§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
We are about to embark on a subject of some difficulty which raises grave and serious issues and, if I may say so, it was not without some hesitation that I advised my right hon. and hon. Friends to select the topic of immigration as the subject of debate. Certainly, it is a political topic. It is right in the centre of political subjects. It is a great public issue and it is also full of great moral and political controversy. In our belief, the Floor of the House of Commons is the proper place for the discussion of a subject of that character.
I agree very much with what was said in The Times on 22nd March:… it is both unrealistic and unprofitable to ask that as soon as an area of policy become explosive or requires drastic action it should be promoted to a political Olympus where dwell the beneficent deities, All the Talents of National Coalition, True Patriots, and such demi-gods as Men of the Centre, and Radicals of All Parties.I believe this to be a right statement, and I should like to quote one further sentence, as I think it sets the tone of what we are to discuss:To ask for an abatement of politics in this connection is not to ask that argument should cease or party disagreements be submerged; but that policies be advocated and criticised with honest motives, with proper moderation and with a responsible sense of the dreadful consequences that could flow from any serious mishandling or aggravation.I think that that is a fair statement of the way in which we might approach these problems.
As one who comes, in a sense, new to this problem—as, indeed, in some sense 335 perhaps the Home Secretary comes new to them, and none the worse for that—I think that one has a sense of the danger of a slip of the tongue which, taken out of context, could be blown up from isolation and really damage the causes which hon. Members on both sides of the House have at heart. Equally, one is fearful of the other danger, that in an attempt to avoid these slips one so blurs the issues that we never get to the real heart of this great problem. I shall seek to avoid these errors.
We debate this subject on the Motion, "That this House do now adjourn", and that Motion is the most uncontroversial that we could select. We have not the slightest intention of dividing the House. This is more a debate in the nature, as it were, of a Council of State, in which we can exchange views from both sides of the House; and perhaps from the clash or difference of opinion, or even perhaps from the merging of opinions, find something which will advance these causes.
Because we are debating this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment, legislation would be out of order. There is some possibility of a Bill dealing with some aspects of these matters. When it comes we shall judge it on its merits. Certainly, we do not commit ourselves to voting against it or dismissing lightly that or any proposal put forward by the Government.
We debate this subject against the background of the law as it is in this country. Let no one underestimate what is the law as it stands at present. The statute and common law of England does not distinguish between black and white. or Jew and Gentile. We are citizens of no mean city. We can be proud of that tolerance and our record for treating men equally before the law. I recall that not so many years ago, in a case involving the criminal law, the matter was stated by Mr. Justice Salmon in imposing a sentence. He said:Everyone, irrespective of the colour of their skin, is entitled to walk through our streets in peace with his head erect and free from fear. That is a right which these courts will always unfailingly uphold.Not for the first time have the Judges of England been the safeguards of our freedom. I am sure that it will remain so.
336 Here there are two fields for discussion. First, the field of control, the policy that we adopt towards it, the machinery that we devise and all that aspect of the matter; and, secondly, the problem of what is sometimes called integration. I am not very happy about that word. I do not believe that many of these immigrant communities have the slightest intention of integrating with one another. I do not think that they really want to integrate with us. This is not unflattering. They have a different approach, a different background, different cultures. These are the two problems, control, and, as I think I should prefer to put it, the problem of absorbing these new cultures within our existing community.
We must approach the matter in a manner which is designed to serve the interests not only of our native community, but all these immigrants who are here, the vast majority of whom—some with their relatives—will remain here. We must look at their interests as well as the interests of everyone else.
May I summarise what I think should be our approach to this matter. I put it fairly and distinctly to the House, so that hon. Members will know where we stand. In our judgement there ought to be a drastic reduction in the inflow of male immigrants, that is, of new workers, that is, through the methods of control and the granting or not granting of vouchers; and, of course, also in tightening up provisions against evasion. That is the first proposition I put forward.
The second proposition, to which I attach equal importance, is that on both sides of the House of Commons we should devote our utmost energy to promoting the absorption of these communities within the fabric of the civilisation of which we in these islands are so proud. We all wish the Under-Secretary of State, Department of Economic Affairs, well in his rôle in that sphere.
I do not regard one of these propositions as positive and the other as negative. I regard them as the two sides of the same medal. If one goes into a house to find the bath water pouring through the ceiling, it may be positive to say that one will try to mop it up and to bring buckets to catch what is coming through the ceiling. It is not a negative step to inquire whether someone has left 337 the tap turned on. It is a positive and sensible proposal. So we regard the treatment and control on the one side, and the positive steps towards absorption on the other, as both essential to a solution of these problems.
It was this approach which was stated, and has been stated, by a number of my hon. Friends, including my right hon. Friend the Leader of our party, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), in a speech a few weeks ago in his constituency. My right hon. Friend speaks with a great background knowledge of these problems.
I will now say something about the question of colour.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
Would the right hon. Gentleman go further in his remarks about wanting to see a considerable reduction in the number of male workers? I understand that there was a net inflow of about 13,000 last year of new voucher holders, male and female. I do not know how many of those voucher holders were male. Perhaps it was a maximum of, say, 10,000. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he would want to reduce that number to below 10,000 and, if so, by how much?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The hon. Gentleman will find that in about 20 minutes" time I will be dealing with those matters. I thought it right at the outset to set out clearly what were the two principles on which we approach the matter, and I will be developing these themes later.
As I was saying, I will say something on the question of colour. I think that any hon. Member with experience of public affairs—certainly any Minister charged, as many of them have been, with the responsibility of negotiating throughout the Commonwealth—must approach the question of colour with a great deal of sympathy and tolerance. Few of us who have had the privilege of travelling, as I have sometimes in South-East Asia, and listening to discussions, sometimes about economics, with that blend of wisdom and philosophy one finds in the East—have not come away fascinated by the contribution that can be made by men of different races and colours; and the same is true of any contacts with the West 338 Indies and the immense kindliness of the peoples of those areas.
The clash comes when there is a clash of cultures in a particular country. It is not necessarily a matter of colour. It happens in East Africa today, in a clash between the black Africans and the Indians. It happens in Malaysia between the Malay proper and the Chinese. Hon. Members who have visited these countries will be as familiar with these problems as I am. It happens in Fiji, in British Guiana and it is to be found in South Africa and in the United States of America. We are not alone in facing problems of this character. Nor are they necessarily problems which are black and white.
The clash does come, or is seen in its most acute form, where one gets a clash over scarce resources. Sometimes it is resources of housing, sometimes of jobs and sometimes, and bitterly so, over the shortage of women. These problems have arisen in many parts of the world. These clashes become remarkably accentuated when the contestants can identify each other because they are different in colour—and this is where the real dangers begin to arise.
I wish to say something about the size of the problem, but, first, I remind the Home Secretary that the fullest public knowledge of these problems would be a great asset. I have asked him for, and he has kindly said that he will try to make available for hon. Members on both sides of the House in the Library each month, the figures of the intake month by month and category by category. A few hon. Members manage to get these figures now, but we should all have them, including the Press and everybody, so that we may see in detail how this problem is developing.
In a valuable series of articles The Times referred to the "dark millions" and dealt with many aspects of this matter. I do not want to exaggerate the problem. It could have been much worse. I think it fair to say that without the passing of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act it might already have reached proportions which would have strained the resources of any Government to contain. I will say no more about that, except that while I do not want to exaggerate the problem I hope that no 339 hon. Member will seek to minimise it I believe that we are facing something here which, over the years, will present us with a growing problem of the utmost social, parliamentary and political difficulty.
I say that for a number of reasons, in part because the inflow of immigrants is taking place against the background in most areas of an endemic housing shortage. This is bound to accentuate the problem. We must be honest with ourselves and realise that if there is a shortage in the existing community, if we then accept a further inflow, for whatever the reason, we are bound to exacerbate the strains and stresses which confront us.
The problem is also exacerbated because it is not spread evenly. It is concentrated in some areas in a really acute form because that is where the jobs are, where the vouchers have been issued for and where the immigrants go to live. It is also accentuated by the feeling—the dread one might say; I want to use language of restraint and moderation, but I think that "dread" is not too strong a word—that this is not a once-and-for-all problem.
Sometimes people compare it with Holland, Indonesia, and so on. It is true that there was a great inrush of Indonesian refugees from the war there, but I do not think that Holland contemplates a continuous absorption of Indonesian labour into the Dutch economy. Indeed, in our own history we have accepted an inflow of refugees as a once-and-for-all movement, but, if people contemplate that it is something that is going on and on, steadily year by year building up the proportion and the strains and stresses, that is another matter.
In any event, the problem is with us. We cannot get rid of the problem now. There are—whatever the figure may be; say, 800,000—immigrants here. Their numbers will increase by the ordinary natural processes in any event, so it is a problem that is with us whatever we do and we must take proper, wise and sensible steps to try to grapple with it. Faced with this situation, what do we do at this stage? In my judgment wives and infant children must continue to 340 come in. One must say this and, indeed, mention that some of the most acute social problems arise from the absence of wives. I do not wish to elaborate on that. It is known to anybody who has studied this matter.
This applies to relatives, but we want to look quite closely at what relatives, because I think that there is room for a little closer examination here than has yet been made of the relatives who come in. Certainly, wives and infant children must be allowed to come in. I think, too, that one can control the rate at which they come in. One must see that there is some accommodation to which wives can come and it is not unreasonable, when a husband applies, that he should be asked to see that accommodation of some sort is available.
Indeed, this is something which we do ourselves with our own countrymen sometimes, in Aden and other places. At any rate, I accept in principle, and I hope that the whole House will accept that, on balance, the social and national interests, and the interests of the immigrants themselves, conincide in this matter.
But this does not deal with the underlying problem—great though the question of the relatives of immigrants who are already here is—which is the magnetic pull of a very rich community on many areas of the world which are very poor indeed. That is a very powerful magnetic pull and there is a strong underlying economic element in this problem.
If a nation runs its economy full out—and there has been a tendency for all Governments to run this economy at a fairly strong pressure—certain consequences follow. One is that prices tend to go up, another is that imports tend to be sucked in—and we have been going through certain balance of payments difficulties while a third is that one attracts new labour. This is an inevitable economic consequence of a very strongly running economy which is seeking to expand.
Thus, we are told that some things, like London Transport or the Health Service or parts of the textile industry and some light engineering, cannot go on unless we use this labour. Are we really to say that our condition is such that our 341 economy can only be run by a continuous inflow of new immigrant labour? I am not discussing those who are here already, but have we to go on bringing in that amount of labour? If the answer is yes, then I am bound to pose to Her Majesty"s Government the question: have we not got some of our priorities a little wrong?
To try to get ourselves out of our short-term difficulties by the soft option of a continuous inflow of new workers from these poor areas of the world and pay the price of what undoubtedly will be a long-term social problem of major magnitude is something which any Government ought to pause a very long time before undertaking.
It may well be true that the number of vouchers has already been cut. C vouchers are virtually out and I believe that that is right, but there are A and B vouchers, and I am not being pedantic or discussing a moratorium but speaking of bringing about a drastic reduction. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary must remember that for every male worker who comes in probably two or three relatives will follow in due course. It will take time and, I would have thought, all the capacity we could make available in this country to absorb the relatives of those who had already been admitted. But to continue to build up that problem by the import of now male-labour is a very grave proposition for any Government and I would beg the Home Secretary and the Government to contemplate well before they commit themselves to it. I am not being pedantic, and I certainly do not intend to bandy figures, for I believe that the worst thing we could do would be to start bidding on figures between both sides of the House on such a matter.
I recognise that in all administrative policies— and I have administered Departments for long enuogh to know—some leeway has to be left for the humanity of the Minister himself; and I do not think that anyone would question the judgment or humanity of the Home Secretary in matters of this kind. I do not want to rule out some scope for manoeuvre here, or perhaps small numbers from one of the smaller Colonies which it might be desired to bring in at some stage. I wanted to state the principle to the Home Secretary and I hope that I have done so in terms which are restrained, but, at the 342 same time, with sufficient clarity for him to know what I have in mind.
§ Mr. David Ennals (Dover)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what his principle is? Is it that we should almost entirely stop immigration? He has used the phrase "drastic reduction" and, as my hon. Friend has said, 13,000 voucher possessors came in last year. Where is his room for manoeuvre here?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I mean a drastic reduction. It should be a wholly exceptional thing at this stage of this problem to give a voucher to someone coming into this country. I will not quote a figure—in the interests, if I may say so, of the whole approach to this problem; because if we start quoting figures to one another across the Floor we shall get into a difficulty that I would wish to avoid. It is for the Government to state their policy. Because this is a point which is essential to public life in this country, I have gone a very long way in stating in clear and specific terms what I believe our policy ought to be. I have been sufficiently clear and specific for any Government to be able to tell me quite frankly whether they agree in general outline with what I say, or disagree, and why.
There is one other aspect of immigration that I wish to mention, the question of students. Of course, we want to see students coming into this country. That is one of the very greatest links we have with vast numbers throughout the world. They are always welcome here and they take back happy memories of this country; and for all the stories we hear of someone discriminating against someone else, how seldom one hears of the thousands of cases of actual kindness by English, Scots and Welsh people to immigrant communities who are here! We welcome these students, but they must be students and must return home after their period of study.
I am bound to tell the Home Secretary that from all I hear—and, naturally, he has sources of information which are not available to me—I have the very gravest doubts whether all these students are completing their courses of study and returning to the countries from which they have come. I appreciate the pressure upon them and the reason why they stay. It is possible for a man who would be a 343 graduate of, say, an Indian university, to earn more here in a lowly job than he would earn if he returned to the country from which he came; and if we are not careful there is some danger at least of seeing thousands of students, many with quite high intellectual attainments, doing jobs which are not at the top of the industrial ladder, who have crept in under this particular barrier of control.
Therefore, I would ask the Home Secretary to reflect upon this problem. I realise that to control it he may have drastically to amend some of his administrative machinery. If he feels that that is necessary I hope that he will not believe that we shall make quick points against him on proposals of that character. I see the difficulties in relation to the Commonwealth countries and some other aspects, but if, to get control of the problem, it is necessary drastically to amend the administrative machinery, then that should be done. This is too important for standing back and delaying. The situation could get to the stage at which problems of settlement and a resolution of our difficulties would be far harder than at the present time.
That brings me to the alien problem itself. We always try to treat everybody the same and perhaps to treat the Commonwealth people a bit better than the others. I speak generally. I put this from a personal point of view, coming new to these things. It is said that we should treat everybody as we treat the Irish, but can we, and is it even right to try? We have always failed in this particular operation. There is Irish blood all over the United Kingdom. There is Southern Irish blood in the North and there is Scottish and Welsh blood in Southern Ireland. It is a part of our ethnic whole and I do not think that we can really find a solution if we say that we shall treat everyone the same as the Irish, or treat the Irish as we treat everybody else.
Then there is the European problem. There is Spanish blood, Saxon, Scandinavian, Northern French and everything else in this island; and after listening to the speeches of successive Foreign Secretaries, I suspect that as events proceed the barrier of 20 miles of sea may become less and less. There may be a two-way flow of labour across the Channel— some 344 coming here, and some English labour going into factories abroad. That may happen, and I do not think that it would be a disaster if it did happen. What would be a disaster would be if we took that as a pattern, and said that we had to treat the whole of the rest of the world in the same way. Whatever our feelings may be, that is not a practical step to take.
I therefore hope that the Home Secretary will approach the matter in a way that is not necessarily inhibited by all the things said before, and all the positions which, I think with good reason, all of us have at one time or another taken up.
Control is vital from both the practical and the psychological point of view. Unless our people know that we have really got a grip on these controls and know our policy with regard to them, it will be very difficult indeed to do some of the other things that need to be done. What are they? In part, precept and example may be more important than legislation. The way we as Members of Parliament approach the subject matters a great deal. How men in public life argue about these things matters a great deal. And the way in which public authorities behave is of supreme importance. Every municipal authority has a very heavy burden upon it to see that it conducts itself in these matters in a way that is exemplary, because if we fail at the top how can we expect others not at that level to conduct themselves responsibly? Precept and example is important, and we will look sympathetically on its merits at any Bill that comes forward.
When we talk of discrimination, the question whether a man is served with a glass of beer in a public house is important, but there are more important things. There is his job, and there is the question of promotion, in the years that lie ahead. Bearing in mind, that, whatever we do, we shall have an immigrant population here of some million people, we must be sure, if we are to be honest with ourselves, that those people are treated as equal citizens. That means quite big decisions by employers and by the trade union movement. In an odd way, it is easier for an immigrant to get promotion up the intellectual ladder. He can become a doctor of philosophy, but to become 345 a foreman on the shop floor is far harder. I beg the Home Secretary and the Government to keep this in mind, for I am sure that many hon. Members would agree that it is in this direction that we have to use our influence with the trade union movement and the rest.
Then there is the problem of what we can do to promote good relations where these clashes take place. I believe that the National Committee on Commonwealth Immigrants is doing a magnificent job. The job done by men like Philip Mason, or by Miss Peppard in that organisation is, as anyone with knowledge must admit—and I have heard of the work they have done—of inestimable value. But we cannot buy those kinds of persons and those kinds of jobs. I do not pretend that just by pouring in money we can make things different, but we should try to train a few more people to do jobs like that. It will require money, and quite a big effort, to train anyone up to the immensely difficult standard of being able to reconcile a difference between a local community and some other organisation.
Some things we can buy. We can buy interpreters. We can provide the money for the citizens" advice bureaux to see that, for example, advice on buying a house is printed in Punjabi—in many cases it is no good its being printed in English. I do not for a moment underestimate what is being done—a great deal is being done—but these are fields in which we can press on further, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary will seek to do so.
Housing is the great background problem. Whatever we do, we must not discriminate in housing in favour of immigrants. That would be a disaster. It would worsen everyone"s position, including that of the immigrants. What we might be able to do is to put more backing behind some of the areas where the immigration problem is at its worst. That will cost money and it will be very difficult to do, but the problem is pressing on us very hard at present. I hope that the Home Secretary maybe able to tell us something about that.
Then there is education—the language problem. We cannot expect some of these education authorities to be able to 346 divert a substantial amount of their educational effort to teaching English as a foreign language—yet that is what we have to do. It is in that direction that a fund, centrally financed and directed though locally controlled, could usefully be used.
I have not quarrelled with the Government"s statements so far—indeed, I have not tried to criticise. I have tried to make helpful suggestions. The Home Secretary has said that he will seek to tighten up controls, and I have said that something more than that may be required. The Prime Minister has talked of Government reorganisation; we welcome that. and wish the Under-Secretary well. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of a Bill—we shall look at it sympathetically and on its merits when it comes forward, as I have said. He has spoken of talks round the Commonwealth, and those can be useful—and some of the things that I have indicated may well be worth serious discussion in the Commonwealth. But none of those things goes to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is not outside. It is in this island. It is in the Government. It is the necessity to take central decisions of policy. I do not underestimate their difficulty or their controversial character, but they must be taken. They must be taken on the control side, and they must be pushed forward on the side of absorption.
If we fail in this, or if we delay it or dodge it, we may build up for ourselves a problem that will be almost insoluble, and we want, in this happy island, to avoid the sort of things that are happening in some other parts of the world. Above all, it is a problem that requires two qualities—courage and compassion. I believe that those are qualities which the House of Commons, in its history, has often brought to bear on questions of this nature.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)
The Government and, I am sure, the House, are grateful to the Opposition for introducing this subject. If I may say so without offence to the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), I thought that he dealt with this matter very carefully, because he realises, as, I should think, everyone in the House does, that there are delicate and sensitive points here 347 that must be dealt with very carefully indeed. I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, too, when he said that all possible knowledge on immigration must be made available at all times by the Government—as to figures, health figures and housing. Any information of that kind should be made available to the House. I am sure that that is right.
In dealing with this problem, we should recognise that it is not only a question of something that has happened very recently, but that, over the years since the end of the war, there has been a steady flow of immigrants into this country—greatly increased in the early sixties, and subsequently. In doing this, we must consider the numbers of Commonwealth citizens, first, from what are called the "old", and, secondly, from what are called the "new" Commonwealth countries, some of whom come here for short stays, but many of whom now—and this is the problem—come here to settle and to work.
Until 1st July, 1962, as a result of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, everyone was quite free and not subject to control. Whilst we are speaking today mainly of Commonwealth citizens, we should perhaps also bear in mind that there are many aliens, too, who come here, again many of them permanently to settle. We should perhaps also bear in mind that we are talking not only of Acts of Parliament, of regulations, of figures, but of human beings and human lives, of living standards, and very often of hopes in the minds of people in far distant countries who, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, look towards this country as it were as a land flowing with milk and honey.
Control over Commonwealth immigration is now exercised under the Act which took effect from 1st July, 1962, and which has since been extended by the Expiring Laws Continuance Acts of 1963 and 1964. The extent of the powers given to the Government of the day in these Acts, or perhaps I should say their limitations, are not always recognised. The House will, I hope, excuse me if I spell them out, but I will endeavour to do this briefly.
The Act gives an immigration officer power to refuse a Commonwealth citi- 348 zen admission to the United Kingdom, or to admit him unconditionally or subject to a condition which restricts the period of his stay and, where the latter condition has been imposed, an additional condition restricting his freedom to employment—in view of the voucher system. Immigration officers have been exercising this power in accordance with the instructions given by Parliament in 1962, which were set out at the time in a White Paper. They included—this is worth remembering—a direction not to use too freely the powers to impose conditions on admission of immigrants.
The immigrants who come here are counted as they enter and leave the United Kingdom by the immigration officers who operate the control, and most of the statistics we have are collected in this way and have been published in reply to Parliamentary Questions, in White Papers, and so on. Some of these figures have been brought up to date. For example, the Written Answer published yesterday to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) gave the absolutely up-to-date figures as far as we are able to find them. I hope, during this speech, not to give the House too many statistics.
The immigration officer"s power to refuse admission to a Commonwealth citizen appears to be somewhat sweeping at first sight, but it is qualified in various ways. For instance, a person who has been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and is returning to the United Kingdom within two years may not be refused admission. He has a right to come in. It is interesting here to note that, in 1964, 81,307 Commonwealth citizens were readmitted as returning residents, making a total of over 188,000 since the control came into force on 1st July, 1962, the point being that the immigration officer cannot refuse admission to anyone who has been absent from this country for a period of less than two years and is seeking readmission.
Again, the immigration officer may not refuse admission to the wife or the child under 16 years of age of a Commonwealth citizen who accompanies him or comes to join him in the United Kingdom. Substantial numbers have been admitted as dependants as a result. Most of those admitted as dependants, probably over 80,000, were people with a legal right of admission under the 1962 349 Act. We do not know how many people overseas already may be waiting and have a right to come into this country as members of a household as a result of the head of the household being already here and working.
I mention this specifically, as the right hon. Gentleman did, because anyone attempting to restrict the flow of Commonwealth immigrants to a particular level must take account of this large number of people—maybe a very large number of people—who, under the law as it stands, have an absolute right to come to this country whenever they wish. I would personally doubt whether any Government would refuse a request from a wife to join her husband who was already here.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by saying that a very large number of people are entitled to come here?
§ Mr. Bowden
I have been trying to ascertain this figure. It is considered to be quite a large figure. It could be as high as half a million. It is impossible to give an absolutely accurate figure. They may not all wish to come in, but assuming that they all did it could be a very large figure.
As to the other categories, the immigration officer has no power to refuse admission to a person who comes here for the purpose of taking employment, providing that he has a current voucher issued by the Ministry of Labour—that is, the A, B and C vouchers; or to a student whose studies are to occupy the whole or a substantial part of his time; or to a person who can support himself and his dependants without taking work. The last of these categories undoubtedly includes a few people of independent means who come here for settlement, but certainly for the most part it consists of tourists and visitors claiming to come here for a limited period, and many of them undoubtedly stay.
As for students, they are freely admitted. In 1963, 18,484 Commonwealth citizens were admitted as students. In 1964, the figure rose to 20,117. The total number of students admitted since the Act came into force is 53,600. We suspect that many immigrants enrol at colleges and other educational establishments and come here as students who in 350 fact never put in an appearance at any such establishment.
The third category consists of those who come here for employment. They are expected to obtain, before they come, vouchers issued under a scheme administered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour at a rate determined by the Government. Applications for vouchers are dealt with in three separate classes—A, B and C; categories A and B taking precedence over category C. Category A is for Commonwealth citizens with specific jobs for whom an employer might make application for an A voucher.
The Ministry of Labour makes a very careful examination of all these applications to ensure that the job offered is genuinely available and that the terms and conditions of employment are suitable. It has been necessary to reject many applications and in recent months the number of acceptable applications has been greater than the number of vouchers available for issue. So an employer has had to wait—some employers have had to wait for several weeks—after the application has been accepted before a voucher can be issued to the Commonwealth citizen he wishes to employ.
Category B is a rather special category and is for applicants who possess certain skills and qualifications—teachers who are eligible as qualified teachers in this country, nurses, doctors, certain graduates and persons with professional qualifications, building craftsmen, women shorthand typists, and so on. Here again, there have been some delay because the demand for vouchers has exceeded the rate of issue.
Category C was originally for applicants with none of the special skills or qualifications and without any particular job to go to—people who were simply coming here for work in no particular direction. Applications in Category C up to 26th February last totalled 385,028, a third of a million, and 42,367 vouchers were issued. But no C vouchers whatever have been issued in recent months because successful applications in the priority categories A and B have exceeded the total number of vouchers made available for issue. Therefore, taking all these three categories of applicants together, 90,915 vouchers were issued but not all 351 were used. In recent months, about 75 percent. of those who applied for vouchers have used them and claimed admission to this country.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
What is the currency of the voucher? How long can it remain unused before it lapses?
§ Mr. Bowden
Since the control began, 50,941 voucher holders have been admitted, of whom 30,125 came in 1963 and 14,705 in 1964. The House will be interested to know that in January of this year there were 990.
This then was the statute and the scheme of control which we inherited on taking office. We at once had the powers renewed for a year and at once embarked on a review of the situation. We found that the net balance of Commonwealth immigration from the three "old" Commonwealth countries was, in round figures, 9,000 in 1963 and 13,500 in 1964. From all other Commonwealth territories the net balance of immigration, again in round figures, was 57,000 in 1963 and 62,000 in 1964.
These figures cannot be taken as an absolutely accurate measure of the rate at which Commonwealth citizens settled in this country, especially with the old Commonwealth countries, the figures for which are small and are known to include a substantial number of people who are here on extended visits, such as people who come from the old Commonwealth and are known as "working holidaymakers" and whose stay is short. But these figures are the best indication that we have and there is so wide a difference between these figures and the number of those known to have been admitted with vouchers that we have been driven to the conclusion that too many Commonwealth citizens accepted as students and visitors have been allowed to settle here.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
How many of the students whom the right hon. Gentleman mentioned earlier have gone back? Clearly, they come here for a substantial period—one, two, three, or four years. Is there any record to help us?
§ Mr. Bowden
No. That is the type of figure which it is difficult to obtain. The 352 fact is that many have enrolled here with educational establishments, but have never turned up and have gone into the labour market somewhere. There is no record of what has happened to them. Some may have gone back, others not.
There is nothing in the law under the 1962 Act to prevent students and others, once having passed the immigration officers, from settling down here and taking work. In addition, we know that many Commonwealth citizens have tried —an unknown number successfully—to pass themselves off as belonging to one of the three categories which I have already mentioned and these have also settled down here.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is in the process of urgently reviewing the voucher problem. We are of the opinion that we must consider some priority of occupations. This was the point made by the right hon. Member for Monmouth. It is important, too, that we should assess our needs for Commonwealth immigrants, and the skills which are especially short of manpower. We must continue to train immigrants in special skills with a view to their returning home and helping development in their own countries, but it would be necessary to ensure that they did so. We must not forget that we still need some unskilled workers who come in under category A vouchers. I am thinking particularly of domestic staff, nursing auxiliaries for hospitals, and so on.
The evasions of the law have led to the measures already announced by the Home Secretary on 4th February for combating evasion. He said that immigration officers would be freshly instructed, first, to scrutinise with even greater care, in whatever cases they judge necessary, the bona fides and travel documents of Commonwealth citizens seeking entry as students or visitors or as dependants of Commonwealth citizens resident here. Secondly, they would be instructed to make full use of their powers as immigration officers to admit a Commonwealth citizen subject to a condition restricting his period of stay. One of the effects of the latter instruction would be that students, although admitted as freely as before, would be normally admitted for only a specified period which would be extended if necessary as 353 long as they were genuinely pursuing their studies.
In addition, my right hon. Friend announced other measures. First, it is our intention to reinforce the staffs in certain overseas posts by assigning to them experienced immigration officers to assist in dealing with applications for entry certificates at source. Immigration officers have now been selected and my right hon. Friend hopes that it will be possible for them to take up their posts soon. It is administratively desirable and much kinder to stop the would-be evaders of the law at source rather than turn them back at London Airport.
Other aspects of the immigration control we have still under review. It is well-known that these are matters on which we wish to take fully into account the views of other Commonwealth Governments, and that on 9th March my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced our intention that a high-level mission should visit a number of Commonwealth countries to consider and discuss with the Governments concerned what new measures might be adopted, particularly in the country of origin, to regulate the flow of immigrants to the United Kingdom, including the need to prevent evasion of our control.
The function of the mission will be exploratory and fact-finding. It has not yet been decided which Commonwealth countries the mission will visit, but it would obviously be useful to include some of the countries from which we receive a substantial number of immigrants and we shall be consulting the Commonwealth Governments concerned about this. I am particularly glad to be able to inform the House that Earl Mountbatten of Burma has accepted from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister an invitation to lead this mission. I can think of no one better qualified for that important task than this outstanding figure in our national life, a man who is known for his deep feeling for the Commonwealth and all it stands for. I am sure that the appointment will be welcomed on both sides of the House.
When our consultations are complete, we shall be in a position to take our review of the immigration control a stage further. To do so in advance of completion of the consultations would 354 be premature and might lead to wrong decisions being taken. In the meantime, there is the other aspect of Commonwealth immigration which claims our attention, the situation of people of other races who live in our midst. The right hon. Gentleman referred to this at length. It is, I know, the earnest wish of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House that these newcomers, like the many others who preceded them through the centuries, will be peacefully and amicably absorbed into our community.
The Government appreciate that this depends mainly upon the climate of public opinion, and that there is a limit to what can be achieved by Government action alone. But we are determined to do what can be done, and we are convinced that there is an important place for the measure which we shall shortly introduce, the Bill mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, to deal with racial discrimination in public places and with the evil of incitement to racial hatred.
There is, of course, much else of a positive kind to be done to ease the integration of Commonwealth immigrants. Some of these problems have been studied by the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Council, set up in 1962 under the chairmanship of Lady Reading. The Council has already published three reports. It has been reinforced in the past few weeks by the addition of five new members, and it is continuing its most valuable work. The problems in this field are difficult, and, as far as the Government are concerned, they touch upon the responsibilities of many Ministers.
Chief among the problems is, undoubtedly, housing. Immigrants have come, in the main, to those cities where jobs have been easily found, and these are just the places where housing problems are most difficult. The most acute is the shortage of dwellings to let at low rents. The presence of immigrants has aggravated the housing problem—let us face it—by increasing the relative shortage of houses and by worsening housing conditions where they were already bad. But they have not caused the problem. It existed before they came.
The problem can be solved only by the provision of more low-rented houses, and the Government have made clear that 355 they intend to pursue a vigorous housing policy directed to the provision of more houses of better quality, and the local authorities will be encouraged to provide a greater proportion of the output of new houses so that more are available for the people in most urgent need. But the provision of an adequate number of dwellings to be let at inexpensive rents will take time, even with the use of the more speedy building methods, and, in the meantime, it must be the aim to see that existing powers are used to ensure reasonable living conditions.
Local authorities already possess considerable powers in this direction to improve bad conditions in existing houses. They can control numbers by directions to prevent or reduce overcrowding in houses in multi-occupation. They can require houses to be kept in reasonable repair and that certain facilities are provided. In the worst possible cases, they can take over the management themselves. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is keeping these powers under review, and, if necessary, will propose further legislation.
Other matters which are being studied by my right hon. Friends concern the special education needs of immigrants, both adults and children, and the various health problems of people from tropical climates overseas who come to live here. The Ministers responsible and the local authorities of our big towns and cities are pursuing these and other problems, but the fact that responsibility is so dispersed adds to the difficulty in dealing with problems as they arise.
As he announced on 9th March, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has, therefore, invited the Joint Under-Secretary of State, Department of Economic Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley), to make himself especially responsible, in a personal capacity, for co-ordinating Government action in the field and for promoting, through the Departments concerned, the efforts of the local authorities and the voluntary bodies.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has already started work. He has already had discussions with the High Commissioners of some Commonwealth countries concerned, particularly on the 356 part which can be played by welfare officers appointed by those Governments who are already working in this country. He has had preliminary consultations with Lady Reading, with the National Advisory Officer for Commonwealth Immigrants appointed on the recommendation of the Advisory Council, with representatives of some of the immigrant interests in this country and with other persons already active in these matters.
My hon. Friend has been in touch with the Netherlands Government and hopes to make a visit to the Netherlands shortly, on a date still to be arranged, to collect first-hand information on how the authorities there have gone about tackling their immigration problem and to draw upon their experience. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the problem is not on all fours, but there may be a great deal to be learned from what has been happening in Holland.
A most helpful meeting has been held with representatives of the local authority associations for England and Wales at which the initiative taken by the Government in this matter was warmly welcomed. My hon. Friend is assured of the co-operation of the local authorities which he met. This week, he begins in London the series of visits he plans to make to individual local authorities in order to discuss with people on the spot, representatives of voluntary, welfare and other organisations and of the churches, as well as members and officers of the local councils, their experience of the problems arising and the way in which they are seeking to overcome them.
In these preliminary discussions, my hon. Friend has been deeply impressed by the fund of good will which clearly exists towards the immigrants and the desire that they should exist not on the fringes of the community, but should form an integral part of it. His aim is to channel and to broaden what is being done so that the common aim of a greater degree of integration can be achieved as quickly and as effectively as possible. I know that the House as a whole will wish to pay tribute to the valuable work already being done by a wide range of agencies throughout the country.
The Government fully recognise the magnitude of the problem and the social consequences which would arise if racial feeling began to run high. Happily, this 357 is not the case in this country at the moment, and it is the Christian duty of every man and woman, white and coloured, to see that it does not happen. There are the social difficulties, many of them great, of people with differing habits and customs living together, but these difficulties and problems are not insurmountable. I think that all hon. Members will agree with the view expressed by the present Leader of the Opposition, then Prime Minister, when he told us last year that those immigrants who are here legally will stay as long as they wish to do so.
Before I sit down, I wish to pay tribute to the work now being done in Great Britain by the Commonwealth immigrants who live among us. Every right hon. and hon. Gentleman will be readily aware of the contributions they have made in many fields, especially in our hospitals and transport undertakings.
I hope that this debate will also help to get Commonwealth immigration into its right perspective, that it will allay fears and that it will encourage local authorities and progressive organisations throughout the country as well as the Government to tackle these social problems as they arise.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)
No one could possibly cavil at the tone of the two speeches we have just heard. They were both reasonable and both constructive. I have absolutely no desire—and I hope that none of my hon. Friends have—to raise the temperature of the debate in any way. The Lord President of the Council spoke of these as delicate and sensitive matters. They are. They always have been. Therefore, it becomes all of us to speak on these issues with restraint.
I am not trying to be provocative or in any way raise the temperature when I say how pleased we all are at the change in tone compared with some previous debates on this subject.
§ Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan
I am choosing my words very carefully here and I should be grateful to be allowed to choose them without help. If we want to retain our future debates on these delicate and sensitive issues at this temperature and at this level, I make one 358 suggestion which, if accepted, would, I think, remove them from the arena for ever. It is a suggestion I make to the Home Secretary, whose approach has always been reasonable and moderate in every pronouncement he has ever made.
I think that he will understand me when I say that there are many on these benches who have some sense of grievance and rancour at certain utterances which were made two and a half years ago and in some subsequent debates. I think this sentiment is right and understandable. I have just been rereading the debates on the Second and Third readings of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill and they do not make very attractive reading.
I would say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if he says one word in his speech tonight of recantation of some of these utterances and of contrition for some of the remarks made to my right hon. and learned Friends, I think he can rest assured that there will never again be an attempt to make this a cat"s paw of politics or to make it a factious issue. I recommend that to him with all sincerity and he will find that it will pay him and his party warmly for the future. Indeed, I go further and say that it will pay the country and the immigrants as well.
If I say one other thing which might be interpreted as being contentious, I would recommend hon. Members who may have found recent past history in these matters distasteful to study the debates that were taking place in this House 60 years ago on the Aliens Act, a Measure that was equally hotly contested and equally the subject of, in my view, malicious accusations. In that case, one party was accused of anti-Semitism just as we were recently accused of racialism. We might have known that history would repeat itself, because the Opposition of the day in 1909 became the Government a year later and continued the Act just as before until the time came for them eventually to strengthen it. I will not draw any particular moral from that episode except to say that history does indeed repeat itself.
Proposals put forward today by my right hon. Friend the Member for 359 Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) and the statement by the Lord President of the Council both need some study because there was much that comes afresh to some of us. I do not propose to repeat what has been said as I am only too conscious of how many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, but it all seems to me to lead to one conclusion—the necessity, for social reasons, of dispersal of immigrants throughout the community.
I come from an area where there is no racial problem. There is, of course, congestion because of the drift to the South-East, but I notice that faces of a different hue are appearing. Little or no difficulty is caused and no feelings are aroused because of this very factor of dispersal.
Therefore, I would say that we should be selective in our attitude towards the immigrants whom we take in and to welcome, in particular, those who seek dispersal, that is to say those who do not seek or do not wish to live, for social or cultural or religious reasons, in their own community. I do not want to stress this point too much, because it might lead me into a rather difficult argument, but I think right hon. and hon. Members will see what I mean. This seems to me to be one aim which we ought to adopt in any of the measures or palliatives or panaceas we may choose to adopt.
I would like to welcome the appointment of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley), to be in charge of the new Committee. I must say, however, that it was with some slight surprise that I learned that there was any kind of under-employment at the Department of Economic Affairs. I make no further comment on that. I cannot help feeling, however, that the right home or base for this appointment remains the Home Office. The information on the settlement and migration figures, scant as it is, is mostly in the Home Office. It is also the Department of State to which the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Committee reports and to which it has made many useful and important reports. But this is not a major point and I will leave it at that.
360 I also welcome the proposed Bill to prevent racial discrimination. I am speaking for myself, without committing anyone on this side of the House, but I propose to support that Bill sight unseen. Of course, we must critically examine it to see whether it is workable but I think that is a risk to be run. I have been, in my new attitude—I will confess to that—very much swayed by the opinions of those who know the immigrant communities. I cannot but feel that such a Bill would be a gesture of goodwill, more especially if more unpalatable restrictions on immigration are in the offing.
I feel that such a Bill will now help assimilation or integration, which are two terms of art of sociology, and of rather different meaning, but I think that "adjustment" or "absorption" is a more convenient omnibus phrase. Such a Bill, above all else, will avoid the danger of members of these communities withdrawing into themselves, which, in turn, produces the militancy of which we have so far been remarkably free. Such a Bill will not be a solution but it will be a salve to wounded pride.
We also need a great deal of study of the other Measures for restriction which have been proposed and which I now welcome in any shape or form. I do not quite agree with my right hon. Friend"s arguments about employment. I agree with the Leader of the House that we shall need much immigrant labour. We shall need a good deal of it for specific employments, but I am moving towards the opinion that if we are to have such immigrant labour, it cannot any longer carry with it the right of settlement or establishment. I do not want to go into details because, as hon. Members will realise, this would mean legislation, but if these two rights were removed, we could have more of the selective schemes of recruitment such as the Barbados scheme for London Transport and some other very interesting proposals which Dr. Eric Williams has put forward. These should be considered and they should not involve ultimate settlement and establishment.
When we are considering the sources of such immigrant labour, I must frankly once again come out in favour of discrimination. I find that on Third Reading of the Bill I made a modest plea that 361 we should discriminate in favour of the West Indians and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) was the lonely voice on either side of the House who said "Hear, hear". West Indians, if I can choose the phrase, may be at the opposite end to us in the racial spectrum, but the fact is that without exception they are the most assimilable of all the immigrants. They are the most British orientated in their culture and we have a peculiar debt to them which we owe to no other people in the world.
§ Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan
Sometimes too well. They have a particular call on us which no other people have.
When we have discussions of this problem and when we read articles under the title of "The Dark Million", carrying a sort of sinister connotation which does not always correspond with reality, I cannot help feeling that the incidents which we deplore have been incredibly few and that there is virtually no other nation which could have received the dark million into its midst so remarkably happily as we have done. That is an immense credit both to us and to our guests.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I should like in a very humble way to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) who throughout these discussions over the years has been the voice of moderation in this matter. We should not let this opportunity pass without a special word of tribute to him. He has not only the voice of moderation in these matters but a particular love for the West Indies, and I like to think that one was father of the other; and to some extent his love of the West Indies and his knowledge of the people there have brought even greater humanitarianism to his point of view. I was delighted by the way in which he spoke and I would very much like him to know how much my feeling is shared by both sides of the House.
I should also like to tell the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) how much I welcomed the tone of his remarks. With a little contradiction, he spoke of a Council of State, saying in one breath that he, like The Times, did not want these matters handed to some 362 Olympian body, while in the next he said that he wanted a Council of State. I will not quarrel with him as to which of those expressions it should be, but if whatever we have today is what he wants I am very pleased with it.
There is a difference between what we have had in recent years and what is now "Olympian" or a "Council of State". This is all that any of us have meant when from either side of the House we have asked for this issue to be taken out of party politics. We have simply said that this is an issue, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, which emotion and prejudice and irrationalism could easily dominate. That is why we have said that we should approach it as a Council of State and not as fighting party politicians. That is all we ask, because we agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the underlying issues need discussion. It is the approach, the absence of prejudice, the absence of temper and name-calling which really matter.
The right hon. Member for Reigate said that he did not wish to raise the temperature of the debate, and neither do I. I want to say this one thing and then leave it alone. I am tempted into it only by something the right hon. Gentleman said. He said that some hon. Members on this side of the House ought to make some apology for things said two or three years ago. Without wishing to raise the temperature any more than the right hon. Gentleman did, I would only say that that feeling is reciprocated. Has he seen the leaflet which was circulated in Birmingham in order to win one constituency in Birmingham—it does not matter which—carrying the imprint of the Tory agent on it and showing an arrow aimed at the heart of Britain and saying:Let"s go with Labour. 300,000 immigrants if you vote Labour tomorrow.If the right hon. Gentleman wants some apology, I will give it very gladly if once and for all we can exorcise this temper and this name-calling, but I hope that equally he will be willing to say that one or two apologies from that side on matters like this might be helpful.
§ Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan
I rather regret what the hon. Gentleman has said. None of us here is responsible for what 363 is said outside the House of Commons and my remarks referred only to what had been said, at different stages, in the House. I have with me some quotations which are thoroughly regrettable.
§ Mr. Chapman
Politics inside the House and politics outside cannot be divorced. The people who were saying things which the right hon. Gentleman disliked hearing inside the House were also saying them outside, and the same is true the other way round. The two went hand in hand, certainly at the last election. I leave it at that, because I do not want to raise the temperature after the early speeches. But when the right hon. Gentleman asks for apologies, I hope that they will be given on both sides.
The crucial issue in the debate is that of numbers, as was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Monmouth. The key of his speech was that he wanted the numbers of male working immigrants entering the country to be drastically reduced. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can quite get away, as he tried to do, with avoiding questions about what numbers are involved. If the numbers are examined, it will be seen that we do not have much room for manoeuvre.
I want to take the figures of vouchers issued in the last year—June, 1963, to June, 1964—to A and B voucher applicants, namely, people with jobs to come to and people with special skills that we need. I want to examine the breakdown of the total. There were about 19,000 vouchers issued in those two categories. Nearly 2,000 of the applicants were teachers. Who will start cutting there? About 5,000 were other graduates and professional people. Do we need those, or can we cut the number, given the shortage in nearly every category in our community? That accounts for 7,000 out of the 19,000.
Another 1,200 were doctors. Who will cut that number? What drastic reduction can we make there? I say to the right hon. Member for Monmouth—I am sorry that he has gone—that words do not mean anything unless we examine these categories. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health will 364 support me when I say that about 40 percent. of the doctors in our hospitals are immigrants. Where would we be without them in our hospital service? We are desperately short of them. I am in favour of increasing, not cutting, the numbers of immigrants in that category and in many other categories.
Another 2,000 applicants were draughtsmen and engineering and building craftsmen. Who is in favour of cutting that number? I will not refer to the 1,000 nurses who were issued with vouchers. If some hon. Members had their way and drastic reductions were made in the numbers of immigrants four metropolitan hospitals—and many others—would be closed tomorrow.
I come to the other two main categories—about 2,000 domestic staff and 4,000 general people. When we add up the figures, we find that about 11,000 or 12,000 out of the 19,000 were teachers, nurses, doctors, other graduates, draughtsmen and building craftsmen.
It is meaningless to start talk about making drastic cuts unless we are willing to go through each category and say where we can economise. I do not believe that when that is done hon. Members will start economising. They will say, "We had better look for some more". They are fulfilling needs throughout the country. Some of them are doing jobs which are not listed but which would cause our economy to collapse if they were not done. There would not be a bus service in Birmingham if it not for the West Indians. We have I do not know how many buses off the road because of the shortage of crews. We are worried about the situation, but without the West Indians, who are driving those which are on the road, we should be in very great difficulty.
I say bluntly to hon. Members opposite that I am in favour of moderation in numbers. Governments never say how many vouchers they aim to issue in a year; they never set a target. We are able to judge afterwards what figure they had in mind. But the aim of about 30,000 or 40,000 entrants a year—half of them, perhaps, with A and B vouchers and half, perhaps, relatives, which is roughly how it is working out—seems to me sensible. It is only sensible because we need the labour involved.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Would the hon. Gentleman deal with the question which was put to me, that there are half a million still entitled to come here and that with every 40,000 who come another 160,000 may be added to that half a million?
§ Mr. Chapman
That is a legitimate point about the number of people who have the legal right under the Act to come back to this country because of previous residence here. This is a worrying thing. I did not want to pass comment. I did not know, as the hon. Gentleman did not know, that this was of such magnitude. But do not let us blow it up into another big scare about total numbers. My right hon. and learned Friend would, I think, be perfectly willing to say that if the returning flow were to reach Niagara proportions he would ask for powers to deal with the matter. That has been his general attitude throughout. All that I am talking about—and this was the point made by the right hon. Member for Monmouth—is th numbers with vouchers admitted to work here. I hope I have disposed of that one reasonably successfully.
I come to the other point that I wish to make about numbers. Let us for heaven"s sake keep the total in proportion. Last year we admitted 48,000 Commonwealth immigrants. But we also admitted 42,000 aliens. Are we to be forced into making drastic cuts to the point when we let in half as many people from our Commonwealth as aliens? When people get all excited, quite rightly—I am not grumbling: this is the place in which to bring matters into the open—and carry on big campaigns concerning 30,000 or 40,000 immigrants, I want to know why they never talk about the 30,000 or 40,000 aliens. Is it because one sort of immigrant has a black face and the other a white face? That is a legitimate question to ask the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), in particular.
§ Mr. Chapman
That is a point which the hon. Gentleman should answer. When he further breaks down the 48,000 immigrants who came here last year and realises that 35,000 of them were wives and families, he will realise that there is not much left of his argument.
366 I should like to say something to the Government. I said it throughout the election in my constituency. Hon. Members opposite tried to pretend that I was "kidding" my constituents, but they believed me. I said that I thought that the target of a maximum of 50,000 immigrants a year was what this country could absorb. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) went round saying that it would mean 100,000 if Donald Chapman said 50,000. That is the way in which the election was fought in some constituencies. I have said this consistently and it is what the Government largely are doing and which Governments of both parties have done. If we can think in terms of 30,000 or 40,000 immigrants—half relatives, and half representing labour which we need— I hope that the issue is dead and that we can agree that this is a sensible way to look at the problem.
I come finally to one or two positive proposals about integration. As my right and learned Friend knows, the British Caribbean Association has been on official deputations to five Ministries with suggestions for positive measures to ease integration. I say to the right hon. Member for Monmouth that every one of his points—I am not claiming that they are ours—has been urged on Ministries by our deputations. The Association is an all-party body. This is because there is a fund of good will about immigration. We have been pressing the Ministries hard on this, and we will continue to do so.
There are, however, one or two other points which I should like to stress in the hope that they will eventually be accepted. I join the right hon. Member for Reigate in hoping that there will be a bit more dispersal. I should like to see priority for vouchers given to people in categories A and B and who are willing to settle in areas where there are few immigrants,—with jobs already arranged in those areas or a willingness, not to be directed forcibly, but to be given information leading them to settle in areas where there are not undue concentrations of immigrants. This could be a sensible dispersal system built in to the voucher scheme. I hope very much that it will receive consideration.
Secondly, I suggest that hon. Members on both sides, especially hon. Members like the hon. Member for Louth, 367 who has some influence in this, should set out to get immigrants accepted in places in the public eye, for example, as shop assistants in the big stores. There is a good deal of resistance by employers in big stores to accept coloured immigrants into service in the big stores and in other aspects in the public eye.
I should like to see this progress in Government Departments which deal with the public. I should like to see the number of coloured faces behind the counter in National Insurance offices increasing. Let us show that we believe in this, from the Government downwards, and let us lay stress on making efforts in the places to which I have referred.
Thirdly—and I think that the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) has urged this in the House, and we have urged it in the British Caribbean Association for a long time—can we please make a beginning by having one or two coloured policemen in our community? This might have a big effect. I know that there are dangers in this in that a policeman"s beat might include areas where a coloured policeman would not be welcome; but these matters have to be judged on their merits, and there are many towns which do not have this prejudice. A beginning could be made in towns where there are harmonious relations. I should like to see the stamp of public approval on the employment of coloured policemen in these places. I think that this would do a great deal to ease the problem of integration.
I should like to see a few coloured people employed in the Palace of Westminster. I know that we have one or two people from the West Indies and elsewhere on the staff here, but I should like us, as a House of Commons, to show that we believe in this matter, and that we are going to make a deliberate attempt to fit them into some jobs here. They would, of course, be employed only on merit. I do not want anybody to be taken out of turn, but we should make a deliberate attempt to show that we believe in these things.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
What has the hon. Gentleman done about dispersal on his doorstep in Birmingham? Has he encouraged his friends on the local authority to start 368 a housing association in Northfield to disperse some of these people? Secondly, will he say why the 50,000 expanded to 100,000 is not reasonable in view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about the evasions coming in? Does not he know that the figure has doubled?
§ Mr. Chapman
That is typical of the arguments advanced by the hon. Gentleman, and I do not intend to deal with it. It is not worth while doing so. He is trying to get me to put the public stamp of approval on 50,000 evasions. I have no intention of approving evasions. All of us believe in keeping the total to 50,000, and the hon. Gentleman"s distortion of what I said is typical of what he tried to do throughout the election campaign. I do not want to raise that issue here. The hon. Gentleman does not do the House a service by trying to carry on that kind of argument here.
The Labour-controlled City Council in Birmingham—and in part this is in answer to what the hon. Member for Selly Oak asked—has asked the Government—and I want to press this on the Government because I consider that it is applicable to other cities—for extra power to control the multi-occupation of houses. Indeed, there is a private Bill going through the House in connection with this matter.
Under the 1961 Housing Act, houses in multi-occupation can be controlled only once they have become occupied. They become subject to inspection, and so on, only once they become lodging houses, and possibly subject to being overcrowded. What Birmingham has asked for—and I support this most strongly—is that this power should be made much more clear by allowing the City to control these houses in advance of multi-occupation. It should have power to compile a register of such houses which it approves and accepts after inspection as suitable premises for the purpose. It should have general control over the areas in which they are situated, and some idea of the people who want to run them as lodging houses. I suggest that this stronger control over houses in multi-occupation, and the power to maintain a register, as opposed to having a power to disapprove after occupation, would help in many areas, apart from Birmingham.
369 I want to see more teacher courses to deal with the problems of the areas from which immigrants come. Let teachers understand the history and the cultural pattern of the West Indies and Asia. We had some last year particularly, but we want more such courses. Let us have more teaching in school about biology. Let us teach our children that there is no biological difference between black and white on the scale that is made out. Let us have our children brought to a more scientific understanding of these problems.
I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will press for a Commonwealth-wide conference on migration. It is wrong for the Commonwealth to call itself multi-racial and yet be unwilling, in parts of it, to accept coloured migrants. For example, Australia ought to accept some coloured people from the West Indies. I tackled the Australian Minister for Air on this during a radio broadcast. He said that Australia accepted only students. I said that the situation was crazy. I pointed out that Australia accepted building trade workers from Britain because they were needed, but that she would not accept masons, as they call them, from Jamaica.
We are playing a silly game. Everything depends on the colour of a man"s skin. I think that I won the argument with the Australian Minister, because there is no answer to my argument. If there is a need for building trade workers in Australia and there is a surplus in Jamaica, or a willingness, or indeed a need, to migrate from there, I cannot for the life of me see why, if this is supposed to be a multi-racial Commonwealth, we cannot talk to each other frankly about our prejudices and restrictions and sit down together as a Commonwealth to work out a common approach to, and a sharing of, each other"s burdens.
I could go on for a long time, but I shall not do so. I have been near to this problem for many years. I am glad that this issue is being raised today out of the bickering and the name-calling of earlier years on to a level of what, quite rightly, the right hon. Member for Monmouth called a Council of State. Let it remain that way in the coming years.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
I have heard the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) speak on this subject on many occasions. I know what a tremendous enthusiast he is, particularly for the West Indians, about whom he always speaks with great warmth and authority.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman very much when he reminds us that immigrants, and particularly coloured immigrants, are doing a lot of valuable work in this country and that we certainly could not do without them at the moment. I also agree with him very much when he talks about the importance of dispersal, about which I shall have something to say later.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) has done a great service in initiating this debate, and already it has been very worth while. I thought that the Leader of the House made a most valuable speech, both in its tone and in its content. He gave us a lot of extremely valuable information, about numbers, and so on, which emphasised the size of the problem facing us.
I was extremely interested to hear that Earl Mountbatten of Burma has taken on the job of liaison within the Commonwealth. I do not think that anyone could bring it off better than he can. His reputation is tremendous and his authority in this sort of question is absolutely second to none. But he will have a difficult task, because all these countries find it extremely difficult to keep their people in—especially countries like India and Pakistan. They find great difficulty in limiting the numbers from their end. Whatever happens, we will have to institute our own controls here.
It is high time that the two sides of the House got together, as they are doing today, on this most important and difficult problem. Even if no more immigrants came to this country than we have already absorbed they would present a great problem for future generations, and it is about them that the Government and the Minister should be thinking. I do not suggest that we can take this matter altogether out of party politics. At one time I hoped that we could take defence out of party politics, and then, perhaps, education, but I have become wiser with 371 the years and have come to the conclusion that we must not set our sights too high.
It is very likely that a number of points of acute controversy will continue to exist between the two sides of the House. We must accept that fact. Nevertheless, it is essential that both sides should agree on the general principles and the machinery to be adopted, otherwise we shall have complete chaos in a few years" time, as a result of attempts to change policy with changing Governments.
I realise that the problem can readily escalate and that it may get completely out of hand in 10 years" time if it is neglected. There are two basic factors on which we surely all agree. First, we must not take in more immigrants than we can easily assimilate and for whom we can find employment and accommodation. If we do not adopt that policy we shall lay up for ourselves a constant state of irritation, which might lead to worse things.
If we do not allow families to come into the country as units we shall have all sorts of trouble with women. The female element is absolutely essential, and the sooner the men here have their wives with them the better I shall be pleased. My son emigrated to Australia, and when he went I said to him, "If you are going to Australia you must integrate yourself into the country in every way. That is the only way to do it." He has managed to do so. He now has children, and is an Australian to all intents and purposes. He is extremely happy.
That is what we want to do for people who come to this country, but it must be in accordance with numbers that we can assimilate and for whom we can provide employment and accommodation. Those people that we accept must be treated for all purposes as citizens of the United Kingdom, without any discrimination.
To see how far we have progressed in this matter I was looking through the report of the debate that we had on 17th February, 1961—not many years ago—on a Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne). At that time my hon. Friend"s Motion was considered to be quite outrageous, in respect of the controls that he wanted to impose. On the other hand, the Amend- 372 ment moved by the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) went to the other extreme, in saying that we should not have any control on immigration into this country.
With the passing of only a few years the two sides are meeting one another in the middle. It is extraordinary how much movement together has taken place. I spoke in that debate. I remember the hon. Member for Islington, East (Sir Eric Fletcher)—now Minister without Portfolio—saying that I had made a very balanced speech. My speech was in the middle of the two extremes. I started by saying:This is a specially difficult problem for people like myself, who have spent a great part of their lives in the Commonwealth and are very Commonwealth-minded but who, at the same time, represent constituencies in which this problem vitally affects the numbers of people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1961; Vol. 634, c. 1952.]I was there referring both to permanent residents and immigrant residents.
I have many friends, especially in India and Pakistan, many of whom write to me wanting to come over here. It is very difficult to have to tell them that they cannot. I am told that my constituency of Norwood today has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, combined immigrant and housing problems in the whole of London. It must be remembered that part of my constituency has the postal address of Brixton, although it is actually in Norwood. It borders on the constituency of the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton).
By far the greater number of immigrants in my constituency—as anyone can see who walks through it—are coloured. Neither the local employment exchange nor the local borough council has any idea how many coloured immigrants there are, either in my constituency or in the Borough of Lambeth, because they are not registered separately, and the landlords in these areas always give a false idea of the numbers of people living in their houses. If one visits those houses in the morning one finds only a few people in them, but if one goes there in the evening one has to push the doors to shut them because so many people are inside.
The local employment exchange in Brixton tells me that it was absolutely swamped by applicants for employment 373 up to 1962, when the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed, but that it has now more or less got the situation in hand. Nevertheless, unemployment among coloured immigrants in my constituency and in Lambeth is considerably higher than it is in London as a whole, although the situation is very much better than it was.
The second point they made, about which I have personal experience, is that there is little colour prejudice on the part of employers, which is good to know. There is not much colour prejudice among workers, either. I know of one factory which has a Jamaican in charge and where all the workers are white. There has been no trouble in that factory at all.
But the housing officials paint a much more gloomy picture. They have about 6,000 families on the waiting list of the Lambeth Borough Council and they have now to take on at least another 6,000 as the residue from the L.C.C. Naturally, the coloured immigrants are a great problem from two points of view. First of all, they have to be housed somewhere and, therefore, they very often have to take precedence in their housing over other residents who have been waiting years to get a house. That cannot be helped, because the housing is arranged not on length of time of waiting, but on points, and that is apt to be a source—as anyone will understand—of considerable ill-feeling.
A great many of them live in what one might call the ghetto area of Norwood, where many coloured people are crowded together in houses which ought to be pulled down. There are two streets in my constituency where one will not see a white face. They are entirely coloured streets. The Lambeth Borough Council is faced with a great dilemma here. It would like to pull these houses down, but if it pulls them down, what is the council to do with the occupants? Where can it put them? Both the authorities and the permanent residents are setting great store by the pledge which the Labour Party gave at the election—which I hope can be carried out—that a Labour Government would give special help to local authorities in areas where immigrants have settled.
That is the immediate thing which is needed more than anything else, except 374 one other factor. So long as more immigrants are allowed to flock into Norwood and Lambeth, the situation will get progressively worse. It makes no sense to me that in a borough with 12,000 families on the waiting list, and no accommodation to spare, more immigrants are constantly coming in.
Here again, I turn to what the right hon. Gentleman said and what was said in the debate, to which I have referred, on 17th February, 1961, by Mr. Royle, as he was then, the Labour Member for Salford, West, and who made an excellent speech. He advocated exactly what the hon. Member for Northfield advocated just now, that there must be some arrangement for the dispersal of immigrants throughout the United Kingdom. We cannot allow all the immigrants to be concentrated in certain parts of some of our great cities. That is the immediate problem. It is because they are so crowded in a comparatively small number of areas that this very difficult problem arises.
I would, therefore, ask the Government to consider these three points. No new immigrants should be allowed into these boroughs which are bursting at the seams. There should be an arrangement for putting them somewhere else. I do not know how it will be done. Perhaps, to set an example, the members of the Cabinet might each agree to take 100 off me and to settle them down with jobs and accommodation in their constituencies. I put that to the Home Secretary as a possible proposition. I think that it is up to those Members of Parliament who do not suffer from this problem to help Members like me, who do.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Thomas)
Does the right hon. and gallant Member want to direct the people away?
§ Sir J. Smyth
I think that that is a problem which the hon. Gentleman ought to think about. We insist on an employment voucher for a man, but nothing is said about where the man and his wife and family will live. I feel that that should be considered if one is to get a reasonable solution.
I asked one of the borough councillors the other day why so many 375 coloured immigrants want to come to Norwood. The answer he gave me was that there were three reasons. One was that so many of their friends had come there before and they always went where their friends were. That is a very good reason and it happens in many other places—they like to be together—but that does not make the problem any easier. The second reason, he said, was that there was a fairly good rate of employment—employment was reasonably good—and the third reason was that they were treated like human beings. I am glad of that, because this third reason is, I think, the thing which we all feel is most essential of all. If we take them in we have to treat them exactly like our own people in every way.
I am gratified that despite the numbers of immigrants which we have in Norwood and the difficulties of the housing situation, we have had so very little racial trouble. I always say that we have a duty to the immigrant to integrate him into our society, but he has a responsibility, too—to accustom himself to our ways of life and our habits.
I remember an occasion some years ago when the Government of India asked me to take an Indian officer back to India with me after we had had a V.C. reunion in this country. I went back on the "Viceroy of India", on which this man, who was a young Sikh Jemadar, was sailing. The P. and O. did him proud and gave him a first-class cabin to himself. All went well until the second day out, when the purser came to my cabin and said, "Would you come immediately? There are complaints about the frightful smell which is emanating from your friend"s cabin". As soon as I got there I knew exactly what it was. He was cooking an Indian meal in his cabin with ghee.
I have eaten a good deal of Indian food, but ghee makes me feel very sick and the smell of it makes many other Western people feel very sick. I went to see my friend, Ishar Singh, and said, "They have integrated you into their society and they have given you one of their best cabins. It is now up to you to see that you do not do anything which is offensive to them. I am not suggesting 376 that you should eat English food, which is abhorrent to you, but that you should make your stinks in a place where they will not offend anyone else". He did that and he had a very happy voyage.
We tend to talk a great deal about integration and it is not always an easy problem. I do not know how many hon. Members in the House have actually lived in an Indian village. It is quite an experience. Without doing that one does not know how the people live. For purposes of nature one has to trek out into the fields every morning and one soon gets used to it. But it is the other way round here. One has to realise that they have to integrate themselves, not only into our community, but into many of our habits which are not always very easy for them to follow.
I should like to say one word about the schools, because I feel that it is in the schools that integration is most important and is easiest, because the coloured and the white children get on very well together. If integration starts then, it will go right on with them through life. The difficulties are, in my constituency, that there are so many coloured children in some of these schools, some of whom, to begin with, are very backward—some cannot speak English at all—that it makes it extremely difficult for the staff to know how much attention they should give to the immigrant children at the expense of the others.
The other day I heard someone say, "You can solve this problem by sending the coloured children in buses to other schools." We cannot really do that. It would be purgatory for the children. It would emphasise the colour problem. I say definitely that where they live they have to be educated, and the answer is that we must not put too many of these children into one area, because it is living that matters.
I wish to say a word about the racial discrimination Bill. I know nothing about the Bill which may come before the House, but, of course, as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth, we shall look at it with sympathy. But I feel that if racial hatred exists—I am happy that in my constituency there is not much evidence of it—it exists in the hearts and minds of men. It is my experience that we 377 shall not eliminate anything like that by the threat of fines and imprisonment. I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the human approach is much more likely to succeed.
A few years ago I was asked to speak at a meeting of the Jewish Ex-service Men"s Association, for which I have a very high regard, and have had close connections both as a Minister and afterwards. The members wanted advice to be given to the Government to introduce more severe penalties against people who said rude things about Jews at open-air meetings, particularly at Fascist meetings. I was in a minority as the only one to advise that this should not be done. I was asked what should be done, and I said, "I suggest that you do not go to the meetings." They said, "We have never thought of that. There has always been a fracas there, with everyone calling one another names." I said, "Why do it?" So far as I know the members of that association benefited very much from that advice. Certainly, they have not agitated for extra legal powers any more.
I have nothing more in particular to say, except that I have not dealt with the question of casual visitors. In my constituency there is a big technical institute, an extremely good one, which I support and I go and talk to the students. But it raises an extra problem for my constituency because the students all have to live somewhere.