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Immigration

Volume 52: debated on Thursday 19 January 1984

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10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how a man applying to come to the United Kingdom to join his wife or fiancee can prove that it is not his primary purpose to come to the United Kingdom.

There is no absolute criterion. Each application must be examined individually. In applying the rules approved by Parliament we require an applicant to give a full explanation of the circumstances of his marriage or proposed marriage and of his intention to live with his bride in the United Kingdom rather than in his own country. This process provides ample opportunity for an applicant to demonstrate that his main reason for marrying was not to obtain admission to the United Kingdom for settlement.

Is the Minister aware that the Kafkaesque rule is being used to prevent many young Asian British women from having the right to choose to marry whom they please and is separating many young families? Will he issue instructions on how the rule is to be interpreted? Or will he continue to allow entry certificate officers to use it to refuse whomsoever they choose, remembering that it is for the applicant impossible to prove the point?

I do not agree with the last proposition advanced by the hon. Lady. Entry clearance officers receive guidance on a wide range of matters, and it does not appear to me that this rule is very difficult to apply. Entry clearance officers interpret the plain words of the rules, which do not prevent arranged marriages but prevent marriage from being used by men just to get here.

Will my hon. and learned Friend review the system by which visitors and potential immigrants can sometimes use Members of Parliament as a means of extending their potential stay? Although hon. Members are, generally speaking, quite capable of dealing with such issues, they are seldom in a position to make an objective judgment as to whether such people should stay in this country for a long time.

That is a different matter. It is not for me to suggest that hon. Members should not have the right to come to me and make representations about individual constituency cases.

Will the Minister stop using the argument about recourse to public funds as a way of refusing entry to husbands and male fiancés? Women who are unfortunate enough to be unemployed should not be penalised for living with their husbands, or from marrying.

It is not a question of my having recourse to the argument about public funds. The rules, which were approved by Parliament as recently as last February, say that it shall be a qualification for admission as a wife or female fiancée that a person will not become a charge on public funds, and that seems to be perfectly reasonable.

Is the Minister aware that the most reprehensible discrimination is now being officially practised against United Kingdom citizens just because they are of Asian origin? Is he further aware that apart from the cases to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) referred, where United Kingdom citizens find it almost impossible to prove a negative—that they will live together as man and wife and that that is the only reason for their marriage—these practices now extend to registrars of marriages uniquely asking Asian citizens to produce passports before agreeing to conduct their weddings?

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that elderly relatives and family visitors are increasingly being subjected to interrogation, for example at Heathrow, in a way that is not exercised against any other visitors or citizens coming to this country? Does he appreciate the repulsive nature of these growing practices and the effect that they are having on good community relationships, which I know he and the Home Secretary wish to establish, and will he kindly agree to review them so as to satisfy British citizens of Asian origin?

I cannot accept that discrimination is exercised by our immigration officers. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the legislation expressly provides that the rules shall be applied by our immigration officers without regard to race, religion or creed, and therefore I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's propositions. Our immigration officers carry out a difficult task extremely well.