Orders of the Day — Mr. Amarjit Singh

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:44 pm on 23 January 1996.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Trevor Skeet Mr Trevor Skeet , Bedfordshire North 11:44, 23 January 1996

I want to raise the case of Mr. Amarjit Singh, who wishes to come to this country to see his grandmother who has terminal cancer. He has made three applications—one on 17 August 1993, another on 24 October 1994 and a third on 28 March 1995—all of which have been refused. Many of the reasons that have been given for refusal are, in my judgment, insubstantial.

An example of that with the third application was the allegation that Mr. Singh did not have full knowledge of his grandmother's illness—yet he received his information from the high commission doctor, so that should have been adequate. It was also said that there was no evidence confirming his business in India or that he had lived with his grandmother since the death of his father in 1979.

The sick lady, Mrs. Seso Kaur, wrote to me on 25 April 1995 saying: I brought up my grandson from a toddler when his father … died. I even gave up my work in a local school so that my daughter-in-law [Amarjit's mother] could take my place to earn some money in order to raise her family. It is worth observing that the other argument that was advanced related to the paternal uncle. It was suggested that there was no reason why Amarjit Singh should visit his grandmother to the exclusion of the paternal uncle and other, closer, relatives. That argument was adequately answered by the consultant, Dr. K. Farrington, in his letter of 2 November 1994. He said of the sick lady: She has a strong desire to see her grandson, Amarjit Singh, whom she brought up from a baby and who lived with her until she came to this country 6 years ago and for whom she naturally feel close ties and affection. It is apparent that some of the reasons for refusal were thin indeed.

On 5 September 1995, the sick lady wrote: It would seem there is no end to the tragedy in my family. You are already aware of Amarjit's father's death. And now his mother, Mrs. Joginder Kaur has also died on the 28/8/1995. I am now extremely worried not only about Amarjit but also about his younger sister Usha Devi who is 17 years old. It is rather interesting in such a case to have blatant refusals from the high commission in India, which is supposed to be doing a proper job.

I want to refer to the medical condition of Mrs. Kaur. There have been seven communications, three of them to the high commission in New Delhi—the communications by consultant J. H. B. Saunders on 1 December 1992; by Dr. Agrawal, the GP to the high commission, on 5 October 1994 on the lady's medical condition; and from Maria Eckford, social worker to the high commission, on 1 October 1994. The high commission was apprised of the situation and of the lady's deteriorating circumstances as far back as 1992, yet there have been constant refusals.

It may be important for me to bring the House up to date. On 3 January 1996, consultant Ken Farrington BSc MD FRCB wrote: Further to my previous letters about this lady, I am writing to advise you of a change in her circumstances. She has now developed a recurrence of her carcinoma of the gall-bladder. I am afraid her prognosis is now very poor and very limited to weeks. She is still desperate to see her grandson and I would appeal to you to do all you can to ensure that this is possible in the required time-scale. In his earlier letter of 24 November 1995, Dr. Farrington said that Mrs. Kaur had chronic renal failure and had been receiving haemodialysis programmes since September 1994. An earlier letter gives a good indication of the way Dr. Farrington feels about the matter. In his letter of 19 December 1994, he wrote: I was appalled to hear that this man's Visa application to visit his grandmother in the UK has been refused, in spite of my strong support … I would urge you most strongly to grant this Visa to allow this humanitarian visit as soon as possible. I need hardly say that the consultant has responded most positively, and I give him full marks for the attention that he has paid to this case. He wrote me no fewer than six letters—on 2 November 1994, 19 December 1994, 11 January 1995, 19 April 1995, 24 November 1995 and 3 January 1996.

It would seem to be an overwhelming case, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for coming here tonight to put forward the case for the defence for the entry clearance officer in New Delhi. For humanitarian reasons, we should consider this case much more deeply than it has been considered up to now. Two Ministers have been involved, and I have seen both on the matter. I am grateful to the present Minister for writing to me on 22 January.

I shall put certain specific points to my right hon. Friend, as I want to give him a full opportunity to state his case. There is no need to interview Mr. Singh again, as three rejections have been made on rather insubstantial grounds. There is no proof of guilt—only suspicion. The compassionate case now outweighs any doubts about the attitude of Mr. Singh, which can be explained by family distress. If there is any further delay, the course of the disease is liable to overtake any further consultation. Innocent cases are apt to be sacrificed, while international swindlers manage to foil the most skilful diplomats.

I make my final plea to the Minister. On grounds of pure humanity, it his duty to overrule the entry clearance officer who has found it difficult to see beyond the paper before him. The question is whether my right hon. Friend has the courage to use his discretion.

When we set up an instrument for very good reasons—checking visas at the place of origin to find out whether people are entitled to come for a short stay in the United Kingdom—certain aberrations creep in. The bureaucrats intervene and humanity is disregarded.

In cases such as this—I have tried to settle it with the Minister, but have had to make it public—my right hon. Friend has a way out. He can get assurances from the family, from the temple to which this man is attached and from me that he will return on the date indicated. My right hon. Friend can also lay down conditions for his stay in the United Kingdom. He can say that he is not entitled to come here for three months, but can stay for only one week—or 10 day—and must report to the police every day and return at the end of the stay.

That would make the visit possible and enable my right hon. Friend to meet the interests of a lady who is dying and making her final plea to the state in defence of which he will speak tonight.