The Home Office and India

Tuesday 30th April 2019 16:57 EDT

The old joke goes, that we have so many Indians in Britain because when the British were leaving India in 1947, a whole bunch of Indians at India Gate in Mumbai, shouted at the last British ship, “Hey, where do you think you’re going? We are coming with you.”

 Another, more serious quote relating to the British is ‘justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.’ 

 What’s happening with Indian students and the visas relating to alleged fraud in exams, missed the vast number of student and work visas granted to Indians and the speed with which they are processed by the Government. 

 Getting the most out of Government departments and value for money whilst achieving Government policy for the taxpayer is a problem which remains unsolved. You would think setting targets would be the key. But it turns out quantity over quality means that there are injustices. We are not making widgets here, we are dealing with people’s lives. What is worse, is that, this then leads to a perception of lack of justice. A ‘hostile environment’ it turns out leads to Windrush-like scandals. 

 The greatest legal mind of any generation was probably Lord Denning. As a barrister, like my peers, I would admire his clarity of thought in speeches. It was he who said, ‘I would rather, 99 guilty men go free, than one innocent man is hanged’. That is what we learnt as young lawyers about the famed British legal system and British justice. High ideals.

 It turns out management quotas and goals need more subtlety when dealing with humans. Even dealing with foreigners – the greater harm is not just done to the individual but the loss of faith in the system, and then as with Windrush, before you know it, politicians are resigning, the media are even potentially, dare I say, exaggerating the problem for their own agendas at times, and it defeats Government policy of closer ties to, in this case, India. 

 This interconnection is subtle, yet obvious. It starts with one small case. And leads to potentially civil servants feeling under attack, a Home Secretary diverted from other tasks, fire fighting at a time of lack of resource, and embarrassing questions and unintended consequences such as reports back in India that the UK is hostile to Indian visa applicants, which then counters the good work of the Foreign Office. All a waste. 

 When the Prime Minister appointed me to the UK India Roundtable in 2000, to advise him and the Indian PM on policies for closer ties, we were told there are no limits to what we can propose. So I proposed open borders – arguing when have Indians let you down? Ridiculous, but I wanted to make the bigger point, you should be treating India like you do people from ‘white nations’ – as I have said on the BBC – eg Australia, Canada, America.

 Recently, in Parliament, I hosted 25 tech companies from India, with a  view to having them set up in the UK. Despite the news about the Home Office we will succeed, but until then here is another saying from a man who challenged the British:

"For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,

For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,

For the want of a horse the rider was lost,

For the want of a rider the battle was lost,

For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,

And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

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