HC Deb 05 December 1958 vol 596 cc1552-97

1.38 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)

I beg to move, That, whilst this House deplores all forms of colour bar or race discrimination, it nevertheless feels that some control, similar to that exercised by every other Government in the Commonwealth, is now necessary, and urges Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to restrict the immigration of all persons, irrespective of race, colour, or creed, who are unfit, idle, or criminal; and to repatriate all immigrants who are found guilty of a serious criminal offence in the United Kingdom. I should like, first, to stress what is stated very clearly in the Motion, that this restriction shall apply irrespective of race, colour or creed. I recognise that this subject is political dynamite, and therefore I shall try to handle it with the same care and sense of responsibility that I should observe if it were real dynamite. I also recognise that this country is engaged in trying to build a multi-racial association which, if it succeeds, will be a pattern for the whole world. Therefore, I should like to assure my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that I shall try to say nothing at all that will increase the difficulties either of the Colonial Secretary or of the Home Secretary, who are particularly concerned with this difficult problem.

I should also like to say that, despite what may have been a misunderstanding from a previous speech that I made or an appearance that I made on television, I myself have no racial hatreds or antipathies. I have no colour bar sympathies, and I do not support those who wish to penalise men because of the colour of their skins. I have no sympathy with that point of view at all.

Having made that point clear, I should like the House to realise that this problem, like real dynamite, will not cease to be dangerous by being ignored. Like real dynamite that accumulates in greater quantities, it could become increasingly dangerous. The size of the problem could become really serious and some foolishly applied or accidental spark could ignite the whole lot. We do our country a grave disservice by closing our eyes to what we know to be a very difficult but serious problem. Next to unemployment, which I regard as the gravest problem facing our country at the moment, this is possibly the most important problem with which we are concerned at home.

May I call attention to the fact that the Motion is restrained, moderate and limited? It asks for action to be taken against three categories of people whom I do not think anybody could defend. The Motion asks for fewer powers to be taken by the United Kingdom Government than are possessed already by every other Government in the Commonwealth. When Mr. Manley was in this country just after the unfortunate riots in Nottingham and Notting Hill he was reported as saying that he would not agree to any steps of this kind. Yet I am credibly informed that in the West Indies each island, and especially Jamaica which he represents so ably, has the power, which it exercises, of keeping out persons from other islands. They exercise restraint and restriction against one another. Therefore, it seems to me rather out of place for Mr. Manley to come here and say that he would force upon us a gospel which he himself is not prepared to accept in the case of his fellow West Indians. It seems to me to be the worst form of colonialism in reverse.

The real crux of the problem is this. Has the United Kingdom, as the mother country, any duty to the rest of the Commonwealth which other members of the Commonwealth say they do not owe to one another? This matter was argued in another place on 19th March with great fervour, and I would commend hon. Members to read the report of that debate. The debate was on a high moral level, though opinions differed sharply.

I want to deal with this problem not so much from the moral issue as from the practical, economic, social and industrial point of view, and ask the House to consider whether the United Kingdom can continue to accept indefinitely unrestricted immigration irrespective of its quality and quantity. At the moment I am asking that the restrictions shall be on a qualitative basis. One right hon. Gentleman opposite wrote an article in the Sunday Press some time ago and said that so lone as immigrants did not represent more than 1 per cent. of our population we had no reason to complain. But if we are going to restrict immigration at some time or other because we recognise how serious a matter it may become, the more immigrants we allow into our country, irrespective of their colour or race, the greater the problem we shall have to deal with and the more their children will feel that they have a right to be here and to invite their other relatives to come. By ignoring the issue now and deferring the decision we shall only be increasing the size of the problem.

I do not know whether hon. Members saw an article in the Economist on 29th November, on page 767, where there are two quotations which I should like to pass on dealing with this point. I ask my hon. and learned Friend to read this article if he has not already done so It states: … it is no secret that some departments, That is, Departments of State— looking ahead at the way the situation may, develop, are considering how reciprocity might be introduced in the treatment of migrants from Commonwealth countries—especially after the Colonies, and notably the West Indies, become independent. They"— That is, the Departments responsible— think that the liberal line—uncontrolled immigration—can be held for a few more years, but not indefinitely. Far from thinking that the British people will get used to colour this school of opinion in Whitehall and beyond feels that when the tide of colour rises to a certain, as yet unspecified, point, the mass of British voters will demand that some check he imposed. I think that is a fair summary and points the dangers that lie ahead. If my hon. and learned Friend has any comments to make on the assumption that the Economist makes with regard to the various Departments which are considering the problem, I should be glad to hear from him.

The Economist goes on to say that it anticipates, on the most moderate estimate, that there will be by 1978 some 800,000 coloured people in this country.

Mr. Charles Grey (Durham)rose

Mr. Osborne

Please allow me to continue. There will be plenty of time for other Members to speak. I promise not to take a long time.

The Economist goes on to say: The parents will probably still mostly be living in harlemised districts in the big towns, and new arrivals will continue to import the types of behaviour and attitude that disgust or annoy the whites. The Economist is by no means against a reasonable amount of migration. It goes on to say: From the not so distant future a 'coloured teenagers' problem could then loom and it might be alarming.

Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)

I am not opposing the hon. Gentleman; I am with him, but I am sorry that he should introduce these quotations about colour. He said that he would not do so. Will he not agree that the strain on the Social Services surely comes more from white immigration than from colour immigration?

Mr. Grey

Will the hon. Gentleman say how he can determine how many are idle and how many are criminals?

Mr. Osborne

I should like to make my speech in my own way. It is true that it was estimated in another place that only 25 per cent. of the immigrants were coloured. I am asking that there shall be control irrespective of colour or race. But it is useless denying that opinion in the country is most exercised by the coloured immigrant.

Mr. Grey

The hon. Gentleman is spoiling the case.

Mr. Osborne

No, I am not. I am stating my case fairly. If the hon. Gentleman cannot agree with me, I trust that he will at least listen to me. I have come here to say what I think is for the good of our country.

The Economist finishes up by saying that many local authorities were faced with a difficult problem, that they have got to do more for the immigrants, irrespective of their colour, than they can do for their own people, and that that is causing a good deal of feeling in certain localities.

The Economist concludes by saying that all this: … does not justify panic measures."… I am not asking for panic measures. I am asking for a reasonable consideration of the position.

Why is it that, apart from the social and difficult racial problems that arise, I think that there must be some control of immigration starting with a limitation on the least desirable types? I would remind the House of our basic economic situation. There are more than 50 million people in these islands, and we grow enough food for only 30 million. On the basis of our own food production there are already 20 million too many in these islands. We have no raw materials except coal. Two days ago we discussed the very difficult situation of the coal industry. We have to import 40 per cent. of our foodstuffs and 100 per cent. of our raw materials to keep us fed and employed. These have to be paid for by our exports or we face serious hunger and mass unemployment. That is why it is so important that we should limit the number of immigrants.

Two new dangers are facing us, and especially facing those engaged in the export trade. I fear that at the moment they are only dimly appreciated in the country. The first is that because of what we as white people, the Western world, are trying to do for the Afro-Asian countries in raising their standards of living, we are helping to industrialise them, and by so doing we are setting up new competition against ourselves in world markets. It has been estimated by the United Nations that nine-tenths of the world lives at about one-tenth of our standard of living, and that in these days of automation and semi-automatic machines the labour cost is the most important factor in total cost of production, and if the Afro-Asian peoples are paying only one-tenth of what we are for labour, then their products will destroy us in time in world markets. That will make it more and more difficult for this country to maintain the high standard of living that we are enjoying with the people that we already have here.

In 1954 the United Nations issued a report on the world economic situation, and it was estimated that if there were fair shares between the workers of all countries in the world the average wage would be about 32s. a week. That is the sort of problem that faces us with a population which is already far too large for our own resources. In view of that one fact alone, to allow uncontrolled immigration is just madness.

The other day we had a debate in which contributions were made by hon. Members from both sides of the House who had been to Japan, Hong Kong and India, and they made it clear that competition from newly developing industries in the Far East will cause more unemployment in places like Lancashire. It was also stated that the shipbuilding industry on the North-East Coast was having employment trouble because the Japanese could produce ships more cheaply. Only two days ago we discussed the difficulties of the coal industry caused by the oil coming here from the Middle East. Because of that background it seems sheer madness not to have some control of the number of people coming into these already overcrowded islands.

Another factor even more alarming from the economic point of view is that the countries behind the Iron Curtain are now starting to dump into world markets goods of all kinds at a price far below that at which we can produce them. Our job will therefore be to find work even for the people who are here already without our increasing the number without limit. I was told the other day that the Chinese textile industry is placing certain quality goods in Eastern markets at 10 per cent. below whatever the Bombay price may be, and that the Bombay price is so low that Lancashire cannot live with it.

Our position is difficult enough with the numbers that we have here, and we have a duty to look after our own people. In stating this, I am not doing any injury to other people, because I am merely asking that there shall be done for Englishmen what other parts of the Commonwealth readily do for their own people.

I may be asked what I mean by saying that I would exclude the idle. I would say that those who have been here for two or three years and for one reason or another have not done any useful work at all should be regarded as idle and should be repatriated. I see no reason to object to that. Also, I would not allow anyone to come into the country who had not a job to go to. I am fortified in this belief by what the West Indian Government are doing. It was stated in another place that the Migration Advisory Service in Jamaica had put all over the island very large posters which said as a warning to men and women who were likely to come here: Travellers to England. Beware! Remember there is unemployment in England. Make sure there is a job before you go. That is what I am asking for. The Jamaican Government are already doing it, and our Government should follow their wise policy and make it a condition, instead of a plea, that no one should come here unless he has a job arranged for him. I understand that the Governments of India and Pakistan have made it almost obligatory on their people that they shall have a job to go to before they come here. I should like the British Government to say that no person shall be allowed here, no matter what his colour or race, unless he has a job to go to.

I cannot believe that any hon. Member, even one with the most liberal ideas, could defend the use of this country as a dumping ground for criminals from any part of the Commonwealth. I suggest that anyone who has a criminal record should not be admitted and that anyone who acquires a criminal record in this country should be sent home. I think that that is reasonable and fair. When I raised this matter some weeks ago in the House I was gratified that no less a person that the hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill), who took part in the debate, said that she would entirely agree with such action. I think that many hon. Members opposite would give support to this proposal.

In responding to a debate at the Blackpool party conference, the Home Secretary promised that the Government would take action to deport the criminals. I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary when that action will be taken. It seems to me that the criminal, whatever colour or race he may be, is doing a great disservice to the men of his own nation by engaging in criminal activities in this country. He gives the decent hard-working, law-abiding people from his own country a bad name which they do not deserve. As a protection to the decent people who come here and do a decent job, those of their numbers who engage in criminal activities should be deported.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

The hon. Gentleman has referred to demands made at the Blackpool conference for the exclusion of certain people. Perhaps the hon. Member would clarify the point. The demand presumably related to the deportation of certain criminal elements. In that demand no reference was made to race or colour.

Mr. Osborne


Mr. Evans

I wanted to get that point clear.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

The hon. Member spoke about the harm that is done. The worst harm is that when bad social types are allowed among the coloured population an alibi is given to our worst social types to demand legislation dealing with coloured people.

Mr. Osborne

I entirely agree with that. I gather from my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary that the Blackpool promise related to deportation, not exclusion. If it is right to deport someone with a criminal record, surely it is doubly right to exclude someone with a criminal record. That is a fair comment. If my hon. Friend can see the justice of deporting someone who has acquired a criminal record, then if it is known that someone has a criminal record why allow him to come here? There must be exclusion as well as deportation.

A Government spokesman, the Earl of Perth, speaking hi a debate in the other place a week ago, said: At the present time Her Majesty's Government have no power to deport, and the question of legislation—it would require legislation to this end—is under consideration. Such legislation, if decided on, would, of course, apply to all Commonwealth immigrants without distinction of race or of colour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 19th November, 1958; Vol. 212, c. 681.] That was a promise made by a member of the Government on behalf of the Government. Can we be told how soon legislation will be introduced? I do not think anyone will deny the seriousness of the matter.

I apologise for keeping the House so long, but the last point that I want to make is about the support in the country for action of this kind. First, I should like to read to the House a report about the views in Newcastle-on-Tyne, an area which politically mostly supports hon. Members opposite, both locally and in this House. This is a report of 17th November: Stop Engaging Coloured Men—Say Busmen. Newcastle-on-Tyne Corporation bus workers have decided to ask the City Transport Committee and the management of the transport undertaking to receive a deputation to discuss the future recruitment of coloured workers. The Corporation employs about 1,800 conductors and drivers, and of these about 200 are coloured. A meeting of bus workers decided to ask the Corporation Transport Committee not to recruit any further coloured people until there had been consultations to fix the ratio of white and coloured workers. The deputation will consist of three men and one woman. An official of the Transport and General Workers' Union said today that there was no issue of a colour bar. I entirely agree with the last statement. The need for control, as felt by the trade unionists in Newcastle, is too obvious to be denied.

My hon. Friend will know about the second piece of evidence to support my claim that there is great demand by the public for action. I have received a very large number of letters, which I have sent to my hon. Friend's Department to look at. I think that my hon. Friend would agree that overwhelmingly they demand that action should be taken. The demands came mostly from areas like London, Birmingham and Coventry, where the problem is most acute.

My last bit of support is this. On 6th September the Daily Express took a public opinion poll, and I agree that it was taken just after the most regrettable incidents at Nottingam. Three questions were asked. The first, in effect, was, "Do you favour any action being taken?" Of those asked, 14.2 per cent, said "No"; 79.1 per cent. said there should be some control; and 6.7 per cent. said that they did not know. What is even more significant is that in London, where I suppose the problem is most acute, 11.2 per cent. of those asked were against action; 81.5 per cent. demanded action of the kind I have suggested; and only 7.3 per cent. said that they did not know. I was surprised to find in my researches that only 3 per cent. of the immigrants of any kind have gone to Scotland. Therefore, the burden of the problem falls on poor old England. [An HON. MEMBER: "A lot of Scotsmen come here."] That is a very ancient problem from which we get a lot of benefit. I am not arguing from a parochial point of view.

This problem is so grave that I wish I could do greater justice to it. I would welcome and do a lot for genuine students, businessmen and professional people from all over the Commonwealth and would much rather see them come here than go to either Washington or Moscow for their ideas. Whilst I have no sympathy for race haters or colour haters, I ask the Government seriously to do something about the problem before it is too late. If they do not, I feel that a generation hence hon. Members on both sides of the House will deeply regret our cowardice in not tackling what I consider to be a very difficult problem. As a result of today's debate, I hope that my hon. Friend will ensure that action is taken early in the New Year.

2.9 p.m.

Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)

I beg to second the Motion.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) in raising a subject which I believe to be of greater importance than is generally recognised. In commendably brief form, my hon. Friend made a fairly wide-ranging speech which covered a good deal of the ground which can be covered in this respect. In the short time which I hope to detain the House, I would rather not follow my hon. Friend but prefer to concentrate on one aspect of the problem.

The Motion refers to the idle, the unfit and the criminal, with the request that they should be excluded and that the criminal should be deported to their country of origin. I would have thought that this was a proposition which should be acceptable to anyone; but, like my hon. Friend the Member for Louth in his speech, if not in his Motion, I would go further and deport not only the very few criminals—I am sure that the number is very few indeed—but I would also, as my hon. Friend said, deport those who have shown that they are unfit in the sense that they are unable to earn a living in this country.

We know that many thousands of people have come here from overseas because they prefer to live on National Assistance here rather than in poverty in their own country—men who do not speak English, who are unable to read and write, who have no particular craft and who would be quite incapable of holding down a job even in circumstances of brimful employment such as do not exist today.

Unless my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is to reply to this debate on behalf of the Government, has the figure before him, I would be grateful, as, I am sure would my hon. Friend the Member for Louth, if he would obtain for us the number, which I am sure the Ministry of Labour has readily available, of these immigrants from overseas who are living on National Assistance who have, in fact, done so for virtually the whole time that they have been in this country.

We are all grateful to the Governments of Pakistan and India, who have recognised that such people are of no credit whatever to them. They have, therefore, recently imposed a check upon their immigration and will now give passports only to those who can satisfy them that there are reasonable prospects that they will be self-supporting when they come here. There are, however, thousands who have slipped over here before these tighter regulations were introduced. I would wish to see those who still live on National Assistance sent back to their own country rather than maintained here indefinitely at the expense of the British taxpayer.

The Motion uses the words: irrespective of race, colour, or creed", but we cannot discuss this matter in such a general context. We all know perfectly well that the whole core of the problem of immigration is coloured immigration. We would do much better to face that and to discuss it realistically in that context.

As my hon. Friend has said, we have an ageing population. This trend is emphasised by the fact that the majority of our emigration is by youth, or at least people under the age of 40. We have an ageing population and we have an immigrant population a high proportion of which is coloured. At present, we have only 200,000 coloured people in this country. That is only a small fraction, approximately one-half of I per cent., of our population and at that level the number does not raise any great coloured problem here. I do not take the view that those deplorable racial—if that is the correct adjective—riots which we have had are strictly the result of racial pressures. Every large city has a small hooligan population which is only too ready to make trouble of any possible kind, and it took that opportunity in this respect.

The vast majority of coloured immigrants in this country are extraordinarily decent, hardworking, likable people whom one would wish to help as much as possible. As I have said, if their number remained at about the present level of 200,000, we would not have any problem to worry about. That, unfortunately, is not the position. We must face the fact that the 200,000 will become half a million, which will then become I million and will go on increasing. That is something that we must recognise. We must ask ourselves to what extent we want Great Britain to become a multiracial community. If that is our desire and we decide to make it a matter of deliberate policy, well and good, but let us at least consider where we are going and make up our minds whether that is what we want, and not simply drift.

One of the difficulties about discussing this problem is that we are all a little scared of being thought to be illiberal. I frankly admit that that is not a charge which I should like to have laid at my door. I hope that my political instincts will always range me on the side of the minority against the majority, of the individual against the corporation and of the oppressed against the tyrant. Therefore, I could not find any excuses whatever for anyone who believed in a colour bar in any community where black and white have to co-exist. That, however, is altogether different from ohanging the nature of a community, whether by deliberate policy or as the result of fecklessly drifting along because one cannot make up one's mind and because one shirks coming to a decision.

Surely, it is not illiberal—here I quote from the Tablet, although I am not a Catholic—for people to be concerned with preserving their own national character and continuity. A question which affects the future of our own race and breed is not one that we should leave merely to chance. I do not believe that it is sensible to make this island a magnet of attraction for the whole of the rest of the Commonwealth by virtue of our superior wealth and Welfare State and then simply to wait and see what happens. I therefore hope that this question will receive increasing attention from the Government and from informed public opinion throughout. I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth for raising this subject today.

2.20 p.m.

Mr. Charles Grey (Durham)

What I have to say first may be very out of tone with what is intended in this debate, but what I have in mind I must say, because otherwise I shall feet that I have forsaken my duty, having recently returned from the West Indies.

I feel that this debate originates out of what happened at Notting Hill Gate and Nottingham, and try as we will we cannot divorce ourselves from those events, for I am certain that if those incidents had not occurred we would not have had a debate on this issue.

Before I proceed, may I say a word about the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), who moved the Motion, and the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Lindsay), who seconded it. No one doubts their sincerity in this matter, and I think that that view is more or less shared on both sides of the House, but there is this to be said about the hon. Member for Louth. While he is sincere, he is often misguided and sometimes not entirely accurate, and I believe that by what he has said that has been more or less proved today. I know that the hon. Gentleman has a habit of sitting back and looking innocent and saying, "What have I done wrong?" and pointing out that his Motion deals only with a certain section of immigrants, but if he reads his speech tomorrow he will find an emphasis on coloured immigrants, in which view he was supported by his hon. Friend the Member for Solihull.

Mr. C. Pannell

The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Lindsay) said so.

Mr. Grey

Therefore, we must have that in mind during the rest of the debate, and remember that this is a debate about coloured immigrants. What I am pleased about is that most of my hon. Friends on this side of the House do not agree with the hon. Member for Louth, and, I am quite certain, most of his hon. Friends do not believe him either. I do not think it would be a very good thing if it went out from this House that there was a strong body of opinion here in favour of the restriction of coloured immigrants.

Mr. Osborne

There is in the country.

Mr. Grey

We will come to that point later. I am now making my own speech, just as the hon. Gentleman asked to be allowed to make his. I shall return to the point later on.

The hon. Member did say that this Motion was not directed against coloured immigration. He will understand if I remind him of what he said on a previous occasion—on 29th October—because many people in the Commonwealth who will read his speech will remember what he said on that occasion. He used these words: I refer to the urgent need for a restriction upon immigration into this country, particularly of coloured immigrants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 195.] I think we must debate the Motion in the light of that statement, for the hon. Gentleman has not apologised at all to the Commonwealth for having said that, nor has he said that he has changed from that point of view. I do not think the hon. Member should turn his back like that, because at least we have been questioned in the West Indies about the mind of the hon. Member. No one is more aware than the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) of the fact that we were questioned about the hon. Member for Louth. We were asked, "Who is this Cyril Osborne? Who is he, and what does he stand for?" and so on. We had to defend the position of the Government, at any rate, in view of what the hon. Member was saying at that time. Therefore, the principle of coloured immigration does come into the debate, and nothing will convince the coloured people throughout the Commonwealth unless the hon. Member changes his mind from the point of view which he then expressed.

As I have already mentioned, we returned a few weeks ago from the West Indies, where we were questioned about what happened at Notting Hill Gate and Nottingham. I do not think we shall ever forget—and I think that the hon. Member for Totnes will agree with me on this matter—the way in which we were questioned about this issue and the rather anxious way in which the people there viewed the picture which had been painted. They still believe out there that the whole country here is up in arms against the coloured people. They have got the whole position out of perspective, and no one could tell them anything else, so that it was our job—and I believe we did our job effectively—to convince the people out there that race riots as such did not occur in this country.

I would have been much happier it the Press had done more to tell these people the truth, but the truth, as they saw it out there, was that these were race riots, because the Press was more or less magnifying the position out of all perspective. Because of these incidents and disturbances, that idea was ever present in the minds of these people. As hon. Members on both sides of the House know, when we visit various parts of the Commonwealth, and especially the under-developed parts, there are always social and economic questions, and the present plight of the West Indies is proving no exception to that rule. I believe it is generally agreed that the conditions of some of the people in the West Indies are most appalling. The unemployment figures out there are pretty high, and poverty is not an uncommon thing. Illiteracy, despite what has been achieved, is most distressing.

Considering these factors, it is not unnatural that when we went to the West Indies we should expect a rather severe question on these matters. On this occasion, we found the form upset because the idea of race riots in Britain was uppermost in their minds. To say that they were shocked is putting it only mildly. We know that that kind of disturbance rarely happens over here today, but to the people of the West Indies it was very serious, and they had become really fearful that some terrible issue, like that of Little Rock, had been brought very near to them. These people have many friends and relatives here, and they could visualise that their own friends and relatives were being made the victims of these disturbances. These fears need not have existed at all.

I have mentioned the Press once, and I will mention it again. It would have been better if the Press had not used the words "race riots" but had merely published the fact that the disturbances were caused by a few wildcats of society out for a good time. It would have been much better if the Press had done that and, had it been done, there would not have been all- these fears and people in the West Indies would not have felt so horrified.

What surprises me about the hon. Member for Louth is his constant change of attitude. I believe that a few years ago—not so many years—he was entirely in favour of importing foreign labour to go into the mines. I wonder what he thinks now in view of what has happened and in view of the statement we had on Wednesday?

Mr. Osborne

Since the hon. Gentleman has asked me a question, perhaps I may be allowed to answer it. The answer is quite simple. What would have been the good of bringing them in and training them at public expense if the miners would not allow them to work?

Mr. Grey

The hon. Gentleman has changed his mind. He was then in favour of importing miners but is not now in favour of coloured immigration. He must make up his mind where he is.

Mr. Osborne

I agree that I said that we should have them in, but what is the good of bringing them in, giving them training at public expense, when the miners would not let them work?

Mr. C. Pannell

Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of bringing them in? That is the question.

Mr. Grey

The hon. Gentleman is missing the whole point we are dealing with at the moment. He is dealing with the control of immigration, and I am dealing with the time when he wanted them to come in. Then the hon. Member wanted them to come in. Now he wants to restrict their coming in.

Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)

Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that yesterday there was a pit disaster in which lives were lost? The miners were fearful that foreigners who could not talk their tongue might on that account be a cause of damage to themselves and to miners generally. That was the reason for the opposition.

Mr. Grey

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth has to make up his mind on this issue. It is no use his having convenient changes of mind. Issues of this kind are rather too serious for that. If he is in favour of some people coming into this country then he has a right to be in favour of all people coming in, and if he is in favour of some people being kept out, he could plead that everyone must be kept out, but he must make up his mind on the issue.

I do not disagree with him that there is a problem. Of course there is a problem. The difference between us is over the method of dealing with it. He talked about controlling immigration. I thought, and my hon. Friends on this side of the House also thought, that the word "control" was foreign to hon. Members opposite and that it is a word which, according to them, only we on this side use. Now, however, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth is using the word because it is convenient to him.

There is, indeed, a problem to be faced, but I realised this in 1955. I thank the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth for reading out that article from the Economist because I may have been responsible for the facts contained in it, because when I came back from Jamaica in March, 1955, I made representations to the Colonial Secretary, as it was then generally felt that people who were coming from Jamaica to this country were people who had no jobs, and that was not true. The truth is that we were getting the best people in Jamaica. It was they who were coming here. They were leaving jobs to come to this country to seek bigger and better opportunities which they felt they would find here. It must not be thought that the people who were coming from Jamaica were outcasts. They were the very best Jamaica could provide.

I made these points when I was in Jamaica. I also told them that unless something were done they would come to this country only to find themselves in the middle of an economic recession when most of them would be unemployed. I told them quite plainly—and there was no other Member of this House who said anything of the sort in anything like the way I told it to them—that if they came to this country and found jobs, as they would be the last to be employed they would be the first to go. I thought it better to tell them the plain truth. That was the issue. That is the kind of thing which should have been and should be done for those people. But no. What happened was this—and I think I had better quote what I said about it in a speech I made in this House in June, 1955. I said this: I believe that the real cause of the emigration is the kind of attractive advertisement offering £75 trips to England, and the kind of talk that, when they come here, there will be television sets and all sorts of things, including free accommodation. There is no one to tell them that that is not the case. There is no one to tell them about the climatic conditions here, and about the difficulty of obtaining accommodation. The only attractive picture which they get is that of a trip to England for £75, and they mortgage everything they have in order to get here. I believe that it should be the job of somebody to tell these people of the conditions which they must expect when they come here, to tell them how precarious is our present economic position and how difficult it is to get accommodation. That is what I said in 1955.

Mr. Osborne

It is still true.

Mr. Grey

Why not say it then? But let me finish the quotation: I believe that that is the only way in which we can solve this migration problem. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1955; Vol. 542, c. 1195–6.] The only way is by telling people the truth about the facts of life in Britain. That is what I said then, and I believe it to be true today.

Mr. Osborne

Hear, hear.

Mr. Grey

The wide difference between the hon. Gentleman and me is that he seeks to control immigration. I would have an advice bureau. That was the kind of thing I advocated to the Colonial Secretary.

Mr. Osborne

So the hon. Gentleman would control it.

Mr. Grey

'The hon. Gentleman read that article from the Economist. It shows that what I told the Jamaican people must have had some effect. Those advertisements for trips to England were doing a great disservice to the Jamaican people, because those advertisements did not tell the truth about migration.

The point of difference between us is wide. I still think it would be much better if the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion. I believe that to seek this kind of Parliamentary control over immigration will create suspicion and distrust. I believe that agencies should be set up in all the various parts of the Commonwealth. What is to stop the Federation Government in the West Indies from doing that? They could have representatives of the Federation in agencies where the facts of life in Britain could be told to the people. I believe that is the only way in which we can deal with this problem properly.

This Motion deals with only a small section of the immigrants. I do not understand the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth. He talked about great economic problems, but he seeks to deal with only a very small section of the immigrants to ease the economic problems. How many immigrants to this country are there? What jobs have they got?

Mr. Osborne

Ask the Newcastle bus workers.

Mr. Grey

The hon. Gentleman is becoming rather flippant on a rather serious matter. I paid him the tribute of saying he was sincere. Now I rather doubt it. I hope he will think the matter over again and read tomorrow the report of his speech.

We are, after all, dealing with grave issues, and not only for this country. Surely the mother country ought not to offend her colonial people but provide an example to them, and we ought to show that we ourselves are more tolerant than most people who seek to restrict immigration into their countries because of colour. To accept this Motion will be disastrous not only for this country. It will create suspicion and distrust and push in the thin end of the wedge; it will create a lot of disharmony in the Commonwealth, and eventually it will lead to the tearing apart of this great institution, the Commonwealth.

2.38 p.m.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I would remind the hon. Gentleman the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) that the wording of this Motion does not go so far as he would seem to think, judging from his speech. I agree with his last words. We do not want to refer to the colour question. He suggested that the Motion would open the door to political diatribe, and that the political diatribe is not between us here but between the head of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth countries.

The majority of the 600 million people in the Commonwealth do not have the same colour of skin as hon. Members sitting in this House. If we make sweeping statements and generalities, the majority of the people of the Commonwealth will resent them. At the same time, we must not close our eyes to the fact that a high proportion of our people do not like to see concentrations of other people, from wherever they come, settling down in specific parts of certain cities and occupying the housing accommodation and trying to obtain jobs in competition with them.

The question of unemployment is very closely related to this immigration. The hon. Member for Durham said that, so far as employment was concerned, it was a case of last in, first out. If there should be under any Government, at any time, serious unemployment in the country, it will be the recent immigrants who will be at the head of the unemployment queues drawing dole paid for by the rest of the country. That is why so many people take the view which was so badly expressed and led by undesirable elements in what have been wrongly called the race riots in Nottingham and Notting Hill. There is nothing new about this situation. It arose many times, for example, in the history of the construction of our railways.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

It arose in 1870 and in 1915.

Mr. Doughty

At the time of the construction of the railways it was the custom for Irish and English labourers to form themselves into rival gangs of workers. As the Irish were prepared to accept lower wages, this led to riots with the English gangs. Now we have again coming into the country people who are content with a lower standard of living and are prepared to work for a fraction of the wages which our own people here, through the trade unions, very rightly try to maintain. Therefore, we should not jump quickly to one conclusion about this very difficult problem. We must keep the balance between two strongly held and opposing views.

I remind the House that the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) would include people coming from Southern Ireland just as much as people from Jamaica, New Zealand, Canada, or Australia. There is bound to be among all these immigrants a proportion who, for one reason or another, are undesirable when they come into the country and, as they often do, take the place of our own fit and skilled men who have gone out to other countries from our over-populated island.

Is it right that our social services, and among those I include the prison service, should be burdened by such undesirable people? The hon. Member for Durham asked what proportion of these people are criminals. I cannot give the figures, and I do not think that anybody else can give them. The number is, of course, extremely small. But if the hon. Member will examine the calendars at any assize court or quarter sessions he will find several instances of people from some part of the Commonwealth, including Southern Ireland, being charged with serious crimes. As I know from experience, the court before which these people appear has no power at all to deport them.

The other day I had to see my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department about a foreign girl who had shoplifted in Oxford Street, which, of course, was a serious offence. The magistrate recommended her deportation and she was deported. If she had not come from a European country but from Canada, Australia or New Zealand, and had committed a much more serious crime and there was every reason to think that she would commit more crimes, nothing could have been done. That is the kind of case that we have to consider.

If people, whatever their colour, come here and commit serious crimes, perhaps repeatedly on more than one stay in the country, there is no power to do anything at all except to send them to an English prison, at the cost to the taxpayers of a great deal of money. We know also that our prisons are overcrowded and wholly unsuitable for receiving such people. Yet we have to maintain them there. But that is not all. If their crimes are not so serious as to warrant a prison sentence, they are put on probation and our overworked and conscientious probation officers have to take over the additional work.

I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as the Motion deals with that kind of case, the time is overdue when legislation should be brought in to deal with them. It will be remembered that recently the Court of Criminal Appeal has drawn attention to this fact and has said that the matter must be dealt with by legislation. So it must, and I do not think that legislation of that kind would be opposed in any quarter of the House.

Our Health Service costs us a great deal of money. Those who come to the country and become ill after they have arrived are entitled to use the Service. But is there any reason why people who are unfit before they come here should not have some form of medical examination and be refused permission to come if they are likely to become a charge on the medical services and to occupy beds in hospitals which often have a waiting list of inhabitants of this country?

Our social services, in the sense of public relief and matters of that kind, cost us a great deal of money. If unemployment should arise, those services would cost more. Yet I do not think that any hon. Member would disagree that if unemployment came, these immigrants would be the first to be charges on unemployment benefit and assistance relief. The country's purse is not unlimited. We are already spending for the benefit of the inhabitants of this island very large sums of money on various forms of social service, including the provision of hospitals, unemployment relief, public assistance and the prison service. We cannot extend our expenditure indefinitely to include spending on people who come here from all over the world and require these services for one reason or another. It is high time that this matter was brought to a conclusion.

I must try to confine myself to the terms of the Motion. If we go beyond that we shall get into very dangerous waters. I hope that the House will pass the Motion and that the Government will bring in legislation—and the sooner the better—to deal with the matters it raises, and particularly with people who come here and commit crimes or lead a criminal existence without doing any form of work. Although the numbers are small, the dangers which they create are very great indeed.

2.49 p.m.

Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)

If I do not follow immediately in my remarks the theme of the speech by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), it is because I want to cut my speech short for the sake of some of my hon. Friends who want to take part in the debate. I will, however, try to pick up some of the hon. and learned Member's interesting comments in the course of my general observations.

It is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) has moved this Motion. It is only a week since the Government lifted certain regulations on the entry of foreigners into the country. I think that, generally, we welcome foreigners, because past experience shows that we have gained a good deal from people coming here from overseas and bringing with them their skills, their culture and a new colour to our national life.

We are talking of plural societies in the British Commonwealth. We are talking of the need to be leaders in a multi-racial world. If we really mean that, we must show signs of believing in it, and we do not do so by restricting the entry into this country of people from other parts of the world. Indeed, no sooner have the Government made that move towards this liberalisation than we find a Government supporter asking us for the first time to impose restrictions on the entry into this country of members of our Commonwealth family.

Let us see what are the numbers involved. When the hon. Gentleman reads his speech he will find that he referred particularly to the coloured population. There are about 190,000 in this country, of which it is estimated that 100,000 come from the West Indies and 50,000 from India and Pakistan. There are many more British people going from the United Kingdom into the Commonwealth, and in India and Pakistan there are 35,000 or more United Kingdom citizens resident there. We want this movement to go on in our great family of nations.

I must say, because I believe it to be true, that in spite of the pious wrappings of this Motion, we cannot escape the fact that it is closely related to colour and race. As my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) has shown by his very able speech, certainly it is taken that way in the West Indies and in other parts of the Commonwealth. I ask the hon. Gentleman whether this Motion would have been moved today if it had not been for the shameful events in Nottingham and Notting Hill, three months ago?

Of course, there are faults on both sides. I have never said that all black men are angels and all white men are devils, but I say this to the hon. Gentleman, that he is certainly mixing in very bad company. The people who are concerned with keeping this emotional feeling alive are those who baited the Jews in days gone by, the Fascists—

Mr. Osborne rose

Mr. Bottomley

It is a very bad thing that this Motion has been moved. All I am saying to the hon. Gentleman, and he must take it, is that it will be taken in this way. He is mixing with bad friends. I give due credit to him, and I am not suggesting that he has any such sentiments or feelings for that group, but the fact that he has moved a Motion of this kind gives support to people who share that view.

One hon. Gentleman suggested that immigrants included people with diseases and idlers and criminals. The Government have made their position clear. They say it is not so. Indeed, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the debate in another place when a noble Lord, speaking for the Government, Lord Chesham, said this: It is sometimes said that there is a health problem, but at the moment certainly we are not aware that there is a serious problem. He had said earlier: By and large, they do not present any particular problem to the police, and they are at least as law-abiding as most other inhabitants of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords; 19th November, 1958; Vol. 212, c. 715.] The hon. Gentleman the Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) talked about the numbers on public assistance. The Government spokesman in another place, the Earl of Perth, on the same occasion said that this accusation was very often made, but that it really did not signify because the facts did not justify it.

We on this side of the House recognise that there are numbers of people who come to this country who misbehave themselves. They are to be condemned for this, but already some Commonwealth Governments are taking the trouble to ensure that emigrants are of good character. For instance, I know that Mr. Manley and his Cabinet colleagues in the West Indies now give instructions for careful vetting of applications for passports from those who want to come to this country and anyone with a criminal record is stopped from coming.

Mr. Osborne

Why do we not do something here?

Mr. Bottomley

Because we have always made it a practice not to do so and because this great Mother of Parliaments has established complete freedom and liberty, so we put no restriction on the movement of people. If they are criminal we deal with them in the proper way, judicially. If some get caught in the criminal net we deal with them in the same way as we do with other wrongdoers, irrespective of colour, creed or race.

We on this side are clear on our attitude towards restricted immigration. I think I speak for my right hon. and hon. Friends by saying that we are categorically against it. This country has a special place in the Commonwealth. We are the most industrialised community and we have a direct responsibility for our colonial subjects when they are poor, badly housed or unemployed.

I do not think that we can escape our share of responsibility. I am reminded of the occasion when I went to the West Indies, as Parliamentary Secretary for Overseas Trade, to buy more sugar. Not only did I want to buy more sugar but I wanted to get it at a cheaper price. I remember a friend saying to me one evening, "As a fellow Socialist, do you think you are doing the right thing, coming here asking for sugar at a lower price? You have a Welfare State. Your children are well clothed and they go to school. A good deal of this is provided by the money made out of the sugar grown in our country. Do you not think it is time you paid a little more money for this sugar, so that we can provide the same opportunities for our people?"

We would do well to remember that a great deal of our standard of living is possible because of our association with these backward peoples. So we cannot shirk our responsibility towards them when they, in their turn, ask for some help. It is natural for them to look to this country for the opportunity of building a decent standard of living, just as the miners did when there was great distress here. They came from the Welsh valleys or from the North-East to London to look for work.

Both the Colonies and the independent members of the Commonwealth are in the process of developing a national economic life. They have to be careful not to overburden themselves with too many immigrants at one time. However, this danger will diminish, and their economies will become stronger and more mature. When that happens they will reduce, and, finally, abolish, their restrictions on immigration from one part of the Commonwealth to another so that, as in this country, there will be complete freedom of movement for Commonwealth citizens within the Commonwealth. We ought to aim at achieving this. We ought to be the leaders instead of limiting in any way entrance into this country.

We have been glad to have immigrants come here since the end of the war. I am sure that there are many who would readily pay tribute to the work done by them as nurses in hospitals and as assistants in public transport. In spite of what the hon. Gentleman has said about one section of a trade union branch apparently causing objections to be made, I can tell him that the Transport and General Workers' Union, which represents that branch, is on record as saying that it is against this kind of discrimination. I can tell him, too, that there are shop stewards in large undertakings throughout the country who have said that these men are their partners, that they want them to work with them, and that this is being done happily and successfully.

I am sure the Transport and General Workers' Union will never forget that during the bus strike, in London, the coloured people were as loyal as all others in keeping the union tradition—

Mr. C. Pannell

Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not call that loyalty.

Mr. Osborne

May I ask the hon. Gentleman this question? Is he really in favour of unrestricted immigration and of known criminals coming into this country?

Mr. Bottomley

I have said that our country, in turn, makes provision for checking the movement of undesirables, but if, by an unfortunate error, one of them gets into this country, it is our duty to deal with him, whatever his race, colour or creed, according to the judicial requirements of the land.

I was saying that the trade unions in no way oppose the entry of these immigrants from other parts of the Commonwealth, but one has to note that if there is unemployment this fact causes tension. These matters have to be watched and handled in some way, and so have housing difficulties. These tensions exist and we do well to take note of them, but they would exist in any case. They are a social problem which has to be handled. The Governments of coloured countries know that there is growing unemployment and housing difficulty in this country, and they are anxious that their people should know about it.

I remember Mr. Manley saying on one occasion, "I would like to stop most of them who are coming to your country because they are the craftsmen who can make our country wealthier. They are of the more adventurous kind. We are not anxious that they should go." It ought to shock hon. Members that this poster which I have in my hand can be put up in a Commonwealth country. It says, "Don't go to Britain because there is unemployment". That has been put up all over the West Indies. The Government there are doing their best to stop immigrants coming into this country.

For the reasons that I have explained, we believe in the principle of Commonwealth citizens having free movement all over the Commonwealth. We must set an example of that in this country. The central principle on which our status in the Commonwealth is largely dependent is the "open door" to all Commonwealth citizens. If we believe in the importance of our great Commonwealth, which is still developing and which is creating the foundation of a common society, we should do nothing in the slightest degree to undermine that principle. We stand to gain from it as a British nation as we have done in the past. Much of the life, culture and merriment that these immigrants bring to us is a contribution to our social development.

We stand to gain still more in stature in the Commonwealth community in giving the principal lead to the Commonwealth in this development. Let us not cause doubts about this development, but continue to build upon what we know is good and is accepted throughout the Commonwealth as the British way of life. We hope that it will continue to serve as an example to the rest of the world.

I have spoken shortly, but with a sincerity equal to that of the hon. Member for Louth. My concluding words are that I think the hon. Gentleman has done a disservice to the cause of humanity and to the British Commonwealth.

3.3 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

The right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) has done a public service in making plain the position of his party in relation to this Motion. He did so by saying that the party opposite was categorically against restricting immigration. Equally, I must make it plain that Her Majesty's Government cannot accept the Motion proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne).

We would all agree with the opening phrasing of that Motion, which deplores all forms of colour bar or race discrimination. The second part deals with the control of immigration from the Commonwealth.

A starting point for discussion of that question is that this country is proud to be the centre of an inter-racial Commonwealth which, my hon. Friend agrees, is the greatest association of peoples of all races, creeds and colours that the world has ever seen. As a result of that, we have always allowed any of the people in what was the Empire and is now the Commonwealth to come to this country and to go from it as they please.

That was not due to a deliberate act of policy formally announced and embodied in our law. It is not even a policy which gradually grew up and became established by custom, so far as I have been able to discover. It is simply a fact which we have taken for granted from the earliest days in which our forebears ventured forth across the seas. That, I suggest, is the starting point of our thoughts on this matter.

Both my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) made it clear that their anxiety was about the increased numbers of coloured immigrants. I think that it would be hypocritical if we did not discuss it in the context which they clearly had in mind. Coloured people have been coming here from the Colonies ever since the days of Princess Pocahontas. She was a redskin and in her day was known as "La Belle Sauvage". La Belle Sauvage Yard, in Ludgate Hill, is named after her. Many coloured people came here as seamen and domestic servants. For the past 100 years a great many coloured men and, more recently, women, have come as students. I have known many of them as students at the Bar. A high proportion have been students at the Bar, and very great lawyers some of them have made.

Only since the war have we had a somewhat larger number of coloured people comng here than before to earn their living as part of our general working population. Even so, the total number of coloured people from the Commonwealth now estimated to be in this country is only 210,000, out of our total native population of about 50 million. I know that the question of the distribution of that 210,000 coloured people is something of which we should take note—the distribution both by countries of origin and by the places where they have settled here. From the West Indies roughly 115,000, rather more than half the total, have come, and there are 25,000 West Africans, 55,000 Indians and Pakistanis. That leaves about 15,000 others from numerous parts of the Commonwealth.

They are living mainly in the large cities. London has 90,000, Birmingham, 25,000, Manchester, 8,000, Liverpool, 6,400, and Leeds, 6,000. Nottingham, Bradford, Coventry and Cardiff have smaller, but substantial, communities. Those figures are only estimates. We have no system of obtaining regular, accurate statistics, but probably those estimates are not far out. As the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham pointed out, until the disturbances in Nottingham and Notting Hill, at the end of August, a major breach of law and order is not known to have occurred, involving—I hesitate to use the word, but it is a word which has been used and one must face it—antagonism between coloured people and our native population.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull said, perhaps rightly, the riots were possibly not the result of racial pressures, but simply that advantage was being taken by naturally lawless people, who are of our own population, picking an opportunity for conflict with those who happened to be of a different skin. To say that that is symptomatic of a feeling in the rest of the population, would be entirely wrong.

The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) made an interesting speech after having visited the West Indies and, so to speak, having had an advantage I have not had of seeing both sides of the picture. He went further and said that the Press was wrong to have used the expression "race riots". However, those disorders took place and caused natural apprehension in the minds of all of us.

Mr. C. Pannell

With great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey), I think that he was wrong and that they were race riots. Anyone who has seen race riots knows that this sprang from the worst social class in this country against these people, but they were race riots. I do not think that we should use verbiage which obscures the issue.

Mr. Grey

The impression which I was given was that these incidents were commenced by Teddy boys. Naturally, other incidents followed, but I believe that the incidents were instigated by Teddy boys.

Mr. Pannell

When a gang set out with the idea that the only criterion whether they bash in a man's face or not is that his skin is not white, that is a race riot. We cannot get away from the English language.

Mr. Renton

So far, I have expressed no opinion about whether that was the right choice of words, and perhaps it would be best to leave it to the two hon. Members to decide that matter of "verbiage," but I think that the spirit behind the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull and the hon. Member for Durham was that, whatever the causes of these riots, they were not symptomatic of any general racial dislike in this country. That is the only point I am trying to make.

I am glad to say that since these unhappy disorders, there have been only the usual minor incidents involving coloured people, and these are incidents which, unfortunately, occur in large cities all over the world and are not part of any colour problem. Unfortunately, even white people sometimes have brawls.

Mr. Pannell

Like that at Blackpool.

Mr. Renton

I should not have said that that was a brawl. I thought that it was handled in difficult circumstances with great dignity and restraint.

After those incidents at Nottingham and Notting Hill, some of the Prime Ministers and other Ministers from the West Indies came here to see things for themselves. I think that we were able to reassure them on various matters. I had the pleasure of meeting them, as did my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I believe that they went back to their countries reassured about the Government's intentions and reassured that we were anxious to help to solve problems, as far as there were problems to solve. They went back in a realistic frame of mind, however, with the intention of making it clear to their people that there was no point in encouraging vast numbers of them to come here merely to swell the ranks of the unemployed.

I suggest to the House that our unemployment problem is temporary. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth said that we should not be panicked into any rash measures, but that this is a matter which requires careful consideration. I agree with him. Surely it would be wrong to depart from the broad general principle of allowing British people from all over the world to come here merely because of a temporary fear of swelling the ranks of our unemployed.

As a result, perhaps, of what has already been done by the Governments of the Commonwealth, especially those of India and Pakistan as well as those of the West Indies, the number of coloured people coming here in recent months has fallen considerably compared with the number in the previous two years. I will not trouble the House with the figures, because they have already been given.

Mr. Tomney

We should like to be troubled with the figures, especially with those for the West Indies. Let us be troubled with them.

Mr. Renton

As the hon. Gentleman has asked for the figures, I shall give them to him. I take it that it is the West Indies in which he is particularly interested. The figures for immigrants from the West Indies are: in 1955, 28,000; in 1956, 30,000; in 1957, 23,000; and in 1958, to the end of October, 14,300. That shows a considerable decline. The net inward balance, which is what, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochester and Chatham seeks, for the four months, July-October, was only 4,500 compared with the following figures for the corresponding periods of 1957, 1956 and 1955–12,500, 11,000 and 11,500 respectively.

What I say is, therefore, clearly borne out by the figures—

Mr. A. Evans rose

Mr. Renton

I am anxious to give replies to those who have spoken in this debate, and to deal with my hon. Friend's Motion. Perhaps, before I sit down, the hon. Gentleman may again seek to intervene.

Although my hon. Friend moved his Motion in fairly wide terms I hope that he will not think that I am attaching too much importance to the letter and not enough to the spirit of the Motion if I refer to the actual words used. My hon. Friend asks us … to take immediate steps to restrict the immigration of all persons, irrespective of race, colour, or creed, who are unfit, idle, or criminal…. All kinds of immigration controls create their own great administrative problems—as I, perhaps, as much as anybody in this House, have recently had reason to know—but what my hon. Friend has set down immediately give rise to various difficulties, both of definition and of administration. Let us take the word "unfit". Unfit for what? What degree of unfitness? These are very much a matter of opinion.

If my hon. Friend is anxious that there shall be a full medical examination of everybody coming here, I must point out that that is a thing we have never had even for aliens, and that it would also create tremendous problems of skilled manpower at the ports—

Mr. Osborne

Surely the standard of fitness or unfitness should be just the same as that applied to every Englishman who goes to any part of the Commonwealth. He has to provide a clean bill of health. If it is quite practical for other Governments to do it against our own people, why should we not be able to do it to those coming here?

Mr. Renton

With great respect to my hon. Friend, I am not at all sure that that is right. There are various regulations in various parts of the Commonwealth—and we have some, too—about notifying various notifiable diseases, but that is a very different question from suggesting that there should be an immigration control to exclude those broadly called "unfit".

While I am dealing with this question of health, perhaps I may say that for all corners, whether aliens or from the Commonwealth, the most serious epidemic diseases are already the subject of scrutiny, so to speak, at the ports; particularly small pox, which we are always naturally anxious to keep out of the country, because it is a disease which, if it does get here, spreads rather easily. Further, if somebody—an alien, at any rate—is found to have an infectious condition that is readily apparent, it presents a fairly simple problem. That alien, or the person from the Commonwealth, can be dealt with at once by being taken to hospital, or treated in some way.

If my hon. Friend has in mind T.B. or V. D., may I say that those diseases cannot be adequately dealt with except by X-ray or blood tests taken at the port. To provide for all persons coming to this country medical examinations on a scale sufficient to detect all communicable diseases would call for an elaborate and costly organisation including a full range of diagnostic facilities at every port and detailed examinations which would involve formidable delay in the admission of people to this country. We consider that the needs do not justify anything of that kind.

It is, of course, another matter for the emigrating countries to make any arrangements that they care to make, and, indeed, some of them have made such arrangements, to see that people who are unhealthy and unfit do not come here to try to work.

Mr. Tomney

Could the hon. and learned Gentleman give details of what health arrangements have been made in the native countries before people emigrate? If he will look at the latest Ministry of Health figures of the incidence of tuberculosis in this country, where we once completely conquered the disease, and see who are now occupying the beds, he will get a rude shock.

Mr. Renton

I should have preferred to have notice of that point. I am not prepared to give details at this moment. The hon. Gentleman can take it from me that this matter is exercising the concern of some of the emigrating countries and that they are taking steps to deal with it.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North) rose

Mr. Renton

I cannot give way; I must get on.

As for restricting the idle, there is a difficulty of definition. When a person arrives at a port how are we to tell whether he is idle or not? I do not think that my hon. Friend would expect me to say much more than that. He knows, as I have pointed out, that people are not encouraged to come here unless there is work for them. But to say that there should be a regular system of Ministry of Labour permits as we have for aliens would go a very long way to breaching the principle of the open door upon which most of us agree.

As to criminals, so far as the West Indies are concerned, the countries of emigration already refuse to allow people with bad criminal records to come here. However, I think that is not so much what my hon. Friend has in mind as the need, which has already been mentioned in the debate and about which a great deal of agreement has been expressed, to deport that small minority of immigrants from the Commonwealth, whether coloured or otherwise, who, by their criminal activities, are not only a nuisance to us but are a disgrace to the vast number of their law-abiding fellow subjects from the various parts of the Commonwealth.

As my right hon. Friend said at the Conservative Party's Blackpool conference, which has already been mentioned, the Government have under consideration the possibility of legislating on that matter. I must point out to the House that it is not a matter that can be quickly or easily decided. Naturally, consultations are necessary with all the other countries of the Commonwealth, and I speak as a lawyer when I say that the legal issues involved are unbelievably complex. I am sorry that I am not in a position at the moment to give the House any further information about our intentions in that respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Solihull asked about the numbers of those receiving National Assistance. He was referring particularly to coloured people. At the beginning of November—the latest date for which I have figures—6,100 were in receipt of unemployment benefit without any National Assistance supplementation, another 1,500 were receiving unemployment benefit and National Assistance, and 6,700 were in receipt of National Assistance only.

Mr. Osborne

About 15,000 in all?

Mr. Renton

The total is 14,300.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said that my hon. Friend's Motion would include Southern Ireland. I am not so sure that he is right. It rather seems to us that if the Motion is to apply, as it seems to, to people in Commonwealth countries only, it would leave the Southern Irish in a better position than people from the Commonwealth.

Mr. Doughty

I do not want to go into legal points about the Southern Ireland Act which was recently passed, but the same problem concerning deportation arises in regard to Southern Irish who come here and commit crimes. They are not Commonwealth subjects—which is so much their loss—but the same problem would require to be dealt with in the legislation.

Mr. Renton

My hon. and learned Friend is right, and in any legislation of this kind we should naturally have to consider the position of Irish people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Louth suggested that the powers which he would like us to take are those which are already possessed by most of the other Governments concerned. He said that any legislation on which we might embark to control immigration should be on the basis of reciprocity. That gives rise to difficulties. As has been pointed out, India and Pakistan place practically no restrictions on the entry of people from this country, and if restrictions were introduced here on the basis of reciprocity the result would be that, while the entry of West Indians would be controlled, the entry of Indians and Pakistanis would not. I do not know whether that is a result which my hon. Friend the Member for Louth contemplates, but it does not seem to be a very logical solution.

Mr. Osborne

I did not make that suggestion. I was merely quoting from the Economist, which suggested it.

Mr. Renton

As an argument in reserve—it would not be fair to refer to it as my hon. Friend's last ditch—my hon. Friend invited our attention to the possibility of a long-term solution to the problem. There are now 210,000 coloured people from the Commonwealth here as well as a great many other people from the Commonwealth. My hon. Friend quoted the Economist and pointed out that in twenty years' time, when our own native population will be very much larger than it is now, there will be 800,000 coloured people from the Commonwealth here. Candidly, I do not think that that fact should cause the Government to alter their views and their policy. Incidentally it is a very big change from the figure of 6 million which my hon. Friend quoted in the debate on the Address.

I have attempted to deal with all the points of detail which have been raised. To summarise, we all agree, and are thankful to agree, that none of us in this House would tolerate any form of colour prejudice. We all agree that we are proud of our country's position as the centre of a multi-racial Commonwealth. Both the Government and, I am glad to record, the Opposition Front Bench do not see the necessity for any general control of immigration. The Government are considering very carefully the possibility of legislation to deport criminals, but, as I have pointed out, that gives rise to great complexities.

3.31 p.m.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

I was hoping to be called before the Joint Under-Secretary replied, but unfortunately I did not manage to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

I should like to go back to the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne). He referred to this matter as being political dynamite, not between party and party, but between nation and Commonwealth. I do not regard the matter as political dynamite at all. We are responsible men who have been sent here by the electorate to give expression to issues with which the electorate is concerned in our constituencies. Parliament has been long enough in getting round to a subject which affects large numbers of people in every big city. Some of the public seem to think that Parliament has been too long in getting round to it.

During the debate, which has ranged over the generalities of the matter and the position of the people concerned, both coloured and white, it has never been clearly stated what gave rise to the trouble at Notting Hill and Shepherds Bush. I am the first London Member to be called, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and my constituency was concerned in the riots. I know as well as any other hon. Member that we have a great responsibility to the Commonwealth. But we have a greater responsibility than that. Present population trends throughout the world show that the coloured races will exceed the white races in a few years' time in the ratio of no less than five to one. I am including the Chinese, who it is expected before the end of the century will number 2,000 million people.

This will be a formidable problem for the diminishing numbers of the white race throughout the world. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that there is now a political psychological pull towards the Eastern parts of the world on the political outlook, aspirations and development of nationalities. This pull has to be faced in this context. We in Great Britain have a system of democracy which has grown up for over 400 years. It is well tried and trusted, and it is not easily exportable to other parts of the world, as events have proved. We are an insular people who have been protected by a water barrier for 400 years, and during this time certain institutions have grown up.

One of these institutions is tolerance of other people's ideas, whatever colour, race and creed. But we must face the fact—and it would be idle not to face it—that for the first time Great Britain has a colour problem at home, and the extent to which she measures up to it and the decisions that are made will have repercussions throughout the world. That was the general tenor of the debate as I listened to it. No hon. Member, in any part of the House, is unaware of the issues involved and of the necessity for winning the brown, black and other coloured people over to democratic systems and institutions.

It is not an easy issue. Let us look at it quite clearly. Consider, for example, Ghana where there have been aspirations for freedom and independence for thirty, forty or fifty years. Now, Ghana has its independence and we have seen some factors which are not pleasing. It may be that Dr. Nkrumah understands his own people better than we understand them—I do not know. He has decided that there will be one tribal chieftain instead of the lot and that that one will be him. An opposition will be tolerated so long as he can control it. That has not been the experience of some of us on this side of the House who have been champions of the coloured people for many years. Let us face it, however. That is the position that exists.

There was a well-known, popular song in my younger days which contained the words "Wishing will make it so." Wishing will not solve these problems. The House of Commons must apply the force of its logic and tolerance to these issues wherever they arise, in any part of the world, and particularly in our own country.

Never in the history of one nation has a country faced so great a responsibility as Great Britain faces today. I should think that within our forty dependent territories there are some 80 million people, for whose social, political and moral rights we are responsible. Migration always brings problems to any country. The speed with which any nation can overcome the difficulties of absorbing immigrants is to a great extent dependent upon the immigrants themselves and their ability to fit into the accepted customs and practices of the receiving nation.

Despite this debate, we do not yet truly understand the extent of this issue in this country. The Joint Under-Secretary has admitted that he has no accurate figures of the numbers of immigrants. He does not know the extent of this immigration or how they come in; there is no complete check. Let us see how the figures I have obtained from my researches compare with those given by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Renton

What I said was that we have no precise method of taking statistics. The figures I have given are based on estimates, but we believe that they are approximately accurate.

Mr. Tomney

If we have no precise method of making an estimate, it is time that somebody got down to the job.

My researches show that prior to the war, there were 240,000 aliens in Great Britain. After the war, we had the European voluntary workers scheme by which 57,000 men and 30,000 women entered the country. Then we had the 110,000 Poles from General Anders' army, and in addition, students, prisoners of war and miscellaneous groups who accounted for another 10,000. Whereas in 1931 we had 268,000 people of foreign birthplaces, in 1958 we had an estimated 800,000 and this does not take account of the coloured population which has been coming in in recent years. It can be seen, therefore, that Great Britain has been subjected to an influx of foreigners on a much greater scale than we have previously experienced.

The position of the Irish immigrant has been raised for special consideration because he is not in the Commonwealth. The figures here are really remarkable, and I am informed that there is a turnover of no less than 800,000 Irish immigrants a year. Of these, some 18,000 settle here as permanent residents; the others go back for reasons best known to themselves. The figures for Pakistanis and Indians which I have been able to collect fit in with the figures in general which the Joint Under-Secretary has given. Likewise, his figures for the West Indies are very near to my own figures.

The extent of this coloured problem should not be exaggerated, and I think the Minister stated it quite clearly. On the other hand, it should not be minimised, because the impact of this problem is upon the people who, in general, are least able to ride its effects—the working class. When we have incidents which lead to race disturbances, one's thinking is conditioned by one's relationship to the problem—how close one is to it or how far away from it; whether one lives in Shepherds Bush or in Somerset.

I notice that the hon. and learned Gentleman stated in his reply that he had a personal friend whom he met in his college days, who had qualified as a barrister, for whom he had the highest respect and with whom he got along on very good and generous terms. It is true that not everybody has the qualities of the barrister which the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned, or possesses the superior education of that particular coloured gentleman. These coloured people, like the English and other white peoples, have their different characteristics and attributes and their different fears, hopes and ambitions, and these considerations impinge upon the section of the people least able to bear the burden that has given rise to some of our difficulties. It is the concentration of people from the Commonwealth in areas where housing is already very difficult that has caused much of the trouble, and has in fact, given rise to about 95 per cent. of the difficulty which has been experienced.

As legislators, we must take a forward look at the possible difficulties in the future. In the main, these people have bought up slum property at not very high prices or have bought the fag-end of leases. It is possible that before a measureable distance of time elapses, local medical officers of health throughout England will put clearance orders on these properties for demolition. If that happens, does the hon. and learned Gentleman realise the situation that will be created? I will tell him the answer. It means that these people will have to be rehoused by the local authority, and, in London alone, there are no less than 170,000 families on the waiting list, some having been there for as long as thirteen years.

I do not want to seem too pessimistic about this problem, but it is my job as Member of Parliament for a constituency with its own housing problem, to take a forward look and see what is likely to happen. These people will be entitled to be rehoused under the law of the land, because their property has been the subject of slum clearance. Let us consider the effect of that, and particularly the effect upon the people in London, because when these troubles come they grow in abundance week after week. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether, in the case of future immigrants to this country, and despite the fact that we recognise that these people, in the main, coalesce among themselves and congregate, would it not be better to obtain a more even distribution throughout England? It is their congregating which has caused 95 per cent. of the trouble.

As has been said, there was no real feeling of race hatred or hatred of colour of skin, but there was this built up emotion—which is going on today—due to the constant dread of the people that the immigrants were seemingly better served than the indigenous population. These are facts which we can ignore only at our peril.

These facts are not new, let me tell the Under-Secretary of State. There has been emigration from the West Indies since 1870, and between then and the 'thirties no fewer than 800,000 went to the United States. At this time it is permissible for the Jamaicans to use the United Kingdom immigrant quota to the United States. It was not until the McCarran-Walters Act, which restricted immigration to 800 from the Caribbean, with 100 only for Jamaica, that the flow stopped. Then, of course, the flow started to this country.

It is admitted on both sides of the House that Great Britain shall place no restriction on entry, that we should preserve our multi-racial tolerance and customs. At the same time it would be idle to blind ourselves to some of the difficulties which possibly may arise. I have referred to one, which I think is the main one, housing. Let us look at the others.

First there is employment. The employment situation in this country, in my opinion, has always been based upon an expanding economy. What is to be the situation if we have large-scale unemployment with large-scale immigration? The vast majority of these people are not skilled. From my own researches into the matter I find that 53 per cent. of them are unskilled, 35 per cent. semiskilled and only 12 per cent. skilled. It is upon the general average rate of employability that the burden will chiefly fall.

I do not want to take up too much time, but I have a special consideration to put to the Under-Secretary of State arising out of the race riots in my constituency. Nine young men were arrested. There is no one in the constituency who takes the view that what they did was not wrong, severely wrong, but the sentence they received, boys of 17 years of age, was four years' imprisonment, and there has been considerable feeling in Notting Hill and that neighbourhood against these sentences, and it is still there today, so that even coloured people are going round organising petitions on behalf of those boys.

I wrote a letter on behalf of the parents of those boys to the Home Secretary, asking him to see me about this matter. He replied that it was sub judice and he could not do so. The case was subject to appeal a week ago and the Appeal Bench confirmed the sentences. So far as I know—and I made sure—none of those boys had a previous conviction. Not one of them. It may be that there will be a change of attitude towards this case on the part of the Home Office after time has elapsed. I mention this case only to demonstrate that, despite the fact that there may have been some unsavoury people, some people out looking for trouble, some people out to spread trouble in these areas, there were people who were genuinely concerned about their own position.

I want to refer to an issue which has been put to me. It concerns the Manchester Guardian and some of my constituents. We all know that frequently there is landlord and tenant trouble. We know about the problems that arise between white landlords and coloured tenants, between coloured landlords and white tenants, between coloured landlords and coloured tenants, between English landlords and English tenants, between Irish landlords and English tenants, and between English landlords and tenants from Commonwealth countries.

These are things which are spread by gossip and otherwise through our constituencies. The case I have in mind was a classic one in so far as the Manchester Guardian treated it in a special article. Some of my constituents did not agree with the contents of the article. They sent me a petition on the matter and upon the issue which gave rise to the article. That was all right. I investigated the case personally. I interviewed the coloured family concerned. I interviewed their white tenant, the police, and the neighbours, and I came to the conclusion that the Manchester Guardian article was not right either in fact or in presentation. The tenants in the area wrote to the Manchester Guardian protesting that this was not a true summary of the position and asking the editor to publish their letter. This great Liberal newspaper refused to do it.

These are the things underneath which give rise to feeling. It is not colour, it is not race, it is utter and complete frustration. The Daily Herald first drew attention to this matter when they took up the case and published a leading article headed "Cut it out", which made direct reference to the position in that area. These are responsible people. The tenants have lived in the house for 21 years, but it is understandable that when people from the Commonwealth take a lease they are charged high prices and they must get their money back somehow before the lease runs out.

The result is that we have these cases of crowding more and more people into the available accommodation. Cannot something be done? Surely it is not beyond the guile of a Government Department to frame regulations which provide that where there is a change of tenancy of this character protection can be given to both parties. These are the human things, which have not been mentioned hitherto in this debate, that give rise to these troubles.

To return to the case of the four boys, there are no more loyal people than the Cockneys. They are loyal to our institutions and to the nation, but they are also informed. They read the newspapers and look at television. When they read about comparable cases and find variations in the sentences imposed by the courts they come to think that our law does not provide justice. In one case of alleged rioting which concerned coloured people, one man was sentenced to prison for a year and others were fined. The man who was sentenced to a year's imprisonment had a former conviction in 1948 for shooting a policeman—I will not give his name—and if I know the Public Prosecutor that is a crime with intent to kill. Yet these boys, with no previous convictions, got four years.

These ordinary, Cockney people realise these things. Do not underestimate their intelligence or feelings. It is these things which have given rise to a lot of the trouble which has developed, in particular, housing. If the coloured population were spread throughout the country it would not be noticed. I have travelled in the United States where 11 per cent. of the population is negro. If anybody could be said to be the native, indigenous population, it is the negro of America. The negroes were there before all the whites—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Red Indians."] On comparable terms the negro was there in numbers before a lot of the whites.—[An HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, the negroes were taken there in boatloads from Africa by the slave trade. [An HON. MEMBER: "By the whites."].

Mr. C. Pannell

The whites were there first.

Mr. Tomney

Not in the same numbers. We get the same thing in America as affects the coloured people here, and legislation has had to be granted to deal with it. I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at that American legislation, because in my opinion the American negro, except in the South, has reached the greatest stage of emancipation of those in any country. In the North it is amazing to find the positions they occupy on the basis of equal skill, equal ability, equal knowledge and general qualifications, both in industry and the professions. This has been achieved chiefly by good will and by legislation, and the hon. Gentleman should see if some of it cannot be applied here. Also he should try to spread the coloured population, which represents only 4 per cent. of the total. So we could absorb a lot more without any trouble. Although I agree with sociologists who take the view that there is a time when the indigenous population of any country will raise barriers to immigrants, I think we have a long way to go before we reach that position.

If I may, Mr. Speaker, I will refer to the issue I raised previously regarding my constituents in Ellingham Road in order to demonstrate that the people with whom I am in contact take a broad view of these problems. I have here a letter from the Union of Post Office Workers signed by the branch secretary. It relates to one of the boys who was sentenced to four years' imprisonment. I ask the Minister to take note of what he says in part: This young man, Alfred Hunt, of 25, Netherwood Road, W.14, had not long returned from Cyprus when he was taken from his bed at the hour of 2 a.m. by the police and charged with rioting. I crave your indulgence for consideration of the following facts as vouched for by his mother, for whose integrity, honesty and sincerity the whole membership is prepared to swear. Hunt, in common with the eight accused, pleaded guilty only because he was foolishly persuaded to take this course in the belief that by so doing matters would be expedited and the punishment, if any, insignificant. Actually, and contrary to the bias of police evidence, he was in possession of no weapon and had no means of access to one although he admits to being an occupant of the car which toured the district for the purpose of slogan-shouting. That was the famous case referred to as the nigger hunt.

In regard to the case at Ellingham Road, the petition sent to me is couched in responsible language and from people I have known for a period of nine years. I will not endeavour to raise the matter at this stage, but will reserve the right to go fully into it on a later occasion.

3.59 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) did not make any suggestion or recommendation for restriction of immigration from any other Commonwealth country and—

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.