
It does not matter how many officers are installed at Heathrow. Obviously there is a limit to the physical capacity at the airport. Even if the number of officers is doubled or trebled, people will still be detained, there will still be wasted air fares, and there will still be questioning and delays. People will still undertake long flights and then have to submit to questioning, in poor circumstances. It is surely preferable that people know, when they apply for and receive a visa, that they will arrive on time at their destination, whether they apply to come to Brixton, Birmingham or Bradford. It is surely better that they know before they set off that they will arrive than to arrive not knowing whether they will reach their final destination.
Of course I found concerns among the Asian community in Bradford. Some of the anxieties arose from deliberate rumours and scares put round by those who, on political grounds, oppose the new proposal. Opposition
Members have been very good at waving newspapers around tonight, and I join in the condemnation of some of the language in those newspapers. However, I can also quote from newspapers. An hon. Member is quoted in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus as saying:
Bradford families would have to endure heartbreaking waits of up to 25 months for relatives to join them for short stays.
That is the kind of scare that has caused concern in the Asian community in Bradford.
I have also heard about a letter that is circulating in the Bangladeshi community in Bradford that is causing concern. That letter, too, is signed by an hon. Member. I have had the letter translated twice to confirm that its contents are accurate. I cannot speak Bengali, but I have been assured by those who speak Bengali that the translation is accurate. The letter says something to the effect that if someone is visiting Bangladesh and is resident in the United Kingdom, he must get a visa from Dhaka before he can return to the United Kingdom. That is the kind of scare that is worrying people in Bradford. The letter ends "Racists out, racists out." However, the language is ambiguous and could be translated as "Racists die now." Even I would not attribute that remark to the hon. Gentleman who signed the letter, as I know that he is against capital punishment. I gather that that part of the letter may have gained something in the translation.
Those are the scares circulating in the community in Bradford. It is no wonder that people panicked and came here at short notice and that there was chaos at Heathrow. Many of the genuine visitors who were caught up in that chaos can blame the Labour party for panicking them into arriving when they did. The Labour party must take much of the responsibility for that chaos.
I have two other points of concern to which I hope my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will respond. For those who are refused entry the current waiting time for appeal hearings for entry clearance refusals is nine or 12 months. That is no good if a visitor is applying for entry to attend a wedding that is to take place in two months' time. The purpose of the visit in that case will have disappeared. I hope that my right hon. Friend will review the appeals procedure and make it speedier for those refused visas for visits.
I also completely endorse the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), who referred to those people arriving at ports of entry who still do not need a visa. He said that there should be some instant form of appeal. That would be a good substitute for the right of hon. Members to have the facility to stop the removal of people. That right puts Members of Parliament in an invidious position. It is also unfair in that it discriminates between two people on the same flight—one person who knows how the system works and how to contact a Member of Parliament, and the person on the next seat who does not. It is not a matter of knowing one's rights, but of who one knows and what one knows. There is universal agreement among bodies such as UKIAS and JCWI that the right should be removed because it is discriminatory. There is no case for Members of Parliament retaining such a right or for maintaining an unfair system, especially if there can be a right of instant appeal instead.
The adjective "racist" has been bandied about much tonight. That reveals a lack of understanding of what the word means, and it adversely affects the cause of racial harmony. If everthing that the Government do to control the flow of people is called racist, the seriousness of the word is undermined. There is enough genuine racism. There is racism in employment and in housing and, at its worst, it manifests in itself in racial attacks. My constituents suffer from that as much as any other people with black or brown skin. Using the word in a general sense, as it has been used today, undermines its importance and creates a backlash in the majority white population, who get fed up with everything that affects the ethnic minority being labelled as racist. People who are genuinely trying to fight racism find that they are hindered because the word is abused by Opposition Members.
It is the Opposition, not the Government, who are on the defensive tonight. It is the Opposition who have panicked the ethnic minorities. As has happened often in the past, they have tried cynically to manipulate the ethnic minorities for their own political ends. I have news for them. Members of the ethnic minorities will not have their votes taken for granted by the Labour party. They are fed up with being cynically manipulated. The new system will benefit the vast majority of genuine visitors. As that fact comes to light during the next few months, the Labour party will be brought to account for the scares and rumours that it has spread to frighten my constituents.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have often ruled that it is out of order for an hon. Member to call another a liar because we are all hon. Gentlemans in this House and because that is one of the greatest abuses that one hon. Member can offer another. Surely the allegation, which has been made often by Opposition Members, that Conservative Members are racist is equally insulting and should therefore be ruled out of order. Could I have your guidance on that?
If it was applied to an individual hon. Member, what the hon. Gentleman says would be correct, but while I have been in the Chair that has not been the case. Nevertheless, it is not a term that we should bandy about the Chamber.
This debate has covered three main issues: the disgraceful scenes at Heathrow airport two weeks ago; the Government's policy in deciding to impose visa requirements on five countries; and the Government's renewed attempt to take away from hon. Members the right to act on behalf of our constituents when they experience difficulties at points of entry to this country.
The scenes at Heathrow airport were appalling, and I hold the Home Secretary directly responsible for them. Once the Government had announced their decision to impose visas, it was inevitable that people in other countries who had been planning their holidays here for some time would be afraid, quite understandably, that they might have difficulty in obtaining visas, or that at least they would be subjected to long delays. Therefore they did the most natural thing in the world. They reached this country for their holidays before the date of implementation of the scheme.
Immigration officers at Heathrow were perfectly aware that there would be a rush of people to beat the deadline. For some strange reason, the Home Secretary was unaware of it, and it seems to me that he did not care. After all, those who suffered—the tourists and their hosts were not white. I wonder what people from other countries must have thought of all this if, by some chance, it happened to be passing through Heathrow airport on one of those days two weeks ago. Yet all those difficulties for people at Heathrow airport could have been prevented.
No information was given to advice agencies until the last minute. I was asked at meetings up and down the country what would be the position if those who are settled here wanted to go abroad on holiday and then come back. I could not give an answer. Furthermore, until the last minute our posts abroad were unable or did not try to inform people about the position. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that a number of unscrupulous travel agents abroad tried to cash in. They, not Labour Members of Parliament, spread panic, with the result that people tried to get on aeroplanes to come here in order to beat the deadline.
On those critical days communications at Heathrow airport broke down. No information was given about what aeroplanes had arrived. Bangladesh Biman airline—whose normal practice is to issue information about its passenger lists—was told on the critical day that, for security reasons, it would not be allowed to give that information to those who were waiting. I never discovered why. Telephone calls to the immigration department were not answered.
Furthermore, the British Airports Authority was not warned by the Home Office of what was about to happen, although it was in the middle of refurbishing terminal 3. On the critical days, therefore, when the visa system was being introduced that part of the terminal building where people were waiting for their visitors to arrive had its telephones taken away. The refreshment facilities also disappeared because that department was being refurbished. That was hardly a sensible way to deal with a situation that many hon. Members think the Minister could clearly have anticipated.
I was asked to telephone the Home Office on the previous day—I believe it was 14 October — by a community worker at the airport, who explained just what the difficulties were for those on the other side of immigration control: those who live here and who were waiting for their guests.
Furthermore, parties of tourists from the Indian subcontinent came to Britain and then went on a trip abroad that was organised by a British travel agent. One party of visitors was taken abroad by Cosmos. When those visitors returned to Dover with the intention of going to Heathrow airport to fly back to India, they were refused admission. After many protests they were given temporary admission to return to Heathrow as part of their Cosmos tour and then fly back to India. What an absurdity; what a lack of foresight; what a lack of planning.
Some of my hon. Friends have already referred to the behaviour of the press. The BBC and Independent Radio News also talked about hundreds of immigrants, when they should have known that these people were not immigrants but visitors and tourists. Some reports in the press sounded very much like Conservative Central Office handouts. It was a sad day for the British press when the normal standards of journalistic integrity were thrown out of the window. Indeed, at least one newspaper should be charged with incitement to racial hatred for the way in which it covered those scenes at Heathrow airport and what it imputed to some of the people waiting to come here.
The British papers encouraged a wave of hysteria and misunderstanding about what was going on. Is that what the Home Secretary wants to create in Britain? Why did only Labour Members tell our people the truth about what was happening? Why did Home Office Ministers keep quiet in the face of all the lies and misrepresentations from the newspapers?
I am using my words carefully when I say that many people in the Asian communities in Britain are afraid of and have been subjected to racial attacks. If there is to be an increase of such attacks—I sincerely hope that there will not be — the Home Office Ministers bear a responsibility for that.
Where do the press get the misleading stories from? Who was talking to the press about what was said to immigration officers at the airport by people who had arrived? Was it officials belonging to the Home Office? Was it immigration officers who, on those busy days, went out to give impromptu press conferences which built up the wave of hysteria? If that is the case we should like to know. The least that the Home Secretary could do would be to have an inquiry as to how officials working for him were so busy giving statements to the press about what, allegedly, was happening at the airport.
Let me deal with the issue of principle. I am still looking for the evidence on which the decision was based. Some figures have been quoted. Let me quote one or two more. In March to May 1985 some 63,380 visitors from the subcontinent arrived. In the same period in 1986 the figure had increased by just under 3 per cent. to 64,540. The initial refusals in 1985 were 1,056 and in 1986, 1,719, an increase of 62 per cent. in the refusal rate. In other words, taking the subcontinent as a whole, it went up for those three months from a refusal of one in 60 to one in 37. That compares with refusal rates of about one in 5,500 for Australia, one in over 7,000 for Cananda, one in 4,500 for the United States and one in some 800 against South Africa.
Why did the refusal rate increase so much? The Home Secretary would have us believe that the pattern of visitors changed from one year to the next. He would have us believe that different sorts of visitors began arriving. The other explanation seems to be that the immigration officers, either spontaneously or in concert, decided to increase the refusal rate. That would fit in with the express policies of the ISU. I put it to the Home Secretary that at the very least those two explanations have equal weight. I should have thought that the second carries more weight with an impartial observer.
Nobody disputes that the conditions at Heathrow airport at peak travel times can be congested. I went about four or live weeks ago, early in September, just after the visa plans had been announced but before much impact could he seen from them. I was at terminal 3 on a Saturday morning. At least half the desks were not occupied by immigration officers when people were coming in and the arrival building was congested. I asked the immigration officers why more were not on duty and I was told that that was a problem and all the other terminals were being telephoned for more officers. No other officers arrived, so people had to wait. The least that the Government could have done was to have enough officers at the airport.
The right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), who has experience of these matters, made an interesting point. He talked about the possibility of an appeals system at the airport — an interesting suggestion which we should develop. The total cost of the present appeals system is about £2.25 million, and adding a direct appeals system at the airport — something for which my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) has been arguing for some time — would not be all that costly.
Why do we oppose this visa scheme? First, it has been introduced for only five countries. Some hon. Members talked about India, but although the Indian Government had in mind only four or five countries from which terrorists might come to India, they applied it to all countries, at great cost to them. But they did it so that they would not be seen to be discriminatory in the way that this Government have been discriminatory. Our second criticism is that, so far, the scheme has been unnecessary. The Government have not demonstrated the need for it. The first step should have been the appointment of more immigration officers at Heathrow, and then we could have seen what was necessary thereafter. Thirdly, the scheme is incredibly costly. Fourthly, there is the fear — it is almost a certainty—that there will be a higher rate of refusals for visitors applying to posts on the subcontinent and in West Africa than is the case at Heathrow airport. More people will simply not get in.
We know from the evidence of people who have applied for visitor entry certificates on a voluntary basis that, worldwide, there has been a 50 per cent. success rate in appeals against refusals. That suggests astonishing lapses in the decisions that have been made at posts abroad. I cannot guarantee that the same figures would apply to the subcontinent, but at the very least it is likely.
If the Home Secretary believes that visas are such a good idea, why did he not encourage people on the subcontinent to obtain visas for tourism on a voluntary basis? We know that officers at the posts in the subcontinent—certainly in Bangladesh— have said that they are too busy to do this sort of thing. They say, "Do not bother. Just go to Heathrow airport and take your chance." That has been the story for years. The Home Secretary should have done that if he had wanted his arguments to carry any weight.
We are worried that there will be delays in issuing visas and delays in the appeals system, which will strike hard at people coming here for urgent compassionate reasons. There will be 12 extra entry certificate officers in India to deal with tourist applications. That suggests that they will have to process 70 applications a day. The Home Secretary said, "Some of the applications will come in by post." If he is so concerned about the way in which visitors are dealt with, surely a face-to-face interview at Heathrow airport is a better check on the bona fides than dealing with applicants by post. In the end, not many will be dealt with by post.
Of course, there is a knock-on effect. If people are supposed to be dealing with 70 applications a day—we know that that is impossible—what will happen? Staff dealing with the settlement queues will be taken away and asked to deal with the tourists, which will mean even longer delays for people wishing to settle here. The proposals are clearly discriminatory in intent, and they will be discriminatory in their effect.
The Government tried in the past to remove hon. Members' rights to make representations, and we have resisted that. Now the Government argue that visas make the stop procedure unnecessary. Of course, pressure on the airlines will mean that not that many people will arrive from those countries without visas. Nevertheless, there will be some. Let me give examples showing why the right for hon. Members to retain the stop facility will still be important. The first example is where the visa holder is refused entry. The Home Secretary will say that there is a right of appeal, but we need the right to intervene when a visa holder has been stopped so that we can at least argue that he should be released from detention. There is no guarantee that the visa holder will not be held at Harmondsworth while the matter is resolved through the appeal system.
Secondly, there may be doubts about the nationality of the person. A person may arrive with dual nationality and may well wish to claim his other nationality in order to be allowed in from a country to which visas do not apply. Thirdly, somebody may arrive who is ill and who cannot be sent back. Fourthly, it is just possible that young children may arrive and it would be quite unacceptable for them to be sent halfway across the world in order to apply for a visa. There may be urgent compassionate reasons why somebody should be admitted—perhaps because of an impending funeral. It may well be that the person wishes to claim refugee status but has nevertheless been refused entry by an immigration officer at Heathrow airport.
Lastly, what about residents returning here who for some reason have failed to get their visa exemption stamp? Are they to be sent back halfway across the world to apply for the stamp somewhere else? For these and other reasons it would be a denial of justice to take away from us the right to act on behalf of our constituents and the people that they wish to have visit them. I have to make it clear yet again, because Government Members do not wish to listen, that, in government, the Labour party will continue to exercise firm immigration control. [Interruption] As the Home Secretary does not appear to be listening, I shall repeat the point. The Labour party in government will exercise firm immigration control, but we shall repeal the legislation and replace it with non-racially discriminatory measures. Can I make it clearer than that to the Home Secretary?
This debate is not about immigration: it is about the right of people to come here on holiday and about the rights of our constituents to be visited by their friends and relatives. The Government's proposals are racially discriminatory because they are saying that black tourists are less welcome than white tourists. We shall welcome all who want to spend a holiday here and that is why we shall vote against the Government.
On 15 October the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), commenting on the flood of arrivals during the previous two or three days, said:
They are simply tourists. The imposition of visas has nothing to do with immigration controls, but restriction on tourists.
In the debate those words were echoed by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). This was after thousands of people from the Indian subcontinent had flooded into Heathrow in every possible way. They came direct from the Indian subcontinent, by Kuwait Airways, Gulf Air, Egyptian Airlines, Thai Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, Quantas and Aeroflot. Many people might conclude that when a visa requirement is announced people do not rush to get into a country by any means, nor that they normally take off suddenly and decide to travel thousands of miles to visit relatives with whom perhaps they have not had any contact for years. They do not do such things unless they feel that if they delay and if their claims to enter as visitors are carefully examined abroad, they will not pass the test.
Therefore, they feel they had better try while the going is good. What happened in those last few days may be said to go a long way towards proving the case for visas. It is absolutely absurd to criticise the Government and the immigration service for having difficulties in dealing with that influx in the circumstances in which it occurred.
What happened on 12, 13 and 14 October was not an entirely new phenomenon. It was only an intensification of what our staff had to cope with throughout the summer. There had been an enormous rush of Nigerians seeking entry in July—1000 arriving on one day and 3,000 in a week. What happened in October was only an intensification of what happened between July and October 1985, when 1,006 Bangladeshis arrived at terminal 3, many of them young men claiming to be business men, carrying kits of bogus documents to substantiate that claim.
If Labour Members are not prepared to face up to those uncomfortable facts, they are not fit to be a party in government.
The right hon. Member for Gorton and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) said that the troubles on 12, 13 and 14 October could have been avoided if only there had been more staff. I remind them that staffing has been increased year on year since 1979. The 1986 figures show that there are 90 more immigration officials in post in 1986 than in 1985. Between 12 and 20 additional staff were on duty at terminal 3 until 14 October and on 14 October no fewer than 54 additional staff were in post. Even so, they could not cope, for obvious reasons, as any sensible person could recognise.
The problem facing immigration control over the past year could not have been solved by extra staffing. There is insufficient detention accommodation —[Laughter.] Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are now saying that every person who arrived at Heathrow at the beginning of October should have been let into the country, although they could not make out their application to enter as visitors. In this case our claim is fully substantiated, but right hon. and hon. Gentlemen want a weakening of immigration control. It is pure humbug of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to pretend that a Labour Government would maintain firm immigration control. That has been proved by their ridiculous mirth in the past few moments.
There has not been sufficient detention accommodation to deal with the large numbers who have arrived at Heathrow and who have been unable to substantiate their claim to enter as visitors. They have been unable to show us that they are genuine visitors who have not intended to remain here either to work for a long period or for settlement.
We do not have the secondary examination accommodation. Any hon. Member who has been to Heathrow knows that to be the case. There is not space in terminal 3 for us to interview more people than are being interviewed at present. Clearly, when they are first seen by an officer at the desk their claim to enter is at least in doubt. So it is not just a question of putting things right by having more immigration officers. It cannot be done in that way and I do not believe that any Opposition Members who have studied the problem really believe that it can be dealt with by putting more immigration officers in post.
Then there is the ridiculous charge of racism, made by the right hon. Member for Gorton and rebutted admirably and sensibly by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). It is an absurd claim. Indeed, it is as absurd as such a charge would have been in 1969, although it is clear that the change made then was aimed at people coming from the Indian subcontinent and not at people coming from Australia. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said on that occasion that the difficulty was
the great majority of dependants from India and Pakistan make no use of the entry certificate procedure."—[Official Report. 15 May 1969; Vol. 783, c. 1793.]
and, therefore, he was faced with an enormous problem. Labour Members may be interested to know that that was the first time in an immigration debate that a Minister spoke about a "flood" of immigrants.
Surely the whole matter was put in proportion by the Prime Minister of Nigeria who said on 3 September:
Visas are a technical and administrative matter. It is not a political Decision.
He was entirely right. He recognised that it is for every individual country to decide how best to operate the mechanism of immigration control and that if we felt it right to use the mechanism of visa control we were perfectly entitled to do it, in order to weed out genuine tourists from those who are pretending to be tourists.
We have never imposed visas on the basis of colour. Before these changes—[Interruption.] I wish that hon. Members would listen, because they might then not go out of the Chamber as ignorant as they were when they came in. I remind hon. Members that before this visa requirement was introduced, visas were required from citizens of Poland, China, the Congo and Burma. I make that white, yellow, black and brown.
Some people say that we should have imposed visas on other countries, just to demonstrate that there is no racism in our decision. That suggestion was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet), but it would be absurd to impose visas on countries where it is not necessary to have a visa regime, merely to avoid completely unwarranted charges of racism. There is no point in swimming along with the tide and accepting the validity of arguments about racism when a moment's examination of the facts will show that they are utter rubbish.
As for hon. Members' representations, I remind the House that we are talking about the present right of hon. Members to intervene to stop a removal. We are not talking about taking away from hon. Members the right to make representations in immigration cases. It is, therefore, not correct to say, as the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) said, that he will be deprived of the right to intercede on behalf of his constituents. That is simply not the case.
In visitor cases hon. Members ask for stops because they are questioning the judgment of the immigration officer that the individual concerned is not a genuine visitor and they want me to look at the case and review the officer's decision. But now, in the case of a visa national arriving without a visa, there will normally be nothing for me to look into, so the justification for that system disappears.
The hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) was kind enough to congratulate members of my private office on their work. I shall pass that on to them. He said that sufficient resources were not being provided for the Indian subcontinent to deal with the new regime. That is not correct because 31 additional staff are going to the Indian subcontinent and Ghana, and 26 are now in place. The rest will be there by the end of the week. It is clear from what my right hon. Friend said that the new regime is settling down and working well.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) pointed out the obvious—that there is far more pressure to get into this country illegally from some countries than from others. It is therefore scarcely surprising that there is a difference between refusal rates among nationals of some countries as compared with others.
My right hon. Friend said that he could see positive advantages in having same-day appeals for those refused entry. However, that must be a long way off because it would require primary legislation. Other countries have learnt from experience that it is easy to give a person an immediate right of appeal and to allow that person into the country, but that it is easy for that person thereafter to use every possible legal device to stay.
The hon. Member for Rochdale said that no case of his had been overruled. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave a vivid illustration of a case in which he overruled a decision by an immigration officer. It should be a salutary lesson to all Opposition Members who have been so willing to talk of massive abuse even when the total number of those who disappear is small compared with the total number of passengers. How can one say that there is not massive abuse if 201 performers arrive, 138 are granted leave and 103 disappear? Nobody but a fool would say that there is not massive abuse.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North not only suggested that it might be a good idea to have visas for all, but asked me whether we intended to extend the visa regime further. The answer to that must be no. However, the duty of any Government is to keep immigration control under continuing review and to react appropriately according to circumstances. That is precisely what we are doing tonight.
The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West said, surprisingly, that it would be better to maintain the present system and to make the decisions here because those decisions could be made more cheaply. Decisions are not made more cheaply if the decisions are erroneous because of the pressure upon the immigration service at the port of entry. Nobody can doubt that in those last few days before the visa regime was introduced people were admitted to this country who, in normal circumstances, would not have qualified under the immigration rules. That was an inevitable consequence of enormous pressure.
One or two matters of great importance have emerged during the debate. We have heard from the right hon. Member for Gorton that Labour would remove the visa requirement if returned to power. One cannot imagine a more irresponsible pledge. It is pledge to restore to Heathrow all the troubles, dislocation and inconvenience to the bona fide travellers, not least those from the Indian subcontinent, who form the vast majority. It is a pledge to restore the dislocation from which we are now escaping.
Labour would do all that at the same time as repealing the Immigration Act 1971 and the British Nationality Act 1981 — the twin pillars upon which the whole of our immigration control is based. It would do so at the same time as it was charging the immigration officers to relax procedures, within an hour of taking office. That is what the right hon. Gentleman wants to do.
|Division No.297]||[11.30 pm|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Alton, David||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)|
|Anderson, Donald||Deakins, Eric|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Dewar, Donald|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Dixon, Donald|
|Ashton, Joe||Dobson, Frank|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Dormand, Jack|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Douglas, Dick|
|Barnett, Guy||Dubs, Alfred|
|Barron, Kevin||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Eadie, Alex|
|Bell, Stuart||Eastham, Ken|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Fatchett, Derek|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Blair, Anthony||Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Fisher, Mark|
|Boyes, Roland||Flannery, Martin|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Foulkes, George|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Freud, Clement|
|Buchan, Norman||Garrett, W. E.|
|Caborn, Richard||George, Bruce|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Gould, Bryan|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Hardy, Peter|
|Cartwright, John||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Clay, Robert||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Cohen, Harry||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Coleman, Donald||Home Robertson, John|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Howells, Geraint|
|Corbett, Robin||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Craigen, J. M.||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Crowther, Stan||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||John, Brynmor|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Kennedy, Charles||Raynsford, Nick|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Redmond, Martin|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Lamond, James||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Robertson, George|
|Leighton, Ronald||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rogers, Allan|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Litherland, Robert||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Livsey, Richard||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheerman, Barry|
|Loyden, Edward||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|McCartney, Hugh||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|McGuire, Michael||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|McKelvey, William||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|McNamara, Kevin||Skinner, Dennis|
|McTaggart, Robert||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Madden, Max||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Marek, Dr John||Snape, Peter|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Soley, Clive|
|Martin, Michael||Spearing, Nigel|
|Maxton, John||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Strang, Gavin|
|Meacher, Michael||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Michie, William||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Tinn, James|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wainwright, R.|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Wareing, Robert|
|Nelhst, David||Weetch, Ken|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Welsh, Michael|
|O'Brien, William||White, James|
|O'Neill, Martin||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Park, George||Wilson, Gordon|
|Parry, Robert||Winnick, David|
|Patchett, Terry||Woodall, Alec|
|Pendry, Tom||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Pike, Peter||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Prescott, John||Mr. John McWilliam and|
|Radice, Giles||Mr. Ray Powell.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Alexander, Richard||Browne, John|
|Amess, David||Bruinvels, Peter|
|Ancram, Michael||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Arnold, Tom||Budgen, Nick|
|Ashby, David||Butcher, John|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Butterfill, John|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)|
|Baldry, Tony||Carttiss, Michael|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Cash, William|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Bellingham, Henry||Chapman, Sydney|
|Bendall, Vivian||Chope, Christopher|
|Benyon, William||Churchill, W. S.|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Blackburn, John||Clegg, Sir Walter|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Cockeram, Eric|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Colvin, Michael|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Conway, Derek|
|Bottomley, Peter||Coombs, Simon|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Cope, John|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Corrie, John|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Couchman, James|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Crouch, David|
|Bright, Graham||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Brinton, Tim||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Dicks, Terry|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Heddle, John|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Dover, Den||Hickmet, Richard|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Hicks, Robert|
|Dunn, Robert||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Durant, Tony||Hind, Kenneth|
|Dykes, Hugh||Hirst, Michael|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Eggar, Tim||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Holt, Richard|
|Evennett, David||Howard, Michael|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Fallon, Michael||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Favell, Anthony||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldlord)|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Forman, Nigel||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Forth, Eric||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Jackson, Robert|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Jessel, Toby|
|Freeman, Roger||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Fry, Peter||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Gale, Roger||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Galley, Roy||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Key, Robert|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Knox, David|
|Gorst, John||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Gow, Ian||Lang, Ian|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Latham, Michael|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Gregory, Conal||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Grist, Ian||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Ground, Patrick||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Lester, Jim|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Hannam, John||Lightbown, David|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Lilley, Peter|
|Harvey, Robert||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Hawksley, Warren||McCrindle, Robert|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Hayward, Robert||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Pollock, Alexander|
|Maclean, David John||Porter, Barry|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Portillo, Michael|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E.|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Powley, John|
|Madel, David||Price, Sir David|
|Major, John||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Malins, Humfrey||Raffan, Keith|
|Malone, Gerald||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Maples, John||Rathbone, Tim|
|Marland, Paul||Renton, Tim|
|Marlow, Antony||Rhys Williams, Sir BranCon|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Mates, Michael||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Mather, Carol||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Rowe, Andrew|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Ryder, Richard|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Mellor, David||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Merchant, Piers||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Shersby, Michael|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Squire, Robin|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Moate, Roger||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Murphy, Christopher||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Newton, Tony||Waddington, David|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Normanton, Tom||Watts, John|
|Norris, Steven||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Whitfield, John|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Wilkinson, John|
|Ottaway, Richard||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Page, Sir John (Harrow W)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Pawsey, James||Mr. Michael Neubert and|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Mr. Peter Lloyd.|