To ask Her Majesty’s Government what (1) lessons they have learnt, and (2) procedures they intend to change, following the reconsideration of the visa application by Dr Mu-Chun Chiang.
My Lords, I am pleased that the case of Dr Chiang was successfully resolved following the provision of new evidence by Dr Chiang and reconsideration by UK Visas and Immigration. UK Visas and Immigration continually utilises customer feedback and experiences to review processes and procedures with the aim of enhancing services.
My Lords, this was indeed an unusual case in that the Home Office gave in before the bitter end. About 20 years ago, I first came across immigration and nationality issues with the Home Office when a busload of asylum seekers was dumped on an industrial estate in Colne in the middle of the night. Experiences then—and, I am sorry to say, since then—have led me to believe that too much of the immigration and nationality section of the Home Office is riddled with what I would call bureaucratic incompetence tinged with institutional racism. Nothing has improved; in fact, it has got worse. Recently, the co-chair of the Green Party suggested that the immigration and nationality functions should be separated off and made into a separate department, starting again based on a culture of efficiency and humanity. Is that something that the Minister will put forward to her colleagues for the Queen’s Speech?
On the noble Lord’s last point, about a culture that is far more humane, I would certainly totally subscribe to that, as would the Home Secretary. Regarding the balance between bureaucracy and subjectivity, it was the criticism of subjectivity that led to a much more objective way of determining applications. The noble Lord referred to a coach-load of asylum seekers 18 years ago; I am afraid that neither I nor the Conservative Party can answer for what happened 18 years ago. He also talked about the Home Office giving in before the bitter end; actually, the case was resolved quickly—not that I am in any way trying to defend the fact that it could have been resolved more quickly.
For a Government who think there is far too much red tape and what they describe as bureaucracy, it is revealing that, when it comes to dealing with work visa applications, rigid application of the very strict rules seems to be the order of the day. The reality is that the decision on Dr Chiang only got changed because there was a lot of adverse publicity about the actions of the Home Office and influential people took up the case. How many other decisions, of a similar kind to Dr Chiang’s, have already been taken and enforced by the Home Office under its now renamed hostile environment policy because the individuals adversely and unfairly affected were not able to get the necessary publicity and support of influential people to get the Home Office ruling changed? Do the Government know the answer to that question? Do they care about it?
My Lords, we certainly do care. The issue was resolved very quickly, and it is not correct that it only got changed because people intervened. It got changed because new evidence that had been asked for was produced. The fact that we have a 98% grant rate for such applications is evidence of how many people successfully apply.
My Lords, the Minister may recall that I wrote to her regarding a young Indian girl who wanted to come and spend Christmas with her relatives in Liverpool. She applied twice for a tourist visa and twice was turned down. The Minister kindly put me in touch with the relevant Home Office official, and it was found out that she had been turned down because there was an unexplained sum of money in her bank account—she was fully employed in India. The unexplained money was from her father to pay for her trip. I refer to what my noble friend Lord Greaves said: should officials not deal with these applications with a more sensitive and humanitarian touch?
I do; I agree. The case was resolved, which is good. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, 98% of these types of visas are granted.