HC Deb 28 March 1985 vol 76 cc640-2
4. Miss Maynard

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many children have been deported or removed from the United Kingdom since 1979.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Waddington)

Few people under the age of 18 are either deported or removed. I regret that figures are not available to show either their number or the number who leave with their parents against whom such action has to be taken.

Miss Maynard

Is the Minister aware that large numbers of children who were born in Britain or who are British citizens are being driven out of this country because of the way in which the immigration laws operate? Is that not an absolute disgrace? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman agree to review the whole issue?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Lady is entirely wrong. All those children who were born in Britain before 1 January 1983 and who therefore automatically became British citizens — although perhaps their parents were here illegally or temporarily —could not be deported, because British citizens cannot be deported.

Mr. Budgen

I remind my hon. and learned Friend that the present immigration rules are a substantial relaxation of the promise made by the Tory party in 1979. If the application of those rules were relaxed in the face of pressure, such as that put upon my hon. and learned Friend by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard), there would be real resentment and anger in those areas which have had to bear the brunt of heavy immigration.

Mr. Waddington

My hon. Friend has gone very wide of the question on the Order Paper. The Government have conducted a well-balanced immigration policy. For that reason, immigration was not a big issue at the last election. We can take pride in that policy. We should try to talk about these issues moderately. It is sad that the Opposition often try to make party political points out of them. We have every reason to believe that we are carrying out a well-balanced policy.

Mr. Ashley

While the Minister is considering the plight of deported children, will he consider the position of the 25 unaccompanied teenagers who are confined to closed camps in Hong Kong? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman admit some of those teenagers to Britain and urge other Governments to admit the rest of them?

Mr. Waddington

The right hon. Gentleman has gone wide of the question as well. We are anxiously studying the position of those people in camps in Hong Kong. At the moment, however, we are discussing our immigration rules in so far as they bear on young children and may result in their deportation. In fact, few children are deported.

Sir John Wells

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that about a million young people, including under-age children, come to this country every year as so-called language students and that about 10 per cent. of them do not return home? What does my hon. and learned Friend propose to do about that?

Mr. Waddington

I shall look into any cases that my hon. Friend brings to my attention.

I must revert to the question. I am sorry that we do not have the statistics that would enable me to give an exact answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard), but I hope that the House has got matters into perspective. Between 1979 and 1984, only 23 persons in all were deported as dependants under section 3(5)(c) of the Immigration Act 1971. Perhaps none of them was under 18, or perhaps one or two were.

Mr. Madden

Does the Minister agree that women with children are often placed in very distressing circumstances because of the sex discrimination in our immigration laws? Before the European Court tells him to do so, will he undertake to remove sex discrimination from within the existing immigration rules?

Mr. Waddington

We are talking about the power to deport children. Whatever the hon. Gentleman may be referring to, he is certainly not talking about anything which has the remotest connection with the power to deport children. He is suggesting that we should relax the immigration rules to allow young men to come here, using marriage as a device, and to go on to the labour market. That would not commend itself to the vast majority of the British people.

Mr. Terlezki

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the vast majority of immigrants, from wherever they may have come, are more than happy to be living in a free and democratic country? The Labour party is using immigrants, irrespective of colour, to gain cheap votes and to make propaganda in this House.

Mr. Waddington

I repeat what I said before. It is most unfortunate when the Opposition stir up the immigration issue, because the vast majority of those who have settled here are, as my hon. Friend has said, very proud to be members of our community.

Mr. Dubs

The Minister referred to a well-balanced policy. Is he seriously suggesting that it is well balanced if, in 1983, it resulted in 137 children who wanted to come into this country being detained at ports because the Minister wanted them to be removed? Is the Minister denying that, at least from time to time, both he and his Department seek to remove young children? In my constituency a six-year-old boy is under the threat of removal, not with his mother, but separately, because the Minister will not allow him to stay here while his immigration status is being resolved.

Mr. Waddington

Although the Opposition always wax so eloquent about these matters, they never tell even half the story. They talk about the number of people who are deported now, but they never mention the number of people who were deported prior to 1979. One finds that the figures are very alike. They talk about the number of people removed, but they never mention the number of people removed prior to 1979. Again, the figures are very similar. I wish that the Opposition would realise that this is a sensitive issue and would tell the House the whole truth.

Forward to