HC Deb 24 July 1991 vol 195 cc1180-4 4.40 pm
Mr. John Hughes (Coventry, North-East)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to permit, in certain circumstances, the immigration into the United Kingdom of dependent children of parents settled in the United Kingdom; and for connected purposes. If the basic right to love and to marry and the important right to live with one's family are so highly valued by hon. Members, is it not ironic that the Berlin wall, which divided a country, a nation, families and loved ones should have enraged us, yet knowledge of the barriers that exist within the immigration legislation, which are just as divisive, should leave the House unmoved? Surely the celebrations at the destruction of the Berlin wall and the act of erasing that obscenity should have reminded the law-makers in this country that there can be no grounds for complacency or smug satisfaction while this country continues to operate inhumane immigration laws that divide families and discriminate largely unfairly against black people and predominantly against those from Bangladesh and India.

Anyone who was proud to posture at the bulldozed Berlin wall for the photographers should take a long look at the immigration laws and the practices that they endorse. If that person does not see a contradiction, he is guilty of the greatest hypocrisy in support of the implementation of the Immigration Act 1988 which I look forward to the next Labour Government repealing.

The race barriers at each British embassy, every British port and every British airport are the product of racist prejudice and bigotry embedded in immigration legislation. The effects of those barriers are just as cruel to parents settled in this country as were the distress and pain experienced by German families who were separated from their loved ones by the watch towers, concrete and barbed wire of the Berlin wall.

I want to concentrate today on one relatively small part of the immigration laws and will attempt to right an enormous wrong that has been perpetrated on many families and which could now he corrected, due to the introduction of new DNA technology which has exposed the Government's unfair discrimination against Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian children. The Home Secretary has been forced to concede that that technology is the most accurate method to determine parentage in immigration cases. Technology and my Bill would give the House the opportunity to erase from the Immigration Act 1988 a particularly cruel clause and allow the entry of children under the age of 18 to be dealt with in a just way.

Those children have the right to join their parents who have obtained British citizenship, but the parentage of those children has often been challenged and their applications refused. The argument has been used most often against children from the Indian subcontinent and particularly from Bangladesh and Pakistan. Entry clearance officers can take advantage of the fact that the registration of births of children in those countries is not compulsory. The absence of a birth certificate gives scope to say that a child's relationship is not as claimed, and permission to join parents is refused.

That discrimination really applies only to children from the subcontinent. In cases where children have been refused permission to join their families who have settled here, DNA tests have shown beyond a shadow of doubt that their claims were true. A Home Office survey of those cases has shown that in more than 80 per cent. of cases the immigration officers had been wrong and the individuals were parents and children, exactly as they claimed.

However, the passage of time between the original applications and the DNA tests means that many of those children have now reached the age of 18 and are therefore no longer covered by the rule which allows them to join their parents. In other words, those families told the truth in the first place when their children were eligible to join their families. They were wrongly refused and now that their claims can be proven, the children are too old. That is a cruel and callous Catch-22. It is an inhuman anomaly in the Immigration Act.

Consequently, a substantial number of young people in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan can now prove a claimed relationship, but they were denied the right to join their parents in Britain because of the alarming number of erroneous decisions in the past. However, they are now over 18—the upper limit to qualify as a dependant of a United Kingdom settler.

Some 800 young people resident in Bangladesh have applied for entry on the basis of the stringent conditions imposed by the Home Secretary. Of that 800, decisions on 500 have been taken and less than one third have been allowed to come here. It is believed that the Home Office finds even that number to be too high.

An example of that miserable state of affairs is illustrated in the recent case taken to the European Court of Justice by Mr. R. De Mello under the instructions of the Birmingham-based solicitors Rust McKie. The case concerned Mr. Rahim, a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin and his son Angur Miah. The story began in 1976 when Mr. Rahim sponsored his wife and children, including 12-year-old Angur, to come to Britain to join him. The application applying to the whole family was refused because the immigration authorities did not believe that all the children, and in particular Angur, were Mr. Rahim's children.

In 1981 when Angur was 17, another application was made and was refused for the same reason. In 1984, another two applications were made, but they failed. The second application omitted Angur due to a clerical error. I should point out that the father is illiterate and the form was completed on his behalf.

After a lapse of 13 years in 1989—13 long years since the original application in 1976—a DNA test established that Mr. Rahim was in fact related to all his family. They were all allowed in with the exception of Angur Miah who, even after a further application in January of last year, was once again refused—this time because he had become too old. So, 14 years after the original application, Angur Miah the rightful son, cannot join his mother, father, brothers and sisters. He is exiled from his family because the Home Secretary refused to waive the conditions of the Act, or rule 53 as it has become known.

4.49 pm
Sir Marcus Fox (Shipley)

The hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes) has been the invisible man since 14 May. This is the third attempt to bring in his ten-minute Bill. It must be the longest running ten-minute Bill in history. The wording of his present Bill differs strongly from that of his first, but the purpose is the same. Anyone who listened to what he has said must understand that his Bill represents unrestricted immigration. If it were to be allowed, the loopholes would be enormous.

We thought that, when the hon. Gentleman disappeared the first and second times, he was being got at by his Whips because they did not want the debate to be brought out into the open. He has been nobbled because his Bill now states "under certain circumstances". That is not the original wording. Never mind the Berlin wall, everything else that the hon. Gentleman said is contrary to the purposes in which Conservative Members believe—straight and fair immigration control. If Opposition Members support the hon. Gentleman in the Division Lobby, I hope that everybody in the country will read carefully what the hon. Gentleman has said.

I served on the Standing Committee that considered the Immigration Act 1971. We introduced immigration rules to try to restrict the immigration that was concerning the whole nation. What did we do? We made provision for Commonwealth citizens who were here to ensure that we could abide by the commitment to bring in their wives and dependent children. But what happened? The courts found it very difficult to implement. What made us change the position in 1988? The European Court of Human Rights decided that what we had done was sexist. If Opposition Members want to be accused of being sexist, they had better go into the Ayes Lobby. That would be interesting.

All the wrong signals would be given outside the House if we were to vote for the Bill. When thousands of people are seeking political asylum here—many for bogus reasons —there is wide-scale abuse in immigration in this country. Opposition Members have been chuntering on today about unemployment and other matters. We are concerned as well. If we were to pass the Bill, we would make a mockery of immigration controls. Conservative Members are not prepared to do that. Opposition Members have always believed in easy immigration. They have opposed every major measure that we have introduced. The best thing that we can do this afternoon is to send the hon. Gentleman to Coventry where he belongs.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business ):—

The House divided: Ayes 98, Noes 124.

Division No. 224] [4.52 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Eadie, Alexander
Allen, Graham Eastham, Ken
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Edwards, Huw
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Barron, Kevin Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Beith, A. J. Fatchett, Derek
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Faulds, Andrew
Benton, Joseph Flannery, Martin
Bradley, Keith Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Golding, Mrs Llin
Caborn, Richard Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Callaghan, Jim Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hardy, Peter
Canavan, Dennis Harman, Ms Harriet
Cartwright, John Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hood, Jimmy
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hoyle, Doug
Cousins, Jim Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cummings, John Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Lamond, James
Leighton, Ron Pike, Peter L.
Lewis, Terry Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Litherland, Robert Quin, Ms Joyce
Livingstone, Ken Redmond, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Stratford) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Loyden, Eddie Salmond, Alex
McAvoy, Thomas Sedgemore, Brian
McCartney, Ian Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Macdonald. Calum A. Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McFall, John Sillars, Jim
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Skinner, Dennis
McKelvey, William Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Maclennan, Robert Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McMaster, Gordon Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
McNamara, Kevin Steinberg, Gerry
McWilliam, John Strang, Gavin
Madden, Max Straw, Jack
Mahon, Mrs Alice Turner, Dennis
Marek, Dr John Wareing, Robert N.
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Winnick, David
Mowlam, Marjorie Wise, Mrs Audrey
Mullin, Chris Young, David (Bolton SE)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Parry, Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Patchett, Terry Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. Peter Hain.
Pendry, Tom
Alexander, Richard Gale, Roger
Amess, David Gill, Christopher
Amos, Alan Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Arbuthnot, James Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Ashby, David Gregory, Conal
Aspinwall, Jack Hague, William
Atkinson, David Harris, David
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Hayes, Jerry
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Hayward, Robert
Beggs, Roy Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Bevan, David Gilroy Hill, James
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hordern, Sir Peter
Blackburn, Dr John G. Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Irvine, Michael
Bowis, John Janman, Tim
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Jessel, Toby
Brazier, Julian Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Kilfedder, James
Buck, Sir Antony King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Budgen, Nicholas Knapman, Roger
Burns, Simon Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Butcher, John Latham, Michael
Butler, Chris Lawrence, Ivan
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Luce, Rt Hon Sir Richard
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Colvin, Michael McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Conway, Derek Mans, Keith
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Marlow, Tony
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Cran, James Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Mates, Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Meyer, Sir Anthony
Dicks, Terry Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Dover, Den Monro, Sir Hector
Dunn, Bob Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Evennett, David Moss, Malcolm
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Mudd, David
Favell, Tony Nelson, Anthony
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Neubert, Sir Michael
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Nicholls, Patrick
Fookes, Dame Janet Norris, Steve
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Fox, Sir Marcus Paice, James
French, Douglas Pawsey, James
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Porter, David (Waveney) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Powell, William (Corby) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Price, Sir David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rhodes James, Sir Robert Thorne, Neil
Rost, Peter Thornton, Malcolm
Sayeed, Jonathan Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Viggers, Peter
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Warren, Kenneth
Shelton, Sir William Watts, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wells, Bowen
Shersby, Michael Wheeler, Sir John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Whitney, Ray
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Wolfson, Mark
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Stewart, Rt Hon Sir Ian Tellers for the Noes:
Sumberg, David Mr. Robert G. Hughes and Mr. Stephen Day.
Summerson, Hugo

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With regard to the Division that has just taken place, will you confirm, as is usual practice, that the names of those Labour Front-Bench spokesmen who vote for the ten-minute Bill that has just been introduced, about which its promoter, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes), said that if a Labour Government were re-elected, there would be an abolition of——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)


Mr. Brown

And that Labour Front-Bench spokesmen who voted in favour——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman persists again in disregarding the instructions of the Chair, the Chair will have no alternative but to exercise its disciplinary responsibility.

Several Hon. Members

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I shall deal with one point of order at a time. The point of order raised by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) was clearly bogus.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Sometimes the Opposition can change the subject matter for discussion on an Opposition day. As we have now seen 18 Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen vote for a change—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am not prepared to listen to any more of this bogus nonsense.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

On a completely and utterly different point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who I understand is a Conservative, was elected as Chairman of a Select Committee on Health on the basis of Opposition votes only. I wonder whether you can tell the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether that has ever happened before or whether it is unique.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair is becoming more and more irritated by the irresponsible points of order that are being raised. We have very important business before us and we should get on with it.