HC Deb 20 June 1955 vol 542 cc1061-78

Order for Second Reading read.

4.52 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I offer the Bill to the House as a practical and permanent solution of a problem which has been thrown into relief by the war; that is to say, the employment of aliens, under proper safeguarding conditions, in the service of the Crown. I hope that the Measure will be uncontroversial, but I say at the outset that I am sure that this is a matter in which Parliament should take an active interest and about which it should remain ever vigilant.

There are three main categories of these aliens. The first is that of aliens who are employed in the service of the Crown overseas. Perhaps I can illustrate this category by reminding the House of the many people, such as doorkeepers and cleaners, who are employed—and naturally employed—in our embassies abroad. Another example is that of the substantial numbers who are employed in Service establishments and the like, such as the Spaniards who go to work in Gibraltar.

The second class consists of those groups of aliens who are employed in the United Kingdom, not so much because of some special individual characteristics of their own but because they can give good service to the State and because their services are needed in certain kinds of employment and are of value in certain areas of the country. There are, for instance, many Poles employed in the Polish hostels and hospitals which are provided for Poles who are making this country their home. There are also many of those who are known as European voluntary workers, displaced persons most of them, who are employed in ordnance depots in remote areas, and there are other foreign workers who are employed in forestry in remote places. That is the second category.

The third consists of individuals—those aliens who, because of some special personal qualification which they have, are of value to the State.

The legislative history of this matter is interesting. Section 3 of the Act of Settlement, 1701, has a bearing on it. That Section provides, among other things, that: … no person born out of the kingdoms of England Scotland or Ireland or the dominions thereunto belonging … shall be capable … to enjoy any office or place of trust either civil or military. … I do not think that it is necessary to delve into the details of the Act of Settlement because, for all practical purposes, the Statute with which we must concern ourselves is the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919.

Section 6 of that Act flatly prohibits the appointment of any alien: … to any office or place in the Civil Service of the State. For that reason, none of these people whom I have described might be legally employed at present were it not for the existence of Defence Regulation 60D, which was made during the war, and which says: …an alien may, notwithstanding anything in the Act of Settlement or in section six of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, be temporarily employed, with the consent of the Treasury, in any civil capacity under the Crown if the authority by whom he is appointed is satisfied—

  1. (a) that he possesses special qualifications or experience fitting him for that capacity: and
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  3. (b) that suitably qualified British subjects are not at the time of his appointment readily available for employment in that capacity."
One of the purposes of the Bill is to repeal that Defence Regulation and replace it by permanent statutory provision. In Clause 1 (1, a), the aliens employed overseas are referred to. That is the first of the categories I mentioned. It says that an alien may be employed in a civil capacity under the Crown in overseas territories in service of a class or description which appears to the responsible Minister to be appropriate for the employment of aliens. I would say in passing that no change in practice is intended by the Bill. It is not desired to seek wider powers to do anything which is not being done and has not been done under all Governments since the war. The House might care to know that there are about 25,000 aliens employed overseas in the service of the Crown, and if the House accepts this Measure the legal propriety of thus employing them will be determined by this subsection.

Subsection (1, b), refers to the other two classes, the categories of aliens employed in this country in some particular work or area, and the individuals who have special qualifications. The numbers in these two categories are about 4,500.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

Might I ask whether subsection (1, b) means that the person to whom a certificate has been issued may also be employed abroad as well as at home, or does that deal entirely with certificated aliens employed here?

Mr. Brooke

I think I am right in saying that it would be possible to use paragraph (b) to furnish a certificate in respect of someone employed abroad.

The main intention, however, is to apply paragraph (a) for employment abroad—it extends only to employment abroad—and to use paragraph (b) for employment at home. The solution suggested in paragraph (b) is that a certificate in respect of the alien's employment must be issued by the responsible Minister with the consent of the Treasury.

In Clause 1 (2) will be seen the conditions to be considered before a certificate of this character is issued. In the case of the individual alien, the certificate shall not be issued unless it appears to the responsible Minister either that no suitably qualified person being a British subject is available for employment in that service or that the alien possesses exceptional qualifications or experience fitting him for such employment. In the case of classes of aliens who may be employed, not because of their individual qualifications, but because of their general suitability for certain types of work, the certificate shall not be issued unless it appears that suitably qualified persons being British subjects are not readily available, or available in sufficient numbers for that employment.

Those are the main conditions, but a third limitation is inserted in the Bill—that no such certificate shall be permanent. It is to last for a maximum of five years but it can be renewed at the end of the five years. Every certificate must, in that way, come up for re-examination every five years. If the House will look at subsection (4)—and recall what I said a few minutes ago about the importance I attach to Parliament keeping a vigilant eye on all that was happening—it will see that the Bill requires the Treasury every year to lay before each House of Parliament a return containing particulars of all the certificates in force and of the number of aliens who, on the stated date, were employed under those certificates.

I may be asked—perhaps the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) had it in mind—why this certification procedure may be appropriate to aliens employed in this country but does not extend overseas. The broad answer is that where it is a matter of employment overseas, the factor of competition with British labour does not arise.

In the ordinary instance, the reason why an alien is employed in an embassy or elsewhere overseas is because there is no suitable British labour in the place. I do not think that anyone would dream of our seeking, as it were, to import British citizens into such places in order that they might replace those already employed there. I wish to stress the further point that the Bill applies only to aliens, and not to any of Her Majesty's subjects at home or abroad.

Hon. Members may ask about the security aspect of all this. Every Government has a close interest in the security aspect of people taken into the service of the Crown, whether they be aliens or British subjects. I would add that the security considerations are especially to the fore—and quite naturally and rightly—where an alien is concerned. But there is nothing in this Bill which alters or in any way reduces the security precautions which it may be thought proper to take. Neither have the Government in mind that there should be any relaxation of that sort.

It may be asked whether, under the Bill, an alien can now become an established civil servant. The answer to that is, "No," because no alien employed here at home can hold a certificate which would have more than five years' life; and establishment could not be granted to somebody employed under a time-limit of that kind. As I say, this Bill is an honest endeavour to find a fair, reasonable and practical solution to this problem of the employment of aliens in the Civil Service where the State can gain by their employment and where no British subject can suffer harm thereby.

It will have the further advantage of enabling us to proceed a step further with the dismantling of the Defence Regulations. Defence Regulation 60D will be revoked by Clause 2 (4), if the Bill receives the Royal Assent, and I must confess to some private pride at being the first Minister in this new Parliament to have the opportunity of proposing the repeal of a Defence Regulation. It is not, however, just on that ground that I am submitting this Bill to the House. We need to look ahead and to make sure that our arrangements in a matter of this sort are fair and reasonable to everyone, and I hope that the House will agree that this is a proper permanent provision to be made.

5.7 p.m.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

The right hon. Gentleman was right to hope that this Bill would be non-controversial. I can assure him that we on this side of the House have no intention of dividing against it.

This is a short Bill, but it undoes something which has stood on the Statute Book for over two hundred and fifty years, and also an Act passed after the First World War of which Section 6 prevented any alien from being employed in the Civil Service. As was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman, that provision has been abrogated by Regulation 60D of the 1939 Defence Regulations.

The Bill does two things. First, it permits the employment of an alien in this country, for limited periods, if the Treasury consents; if the Minister responsible himself issues that certificate and if no British subject is available, or, if available, has not the particular and special qualifications possessed by the alien concerned. I understand very well why certificates are to be issued only for a limited period. Experience has shown that when aliens are employed it is unfortunately essential sometimes to have the necessary power to revoke that employment.

The Bill also puts right something which, apparently, has been going on illegally for a long time. It allows a Minister of the Crown to authorise the employment of aliens outside the United Kingdom in any capacity, with no limitation as to the numbers who may be so employed, whether British subjects may be available or not.

I wish to put one or two questions lo the right hon. Gentleman. It may well be that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) will have some other points to raise. I would, first, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Whitley Council for the Civil Service was consulted before the Bill was introduced. What does the Civil Service think about it so far as the employment of aliens in this country is concerned?

I realise that, if anything, the limitation laid down in the Bill are even more stringent than those in the present Defence Regulation in that now, as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, the Treasury has to make a yearly return to Parliament of the number of aliens employed, and there is an overall limit at any one time of a five-year period of employment for the alien. As far as I know, these limitations do not exist under Defence Regulation 60D.

I also wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question concerning the employment of aliens overseas. He told us that about 25,000 are now so employed. I take it that some of these are in Malta, some, perhaps, in Cyprus, and a fairly large number of Spaniards in Gibraltar. What I do not understand is why it is assumed that all of them are engaged in civil employment. It appears to me that some, at any rate, employed in the dockyards in Malta—if any are—and certainly those so employed in Gibraltar must be on work which cannot strictly be described as civil.

It assumes that one of the reasons for the Bill, for giving these new powers to the Treasury and to the responsible Minister is to permit this country to employ either in scientific or highly technical work aliens with special qualifications. If some of them have been employed—as certain aliens have at Harwell and at other centres—where secret work, not necessarily of a civil nature, has been going on, how does the present Bill permit the employment of such individuals if the whole emphasis in the Bill is based on the assumption that the work must be civil?

Further, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that in certain localities, not necessarily, perhaps, where aliens are now engaged by the British Crown, but in some other localities which may presently be so used, the definition of an alien will permit full protection for what are known as British protected persons in those areas? I see that the definition of an alien in the Bill is that of the British Nationality Act, 1948. There an alien is described as "a person who is not a British subject or a British protected person or a citizen of Eire."

In those parts of the British Commonwealth where we get British protected persons it may well be that the provisions of the Bill may have to be used in connection with work going on in those localities. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to assure us that British protected persons will not be ousted from work in those areas because of the fact that there are no limitations in the Bill for aliens so employed overseas.

In his speech, the right hon. Gentleman answered some of the queries which I might have put to him, and if he can assure us on the points which I have raised and also answer any questions which my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) may put to him. I can assure him that we on this side will not only not vote against Second Reading, but will do everything in our power to expedite the passage of the Bill to the Statute Book.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

Like the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, I have studied its legislative ancestors, and, like him, I have read the Act of Settlement. I notice that in the Bill the right hon. Gentleman is tampering with a Clause which also prevents aliens from becoming Members of this House. I do not know whether the Bill would enable the Minister to give a certificate to an alien enabling him to present himself as a Parliamentary candidate.

At all events, I, along with a number of hon. Members of this House, have an interest in the problem of aliens, because they are a very large group of people living in this country who are subject, if the Government choose to make use of their power, to the use of arbitrary powers. Therefore, I welcome anything which liberates them from restrictions placed upon them, provided that it is within the broad framework of our national interest.

I also welcome the transformation of the Defence Regulation into a Statute. At the same time, this is a very narrow Bill, and I propose to ask the right hon. Gentleman certain fairly specific questions which I shall be glad if he can answer when he winds up the debate. The right hon. Gentleman very kindly gave us the number of aliens in the service of the Crown abroad. I think that he said that their number amounted to 25,000. But there are two categories employed, under Defence Regulation 60D, in this country.

As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the first group consists of those employed in classes because of the need to recruit people in a general category of work, and the second are those whom I might describe as having had personal permission to work under the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman lumped them together as totalling 4,500, but it would be of great interest to know how many of them hold their employment by virtue of personal qualifications and how many do so because they come within the category thought fit to work under the Crown.

Further—and I think that this is a reasonable request since, if the Bill becomes law, these figures will be published 12 months from now, and those aliens at present employed under the Crown will automatically acquire certificates—can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication whether the number of aliens employed has been rising or falling since the war? Perhaps he could give some very general indication about that.

More important is the second group of questions dealing with the conditions of service under which aliens work in the Civil Service. My right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) dealt with the Whitley Council and with what the other civil servants felt about the Bill. I should be interested to know whether there is any provision that aliens shall receive the same pay and enjoy the same conditions as others employed on similar bases and work.

I mention this because there is a statutory precedent for this in the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, which amended one of the many pieces of panic legislation passed just before the First World War. That Measure provided that aliens employed in British ships should receive rates of pay not less than those paid to merchant seamen. I should be interested to know whether the Government have any policy in that regard for the employment of aliens in the Civil Service.

Finally, I should like to know whether there are any provisions for safeguarding an alien against the arbitrary revocation of his working certificate. Again, we come up against the difficulty of the alien. He is entirely at the mercy of the Home Secretary so far as residence is concerned, and now he is to be at the mercy of the responsible Minister in that his certificate of employment may be revoked.

May I ask whether the Bill makes any provision, or have the Government any provision in mind, with regard to an alien's loss of his own foreign citizenship? An American citizen loses his citizenship on taking up foreign employment. I do not know how many countries apply such a rule, but I should like to know whether there is any provision in the Bill, or is anything contemplated, which would enable aliens to work in the Civil Service without forfeiting the rights of their own citizenship.

I came to the House this afternoon to address a few remarks sympathetic to the Bill, but having heard the right hon. Gentleman move its Second Reading it seems to me that it is really an unnecessarily complicated Measure. Why introduce a system of certificates? Why make it necessary for the responsible Minister to issue a certificate for an alien to be employed when that Minister is already responsible for deciding whether the person should be employed? I see no reason for this piece of useless bureaucracy. I welcome the transference of the rule from the Defence Regulations to the Statute Book; I welcome the trend against the Act of Settlement and against the Act of 1914, which says that an alien cannot be employed, but what is the point of introducing a lot of bits of paper which have to be filled in merely to permit a Government Department to do what, in any case, the first part of the Bill allows?

If the wording were "subject to the following conditions a Minister may employ an alien," all the organisation which is so well and carefully set out in one part could be eliminated. The alien would then apply for a job to the responsible Minister, who, in deciding, would have before him all the considerations now, contained in the Bill, and would issue a Treasury directive to the Civil Service to say that the alien might be employed but not established. If it is not wished to retain the services of alien civil servants there is no difficulty because, presumably, if they are not established they can be dismissed at a month's notice or, if they are undesirable aliens, can be sent out of the country.

There is no case for the certification, and if the right hon. Gentleman really believes in a little freedom in this regard I hope that in Committee he will, on behalf of his right hon. Friend, put down an Amendment to delete the unnecessary paper work prescribed in the Bill by an over-enthusiastic Government Department.

5.23 p.m.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I think that the answer to the last point raised by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is that when a Minister issues a certificate it may contain various restrictions and limitations of greater or less degree, and it is as well that the alien should have that information in writing so that he understands the limitations of his employment.

Mr. Benn

Those are exactly the limitations which are incorporated in an agreement or contract when a man is engaged.

Mr. Doughty

Whether it is put in writing in the form of a contract or in a certificate makes no difference—someone has to sign it. Clause 1 (4) reads: The Treasury shall lay before each House of Parliament in every financial year a list containing particulars of all certificates in force … during the previous financial year, including the numbers of aliens employed during that year. … In that way it will be known what restrictions, if any, are put on aliens in regard to particular employment under particular Ministers.

Mr. Benn

Surely the Government could publish a return of aliens employed in Government service without a statutory certificate. It could be done without putting it in the Bill.

Mr. Doughty

I follow that, but I think it misses the point that the information which the Treasury it obliged to lay before both Houses is to consist not only of the number of aliens having this employment but full particulars of the restrictions and limitations, if any, under which each individual alien has been placed. If the suggestion of the hon. Member were to be followed Parliament would be deprived that information.

It may be that the hon. Member does not want it but the Bill says he has to have it, and, that being so, the information laid before the House would contain particulars of each certificate. I think that the system of certificates should be retained and that this House should know under what restrictions aliens are placed in their employment.

With regard to the Bill in general, I give it my blessing—like all hon. Members on both sides of the House, I am sure. It only carries on what has been done for a great many years. We have to employ many aliens abroad. We could not carry on either the consulates or a great deal of Government work abroad without them. We use the services of aliens in this country to a very large degree where their particular specialised knowledge is required, and we are glad to have those services.

Of the two points which I had in mind when I read the Bill, my right hon. Friend has referred to one and the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East to the other. The security aspect is important. There have been one or two cases, to which I shall not now refer, in which the employment of—certainly some—aliens—very few I am pleased to say—in Government Departments dealing with secret and semisecret matters has not always proved very successful. Although I heard my right hon. Friend say that the security aspect was well in mind, I should like to have some information as to what precautions are to be taken.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East referred to revocation of certificates. The Minister can give a certificate for five years and renew it at any time, but can he revoke it within the five-year period or are there limitations on his power to do so? If an alien, for any reason, is found to be undesirable—although he may not be capable of being summarily dismissed for gross misconduct—can his certificate be revoked within the five years? It may be in the country's interest that it should be revoked. Subject to those points, which, I am sure, the Financial Secretary will explain more fully, I join with hon. Members on both sides of the House in giving the Bill a blessing.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. H. Brooke

I should like, with permission, to reply to the questions which have been raised. The Bill has certainly had a kind reception on both sides of the House; and I am very appreciative of that, and am the more anxious to give the information which is sought.

The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) asked whether the Whitley Council had been consulted. The Whitley Council has been consulted about the general terms of the Bill.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman's speech so soon, but experience teaches one to be rather wary of the language used. I should like to ask not only whether the Whitley Council was consulted but whether it approved of the Bill.

Mr. Brooke

My information is that the Whitley Council approved of the Bill. It was consulted about the general purpose which the Government have in mind in presenting this Bill, and approval, in general terms, was expressed by the Whitley Council.

The right hon. Gentleman next asked whether all aliens employed overseas would be employed in a civil capacity. As a matter of fact, the aliens covered by the Bill will be the people who are employed not in uniform. Of course, many of them may be employed in connection with national defence, as a great many civilians are employed in this country under the defence Departments, but it will all be civil work.

When the right hon. Gentleman mentioned Malta and Cyprus, I feel sure that he appreciated that the Bill would not apply to Maltese or Cypriots. It will apply only to aliens. My answer to him must be on similar lines with regard to employment at home—at Harwell and elsewhere. The employment concerned may have defence implications, but it is essentially employment in a civil capacity which is covered by this Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman's last question expressed his concerned about the position of the British protected person. I can give him the undertaking which he desires, that the British protected person is not affected because he is not regarded as an alien in terms of the definition here.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

That was not my point. It may well be that I expressed myself badly. I was thinking of the British-protected person in areas which would undoubtedly be abroad, who might be prejudiced because there is no limitation whatever in the Bill against the employment of aliens for any length of time in any numbers and in any capacity. It was the British-protected person vis-à-vis an alien in those areas that I was thinking of, and about whom I sought an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Brooke

I do not think that I am in a position to say more than I have said. I can refer the House to the first words of Clause 2: In this Act 'alien' has the same meaning as in the British Nationality Act, 1948; and the definition of "alien" in that Act is that 'Alien' means a person who is not a British subject, a British protected person or a citizen of Eire. If the right hon. Gentleman has any further point that he would like me to consider, I will willingly look into the matter.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) asked if I could split up the figure I gave of 4,500 aliens, to which reference has been made. I can certainly do that in a way which I hope will provide him with the information he desires. About 2,500 of them are European voluntary workers who are employed largely in ordnance depots in out-of-the-way parts of Great Britain. There are about 250 employed as forestry workers in remote areas. There are about 1,000 Poles who are employed in Polish hospitals and hostels. Then, apart from those, which are definite classes of aliens, the number of individual aliens at present in employment is not more than about 100. I hope that that gives the hon. Gentleman the kind of picture that he wished to have.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the number of aliens in Crown service had been rising or falling recently. The answer is that the number in this country has been falling. He asked whether they would be employed in Crown service on the same basis as British citizens. The answer is that they would receive the same pay and conditions of service for comparable work such as British citizens might be well suited to do. But, of course, their employment would be temporary. It would not be established service.

Mr. Benn

To that extent they would be worse off than they are under the present Regulation, which says that the Minister may engage them but puts no limit on their period of engagement. They are now to have a five-year period, whereas in the past they could look forward to an indefinite period of service.

Mr. Brooke

The Regulation includes the words "temporarily employed." They are not being deprived of any assurance, even if it was only a moral assurance, of permanent employment.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the position in relation to the foreign citizenship of those concerned. That is something, I am afraid, on which I cannot enlighten him. I am not sufficiently informed about the citizenship laws of other countries. There is no escape provision, within my knowledge, whereby one of these people can escape the penalties that might fall upon him under the law of his own country. I would say that he would have to take that risk.

I think the hon. Gentleman's main question was why we had all this paraphernalia of certificates. This has been carefully considered, and I hope that I shall carry the House with me in what I am going to say. We are discussing this Bill at a time of full employment, and we all hope and pray that full employment will ever last in this country. But this is permanent legislation, and we must provide for all contingencies. If there were to come a time when there were people seeking jobs and unable to find them in this country and there was a suspicion that large numbers of aliens—numbers probably inflated by the public imagination—were occupying posts in Crown service which would otherwise provide employment for British citizens, I am quite sure that trouble would arise.

I happen to represent a constituency in which possibly more aliens come to live than in any other constituency, and I know well from my own experience how dangerous is the lack of information. If any anti-foreign feeling should grow up, the best way, in my opinion, to kill that at birth would be to provide for the public authoritative information of what the real situation is. Otherwise allegations become magnified.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

indicated assent.

Mr. Brooke

I am very glad that I carry the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) with me. He has great experience of public opinion in these matters.

I feel sure that the House would be wise not to dispense with this system, which requires certificates and requires also that the Treasury shall report to Parliament annually just what the situation is.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) asked about security arrangements in the Civil Service. I hope he will forgive me if, on this narrow issue, I do not dilate on that subject. I know that mistakes have been made in individual cases in the past. I assure the House that we do our utmost to learn by our mistakes, but what I am saying now is that there is nothing in this Bill which would have the effect of relaxing our security precautions, nor is there any intention, by administrative action, when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, to bring about relaxations under the guise of a new régime created by the Bill.

My hon. and learned Friend asked primarily whether there is power to revoke a certificate. There is power to revoke: there is entire power. The only rule laid down by the Statute is that the certificate cannot run for more than five years but may be renewable, but it is desired to keep the issue of these certificates entirely under the control of Ministers because I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend about the necessity for having full and continuously working safeguards.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I am sure that the House will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the care with which he has replied to the questions which have been put by my hon. Friends and by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty).

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman where is the specific provision which enables a certificate to be revoked? I do not find it in the Bill. I have been advised, in similar circumstances, that unless there is specific provision for the Minister to revoke, then he has not received that authority from the House. I do not think the words "unless previously revoked" confer the power to revoke.

Mr. Brooke

I am advised that the words "unless previously revoked" cover the point which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, but I will willingly look into the matter further.

Mr. Ede

It is a small point, but my experience has frequently been that one gets advice from lawyers, when one is presenting a Bill, and gives it to the House in quite good faith; and then when one wants to do what the lawyers have said one can do, another lawyer comes along and says "You should have come to me and not to him." One is then left in a very uncomfortable position.

I should like to say a word or two on what the right hon. Gentleman said might happen in the case of some drop in the present level of employment. While I was Home Secretary I had a great many applications from aliens to enter this country, and I tried to be as liberal as I possibly could in dealing with them. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, however, his constituency of Hampstead presents peculiar difficulties.

I was once asked, not by the right hon. Gentleman but by another hon. Member, how many aliens in Hampstead were householders. With a great deal of trouble I obtained the information. Some ingenious people, with a little knowledge of the rules of multiplication, then said: "That is one borough in London. There are twenty-nine boroughs in London. If there are so many aliens in Hampstead who are householders, there are twenty-nine times that number in the administrative county of London. The proportion of the inhabitants of the administrative county of London to those of the United Kingdom is a certain figure. Applying that to the whole country, it is quite evident that the housing problem is caused by the number of aliens resident in this country." That is the sort of thing that passes for logic on the other side of the House on occasion, because it was a question from that side of the House which gave rise to that argument.

Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

The right hon. Gentleman's taunt is a little cheap.

Mr. Ede

Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman must buy it at his own price.

One of the things which we must bear in mind is that in every country xenophobia is not very far below the surface. I always lived in fear that, in the kind of situation which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, there might be a great reaction against the admission and retention of aliens. I therefore think that it is wise that the House should always be in possession of the information so that real knowledge can be used to answer any of the deductions which might be drawn by people who do not know the full facts.

While I hope that, as far as possible, the stranger who behaves himself or herself will always be welcome within the gates, I should not myself object, after my own experience, to the method of certification which is provided in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Wills.]

Committee Tomorrow.