Does the Minister now understand why the selective introduction of visa control was widely seen as racist? Does he now accept that the most effective way of dealing with the problem at Heathrow would have been to appoint more immigration officers? Does he further accept that the substantial increase in entry visas has added financial penalties to racial injury?
I wish that Opposition Members would not go around the place bandying allegations of racism. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that such an allegation is quite absurd in the present case. He knows perfectly well that we require visas of more than 60 countries, including citizens of Poland, China, the Congo and Burma. As I said in the debate the other week, I make that white, yellow, black, and brown.
Is it not the case that the new visa regulations did not change in any detail the right of anyone to come to this country as a visitor? What was changed was a policing system that had been found to be increasingly unsatisfactory, detrimental to the rights of visitors coming to this country and working against their interests. Is it not extraordinary that the Opposition support the policing system that did not work, in the face of one that does?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. As the President of Nigeria said, visas are a technical and administrative matter. It is not a political decision. It is an administrative arrangement, which is of obvious benefit to all bona fide travellers, who will now be able to come to this country with none of the hassle, waiting and trouble that they had to endure at Heathrow because of the need to process large numbers of people whose claims to enter were in doubt.
How many additional officers have the Government put in place in those countries to handle the visa applications and to ensure that there are not unacceptable delays there?
I think that the answer is 39. I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that at present the system is working smoothly, with 95 per cent. of all applications being dealt with on the same day.
Is it not a fact that 95 per cent. of visa applications being dealt with in 24 hours proves that the system is working efficiently and well? Is not the greatest benefit to our constituents the fact that when they invite a visitor or a relation to come to see them they know that he will turn up at the airport at a time that has been agreed and not hours or, indeed, days, later, as was the case under the old system?
The hon. Gentleman should realise from a glance at the list of countries in respect of which there is a visa requirement that we impose visas when it is necessary for administrative reasons. We do not impose visas for the sake of imposing visas and when there is no operational requirement for doing so.