HC Deb 09 February 1965 vol 706 cc178-82
6. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what discussions he has had with each of the Commonwealth territories for imposing a check on the health of immigrants from those countries to the United Kingdom; and what machinery exists in those countries for this purpose.

23. Mr. Snow

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he has discussed with each Commonwealth territory the question of imposing a check on the health of intending immigrants from such countries to the United Kingdom; and if these territories have the necessary organisation to carry out such checks.

Mr. Bottomley

I have had no discussions with other Commonwealth Governments on this subject. There are, as far as I am aware, no special arrangements in Commonwealth countries for health checks on intending immigrants to Britain. My right hon. Friend, the Minister for Health, has recently announced measures for improving the health safeguards for immigrants on and after entry to Britain.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Ought not the right hon. Gentleman to have discussions on this? Is he aware that I picked this idea out of the Labour Party manifesto and thought it a rather good one? If we are going to check the health of immigrants, would it not help if those checks were done by our immigration officers out there?

Mr. Bottomley

As the hon. Gentleman may be aware, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has indeed taken action as a result of the Labour Party manifesto, and it is his considered view that it would be advisable to see how the new steps he has taken operate before taking other action.

Mr. Snow

While taking note of the fact that the hon. Member for Twickenhave (Mr. Gresham Cooke) is improving his political education. may I ask my right hon. Friend if he will consider this question further and bear in mind the example of the United States Government in their attitude towards immigrants from Puerto Rico, which is substantially, as it were, a member of the commonwealth with the United States?

Mr. Bottomley

My hon. Friend can rest assured that we have these matters constantly under review.

Mr. Fisher

As it would in many ways be much better to have these health checks in the country of origin before departure, could the right hon. Gentleman say whether he thinks it would be practicable to set up a small British staff, with equipment, in the countries mainly concerned, like India and Pakistan, and, if so, whether such an arrangement would be acceptable to those countries?

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Member can rest assured that this matter is being considered and that other Commonwealth countries will in due course be consulted about it.

Sir C. Osborne

Why was it not done three years ago?

10. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in view of the fact that many Commonwealth immigrants would like to return to their own country if they had the fare, if he will take steps to establish a fund of £100 million to assist the immigrants who wish to return home, along with their families, provided they are not entitled to return to this country; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

No, Sir. The Government have no evidence to suggest that there are, in fact, large numbers of Commonwealth immigrants who would return to their own countries but for their inability to raise the fare. In the case of the limited number of Commonwealth immigrants who may find themselves in this position, we would, as a general rule, expect their own Governments to repatriate them. In exceptional cases, however, where Commonwealth immigrants have no funds and clearly have no prospect of employment, there are already arrangements whereby the British Government will pay for their repatriation.

Sir C. Osborne

If I send the Minister evidence that there are people who would like to return home but have not the fare, would he look at it? Is he not aware that the overwhelming number of English people would like to see these immigrants return to their own countries if they so wish; that the bulk of our people would like to see no more of them come to this country, and that, particularly, they want to know why he and his colleagues voted 100 times during the passing of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill against any control of immigration? Let us have an answer to that.

Mr. Hughes:

The hon. Gentleman's general attitude to this problem is about the most unhelpful in the whole country. The position is that under the arrangements we have, nobody can be sent home from this country against his wishes unless he contravenes this country's laws, as the hon. Gentleman is aware.

Mr. Paget

Would my hon. Friend make it clear that these immigrants have been of great economic benefit to this country; that they are people to whom we should be grateful, and that it is utterly deceptive to talk about them as a liability and people who ought to be sent home?

Mr. Hughes

I am much obliged to my hon. and learned Friend. What he says is perfectly true. Many of our social services would break down if some of the immigrants to whom the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) refers were sent back to their own countries.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that what really was unhelpful to the whole country was his party's attitude of bitter opposition to the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill?

Hon. Members


Mr. Hughes

What is unhelpful is the political capital that the party opposite are making of it.

Sir C. Osborne

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since I cannot be called again, and as I have been personally attacked, I beg to give notice than I shall seek, with your permission, to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

13. Mr. Gurden

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will discuss with Commonwealth Governments the problem of immigration which takes place by means of false passports.

Mr. Bottomley

We are already in close touch with such Commonwealth Governments as may be concerned with this problem.

Mr. Gurden

Would not the right hon. Gentleman accept that we should now have fingerprint identification on all the passports, so that the abuse alleged by his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary can be stopped? Further, does he not think that it is about time that we altered the law in respect of British nationality?

Mr. Bottomley

We do not intend to take any action except in consultation with our Commonwealth partners.

Sir D. Renton

Will the Secretary of State bear in mind that it is not only passports that are forged, but other necessary documents? Will he also make representations so that the Commonwealth countries concerned can stop the moneylender racket, of which the forged documents are an essential part?

Mr. Bottomley

I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman shares with me Lois concern, as do the Commonwealth Governments, and we should give those Governments credit for seeking to stamp this out as much as we are doing ourselves.

Mr. Peter Emery

Can the Minister tell us quite plainly whether the Government and the party opposite have ever altered their view since they voted 100 times against the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill?

Mr. Speaker

That does not arise in any sense at all from the Question. The Question is about false passports; this is a false point.

16. Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what progress has been made in discussions with Commonwealth Governments about immigration problems.

Mr. Bottomley

I am not yet in a position to add to the reply I gave to the Question by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) on 17th November, 1964.

Mr. Lloyd

Is the right hon. Gentleman conducting his negotiations on the basis of the statement by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government that the Act, which the Labour Party opposed so bitterly, is, in his view, now not sufficiently strong for its purpose? Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear in his negotiations that it is in the true interests of all in this country that at least until the acute housing shortage is solved entry should be strictly limited?

Mr. Bottomley

The right hon. Gentleman rightly draws attention to the social problem, which is not of race; but the fact that people cannot be housed adequately is a factor. I can only repeat that the Government are consulting other Commonwealth Governments about the matter, and we shall continue to do so.

Sir C. Osborne

Did the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues consult the Commonwealth Governments before they reimposed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act which they had before so bitterly opposed, and did they get the Commonwealth Governments to agree to the reimposition of that Act?

Mr. Boftomley

As is customary with us on this side of the House, we always have consultation with the Commonwealth.

Mr. A. Henderson

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, if the late Government had entered into consultations with the Commonwealth Governments on this problem three years ago, the situation would be very different indeed?

Mr. Bottomley

That is the point I had in mind when I answered an earlier question.

Mr. Sandys

Is it not a fact that, if the Labour Government had had more consultations with Commonwealth and other Governments about the import surcharge, we would not be having all the trouble we are having now?