Orders of the Day — Mr. Amarjit Singh

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:56 pm on 23 January 1996.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes 11:56, 23 January 1996

As the Minister responsible for entry clearance matters arising overseas, I am occasionally asked to reverse ECOs' decisions, but I rarely feel able to do so. It is unnecessary, because adequate safeguards already exist to ensure that the decision that is made is fair. ECOs' decisions are subject to review routinely by the next tier of management and randomly through the offices of the independent monitor Dame Elizabeth Anson.

Dame Elizabeth was appointed under the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, with terms of reference that require her to take a sample of about 1,800 refusals a year drawn randomly by an established statistical formula. Only rarely, therefore, will there be any reason for ministerial intervention in the decision-making process. Normally, the immigration rules must be followed. But when new evidence is presented, representations can and do result in the ECO reversing the decision without the need for any ministerial involvement. In her 1995 report, Dame Elizabeth said that she had received a number of letters from right hon. and hon. Members who have been successful in obtaining a favourable decision.

I have visited a number of entry clearance posts and found them to be staffed by well-motivated officers who are anxious to be seen to apply an immigration procedure that is firm but fair. I have visited the entry clearance office in New Delhi; I have met the entry clearance manager and the majority of entry clearance officers. I am impressed with their genuineness and assiduousness—as was my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary when he visited that office in New Delhi. There has been a staggering change in that office in the 10 years since I was last there. We now treat people, not just as humans, but in comfort and compassionately, which is vital if we are to carry out an important service, with people who deserve to be treated properly.

We still have to remember that we are dealing with humans, and human nature being what it is, there will always be those who set out to defeat the system for their own personal ends. If we treated people with suspicion from the outset, the numbers that I have mentioned would show that. The majority of people receive entry clearance, and there is the chance to make another application and, therefore, to succeed in time.

I am convinced that the entry clearance system at present in place is operated fairly.