HC Deb 04 February 1965 vol 705 cc1284-8

The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will seek powers to repatriate Commonwealth immigrants who have entered the United Kingdom illegally.

69. Sir D. RENTON

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is now taking to prevent evasions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962; and whether he will make a statement.


To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the estimated extent of evasion by Commonwealth citizens of immigration controls up to the latest convenient date; and what special steps he is proposing to take to deal with it.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)

With permission, I will now answer Questions No. 40, 69 and 75 together.

The Government have taken steps to initiate Commonwealth discussions to review the whole question of Commonwealth immigration. In the meantime, there is evidence that under the existing control evasion on a considerable scale is taking place. I cannot estimate at all closely how many have gained admission and settled who should not; but I do not think that their number during the last two years can be less than 10,000. It is, therefore, necessary to make stricter use of the existing powers of control and for this purpose fresh instructions are being issued to immigration officers.

The fresh instructions will require immigration officers, before allowing entry, to subject to the fullest scrutiny, in whatever cases they judge to be necessary, the intention and bona fides of Commonwealth citizens seeking entry as visitors or students, as well as the authenticity of their travel documents; and to make a fuller use of their power to impose conditions specifying the period for which a Commonwealth citizen is admitted as a student or visitor.

Secondly, there is evidence that evasion is taking place by those who claim to be entitled to enter as dependants under Section 2 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, and immigration officers will examine with greater thoroughness than hitherto has been thought necessary the identity and the validity of the claims of persons who seek entry under Section 2.

Except where very special grounds exist, I am also reviewing the present practice of allowing as a matter of discretion children under 16 coming here to join close relatives resident in this country who are not their parents.

Thirdly, we shall, where practicable, he reinforcing the staffs in posts overseas by assigning to them experienced Immigration officers to assist in dealing with applications for entry certificates.

When persons charged with having evaded the control, or having failed to comply with conditions of entry imposed upon them are prosecuted and convicted and the court in consequence makes a deportation recommendation, effect will, of course, be given to such recommendations unless there are very strong reasons for making a special exception.

We shall have to wait to see how effective these measures are when in operation before deciding whether any further steps are necessary, and we shall also be in touch with other Commonwealth Governments.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

I congratulate the Home Secretary on adopting so rapidly one of the three points made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his speech at Hampstead yesterday. May I ask the Home Secretary whether these new arrangements, which we all welcome, will cover the passport racket, by which one passport seems to do the job of introducing 10 or 12 people into this country in the course of one year? Will he pay special attention to that question, because it is making a mockery of the present system of control?

Sir F. Soskice

On Monday last, before the Leader of the Opposition made his statement at Hampstead, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced the steps which I have elaborated in my statement. I certainly will pay special attention to the passport racket. It is a serious racket, and the changes which I am announcing are largely directed to eliminating that form of evasion.

Sir D. Renton

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Minister of Labour plays a very important part in deciding how many people shall come in, and who shall come in? Can he say whether there is any modification in the policy of the Minister of Labour as well, with a view to tightening up the controls? Will he be prepared to report to the House from time to time so that we may be assured that these further measures of control are working?

Sir F. Soskice

I shall certainly take steps to see that the House is informed, at appropriate intervals, how this control works. As for vouchers, I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should put down a Question to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this more realistic approach by the party opposite will be welcomed in the Midlands by public opinion and by social workers especially, because it will offer better chances of success in the intense effort, in housing and education, to solve the problems of immigrants which were so effectively put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in his maiden speech?

Sir F. Soskice

I am certain that all hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish evasion to be drastically checked. Those who evade are taking very unfair advantage of immigrants who do not evade and who are awaiting labour vouchers, and would make very useful citizens if they came to this country.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is the Home Secretary aware that there are overwhelming reasons for the attitude which he is adopting and the course that he is taking? There is one other proposal which I made which might be worth considering, namely, that he should assist the repatriation of people who wish to go back home, but cannot afford to do so. Will he consider that question, and also keep a very close watch on the total numbers, because it is still my opinion that they will probably have to be curtailed?

Sir F. Soskice

I shall certainly keep under the very closest review the total number of immigrants, and I will also keep in mind the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Shinwell

Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise what he is doing? Does he not realise that by these proposed modifications and adjustments related to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act he is making it impossible for the Leader of the Opposition to fight the next election on the subject of immigration?

Mr. Tilney

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman endeavour to ensure that any permanent immigrants in future can talk the English tongue?

Sir F. Soskice

Steps are being actively pursued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to see that proper instruction is given.

Mr. Chapman

In fairness to the West Indian Governments, who, by and large, are trying to operate the Act absolutely scrupulously, will the Government make representations to other Commonwealth Governments, in areas in which we know that evasion has largely originated, that they should help at home to try to stop this evasion and the issue of false passports?

Sir F. Soskice

As I have said, we are in touch with all Commonwealth Governments on this extremely complex matter.

Sir E. Boyle

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the question of evasion has caused widespread concern among many who are keen constructively to solve this problem? Does he realise that for that reason his statement will be warmly welcomed? Is he further aware that the problem of students is particularly difficult? There are suggestions, which I cannot substantiate, that bogus institutions are being set up, setting out to cater for students but not doing so? Does he agree that part of the difficulty comes from the limited scope of Part III of the 1944 Education Act, and will he consider, with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, what can be done on this aspect of the matter?

Sir F. Soskice

I had very fully in mind all questions associated with the entry of students and I shall bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said. As he will recollect, I made special reference to students in my statement.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will not be making any distinction, in this tightening up over the entry of illegal immigrants, between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth citizens, and will he also give an assurance that he will be able to make an announcement that no Commonwealth immigrant accepted in this country shall be treated on a different basis from our own citizens?

Sir F. Soskice

I accept at once that all Commonwealth citizens must be treated alike. There must be no sort of discrimination on the grounds of colour or any other reason of that sort.

Mr. Lubbock

Would the Home Secretary consider placing in the Library a copy of the instructions he is proposing to issue to immigration officers?

Sir F. Soskice

I shall issue instructions in due course. They are under consideration and I shall see that the public is adequately informed of what they consist.