HC Deb 22 June 1961 vol 642 cc1655-62
10. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many immigrants from the Commonwealth came to the United Kingdom during the first five months of 1961; what was the corresponding figure for each of the previous five years; from what countries principally they came; how they compare with the previous five years; and whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the Government's intentions to control this immigration.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT such figures as are available. I have no further statement to make at present on the question of controlling immigration from the Commonwealth.

Estimated net inward movement during the first five months of
1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961
West Indies 12,700 5,500 7,800 1,700 14,800 26,000
East Africa 350 250 200 15 −60 650
West Africa 500 525 250 nil −425 900
Cyprus 825 425 65 −200 825 1,800
Gibraltar 80 nil −75 −150 −75 −175
Malta 275 200 80 −175 −250 225
Aden 525 nil 15 275 60 75
Hong Kong 75 300 70 300 350 600
Malaya 275 175 325 225 −200 nil
Singapore 75 90 −110 10 −30 275
India 2,650 2,200 3,300 1,300 2,000 6,700
Pakistan 800 1,200 4,200 −175 −125 6,000
Ceylon 250 250 100 −10 −225 125
1. A minus sign denotes a net outward movement.
2. Figures are not available in respect of other Commonwealth countries.
Sir C. Osborne

Does my right hon. Friend recall that in a Written Answer on Tuesday, which I had not seen when I put down this Question, it was stated that the number of immigrants from India and Pakistan in the first five months of this year was more than 13,000, compared with less than 2,000 last year? Does not this suggest that the voluntary agreement controlling immigration, exercised by the Governments of India and Pakistan, has broken down? Are Her Majesty's Government going to do nothing about this new danger to our country?

Mr. Butler

If my hon. Friend will study the figures which I have published, he will see that they approximate to those which he has mentioned in relation to India and Pakistan. All these matters are under consideration by the Government.

Mr. John Hall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, by percentage of population, High Wycombe has one of the greatest concentrations of coloured immigrants in the country? Although we welcome very much this accession to our labour requirements, this is giving rise to considerable housing and social problems, which are due almost entirely to the rate at which immigrants are coming in. Should not we at least do something to control the rate?

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend has been to see me about this problem. I am well aware of it, and it is under consideration.

Following are the figures:

11. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now give an estimate of the number of coloured immigrants which the United Kingdom can safely absorb; in view of the high birth rate amongst coloured immigrants, how soon he proposes to introduce legislation to control immigration; and if he will make a statement.

36. Mr. N. Pannell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what legislation is now contemplated to check the inflow of immigrants from the Commonwealth; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The whole matter is under consideration by the Government but I am not in a position at the moment to add anything to previous Answers on this subject.

Sir C. Osborne

My right hon. Friend says again that this is under consideration. Is he aware that he has been giving me that answer for the last five years? Did he see the most temperate and reasonable editorial in the Daily Telegraph on Monday, which suggested that action was not being taken because of fear of opinion in the West Indies? How long is it to be that the West Indian opinion of 3 million people should override the opinion of this nation of 52 million people?

Mr. Butler

I read that article with profit, but I have nothing to add at the present time.

Mr. N. Pannell

In view of the fact that in the first five months of this year, 41,000 immigrants have arrived from the West Indies, Pakistan, India and Cyprus, compared with 17,000 in the same period last year, does not my right hon. Friend consider that urgent action is necessary? Is there any reason why he should give a hint of the Government's intentions to the annual conference of the Conservative and Unionist Teachers' Association, and deny any information to this House on the matter?

Mr. Butler

I did not go further on that occasion than to suggest—as I do now—that the matter is under consideration. It is under consideration, and, as I have often told the House, we are trying to look at it without prejudice.

Miss Bacon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us deprecate the emphasis which is put by some Members opposite on coloured immigrants? Is he aware that the coloured immigrants are not the only immigrants among whom there is a high birth rate?

Mr. Butler

Yes. The proportion of coloured immigrants is only about 50 per cent. of the total.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Sir C. Osborne

On a point of order Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.]—when the black claquers are finished—in view of the unsatisfactory nature of that Answer, I shall, with your permission, seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

22. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the number of extra migrants who have arrived from the West Indies in the first five months of 1961 as a result of advocacy of restrictions and uncertainty as to whether free migration will continue to be allowed.

Mr. Renton

No such estimate is possible.

Mr. Chapman

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that many of us on this side of the House have kept very quiet under intense provocation, knowing that unfortunate speeches here fill a boatload or planeload every time in Jamaica and make matters worse? Would not it be better to have a quiet period for consideration? If we are to have a moratorium on speeches, would not it be a good thing if the Home Secretary were to be more careful? Does he realise the immense harm done by his speech at the weekend when he talked about the solution of the British Government not being based on colour prejudice alone? For heaven's sake will somebody explain what the right hon. Gentleman meant by that instead of allowing this harm to go on?

Mr. Renton

This Question raises a matter the answer to which can only be anybody's guess. There is no power to question immigrants as to why they are coming here, or why they have chosen any particular time to come here.

23. Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he has given to the statements made by the Prime Minister of Jamaica, shortly after his arrival in the United Kingdom, that any restriction of immigration into this country from the Commonwealth would be strongly resented in the West Indies; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which I gave on 15th June to Questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) and the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle).

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is rather infuriating that Prime Ministers from other Commonwealth countries come here and lecture us publicly on how to run the country? Would he also agree that Mr. Manley's remarks, when considered in conjunction with the statement reported to have been made by Sir Grantley Adams yesterday, mean that the policy of controlling immigration into this country by consultation and cooperation with other Commonwealth countries has completely broken down?

Mr. Butler

I would rather not make comments on these speeches, although I will say that they have been carefully noted.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he meant in his speech at the weekend? Was it intended to be some advance indication of legislation by Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Speaker

Order. How can that arise on this Question? I do not follow.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would not it be a little odd if the Government were to introduce new restrictions on immigration from the Commonwealth at a moment when the Foreign Secretary has made a speech in another place saying that we have no option but to enter into an arrangement in Europe which would open the flood gates to immigration without control into this country from every country in Europe?

Mr. Butler

I could not accept literally the words in the mouth of the hon. Gentleman because the Treaty of Rome is not literally without controls, but it would be a very good thing for the House to realise that these considerations very much complicate this issue.

38. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that, under legislation now before the United States Congress, the West Indies, after independence, will have the right for its citizens, on terms of equality with other independent central and South American States, of free entry into the United States of America without quota restriction; and, since this legislation will alter the whole pattern of migration from the West Indies, whether he will give an assurance that no restriction will be placed on West Indian migration to Great Britain while this legislation is pending.

39. Mr. C. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been drawn to legislation now being considered in the United States Congress which would give free entry to West Indians on the achievement of independence; and, in view of the responsibilities of Her Majesty's Government for the rights of citizens of Commonwealth countries administered by them, if he will, while this legislation is pending, give an assurance that free entry to the United Kingdom for West Indians will be maintained.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have already indicated that there is no question of legislation on this subject in the present Session of Parliament.

Mr. Chapman

Is not that Answer very incomplete? Does the right hon. Gentleman, first, confirm that this legislation is before Congress, and that, under the McCarron Act, the independent States of Central and South America have the right of free access, without a quota of immigrants, to the United States? Does he not further confirm that it is very likely, to put it at its lowest, that the United States will wish to apply this to the newly-independent West Indies Federation? If this is so, have we any cause whatever—particularly bearing in mind that practically all these West Indians here are now working—to be rushed into panic measures of restriction as proposed by his hon. Friend?

Mr. Butler

I do not think it can honestly be said that there has been any disposition to rush into panic measures. The fact that certain members of the United States Congress have introduced Bills which will affect the position of West Indians under United States immigration quotas has been brought to my attention. I cannot speculate on how these Bills will get on, or on the hypothetical situation which may arise out of them. I will only say that they have been brought to my attention.

Mr. Royle

If the United States, which has no responsibility for Commonwealth countries, is prepared to consider opening its doors to West Indian immigrants, is it not absolutely monstrous that we in this country should even be using the word "consider" in relation to migration from the West Indies? Have we not got a much deeper responsibility, and will the right hon. Gentleman cease any form of pandering to this anti-Commonwealth attitude of some of his hon. Friends.

Mr. Butler

No, Sir. I think that that is really an exaggeration of the position. We cannot tell what will happen or what the fate of this legislation in the United States Congress will be. Secondly, we must consider our own domestic situation in the light of what presents to all of us, whatever our feelings, a very serious problem, and that is precisely what we are doing without any sense of panic or rush.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in the Congress of the United States, as here, there is a great gap between a Bill and an Act, and that this matter of immigration into the United Kingdom is now becoming extremely urgent because of the rapid and progressive growth of the numbers coming in in this way?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend's language rings a bell in relation to our own programme.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether his Answer to the original Question means that he is contemplating legislation in the next Session?

Sir C. Osborne

Of course, he is.

Mr. Butler

I have said already—I think three times at Question Time this afternoon—that this is a serious matter now under consideration by the Government, and it is well-known that it is under consideration. I cannot carry it any further today.