Visas

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th November 1986.

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Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West 12:00 am, 20th November 1986

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received concerning the recent introduction of visa control for nationals of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

A number of right hon. and hon. Members have expressed views on the changes, which have been fully debated here and in another place. Many other individuals and organisations have also written.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

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?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

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.

Photo of Stephen Dorrell Stephen Dorrell , Loughborough

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?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

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.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan , Caithness and Sutherland

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?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

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.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lawler Mr Geoffrey Lawler , Bradford North

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?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

My hon. Friend is entirely right. That is why I regret so many of the scare stories being put about by Opposition Members, who should know a lot better.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Battersea

The Minister has just asserted yet again that his proposals for the five countries are not racist. Can he then explain why, when British people going to South Africa require a visa, white South Africans coming to Britain on holiday do not require a visa?

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Ribble Valley

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.