Changes in Us Immigration Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:36 pm on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State 8:36 pm, 30th January 2017

First, I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this special debate, even though it followed 90 minutes of questions to the Foreign Secretary on the same topic. It is important that we have been able to air our views. It is no part of my comment tonight to find partisan difference or to argue with the fundamental moral arguments that have been put to the House today.

I commend Edward Miliband for pressing this issue. The House has every right to speak out. We are seen throughout so much of the world as the voice of democracy and as a lighthouse of justice and decency. It is in that vein that we have witnessed a debate of the highest quality that I hope will be noticed and listened to, and I hope that all those who have participated will feel proud of the contribution they have made on a very important issue.

We witnessed the most deeply moving speech from my hon. Friend Nadhim Zahawi. It was clearly a moment of deep personal emotion for him. It illustrated what has fired us up today, along with millions of other people. There is a moral dimension to this issue, as we have been discussing, but perhaps we have not emphasised quite enough the intensely personal dimension for the individuals whose lives are going to be affected. That is what we must understand when we debate this issue.

From my right hon. Friend Sir Simon Burns, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of US Presidents, we have learned about previous presidential visits to the UK. I acknowledge my hon. Friend Crispin Blunt for mapping out some of the broader strategic issues within which this very difficult issue has to fit. One of those is, of course, our relationship with the one superpower in the world, our closest historical ally, with which we have very close interests that affect all our constituents. I urge the House to appreciate that the Government have to see it from that perspective.

Perhaps, in addition to the fervent moral arguments we have heard, I can map out some of the practical side. On Friday, after the Prime Minister had left Washington, the President issued his Executive order banning the citizens of seven countries from entering the US for a period of 90 days. We know which countries they are: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. The order makes clear that no US visas will be issued to citizens of those states, and that anyone who already has a visa will be denied entry. I acknowledge the point made by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North that that is a significant extension of and is different from the list drawn up by the Obama Administration when those countries were withdrawn from the US visa waiver programme in 2016. What President Obama did in December 2015 was amend the visa waiver. From January 2016, it did not include individuals or dual nationals who had, in the previous five years, been to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan. In February last year, the new provisions were extended—this is the origin of the list—to people who had travelled in the previous five years to Somalia, Yemen or Libya, but were not dual nationals of those countries. It is true that President Trump’s Executive order is more extensive and sweeping, and it is altogether of a different order.