HC Deb 29 July 1964 vol 699 cc1626-42

2.4 a.m.

Mr. Norman Panned (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I am grateful for this opportunity of raising the question of Commonwealth immigration before the House rises for the Summer Recess. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act came into force on 1st July, 1962, and has, therefore, been in operation just over two years. I think it appropriate that the House should consider what effect it has had on the immigration situation.

The purpose of the Act was twofold: to regulate the number of Commonwealth immigrants coming to settle in this country, and to give the courts power to recommend deportation of those immigrants of less than five years' standing convicted of offences and subject to a term of imprisonment. It did not affect bona fide visitors or students, of whom there are 40,000 in this country. It applied equally to all countries in the Commonwealth, but—perhaps illogically, but for soundly argued reasons—it did not affect immigration from the Republic of Ireland.

It is useful to recall that although the provisions of the Act relating to deportation caused little controversy, Part I of the Act, which was designed to control entry, was fiercely contested, and all Clauses were opposed by the Labour and Liberal Oppositions. If they had had their way, there would have been no Act at all, with the consequences which, I think, will become apparent during the course of my speech.

The purpose of the Act was to admit immigrants by means of work vouchers, but—this is an important point—dependants were to be freely admitted. The Bill passed into law much as originally proposed, but with certain placatory assurances to the Opposition which may have had the effect of causing the Act to be implemented less strictly than was originally intended. The greatest impact, of course, is upon coloured immigrants. I use the term "coloured" in the descriptive, not the pejorative sense, because most of the immigrants are coloured. They come from the tropical Commonwealth countries of Asia and Africa.

It was from those countries that the great influx came which caused steps to be taken. The fall as a result of the Act has been dramatic. In the two years prior to the Act coming into force, net immigration was 250,000. In the two years since the Act was introduced the number has fallen to 100,000, but that comparison is misleading, because in the first period there was a great influx in anticipation of restrictive legislation. Moreover, the number has been rising. In the first year of the Act the net immigration was 30,000. In the year ended 30th June, it was approximately 70,000.

If we take into account that during the period 1955–60, when this problem was giving rise to anxiety and demands for regulation, net immigration in the whole six years was only 211,000, or 35,000 a year. Now it is running at twice that figure. That gives cause for sober reflection. In reply to a Question I put on 15th March, I was informed by the Minister of Health that there are in this country approximately 750,000 people of African and Asian origin. This does not include any children born to those people. Therefore, the figure is an underestimate. If we are to receive immigrants at the present rate of 70,000 a year, there will be a further one million by 1980. For the most part, these immigrants are young, with a low death rate and a high birth rate. One may assume that children born to them would by 1980 amount to another one million. That would make a total of roughly 3 million coloured immigrants to this country, a figure which, I think, gives rise to grave danger even in a country as free from racial prejudice as Great Britain.

In debates over the years there has been much talk of Commonwealth free entry, but that has now lost its logical justification. It was evolved in circumstances much different from today. It was intended primarily to concern those people of British background in the old Dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Certainly, it was never intended to apply to the vast populations of the Indian and Colonial Empires. Indeed, the situation was controllable at this end because those countries were not then independent. It was never contemplated, never thought possible, that there could be a vast influx of people from those countries; people with different back- grounds, different religions, and different social habits.

Admittedly, before the war a few people left ships at Cardiff, Liverpool and London and settled here, but the numbers were too small to cause any difficulty. It is worth remembering, too, that free entry was never reciprocal with any countries of the Commonwealth. All Commonwealth countries applied restrictions, some of great severity, on the entry of emigrants from other Commonwealth countries.

The argument that Great Britain, as the mother country, should act differently from the rest has now lost all possible validity. Most of the population of New Zealand and Australia probably regard this country in that light, but it is a palpable absurdity to extend those terms to the hundreds of millions of people in India, Pakistan and Africa. The spirit of nationalism which prompted independence in these countries killed any lingering sense of motherhood which might have attached to Britain in the past.

The only long-term justification for immigration is that the immigrant will, in the course of time, be fully integrated into the life of the nation. That has occurred on several occasions; with the Flemings in the sixteenth century and the French Huguenots later. More recently it occurred with the refugees from Germany, Austria and Poland. They became widely dispersed over the country and were fully integrated into the community. But they are all of European stock, which simplifies the problem. There is only one recorded case of coloured assimilation on any scale in this country, and that was the 15,000 or so freed negroes at the end of the eighteenth century and who, in the course of time, have been lost without trace, as an ounce of sand in a ton of sugar. To attempt to integrate a hundred times that number in a fraction of the time is a formidable task.

The only thorough method of integration is by inter-marriage with the indigenous population over the generations. That has occurred with European immigrants, but the problem is much more difficult in regard to immigrants from Africa and Asia. Indeed, there is a sort of self-imposed segregation among people from, say, India and Pakistan. They come from countries with ancient civilisations, are proud of their heritage, are devoted to their religions, have no desire to lose their identity and have no wish to be absorbed by the people of this country, even if there were any desire on our part to absorb them, of which there is no evidence. They arrive in this country virtually penniless and are compelled to seek what accommodation they can, often in the Victorian houses in our great cities and there they endure conditions which would be intolerable to the average Briton. Most of them get jobs and, being of frugal habits, they save money and eventually bring their relatives from India or Pakistan. They congregate in certain quarters of our cities—like attracts like—and soon they come to dominate those quarters. The indigenous inhabitants retreat before the flood.

A striking example is to be found in Southall, where one area is virtually taken over by Indians and Pakistanis. There is a school in Southall where 60 per cent. of the children are coloured. Many of them have an imperfect knowledge of the English language. That makes it difficult for them to follow the normal curriculum, causes them to have special instruction and, inevitably, retards the progress of the rest. A sort of educational Gresham's Law operates here; the British parents tend to take their children away from these schools or remove from the district altogether. That, of course, only accentuates the situation and places the area completely under the control of the immigrants. The Southall experience has been repeated in other cities, although perhaps not yet on as large a scale.

I am sure that another feature of this immigrant problem is well known to hon. Members, and that is the effect on the housing situation. It is not often mentioned in our many housing debates, but the overcrowding of these old houses inevitably creates a problem. We can give the local authorities what powers we like, but it is very difficult for the authorities to exercise those powers. They can only reduce the problem by rehousing the surplus in these overcrowded multi-occupied houses, and that is beyond their capacity, in view of their very long housing waiting-lists of people who have lived there for a long time and so have prior claims. Some authorities, such as Birmingham, are making valiant efforts to improve such property, but they are fighting a losing battle as long as the immigrants continue to come in at the present rate. In some areas, slum clearance has been set back for 20 years or more as a result.

There are other grave dangers in the situation. These people can become an under-privileged class. They accept jobs that are disdained by the average Briton. Admittedly, they render a service in certain directions. It has often been said that without their services the transport industry and our hospitals would be crippled. Admittedly, they take on these menial tasks that are disdained by Britons, and there is some validity in what is said, but it is not conclusive. For example, if the railways did not insist on retirement at 65 they would be in a much better position than they are. Generally speaking, if industry wishes to attract people to unpleasant tasks it is necessary to pay wages that will attract.

I am afraid that I am about to utter a complete heresy, but if there is the need for labour—and I am not always certain that there is, and that we could quite probably make do with the labour we have—I think it preferable to import short-term labour from the Continent, which would return at the end of the contract, rather than import unassimilable immigrants on a permanent basis.

But there are other dangers in this situation. Admittedly, there is little unemployment among immigrants today. Most of them find work, but what will happen in the event of the much-heralded mechanisation of industry which many people foresee, including the Leader of the Opposition, if this mechanisation is to result not in jobs seeking men, but in men seeking jobs? It is clear that the immigrants will be at a disadvantage in such a situation. Very often they will be the last arrivals and the first to go. They would certainly be at a severe disadvantage in the competition for jobs.

It is necessary for me to state briefly how the system works now. The immigrants are admitted in three categories. Category A are those who have jobs to come to. Category B are those who have special skills. Category C are those who have neither of those qualifications. As far as I can judge, there have been about 400,000 applications since the Act came into force, 100,000 vouchers have been issued and about 300,000 applications are outstanding. Many of the vouchers issued have lapsed and I do not know how many are used—perhaps half—but of the 100,000 immigrants who have arrived in this country since the Act came into operation about half have been the dependants of immigrants admitted under the Act and those who were in the country before the Act came into force. That is a point which must be taken into account. There is virtually no control over the number of dependants who can enter the country.

In view of the tremendous demand for vouchers by applicants from India and Pakistan, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour announced on 5th June that no more applications would be received from those in those countries in Category C, that is to say, those without jobs to come to or those without special skills. But he added that those who had made applications already would receive vouchers as and when their turn came, and from those two countries alone there are 250,000 applications outstanding. If we add one dependant for each immigrant, which is roughly the rate at which they come in, that envisages a potential immigration of no fewer than half a million from those two countries alone.

Whatever is done, there must be a considerable influx of immigrants in the near future. Those who have been granted vouchers must be allowed in, and it would be very difficult and wrong to limit the number of dependants who seek to come to this country. The question is whether we should limit the problem for the future by stricter application of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Views will differ on how the Act should be operated. To some, and to many hon. Members opposite, this is an emotional issue; to others it is a matter of cold common sense.

There is also the question of the effects which any abrupt reversal of policy might have on the Commonwealth countries affected, but it is the first duty of any Government to look to the interests of their nationals. The problem should be regarded in that light. I think that there would be an overwhelming case for issuing no vouchers at all for the time being. Certainly, there is an extremely strong case for limiting any vouchers in the future to those who have got jobs to come to, and for suspending for the time being all new applications for vouchers.

Another matter that should be looked into very carefully is the question of dependants. The relationships are very loose in some of these countries, such as the West Indies, India and Pakistan, and the assertion that one is a relative or dependant of somebody in this country needs to be carefully examined before that person is accepted.

I have tried to outline the problems in the present situation—the deterioration in housing, the problems of schooling and the dangers for the future. I urge my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State to take this message to her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and ask him to exercise the Commonwealth Immigrants Act with greater severity than he has done up to now. I regret that few Opposition Members are here. They originally adopted a fierce attitude to this question, but they have been singularly silent on the matter in recent years. They may have changed their minds. If they have, they should say so. But if their views had been accepted, there would have been no Commonwealth Immigrants Act.

Since 100,000 immigrants have been admitted under the Act, and another 315,000 and their dependants are waiting to come in, what would have been the situation if the Labour Opposition had been in control? We would probably have had more than 500,000 extra Commonwealth immigrants in this country than we have today, with all the social consequences that would have resulted.

We are approaching a General Election. It is the duty of the Opposition to state clearly their policy in this matter. If they are true to what they have so often asserted in this House, they will say that they will repeal this Act. If they are not going to say so, let them admit that they have been wrong on this question throughout. But whatever they do, it is their duty to inform the country exactly where they stand in relation to this problem.

2.28 a.m.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

I believe that I can claim to be the first Member of this House who has ever printed an election address in Urdu. I did so in the 1955 Election, when I contested the Smethwick constituency, and I am delighted to see that we are supported on this side of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), a former Member for that Division.

I deplore the total absence of any hon. Member on the Opposition side of the House, except for the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) whose views on this subject we respect, though we may not agree with them. This total absence of Her Majesty's Opposition, in my estimation, shows a gravely irresponsible attitude to this most important problem. I believe that the strength of our nation is due to very many causes. One of the principal causes is the admixture of many races into our people who have been imported and fully assimilated over many centuries.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) began his speech initiating this short debate with some historical facts from the time of the Flemings and the Huguenots. I go much farther back in our history and remind the House that, over a period of about 360 years, when the Romans and their satellites were invading our island, one person in nine came from overseas, and, at the time of the Norman invasion, one in 18 came from overseas during a period of a few years.

These various waves of foreigners were assimilated into our race. There is strong evidence that the Romans brought a considerable Negroid element in their military train, and the Phoenicians and other early settlers in this country who were connected with mining also, undoubtedly, brought people from the southern part of the African Continent. These people, too, have been assimilated over the centuries into our race and they have been welcome additions to our nation. It is not uncommon to find clear Negroid features among people in mining settlements throughout our country.

The situation in recent years has been quite different. Those who have come to us in the last 10 years have no desire to be assimilated. The figures show that the net increase in our population by immigration in 1960 was 82,000; in 1961, it was 170,000; and in 1962 it was 136,000. But these newcomers, unlike the people of nearly 1,000 years ago, do not want to be integrated. They wish to be a separate community within the State.

This proportion of foreigners, perhaps 1 per cent. of our total population, may seem very small compared with the numbers in Roman and Norman times, but the fact that these new invaders—I use that word advisedly—do not wish to be assimilated must be contrasted with the ancient assimilations. For instance, between 1096 and 1290 the Jewish population grew to 1 per cent. of the total, then about 1½ million. In the urban areas the concentration was as high as 10 per cent. where they were not assimilated, which was one of the reasons leading to their expulsion in 1290. Contrast this with the modern Jewish population who have become a welcome addition to our population and have added part of the strength of Great Britain by assimilation.

Today, the situation is quite different. Every hundredth person has come from overseas and does not want to be assimilated. The position is easy in a constituency such as mine, where we have even less than one in 100, but in certain other places, such as constituencies known to my hon. Friends the Members for Rugby and for Kirkdale—I have known it myself elsewhere—the ratio rises as high as one in four.

Is it tolerable to have a separate congregation, a separate entity within the State, of people who do not want to be assimilated? Is it in our national interest? Is it possible for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and for her right hon. Friend to take a far more serious view of the legislation which we have with a view to restricting the nearly unlimited flow of unassimilable material?

Naturally, I do not want to restrict students, or people who come here to serve for a period, any more than we would want our temporary emigrants restricted, but let us take the serious and mature view that my hon. Friend has propounded. I ask my hon. Friend to take a serious view of this matter. Do we want to import the problems that we see in Rochester in the United States of America? This is a terrible thing. These are grave world problems which we do not have here today. Let us avoid them for as long as we can.

2.35 a.m.

Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

I want briefly to support the plea made by my two hon. Friends, though I cannot go into the historical researches of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells).

Speaking as one of the representatives of a Greater London constituency, I think that this is becoming a serious problem from the housing point of view. In the debate that we had on housing, the day before yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government stressed what we all know, and has often been stressed, namely, that the housing shortage is worse in our great cities, and worst of all in Greater London, and yet we have this continual pressure of Commonwealth immigrants coming in, and, financed by an outside agency, buying up houses which are thereby denied to our own people.

There is pressure not only on space, but on prices. I have heard of instances in which English people have nearly completed a contract to purchase a house, and a Commonwealth immigrant has come along and offered £500 more for the house. The vendor is placed in an awkward position because, naturally, he wants to keep the bargain that he has nearly made, but he finds it very tempting to accept another £500.

In view of the shortage of houses, which is only slowly being remedied, and can be remedied only by building more houses, it does not seem to make sense to allow this pressure of Commonwealth immigrants to come in and make the situation worse. For this reason, apart from the others mentioned by my hon. Friends, I hope that my hon. Friend will take note of the pleas which have been made.

I know that there is a problem in the Commonwealth countries concerned to provide enough work for their people, and that they come here in such large numbers because we are more prosperous. I know that it is not the responsibility of my hon. Friend, but we ought to stimulate Commonwealth trade so that we can buy more of the goods manufactured by these countries. This applies particularly to countries like the West Indies.

Here I think that I carry my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) with me. I have always regretted that we cannot stimulate Commonwealth trade by using the weapon of Commonwealth Preference, or rather by bringing it up to date in the light of post-war conditions. I believe that that is how we should assist Commonwealth countries, and not by more or less inviting their people to come here where they have to live in completely different conditions.

I know that that is not the responsibility of my hon. Friend, so I shall not pursue it any further, but I hope that she will ask her right hon. Friend seriously to consider what has been said, and, in the interest of our people, and in the interest of the housing shortage, to keep a still further check on this problem.

2.40 a.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

I will be as brief as possible at this hour. The House has at last accepted that this is a problem which the nation and the party must face. It varies from area to area. Indeed, in some part of the country there is no problem, because the numbers are so small and the ratio is so great. The problem is almost entirely tied to the housing shortage.

Almost all immigrants go to the big cities, where there is already a housing shortage, and their presence makes that shortage worse. In this debate we should make it clear, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells), that nothing we say is applicable to the students who come to our schools and universities. The reason for immigration is lack of employment in other Commonwealth countries and the solution is to stimulate employment in those countries as far as humanly possible.

I represent a constituency in the inner London ring. There was no problem in the constituency until 1957, but from that time onwards, gradually as the number of immigrants increased, the problem in the area developed. Nearly always they have settled in the same area, and in- crease the housing shortage. A great deal of the ill feeling arises among people who see somebody from outside the country taking accommodation which they think should have been theirs.

I advocated restriction in 1957, and I supported the Bill in 1962 throughout its passage. By then we had discovered that the voluntary system had broken down, and restriction by legislation was the only method which would work. The Labour Party opposed the Bill throughout, and I am sorry that its representatives are not here to give us their views on the subject. It is often forgotten that Commonwealth countries operate a system of restriction against people from this country, and if we have a restriction on immigration to Britain, it is no new principle. In a Commonwealth of 600 million people, is it not impossible not to have legislation restricting entry?

It may well be that with our own increase in population, which is expected to be 80 million in the next 20 years, and with the coming of automation, we shall have too much labour in 20 years' time. We must consider the immigration problem not just for today and tomorrow but over the longer-term future. One of the difficulties with the immigrants is that they do not assimilate into our communities. In most cases—not all—they prefer to stick to their own groups, and not to integrate with the indigenous population.

One of the great problems arises from their families. Up to December last year, 296,000 vouchers were applied for—which shows that very large numbers wish to come to this country; 41,000 vouchers were granted and 35,000 people were admitted to this country. But during that period an equal number of the families of immigrants were admitted, making a total of 70,000. That brings the total to about 70,000. I wonder whether we are right to issue as many vouchers as we do. We must ask ourselves, "What is the total which we believe we can absorb?" I will not ask my hon. Friend to state the number now, but she should give serious consideration to the problem and say that 20,000 or 30,000, whatever it is, should include the families. A global figure should be accepted for admissions.

I believe that many of the immigrants established here have come round to the view that in their own interests and the interests of the country which they have adopted a restriction of immigration is desirable. In many cases they feel that there is a limit to the numbers which can be admitted. This is a very strange change in attitude on the part of some of the immigrants. Some may say that it is the philosophy of "Pull up the ladder", but I think that the feeling is genuine and that they know that if there are too many it might be disastrous for them.

I am extremely sorry that no hon. Member of the Labour Party is present to state his party's policy. At the beginning we were subjected to all sorts of taunts and criticisms for bringing into operation a Bill which we knew was right. We realised that legislation was the only possible solution.

Finally, I believe that the right policy is to make sure that the immigrants who are here are properly looked after, properly housed and made to feel part of our community. We must accept those who are here and help them in every possible way. They are here to stay. At the same time, we must persuade ourselves that there is a limit to the number that we can absorb. We must set a target, and beyond it we must not go.

2.48 a.m.

The Joint Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Miss Mervyn Pike)

I am sure we would all agree that we have had a very useful and constructive debate on this very important subject. There has been complete agreement among my hon. Friends, and my right hon Friend and I, like them, are sorry that hon. Members opposite have not contributed to the debate to make clear where they stand in the matter.

We accept that Commonwealth immigration has always been a controversial subject on which widely differing views have been expressed. The Government introduced the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill and saw it passed into law against strong criticism and opposition. In these circumstances it is fair to claim that there is now a much better appreciation of the reasons which led the Government to introduce it, and that the control has been operated for two years with remarkably little complaint from Commonwealth citizens. In particular, the fears expressed that the control would hamper the flow of visitors and students from the Commonwealth have not been realised.

Hon. Members opposite voted against the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, 1963, which renewed the powers to control Commonwealth immigration given by Part I of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act for a further period of 12 months ending 31st December, 1964.

I know that my hon. Friends would not wish me to comment in full on the arguments that they have brought out. They have sought to underline some of the grave problems which we face now and in the future. I have listened very carefully to all that they have had to say, and I will draw their arguments to the attention of my right hon. Friend, who, it will be appreciated, watches this problem closely. I should, however, like to comment on one or two of the things which my hon. Friends have mentioned.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell) mentioned, in particular, the question of dependants. The Act gives the right of admission to wives and children under 16 accompanying or joining the head of the household. It is the common pattern of immigration for the man to come first and for his wife and children to wish to join him later. The figures show that 60 per cent. of those Commonwealth citizens admitted to take up residence in recent months were dependants. In the six months January to June, 1964, a total of 14,842 Commonwealth citizens were admitted as dependants, including 4,410 from the West Indies, 3,405 from India and 2,847 from Pakistan.

While we cannot say precisely how many of these were wives and children under 16, and how many were in other categories—for example, common law wives and children aged 16 or 17 joining parents—a recent sample check at the ports has confirmed that the great majority of those coming as dependants are wives and children under 16 with a statutory right of admission. I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Glyn) that the Government have stated that the number of dependants is taken into account in considering the number of vouchers to be issued.

Mr. N. Pannell

There are countries a man is permitted four wives. Are all these wives allowed in to join such an immigrant, or is he allowed only one wife according to the custom in this country?

Miss Pike

I would not wish to mislead my hon. Friend—I am not sure of this point, but I am under the impression that one wife is the maximum.

As hon. Members are aware, Commonwealth citizens coming for employment are required to obtain vouchers from the Ministry of Labour and the issue of vouchers is very strictly controlled. For example, more stringent rules governing qualifications required for the issue of Category B vouchers on grounds of special skills were announced last December and the number of voucher holders arriving has fallen in the last six months as compared with 1963. The figures given in the White Paper on Statistics show that 30,000 voucher holders arrived in 1963. The number arriving in the first six months of 1964 was 7,186, including 1,883 from India and 1,807 from Pakistan.

As my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale pointed out, these vouchers are issued in three categories. Category A vouchers are issued to those Commonwealth citizens who have been genuinely offered a job in this country and who, in the opinion of the Ministry of Labour, are coming to this country for that job. Category B vouchers are issued to those with special skills. Category C vouchers go to others on a first come, first served basis.

Anxiety has been expressed about the issue of vouchers in this third category to persons without special skills or jobs to come to. Category C vouchers are, however, only issued to the extent that priority applications do not take up the total number of vouchers available for issue in any given period. Few category C vouchers have been issued in the last few months.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in answer to a supplementary question on 9th July: The vast majority of those who obtain vouchers are either people who have definite jobs to come to or some special skill which qualifies them to be of a use to this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July 1964; Vol. 698, c. 618.] My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham also asked about numbers. I draw his attention to the Written Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale on 13th July, in which he said: During the four weeks from 30th May to 26th June, 1964, 863 vouchers were issued in category A, 525 in category B, and 212 in category C."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 160.] All of us are concerned about the employment problems and prospects of those who come. For some little while before the introduction of the control the unemployment figures suggested that Commonwealth immigrants were coming here more quickly than they could be absorbed into employment. This is not the case now. The number of Commonwealth immigrants unemployed is now only about a quarter of the figure of 38,000 in the summer of 1962. This shows the success of the control, judged from the standpoint of employment.

Equally, the fact that over 300,000 people have applied for vouchers and have not so far received them is an indication, if one is still needed—and I doubt whether one is—of the need for the control and of the very great pressure to come here, especially from India and Pakistan. Hon. Members will recall that the Minister of Labour recently announced that, owing to the enormous number on the waiting list, no further applications for non-priority vouchers would for the time being be accepted from India or Pakistan.

The Government have always made it clear that their object was not to stop Commonwealth immigration, but to control it, and they recognise that there is a wide divergence of opinion about the number of immigrants who should be admitted to this country. The immediate demand for labour has to be weighed against the social problems created by the growth of immigrant communities which tend to concentrate in certain parts of the country and to exacerbate existing social problems. This, of course, is what my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) were saying. It is this concentration which makes the problem of assimilation more difficult, and the difficulty of the housing problem is also increased.

Net immigration from the Commonwealth in 1963 was 66,000 and the net figure for the first six months of 1964 was as high as 49,000, including about 7,000 each from India and the West Indies and 6,000 from Pakistan. The figure of 49,000 includes a net inward movement of 17,000 from Canada, Australia and New Zealand in the first six months of 1964. The traffic from these countries is seasonal and it is likely that many of those who have come to this country are visitors who will return home at the end of their visit.

Because of these seasonal factors, it is not useful to pay too much regard to the net figures for a short period, but it is clear that the general rate of immigration has increased. Ways of controlling immigration within the framework of our present law are under constant study and a close watch is being kept on these figures.

All I can say tonight, and I am sure that it is all that my hon. Friends would expect of me, is that my right hon. Friend is watching this very carefully and that I will see that the views of hon. Members are conveyed to him.