Gerald Kaufman – 1985 Speech on Immigration

Below is the text of the speech made by Gerald Kaufman, the then Shadow Home Secretary, in the House of Commons on 29 October 1985.

I apologise for not being in my place when the Home Secretary rose to make his statement.

The House will wish to thank in equal measure both yourself, Mr. Speaker, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), without whom the statement would not have been obtained. Even after the right hon. Gentleman’s statement, and the strange letter sent to me yesterday by the Minister of State, the reckless allegations made by the Minister of State remain unsubstantiated.

The Home Secretary appears to be totally confused about the rules relating to visitors. He said that the Minister of State had talked about the right to enter. The Home Secretary talked about the qualification of visitors —he used the phrase “qualify as visitors”—when most would-be visitors have the automatic right to enter unless deprived of it by the Home Secretary. The huge increase in representations from hon. Members to which Ministers have drawn attention proves that the Minister of State is increasingly withdrawing the right of entry from certain categories of visitor.

We totally reject the claim that there has been no change in the way in which the rules are being administered, and we are worried by the Home Secretary referring in his statement to changes in procedure. Will he categorically assure the House that he has no intention of imposing a visa requirement for visitors or limiting the existing rights of hon. Members?

As for alleged “abuses,” they are not abuses at all. If an hon. Member was confined to taking up cases the full particulars of which he knew, as mentioned by the Minister of State in his letter, we should none of us be able to take up social security or income tax cases, because we take up those cases to get the facts. That is so in these cases as well. If an hon. Member—again, as requested and apparently required by the Minister of State — were ​ confined to taking up only the cases of constituents he knew personally, thousands of people in every constituency would never have any cases taken up.

Other allegations made by the Minister relate to relationships between hon. Members. They are matters, if at all, not for the Government, not for the Home Secretary, not for the Minister of State but for you, Mr. Speaker, and the House.
In essence, the allegations that the Government are making add up to a whine about the actions of hon. Members being an inconvenience to the Executive.

But one of the most essential functions of an hon. Member is to be an inconvenience to the Executive. If the volume of representations is a burden to the Home Office and its Ministers, let me make it absolutely clear that the administration of the rules of entry is a burden to thousands of our constituents looking forward to visits from relatives. The Home Secretary looks upon those people as inconvenient statistics, but they are human beings with warm family feelings, and they have the same right to have visits as any other of our constituents. Our efforts to help them may be a great deal of trouble to Ministers, but we are determined to go on helping them, and that is a lesson that the Home Secretary had better learn.

On Thursday, the Minister of State twice asserted that some hon. Members were “abusing their right.” Yesterday in the exchanges in the House he used the word “abuse” three times. In his letter to me he used the word “abuse” nine times. Today in his statement the Home Secretary did not once use the word “abuse.” Instead, he mentioned 23 hon. Members whose cases, he said, were examples of

“the problems that we are facing.”

We want to know clearly and without equivocation from the Home Secretary whether he alleges that hon. Members have been abusing their position. If he says that there has been abuse, we want the names. We demand the names, because hon. Members have the right to defend themselves against charges made by Ministers in this House. Either the Home Secretary provides the names or he resiles from the accusation. If he resiles from the accusation, the Minister of State should resign.