§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I beg to move,
That this House, in view of the enormous increase on immigration in recent years, which in 1960 was approximately 60,000 or equal to such cities as Bedford, Chester, Colchester, Scunthorpe and Worcester, and the serious social problems that are consequently arising, strongly urges Her Majesty's Government to take powers to control immigration into the United Kingdom from all Commonwealth countries irrespective of race, colour or creed, and to require of every immigrant proof of a guaranteed job; adequate housing accommodation; a clean bill of health; a clear criminal record and a cash deposit for two years sufficient to pay their return fare if they become a charge on public funds, but these powers to specifically exclude bona fide students and professional workers who come here for a limited period; and further that powers be taken to deport all immigrants convicted of serious crime.
§ Mr. Speaker
It might be convenient if I indicated that it was my intention to call-if he desires to move it-the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), to leave out from "House" to the end and to add:declines to accept any proposal which implies that the social and economic problems of this country are caused or aggravated by immigrants; believes that social and economic distress in overcrowded areas can be dealt with by the existing powers of central and local government in this country; recalls that problems arising from movements of population from economically distressed areas have already been faced inside the territory of the United Kingdom, and appreciates that between equal and independent Commonwealth Governments with similar aims and principles such problems would fall to be discussed in terms of mutual advantage and positive incentives and would regard as incompatible with Commonwealth principles any solution based on direction of individuals or restriction of existing personal freedoms1930 but not the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle), to leave out from "House" to the end and to add:regrets any steps to control immigration from the Commonwealth believing that the traditions of free entry into this country should be preserved; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to take positive action to ensure the integration of Commonwealth immigrants by promoting their more evtn dispersal throughout the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Osborne
Hon. Members on both sides will agree that immigration today is the most difficult, the most dangerous and the most delicate problem facing the country. I assure hon. Members opposite, and some of my hon. Friends, that I have no racial or colour feelings. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members will not believe what I say, they should not stay in the House. Some of my oldest and best friends live in Ceylon and Malaya, and I could not wish to meet nicer people.
Speaking as an Englishman for the English people about conditions in England, I feel deeply that the problem of immigration must be tackled, and tackled soon. I recognise quite freely that this problem arouses very deep feelings on both sides of the House, and I acknowledge the sincerity of those hon. Members who are against me, even though one here and there does not acknowledge my own sincerity. I hope to establish certain facts, and then to ask the House to allow those facts to speak for themselves. I should also like to make a personal appeal to the House to hear me. I have been an hon. Member for sixteen years, but the longer I stay here, and the more often I speak, the more nervous I am.
The Motion asks only for conditions in this country which the British people have to accept everywhere else in the Commonwealth, irrespective of race, colour or creed. It is fair to say that public opinion here is now strongly in favour of some control, is frightened by last year's huge influx, and wants some action to be taken quickly.
In 1958, I was permitted to introduce a Private Member's Bill on this issue, and I then described the immigration problem as being like dynamite. Today, I think that it is considerably more dangerous. If I may say so without offence, to me it is like a cancer; the 1931 longer it is left, the more it will grow and the more difficult it will be to deal with and to heal.
On the general issue I should like to quote from the Guardian. I think that hon. Members will agree that the Guardian is the most liberal of our newspapers and, in some ways, the guardian of our conscience on social matters. This is what it said on 6th February, 1961—and this is the general background to the whole problem:Figures for overseas migration in 1960 are not yet completed. A first guess suggests that about 108,000 emigrants left Britain for the Commonwealth overseas, but that more than 230.000 immigrants from overseas came to Britain. Of the immigrants Ireland sent about 70,000; European countries about 40,000; and the West Indies about 42,000.Actually, the figure has turned out to be about 50,000.The emigrants went mostly to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Rhodesia, and, as in the most recent years, the largest contingent, 44,000, to Australia, the Commonwealth country which has had the most enlightened and consistent migration policy, and which has kept the best statistics. These figures are rather alarming"—this is the Guardian speaking—an ironic comment on the views of those well-meaning persons who agitate to transfer a large proportion of the population of this ' overcrowded ' island to the ' empty spaces ' of the Dominions. We are indeed helping to populate Australia and Canada, but only by creating a vacuum which is immediately filled from Ireland and Jamaica. In 1960 the population of Britain was increased, not diminished, by migration; and even in 1957, a record year for outward movement, when 230,000 migrants left the country, more than 189,000 entered it. The flow to the ' old ' Commonwealth countries is steady and it carries away a proportion of our best citizens, because these countries "?that is, the "old" Dominions—rightly insist upon quality.I wish to emphasise that point. The Dominions rightly insist on quality. The Guardian asks this question:Are we quite sure, when we look at this reverse flow of immigrants to Britain, that we are making a good bargain?That is the question that I am asking on behalf of English people in this country.
I should like to establish a few facts and to deal, first, with the West Indian problem, because that is the major section of the coloured immigration problem. In 1953, 2,000 came from the 1932 West Indies to this country. In 1954, it went up to 11,000; in 1955, 27,500; 1956, 29,800; 1957, 23,000; in 1958, it went down to 15,000; in 1959 it went up slightly to 16,400, and last year it rose to the staggering figure of 50,000. This just cannot go on, and hon. Members know that to be true.
From the other parts of the Commonwealth—and I want to contrast these figures because of the difference in the numbers in the populations—there came from India, in 1955, 6,000; in 1956, 5,500; 1957, 6,600; 1958, 6,200; 1959, 3,000; and last year it went back to 6,000.
From Pakistan there came in the same years 1,800, 2,000, 5,200, 4,700; in 1959, only 860, but last year it went up to 2,500.
From Malta, with a much smaller population, 300 came in 1955, then 900, 450, 130; and, according to Home Office statistics, although I am not sure of these, in 1959 there was a minus of 350 and in 1960 a minus of 1,400. I should like to know whether those figures are correct.
From Cyprus there arrived in 1955, 3,400, then 2,700, 1,400, 2,700, and then again, in 1959, it went down to 400, but last year it rose to 3,200.
The import of these figures is this. The total population of the Commonwealth is roughly 600 million. All those 600 million people are, technically, entitled to come to this country and live here. Obviously, that is physically impossible. I believe that even last year's rate is unbearable because the overwhelming proportion of these immigrants stay in England—they do not go to Scotland or to Ireland—and they form on the map a new coloured city as big as Bedford, Chester, Colchester, Scunthorpe or Worcester. This cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely because in another ten, twenty or thirty years' time the face of England would not be recognisable. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) may laugh but the ordinary English people do not think it quite as funny as he does.
Sheer weight of numbers will make limitation inevitable. Many of the immigrants want to bring over their wives and families. In addition, the tendency is for them to have much 1933 bigger families than is the custom in this country. Therefore, it is inevitable that there will be a rapid cumulative growth in the numbers of these immigrants.
§ Mr. Osborne
There are about 300,000 coloured people in this country and it is undeniable that their presence is causing grave social problems in Birmingham, in certain parts of London and in other industrial cities. I am told that within twenty years, even at the present rate, if there is no further increase in the number of immigrants arriving in this country, there will be 2 million coloured people in this country. The Home Secretary has not told me so, but I have a feeling that he is well aware that he is sitting on a series of powder kegs that could explode at any moment. Nobody wants to see again the sort of occurrences which were experienced at Nottingham and Notting Hill.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Member has said that he wants to relate this Motion to the whole of the Commonwealth, presumably irrespective of colour. So far his fears for the future have related solely to the fact that there is an increasing coloured population. Are we to take it that it is only the coloured people who, in his view, present a social difficulty?
§ Mr. Osborne
Yes, they obviously present a much greater difficulty. Any hon. Member who doubts that fact is doing a disservice to this country.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
Will the hon. Gentleman say why he feels that pigmentation makes all this difference?
§ Mr. Osborne
If the hon. Gentleman cares to go to the Medical Officer of Health at Birmingham, or to the public health offices anywhere, he will be told.
§ Mr. Charles Boyle (Salford, West)
So it means that the hon. Gentleman is speaking on the colour bar.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that we shall hear more speeches and get on much better if we have fewer interruptions.
§ Mr. Osborne
No, I have given way too much already. I had not spoken for long before the hon. Gentleman doubted my sincerity, and I do not see why I should take the slightest notice of him.
The West Indian problem is related to the size of the country and the possibility of immigration from other parts of the Commonwealth. The total population of the West Indies is about 3,205,000. From that tiny population, 50,000 came here last year. By comparison, in the peninsula of India there are about 500 million people, one hundred and sixty times more. If the same proportion had come from India last year as came from the West Indies there would have been over 5 million people coming from the Indian peninsula last year. Clearly, that is impossible. It could not be allowed. Some control will have to be exercised.
Now I turn to the question: why do these people come here? First, it is because, I think that we shall all agree, the standard of living in this country is far higher than is the standard of living in the countries from which they come. The United Kingdom is the natural honeypot which attracts them from all over the Commonwealth. Many of these migrants can live better here on the dole and on our social services than they can by working hard in their own countries. They are naturally attracted here.
In support of that statement, I ask hon. Members to look at the gross domestic product per head in 1959. These are official figures. In Pakistan it was £19; India, £24; Sierra Leone, £25; Nigeria, £30; Ghana, £71; Jamaica, £132; Malta, £150; Cyprus, £150; Trinidad, £190; the United Kingdom, £364. [Interruption.] I am dealing with these 1935 things as an Englishman speaking for my own country, and I make no apology for doing it, either. If people are living on an income which is one-tenth or one-fifteenth of our own it is natural that this should be an attractive place for them to come to, and we cannot blame them for coming; but, taking that argument, it is clear that the standard of living in the West Indies, for example, is six or seven times higher than is the standard of living in India and, therefore, the Indians should be attracted to the West Indies.
Why do they not go? Because the West Indian Government would not allow them to go. Indeed, the West Indian Government will not allow people in one of the West Indian islands to go to another without a permit.
§ Mr. Osborne
An hon. Friend of mine has references to quote. All I am saying is that it does not seem unreasonable to me that we should say to them that the laws which they apply to one another should be applied to them when they want to come here.
The second and perhaps even more compelling reason why they come here is the pressure of rising population. It has been estimated that the West Indian increase in population is about 50,000 per annum, and that is about the number which came here last year. The Indian sub-continent population is increasing by about 8 million per annum. Indians are just as entitled to come to this country as are the West Indians, but it is obviously physically impossible for all that great number to come here.
One other aspect of the matter is this. The infantile mortality rate in this country is 24.3 per 1,000. In India it is 96.1; in Pakistan, 100.9; in Jamaica, 62.3; in some of the other West Indian islands it is over 100. Modern medical science is curing or abolishing tropical diseases which used to keep down those populations. It is now helping to reduce their infantile mortality rates. If the Indian and West Indian mortality rates were 1936 reduced to that in this country the rise in these populations would be fantastic—as it will be. Then can the whole lot be allowed to come here without any curb? There will have to be curbs. The sheer weight of numbers will make that inevitable. All I am pleading for is that something should be done before it is too late.
The third reason why they come here is jobs. That is a natural reason, too. Unemployment, especially in the West Indies, is forcing migrants to come here for jobs. Previously they went to Central and South America. Those labour markets are now closed to them, and the only one which is open to them is not Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand, or South Africa: it is in this tiny, overcrowded island.
I should like to quote the evidence of a West Indian himself. On 4th February, 1955, the Archdeacon of South Middlesex, Jamaica, the Rev. J. C. Swaby, wrote a letter to The Times in which he said:As a Jamaican in England for a short while, may I draw attention to certain facts which are not generally realised? During the past 50 years approximately Jamaica has depended upon various neighbouring countries for the employment of large numbers of her population. Early this century the cutting of the Panama Canal absorbed thousands. Later on Cuba required workers and great numbers went there. More recently the United States was the country to which many migrated. During the war years American farmers were short of men, as so many of their own people were at the front, and thousands of Jamaicans obtained employment there. Now all this has been changed. The neighbouring countries no longer have need to employ Jamaicans. ' Panama for the Panamanians ', 'Cuba for the Cubans ', &c., are slogans which have much to justify them.Why cannot I say just occasionally in this House, "England for the English", with the same sort of justification?
§ Mr. Osborne
I speak as an Englishman for my fellow countrymen.
The archdeacon went on to say:It is impossible to enter the United States except on a limited quota. Thus Jamaica has none of her former outlets available for employing her people. Jamaicans have no alternative but to come to England.With their enormous increase in population which medical science will allow them in future years, can we continue to 1937 absorb them? Can we? Are our workers, our trade union members, to import the employment problem from all over the Commonwealth for ever? I very much doubt it. Surely it is not unreasonable, therefore, to say that Englishmen have a perfect right to the first claim on jobs in England. This country is already, I believe, rather overpopulated, and we are entitled to protect, if we can, the standards of life in our own country.
If the House will allow me, I should like to make this one forecast. I hope that it is not too gloomy. I believe that 1961 will be the most difficult trading year that this country has known since the war, and I very much doubt whether under-employment and unemployment will be cured as easily as some hon. Members on both sides of the House think. If the motor car industry does not recover as fast as we hope, what is to happen in Birmingham and Coventry? Will the trade union principle be applied —" Last in, first out "? It will look like a colour bar and, inevitably, it will have to be faced.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
The hon. Member may be surprised to know that I am with him in much of what he says, although I am horrified at the way he is putting it because of the colour bar angle. Does he intend to say anything about other migrants, say, from Ireland, which is outside the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Osborne
Oh, yes. I want to control the flow of immigrants irrespective of race, colour or creed. I would demand from them the same standards of health, of conduct, of ability, whether they are white, black, pink or red.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
Would my hon. Friend say, as a matter of practicability, how he proposes to keep out the Southern Irish?
§ Mr. Osborne
I have been rather hurrying along and jumping over some points, so as not to be too long, and I apologise to the House for taking more time than I meant to, although it has been partly because of the interruptions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Right.
Northern Ireland has got an Act protecting employment there. It is an Act of 1947, which prevents anyone from any part of the Commonwealth, and 1938 especially from Southern Ireland, from taking a job without a work permit from the Northern Ireland Ministry of Labour. If it can be done in Northern Ireland, I think that we can do it in this country.
§ Mr. Osborne
If people are not allowed in without a work permit and one will not give work permits while one has unemployment in Northern Ireland, one effectively keeps such people out, and that is how it is done.
I would remind the House of the message of the Statue of Liberty, "Send me your poor, distressed, needy and unemployed, and I will look after them." But in spite of America's vast areas, since 1882 the Americans have had to curb immigration into the United States to protect the standard of living of their own people. What the Americans have been forced to do in spite of their vast open spaces and greater resources is inevitable in this country, and I am pleading that it should be done at once.
§ Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that part of the explanation for the large increase in production and national prosperity in Western Germany over the last few years lies in the large flow of immigrants from East Germany, and that there is a strong argument for saying that a flow of immigrants into a country gives a disproportionate economic benefit?
§ Mr. Osborne
That is perfectly true. It makes my point because, first, all the immigrants into Western Germany are East Germans. They are the finest of the people. They speak the language.
§ Mr. Osborne
The immigrants into West Germany are Germans and there is no difficulty in absorbing them. They are the most skilled people from Eastern Germany. They have gone over to Western Germany as refugees, largely political refugees. Surely that is a fair answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan).
§ Mr. Osborne
We went to great trouble to train Italians to work in our mines, but the coal miners of Yorkshire refused to work with them.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd). There was not much "brotherhood of men" about that. That is the kind of thing I am frightened about, for it will show itself, willy-nilly, in a colour bar manifestation if difficult trading conditions come to this country. Surely it is reasonable to look forward to what might happen and take the necessary action.
I should like to deal with what I conceive to be the reasonable objections to the policy which I am putting forward. I do not know what my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary will say in reply to me. I wish I did. He may say that the Colonial Office does not want this policy at the present time. He may say "Mañana—put it off," because if this sort of legislation were introduced now it would be more difficult to get the West Indian Federation launched.
My reply to that is that two years ago, when I was in the West Indies, I visited Trinidad, where the Federation was to be established, and I was told that there was very bitter feeling in Jamaica against Trinidad because it had been chosen as the centre of the Federation. How soon Federation is established has nothing to do with us in this country. That is merely an excuse which could cause delay for years to come.
Secondly, my hon. and learned Friend may say that the Prime Minister is proposing to go to Jamaica about Easter when he visits America.
§ Mr. Osborne
If my right hon. Friend wished to stay there, he would have to get a permit.
It may be said that it would make his position more difficult if this legislation were introduced. But I have confidence in the Prime Minister's ability to speak what he considers to be the truth in Jamaica, just as he did in South Africa when he talked about the wind of change. I do not think that the difficulties there would put him off.
Thirdly, my hon. and learned Friend may say that the Commonwealth Rela- 1940 tions Office will not want this and will say, "You have waited until the Federation in Jamaica has been accomplished and put this problem on our plate in the first year that we have this matter under our wing and this will make it difficult." That will give rise to further delay. By that time the shadow of the next General Election will be across the land, and that will be another excuse for doing nothing.
The greatest argument that will be used against me from both sides of the House will be the mother country tradition. It will be said that people have been allowed to come back to their mother country and that they must always be allowed to do so. That argument is completely and utterly out of date. The mother country argument arose from the Kipling ideal, the imperialistic ideal, which is now utterly rejected by hon. Members opposite and by the countries from which the immigrants come. We no longer talk of "Empire" now. We no longer dare use the terms "Empire" and "Imperialistic ideals. "It is now" Commonwealth."We talk about these countries being sister States.
Therefore, the "obligation of the mother" has gone. The old concept has gone. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say, "These States are equal with us; we are one among many peoples" and then say, "You have an obligation to us." Either we go back to the Kipling concept of the mother country, with all that that involved, or accept the restrictions inherent in the idea of sister States.
In pre-war days when we had one million or one and a-half million unemployed and there was no Welfare State, people were not so attracted to this country as they are today. Also, travel was not so easy or so good. Therefore, the ideal of the mother country obligation was more easily fulfilled in those days.
To support what I say, I should like to quote what the Daily Mirror said on this issue some time ago. Every six months the Daily Mirror reproduces what it considers to be its best editorials, and among the editorials which it published at the end of 1958 was one that it had printed on 3rd September, 1958. The Daily Mirror is not a Right-wing journal; it is one which supports hon. Gentlemen opposite mostly. This is what it said:Commonwealth citizens—whatever the colour of their skin—should not be allowed to 1941 enter Britain as immigrants unless they had a job and a home to come to. Mr. Maurice Edelman. Labour M.P., had the courage to advocate this in the Daily Mail yesterday. … Britain is the only Commonwealth country which allows Commonwealth immigrants to pour in without restriction. With or without job. With or without homes. That policy has failed.The Daily Mirror said that when only 15,000 immigrants were coming in. Last year, there were 50,000. I wonder what the Daily Mirror has to say today. The Daily Mirror went on to say that the policy… must be scrapped. Or the growing competition for housing and employment will spark off more trouble.I feel that unless some restriction is imposed the position of the law-abiding, decent immigrants who are already in this country, and are trying to establish themselves, will be made more difficult, because if the tide continues to rise there will be a reaction to it and the people who will suffer are those who are here already. For their sake, as well as for the sake of other people, I plead that something should be done.
What is it that I am suggesting, apart from what is set out in the Motion, that the Government should do? First, I would draw attention to the Northern Ireland legislation, the Safeguarding of Employment Act, 1947. Secondly, I think that I am right in saying that our aliens legislation prevents any alien coming here without a work permit, and that, unless he has a job, no alien is allowed to come into the country.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that, while no alien could come and work here without a labour permit, many thousands of aliens come here for other purposes.
§ Mr. Osborne
I did not understand it that way. I thought that no alien could live here permanently without a work permit. If I am wrong, I am sorry. No doubt the Minister will put one of us right. All I am suggesting is that that kind of thing might be applied in the case of immigration from the Commonwealth.
Lastly, it does not seem to me to be unreasonable to say that people throughout the Commonwealth—Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, South Africans—must accept the same restric- 1942 tions that they themselves impose—[An HON. MEMBER: "And Irish?"] Yes, and Irish. I believe that the solution to the Irish problem—to digress for a moment—would be found if Irish-American multi-millionaires like the Kennedys were to bring back to Ireland some of their vast wealth and establish industries there, if places like Cork and Dublin are to attract the Irish back to their own country from the United Kingdom.
It is suggested that we must wait another two years or so before anything can be done about the problem of immigration. I plead for something to be done at once. I believe that the Home Secretary recognises that some control is inevitable sooner or later. I want it sooner rather than later. I promise him this: he will have immense support throughout the country. I believe that there is a great demand for this control, and I beg him to act as soon as possible.
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
I beg to move, to leave out from House "to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:declines to accept any proposal which implies that the social and economic problems of this country are caused or aggravated by immigrants; believes that social and economic distress in overcrowded areas can be dealt with by the existing powers of central and local government in this country; recalls that problems arising from movements of population from economically distressed areas have already been faced inside the territory of the United Kingdom, and appreciates that between equal and independent Commonwealth governments with similar aims and principles such problems would fall to be discussed in terms of mutual advantage and positive incentives; and would regard as incompatible with Commonwealth principles any solution based on direction of individuals or restriction of existing personal freedoms.I am very conscious of the responsibility of anyone who speaks on a subject of this kind in the House at any time, and, in particular, I am conscious of the responsibility which rests upon me, in moving this Amendment, not to do, or say, or appear to do or say, anything that would lead the House to do something at the end of the day which it might regret later.
Least of all would I wish to give the impression that, by moving a substantial Amendment, I desire to divide the House in any way on political or party or theoretical lines. The reason for the 1943 Amendment is that I, and those of my hon. Friends associated with me, believe that there must be a reasonably alternative proposition before the House which it can discuss.
This is private Members' day, and there are certain conventions. It is, perhaps, rather unfortunate for me that I cannot comply with some of them, though they will be complied with by others. Normally, the first thing to be said is to congratulate the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) on his success in the Ballot and on his choice of subject. I cannot say it.
Whoever speaks from the Government Front Bench will have to say it, however. It is part of the convention of courtesy in this House. Yet everybody knows that the Government are put in an extremely difficult position at this time by having to make a statement in the middle of this debate, after such an introduction as the opening speech, when they would most certainly have preferred certain aspects of the problem to have been discussed more carefully elsewhere before they came forward with legislation.
The rest of the world knows very little about the procedure of private Members' days. The hon. Member's speech will horrify, when they read it in HANSARD tomorrow, a number of his hon. Friends who, at his request, will come in later in the day and vote, if they have an opportunity, on certain doubts and hesitations which they hold. But they would not have supported the mood or the manner of his introduction. That is why, whatever the Front Bench has to say by way of courtesy, I cannot congratulate the hon. Member on the introduction of a Motion of this kind in the terms in which he has moved it.
We in this House, of course, know the hon. Member perfectly well. I do not doubt his sincerity. He is passionately sincere when he says that he has no colour prejudice, just as he is passionately sincere when he says, a few minutes later, that it is coloured immigrants who make all the difficulty. To us, he is a well-known character who passionately believes whatever he says at the moment he is saying it. The acceptance of sincerity, however, is not enough 1944 to make one accept the worth of an argument.
The trouble is today that reports of this debate will go—are already going—very far. The status of the hon. Member, in places where his character is not amiably assessed by his colleagues, is that of a privileged Member of Parliament on the Government side who has tried to introduce what already, even in London, many people think is a Bill.
The first news to go out is the arguments he deployed in his opening speech. The second thing for which the pencils are poised and the lines kept open is the Government's reaction—and the first words of the Minister will be these conventional courtesies—" Grateful to the hon. Member … subject of great concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House … Government have given long and very careful consideration … only with greatest reluctance … limited Measure … experimental period …" That would have been said whatever proposal had been introduced by the hon. Member, merely as a matter of politeness.
But, today, the result of saying it could have fearful consequences and that is why I do not wish to be provoked by the sort of arguments which I have heard for years at street corners in my constituency and over the road in Kensington, arguments which I heard deployed a generation ago—" Many of my best friends are Jews. but …". That a man can come into the House of Commons today and give that classic opening, "Many of my best friends are black men, but …" shows how little has been learned since that time. When you impute blame for social conditions on a few members of a minority you extend it to the minority group as a whole. Then you lead to the inevitable logical conclusion. We have seen it happen.
It is believed that all that cannot happen again, but it can, and what I am most deeply anxious that the House should do today is to decide to take no action which would imply that social and economic difficulties can be imputed to a minority which may be roughly identifiable. Even on that ground one can never be sure exactly to what group the minority belongs, because there is no scientific basis for that sort of classification of the population.
1945 Many hon. Members will be anxious to debate some of the comments of the hon. Member for Louth. There is the very attractive proposition that we should have the same conditions for people coming here as they have for people going there. Anyone wanting to go to Rhodesia has to put down a capital deposit and have sponsors and a job and a clean bill of health. Shades of Anatole France! This is the same majestic equality of the law which forbids rich and poor to steal bread, or sleep under bridges. This is to equate the professional man setting out to develop a career in another part of the Commonwealth with a man who is coming here without resources to get a job, and coming from a country where there may be 40 per cent. unemployment and who is seeking to earn something to help his family.
Other hon. Members will give figures about the existing situation and others will talk calmly about this aspect of the problem and get at the truth about the problem in Jamaica, for instance. But to suggest that this has a fair parallel with the situation of English people going to Central Africa is unfair.
In the body of our experience there are many episodes which can be studied without emotion and without passion. At the end of the war, there were negotiations between the Government of Australia and the British Government when Australia needed immigrants and when there was impartially discussed the problem of dependants of those going to Australia. Our Government told the Australians that we simply could not allow them to take our young trained men, or our skilled men in the prime of life, unless they were prepared to take whole families or groups—because of the effect on the country of origin of the migrant. That problem was discussed in a balanced way. Either the dependants had to be taken, or money had to be sent back to this country.
As I have said in the Amendment, rather wordily I confess, we have already had experience of the movement of populations, through economic causes, inside the frontiers of this country and that is long enough ago for us to be able to look at it objectively and see how the history of that movement has developed.
1946 An hon. Friend of mine told me that when he was first adopted as a candidate for a London constituency, before the war, the first question which was addressed to him on the doorstep was what he was going to do to get rid of the Welsh who were crowding into London, speaking their own language, clannish, aggressive, clubbing together to buy houses, undercutting native Londoners in wages and not even spending their money round the corner, but sending it home.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
Is my hon. Friend aware that when similar taunts were addressed against my fellow countrymen, some time ago, when Mr. Lloyd George, as he then was, was in the House of Commons, he replied in this way, "There was a high standard of civilisation in my country of Wales when your forebears were living on the barren shores of the East coast on piracy, paganism and periwinkles"?
§ Mr. Parkin
I am grateful for that, but even as a joke my hon. and learned Friend thinks that it is a taunt to be called a Welshman and that there is a little bit of sawdust still left from the chip which has not entirely gone from his shoulder. If it is as difficult as that to find a way in which to discuss this subject, how much more difficult it is when we have the emotional tensions which are caused by difficult social conditions, overcrowding and the propaganda and the doctrines of racial superiorities.
I am tempted to follow my hon. and learned Friend's quotation from Lloyd George, which is superb and which seems to contain the answer to the problem of superiority and inferiority of cultures and groups—that if one can find a release in people's minds in a belief and understanding of their cultures which existed when one's own was rudimentary, one may have gone a long way towards combating this dreadful attitude of patronage. Even the most conscientious of us sometimes find ourselves falling into that when we are trying protectively to deal with groups of people who, for the moment, are in disadvantageous circumstances.
At the other end of that journey from Wales to London in the days of the depression, there were local leaders, proud of their culture, proud of their country, 1947 proud of their community spirit and grieving that the most energetic, with the courage of despair, had set off to try to find employment elsewhere, thus leaving a slightly higher percentage of the listless, the defeated, the very old and the young at home, thus making it a little less likely that an industrial entrepreneur would say that this would be the place where he would start an industry or develop a factory and make a contribution to the economic development of the country of origin.
If only one can find episodes of that kind and examine them dispassionately, we shall get much nearer to a solution of this problem. In HANSARD tomorrow there will be read the exchange between the hon. Member for Louth and my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), which, as printed, will seem to contain all sorts of implications. The hon. Member for Louth was sneering at the trade unions for being unwilling to work with Italian workers.
§ Mr. Parkin
The hon. Member said that the unions were justified, but it will be within the recollection of hon. Members that it was extremely important at that time to find a certain number of skilled workers in certain important industries, and the opposition to foreign workers was justified on the ground that if they did not speak English and did not know the language of the procedure, they would be an added hazard to industries which had enough dangers of their own.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
On that occasion the objection of the Yorkshire miners was followed by a period of unemployment and part-time working in the mining industry.
§ Mr. Parkin
As long as this can be discussed in terms of an employment policy, which is the first thing I should like to see established, for instance, for the London area, I am happy that the debate should continue on the merits of the needs of certain industries, but it would be grotesque to allow this bogy-man of immigration to be inflated on the grounds of potential unemployment when, at the present, the Ministry of Labour is engaged in an investigation to discover 1948 whether it can recruit Spanish women for certain industries which cannot get the labour they require in certain areas.
It is grotesque to suggest that there should be a bar to immigration on the terms suggested by the hon. Gentleman when we know that certain industries are short of labour. The Germans, of whom the hon. Gentleman spoke, are actively recruiting Italian and Spanish workers to help the expansion of industry in that country.
I turn now to the terms of the Amendment because what I want the House to agree is that this Motion has not been brought forward today because of increased difficulties with immigrants, but because of increased difficulties in certain problems inside this country, because of unemployment or short-time employment that exists in the industrial Midlands, and because some aspects of our housing situation appear to be getting worse instead of better in certain areas of the country. In some areas there appears to be an improvement, but in other areas there appears to be a going backwards.
It would be disastrous if, by the Motion, we gave aid and comfort to those who say that bad social conditions, bad housing, and unemployment, are caused by foreigners. That is why I am afraid of a temperate statement from the Government Front Bench, and not so much afraid of the out and out racialism of the hon. Member for Louth.
There is a phrase in the Amendment which says:that social and economic distress in overcrowded areas can be dealt with by the existing powers of central and local government in this country.That was made out-of-date on the day the Amendment was drafted because the Government issued a White Paper on Housing in which they said that they were not sure that the existing powers were enough.
I have rested my case in my constituency on a letter that I received seven years ago from the present Prime Minister, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, in which he said that the existing powers of local authorities would enable them to take over badly managed houses and extend the advantages of their own housing management staff to the management of sub-tenants, and that large 1949 allotments could be authorised, and so on. My complaint is that not enough energy and determination has been shown in carrying out these powers. Only if they were used to the full would we know whether they were adequate.
We have had, as I said, the White Paper on housing, and about the financial background of it there may be some quarrel later. Indeed, I guarantee that there will be. I want to say this, and perhaps this is the first comment on the White Paper since it was published. No one can question the honesty and courage with which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his Parliamentary Secretary have faced the points which have been raised by both sides in housing debates in this House and put them into the White Paper in an attempt to find a device to deal with them.
Will hon. Members who support the Motion be less courageous than their Ministers, who have faced the problems and looked at them from every angle and said, "These are serious problems. We suggest that there are the following ways of settling them instead of using the escape—blame it on the black man'? "I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reflect carefully before he implicates the Government in his remarkable ideas.
There is another sentence in the Amendment which says that between equal and independent Commonwealth Governments with similar principles one should discuss the movement of population in the same way as one would discuss it in this House, without prejudice. If there were an Amendment about development areas or scheduled areas or the development of new industries, nobody would be silly enough to say that we could never discuss the movement of population. We are saying that we must be courageous enough to say that one cannot link up such discussions with proposals to restrict the dignity and freedom of individuals. We must apply the same tests of principle that we apply when we are faced with proposals of that kind.
The three tests which I suggest are as follows. First, what effect would they have on the fundamental social and economic difficulties of this country'? Secondly. would they increase or decrease personal freedom, personal 1950 dignity in a world which is struggling to find unity of humanity? Thirdly, what effect would they have on international opinion and the chances of world peace? I suggest to hon. Members that they should apply those three tests. What effect will measures of this kind have on our economic and social problems as they in all honesty see them?
I know that many hon. Gentlemen opposite feel as passionately and sincerely about some aspects of the social and economic problems as any hon. Member on this side of the House, but, in relation to their long-term solution, do they believe that measures of this kind will make any noticeable difference to the economic and social problems of the difficult industries or the overcrowded cities'? On that judgment, I have no doubt what their answer should be.
Do hon. Gentlemen believe that it would be worth it to take this important step of appearing to create a status of second-class citizenship? Everybody thinking in terms of Commonwealth citizenship would have to regard that as a retrograde step, however much they might feel obliged to consider the impact of the problem on an extremely limited section of the population.
The hon. Gentleman himself gets into difficulties before he has finished writing his Motion. He has it all written out, and one can see someone looking over his shoulder. The person looking at the Motion asks about professional workers, so he puts in a bit about professional workers. What does that mean? How is one to classify them?
Does it mean that if an entertainer gets a contract to come over and play in a night-club and practise his damned guitar in my constituency all day and half the night he is to be allowed to do so by special permission of the hon. Gentleman—who has different notions about this problem than I have—whereas people who come here seeking jobs known to be open, and opportunities to train as nurses and ward maids in hospitals, are to be excluded?
Of course we get into difficulties. But does not that show that what the hon. Member and I are discussing in relation to our constituencies is the problem of the transit immigrant and not the longterm one, who has already settled down, with a job and with children at school? 1951 The problem arises in the case of those people who are living in the difficult conditions which, I suppose, the Kennedys were in when they went to another country and lived at first in the roughest conditions.
The hon. Member's proposal is no solution of the problem. The most important thing for us to do is to refuse to take any action or say anything today which accepts either that the fundamental problems are caused by minorities or that anything happening in this country today justifies a retreat from the principles of individual freedom which we have already. I should not like being sniggered at by South Africans, or by some people in the United States who have certain views about the problem, who would say, if we adopted the suggestion of the hon. Member for Louth, "Well, you had to come to it in the end, did you not?" We do not have to come to it. None of the existing difficulties is incapable of being tackled.
Of course I want to have them tackled in my way, but that is not the point at issue today. These difficulties should be tackled with the same energy and courage as the Minister of Housing and Local Government has shown in trying to assemble the facts on which he has to reach a decision. We should tackle this problem with the same energy and courage as we show in tackling other profound problems affecting us.
If, at the end of the day, we have not taken the disastrous step advocated by the hon. Member for Louth, if we have not sent the wrong message out to the Commonwealth, we should have no regrets that this discussion took place today.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
We should be very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) for having raised this very important problem. It has been a great advantage that the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), who has given us a moving speech, has taken a line exactly opposite to that of my hon. Friend. I do not go all the way with my hon. Friend in the proposals he advocates, nor do I go all the way with the hon. Member for Paddington, North, who advocates doing nothing about it.
1952 This is a specially difficult problem for people like myself, who have spent a great part of their lives in the Commonwealth and are very Commonwealth-minded but who, at the same time, represent constituencies in which this problem vitally affects the numbers of people. I am torn between two points of view. Many hon. Members represent constituencies in which this problem does not arise, and they can look at the matter solely from the Commonwealth point of view, advocating the policy of the ever-open door, which I have always supported, and the right of anyone with a Commonwealth passport to come into this country. One of the most sensible sentences in the Amendments is that which refers to a more even dispersal of immigrants throughout the United Kingdom, contained in the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle). It is because they are so concentrated in constituences in the big cities and even in certain streets within those constituencies that the problem arises.
We cannot refute the argument that there has recently been a great increase in immigration. My hon. Friend thinks that the Government should impose further controls. He stresses that the problem should be considered and discussed irrespective of race, colour or creed, but some of the words he used later tended to give the impression that he regarded it as more of a colour problem than anything else. It tends to be so regarded because the coloured immigrants can so easily be distinguished. Therefore, all the sins of the immigrants —such as there are—tend to be visited on them.
I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned students, because I have in my constituency the Norwood Technical Institute—a famous institution which I often visit and always support. In my view overseas students should be given even more encouragement than we give them today. In the immediate post-war years we welcomed immigrants, and they did a wonderful job for us in repairing some of the war damage. We welcomed many thousands of heavy labourers, especially from Eire, thousands of Australians, and increasing numbers of Jamaicans and West Indians. Generally speaking, they have fitted well into our community.
1953 The hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) and I have adjoining constituencies and we both have special problems in relation to immigrants, especially in housing. These problems must be examined. We cannot hide them under a bushel and pretend that they do not exist, because they do, and they vitally affect the lives of some of our constituents.
§ Mr. Lipton
Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that, apart from the housing problem, no 'difficulties exist at present?
§ Sir J. Smyth
The whole of what I want to say is with regard to the housing problem. That is what affects the hon. Member and myself. It is the problem with which we are faced. We have a great deal of correspondence about it and it is no good trying to make out that it simply does not exist.
I should like to make clear my own position. I have spent a large part of my life in the Commonwealth. Not only did I spend thirty years in India and Pakistan—because a lot of people can spend that amount of time in overseas countries and never know the people of the country, talk their language or live with them. Without being disrespectful to one or two hon. Members, on both sides, they sometimes think that on the strength of a fleeting visit, having landed in an aeroplane, they can come back and for ever after are experts on overseas people.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Would not the hon. and gallant Member also agree that quite a number, as he inferred, have lived for many years in Commonwealth countries and know no more at the end than when they began?
Sir J. Smith
I could not agree more. A lot of those people, however, have not, like myself, lived, fought and worked with Indian people. When one has done that, one gets to know them and their point of view as is possible in no other way. A lot of them have died with their heads in my lap and I have nearly died with mine in theirs. I have lived in their villages and had to speak their language. In that way, one gains a sympathy with them which cannot be gained in any other way.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
This is important. You are able 1954 to contrast your experience with immigrants both in this country and elsewhere. Will you compare your—
§ Mr. Pavitt
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. In telling us of his experience in those countries, will the hon. and gallant Member tell us how many bearers, how many dhobi wallahs, malis, and so on, he was able to have helping and assisting him in his duties?
§ Sir J. Smyth
I do not see what the number of malis has to do with it. I am saying that one gets to know coloured people only by living with them in their country, getting to know their language, visiting their villages and the like. That applies to any people, not only coloured people.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I have always been in favour of the ever open door and that Britain should be the mother country. But the numbers which have been coming in lately to a few parts of the country have raised problems concerning three matters: work, women and accommodation. Regarding work and jobs, except in certain areas we have little unemployment. Therefore, we can disregard altogether the problem of work.
With regard to women, certain problems are occasionally raised. It is only natural that single men coming over here should seek female companionship. The moral I draw from this is that we ought to encourage families to come here much more than we do.
§ Mr. Lipton
Is the hon. Member aware that of the total immigration of 50,000 or 60,000 West Indians into this country in the past year, 45 per cent. were women and children?
§ Sir J. Smyth
I know that. At the same time, a lot of those women were single. In the same way as Australia does, it is important to encourage families when encouraging immigration. The people are far happier that way.
The gravamen of my case, therefore, is the matter of housing. Immigrants tend to concentrate in the same areas to which their predecessors have gone. That is 1955 particularly the case with Jamaicans and West Indians. They are friendly people and they like to go where their friends are. If they can be in a house where they are all of the same race, they are far happier than if two-thirds of the people in the same house or block of flats are British, or vice versa. That is a fact which one cannot gainsay. Rather than go into some other residence, they are ready to live eight or nine in a room as long as they can be together. That does not always conform to our ideas of sanitation.
I should like to tell hon. Members of the situation in my constituency, in the Borough of Lambeth. The Borough of Lambeth has an acute shortage of accommodation. It is not nearly as bad as it was some years ago. It has been greatly improved by the much-maligned Rent Act. [Interruption.] There has been a loosening up of accommodation. It is no use the hon. Member for Brixton trying to make out that that is not so. He uses the Rent Act for propaganda purposes, whereas I use it for getting more accommodation for the people who really need it.
In the Borough of Lambeth, there are 6,000 families on the waiting list for houses. The London County Council waiting list for houses is closed altogether. The L.C.C. is not taking any more names for five years. The waiting list includes 53,000 names and there is a deferred list of 16,000 people in addition. Both the Lambeth Borough Council and the London County Council allot their housing on a points basis. That means that people can be waiting in my constituency for accommodation all their lives and will not get it if other people's needs are greater than theirs. That system is entirely right.
The means that are being taken by the Borough of Lambeth and the London County Council for alleviating the situation are new buildings, repairs to old buildings, slum clearance and talking to the Minister of Housing. I was very glad that the hon. Member for Paddington, North spoke so kindly of my right hon. Friend and his courage in tackling the housing situation. I could not agree more with the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Parkin
Will the hon. Member, therefore, go a little further and agree 1956 that in London the issue is not whether Londoners, coloured people and the Irish should compete for the existing low-quality accommodation at high rents, but whether there is a way in which an affluent society can house its people as a whole and tackle the problems of the great conurbations?
§ Sir J. Smyth
As the hon. Member said, the Minister of Housing is tackling the problem with great courage, imagination and vision.
§ Sir J. Smyth
Of course he does. I brought the Minister into it because, in view of the housing situation, my right hon. Friend advises hon. Members who represent London constituencies to try to persuade people who need not live in London to move away to somewhere else, if they can. In view of the situation in the locality I represent, where there is an acute housing shortage and enormous waiting lists of families requiring housing accommodation, it does not make sense to me that thousands and thousands more people should be allowed to come in every year and to have priority; because housing accommodation is allotted on a needs basis, and the immigrant very soon, if not at once, is in greater need of accommodation than persons who have been living in the area for a long time.
I agree with what is said in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford, West. That makes sense. The first thing to be done is to have a system of dispersal. We cannot go on adding more people to housing lists which are already long.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Will my hon. and gallant Friend tell me how he proposes to achieve this dispersal?
§ Sir J. Smyth
I will not go into that. Perhaps the hon. Member for Salford, West could do so more properly, in view of the terms of his Amendment. But I agree with what is said in the Amendment.
§ Sir J. Smyth
In my constituency there is great tolerance between the immigrant and the resident, amazing tolerance. As 1957 I have said, the immigrants have settled into the life of the community very well. But it is over the housing business that all the trouble arises and, as was said by the hon. Member for Brixton in a recent intervention, that is the crux of the matter. It is bad feeling over housing; the jealousy of people who find that someone who has only just arrived in the country gets the nice little house for which they have been waiting six or eight years. and the fact that coloured people go into the house—not because they are coloured, but because they have got the house.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman, to whose speech I have been listening with great interest, whether in his constituency he has found any significant proof of the fact that coloured people are getting local authority housing accommodation before white people? I ask because in Deptford I have a similar situation. I have often heard allegations that coloured people are obtaining local authority houses and flats before white people, but I have never yet found a single instance where that was true. Therefore, I should be interested to know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman has found it to be true to a significant extent in his own constituency.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I will not pinpoint council houses particularly, but as I have said, everyone has to be housed. People cannot be turned out into the street. The Borough of Lambeth is particularly good in this respect, as is the L.C.C. No one can be thrown into the street these days, everyone has to be provided with some—
§ Mr. Parkin
There are over 500 homeless families—the highest on record—in the care of the L.C.C. at the present time—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot have two hon. Members on their feet simultaneously and making speeches. There are a number of hon. Members who take a great interest in this topic and who wish to speak. It may be possible to allow more hon. Members to speak if we have a little less interruption.
§ Sir J. Smyth
The point I want to make is that the Borough of Lambeth 1958 and the L.C.C. have a points system for the allocation of accommodation and the people with the greatest need get the houses. That is a very difficult thing for people to understand, if they have been on a housing waiting list for six or ten years. I am sure that the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) appreciates that.
As you say, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of hon. Members who wish to speak, but I hope the Minister will intervene shortly so that we may know what line the Government propose to take. I consider that my hon. Friend the Member for Louth has done a service in introducing this subject. Obviously, it is one on which there are very different points of view, and it is a matter of importance to certain parts of the country.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) has, by the Motion that he has moved, drawn attention to an almost unprecedented situation which has arisen in our country. I think that it is the first time in our history that over 200,000 people in a period of five years have come to this country to seek a new life. Practically all of them are of different racial origin and social background. None the less, we have to remember that the great majority of them are classified as British citizens. Barbados and Jamaica are two of the islands from which have come 80 per cent. of the immigrants from the West Indies; Barbados has been British-ruled for 340 years and Jamaica for 300 years.
These people have been brought up to believe in the benefits of being British citizens. It was instilled into them in their schooling. In times of emergency, such as the Second World War, they helped this country. In the Royal Air Force alone there were 8,000 young Jamaicans and they played their part in the war. Many of them decided to stay here where they thought there were better opportunities for them.
It is no light thing to suggest that steps should be taken—for the first time in our history—which cut right across a fundamental concept of British citizenship, that British citizens should be freely entitled to enter any domain of Her Majesty—
§ Mr. Henderson
So far as the United Kingdom is concerned there has never been any impediment, or bar on British citizens from entering.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) that housing is something of a problem. We all know it, from the situation in our own constituencies. That is one thing, but it is another thing to impose—as is proposed in the Motion of the hon. Member for Louth—that stringent conditions should be applied which, in my opinion, would have prevented the entry into this country of 95 per cent. of the 200,000 immigrants who have arrived here during the past five years. I wonder what would have been the position in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries if the conditions set out in the Motion had operated in the days—
§ Mr. Henderson
They may be doing it now, but they did not in the nineteenth century, at the time when our people left this country in their millions to find new opportunities in those territories.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
The point is that countries like Canada are reviewing the question of West Indian immigration. That is the point which the right hon. and learned Member is not dealing with. I put it to him so that he might have an opportunity of dealing with it. Will he face the problem which arises from the fact that all those countries in the Western hemisphere are restricting immigration, and that that leaves us the sole repository for it? Will he deal with that point?
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
Before my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) replies to that point, may I say that no doubt he is aware of a very great difference in that those countries in the Western hemisphere are countries of immigration and are imposing restrictions not only on West Indians, but on all kinds of other people, including Europeans?
§ Mr. Henderson
The reply I would give is that the West Indies are not colonial territories of Canada. It has 1960 never been the pride of the West Indian to be brought up in the belief he was a Canadian citizen, but that he was a British citizen. Therefore, there is a difference in the case of Canada and the United Kingdom in relation to people from the West Indies.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) that it was undesirable for the hon. Member for Louth to raise this subject today. People are talking about this matter and, whether we like it or not, the hon. Member has rendered a service in raising it, although I do not agree with his remendy for the problem. I wonder whether he would have had the same objections if the 250,000 immigrants who came to this country during the past five years had been of white origin.
It seems that we cannot escape the fact, which was rather emphasised by his speech, that it is a question of colour and that the 170,000 from the West Indies and 50,000 who have come from India and Pakistan have not the same pigmentation as we have. It seemed to me that running through his speech was a vein of dislike of the idea of a section of our population, 300,000 out of 52 million, being of a different colour.
§ Mr. Osborne
The answer is that the Guardian—I think that he will agree that it is a liberal newspaper—asked whether we are getting the quality of immigrants to which we are entitled. That is the question to which we want an answer. My Motion asks for quality, that is all.
§ Mr. Henderson
Obviously, I do not know whether the hon. Member is in a position to answer that question. In the course of this debate I hope that we may hear from the Government whether our social and economic well-being is being threatened by the influx of these 250,000 immigrants. I have met many West Indians who are men of great culture. I am not prepared to take the view that because a man has a different colour from mine he is not a man of equal culture to myself. I was in Jamaica last month and the reason I desire to intervene in this debate is that I had the opportunity for talks with some of the leaders there.
One of the questions which woaries the Jamaican leaders is the fact that they 1961 are losing their best men, their masons and carpenters, who are animated by a desire to improve their economic conditions and standard of living and to secure better opportunities in the way of their trade. I am not prepared to assume that those who are coming to this country from the West Indies, from India or Pakistan are not very worthy citizens in every respect. I met one of the senior officers of the Metropolitan Police a little time ago and I asked him, "Do you have any trouble with the West Indians?" He said, "We certainly do not. So far as we are concerned they are very well-behaved citizens."
I see no reason for such a proposal as this apart from social problems like that of housing and that, may be, there might be difficulties if we entered into a recession. The hon. Member was a little pessimistic about that. We shall see whether he was right. If there were considerable unemployment there might be little difficulties in various industrial areas of the country. On the other hand, let us not forget that this is not the first time we have had a considerable influx of people to our country in days when there was considerable unemployment. Between 1936 and 1939 more than 19,000 came to this country from Europe. We were able to absorb them without any social convulsions in the days that led up to the outbreak of the Second World War.
In my view, the remedy is not that which is put forward in the Motion. One of the things which the hon. Member for Louth suggests is that there should bea cash deposit for two years sufficient to pay their return fare.That would be completely prohibitive. It would mean that a Jamaican, no matter how desirous he was of coming to this country or however desirable a citizen he might be, would have to put down £360 for himself and his wife. The single fare is £90 and it is £180 return. How could anyone be expected to put down £360 in those circumstances? How many of the hundreds of thousands of our people, when they were leaving this country to build up and populate the Commonwealth, could have put down £360, as suggested in this Motion?
The remedy, I suggest, lies along entirely different lines. We do not want 1962 people in the West Indies to regard this country as an El Dorado, as they do when they talk about it as the "Great Trek to the North." Why is that? It is because they think that there will be better opportunities and that the carpenter and mason will have a higher standard of living here than if he stays in his own country. We have to play our part in building up the economy of the West Indian islands so that the young men who are trained will realise that they have ample opportunity of making progress and building up standards of living for themselves and their families in their own country.
While, as I say, I appreciate the motive of the hon. Member in bringing this question before the House, I hope that the House will not pass the Motion. I hope that the Minister will tell the House not to do so, because I shall suggest what I think is the proper way of dealing with the problem. If the problem of immigration is one which is becoming so acute that some consideration has to be given to it, not only by this Government but by other Governments, surely it is a question which should be regarded as a Commonwealth problem. Are we to act unilaterally? That would have a very bad effect on our relations with India and Pakistan, apart altogether from the countries which constitute the West Indian Federation.
Therefore, I hope that the Minister will indicate, first, that this Motion should not be carried and, secondly, that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to raise this question at the forthcoming Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and to enter into direct discussions with the Government of the West Indian Federation, the Government of Jamaica and any of the other Colonial Territories in the West Indies. Then there would be no question of confronting them with a fait accompli in relation to the effect of the emigration of their peoples to this country. I believe that we would strengthen relations in the Commonwealth by so doing rather than by passing this Motion.
§ 12.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I rise to support the Motion which has been so ably proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth 1963 (Mr. C. Osborne) and to speak against the Amendment.
Hon. Members opposite have accused my hon. Friend of introducing the colour question. It is very difficult not to deal with this problem without mentioning the high incidence of coloured immigration to this country. If one proposes impartial legislation which insists on certain standards, and if more coloured people than others are failing to measure up to those standards and thereby are excluded, those who propose such restrictions are accused of applying a colour bar.
That is unreasonable because there is a problem here which concerns more coloured immigrants because they come in greater numbers. Impartial legislation would not act in any way as a colour bar. That is not in my mind, although the same charge may be levied against me if I introduce figures which indicate that in certain respects coloured people are more involved than others.
It must be admitted that many Commonwealth immigrants come from countries with backgrounds and codes of conduct which are totally different from those in this country. There is a standard of civilisation which is lower and there are acquired habits and inclinations which conflict with the accepted pattern of this country, which has evolved over the centuries. Certain difficulties are bound to arise in such cases.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) has mentioned the housing difficulties. I do not intend to touch on that, but there are certain other difficulties which have arisen upon which I shall comment. It must be admitted that in the West Indies, from which area the greatest number of immigrants come, the marriage tie, for example, is not held in high esteem. Hon. Members will know that there is a very high proportion of illegitimate births in the West Indies. That is a custom which has grown up, and I am not speaking from any moral point of view. In the West Indies there is a family responsibility for the children of these irregular unions, as we would call them, which minimises the problem in that area. There is no such family responsibility here, because in most cases the families are not here.
1964 There is a problem arising from children in the care of local authorities. Although I have not the figures for the whole country I have them for my own City of Liverpool, where 15 per cent. of the children in the care of the local authority are coloured. In Birmingham, the figure is 14 per cent. It is significant that four years ago only 2 per cent. of the children coming into the care of the local authority in Birmingham were coloured, whereas today it is 30 per cent. Hon. Members may have seen the newspaper report that in 1958 there were 93 coloured children in the care of the Middlesex County Council, and that in March, 1960, there were 196—the figure has more than doubled. It is not easy to place these coloured children in foster homes. Women will not accept them because they may be accused, the child being a half-caste, of being the parent. Keeping children in other than foster homes is a very expensive operation indeed.
Hon. Members have mentioned unemployment and have said that it is not a significant feature of the problem. I am not sure that I agree, because figures have been given by the Ministry of Labour that in the Midlands, in August, unemployment amongst coloured immigrants, was 1,397, and in February this year 3,430, or far more than double. In London, the comparative figures were 4,667 in August last year and 7,800 in February of this year. The total for the country is over 14,000 unemployed, which is several times the national average. It does not require much mental mathematical calculation to arrive at a figure of £3 million or £4 million a year being paid out to coloured immigrants who are unemployed. The figures, unfortunately, have been rising from month to month.
It has often been said that these West Indian immigrants are an essential feature of our economy and that they do jobs which could not be done by anyone else and that certain services would suffer seriously if they did not come here. There is quite a lot in that and, as hon. Members know, the British Transport Commission has recruiting agencies in the West Indies for its needs. I would not have any strong objection to that except that the method by which I understand the Commission advertised gave the impression that there were highly 1965 paid jobs in this country for all that came from the West Indies. I understand that such a large number of immigrants have come to this country that there is now no reason to maintain those recruiting agencies and that recruiting has now stopped, except for specific jobs. I have not been able to obtain figures of how many immigrants are employed with the Transport Commission, because no distinction or count is made, but we all know that there are quite a number.
I have, however, figures for nursing, which is another aspect that has been mentioned. We are told that certain nursing and hospital services would collapse unless we had these immigrant nurses. The figures I have are that there are 6,365 immigrant student nurses in the National Health Service out of a total of 55,000 student nurses, including those from the United Kingdom. That is well over 10 per cent. They are performing a valuable service. This Motion would not affect them at all, because it says specifically that students should not be excluded, nor those people who come here for a limited period.
I would deplore any Motion to prevent immigrants coming from the West Indies, West Africa, or any other part of the Commonwealth, within the limit of our facilities, for the purpose of studying and then returning to their own countries. That is one of the most significant and important features of the Commonwealth today.
The Motion mentions health. Although I have no figures, it is known that there are certain diseases which are more prevalent among the immigrants than among the average persons of this country. If I may dramatise the matter —although that is not my function—to pinpoint the problem, in 1951 there were 41 lepers in this country and by 1959 that number had risen to 317, and there were two special hospitals for the purpose of looking after them. That emphasises the necessity for including some restriction on entry in regard to health. I have lived in tropical countries where there are hundreds of thousands of lepers. I have visited many leper colonies. I know that the methods that are employed there can arrest the disease —although they cannot cure it—and I am certain that these people are far better cared for where there are these special facilities, and in their own climate, than in this country.
1966 My hon. Friend the Member for Louth has mentioned the rising figures of immigration and has said that 2,000 West Indians came into this country in 1951, a figure which had risen to 50,000 in 1960. He also gave the figures for India and Pakistan. I want to mention a particular facet of this problem. India, Pakistan and the West Indies, were approached on a friendly basis to try to limit the number of immigrants coming into this country. India and Pakistan complied and insisted on a deposit, bond or guarantee which was roughly the return fare. It was over £100 per head. The number of immigrants from India and Pakistan to this country fell, and this has continued until recently, when the matter seems to have got a little out of hand.
I notice from the figures which I have that in the first ten months of 1960 there were 5,400 immigrants from India and Pakistan, which is a little over 500 a month, but in the last two months of 1960 there were 3,100, which is three times the rate of the previous ten months. If the system is breaking down then we are facing an alarming situation. If there were to be no restriction at all on immigration from India and Pakistan, then all hon. Members will appreciate the flood of immigrants which could come here.
If India and Pakistan voluntarily accept these restrictions, and recognise that it is reasonable that they should impose them at their end, as they did the year before last, surely this implies that they would willingly accept the same regulations incorporated into the law of this country. That seems logical to me, and if it were so, it would surely be wrong to introduce these restrictions in respect only of India and Pakistan and not to apply them to other Commonwealth countries.
§ Mr. Pannell
If the hon. Member will wait I will refer to the Irish, provided that it is not out of order—because it is not within the terms of the Motion.
I want, next, to deal with the question of crime and deportation. It is very easy to dramatise the figures, and I full recognise that only a very small number of immigrants are involved in this problem. The fact remains that the number is 1967 highly disproportionate to the total number of immigrants in this country. For example, colonial and Commonwealth immigrants are responsible for practically the whole of the drug traffic in this country. We all know that that is so about India hemp. I also have the figures here of convictions for prostitution and for living on immoral earnings in the Metropolitan Police district. The latest figures available were for 1959, and in 1959 there were 138 convictions for the latter offence. Of those, 78 were immigrants.
§ Mr. Pannell
The hon. Member has anticipated me. I was most anxious to give the details. I think that that is the least I can do, and it absolves me from any accusation of being influenced by the colour bar. There is no question of that. The hon. Member can have the figures and see for himself.
Out of these 78, 39 were from Malta, which is by far the largest number and is half of the total of the colonial immigrants who were convicted. In addition, 27 were from the West Indies, eight from West Africa, two from Cyprus and. if I may mention this figure out of context, two from the Republic of Ireland. The total was 78. It is a very high proportion.
If the immigrants resident in the Metropolitan Police area are responsible for 50 per cent. of those crimes, that is a serious situation which casts discredit on their law-abiding compatriots. I am certain that it would be to their advantage if those people who discredit them were returned to their own country, and I do not understand why we do not introduce legislation here in exactly the same way as we have power to deal with aliens who commit such crimes. We have a very strong case indeed for that.
In an intervention, the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) talked about the Irish. Here I am in your hands, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for there is no reference in the Motion to the Irish. Am I permitted to make a remark about them?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
The best plan is for the hon. Member to carry on with his speech and see how he gets on.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for I was anxious not to provoke your intervention.
I will talk about the Irish, although the Motion does not refer to them; it refers to restrictions on Commonwealth subjects. I think that it would be in hon. Members' minds that those coming from the Republic of Ireland could not be excluded from the discussion.
There are about 60,000 immigrants net from Southern Ireland every year. They present a problem, and as I come from Liverpool, I am not unaware of them. They are not so noticeable because they are not coloured, but they present a problem. I agree that the same regulations should apply to the Irish as to other immigrants. I should like to mention the distinction, however, that this is the only country from which we receive immigrants with which we have completely reciprocal arrangements. Whereas there may be a bar to our settling in the West Indies or other parts of the Commonwealth, there is no bar to our going to Southern Ireland without a passport, remaining there and, as far as I know, voting in their elections. It is a reciprocal arrangement under the Irish Nationality Act, 1948. Although it is more or less a one-way traffic, we must bear that fact in mind.
Even if those difficulties were overcome, and we applied to the Irish exactly the same regulations as are proposed in the Motion, in their case the deposit would be very much smaller, because if an Irishman became a charge on the public, or there were any other cause to return him, it would cost a much smaller sum than for an immigrant from some distant part of the Commonwealth.
I want to emphasise that almost every, if not every, Commonwealth country applies restrictions against the entry of nationals from this country. I have here the Immigration Restriction (British Subjects) Law of Jamaica of 1945, and it is pertinent to mention it. In Section 4, we read:The following British subjects … are prohibited immigrants: any person who is 1969 likely if he entered the Island to become a charge on public funds by reason of infirmity of body or mind or of ill-health or who is not in possession of sufficient means to support himself and such of his dependants as he shall bring with him to the Island.There are further restrictions on idiot or epileptic persons or persons certified by the health officer to be suffering from a communicable disease, or a person of deficient education or any prostitute, etc. These are harsh regulations. They are applied by the very country which, it is said, would object if we introduced much less stringent regulations in respect of their nationals.
§ Mr. C. Royle
I am a little worried about what the hon. Member said. Since he has studied the matter, perhaps he can enlighten the House on one point. When those regulations were introduced there was no question of independence for Jamaica. Had not the British Government of that day and up to the present day the responsibility for any regulations which applied in our Colonies, rather than the Colonies themselves?
§ Mr. Pannell
That is a matter of history. I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that the regulations are dated 27th December, 1945, at which time there was responsible government for these matters in the Island of Jamaica.
§ Mr. C. Osborne
Is it not true that since a responsible Government have been established in Jamaica these rules have not been ended but are still operated?
§ Mr. Pannell
My hon. Friend has taken the words out of my mouth. Whether or not the regulations were introduced by a colonial authority, it is quite clear that they have been perpetuated by a responsible authority of a self-governing character.
§ Mr. John Hall
These regulations, or something very similar to them, apply also in Ghana since it became independent and they are applied in Nigeria.
§ Mr. Pannell
I should hesitate adversely to affect out relations with the Commonwealth by referring to the rather stringent restrictions applied in certain countries of the Commonwealth, particularly Ghana. What I say might be taken out of context and used in evidence against me.
1970 We on this side are accused of clinging on to imperialistic ideas and talking of "Empire" instead of "Commonwealth". The tradition of free entry into the country is a hang-over from the days of the Empire. Those who urge it so often fail to recognise the totally different conditions of the Commonwealth, which is an association of free and independent nations with their own laws and their own foreign policy. Before the process of transition from Empire to Commonwealth began, this problem did not arise, because the United Kingdom Government could control the matter from the other end. This emphasises the intervention made by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle). As the colonial countries were under the direct instructions of Whitehall, they could act on the direction of Whitehall to exclude their nationals from entering this country by withholding the passports they required.
Far from departing from the spirit of the Commonwealth, we are emphasising it in the Motion. We pay a tribute to the other members of the Commonwealth by treating them as equals in every respect. If we amend our laws as suggested in the Motion we shall confirm the real meaning of the change from colonial tutelage to full membership of the Commonwealth. With those concluding words, I confirm my support for my hon. Friend's Motion.
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirk-dale (Mr. N. Pannell) sounded a little more restrained in his argument than the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne), who proposed the Motion, but it may well have been more his style of addressing the House than anything else, because in his quiet way I cannot help feeling that the hon. Member for Kirk-dale has gone back to the colour bar, as was suggested in a challenging intervention from this side of the House. He delivered a speech as much concerned with the colour bar as anything we have heard in the House for a long time.
§ Mr. N. Pannell
I referred in my speech to lepers. Nearly all lepers are coloured. If we introduced a law to exclude lepers from this country, would that be an expression of the colour bar?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. In order to avoid any possible misunderstanding, I hope that the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle) understands that he has been called to speak on the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and not to move his own separate Amendment.
§ Mr. Royle
Yes, I understand that. I am quite clear about the conduct of the debate. The hon. Member for Kirkdale has forced us back to consideration of the question of immigration of people who are not of our colour. From his speech and that of his hon. Friend the Member for Louth we learned the truth behind the Motion, although I want to say immediately that the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) spoke in a very different tone indeed.
I want to say one or two things about the speech of the hon. Member for Kirkdale before I move on to what I had originally intended to say. He talked at some length about the lower standards of civilisation and marriage ties of the people who come here, particularly those from the West Indies. If these things exist and their standards in these respects are lower than what we have been accustomed to, it is a very valuable thing for many of them to be among us so as to know something about the standards which we enjoy.
I shall return later to the question of health, but I say at once that no one who thinks as I do would be thinking in terms of not considering the health of immigrants. Whatever else I would grumble at about the terms of the Motion, I should not be very concerned to argue on the question of a health examination. We do it with all our own inhabitants from the day they start to go to school. These are important questions which merit real consideration. I have no quarrel whatever about the health aspect of the Motion.
The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood spoke in very different terms indeed from his hon. Friends. I have tremendous sympathy for the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because his constituency of Norwood is affected by this problem, particularly as regards housing. But the housing problem is not an immigration problem. It is an overall 1972 problem affecting all the inhabitants of these islands, wherever they might originally have come from.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you mentioned a little earlier that I was not moving my Amendment. However, may I be permitted to say that my Amendment contains a summary of everything that I want to say in the next few minutes. The control of immigration by legislation, particularly immigration from the Commonwealth, is the very opposite of the great traditions of our country.
The principle of free entry is still inherent in those great traditions. Over the centuries we have gladly received the oppressed, the persecuted and the poor. Through the ages we have been repaid in great and abundant measure for the hospitality we have extended.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Louth is not in the Chamber now, but I understand that he needs to eat. The Motion is not a restrained Motion and the speech of the hon. Member for Louth was not a restrained speech. He showed very clearly where he wants to go. Until now, hon. Members have always been very careful in their approach to the question of colour. We now know just where the hon. Member for Louth stands, and perhaps it is as well that some people should come out in their true colours. However, I am sure that, apart from its contents, what he has said in moving his Motion will make it sure that the House, if it gets the opportunity, will reject it.
The hon. Member has departed completely from our tradition. His speech and his Motion show a complete lack of understanding of the total problem. He has shown a complete lack of human sympathy, and I do not hesitate to say that he has shown a complete absence of that Christian faith that he himself so often preaches. He conveniently forgets the free movement of people to and from this land over the generations. And what terrible mistiming to bring this Motion before the House at present, when our minds are occupied with the Rhodesian Conference, the independencies and constitutional changes in Africa and in the West Indies. The hon. Member could not have chosen a worse moment to introduce such a Motion.
Let us look at it the other way. There have been generations of colonial exploitation by Britain. The West Indies have been mentioned today more than 1973 has any other part of the Commonwealth, but those of our people who have migrated to the West Indies—to use that country as an example—have done very well for themselves. They have done very nicely, indeed. They have not gone to the West Indies to be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, as the West Indians are regarded when they come here. Oh, no, the Englishmen—and I use the same term as the hon. Gentleman used—have gone to the West. Indies in order to wax fat on the exploitation of the West Indies, and have done very well for themselves. Many of our people take the opportunity, probably because of United Kingdom taxation, to retire to the West Indies.
The United Kingdom has an overwhelming white majority. There are approximately 51 million white people as against about 200,000 coloured people. The West Indies, and other such territories, have an overwhelming coloured majority. Would not the hon. Gentleman's Motion open up a very dangerous reciprocal door, particularly in these days of independence in various countries in Africa? I suggest that the hon. Member for Louth is tempting a very serious quid pro quo if legislation of the character proposed were to be introduced. I appeal to hon. Members who can understand this imperialistic argument to do nothing whatever to affect our interests in Africa and in the West Indies.
In The Times newspaper of 13th February last, there appeared a report of some United States senators returning from a tour of Africa. The report says:A group of American Senators who recently made a tour of Africa have reported that racial discrimination in the United States probably is the most important of all the natural barriers to a better understanding between Africa and this country 'that is, the United States. The report continues:…even Africans who understand America's problems react emotionally to instances of racial intolerance or violence…in America. The Times continues:The senators say that African suspicion of the United States has been intensified by its abstention in the United Nations vote of I4th December on the resolution against colonialism. They criticise United States policy, which they describe as an effort"—1974 say the senators—to steer a careful course between harmless expressions of idle sympathy for African nationalism and active support of independence, which we fear might unduly antagonise certain of our N.A.T.O. allies '.This Motion tries to create a similar thought in the minds of the people of Africa and the West Indies. Its selfish and imperialistic approach attracts some people, but those who think as I do are proved by their attitude to be the real lovers of the Commonwealth and its people. This Motion, if carried, would do more to endanger that Commonwealth spirit than anything I could possibly imagine.
I base my plea on humanity and Christianity. We have a proud record. The Flemish weavers, the Huguenots, poured into the country because of religious persecution. They founded the woollen industry in Yorkshire and the lace industry at Nottingham. The Poles —Anders' Army—and the Hungarians, flying from Communist persecution, came to us, and in the two years prior to the war 90,000 refugees from the Hitler regime entered the country. We also get people from Africa, leaving the poverty of their own land.
We can be proud of that record, and we have not suffered because of it. We have gained by these people coming to us, and I should like to see that movement extended to our brethren from places like the West Indies, in just the same way as we have extended our hospitality in the past.
One thing I cannot understand is that, when drafting his Motion, the hon. Gentleman has concentrated on the Commonwealth, and has ignored people from outside it. He is, apparently, quite prepared that they should come in vast numbers, without let or hindrance, but that members of the Commonwealth should be restricted. Hidden in the Motion, and coming out in two of the speeches we have heard, is the colour bar.
The hon. Member for Louth and whoever supports him have been impregnated to their very souls by the Fascist propaganda that is so rife at this time in places like Notting Hill, in particular. It is the same bestial, insidious, inhuman propaganda that Hitler used prior to the war, and drove 90,000 Jews into our land. 1975 Exactly the same propaganda has found its way into the heart of the hon. Member for Louth and those who support him. He does not have in mind the Poles, the Hungarians and the Germans. They are white. They integrate into our midst and, except for a bit of broken English, we never recognise them. He sees the Commonwealth coloured men, our brethren in the eyes of God.
The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood drew attention to the fact that reference is made in the Amendment to dispersal. This is something that we can really tackle. Our aim should be complete integration of the coloured immigrant into the ranks of the British people. I am worried about ghettoes in Notting Hill and other parts of London as well as in Birmingham and similar places in the provinces. We need to be concerned about this. Several of us, including my hon. Friend—I hope he will let me call him that—the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) and others, have been to see the Home Secretary on more than one occasion. We have discussed this question of dispersal and have begged him to do something about it, but nothing has yet been done.
I was asked what I had in mind. In my home town of Stockport there are about 150,000 in the population, and I do not suppose there are three West Indian families in the town. I should like county borough and urban district councils to be prepared to find homes and work for a hundred, or twenty, or even five West Indian families. A system should be evolved by which these families could be met at Victoria or Waterloo. Arrangements should be made for them to stay in other places than in London or Birmingham. Contacts should be made with these people in the West Indies or wherever they come from, and they should be sent to places such as, for example, Macclesfield where they would have a much better chance than in Notting Hill. They should be told, "Go there. There is a home and work for you." That is not beyond the wit of man or of the Government. We should get down to that problem seriously, instead of making the sort of shocking suggestions which are made in this Motion.
I wish briefly to look at the economic and social situation. It is estimated that 1976 the working labour force in Jamaica is 700,000. Incidentally I do not give these figures as being absolutely correct; they may be higher or lower. I have received a letter this week from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) who is just about to leave the West Indies after six weeks close study of conditions there. He has written me a very long letter and I should like to quote some of the points he mentions.
There is a working labour force of 700,000, the totally unemployed being estimated at 120,000. On three days a week that figure is increased to 250,000. There is a shortage of 75,000 jobs. Are we surprised that those people want to come here to have a better standard of living? The 1957 development plan has not yet made its full impact. It might improve, and if it does so the situation here will improve. But at the moment unemployment is increasing, and, in addition, we know how the birth rate increases. Each year 40,000 more go on the labour market, in spite of emigration.
The standard of living over there is certainly improving by about 6 per cent. annually, but the social gap widens. The desire for education grows, and migration is the safety valve. My hon. Friend the Member for Northfield states that he deeply regrets not being able to be back in this country in time to take part in this debate after his recent study of the situation, but he asks me to say that social evils through poverty and unemployment will be a terrible danger—that was also my view when I was there—if that safety valve of migration goes.
We have responsibilities still. We should realise what will be left behind when their independence comes. We shall have the responsibility of leaving behind social and economic problems. British capital is lagging behind when it comes to helping places like Jamaica, while the United States and Canada are coming in, to our shame. To discuss this great immigration problem out of its general context is wicked and irresponsible. Nothing could more easily destroy the Commonwealth links and the devotion to the Crown than hasty colour discrimination in matters of Commonwealth migration.
1977 Let us have a brief examination of this position. The United Kingdom is in economic need of these people. They render us a service in many ways by coming to this country. Immigrants have played a valuable part, particularly in the less attractive jobs. Who is suggesting that these people are not attempting to find work? Does anyone suggest that they are indolent? In the brick fields, the shipyards, the docks, the railways, the mills, the foundries and the hospitals they are needed all the time.
In the matter of health, they have a better record, in proportion to the number of population, than has the white population in this island, Figures in support of this fact can be produced. As to the question of criminals. which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale mentioned, a lower proportion of the West Indian population in this country appears before the courts compared with the white population.
As one of my hon. Friends said, the number of women and children who are now coming into the country represent almost half the total number of people who arrive. On Tuesday night I went to get a train at Victoria Station. That day about 200 West Indian immigrants had arrived there soon after lunch. At 7 o'clock when I went to catch a train, a dear West Indian mamma, weighing about 16 stone, sat on her box on the kerb outside Victoria Station waiting for somebody to collect her. As I looked at her 1 said, "So you have made it ". Of course, there had been a difficult journey. She said, "Yes, I made it, and again I shall be with my children". I could not help but be moved by her attitude in that dark, rather dank, London atmosphere after the sunshine of the land from which she came, the joy she felt at being united with those who had come to this country on purpose to obtain a living such as would be impossible in their own.
I know that we can approach the West Indian Governments and ask for their collaboration with us in these matters, to get some reduction. I hope, however, that if the matter is discussed at the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers it will not be discussed without the presence of Sir Grantley Adams or somebody representative of those parts.
1978 All right, this problem exists. I feel that I have spoken for a little too long, and I know that I have not spoken without emotion.
§ Mr. Royle
I firmly believe in this great principle of the Commonwealth, and I love the West Indian people. They are lovable, happy, honest, hard working. If we have anything to give we should give it. We in this country have lived to see the benefits of the open door to others. My plea to this House this day is that we do not close the door against our own British brethren.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) chose this subject for today's debate. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle) saw fit to impugn his sincerity. I think it unfortunate—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
He said that my hon. Friend was affected by Nazi propaganda in choosing to move this Motion.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I do not think that the hon. Member's attitude a proper attitude to adopt in this debate. I do not think that impugning sincerity will do any good on either side, and I hope that the hon. Member's interjection means that he did not mean to do anything of the kind.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
On a point of order. Would it not greatly assist the House if the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne), who moved the Motion at considerable length, were in his place to answer criticisms which we make from this side of the House?
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I have been taking a note. I have been 1979 taking it carefully, and nothing whatever was said about the sincerity of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne). All that was said was that he had been affected by Fascist propaganda. Those were the actual words. There was nothing about his sincerity.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I would regard that as extremely offensive. If I say that of the hon. Member for Salford, West on some future occasion he will not, perhaps, think fit to take exception to it in return.
Also, I disagree with the hon. Member for Salford, West in thinking that this is not the right time to discuss this question. I think that it is right to discuss this question—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That depends, of course, on what is said in the debate.
It is important that we should discuss this difficult problem. After all, the wind of change is not blowing in Africa only. When I was Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department immigration was my special responsibility. It had been the special responsibility of Under-Secretaries there, and I think it still is. Of course, what one was mainly concerned with was the question of aliens, alien immigration and aliens policy. It is essential to look at this question of immigration as a whole. We cannot deal with it by looking at one part of the problem. We have got to get the whole thing into focus.
The present law is divided into half. On the one hand, the Government, through the Home Secretary, have absolute power over foreigners. The Home Secretary can forbid the entry of any alien into this country for any reason he thinks fit. He can lock up any alien who is in this country and keep him in prison, and he can make an order deporting any alien at any moment. On the other hand, there is no power for any Minister to take any such action at all in connection with any British subject.
Grave objection has been taken to the Government's powers over aliens, but the significant thing is that although those 1980 powers have existed for a long time, although they are debated annually, so far as I am aware there has never been a Division in this House seeking to take away from the Government those powers.
This difference between the treatment of aliens and of British subjects is fundamental to this question. The difference is a very remarkable one because, after all, all these people who are seeking to enter this country are human beings. Some of each kind are worthy and some are unworthy. Some of each kind speak English and some do not. Some of each kind are black and some of each kind are white. It is worth while considering this extraordinary difference in our law and in the attitude towards it of Members of the House and the reason for it.
Of course, the immediate reason is historical. Originally, there was little desire to immigrate into this country. There were no restrictions of any kind. Restrictions were imposed in the first place during, the First World War for security reasons and our whole aliens policy has grown out of that, but, of course, there is a real justification for making this distinction, and that justification is the one which has been referred to in the debate today, that is to say, the United Kingdom is the centre of the British Commonwealth of Nations: it is the mother country.
Equality of status of all British subjects is the most real and most significant feature of that mystical relationship of which the Commonwealth consists. In Australia, for example, this country is just referred to and mainly referred to as home. My own mother was an Australian, and I have many very near relatives living in Australia, and it is inconceivable to my mind that Australians should be treated as foreigners. They enjoy the power to come to and go from this country freely as they wish.
It is that point which seems to me to bring out the real difficulty which the House has to face today. When we speak of Australia, we all agree that this problem does not exist, but for citizens of the new countries of the Commonwealth it simply is not true to say that this country is home. They do not use the expression; they do not think of this country in that way. They do not seek to come and go freely. Some do, of course, in the same way as people from all countries do, but in the ordinary 1981 way they do not look on this country as a place which they would visit constantly in the way that one visits one's parents' house. When they come here, in many cases they come not in that spirit, but for economic reasons.
Also when they come here—evidence of this has been given; indeed, it need hardly be given—they do not readily mix with our own people. On the contrary, they tend to congregate in certain parts of the country. I am stating a fact. I am not saying that it is desirable. It is a fact within the knowledge of every hon. Member, certainly every hon. Member representing a London constituency. Moreover, these people have different habits, different cultures and, in some cases, a different religion. Those of us who represent constituencies in which this problem exists can give dozens of examples of this sort of thing, of practices which create this sort of difficulty.
The point can best be summed up by what was said to me by a constituent of mine. He was the occupant of a house of which he had the statutory tenancy, and the house had been bought over his head by a Jamaican who wished to get him out. The man was a fairly humble railway worker, and he told me "Believe me, it is said that we hate the Jamaicans, but it is nothing to what they feel about us." That is the kind of thing that is occurring.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It is no good our shutting our eyes to it; it exists. The hon. Member opposite cannot be conversant with this problem. He need only know what is happening in Paddington and what happened at Nottingham and elsewhere to appreciate—
§ Mr. Sorensen
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance that I am familiar with this matter in my own constituency and elsewhere. What I was questioning was his suggestion that the alleged hatred of the West Indians for us was typical. I assure him that it is not.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I agree. All I am saying is that what is happening is producing this result. The man of whom I spoke was a decent, honest sort of man who really had no such hatred at all, but who felt the result of what is happening in that way.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I may not perhaps know the position in the London area as well as London Members of Parliament do, but what the hon. Gentleman has been saying does not apply to Birmingham. There, the numbers have increased over the years from 4,000 to 40,000. The information given to us by the liaison officer for the coloured people in Birmingham is absolutely contrary to what the hon. Member is saying.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I have no knowledge of what the position is in Birmingham, but I can certainly assure the hon. Member that there is serious friction of this kind in London. Indeed, I need only point to what has happened in this country to prove my words. I entirely agree that this relationship is not inevitable; it is not a sort of original sin in all of us. On the contrary, I have in my constituency many students coming from all over the world, from West Africa in particular, and perhaps I might add that from time to time we have a number of Nigerian students who are members of my Young Conservative Association.
There is nothing here that is inherently wrong. It is the result of what is happening. It is, of course, the inevitable result of cutting off all other immigration into this country while leaving open these few rather distant and rather special apertures through which immigration can flow. That is why I say that we have to look at the question as a whole. If we had free movement between this country, Germany, France, Poland, Italy, and so on, this problem would not arise, or would arise in a totally different way. We have to consider the problem which that state of affairs has produced.
There is also the employment aspect. At present, there are plenty of jobs available in practically all the districts, if not all the districts, where immigrants are settling, but I do not think that any hon. Member, even if he would not agree with the rather dismal view taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth, would doubt that there will be times when there will not be so many jobs available. This continuing influx at the present rate will itself produce that result. If hundreds of thousands of people are to be received into certain areas of this country every year, there 1983 may not be jobs readily available for them in those areas.
The circumstances are not entirely novel. We had Irish immigration before the war. But there is a difference between the present situation and what happened in earlier days. We find that the new immigrants coming from remote and different countries do not mix socially with the general population. When we had Irish immigration and there was unemployment here, they could, and often did, go back to Ireland. There is also the particular difficulty that if there is unemployment, if there is competition and ill-feeling one can readily distinguish the Jamaican, the West African, or the Indian simply by the colour of his skin. That is a practical difficulty which has to be faced.
I am satisfied that we shall not be able to leave the position simply as it is indefinitely. I have hitherto been against taking any action. I am on record as having said that when I was the Minister responsible, and I am also on record as having said that in my constituency and elsewhere since I have ceased to be a Minister. I thought that a steady but relatively small flow coming in from Jamaica and elsewhere was something which we could assimilate, not that there would not be a certain amount of difficulty perhaps, but I felt that it was, nevertheless, something with which we could deal.
But the basis of my belief has now changed. There is every indication—I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will deal with this matter when he speaks—of an increasing flow from more numerous sources. I do not think that we shall be left with 10,000, 20,000 or even 30,000 immigrants a year. I believe that we have to face the possibility of 100,000 or so coming in every year. There must be a limit to the number that we can accept. We have not reached it yet. If I were assured that the position would simply remain as it is now I would say that perhaps we could deal with it. but I do not think that we can.
I would ask those hon. Members who are in favour of the Amendment, which says, in effect, that we ought to do nothing, how many immigrants per annum they would be prepared to 1984 accept before they took action. If they believe in an indefinite number entering the country, then let them consult the trade unions. There is a limit and we must face the fact that that limit looks like being reached in the not very distant future. It may be asked why, if the limit is not yet reached, action should be taken now. The answer is simple. The longer we wait, the more the difficulties will pile up, and the greater they will become.
The mere fact of having a larger number of immigrants here will make it more difficult to tackle the problem. Immigrants always have relations, and there is always a good, sentimental, human and valid case for bringing those relations over as well, afterwards. One could not stop that sort of thing even if one had reached the limit.
I do not agree with the terms of the Motion. Its proposals are not the right way to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Could he explain why he assumes that the present rate of immigration will continue? Is he assuming that there is a prospect of immigrants at that rate finding economic opportunities in our industrial arrangements?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I think that there will always be much better opportunities in this country than in the West Indies, Africa and India. Even if things got much worse in this country than they are now, the difference would still be quite enough to attract people here. Assuming the fullest employment, and that there will be jobs for all in the next ten years, I think that we would then find several million of these people in the country. If we had a trade recession after that we would be in great difficulty. We could not simply send the immigrants back.
The machinery proposed in the Motion is not the right way to deal with this matter. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) that the right way to deal with it, as a start, at all events, is for discussion to take place between the Commonwealth Prime Ministers when they meet.
What I would like to do—and this is why I think this Motion to be valuable 1985 at present—is to give such a discussion a proper atmosphere, with the Prime Ministers having a real knowledge of what people in this country think. If I have a choice, therefore, and if there is a Division at the end of the debate. I will say that I am in favour of taking action. For that reason, I would sooner vote for the Motion than for the Amendment.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
I am aware that many other hon. Members desire to speak, and I will try to abbreviate my remarks, Although a good deal has been said of a provocative nature, T, too, do not wish to impugn the sincerity of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne). I do not believe that anyone doubts his sincerity, but that does not take us far. I suppose that the devil himself can be sincere in wishing us to go to hell. It is not enough to be sincere.
I have no doubt, when the hon. Member declares passionately that he speaks on behalf of this country, that he is sincere, but, at the same time, when he talks about this country being English it is a little rough on Members and others outside the House who are not English.
Take a name like mine, for instance. I am the descendant of a Danish immigrant. I know that the Motion does not apply to so-called aliens, but nevertheless it might well be extended to them later, and I submit that it is a good thing for this country that Danish immigrants were able to come and leave their descendants here.
In the Royal Gallery, near here, there is a picture which I often see when conducting visitors round of a most charming lady, the late Queen Alexandra. I am reminded that when she came to marry the Prince of Wales—later King Edward VII—she was greeted by this chorus by Tennyson:Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee, Alexandra!Tennyson might just as well have said "Sorensen in those lines, but alas, he did not. I remind the hon. Member for Louth. when he 'talks in terms of the English, that they themselves were originally aliens to this country. They are not the original inhabitants. We are 1986 a very mixed race. I remember the late Eleanor Rathbone startling all her colleagues in the House by declaring that we were a mongrel nation. Being a Socialist, I would not talk in such rough terms, but of mixed components". Whichever term is used, however, we are in fact ethnically a very mixed nation.
We are the deposits of many immigrants of the past, Saxon, Norman and Dane being but three of the components. Now, we are adding to those components people from the West Indies. Why should we suggest that, in some sense, they are intrinsically genetically inferior to those other aliens who came years ago?
I remind the hon. Member that the former Leader of this party, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), who is still a Member of this House and is a political neighbour of mine, is by no means pure English, as the hon. Member thinks we all should be. The right hon. Member far Woodford is partly American.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I do not suggest that the hon. Member for Louth is not sincere, but I question his judgment. I am certain that he moved this Motion with the very best of motives, feeling that he was performing a public duty.
Nevertheless, I am sure that all this will be very satisfactory to those strange people who scrawl on our walls "Keep Britain White" although he has no intention of associating himself with that peculiar fragment of our community. In spite of his opening words, which were most unfortunate, I accept the fact that he is as much concerned with West Indians as he is with the people of this country, and feels that what he proposes is for their good as well as ours.
Be that as it may, he has brought up a very real problem, which I do not underestimate. In my constituency there are a number of West Indians and others, but I do not suggest that the problem in my constituency is at all comparable to the problem in Brixton or Camden Town.
More than one hon. Member has rightly emphasised that the crux of the problem is housing. The solution is not 1987 an easy one to find. Even so, the incidence of the housing shortage applies not only to West Indians but also to the Irish, the Cypriots and the Maltese.
§ Mr. C. Osborne indicated assent.
§ Mr. Sorensen
If the hon. Member now agrees with me, why did he not make that clear? Why did he spend so much time in the early part of his address emphasising that his main concern was with the West Indians and coloured people generally?
§ Mr. Osborne
If the hon. Member will be good enough to read the Motion again, he will see that I make it clear that it applies to everybody, irrespective of class or colour. I quoted the West Indian figures because they show such a startling increase. It is a matter of statistics.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I am aware that there is no specific reference to colour discrimination in the Motion, but in the earlier part of the hon. Member's address he was obsessed by colour prejudice and colour discrimination.
§ Mr. Sorensen
The hon. Member should look at his words tomorrow morning. I assure him that that is the impression, not only on this side, but on the other side of the House.
Because of what he said, 1 want to deal with the many coloured immigrants who come to this country. "Coloured" is far too ambiguous a term, because we are all coloured. Looking around the Chamber I cannot see that we are white. We are mostly pink or pasty-faced, especially after the overnight sitting the other night. There are grades and shades of pigmentation. There are some people who are positively attracted to the lighter fair skin of some of our Indian brethren, but somewhat less so by the black skin of the African. These reactions to degrees of pigmentation form an interesting study. They are bound up with our psychological conditioning for all sorts of reasons.
I plead with the hon. Member for Louth to appreciate that what is happening is that West Indians and others are coming to this country to pay a compliment to us for what we have done in the past. In other words, in bygone days 1988 it was we who went out to those lands and made our fortunes, in some measure for the benefit of the people there, but mostly for the people of this country. In doing so we incidentally helped our own economic development, as we all know, by transporting hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants of West Africa to the West Indies and later to the new country of the United States of America.
I hope that the House will forgive me, if I read an extract from a school primer. I did not go to a public school, but for the first part of my education went to an ordinary board school. This was the sort of thing which I and others imbibed and absorbed until it became almost a part of our nature. The primer says:Although in name Elizabeth did not go to war with Spain until 1587, yet in reality all her reign was one long war…. It was not called war; neither Queen nor Parliament admitted its existence. It was the work of the Adventurers—merchants and nobles who sent out ships to the Spanish main, ready to trade or plunder as might be most convenient.… Hawkins, for example—Hawkins, who was held up to us in our boyhood days as a great example of British manhood—thought nothing of taking slaves from Africa to the Spanish settlements and compelling the Spaniards, by force of arms, to buy them. But still the slave-trader Hawkins and the buccanneers were the forerunners of the makers of our empire. They went where gain drew them, reckless of danger; and where they went British power followed.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Townsend Warner in "A Brief Survey of British History", published in about 1900, during my boyhood. It is quite typical of such school primers.
What I have said is common knowledge and almost platitudinous, but it reminds us of how our Empire grew and the way we took advantage of innocent and ignorant people overseas and transported hundreds of thousands of human beings for our own personal advantage, half of them dying before they reached the new area of the West Indies.
The descendants of those people are now coming back to this country. Are we now to say, even after a lapse of years, that although when it suited our purpose we used them for our purpose and went to their lands and developed 1989 them, employing these people as slaves and later as serfs, now they want to come back to the country from where they originated they are to be barred and excluded? Does the hon. Member for Louth believe that that will commend the Commonwealth as a more laudable institution than the Empire? Does he feel that what he is doing, quite sincerely, will help to cement this extraordinary institution, potential for enormous influence in the world, which we call the Commonwealth? I want him to think over that, which is not to deny that the problem exists, but which suggests that he is trying to deal with it in a ham-handed way.
There are other factors which the hon. Member ignored. He quoted the Guardian. I read the article which he mentioned—and indeed there were two articles. He omitted to remind the House that, according to the Guardian, between 1946 and 1959, 1,600,000 people emigrated from this country to Common wealth countries while 800,000 came here from Commonwealth countries. In other words, on balance, twice as many went out as came in. It was, therefore, to our economic advantage that 800,000 people came to this country. Everyone knows that, with few exceptions, the great mass of those who have come here have been to our economic advantage.
A colleague of mine represents one of the West London constituencies where there are 2,000 Indians. From time to time I have been invited to address them. I remember that on the last occasion when I addressed 600 or so it was only at the end of what I am sure was a most eloquent speech, to which there was a strange reaction, that I discovered that nine-tenths of them could not understand a word I said. Those Indians are there because the owners of factories in the district are glad to employ them. Without that labour, those factory owners would have been much worse off.
There is another illustration. My home is almost opposite one of the largest hospitals in the country, Whipps Cross. Eighty per cent. of the nurses there are Irish—and Ireland does not even belong to the Commonwealth. Those nurses do a very good job and without them the hospital would not be able to carry on as it is. There may also be 10 per cent. 1990 who are West Indian or Hong Kong nurses, likewise doing a splendid job of work. Where would the hospitals have been in the last two or three years without their services?
§ Mr. N. Pannell
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether those nurses are student nurses or people who have come as immigrants for the purpose of settling in this country?
§ Mr. Sorensen
It does not matter. Some are student nurses and some are trained. If they serve for only three years, they still do a service for us.
§ Mr. Sorensen
That may be, but it does not alter my argument. I am pointing out that in industry and in the hospitals we have needed these migrants from the West Indies and elsewhere.
The same is true of the transport industry. Every time we go on the Tube we see the excellent, well-mannered, decent, courteous porters and others helping the passengers. The same is true of railway yards and the factories. Without the coloured labour from the West Indies in transport and the factories, economically this country would have suffered.
That being so, on economic grounds there is no case to answer. We have taken advantage of their labour and we want it. It is true that the standard of living in the West Indies is lower than it is here and that infant mortality is higher. We do not employ these people out of charity. We employ the West Indian, the Pakistani, the Indian or the Africa because, for the wages which he is paid, he gives a service equal to the wages, and probably something more as well.
The problem exists as much in connection with the Irish as with the West Indians. The Irish come here, as do the Cypriots, the Maltese and others. I readily agree that that makes the housing problem more acute, but we have to tackle it in the right spirit without discrimination. That is why I endorse the views of those who have said that we should not discriminate against a man whose skin is a little more coloured than ours.
§ Mr. Sorensen
The hon. Member for Louth should excise from his mind, if be can, that earlier part of his speech and should look upon this as a human problem. The need of housing makes our social problem more acute if not chronic, but it is a problem which involves us in our past as well as in our present. We all owe a debt to the thousands who are here today. The debt that we have to repay is for the services their countries and their ancestors rendered us in bygone days when we were building the Empire. When we have consultations with the Prime Ministers and Government representatives of Commonwealth countries, I suggest that we should do so in the spirit of having a mutual problem to be solved by Cornmonwealth action.
Reference has been made to some of the West Indian islands. When I was in Barbados about six months ago, I made inquiries about the number of people who came to this country. I found that about 3,000 came here in the first nine months of 1960, compared with about 900 for a similar period the year before. Many of them were women joining their menfolk in this country. Of that figure, almost one-third were financially aided by the Government in Barbados. In other words, the Barbados Government is concerned in this matter, as are all the West Indian Governments and the Federation Government.
This is a human problem. Let us get together the representatives of the West Indies, India and Pakistan. Let us pool our problem as a Commonwealth one. If we approach it in that way, rather than in the way proposed by the hon. Member for Louth in the early part of his speech, I am certain that we will find some means of solving an acute problem without leaving the aftermath of suspicion and resentment that would otherwise be the case.
§ 2.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I am glad of the opportunity to oppose this Motion from this side of the House, as, although I am the first Conservative Member who has been called in opposition to it, I am by no means the only member of my party who opposes it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) has been campaigning 1992 for six years against Commonwealth migration to this country, and his Motion today is the latest shot in this campaign. I would like to strip it of its verbiage and look behind it to see what it really means.
I suggest that my hon. Friend is not really worried about over-population in this country. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) dealt most effectively with this point when he quoted the Guardian article. It is a fact that over the last twelve years the number of permanent or long-term emigrants from this country to the Commonwealth has much exceeded the number of permanent or long-term immigrants to this country from the Commonwealth. In other words, the outflow has far exceeded the inflow.
I said that my hon. Friend first took a public interest in this matter six years ago.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I thought that my hon. Friend would have gone on to say that, in spite of that, the population continued to increase substantially year by year, because that is an essential part of the case.
§ Mr. Fisher
Migration is quite irrelevant as a population factor, because the outflow has been far greater than the inflow. Migration is not a factor in this discussion.
I said that my hon. Friend first took a public interest in this matter six years ago, in 1955, just about the time when the figures of West Indian immigration first began to rise. He was not very interested when the inflow was only from foreign countries, from Eire, and from older white Dominions. He showed no interest at all then, though the overall figures for immigration were much the same then as they are now. He began to take an interest in this subject only when the figures relating to coloured immigration from the West Indies began to rise.
So this Motion, although it is very carefully wrapped around with words likeirrespective of race, colour or creedis really aimed at restricting coloured immigration from the West Indies.
§ Mr. C. Osborne
My hon. Friend said that I first took an interest in this subject in 1955. Surely the reason is clear. 1993 In 1953, the number of immigrants from the West Indies was 2,000. In 1954, it was 11,000. In 1955, it was 27,000.
§ Mr. Fisher
I thank my hon. Friend for confirming what I was saying. I must tell him that his Motion is strongly resented in the West Indies, because the West Indians think that it is directed against them, and so it is.
§ Mr. Fisher
What is more, they think that it is directed against colour, and so it is.
My hon. Friend is on record in HANSARD, when we last debated this matter in 1958 as advocating:a restriction upon immigration into this country, particularly of coloured immigrants." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1958, Vol. 594, c. 195.]He is also quoted in the Daily Mail of 7th February of this year as having said:This is a white man's country and I want it to remain so.
§ Mr. Fisher
I do not say that there is anything wrong with it from my hon. Friend's point of view. I merely want him to face the fact that the Motion, and the subject which we are discussing as a result of it, is really not Commonwealth immigration at all. It is West Indian immigration, and it is coloured immigration which concerns my hon. Friend.
I do not deny that the steep increase in West Indian immigration in recent years, especially last year, gives rise to problems in this country.
§ Mr. Fisher
As has been said, it gives rise to housing problems and social strains and stresses in certain areas—not universally, but in some parts of London, Birmingham and Nottingham, where West Indians are mainly concentrated But I put this to my hon. Friend. Does he think that these housing and social difficulties—which I fully 1994 acknowledge—bearing in mind that they are confined to some of our larger industrial cities, really outweigh the immense Commonwealth difficulties to which his Motion, if it were accepted, would inevitably give rise?
§ Mr. Fisher
My hon. Friend is perhaps not greatly interested in the Commonwealth, but for those of us who are this is a serious matter. I do not believe that my hon. Friend has any conception —and I am sure that the average elector in Britain has no conception at all—of the immense importance which is attached throughout the Commonwealth to this right of free entry into the United Kingdom.
May I quote a sentence or two from a leading article in the Sunday Times, dated 18th September of this year? It says:… the objections to legislation to restrict Commonwealth immigration are very great. It must not discriminate on grounds of colour or race: that would be to violate a vital principle.I ask my hon. Friend to notice the next words:If, while not openly doing so, it were to be operated as a colour bar, the subterfuge, degrading in itself, would have grave repercussions throughout the Commonwealth.In my view, my hon. Friend is guilty of this degrading subterfuge.
§ Mr. Fisher
There are today very few tangible ties which bind the Commonwealth together. They are becoming more tenuous as the process of evolution from an Empire to a Commonwealth continues. This open-door policy for Commonwealth citizens is one of the few cohesive ties that still remain. It is much prized and it is very important to the Commonwealth. To violate this principle—because it is a principle as well as a tradition—would, to my mind, cut across the very concept of Commonwealth and colonial policies. It would imperil our whole colonial and Commonwealth policy under successive Governments.
And what about Ireland? We allow unrestricted access to the Southern Irish. I understand that my hon. Friend proposes to restrict that. I have nothing 1995 against the Irish. I know Eire very well, and I have many friends there—but the Southern Irish are not British citizens. It would be very illogical to allow in the Southern Irish, who are not British citizens, and to keep out British citizens from the Commonwealth. But if we tried to prevent them from coming in we would have a very difficult task. They would merely slip over the border into Ulster and come here from Belfast. When we were last debating this matter, in 1958, I remember the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) rising to intervene and saying, "How can you distinguish between a Murphy from Liverpool and a Murphy from just over the Irish border who comes into Ulster, and then comes over here as of right from Belfast?"
If we tried to impose passport restrictions upon the citizens of Ulster who wished to come to this country we would have a civil war on our hands in no time. We would have the days of Carson all over again, because Ulster rightly considers herself to be an integral part of the United Kingdom, just as much as Surrey or Cheshire, or Lancashire. I hope that that will give my hon. Friend food for thought in relation to his policy of restricting access from Ireland.
I now turn to the three main causes of the heavy increase in immigration from the West Indies in recent years. There are three main causes. First, there is the overpopulation of many of the islands, due to a high birth rate and a falling death rate. Barbados is the most densely populated territory in the world. Secondly, there is the terrifyingly high level of unemployment, which forces people to come here in search of jobs. No precise figures are available, but in the out-of-crop season for sugar unemployment in many of the islands rises to as high a level as 25 per cent. of 30 per cent. of the working population. Even in Trinidad, which has the best employment opportunities of all the West Indian islands, the proportion of unemployed is about 15 per cent., as compared with the United Kingdom level of 1.6 per cent. in December last year.
Thirdly, there is the change in the immigration laws of the United States of America which took place in 1952 and 1996 which virtually bars any more West Indian immigration to the United States, and the similar laws imposed by some South American States, notably Venezuela. Taken together these laws mean that, in effect, there is no country to which the West Indians can emigrate except Britain. There is little that we can do about these three factors, which together have led to the steep rise in the immigration figures from the West Indies. In the long-term, over-population might be corrected if we were able to get the people concerned to adopt something like family planning, but that is not very easy in these islands, a large proportion of whose population is of the Roman Catholic faith.
The chronic unemployment situation position is equally difficult. It is easy to say, "Spend some more money and establish some more secondary industries", but in the smaller islands this would be quite uneconomical, and in the larger islands, such as Trinidad and Jamaica, it is already being done. When I was in Jamaica, in 1955, there were practically no factories, but in 1960 there were literally dozens. Industrial development has been remarkable in that short period of five years. I ought to say, in parenthesis, that it is sad to notice that much of the capital comes from the United States and Canada and very little from the United Kingdom. The fact remains that, statistically, a new factory is erected in Jamaica every month.
But there are limits to the money available. It requires a capital investment of £30 million to give local employment to 15,000 extra workers. That means a ratio of £2,000 of investment to produce a job for one person. Yet the population of Jamaica increased by 60,000 in the two years from 1957 to 1959. It is a tremendous problem, and it is not sufficient to say that we should establish a few more secondary industries in the West Indies. The problem goes far beyond that. In those circumstances, how can it be wondered that, with other doors closed to them, the West Indians emigrate to this country in search of the work that we have been unable to provide for them in their own homes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why 'we'?"] The West Indies are still Colonies for which we are responsible.
§ Mr. N. Pannell
Does my hon. Friend suggest that since it costs £2,000 to provide one West Indian with an occupation this Government should find the sum of £2,000 multiplied by 15,000 to put the whole working population into employment?
§ Mr. Fisher
I did not say that. I said that it was easy to talk about establishing secondary industries, but very difficult to cure the unemployment problem by such a suggestion. I made that point because I want my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) to realise that there are good reasons for the. West Indians coming to this country. They have nowhere else to go.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but is it not a fact that the responsibility for there being no secondary factories in Jamaica in 1955 rests with this Government? At that time there was no self-government in that sphere. Is it not the case that the whole economic policy of this country has been to deny secondary industries to Jamaica, so that her raw materials may feed our factories? In those circumstances have not we a moral obligation to assist the West Indians?
§ Mr. Fisher
I should have thought that, with his great interest and knowledge of Colonial Territories, the hon. Member would have remembered that Jamaica obtained universal suffrage in 1945—ten years before the date to which he now refers. We must all bear in mind that when we talk about the establishment of secondary industries we are referring to the use of private enterprise capital and not United Kingdom Treasury funds. That puts the matter into a more realistic proportion.
I now turn to the problems which the West Indian influx has created in Britain. I do not deny that problems have arisen from this influx, but they can be exaggerated, and they have been exaggerated by my hon. Friends the Members for Louth and Kirkdale. My hon. Friend the. Member for Louth has listed those problems as housing, health and crime, and I will deal with housing first. There is no doubt about the seriousness of this problem, as was pointed out in a most thoughtful speech 1998 by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth). Hon. Members must realise that West Indians are paying exorbitant rents in some parts of London for very down-at-heel and overcrowded accommodation. What they are certainly not doing is to compete with English people for council house accommodation. This is the result of a good deal of research and inquiries made of almost all the boroughs concerned in the London and Birmingham areas.
§ Mr. Lipton
That is borne out by the fact that these immigrants are forced to buy very inferior accommodation at exorbitant cost. They simply do not stand a dog's chance of getting council house accommodation.
§ Mr. Fisher
If every West Indian applicant on a council house waiting list were removed from it, I am assured by local authorities that this would make virtually no difference to the length of the waiting lists.
The second matter is health, and tuberculosis has been mentioned. The West Indian tuberculosis record, however, is better than that of any other immigrants. It is far better than the rate for the Irish and it is better, in some respects, even than that of our own people. A survey carried out not long ago, in Birmingham, showed a lower West Indian rate of tuberculosis than for the local white population. The West Indian rate was 1 per 1,000 as compared with 1 per 617 of the local white population of Birmingham.
§ Mr. John Hall
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the Motion deals not only with West Indians, but with Commonwealth citizens as a whole. The incidence of tuberculosis among Pakistanis is very high.
§ Mr. Fisher
I take the point. I have dealt with the matter, because it is one of those raised in the Motion.
There are no official figures for venereal disease and one can only obtain estimates from doctors and welfare organisations. The best information I can get from an entirely reliable British Medical Association source is that no West Indians arrive in this country with venereal disease, although some contact it after they have lived here for some time. I understand 1999 that the Polish, Irish and Maltese figures are not nearly as good as those of the West Indians.
§ Mr. N. Pannell
May I give a quotation from the Bristol Evening Post of 6th September, 1960:Of patients treated at Maudlin Street Clinic last year, 47 per cent. were West Indians. Immigrants were infected after entry to this country.
§ Mr. Fisher
"After "—that is the point. None of them arrived with this disease.
Concerning criminals, I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Louth realises that it is already the policy of West Indian Governments to refuse passports to people who have been convicted of any serious offence, particularly of any offence involving violence. If my hon. Friend wants Her Majesty's Government to take power to deport criminals from this country, I do not object. I cannot imagine that any political leader in the West Indies, or, indeed, in any Commonwealth country, would seriously object, because that sort of person is a bad ambassador for the country from which he comes, and I do not imagine that there would be any great objection to our deporting them. Such people merely give their law-abiding compatriots a bad name.
I do not object, and I do not believe that Commonwealth Governments would object, to what I call the minor points raised in the Motion, including the power to deport and the need for a clean bill of health and a clear criminal record. But the truth is that measures such as those would not begin to touch the problem numerically. A few people might be excluded on grounds of health and a handful might be deported, but the numbers would be negligible. And it is the numbers in which my hon. Friend is interested, because he wants this to remain a white man's country.
§ Mr. Fisher
What my hon. Friend said is on the record. [Interruption.] I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) was present when my hon. Friend the Member for Louth spoke.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams rose—2000
§ Mr. Speaker
This is certainly not the first, but is, I think, the third time that I have reminded the House that a large number of Members wish to speak in the debate and that these interruptions consume time.
§ Mr. Fisher
In his Motion, my hon. Friend states that he does not want immigrants to become a charge on public funds. Ninety-five per cent. of them are not a charge on public funds. They come here for one reason, and one reason alone. They come here to find work, and they do find it.
It is true that West Indian unemployment figures in the United Kingdom are nearly three times the national average of unemployment, but when one considers the unemployment figures in the West Indies, of which I have spoken, and one remembers that our national average here is about 1.6 per cent. and, therefore, the coloured average would be about 4–8 to 5 per cent., one should realise that it is totally misleading to say that the immigrant unemployed figure is three times the national average. That is totally irrelevant as compared with the conditions in their own islands. Incidentally, I should be very pleased if the unemployment figure for United Kingdom citizens in the North of Ireland was as low as 4.8 per cent. or 5 per cent.
The heaviest period of West Indian immigration to this country was the third quarter of 1960, the number of immigrants arriving here during that quarter was 17,500. In the same quarter, the number of unfilled vacancies in industry, according to Ministry of Labour statistics, was 230,884. Moreover, as we have heard today, West Indians have made a real and important contribution to our economy. They are doing the unskilled, the less attractive and the lesswell-paid jobs in the brickfields, the mills, the shipyards and on the railways. As another hon. Member has said, the British Transport Commission has been recruiting labour in Barbados. It is hard to see how our railways and hospitals could have been effectively carried on and adequately staffed over the last few years without West Indian immigration. Far from causing unemployment in this country, the West Indians have filled a labour shortage in many industries.
2001 It has been suggested that we should make reciprocal arrangements with Commonwealth countries. I have no doubt that there would be no difficulty about mat. There is no difficulty about United Kingdom citizens emigrating to the West Indies if they wish to do so. If my hon. Friend the Member for Louth looks at the Jamaican economic survey for 1958, he will see that British emigration to Jamaica in that year amounted to 14 per 1,000 of the island's population, while Jamaica's migrants to the United Kingdom amounted to less than 4 per 10,000 of our population. It reached a peak in September, 1960, and has been declining steadily every month since then. About 45 per cent. of last year's immigrants were women and children, which is a desirable trend.
The truth is that from our point of view, this is not a national problem at all; it is a local problem of concentration in certain areas—like North Kensington, Paddington, Willesden and Brixton—and I would like to pay tribute to the hon. Members for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and Brixton (Mr. Lipton), who have had the political courage to oppose the Motion, although I have no doubt that large numbers of their constituents would support it. The problem is one which arises in these areas simply and solely because of the concentration. The immigrants naturally, tend to go to the areas where their own families and friends are already established.
What I object to is that today we have been talking about restrictions when we have not tried integration. It is strange and ironical that on both sides of this House we preach multi-racialism in the Commonwealth, but we are not even trying to practise it in the United Kingdom.
I expect that even my hon. Friend the Member for Louth gives lip service to the idea of racial partnership in Rhodesia. On the periphery—but in the heart and centre of the Commonwealth, not on your life!
This really is a very defeatist Motion. Indeed, it means that we have failed to integrate and absorb successfully a mere 300.000 coloured people in a population of 50 million. Were it accepted and the Government legislated on this Motion, it would mean that we in Britain were not prepared even to try to integrate 300,000 British citizens into our national 2002 life. We have never even tried to implement a policy of dispersal. At least, these things should be tried before we take the major step of legislating against the entire British Commonwealth. I am sure that it is the concentration which produces the strains and stresses, and if these 300,000 people could be dispersed throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, there would, practically speaking, be no problem art all.
I think that there are three courses open to the Government. They can leave things as they are, they can legislate on the lines of the Motion, or they can adopt a sort of half-way house position. If they leave things as they are, I think that I should say this one word of warning to some of my West Indian friends. If these figures go on rising steeply year after year, I think that there will come a time when it will no longer be possible—
§ Mr. Fisher
Yes, I think that there will come a time when we can no longer dismiss the whole issue lightly by saying that they have a right to be here. I think that that should be said, because millions of Indians and Pakistanis and Africans have the same right to be here if they wish to exercise it—
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson rose—
§ Mr. Thomson
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have had a long speech, introducing the Motion, from the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne). May we be protected from his interruptions now while we are trying to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher)?
§ Mr. Fisher
I will not labour the point, but I wanted to make it because I think it right to say that to my West Indian friends.
If the Government took the second alternative and legislated along the lines of the Motion, I should deplore it and I should oppose it. But, if that were 2003 the position of the Government, I would make this one plea. Do not do it this year, which, I hope, may be independence year for the West Indies. And do not put the Commonwealth immigrants in exactly the same position as aliens. For goodness' sake give them some advantage over aliens in the matter of the restrictions which might be imposed. Above all, have genuine prior consultations not only with the Government of the West Indies, but with the whole of the Commonwealth before taking any action. It is always so much better to act by agreement than to impose things unilaterally.
The third alternative open to the Government is the one which I favour myself, the half-way house position. I think that, psychologically, it would be helpful if we stipulated a good health record and a clear criminal record. We could also take power to deport convicted criminals. Minor restrictions of that sort would be helpful, though they would make no numerical difference at all. In conjunction with legislation on those lines, I think that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government should make determined and resolute efforts to deal with the housing conditions of immigrants already in this country; and the Government should make a genuine and sincere attempt to secure the dispersal of all new arrivals, because if they were successful that would to a large extent provide a solution to this whole problem.
In conclusion, may I say this? In my view this Motion is not a solution. It is a deliberate, unimaginative and defeatist evasion of the whole problem of race relations which I believe is one of the greatest world issues in this second half of the twentieth century. If we run away from this issue, which is what we should be doing by accepting the Motion, we can make no contribution whatever to the solution of that problem; and we, the leaders of the greatest multi-racial Commonwealth that the world has ever known, shall not only have failed our Commonwealth, we shall have failed ourselves.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I know that there are a number of hon. Members who are anxious to speak and that we are all anxious to hear the 2004 Minister. Therefore, I will make my remarks as brief as possible. Fortunately, I am enabled to do so because of the speech of the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher). The hon. Member said so much with which I entirely agree, and it is unnecessary for me to repeat his observations. I thought it a most effective speech. He demolished the arguments used by his hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) when moving his Motion—
§ Mr. Fletcher
The hon. Member has gone a long way to convince the Government of how unpopular—certainly among hon. Members on this side of the House and, I gather, among a number of hon. Members opposite—would be any idea that the Motion represented the opinion of this House.
This is an important subject and one which it is most essential to approach in a calm and dispassionate frame of mind. I regret very much, therefore, that the hon. Member for Louth should have thought fit to put down a Motion couched in such extreme and provocative language. Although, in terms, the Motion does not appear to be discriminating between immigrants from one part of the Commonwealth and another, when making his speech the hon. Gentleman took no pains to conceal that his real objection is to the immigration of coloured people from the West Indies.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I would much rather not give way, if the hon. and gallant Member will forgive me. I think that it would be for the benefit of other hon. Members if I do not give way.
Hon. Members have reminded the House that through many centuries of our history we have prided ourselves on the principle of unfettered immigration into this country. As was pointed out by the hon. Baronet the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), since 1914 there has been a deviation from that historic principle relating to aliens. Although the 1914 legislation was introduced primarily, I think, for security reasons, there has been a very 2005 large influx of aliens into this country despite that legislation.
Both between the wars, and subsequentlly, we have accepted very large numbers from Germany and Central Europe, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and others. I add, because I think that it stresses the importance of this principle and this tradition, that the Aliens Act is not a permanent feature of our legislation. It has to be renewed annually. That, I think, serves to show the importance which the House attaches, still attaches to the fundamental principle of free entry.
The Motion, suggesting that there should be restriction of immigration, is based on the assumption that there is something different in coloured immigration from other immigration. We can not only pride ourselves on the principle that this country has observed for centuries, but I think that it has been to our advantage that we have had through the centuries an admixture into our civilisation from overseas before and since the Norman Conquest, including the Flemish weavers, the Huguenots, and right up to the twentieth century, all contributing to our economy, our culture, our national character and national strength.
In these days in the middle of the twentieth century, when inter-racial relationships throughout the world and the whole colour problem are to assume such immense importance, it would be a betrayal of our principles, a betrayal of our belief in the equality of races, if we were now to say that we should control immigration from the West Indies because we think that there is something different in coloured immigration from any other immigration. That is what, in fact, the hon. Member for Louth was suggesting.
I believe that it would jeopardise the whole position and reputation of our country at this stage, not only in the Commonwealth, but in the part that we hope—and, I think, we shall—play in dealing with race relationships if, at this moment in our history, we were to pass anything like the Motion which is before us.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The hon. Member is being a little unfair when he suggests that the Motion deals with West Indian immigration only. If he is advocating that this is a move which 2006 we would all regret—and I am the first to say that I would agree we would regret it—does he imagine it is possible to adopt the ever-open door policy indefinitely in an overcrowded island like Britain, regardless of whom we are dealing with when we talk of immigration to this country?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am coming to that. I have, I hope, dealt with the hon. Member for Louth.
I hope I may say that I thought the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) made a very balanced speech. One must observe also that, although the hon. Member for Hendon, South, to whose speech I listened very carefully, seemed to be saying that he thought the time would come when something would have to be done about this problem, he did not suggest that the time had come. He thought that the time might come.
On that, I should say that I thought the hon. Member for Louth gave a totally exaggerated picture of the problem. He suggested that in ten, or maybe twenty, years time there would be 2 million or more coloured people in this country, and that therefore something should be done about it now. The hon. Member for Hendon, South thought that we ought to deal with the matter in time. It would take a great deal to persuade me that any drastic remedies of this kind ought to be contemplated unless the case for a change in our traditional policy was overwhelmingly proved. This is not the kind of case in which one ought to think of legislation in advance of proved necessity.
I do not accept either the prophecies of the hon. Member for Louth nor the assumption that even if those prophecies were correct it is necessary that legislation would be required. Although there is a problem, and I shall come to it in a moment, we must realise the very great disservice to the whole Commonwealth which would result from a campaign to control by legislation coloured immigration to this country.
I sit for a London constituency and have the same problems as those of the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood and my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton). I know that in some of the densely overcrowded 2007 London suburbs—no doubt the same is true of Birmingham—where coloured immigrants tend to congregate, there is a social problem. There is a human problem. One has to face it and try to deal with it, but, because one recognises that problem, it does not follow that the remedy is to control immigration by legislation.
There are other remedies, but the problem is one with which we must deal with sympathy and tolerance. Like other hon. Members who sit for London constituencies, every week I receive complaints from my constituents about their housing difficulties. There is no doubt that the housing difficulties of Londoners are accentuated by immigration, including that from the West Indies as well as from Ireland and elsewhere. It is my belief, however, that, in so far as there is a problem here. it is a facet of the housing problem. I believe that if our housing conditions were better this problem of coloured immigration would not present itself to the House or, indeed, to the hon. Member for Louth in the way that it does.
There does not seem to be any industrial problem. The immigrants have no difficulty in absorbing themselves into our economy. Indeed, on industrial grounds, and the grounds of our national economy, we should surely welcome them and the skilled and unskilled labour which they contribute. Without it certain industries, notably the transport undertakings, could be in serious difficulties. There are human problems caused by the housing shortage, and I know what distress it must cause an English family who have, perhaps, lived in a couple of rooms in a three-storey house for many years, suddenly to find that the rest of the occupants, perhaps ten or fifteen of them, are Jamaicans with different habits and upbringing, all having to share the same lavatory.
Those conditions must cause distress, but the remedy is not to control immigration but to cure the housing shortage. I must add my opinion to the opinion of my hon. Friends, that the responsibility for the failure to cure our housing problem is the fault of Her Majesty's Government. We have had a Tory Government for ten years and a White Paper was produced two or 2008 three days ago by the Minister of Housing admitting, the large number of houses that are decaying, and, recognising, to quote the Minister's own words, the "disgusting" living conditions in which so many people have to live. That is what causes the social problem.
If there had been a greater intensity of effort on the part of the Government in dealing with the serious housing problem during the last ten years these human difficulties that exist in London's subburbs and elsewhere, would not have assumed anything like the proportions they have.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Is the hon. Member advocating that these immigrants should immediately be given council houses? He has admitted that they do not get council houses. Is he advocating that they should be provided with them in greater numbers? It is important.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am advocating that there should have been a much greater intensity of effort in the production of council houses during the last ten years so that the hundreds of thousands of British subjects who are waiting for houses should not have had to put up with what the Minister himself says are the "disgusting" living conditions to which so many of them are condemned. It is not unnatural that, while the Minister permits such a housing situation, the problem is accentuated.
My experience is that all the people who complain to me about the housing conditions from which they are suffering, and who draw attention to the fact that here are many West Indians in Islington, also say, "We have no quarrel with the West Indians. We do not believe in a colour bar. Indeed, we believe in colour equality. We have no racial prejudice. What we complain about is that neither we nor the Jamaicans can get proper housing conditions."
My approach is that the whole of this question is a facet of the housing problem and will largely disappear, as I hope it will disappear, once that problem has been cured. It would be a tragedy, in those circumstances, to resort to this totally unnecessary measure of controlling immigration by giving the Government statutory powers to do so.
2009 I will not repeat the other remedies which have been mentioned. Other Commonwealth countries, notably India and Pakistan have co-operated with the British Government on a voluntary basis in trying to stem unrestricted immigration from those countries. I would hope, either at the Commonwealth Conference, or before, some arrangement can be made with the West Indian Governments for similar co-operation.
In connection with the admitted problems arising from the task of assimilating coloured peoples into our way of life, I pay tribute to the work which is being done by the welfare departments of the High Commissioners in this country. Obviously, people who have been brought up in totally different conditions and with totally different social habits, need a certain amount of education, assistance and encouragement in accilimatising themselves to our ways and becoming integrated members of the British community, but there is no reason why that should not be done, and I believe that it is being done to a much greater degree than hon. Members opposite recognise.
I do not accept the figures which have been quoted to suggest there is a higher proportion of crime among immigrants than among other British subjects. The Minister may have something to say about that. On the other side of the coin I would observe that at the parish church of St. Mary, Islington, which I attend from time to time, I notice a very high proportion of coloured people among the congregation. Anybody who goes to any of the well-known London churches such as St. Martin-in-the-Field, or All Souls, Langham Place, observes the same thing.
I have spoken long enough, and I have promised the Minister now to conclude. I very much hope that he will say that the Government are going to advise the House to resist the Motion.
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
This has been a debate of great interest and considerable value, 2010 and the House will join me in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) on performing the rare feat of winning the Ballot for private Members' Motions twice running. The odds against doing so are enormous. If 150 hon. Members ballot, the odds are 22,500 to 1 against. The fact that he has won it twice is a reward of Providence for his great zeal in public life, a zeal which I greatly admire.
The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) said that the debate would embarrass the Government. We do not agree with him. We feel that candid discussion of these matters is a good thing. There is one person whose absence from the debate I am sure the whole House will regret, and that is my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. He has been paying a short visit to the West Indies. Unfortunately, he has flu. I am asked to apologise on his behalf for his absence from the debate.
The Government have been watching closely and carefully the increasing immigration from the Commonwealth. This movement has largely been, as is well known, from the West Indies, India and Pakistan. The very heavy increase in 1960 has brought the total population originating from these territories to about 300,000 and they are concentrated mainly in London and in the larger provincial cities, particularly Birmingham and Manchester.
My hon. Friend the Member for Louth and other hon. Members have drawn attention to social problems to which they say this large and increasing immigrant population gives rise in the areas where the immigrants are concentrated. The hon. Member for Paddington, North, in his Amendment and in his speech, denies that immigrants cause any social problems. Our view is that immigrants generally do not create new social problems, but increase existing ones, sometimes seriously, especially in those areas where they are concentrated. That was the conclusion to be drawn from the admirable speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), which undoubtedly impressed both sides of the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Louth and others have stressed the 2011 impact of immigration on the housing problem in those areas and have pointed out that it aggravates housing shortages and causes serious overcrowding and sometimes exploitation by unscrupulous landlords, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher).
An important question has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth as to whether we shall be able to continue to absorb immigrant labour, which is largely, but not entirely, unskilled, in the numbers which came here last year. One cannot escape the fact mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) that even a small recession in this country is likely to bear hardly on the immigrants.
Some anxieties have been expressed in the debate about the risk to health. We find that evidence about this is not easy to obtain, even with the sources at our command. Attention has been drawn in the debate to the growth of immigrant communities, large and small, largely because of differences of custom and standards of living. Sometimes, in the case of Indians and Pakistanis, because of differences in language and religion they are not easily assimilated into the population around them.
I want to comment on each of these matters, but before doing so I want to place on record and stress what appears to me to have been the complete agreement of both sides of the House—it is expressed in the Motion and the Amendment—that any problems that there are to be solved must be dealt with on the principle of non-discrimination as to race, colour and creed.
Although unemployment among the West Indian labour force here is about 5 per cent., as compared with the national average of about 1.9 per cent., the vast majority of immigrants are at present in employment and in certain spheres which have been mentioned—for example, public transport and the hospital service—immigrants have made a most valuable contribution to our labour force.
The danger to the nation's health from the presence of large numbers of Commonwealth immigrants is, so far, not serious. I hope that I may not be 2012 thought frivolous in mentioning, in passing, the hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies did not give Asian flu to any one in the West Indies.
Of course, if large numbers of newcomers are added to the population of any area, this imposes a strain on the local health services because of sheer weight of extra numbers who may need medical attention. As a result of recent emigration, the health services in some areas have undoubtedly been under strain, but there is no evidence that in any district the situation has got out of hand. I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health that there is no reason to think that, to any large extent, immigrants from the Commonwealth bring diseases into this country, or constitute a danger to public health—
§ Mr. C. Royle rose—
§ Mr. Renton
No, I am sorry. I know that the House must often find my speeches difficult to follow, but I think that this is one of the rare occasions when I might ask the indulgence of the House in order to be sure that the House follows my speech, as I think the hon. Gentleman himself very wisely did.
The existence of unassimilated communities living in their own enclaves—if that is the right word—is to be deplored, but there is so far no evidence that they breed crime or, in general, have a bad effect on public order.
I come now to the questions raised by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). Taken as a whole, the immigrants appear to be no less law abiding than their neighbours, although among a small proportion of them there is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) mentioned, a regrettable tendency to engage in living on immoral earnings, and we in the Home Office are also familiar with the part that a small proportion play in trafficking in Indian hemp.
It is undeniable that some existing social problems might well worsen with the passage of time if immigration were to continue at last year's rate. The Government have, therefore, been anxiously considering what can be done. Various methods of tackling the situation have 2013 been suggested in this debate and, as I shall show, some of those methods are already in operation. The methods can be dealt with under three headings: first, administrative action by oversea governments concerned; secondly, remedial action in the United Kingdom and, thirdly, legislation in the United Kingdom to control immigration.
First, I deal with action by oversea governments who are concerned. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale pointed out, the Governments of India and Pakistan have for some time limited emigration from their countries by restricting the issue of passports valid to the United Kingdom to those whom they consider will make satisfactory immigrants. The controls imposed have had a considerable effect and we are grateful to the Governments of India and Pakistan for maintaining them, although there is some circumvention of the controls.
In the West Indies, the position is different. The West Indian Governments have felt unable to restrict the issue of passports, except that no West Indian Government issues passports to known criminals, and the Government of Jamaica place certain restrictions on the issue of passports to juveniles, and to the elderly and infirm.
The West Indian Governments, however, are well aware of the difficulties, both for their own people and for the United Kingdom, involved in large-scale immigration to this country, and use every means in their power to make their people aware of the situation here. Unfortunately, whatever warnings are issued by the West Indian Governments, it appears that large numbers of West Indians place more reliance on accounts transmitted back home by immigrants already settled here of the employment situation such as we here experience.
On the question of remedial action in this country, I speak, first, of housing. I may say that I was very glad that the hon. Member for Paddington, North paid tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing for the energy and courage of his housing policy. I find the speech of the hon. Member for Islington, East a strange contrast in this respect.
§ Mr. Fletcher rose—2014
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I think it would be a pity if this debate were to turn into a housing debate. That has nothing, or very little, to do with the Motion.
§ Mr. Renton
If I may presume to say so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you have taken my next words out of my mouth.
I think that if there is any difference between the hon. Member for Paddington, North and the hon. Member for Islington, East in this matter it is one which they could very well resolve outside the debate.
§ Mr. Fletcher rose—
§ Mr. Renton
More effective powers are needed by local authorities if they are to be able to intervene successfully to secure any improvement in the squalid living conditions in houses in what is now called multi-occupation. They are houses of the type where many immigrants are living. This is recognised in the White Paper on Housing in England and Wales which contains proposals for the better management and maintenance of such houses. Yesterday the Housing Bill foreshadowed in the White Paper was published, and I must not anticipate discussion of its provisions.
On the employment question, the Ministry of Labour local offices ensure that immigrants are kept informed about the location of vacancies and they spend a great deal of effort in placing immigrants. The efforts of numerous official and unofficial bodies to encourage integration are meeting with some success and are being steadily continued. I should like to join with the hon. Member for Islington, East in paying tribute to those various bodies. They deserve credit for their efforts. They include the Migrant Services Division of the West Indies Commissioner's Office, the welfare officers on the staffs of the Indian and Pakistan High Commissioners, the Citizens' Advice Bureaux in the various cities, the consultative committees and liaison officers appointed by many local authorities. They are all doing fine work.
Now I come to the more controversial question of legislation by this country to control immigration. If we were to have control we would have to have legislation. That is obvious. However, there are formidable difficulties, both of principle and in operating any 2015 kind of restrictive legislation, as we already know in the Home Office in the administration of the Aliens Order.
As to the difficulties of principle, the United Kingdom cannot be considered in isolation. It is the focal point of a multi-racial Commonwealth. The historic right of every British subject, regardless of race or colour, freely to enter and stay in the United Kingdom is still prized throughout the Commonwealth and is one of the things which help to bind us together. The consequences of breaking with the "open door" tradition are difficult to foresee. If, nevertheless, the problems which threaten the United Kingdom as a result of uncontrolled immigration are considered to be so great that this drastic step should be taken, the question would arise, how is such legislation to be applied and to operate?
My hon. Friend the Member for Louth says that it should be applied to the whole of the Commonwealth regardless of all the inconveniences, difficulties and even hardships which this might cause to the thousands of people to whom the United Kingdom is still home. His answer rightly avoids discrimination. Indeed, it is inconceivable that we, with our great traditions, could ever legislate by discriminating on the grounds of race. colour or creed.
Apparently he would apply the control also to the Irish Republic whose citizens are at present treated in all respects as British subjects, as my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton pointed out, and whose labour is a traditional and probably an essential part of our labour force. I must point out this further practical problem, that the Irish Republic has a common frontier with the United Kingdom, that very loyal part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland.
The nature of the control to be applied is perhaps an even more difficult matter than the extent of it. My hon. Friend has suggested certain specific requirements which I shall consider one by one.
First, a guaranteed job. It would not be realistic, of course, to accept guarantees from interested parties. Presumably, as is now the case with aliens, a labour permit would have to be issued 2016 by the Ministry of Labour on the application of the prospective employer. Incidentally, such permits are issued for twelve months only in the first place as a general rule. In so far as such control would have to be administered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour with the help of such immigration control as we have, no one doubts that it could be made effective. So long as there is plenty of work of the type immigrants are willing to undertake, a labour permit could no doubt still be obtained, but on past experience it seems that when jobs become scarce the flow of immigrants, after a bit of a time-lag, decreases.
My hon. Friend's next requirement is adequate housing accommodation for the immigrant. On this it would be necessary in practice to have a certificate of some kind, presumably issued by a housing authority, but no one could be sure that the immigrant, once admitted, would remain in or necessarily even use at all the accommodation in respect of which the certificate had been issued perhaps a good many weeks before he ever arrived to take up that accommodation.
My hon. Friend also suggested the exclusion of those with criminal records. Of course, there might well be ways of accomplishing such a control, but I must remind the House that an immigration officer cannot tell a criminal on sight, and unless criminal records were entered in passports by the issuing countries it might be very difficult indeed, and I do not know of any country which has so far taken it upon itself to enter criminal records on passports. Effective control over entry of undesirables would be virtually dependent, therefore, on the co-operation of the authorities of the country of origin. To some extent, as I said, we already have this. The West Indian Governments withhold passports altogether from known criminals, and India and Pakistan no doubt take the record of a would-be emigrant into account as part of the general control of issue of passports.
With regard to health my hon. Friend's Motion suggests that there must be a clean bill of health for every immigrant. India and Pakistan have already told us that it would be administratively impossible to institute a system of effective health checks of intending migrants 2017 before they leave for this country, the United Kingdom. They said they had not the facilities, the equipment or the staff for such an undertaking. Doubtless the same applies in the West Indies and many other countries. Only at our own ports, therefore, could a health check be carried out, but this would mean that we would have to install at each port a complete range of diagnostic equipment, including X-ray apparatus, and require all Commonwealth immigrants to undergo full-scale medical examination. This would, of course, be expensive and would result in considerable delays in admission to the United Kingdom. I should point out, however, that there are already powers to enable obvious infections to be dealt with at the ports.
My hon. Friends who support the Motion have also made the interesting and, so far as I know, novel suggestion that immigrants should be required to deposit the cost of their return fare home and that this should be returnable if they did not go home within two years. This suggestion needs very careful examination. Nothing of this sort is done in the case of aliens, and we could hardly impose stricter conditions on British subjects than on aliens. [Laughter.] With respect, I do not think that these are matters of hilarity at all. I am answering a serious case which has been put forward, and doing so in a serious way.
It is true that an alien is excluded it he appears not to be in a position to support himself and his dependants for the proposed period of his stay in this country. But my hon. Friend's other suggestions, with regard, for example, to the guaranteed job, would appear to rule out the question of indigence. It would not need to be considered at all if the immigrant failed on the earlier tests which my hon. Friend prescribes. Whether it often happens or not that an immigrant falls out of work and continues to stay here because he cannot afford the fare home is a matter on which we have little evidence, but it is a matter that we are prepared to look into further in order to see what might be done.
I appreciate my hon. Friend's anxiety to avoid a burden on public funds, but I doubt whether the administrative cost of the suggestion which he 2018 makes with regard to means would be justified by its practical benefits. I do not, of course, want to make it appear that a decision on the control of Commonwealth immigration depends only on certain practical difficulties of applying it. All I wish to do is to point out that these difficulties, whatever system of control is adopted, are bound to be considerable, and to suggest that it would be unwise to commit ourselves to the specific proposals in the Motion.
On the wider question of the need for some measure of control, the Government, as I indicated earlier on, welcome the opportunity of discussion which the Motion has afforded, and to that extent we are grateful to my hon. Friend for his initiative. As I said, we are watching the situation with great care, and, indeed, with some concern. We have not come to any conclusions, and we should prefer not to reach conclusions until we have fully considered the views expressed in the course of this debate. These questions are, of course, inevitably matters which would have to be the subject of consultation with Commonwealth Governments concerned.
§ Mr. Renton
It will be apparent from what I have said that the Government cannot accept the Motion. Neither can we accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Paddington, North, for it first asserts that there is no problem and then proceeds to express in rather vague terms how the existing problems should be solved.
As we have had such an excellent debate, and in view of my undertaking that the views expressed in it will enable us to reach conclusions, I wonder whether I might suggest to my hon. Friend and to the hon. Member for Paddington, North, that the public interest might on this occasion best be served if both the Motion and the Amendment were gracefully withdrawn.
§ Mr. C. Royle
Before the hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, would he be kind enough to say whether the Government would have accepted the Amendment standing in my name and the names of other hon. Members?
§ Mr. Renton
That is a hypothetical question, but I can say that we would 2019 not have accepted the Amendment. 1 do not think that it would be in order for me to give the precise reasons.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
I want to ask a question at this stage. I am sorry that I did not have an opportunity to make a speech before, but now I think it is too late to do so. The hon. and learned Member did not reply to the point about the possibility of giving the courts power to deport Commonwealth immigrants who become criminals in this country. That is an important matter and several speakers have referred to it. I hope that be will give the Government's view.
§ Mr. Renton
I am in your hands, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think that I could do so only if you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker gave me leave to make a further statement.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that it would be better not to have a further statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I expressed the view that it might be better not to, but perhaps I was wrong to take it upon myself. It is for the House to express its views.
§ Mr. Renton
Then, by leave of the House, perhaps I may, as a postscript, say something about deportation. I did not want to speak for too long, as I was aware that other hon. Members wished to make contributions to the debate.
No doubt, if any general measure to control the immigration of British subjects were introduced, it would not be difficult to include power of deportation, but if no such measure is introduced, the question arises whether such a power should be taken by itself. Prolonged consultation on this matter has recently taken place with the other Commonwealth Governments, but there was no unanimity of view among them about the desirability of such a measure. Legislation giving power to deport British subjects would involve a departure—although only marginal—from the traditional right of any British subject to reside here without restriction.
As I have already said, there is no evidence that Commonwealth immigrants in general engage in crime to a greater degree than other sections of the population, and therefore it is unlikely that power to deport those who had committed crimes would, in fact, reduce 2020 crime to any significant extent. In these circumstances, we doubt whether the practical advantages of dealing with deportation as an isolated issue would outweigh the disadvantages of departing from the principle of the open door.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Under-Secretary has given a fair and full reply to the points raised in the debate. I agree with the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) that a very formidable case has been made for the withdrawal of the Motion.
In the few minutes at my disposal, I wish to make reference to exaggerations which have been made. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne)—I am sorry that he is not in his place—referred to Birmingham, which I have the honour to represent, and said that there was a grave problem in that city. There is not a grave problem. The situation in Birmingham has been carefully studied over the years.
In my hand I have a list of cuttings from the Press giving clear examples of how in the last few months a campaign, which, I regret to say, has been waged among others by some hon. Members opposite who represent Birmingham. has caused opinion to be inflamed.
The hon. Member for Louth said that coloured people would come over here and be better off on the dole than they had been in their own country. In the Birmingham Post for Wednesday, 15th September, there is a statement by the liaison officer for coloured persons in Birmingham, Mr. A. L. Gibbs, who describes his job as a bridge between the City of Birmingham and newcomers. When he began his job, five years ago, there were only 4,000 coloured people in Birmingham, while there are now 40,000. The report says that he said:… many people, and especially the West Indians, had become integrated into the city life. They own their own homes and pay their taxes and rates.This would not have been possible had it not been for the people of Birmingham.He had seen housewives go out of their way to help a coloured person, and many people in Birmingham, who had left their original homes in different parts of the country, had shown sympathy to the immigrants who have changed their environment, climate and way of life.2021 The hon. Member for Louth—who is not now here—
§ Mr. Lipton He has seen the light.
§ Mr. Yates
Mr. Gibbs went on to say:People who dislike coloured people will tell you that they only come here to live on the National Assistance, but I know that this is not true.Out of the total number of West Indians who came here, when we checked later on, we found that only 93 were drawing National Assistance and of those 50 were women.He suggested thatpeople should seek their own information about coloured people instead of relying on the opinions of others.The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Seymour), who has been helping to lead this campaign, is not here. Nor are other hon. Members who have helped in a campaign which has inflamed opinion. Our way of dealing with the problem in Birmingham has been a model for the country. It is not true that we are anything like approaching Notting Hill, but we will have to be careful if people are to attempt to inflame opinion in this way.
It must be remembered that in Birmingham no one can be considered for a house under a five-year registration. A report presented to the Birmingham City Council on 6th December said:The operation of the five-year rule plus the extra points for time on the list protects the interest of the Birmingham family which has been on the Register for more than five years. It is wrong to say that many thousands of immigrant families will be housed as soon as they complete five years' residence in the City. They then become eligible for an offer if and when they have enough points which is not likely to occur in most cases for several years after they have satisfied the five-year rule. Only the cases of exceptionally severe overcrowding are likely to acquire enough points with time on the list plus need to qualify for an offer in the sixth year after their arrival in the City, and the number of such cases is comparatively small.When the chairman of the general purposes committee of the Birmingham City Council was asked the following day 2022 how many cases were involved, he said that there were 26. We must remember in that context that there are about 60,000 families on the waiting list in Birmingham. That is my answer to those who talk about the housing problem.
In 1927, I was a member of the Birmingham City Council. I represented an area which had suffered from overcrowding for many years. I raised questions at the council meetings about overcrowding. I am not now referring to coloured people. Sometimes 45 white Birmingham citizens were living in one house. This is no new problem. The city is doing its best to deal with it, and it must be given assistance in its efforts.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) referred to health. I am sorry that he is not here. He talked about illegitimate children and referred to the number of children in the care of the Birmingham City Council. It is true that we have a problem there. The figure of 14 per cent. which he quoted of coloured children in care is also true. In the council's report on this problem it mentions Irishmen, Indians, and others and says:The fact of these two groups of children being in care has nothing to do with their being coloured or being Irish. The reason is that most families recently immigrated are in overcrowded housing conditions, and when difficulties arise for them they have no relatives in the City to whom they can turn for help.I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kirkdale is not here. He gave me the impression that these children in care were illegitimate, but we are told in the report:It is conspicuous that a very large proportion of their parents, including putative fathers in many cases, maintain their interests in their children.It was unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman tried to give the impression that we were bringing moral questions into matters which were outside it.
I cannot help but remind the hon. Gentleman of a letter I received from a lady in Birmingham who had two illegitimate children by coloured men. She had one illegitimate child by one coloured man, and a second illegitimate child by another coloured man. Later in the letter I read that she was a married woman with three children. She said, in conclusion:They will not pay. Can you do something to help these people to pay? It is not right 2023 that they should ever have been allowed to come.Some hon. Members look at this problem of immigration in that light. That is all I have to say about morality.
The last point concerns unemployment. Is it true that immigration has created a grave unemployment problem in Birmingham? The answer is "No." The hon. Member for Louth might examine the letter sent to the Home Secretary by the Archdeacon of Birmingham, who has a committee which has done a great deal of work for coloured people there. The archdeacon invited hon. Members representing Birmingham constituencies to meet his committee. I went along and listened carefully to the proceedings of this committee, which is representative of the widest interests. The Ministry of Labour has a representative there working in contact with the members of the committee and trying to coordinate its work. The Home Secretary's attention has been called to the large number of vacancies in Birmingham. It has been argued that difficulties have been experienced because of the recent recession in the motor car industry, but there are far more vacancies in Birmingham and the surrounding area than we can fill.
I shall go home this weekend, and when I get on to the bus in Birmingham I am sure that it will have a coloured conductor. What we should have done without the help of the coloured workers I do not know. I am closely connected with the Selly Oak Hospital, and 1 do not know what we should have done without the Irish and Welsh nurses, and 2024 without the coloured nurses in our hard-pressed mental hospitals of Birmingham. The hon. Member for Louth, in the spirit in which he moved his Motion, has cast a very serious reflection upon immigrants.
§ Mr. Lipton
I understand that the hon. Member for Louth wishes to withdraw his Motion. If so, will my hon. Friend give him sufficient time to do so?
§ Mr. Yates
I shall be quite willing to accede to that request. All I want to say is that I feel very strongly that the City of Birmingham has been completely misrepresented. We have enough facts and information to show that no grave problem exists there, and we must do our best to resist the efforts of those hon. Members who go about the country trying to stir up trouble. There are 40,000 coloured people in Birmingham, and we are doing our best to see that they are properly integrated. I trust that the hon. Member for Louth will now withdraw his Motion, and that all the facts brought out in the debate today will be studied by the Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
Is it your pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn? Did I hear somebody say, "No"? As there is no objection, the Amendment is withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.