HC Deb 05 March 1963 vol 673 cc214-21

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Norman Pannell

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend Sections 7 and 12 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. The purpose of my Bill is to strengthen the provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act in regard to deportation. Section 7 of the Act confers on courts the power to recommend deportation in regard to any immigrant from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland who is convicted of an offence punishable with imprisonment. This is a wide discretion, but, of course, the ultimate decision rests with the Home Secretary. The purpose of this Section is largely nullified by subsection (2), which gives immunity from deportation to any Commonwealth or Irish Republican immigrant who has been continuously resident in this country for five years or more. As a result of this subsection, large numbers of immigrants who have been convicted of the most serious crimes are escaping the penalty of deportation.

It might be useful if I gave the House the figures in regard to deportation up to 15th February of this year. Up to that date there had been 515 recommendations made to the Home Secretary, and as evidence of the care and humanity with which my right hon. Friend exercises his powers, he has confirmed only 175 of those recommendations. He has rejected 154 and the rest have either been rejected on appeal or are still awaiting a decision. Of these 175 deportation orders which have been confirmed, 67 have been for larceny, five only for living on immoral earnings, and six only for being in possession of dangerous drugs.

For my part, and I think in common with many other hon. Members, I was most anxious that the part of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill relating to deportation should cover those guilty of crimes such as living on immoral earnings and peddling in drugs. It is these crimes to which immigrants are particularly and disproportionately prone. In the Metropolitan Police area in 1961 there were 136 convictions for living on immoral earnings. Of those, 76 concerned immigrants from the Commonwealth and from the Republic of Ireland, well over 50 per cent. The situation has not improved since the coming into force of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Up to the 19th January, that is, in roughly 6½ months, there were 101 convictions in the Metropolitan Police District for living on immoral earnings and 56 of those were attributable to immigrants from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. In fact, there were 44 from the Commonwealth and 12 from the Republic of Ireland. Of those 56 immigrants convicted only eight were the subjects of recommendations for deportation, the reason being that 44 of the 56 were immune from deportation because they had been resident in this country for five years or more.

The situation is similar in regard to the offence of being in possession of dangerous drugs. Apparently there is no separate offence of peddling in drugs. They all come under the generic term of "being in possession", and that would include, of course, those immigrants convicted of possessing the drugs for their own use, which is a much less serious offence.

The figures which are significant are that of the 208 convictions which have been made by the courts for being in possession of dangerous drugs, up to 19th November, that is, in the space of four and a half months, no less than 136 were attributable to immigrants from the Commonwealth, the Irish not being concerned in this. Of those 136, 13 only were recommended for deportation. Half of the 136 were immune from deportation because they had been resident in this country for five years or more.

It is clear, therefore, that the Act is not working efficiently in regard to some of the most serious offenders among the immigrants to this country. My Bill proposes to delete from Section 7 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act subsection (2), which provides for immunity from deportation for those immigrants who have been continuously resident in this country for five years or more. It could be argued that it would be sufficient to extend the qualifying period of residence from five to ten years, but my investigations prove that if that were done more than one-third of those convicted of living on immoral earnings would still escape deportation. In order to make the regulations effective, another amendment is necessary.

Section 12 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act gives the right to any Commonwealth immigrant, or immigrant from the Republic of Ireland, to obtain registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies under the British Nationality Act, 1948, provided he has been in this country continuously for five years or more. That means that if Section 7 were amended, as I propose, by eliminating the qualifying residence for deportation, they could still escape deportation by registering as United Kingdom citizens because Section 6 of the Act specifically excludes from deportation any immigrant who is registered under the British Nationality Act as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Therefore, these two amendments are essential if the Act is to work efficiently.

It could be argued that it is too soon to amend an Act which came into force only in July last year, but the figures I have given demonstrate that the Act is manifestly working inefficiently and that many who should be deported are escaping that penalty. If this Bill is accepted, two things will be achieved. There will be a very significant reduction in the country generally of these very serious crimes of living on immoral earnings and peddling in drugs, the most common drug being Indian hemp. To these crimes today immigrants are particularly prone, and they cast discredit on their fellow countrymen quite out of proportion to their numbers. The climate of opinion that is built up in this country is largely dependent on the actions of this relatively tiny minority who spoil the case for the others and cast discredit on their fellow countrymen.

The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill had a rough passage through this House. It was very seriously contested, particularly by the Opposition, but I think there was little controversy regarding the deportation provisions. It was regarded generally that some such provision was necessary. The sole purpose of my Bill is to strengthen those provisions and render them effective. I feel confident that even those hon. Members who strongly opposed the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill will not oppose my Bill, for if they do so they will be declaring that it is their desire that we shall retain in this country that small band of evildoers among the immigrants to the detriment of the great majority. I commend the Bill to the House and hope that facilities may be given for it to come speedily into law.

4.4 p.m.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

I hope that the House will refuse the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) leave to bring in this Bill. He himself said that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act came into operation only last July. It therefore seems rather premature to introduce a Bill amending the Act now. I should have thought that an overwhelming reason why the hon. Member should not have introduced his Bill at all.

When the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was before the House there were a number of Amendments moved from this side of the House saying that the Act should be reviewed within a short time. The Government made a proposal that the Measure should be reviewed within a period of something like five years and an Amendment from this side of the House sought to reduce the period to three, or even two, years. I do not think we had the support of the hon. Member for that—in fact, I am sure that he voted against an early review of the Measure—yet he now wants to review a particular Section which he has extracted for treatment.

It would have been much better if the whole Act were to be reviewed at an earlier date by the House of Commons, but to select one part of the Act and say that that part alone should be reviewed is an absurd way of conducting business. We know that the hon. Member has not introduced his Bill for the reasons he stated.

Mr. N. Pannell

What are the reasons then?

Mr. Foot

I will tell the hon. Member. He says that he is concerned about only the small number of immigrants who bring discredit on the others. We know that is not what the hon. Member wants, for we know that he was against all forms of immigration and wanted to stop the lot. As the hon. Member asks what is the truth about his Bill, I am entitled to say that, although he said that he was concerned only about a small number, that is not what he is truly concerned about. We know perfectly well that on this matter he and some of his hon. Friends—not very many of them, I am glad to say—have conducted a vendetta against immigrants to this country and have attempted year after year to smear them. The hon. Member's Bill is a part of the smear campaign, and he knows very well that he will not be able to get this Measure through. Not even the Government will support him and his hon. Friends on this Measure now.

The Government themselves indicated the time at which they thought the whole matter should reconsidered. The hon. Member knows that he will not have the slightest chance of getting it reviewed earlier. All he has done is to use the Ten Minutes Rule procedure to make a further smear against immigrants coming to this country, and he has done so in a most disgraceful way. The figures he has given cannot be rebutted fully as they could have been in the debate when the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was going through the House. Moreover, we do not know exactly from his Measure the main point of his complaint. Apparently he is complaining about the administration by the Government.

Mr. N. Pannell

indicated dissent.

Mr. Foot

The hon. Member shakes his head, but he has not studied his own Bill. He says that the Home Secretary has not carried out the Regulations. That is a criticism of the administration by the Government. If he criticises the administration of the Government, the proper way to deal with that is to bring the question before the House and to ask the Government about the administration measures they are taking, not to demand a general change in the law.

I hope that the House will throw out this Bill. It is all part of the campaign which a few of his hon. Friends and the hon. Member have conducted to spread prejudice against immigrants to this country. What the House should do on the subject is to re-examine the whole Act. Certainly we on this side of the House would be entirely in favour of having a much earlier reconsideration of the whole Act than the Government have provided for. The hon. Member, who voted against an early review, has no right to put this proposition before the House.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No, 12 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 85, Noes 127.

Division No. 65.] AYES [4.8 p.m.
Agnew, sir Peter Gresham Cooke, R. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Allason, James Gurden, Harold Maddan, Martin
Arbuthnot, John Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Maitland, Sir John
Barlow, Sir John Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Markham, Major Sir Frank
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Harvie Anderson, Miss Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Bossom, Clive Henderson, John (Cathcart) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Brewis, John Hendry, Forbes Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hirst, Geoffrey Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Bullus, Wing Commonder Erie Hocking, Philip N. Page, Graham (Crosby)
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Hollingworth, John Page, John (Harrow, West)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Pitt, Dame Edith
Cleaver, Leonard Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Cole, Norman Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Cooke, Robert Hulbert, Sir Norman Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Cooper Key, Sir Neill Hurd, Sir Anthony Stanley, Hon. Richard
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Summers, Sir Spencer
Coulson, Michael Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Talbot, John E.
Dance, James Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Temple, John M.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Kaberry, Sir Donald Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Doughty, Charles Kitson, Timothy Turner, Colin
Duncan, Sir James Lambton, Viscount Ward, Dame Irene
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Lilley, F. J. P.
Farr, John Lindsay, Sir Martin TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk Central) Litchfield, Capt. John Mr. Norman Pannell and
Goodhart, Philip Longden, Gilbert Sir Cyril Osborne.
Grant-Ferris, R. Loveys, Walter H.
Ainsley, William Gourlay, Harry Mendelson, J. J.
Albu, Austen Grant-Ferris, R. Millan, Bruce
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Grey, Charles Milne, Edward
Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central) Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Mitchison, G. R.
Balniel, Lord Gunter, Ray Moody, A. S.
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Hamilton, William (West Fife) Heal, Harold
Bence, Cyril Harper, Joseph Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hart, Mrs. Judith Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Biffen, John Hayman, F. H. Oram, A. E.
Blackburn, F. Healey, Denis Owen, Will
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hilton, A. V. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Bowles, Frank Holt, Arthur Pargiter, G. A.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hornby, R. P. Parker, John
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Hughes, Emrye (S. Ayrshire) Parkin, B. T.
Brockway, A. Fenner Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pavitt, Laurence
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hutchison, Michael Clark Prentice, R. E.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Redhead, E. c.
Callaghan, James Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Reid, William
Carmichael, Neil Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cliffe, Michael Jay Rt. Hon. Douglas Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Critchley, Julian Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Cronin, John Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Ross, William
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jones, Dan (Burnley) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Darling, George Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kelley, Richard Small, William
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Snow, Julian
Deer, George King, Dr. Horace Spriggs, Leslie
Dodds, Norman Ledger, Ron Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lipton, Marcus Stonehouse, John
Finch, Harold Lubbock, Eric Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Fisher, Nigel Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Swingler, Stephen
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) McCann, John Taverne, D.
Forman, J. C. McInnes, James Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Foster, John McKay, John (Wallsend) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Timmons, John
Ginsburg, David McLeavy, Frank Tomney, Frank
Gooch, E. G. Manuel, Archie Wade, Donald
Wainwright, Edwin Wigg, George Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Warbey, William Williams, LI. (Abertillery) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Watkins, Tudor Willis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)
White, Mrs. Eirene Winterbottom, R. E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Boweo and Mr. Michael Foot.