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Aldrin Quibuyen

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mark Tami.]

I am grateful for this opportunity to raise the case of my constituent, Mr. Aldrin Quibuyen, and his family, who are currently subject to a detention and removal order. I am asking the Minister to consider revoking it tonight by using the powers of discretion at his disposal.

Perhaps I should begin by briefly setting out the facts of the case. Mr. Quibuyen, who is a qualified nurse, entered the UK entirely properly and in accordance with immigration rules in 2003 with a work permit for his employer Craegmoor Healthcare, and was granted leave to remain until 2008. In May 2005, a new work permit application was approved for a change of employment to Caeffair nursing home, but the granting of a new work permit also necessitates a new application for further leave to remain to be lodged within six months. Mr. Quibuyen should have been informed of that by his new employer, but due to a combination of administrative error and some confusion on his part, a new application was not launched for a full 15 months. As a result, Mr. Quibuyen was informed by letter on 29 November 2006 that his application for further leave to remain had been refused. The reason given was that he had breached his condition of stay by continuing to work for an employer without the required permission. His leave to enter was then curtailed as a result and, as that has now passed, he and his family are being asked to leave the UK as soon as practicable.

I would like to say at the outset that it is undeniable that Mr. Quibuyen, in failing to submit the proper form within the allotted time, was in breach of the regulations; and the officials acted perfectly reasonably and within the terms of the rules. I have to say, however, that if I had to leave the country every time I forgot to fill in a vital piece of paperwork, I would have been deported many times over the years. It is an easy mistake to make. I think that there is plenty of evidence to prove that in this case that is precisely what it was—an honest mistake. Mr. Quibuyen remained in contact with the authorities throughout his time here, and thought that he was complying with the regulations. When he realised his mistake, he admitted it and sought to rectify it.

That brings us to the question before us tonight: is the evidence of Mr. Quibuyen’s good character and honest intent sufficient basis to warrant the use of ministerial discretion for which the regulations allow? I think that there are good reasons for applying that discretion in this case. First, Mr. Quibuyen is diligent, extremely hard working and much appreciated by his employer, and by the hundreds of people for whom he has cared during the four years he has worked here. If he were a citizen, we would call him an exemplary citizen. For the first two years he managed to sustain himself, sent money home to his family in the Philippines, and saved enough for a deposit on a house so that his family could join him, as they did in December 2004.

Individuals like Mr. Quibuyen, who work hard, pay their taxes and are never a drain on state resources, are concrete examples of the success of the Government’s immigration policy, with its emphasis on managed migration to plug vital skill gaps in particular sectors and local labour markets. We all know that the national health service, and the care sector more widely, could not function as well as they do without the valued contribution of overseas workers in general, and in particular the high quality care provided by nurses from the Philippines.

The second reason for reconsidering the removal order is the extent to which the family have integrated with the local community in Ammanford. Mr. Quibuyen’s daughter, Phebe, was born here, and his son Buzz—Aldrin—is doing very well at school. He has learned Welsh and English, and recently won a spelling award in both languages. The family are part of our community and the people of Ammanford have taken them to their hearts.

Since December last year, Aldrin and his wife Rhoda have been unable to work or provide for themselves or their family. It is testimony to the high regard in which Aldrin—affectionately known locally as Al—and his family are held that throughout this incredibly difficult time they have been entirely sustained by the financial support of their local church, the Salvation Army and the generosity of ordinary people in Ammanford. I also pay tribute to Carmarthenshire county council, which has been very understanding in dealing with Mr. Quibuyen’s council tax arrears. I am grateful to the council for that.

As I am sure the Minister agrees, that tradition of hospitality and solidarity is the true picture of race relations in this country, and it is something that we should celebrate. The Minister will have seen a petition bearing thousands of names and received hundreds of letters from members of the public asking him and his colleagues to reconsider.

In the times in which we live, of course it is right and proper for the Government to insist on a tightly policed system of rules governing who can and cannot enter and work in this country, but it is also right for there to be enough flexibility for Ministers to use discretion in cases where there is no deliberate attempt to deceive and a punitive approach would clearly not be in the public interest. In instances like this, in which an honest mistake has been made, such an approach might well send the wrong signal to honest individuals who may merely have delayed submitting the forms. They should be told that if they contact the authorities, it will not necessarily be a case of automatic deportation: there should be flexibility, and each case should rightly be judged on its merits. Sending Mr. Quibuyen and his family back to the Philippines would devastate him financially and emotionally. He would lose everything that he had worked for and his family, already uprooted once, would be uprooted again—all because he had overlooked a form of which, regrettably, he was not sufficiently aware.

There are good compassionate reasons to reconsider, but also more hard-headed reasons. It is people like Mr. Quibuyen—people of good character who are prepared to work hard and abide by the rules, and whose skills we desperately need—whom we should keep in this country. Like thousands of others who have come from the Philippines and elsewhere, Mr. Quibuyen came here to answer our call for people to plug the skills gap in the health and care sectors. I think that we should honour those people’s commitment by treating them fairly and reasonably.

The Minister is fair minded and he will have had an opportunity to review the full facts of the case. I hope that he will see the merit of some of the arguments I have presented. I appreciate that rules should be observed and enforced, but on this occasion I think that there is cause to think again about what is the appropriate course of action.

I thank the hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) for having initiated the debate. I agreed with much of his analysis of the requirements of our immigration system, and he is right that people such as Mr. Quibuyen have, over the past decade, made an important contribution to the health and social care sectors. About a quarter of the work permits issued to foreign nationals in that period have been for employment in those sectors. Many successful applicants are well qualified and provide compassionate and effective care, and the work they do is important not only to national systems but to local communities.

In the case in question, I think that honest mistakes were made in submitting the application. There is a degree of complexity in how to apply for such work permits, and this case underlines the need for us to simplify the system, which is why we propose to introduce a points-based system next year and to overhaul radically the way in which employers sponsor employees.

The hon. Gentleman has set out the basic facts of the case. In essence, Mr. Quibuyen applied for and entered the country under a work permit with one employer, with 16 months leave, then he changed jobs a couple of years later and reapplied, not realising that he also needed to refresh his leave in line with his new authority to work in the country. Therefore, a little later on he was out of time and the form he filled in was the wrong one, so when it was resubmitted it was rejected as an out-of-time application. Subsequently, Border and Immigration Agency officials—acting properly and in line with the immigration rules—refused the application and curtailed the leave in a way that they thought might be helpful, but which had the effect of striking out appeal rights. All of that led to protracted correspondence, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for persisting with this matter.

I have recently asked for the case to be reviewed. It is clear to me that an honest mistake was made, given the background of the family and the integrity they have shown both in work and in how they have interacted with the Border and Immigration Agency to comply with the reporting restrictions that they were asked to honour. Therefore, this is a suitable case for discretion to be exercised. I propose to grant Mr. Quibuyen and his family a period of leave, to allow him and his employer to remedy the situation.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing the case to the attention of the House. It is important that Members have the opportunity to test on the Floor of the House how policy that we debate in Whitehall and Parliament is translated into practice. Sometimes that translation is not perfect; this was a case in point.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes past Nine o’clock.