§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
There are two Amendments on the Order Paper in my name. The first is in page 2, leave out lines 6 and 7, and is designed to omit the reference to the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. The second is to leave out lines 15 and 16 and thereby omit the reference to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we take the two Amendments together.
§ The Chairman
I had been warned that a request of this kind might be made to me and I have looked at the debates on similar Amendments to the Bill last year. It seems to me that on that occasion the two debates ran on different lines and each of them involved a number of considerations peculiar to itself. It therefore seems to me that if the Committee seeks to debate the two Amendments together it might run into some confusion. If it were to appear to be the unanimous wish of the Committee to debate the two Amendments together I would not, of course, stand in its way, but if it be the wish of any hon. Member to debate the two Amendments separately, as they always have been debated up to now, I think it would be my duty to call them separately on this occasion also.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I regard it as absolutely necessary for these two Amendments to be taken separately.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I do not want to press the point. It was a question only of the convenience of the Committee. The Government themselves have suggested a committee to consider both aliens and Commonwealth immigrants, but, naturally, though I thought that it might facilitate the business of the present Committee, I will not press the matter further.
I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 6 and 7.
I move this first Amendment very shortly because it has now become a very narrow point. It concerns the way in which we deal with aliens. I was beginning to read the other day A. J. Taylor's provocative account of English history between 1914 and 1945. In the opening paragraph of that book he recalls a happier world where any foreigner could live here without a passport and without even reporting to the police. It is worth reflecting that there was a time in this country when our affairs were conducted in that manner. It appears from the Schedule that our legislation on aliens really emerged in wartime legislation and in particular in Orders passed immediately after the First World War. Anyone who studies it will realise that it smacks somewhat of that atmosphere.
As a result, hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have come to the 264 view that it ought to be reformed. I do not think that there is any difference of view about it. I shall argue later on the other Amendment that we should not postpone necessary action in other fields while this goes on, but I am entirely at one with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who has taken a leading part in this matter, that there ought to be a reform.
The Government have conceded this, because in the debate on the Address they said specifically that they recognise the force of these arguments, advanced from both sides of the House of Commons, and that they are prepared to set up an independent committee. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton suggested—and this is really the only point left in this discussion—that the inquiry into this legislation might be better done by a Select Commttee of the House rather than by an independent committee set up by the Home Office. This is the only point left on the aliens side.
I do not wish to take too pedantic a view. I shall be guided very much by what the Home Secretary says, but I think that there is a good deal of force in the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. This is a matter where the rights and interests of the executive and judiciary tend to overlap and coincide. There are difficult issues of how far one can have an appeal to the judiciary from a decision of the Executive. These matters are well recognised and understood in the Home Office. There is the question of how far a Select Committee is a good instrument for varying legislation. It has one achievement to its credit, namely, the Army Act, which I think most people will agree was rather a success when it was referred to a Select Committee. That Committee examined the matter and an Army Act which has received general approval since then was adopted.
On the other hand, a Select Committee would probably take longer than an indedendent committee. I hope that the Home Secretary will agree that in any event the interests and views of Members of the House of Commons, whatever inquiry he sets up, should be taken seriously into account in these matters. Therefore, on this Amendment, which is technical, I would only say—I do not 265 want to lose the Act; I merely want to give an opportunity for debate—that we ought to have an inquiry and that the views of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton should be listened to on the question whether it would be better to have a Select Committee or otherwise.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
There is another point which seems to me to be very important and that is the question of the terms of reference of the inquiry body, whichever it may be. At present these are confined to what I should have thought relatively unimportant points on the procedure of appeal against the refusal of admission or against expulsion, but the grounds on which people are expelled seem to be much more important, and there are also the wider questions of naturalisation.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
That is a perfectly fair point. A very good article by Mr. Rogerson appeared in Public Law on this subject, which I am sure those of us who are interested have been studying. It is perfectly true that there is the question of grounds for deportation as well, and I think that the terms of reference need looking at. I have no doubt that the Home Office will take into account representations made on that. When we come to the wider issues of the next Amendment there are a great many other things which need looking at as well. At present I am restricting myself narrowly to this Amendment.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
The right hon. M ember for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) has moved an Amendment to the Schedule which has been moved until now by my party ever since 1951 and by hon. Members opposite every year between 1945 and 1951. As far as I remember, today is the first occasion on which we have had the support of the right hon. Member for Monmouth. I am grateful for it, belated though it is.
I agree with the right hon. Member that the Government's promise goes a little beyond similar promises made by every other previous Government in the whole of that period. They have all said, "We agree with you in principle". They have all said, "We are considering it." They have all said, "If you will only leave the matter alone we will perhaps consider it during the year and perhaps by next year we will have some improved 266 machinery or legislation." The important thing is that until this year no single step has been taken to implement any of these promises. There have been the same pious, platitudinous expressions of principles. There has been no opposition from any quarter. There has been no disagreement that the position in which we have been all these years is absolutely intolerable to any liberal or freedom-loving man, but there has been absolutely no action whatever to change the situation.
This is not true of the present Government. They have promised some action, but I am not clear what action they have promised. They have promised to set up some sort of committee to do something or other. I do not regard that in that form as a satisfaction of the objections and criticisms which have been universal for almost two generations in the House of Commons.
It is manifestly wrong that the power of liberty should remain in the arbitrary decision of one man, and it becomes even more oppressive, tyrannical and insupportable when the Home Secretary adopts the position not merely that he has the right to decide but that he is in any practical sense not responsible to this House for what he does or omits to do. He accepts a general responsibility in principle. We can attack him on the Home Office Vote. We can put Questions to him. We can raise Adjournment debates. But so long as the Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend or any other, takes the view that he is under no duty to explain to the House the reasons for what he does, he is not being responsible to this House at all and, if that were possible, he makes the position even more intolerable than it was at the beginning.
We want to be assured that the Government are now committed to the principle that this shall never again be an arbitrary decision of any single Minister but that it shall be a judicial proceeding, the man against whom the decision is taken being entitled to know what decision has been taken, why it has been taken, what facts are alleged against him, and being given an opportunity to meet those facts instead of having the whole thing surrounded by a conspiratorial silence in which the Home Secretary accepts responsibility for numbers of cases about which, I am absolutely certain, he has no personal knowledge whatever.
267 In order to illustrate how wrong this principle is, I shall tell the Committee of one individual case. I am not asking the Home Secretary to do anything about it. This is not the occasion for that. What I shall do is to recite the details of the case so that the Committee may see how unjust the situation established by the Act, which the Government still ask us to continue, can be. Perhaps I ought not to give the name of the man concerned. If anyone challenges me to give the name, I can. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend will know of the case to which I refer.
This man is now 67 years of age. He married a British subject. He married her in Cairo, where he lived for 40 years. He was in Cairo a refugee from Eastern Europe. He established a prosperous business, but in 1957 or thereabouts he was expelled by the Egyptian Government. He was not expelled by the Egyptian Government for any act of his. He was expelled by the Egyptian Government because he had a British wife, and the British wife was expelled by the Egyptian Government as a direct consequence of actions taken by the British Government. He was admitted, with his wife, to this country. He is stateless. There is no other country to which he can go. He came here with his wife having lost everything he had built up in the whole of his life and having lost it involuntarily for no reason for which he himself bore any responsibility.
That was seven or eight years ago. He applied for naturalisation. He applied too soon. He was told that he had applied too soon and he was asked whether he would apply later. He waited till the five years were more than over, and then he asked for naturalisation. He remains an alien only because naturalisation was refused—or, rather, it was not refused, but it was not granted. He was told—I quote the letter:With reference to your application for grant of a certificate of naturalisation, I am directed by the Secretary of State"—
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman is going wide of the matters we can discuss here. It has been ruled before that naturalisation is not discussable on this Bill.
§ Mr. Silverman
I entirely agree, Sir Samuel. Of course it is not, and if I were complaining about what the Home Secretary had done regarding the application for naturalisation, I should certainly be out of order and I should at once accept your Ruling that I ought not to pursue the matter further. But I am not complaining of that. I am using this case as an illustration from which the Committee may perceive how an arbitrary discretion can work, and the arbitrary discretion in this case is related to a man who comes within the ambit of the Act which we are now considering. He remains within the Act only because of the arbitrary exercise of the Home Secretary's discretion under another Act which enables him to exercise an arbitrary discretion over a man under this Act. I am pointing out that this works with manifest injustice.
It was said in the letter that the Secretary of State hadgiven full and careful consideration to all the facts of the case, but …but what?—he is not prepared to reach a decision on it at present".Why ever not? I tried to find out. The letter was written on 31st January, 1964, not by my right hon. and learned Friend but by his predecessor, but when I raised the question some months later the present Government had taken over control and my right hon. and learned Friend had assumed responsibility.
As I have said, this is a man of 67 years of age. During the seven or eight years he has been here, he has been in and out of hospital on, I think, seven or eight occasions. He is suffering from an advanced heart disease. He is in constant peril of his life. He is here through no fault of his own. He is here stateless through no fault of his own. He is here by reason of acts for which he bore no responsibility but for which this country did bear responsibility.
It is two years since he made the application. He has still not had an answer. When I say, "Please tell me why", the answer from the Home Secretary is, "It is not our policy to tell you why". So the man still does not know what there is against him, why his application is not granted, what there is for him to answer, 269 and what chance he has of ever removing anything which is alleged to be—
§ Mr. Silverman
What I am saying, Sir Samuel, is that any Act which gives a Minister power to decide, perhaps, a man's fate, certainly his liberty and freedom to move about, and which puts that power in the Minister's hands without laying upon him any obligation to tell the man concerned what he has against him—
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
Sir Samuel, my hon. Friend has given, from his point of view, a full account of the case, with the permission of the Chair, but I take it that, if I seek to reply, I shall be ruled out of order.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget
On a point of order. I have taken part in these debates for many years and I understand the distinction to be that we cannot discuss naturalisation as such, because that arises under another Act, but we can discuss the results of refusal of naturalisation, which puts people and holds people within the Act which we are now discussing. In other words, we can discuss what happens to people who are refused naturalisation, because they then come under the law which we are now discussing.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
What brings what I am saying within the bounds of order on this occasion, Sir Samuel, is that if my right hon. and learned Friend thinks that he has any good grounds for any allegation of any importance, or any accusation of any force against this man, he can put him in prison five minutes from now and deport him from the country at any moment without telling me anything of what is in his mind and without telling me what he has against this man and without giving this man any right of appeal.
§ Sir F. Soskice
On a point of order. I quite follow that argument, but I should like to have your guidance, Sir Samuel. 270 My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) having given a full account, as he sees it, of the case, how is the course of the debate to go on? I am not seeking to inhibit my hon. Friend, but shall I be able to say, "The facts are these", or, "The reason I cannot give the facts is this", or, "I am inhibited by Statute from giving the facts", or, "It is contrary to public policy to state the facts in a particular case"? If not, the debate will have gone on with a statement from one side and no reply to it.
§ Mr. Silverman
Those are exactly the reasons why for many years I have thought this position to be unsatisfactory. When my right hon. and learned Friend sat on the Opposition benches, he thought that it was unsatisfactory and he must still believe that it is unsatisfactory or he would not have recommended the setting up of a committee to advise him on how the situation should be altered. I do not dissent from what my right hon. and learned Friend is saying. He knows the position to be unsatisfactory, as I believe it to be.
The right hon. Member for Monmouth does not intend to press the Amendment precisely because he accepts the Government undertaking to appoint a committee to change the situation. All I am doing is to point out what the situation is and will continue to be if we pass the Bill in its present form. That is exactly what the situation is and I am saying that it is wrong and that it does not carry the acquiescence, let alone the active consent, of any hon. Member and certainly not the acquiescence or active consent of my right hon and learned Friend himself. He is himself proposing to change it.
I admit that the complaint about not dealing with this man's application for naturalisation arises not under this but under some other Act and at this stage I am not making any complaint about the way in which that application was dealt with. I reserve the freedom to deal with that on another and more appropriate occasion. But that does not make it inappropriate to use it today as an illustration of the principle which is embodied in this Act and which the Government are so far asking us to continue.
§ The Chairman
Perhaps I have allowed the debate to go somewhat wider than I should. We cannot discuss the Home Secretary's action under the administration of the Naturalisation Acts.
§ The Chairman
I think that the hon. Gentleman has made his point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary asked to what extent he would be able to reply. I ask him to limit what he has to say as nearly as he can to being within the rules of order on this particular issue. I ask him not to go into greater detail than is absolutely necessary.
§ Sir F. Soskice
On a point of order. I wish to defend myself against the charges which have been made in respect of the case which has been mentioned. I would be grateful for your Ruling, Sir Samuel.
§ The Chairman
I do not think that we can take this matter any further. The position is quite clear. Naturalisation can be mentioned where relevant to the Act now under discussion and no further.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I do not in the least differ from what my right hon. and learned Friend is saying or, with respect, Sir Samuel, from what you are saying. If my right hon. and learned Friend thinks that I have stated any of the facts incorrectly, I hope that he will tell me what I have stated incorrectly. All I am endeavouring to do, and all I have endeavoured to do over the years on these occasions, is to place the Committee in possession of a set of relevant facts. If I have stated them wrongly, I am ready to correct them, but I do not think that I have stated them wrongly. It may be that I have not done justice to the Home Secretary's position. I do not know, and he does not let me know. He does not tell me his reasons and therefore I cannot form any opinion as to whether they are good or bad reasons. He does not let the man concerned know what his reasons are and that man, 272 therefore, cannot form any opinion as to whether they are good or bad reasons. It is therefore impossible to say whether the reasons are good or bad. However, that is not the point I am making.
I am making the totally different and germane point that there is a situation in which a man's whole fortune and future depend on the arbitrary decision of one man without any reason being given and without any evidence and without any opportunity to reply. It is true, as my right hon. and learned Friend has said, that action can be taken by the man going to the Bow Street magistrate, but if the Bow Street magistrate decided that my right hon. and learned Friend was wrong, what power would that give to anybody? My right hon. Friend would not be bound by that decision. All I am saying is that this is the clearest possible instance, even though its merits are not now discussable because the issue arises under another Act, of how wrong it is in an Act such as this to give sole discretion to a Minister to refuse even to give his reasons or to accept his responsibility for what he has done. I do not propose to take the matter further. I think that the point is clear to everybody.
I am not asking my right hon. and learned Friend now to give me the reasons which he has always refused to give. I shall ask him at some other time on a more appropriate occasion. However, I am asking the Committee to say that we should not part with the Amendment, or allow it to be withdrawn, without getting the clearest possible undertakings from my right hon. and learned Friend about the Government's determination to bring this tyrannical, oppressive and illiberal system to an end at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
On a point of order. Can I assume that after my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary has finished his speech, we shall still be able to discuss this part of the Aliens Act?
§ Mr. Thomas
I should not like to stand in the way of my hon. Friend the Member 273 for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). I am merely replying to the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne. My right hon. and learned Friend will reply to the debate and will, no doubt, deal with any questions.
One question on which I presume the whole Committee will agree is that we must have control over aliens—over their admission and, when necessary, over their movements. The present control of aliens is exercised under the Aliens Order, 1953, as amended by successive Aliens Orders in 1957, 1960 and 1964. There are no powers other than these Orders for controlling either the entry of foreigners into the United Kingdom or their activities after admission and, therefore, we are bound to seek from the Committee permission for their renewal.
The right hon. Member for Monmouth and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne raised the question of the committee which it has been announced we propose to set up to look into the question of possible appeal procedures for both aliens and Commonwealth citizens. I tell the House at once, as I realise I told the House last year, that we accept the need for permanent legislation in this field. But now that this committee is to inquire into what right of appeal or other remedy should be available to aliens and Commonwealth citizens who are refused permission to land or who are required to leave the country, quite clearly we must await the results of its work. Sir Roy Wilson, a very distinguished lawyer who will be known to the Committee, has agreed to serve as the chairman of this committee. Until this body presents its report and a Bill can be prepared and fitted into the Parliamentary timetable, the only immediate courses before us are to pass this Measure or to enter the coming year with no control at all over aliens.
I turn to the question of the terms of reference of the committee. Last year, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) did not regard as unimportant the issue as to whether there should be the right of appeal in questions of deportation or of refusal to land. It has been always regarded, and rightly so, by my hon. and learned Friend as a most important question whether there should be any form of 274 appeal or any limit on the powers of our officers who exercise their duties on behalf of the Home Secretary. I believe that the committee will welcome the fact that this independent committee of inquiry has been given the task of studying the question and then reporting to us.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has indicated in a letter to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton, and I believe in the House, why he does not believe that a Select Committee is the best way of tackling this question. We do not want to explore the whole field of powers concerning aliens. The power of deportation must be in the hands of the Executive. Whoever seeks to govern in the land must have this ultimate power when people abuse our hospitality or prove to be unsavoury characters. Of course, the country has a right to say that there are some people who are better beyond our shores than here if they fail to behave.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
My hon. Friend will know that there is nobody in the House who disagrees with that. What I want to know from him is exactly what he means by "prove". One can prove anything against a man if one does not tell him what the charge is.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas
If my hon. Friend will have patience, I will come to that question in due course.
As I come to it, may I give some information briefly and quickly about the working of our controls during the past year. During the period 1st October, 1964 to 30th September, 1965, 4,154 foreigners were refused leave to land at United Kingdom ports. But this figure must he viewed in perspective against the overall total of nearly 2,700,000 foreigners who entered the United Kingdom during the same period. Therefore, refusals of leave to land amounted to no more than one for ever 650 people who were permitted to enter.
Of those refused admission, 1,770—well over one-third of the total—had come to work here but lacked valid labour permits. Of the remainder, 742 had insufficient means to support themselves during their proposed stay, 97 were unacceptable on medical grounds and 108 were stowaways. Of those who were unacceptable on medical grounds, some 275 50 per cent. were suffering from some sort of mental illness and others suffered from other forms of illness which made it essential for the immigration officer to decline to allow them to come in. As I say, 108 were stowaways, 339 did not have valid travel documents, 148 came without a visa in circumstances which required one and 149 sought permanent settlement for which they were ineligible. There were 478 technical refusals, which covered, in the main, people passing in transit through the country.
The technical refusals of leave to land may be necessary because the people concerned have been deported from another country, they are passing through the United Kingdom on the way home and their travel documents are of very restricted validity. The remaining 323 who are refused leave to land could be described as undesirable for a number of reasons. Eighty-two of them were aliens with criminal propensities, known to be drug traffickers.
I should like to remind the Committee that our immigration officers carry a great trust on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, and thus on behalf of the House of Commons, and they deserve our thanks for the compassionate, humane and vigilant way in which they undertake this task. During the past year I have spent a fair amount of my own time at the ports, and the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) came with me earlier this year to London Airport. Anyone who has firsthand experience of the immigration officers and who see how they set about their work will appreciate that we owe them an enormous debt.
I turn to the question of expulsion. The ultimate sanction must be available, not only against foreigners recommended for deportation by the criminal courts, but against those who have broken the law by failure or refusal to comply with the conditions on which they were allowed to enter the country. But deportation is by no means frequently resorted to. The average number of foreigners deported in recent years has been rather less than 100 a year, and in 1964 the total was 59. During the first nine months of the current year, 54 deportations were carried out.
276 When it is proposed to deport a foreigner who has settled here for two years or more, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite well knows, the practice since 1956 has been, except in security cases or where deportation is recommended by a criminal court, to give the person concerned an opportunity to make representations to and to be legally represented before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Bow Street. Since those arrangements were made, 117 foreigners have been eligible to make representations, but only 65 decided to avail themselves of the opportunity. In 45 of the cases that he has considered, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate has concurred in the proposal to deport, and I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne and the Committee that in no single case has deportation been proceeded with where the Chief Magistrate did not concur when the case had been taken to him.
§ Mr. Thomas
He concurred in 65 cases out of 117, which is roughly 70 per cent. It is, in fact, just over 69 per cent., and I have called it 70 per cent.
The deportation figures must be looked at in relation to the total number of foreigners that there are in the United Kingdom. There are always well over 400,000 here at any one time, and during the holiday season the figure may be well over half a million.
It would be wrong to present the image that we are in any way illiberal in the way that we approach the problem. For instance, factors such as long residence or marriage to a British subject are invariably taken into account before a deportation order is made, not only by those who hear the representations but by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary who takes the ultimate decision.
I should like the Committee to know also that with regard to the destination of a deportee, the deportation order merely requires him to leave and to stay out. In practice, he can only be sent to the country of which he is a national or to some other country willing to receive him, and I have myself known 277 cases of people who were about to be deported and who asked not to go back to their own country but to another country which was willing to accept them.
Sir Samuel, I know by your Ruling that I cannot go into detail in reply to my hon. Friend abort the case that he raised. I have discussed that case with him, and I have no doubt that I shall discuss it with him again. I look forward to that.
I hope that the Committee is going to give us these controls, as I believe it will, realising that we have gone a long way to meet the wishes of the Committee as they were expressed last year, in particular by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton and although he has not got the Select Committee for which he asked, he has succeeded and the Committee has succeeded in obtaining a committee which now will inquire quite independently into whether there should be a right of appeal to people refused admission and to people faced with deportation, so that the nightmare to which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne referred will be under examination. With that understanding I hope that the Committee will agree to renew these proposals.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
Before the Joint Under-Secretary sits down, I should like to ask him one question. As he will remember, in paragraph 6 of the White Paper on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration—the ombudsman White Paper—it is said that amongst those who will have access to the Parliamentary Commissioner will bepersons living abroad if their complaint is about the administration of individuals' rights or obligations arising here.Is it intended by the Government that the ombudsman should consider appeals from a decision of the immigration officer on refusing aliens admission to this country?
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman has asked me a question to which the answer is in the negative. I think, therefore, that the best thing that we can do is to await the advice that we shall receive from the independent committee.
§ Mr. Paget
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary said that since 1951 this subject had been raised always on the other side. Quite frankly, it has been raised by me wherever I have been sitting. Last year it was raised on this side, and it would have been raised on this side again if the right hon. Gentleman had not beaten me by about 30 seconds.
I want now to come back to the issues in the case and to state the reasons why both the form and the terms of reference of the proposed inquiry seem to me to be wholly unsatisfactory.
There are three matters which have to be looked at about an alien. How does he get here? What happens to him when he is here? What happens to him as and when he goes? I shall deal with them under those heads.
Firstly, as far as admission is concerned, I am not for a moment questioning the fact that it must ultimately be a question of discretion. The country must have a discretion as to whom it chooses to admit and, because there has to be a discretion there, a form of judicial tribunal seems to me to be unsatisfactory and always has. I do not think that a form of judicial tribunal can substitute itself effectively for a departmental discretion. All that it can really do is to deal with the specific matters which may be referred to it within the discretion. I will come back to that in a moment.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I appreciate the difficulties that my hon. and learned Friend has in mind, but he will know, will he not, that there are countries which have found ways out of the difficulties, notably the United States of America where, if an immigrant is refused leave to land, he has an appeal to a quasi-judicial tribunal, so that at least the man knows what is alleged against him.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget
There again my hon. Friend has picked on what seems to me to be the vital point, namely, to know what is alleged against the person concerned, and this is what I have always urged. I believe that a person should have the right to know, first, what is alleged against him, and, secondly, when he knows that and challenges matters of fact, he should be 279 able to ask the Department to take another look at those facts. That is all that I have ever asked for on this issue.
People coming here are interviewed by an immigration officer who has to come to a decision. I do not think that it would be practical at that point to interject a judicial hearing, but what I think one can do is to say that if he is refused entry he must be told why, and told specifically, and if he challenges any of the reasons he may ask the immigration officer to hold back his decision. There will, of course, have to be some arrangement about where he can be held while the specific facts which he challenges are examined.
If he is refused entry on medical grounds, I think it may be not unreasonable to say, "I should like a second opinion on this one" because medical grounds are often very tragic in these circumstances, particularly when it is a question of families reuniting, and that sort of thing, and I should not have thought that one was giving away too much by saying that if the person concerned challenges the particular illness, or the contention that it is a danger to the community into which he is going, a second opinion might be obtained.
I do not propose to go through all the examples, but to take only a few. If a man is accused of being a drug trafficker, I think he should be told where he was said to have committed such a crime. It might be said that it happened in Cairo. He may answer, "I have never been to Cairo in my life. The chap you have in mind is someone else, with my name". I do not think that that sort of thing occurs very often, but it can occur, and in those circumstances I should have thought it would be reasonable for the man concerned to be told why he is not being allowed to enter. I think he should be entitled to say, "This is wrong. You can verify what I have said in the following ways: please do so". That seems to me to be a fairly reasonable thing to do and it is the only thing for which I have asked.
That is all the right of appeal I have asked for, and I cannot see how one can have any effective appeal unless the man is given reasons for not being allowed to enter the country. He should be given 280 the reasons, and, if he disputes any of them, provided he is prepared to cover the expense of staying here while the inquiry is made, in the event of the inquiry going against him, he should be in a position to ask for the reasons to be verified.
So much for that, and I now come to what I think is the important thing here, and that is not the provision of the right of appeal against the refusal to admit, but an examination of the grounds, or the general rules, for making these exclusions. I agree that there has to be a discretion here in working on certain general rules, but that discretion and those rules ought to be examined by a committee.
For instance, generally speaking, there does not seem to be any very good reason for denying anybody the right to come here if he can support himself and is, in this sense, a sort of built-in export in that he provides currency to support himself and that currency is usable in foreign markets. I do not see why that sort of person should not be allowed in. I should have thought that that was the kind of question which a committee might consider. Provided the person concerned is respectable, if he wishes to come here, and he can provide the cost of his upkeep and thereby provide us with currency and so help our balance of payments, I do not see why he should not be allowed in. He would not seem to hurt us, and I do not see why we should hurt him. At the moment such a person is not allowed to enter this country.
I come next to the question of health. I should have thought that a committee might be given certain guidance on this. Obviously a line has to be drawn somewhere. We do not want to exclude somebody merely because he has a nasty cold, but we certainly do want to exclude a person who has tertiary syphilis. A line must be drawn somewhere between those two extremes, and I should have thought that a committee could look at it and see whether one could be.
I deal next with the work requirement, the permits which are issued through the Ministry of Labour. Surely this is something which a committee can consider to see whether this can be brought within the general structure of the law.
Another point which is not covered is whether a person should be entitled to 281 come here if he is coming here because he wants to marry.
The final point with which I wish to deal is the question of security. Here there has to be an ultimate discretion, but I cannot believe that a lot of people are excluded because in a security sense they are a danger to the country. If we really think a man is a spy, I should have thought that we would be only too pleased to have him in jurisdiction where we can watch him for a bit to enable us to discover his security network. I see little point in excluding people because we think they are spies. Other countries have intelligence budgets and I should prefer them to use their funds on spies we know rather than on spies we do not know.
§ Mr. Paget
If they are only posing as spies to get in, there seems to be no security reason for excluding them.
What we want—and I think that we must be together here—is that the person concerned should be given the reasons for his exclusion. We want general rules on which a discretion may be exercised. We want some kind of power to be able to ask the Minister to think again and to have another look where a decision is challenged because a fact is challenged.
When a man comes in he should be under our rule of law. I can see little object in making the law different for him. One of the verses of Exodus says:One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.That seems to be a very good general guide. But we are told that we want to control the movements of aliens here. Again, I should have thought that a committee ought to consider the question whether all this rather elaborate machinery to control the movement of aliens is of any value.
It works admirably for the alien whom there is no point in controlling—the alien who is complying with the law—but it works not at all for the alien who wishes to avoid the law. That can be tested by the number of au pair girls and students who disappear. Anybody who is trying to evade the law simply disappears from the register. It is only those who are ccmplying with the law anyway who 282 remain registered. Therefore, I doubt whether the procedure is worth the money, trouble and time that it takes. This, again, is the sort of thing which a committee should look at.
Then—and from a libertarian point of view this is far and away the most important case—there is the man who is subject to an expulsion order which cannot be exercised because there is no country which will take him. He becomes a person totally without any rights. He can be imprisoned indefinitely, without a charge. He is in the fullest sense of the word an outlaw. An expulsion order which is made on a man and which cannot be executed is an order of outlawry.
In my view, it is in flagrant contradiction to the provisions of the Charter of Human Rights. In very much the same sort of position is the man who is refused naturalisation. We cannot go into the workings of the Act; we can only deal with its results, because its results are the people who are subject to this Act. Here we have people placed in a position of less than citizenship—unable to become solicitors, or to join a number of other professions, or to join the public service. They are held in this position of inferiority indefinitely.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Herbert Butcher)
Order. The hon. and learned Member is wandering rather far from the subject of the debate. He must not discuss the question of naturalisation.
§ Mr. Paget
With respect, Sir Herbert, that is not so. The Amendment deals precisely with what happens to aliens who are here and to the man who is refused naturalisation. I cannot refer to what happens up to that point, but once a man is refused naturalisation he comes right within the terms of the Bill, and I submit that I am completely in order in discussing his position.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I have been listening to the hon. and learned Gentleman very carefully. At the moment he is approaching the edge of the precipice. In the debate which took place in 1961 the ground which the hon. and learned Member is now traversing was denied him by the Chairman, and I shall follow my predecessor's example.
§ Mr. Paget
It comes near the line. If I fell over the precipice before I shall watch my position today.
A man who is denied naturalisation remains under this Act. He cannot join a number of professions. He may have been an articled clerk, but he cannot become a solicitor. There are many disabilities about his position. He has no means of escaping them. He can be given no reason why he is maintained in this inferior position. The Declaration of Human Rights, to which we are parties, provides that every man shall have a right of nationality and a right to change his nationality. That is something to which we have subscribed. We are dealing only with people who are here as permanent residents—people who will remain here in the future. What is the excuse for keeping them in an inferior position?
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. That is exactly the ground that I indicated that the hon. and learned Member must not develop.
§ Mr. Paget
Precisely. I have finished with that point. But this kind of consideration is excluded not only from this debate; it is also very wrongly excluded from examination by the committee which my right hon. Friend is thinking of setting up.
Thirdly, I come to the question of expulsion. This question covers some very important points. The Under-Secretary said that the man who was expelled was generally sent to his own country, which was the only place to which he could be sent. That is not always so. This power is sometimes used as an alternative to extradition in cases which are not covered by the Extradition Acts. That was the position with Dr. Soblen. He had the opportunity of going to Czechoslovakia. The Czechs said that they would take him and would be pleased to do so, in spite of which he was put on an aeroplane to America, where he was going to be punished for an offence for which he could not have been extradited.
There was an even earlier case, when we were in alliance with France. It is a House of Lords case, and concerned the Duke of Château-Thierry, who was trying to avoid military service and who wanted to go to America but whom we returned to France at the request of the 284 French Government. Whether expulsion should be used as a substitute for extradition when the House has given no powers to extradite is at least a matter which ought to have been within the terms of reference of any worthwhile committee on this subject.
Those are my broad objections to the terms of reference. If we are to have a civilised aliens law which complies with the Declaration of Human Rights we require an examination by a committee with far wider terms of reference than merely the power to see how we should set up a tribunal to consider questions of discretion, the terms of discretion being outside the tribunal's jurisdiction.
I now come to the means, which is a Select Committee, for which I have often asked. I believe that a committee of investigation—a Royal Commission or anything of that sort—is an inefficient means of preparing legislation. It gets out of step with the Department which has to operate the legislation and, when it makes its recommendations, the Department has no difficulty in shooting them down. This sort of consideration is a pretext for not doing things.
The right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) may or may not confirm my opinion in this, but I think that it has always been a tradition of the Home Office—at any rate, since I have dealt with them—that their motto is, "Never give a reason: it always causes trouble". A Department of that sort, if it is given the last word, will find admirable reasons for not giving reasons for ignoring suggestions by a committee.
The whole point of a Select Committee is that while it is working the dialogue with the Department is continuous. The Select Committee makes its proposal; the Department gives its reasons why not. Those reasons are then thrashed out between the Select Committee and the Department, with reference, if necessary, to the Minister, who can go to the Select Committee. Step by step, the thing is worked out and agreed. It is no use imposing legislation on a Department which has to make it work and will not do so. Agreement has to be reached. But it was under such a system that the War Office, having said that a comprehensive Act was impracticable, in fact worked out and produced the Army Act.
285 There is a continual dialogue, phase by phase. The Department cannot simply say, "You cannot do that." They have to give their reasons, and one can then go into them and answer them and see how, if possible, to get what one wants. Therefore, by this continual dialogue between the two sides, an Act is built up, and one gets what one is looking for. One would never get that from a Royal Commission or anything of the sort. The conversation is broken off and recommendations are made which are unacceptable to the Department; and the Department has the last word.
The Select Committee of which I was a member met for about a year and we worked out and drafted an Act to do something which the Department had for years said could not be done. The Government agreed to it without one amendment; the House agreed to it without one amendment; and, after five years, only five minor amendments were required. I do not know why a procedure as successful as that could not be attempted again. What we should do now on the basis of the reply we have heard in advance, I think, is to say to the Government, "No, we are not giving you this renewal now. Take it back and think again before Report stage and see if you cannot give us a better answer than you have so far indicated."
For years, Governments have blackmailed this House with the threat of suicide, and said, "If you do not do what we ask, if you ever defeat us, there will be an election." I do not think anybody will suggest for a moment that there will be an election if we send this back to the Government and insist that they have another look at it before Report. Unless Parliament sometimes does something like that, we will lapse into futility. It is true that, in a modern system strong government must be given on the great and general questions, but no dialogue is satisfactory if one party to it always has its way.
There are many occasions—and I believe that this is one—when this House, if it respects itself, should insist upon having its way for a change. We must see what is said in reply, but this is certainly the direction in which my mind is running at the moment.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
I am attracted by the ideas just expressed by 286 the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). As our inclination, even more than his, is to say "No" to the Government, we shall listen with particular care to what the Home Secretary says in reply to the point which the hon. and learned Member made. The idea of a Select Committee has great attractions over the type of committee which is proposed at the moment. I am concerned with the operation of the present Regulations under the Act and the way in which the Act works at the moment. This has a direct bearing on what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about security.
I should like from the Home Secretary an explanation of why the Act concerning impositions relates to au pair girls from behind the Iron Curtain. At the moment—this will interest hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway—there is a general prohibition by the Government, to the effect that au pair girls from behind the Iron Curtain should not stay here for more than one year. This seems a preposterous situation. The reason given is that it is for security. The idea of the Hungarian Government filling up this country with a lot of little au pair Mata Haris seems to me utterly absurd.
This situation came to my notice—as both the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the Home Secretary know—because of an individual case which was brought to my attention, that of Miss Tunde Balogh. Whether she is any relation to a certain adviser of the Government I know not. All I know is that she is a young lady—I did not have the good fortune to meet her—who impressed others as being attractive and very pro-British. She had been over here for a year in an au pair capacity and she wanted to stay on for a further period. There was no suggestion that she was a spy. She was recognised as working here so as to learn English. She wanted to stay over here, and those employing her wanted her to stay.
It was through the British Council that the case was brought to my notice. The Home Office said "She must go home on the dot after one year." I wrote to the Joint Under-Secretary about this. I have always regarded him as the most courteous of men, but on this occasion his letter was a little curt. I talked to him 287 about the position and, eventually, we managed—as a great concession—to get permission for Miss Balogh to stay for an extra three weeks. At first, because she came from behind the Iron Curtain, she had been refused permission to stay for even a short period to take a holiday to go to the Edinburgh Festival. At first the Home Office refused to allow her to stay for even an extra two or three weeks. However, eventually she got that small concession.
How easily and how readily does the Home Office regard "security" as being the term or broad category for excluding people? Is it sound sense to exclude all au pair girls from behind the Iron Curtain on security grounds? If there are other grounds, cannot we be told them? Why are these girls singled out more than au pair girls from other inimical régimes? Hon. Gentleman opposite might mention au pair girls from, say, Spain and Portugal.
I should be interested to hear why the Home Office takes this extraordinary view in these cases and whether there are, as it were, any other overall security blanket directives which govern these matters. The Joint Under-Secretary paid an appropriate tribute to the immigration officers who must deal with the Act. He described them as both compassionate and humane, and I absolutely concur. However, I have certain doubts, in view of the case I have mentioned, about the compassion and humanity of the way in which the Act is being implemented.
§ Mr. Orme
I, too, wish to give an example of the way in which the Act can operate at present. I have taken note of the Joint Under-Secretary's remarks about the setting up of a committee of inquiry and I would like to know whether it will operate under the jurisdiction of the Home Office and whether it will be particularly liberal in its outlook. For the time being we will have to hope for the best and see what happens.
Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. That is, perhaps, the most important pillar on which our democracy has been built. Bearing that in mind, it must be said that in some of the recent battles with the Home Office under former Home Secretaries that 288 Department's views in this matter have not seemed particularly liberal. I recall the case of General Delgado, the Portuguese General who received what I can only describe as abominable treatment. I would like to know the full facts in that case.
It is often to be regretted that the Home Secretary cannot reveal the reasons why he takes a certain course. The person concerned should, I suggest, always know why a certain course is being adopted and be given an opportunity to answer any charges made against him. In many instances people do not know why the Home Office is acting against them and not even hon. Members are given the information.
I wish to raise the case of Mr. Bert Benson, a prohibited immigrant from this country at the present time. Mr. Benson has no objection to my raising this matter or mentioning his name. An American citizen, he was living and working in this country when he committed two cardinal errors. The first was that he married a young lady who was working at the Foreign Office, which was not looked upon very benignly by that Department. The second was that he made a statement, when his expulsion was ordered by the Home Secretary, to the effect that he would not give himself up until a Labour Government was returned because, he stated, he would get better treatment from a Socialist Home Secretary.
While in this country Mr. Benson took part in political activities. I am raising this case and have mentioned that fact because the most difficult cases are usually those involving people who have taken part in political activities. Passions are more usually aroused when such activities are involved. Mr. Benson took part in C.N.D. activities. He did not take part in Committee of One Hundred activities, as other aliens have done. On one occasion only he was charged with having caused an obstruction during a demonstration.
Mr. Benson was made a prohibited immigrant by the former Home Secretary and left this country. He now lives in West Germany, in Frankfurt-on-Main. He has made several applications to the present Home Secretary to be allowed to return to this country because his wife and parents-in-law live here. Mr. Benson's wife had a baby in February of this 289 year and, under great pressure, the Home Secretary permitted him to return to see his wife and child. He later made application to return to this country to spend Christmas with his family—to be here for a purely domestic and social reason—and said that he would be willing to give any undertaking to the Home Office if his re-entry for Christmas were permitted. That application was refused by the Home Secretary, who merely stated "I am not prepared to alter the previous decision made by the previous Home Secretary." We have had a change of Government. If there are reasons why Mr. Benson should remain a prohibited immigrant or should not be permitted to come here for a short visit we should be told them.
A number of rumours or stories, some of them quite fantastic, have circulated about Mr. Benson. They cannot be answered or denied because the Home Office will not supply its reasons for taking the course it has in this case. Somebody in this country originated the story that Mr. Benson was an agent of the C.I.A. and had been prohibited on those grounds. Mr. Benson has in writing categorically denied any association with any such organisation in any country.
When I went to Frankfurt last May to attend a meeting I met Mr. Benson and b ad a long talk with him about his deportation. I asked him many questions about his activities while in Britain and about his intentions when or if he is allowed to return here. I received en-t rely frank and satisfactory answers to all my questions. It is, therefore, incumbent on the Home Secretary to tell the House exactly why Mr. Benson is not being allowed in. Many other people are allowed entry to and exit from this country very easily—people who would seem to be much more undesirable than Mr. Bert Benson.
For taking part in a perfectly legitimate demonstration in this country—remembering that the right of assembly and demonstration is recognised to be tae privilege of all—this man was made a prohibited immigrant. Now he wishes to return to this country, or certainly to have the questions which have been asked about this case answered by the Home Secretary.
290 Will this committee that has been set up be able to act retrospectively? Will people be able to put their cases to it, and have an answer in relation to the charges made against them? One of the world's problems is that in many countries we find the Executive using a hard, firm hand in the name of security against individuals. I do not care where the individuals reside, they have a right to be heard, and this country should set the example.
The Home Office should unfetter itself a little. In spite of what the Under-Secretary said, his Department does not have a terribly good reputation for a liberal point of view, and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act will not help. Therefore, I hope that under the Aliens Act my right hon. and learned Friend will show some humanitarian feeling towards the problem I have mentioned and to the parallel case referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman).
I hope that aliens will be allowed the same right of appeal as that prescribed in the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. It is no use saying to people who have only a few days' notice that they can apply to the Bow Street magistrate. That is not satisfactory democratically. I therefore hope that when this committee reports we shall get some satisfaction; that some of these cases that are at the moment a blot on British democracy and the proud tradition that this country has followed for many years can be righted; and that my right hon. and learned Friend will set the lead in seeing that it is done.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I want to support the advocacy of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) of the case of Mr. Bert Benson. Having seen Mr. Benson, and having had discussions with him over a period of several hours, I know that the hon. Member will find it as ludicrous as I do to imagine that Mr. Benson could be a security risk. The hon. Member has said that anyone who is deported should have the right of appeal. He will be aware that under the European Convention on Establishment, to which this country adhered in 1956, an alien who has been resident in this country for more than two years has a right of appeal to the Chief Metropolitan 291 Magistrates, except in cases where he is to be deported for… imperative considerations of national security.That is the phrase used in the document.
If the reasons were as important as all that, the Home Secretary was incorrect in allowing Mr. Benson into this country for a month at the time of the birth of his child. If the man is a dangerous maniac who will undermine the State, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should not have done that at all. He should have closed his heart to Mr. Benson's appeals, and should not have allowed him to be present at the birth of his child. Of course, we do not believe this. We who have been interested in this case all the time have argued with the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary, and we find it impossible to accept that imperative considerations of national security, or any other considerations of national security, apply in this case.
Nothing in what has been said by the Home Office has given any support at all to that allegation. I have had a number of discussions with Mr. Benson, and have asked what he thinks could be the reason. He has complained that some circumstances in his activities in this country might have been misconstrued by the Home Office. I think that all these activities were perfectly innocent, unless the Government are to say that association with an organisation like C.N.D. is an imperative threat to national security. I asked in the previous Parliament, but never had an answer: just what is meant by that phrase? I think that it is a shabby pretence that we are becoming more liberal in signing the European Convention on Establishment unless we are to say exactly what we mean.
As has been stated, Mr. Benson has applied to visit this country, not for an extended stay but merely to say with his parents-in-law over the Christmas holidays. He is prepared to give any sort of undertaking the Home Office may demand about his behaviour during the visit. I think that it is inhuman to turn down this application. Mr. Benson has already been allowed in for the birth of his child. What damage will it do to the country? Is it thought that he will go about blowing up airfields during the 292 Christmas holidays? Does the Home Secretary think that?
It is a ludicrous state of affairs, and I should like a much more thorough explanation than that which I received in a letter from the Home Secretary dated 19th November. I wrote pointing out that he had allowed Mr. Benson in for the birth of his child, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman replied that the Home Office felt it right to let him enter in that case because of compassionate considerations, and because of the requirement that he had to be present for the registration of the birth of his child.
Compassionate considerations apply now. Are we to say that Mr. Benson is never again to be permitted to visit the country; never to be allowed to see his mother-in-law, and his wife's family? This attitude is quite inhuman, and cannot be defended in this House. I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider his approach to this case, and that we shall have some sort of undertaking that he is prepared to allow Mr. Benson in to see his family.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I rise to refer to a small point that has not yet been touched on. I agreed with almost all that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, except for two or three words which I think got into his speech by mistake. The words were "provided they can pay for it." If I understood the Under-Secretary's statement aright, something like 147 people were refused admission because they had no money—the expression was "no means." I may have the figure slightly wrong. It is not a big figure, but that is the important point. It is not a figure that would really threaten the existence of our £1,000 million reserve in the National Insurance Fund, or the £100 million reserve in the Industrial Injuries Fund, or a sum that will prevent us from paying subsidies to United Airways. As I say, it was something like 147, but I may have the figure wrong. My hearing is not good, and I think that today some of the articulation has not been good—but one of the things that happens to people going deaf is that they always suspect others of lack of clarity.
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck)—I do not know 293 precisely what an au pair girl is. I have never known what a security risk is; how it is defined, or who defined it or what it means, whether we have any secrets and, if we have, why we have any. If we have any secrets I should have thought we would have to go to Nevada Flats to find them at the moment. There are a lot of things about our political life and policy that I should like to have explained by some competent inquirer from abroad, who has been told to find out why we are continuing to test the Polaris missiles underground, although they are not ready to be launched, and we know not what they are to be used for when launched. But I cannot hope to get that information in this debate.
I was brought up to believe—or, at least, I was told that I ought to believe, and much of it I do accept—one or two propositions. The first is that to have no money is a sign of character and that to have money makes one what I might call a financial security risk. It raises a question of dubiety about how one acquired it. The poor shall inherit the earth, but not apparently:This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.It is difficult for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but apparently comparatively simple for him to get into this country. [Laughter.] Whenever I slate obvious and ethical truths someone laughs, but is it not the case that what the Home Office is saying is that if a man arrives here with £200,000 and no character he can land at once, but if a man arrives with a high character and less than a shilling he will not be permitted to land. I pointed out in art earlier debate that if the Twelve Apostles arrived at Dover tomorrow the only one likely to qualify, unless the financial situation of the others had improved from the time when their lives were recorded, would be Judas Iscariot with his 30 pieces of silver, which he might have invested productively in the meantime so that he had considerably more.
I know that this observation is quite capable of misrepresentation, but I want the ports to be open to people who might come here and live on National Assistance and so on. Who are these people? Where do they come from and why do they come? I suspect that every 294 one of these cases which has been refused for lack of means is a case of personal tragedy. I cannot think that people who have no means and presumably no great skill, if one wanted to help them over a temporary difficulty, would come here unless they were driven by the impetus of some severe and tragic misfortune, unless they come to join relatives here.
I make no personal criticism of the Home Office. I think it has shown itself fairly enlightened, except when we discuss things which are related to the next Amendment. I have no personal criticism and I have had better letters from the Home Office in some developments, some helpful ones, than I had for some time. I do not want to join the chorus of criticism, but the Home Office has not been very responsive to opinions which hon. Members have expressed on this matter ever since 1945, and sometimes before.
It has always been said that this Measure was conceived of war and renewed with very little discussion after the war, that in fact the original Measure was passed, it was never debated at all and has never been considered by this House, although this House has constantly manifested a desire that it should be. I should have thought the arguments for a Select Committee on this matter are overwhelming. I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend would select men of the highest repute and character, but on a political committee I like to know something about people's political views. The theory is that a man with no views on politics is one of independent mind, but I think that one with no political views has no mind at all, unless he is a super-expert examining and acquiring knowledge in a limited sphere and shown to concentrate his mind on the microcosms of his own particular science.
What happens to these people? Many of them may have come a long way. Are they stowed away in the under decks of some boat and deported? What happens to each and every one of these individual tragedies? I can see the argument and I can see the difficulty. It is no use now talking in this curious world of:Bring me your starved, your poor, your teeming millions waiting to breathe free.There is a great tradition which will never be repeated of victims of religious 295 persecution, the Huguenots and people who constitute most of the population of the United States, the teeming millions who fled from poverty, but in a world where there are not teeming millions fleeing from poverty—except Commonwealth immigrants, very largely—is there not some means whereby at least we could consider the applicant if his only fault is lack of means?
Of course, my right hon. and learned Friend may say that person has not a work permit and that he has not satisfied the Home Office, but if a man comes in distress and suffering from poverty, what is the method of considering his case? What is the method of giving a decision, the locus poenitentiae used by the officers examining the case? Who has time to think of them and look at the circumstances? Who has time to say that here is a fit candidate for the hospitality of a country which at one time used to display a generous heart to the world and which is even now producing an economic plan which suggests that we shall be short in the working population by 200,000 in four years' time and may have to offer inducements to get workers to keep this country going?
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
I do not intend to keep the Committee for long, because I know that many of my hon. Friends want to get on to the other part of the business. I have been here throughout the debate and have listened to every word that has been said. In particular, I heard what was said by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) about the case of Mr. Benson. I want to say something, not entirely about that case, because I do not know about it as they do, but about what has been happening over this procedure.
When I have taken part in these debates I have found that in a way they never change. It is like a stock play in which the characters represent the Home Office; there may be different actors playing their rôles, but every year they say the same sort of thing. The Home Office will have heard repeated complaints about the traditional failure to give people reasons for deportation. I296 am very conscious of the difficulty which the Home Office faces, and I hope to recommend some remedial action and to suggest how the Home Office could tackle this difficult problem, but I point out that the Home Office must have thought about this and must know where this situation leads them.
I have referred to what the hon. Member for Orpington said about Mr. Benson. I draw particular attention to what he said because we do not know the reasons why Mr. Benson was deported. The Home Office has its reasons but says that it cannot give the reasons, so the field is wide open to speculation. So the hon. Member for Orpington says that it is because of Mr. Benson's C.N.D. activities and that it is an absurdity that this should be held against him. If that is true, I agree that it is an absurdity, but if it is true what is the position of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary who is a lifelong pacifist? How does he feel about it? He is in a difficulty arising from this kind of procedure.
§ Mr. George Thomas
My hon. Friend is accurate in his description of me. I should say that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) was merely speculating on what were the security reasons and, of course, it is impossible for me to say, but certainly they were not those of being a pacifist.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I fully understand the difficulty. That is exactly what I am saying to the Committee. These difficulties arise out of the existing procedure. I will give the Committee another example. It is somewhat out of date, but it is relevant to the argument. I can well remember that as long ago as when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister of Supply a case occurred in which, on the direct intervention of the Government, a man was dismissed from his job on security grounds. I know this is not deportation, but it is relevant to this argument about the Home Office refusing to give information.
There was a great deal of publicity about this case at the time. The man who was sacked had had the unwisdom to marry a lady who was a former member of the Communist Party. He himself was a solicitor looking at defence contracts in a very high position in one of 297 the big industrial complexes in this country. When the Minister was challenged in the House of Commons on whether it was a fact that this gentleman had been moved because he had married a lady who was a former member of the Communist Party, the Minister, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), told the House of Commons, "Yes, but there are other things against him". This is the worst smear of all, because then the field is wide open to speculation.
This is why I say that, if my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues at the Home Office refuse to give reasons in the case of a man like Benson or in any cases of this kind, they do a disservice to the alien against which he cannot defend himself anywhere, they leave it wide open to the most malicious speculation as to what is against the alien, and they damage their own political and personal reputation, as well as the reputation of the party to which they belong.
I fully understand the special difficulties in security cases, because the Home Office is trying to anticipate the State's being injured and not deal with it after the event, as is done with a burglar or with a bigamist. When such a person is caught, there is a prescribed rule of law. The person has his defence. Witnesses have to be heard in open court.
We know that there is a special difficulty here, but I suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues that they might look at the possibility of prescribing what are sensitive posts and sensitive courses of study for students in this country. They should warn aliens, and in particular students coming to this country, because I have had a lot to do with this kind of case, where they are exposing themselves to alleged security risks. if the security officers believe that such persons are a danger—I think that many of these cases are absolutely absurd—at the very least such persons should be told what it is that is held against them.
The present situation amounts to this. Many people say that there is the defence of Ministerial responsibility, that a Minister of the Crown looks into all these allegations. That is absolute nonsense. I do not say that they do not do it. I ask hon. Members to consider a case I had which I think is relevant. I have 298 in mind a Chinese student at Manchester University who was deported because he was a security risk. I understand that he is now happily working in Sweden, making a much appreciated and skilful contribution to their economic growth. He had to leave this country on security grounds.
I went to see the Minister. This was before my hon. Friends were in office. The Minister concerned could not tell me anything, because the man was a security risk. Yet I remember the Minister at the Home Office pointing out to me—this demonstrates our peculiarly absurd British methods—"At least we allowed him to stay and complete his degree course". If these people are security risks, they should go at once. It makes one concerned about the whole basis of the operation of this law when that kind of answer is given.
I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues will have heard today, as they have heard before—indeed, I am not sure that they did not contribute to this when they were in opposition—repeated pleas that they should not exercise the arbitrary powers that they possess and remove people without giving them any reasons.
I am convinced that if my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues apply their minds to this in the very difficult field of security procedure it will be possible to arrive at a solution which, while protecting the interests of the State, will give a greater degree of liberty to the individual. If I have the opportunity, I hope, together with some of my hon. Friends who are similarly interested, to persuade the Ministers at the Home Office of how this can be done, by a method which will let them out of the nasty situation they are in and which will reduce to an absolute minimum the possibility of these miscarriages of justice occurring in the future.
§ Sir F. Soskice
This debate has been on a subject about which I suppose the House of Commons is as sensitive as it is upon any other subject, namely, the subject of civil liberties. It would be utterly alien to the tradition of the House of Commons to treat a debate of this sort as otherwise than one of first class importance. As the Minister having 299 some sort of responsibility in this connection, obviously I have listened with the very greatest care to the criticisms which have been directed at my administration and that of my predecessors by various hon. Members who have spoken.
I ask the Committee to get this matter in perspective. I hope that hon. Members do not think it fair to represent the Home Office and the tradition of successive Home Office Ministers as some kind of ogreish monster. I remind hon. Members, in order to get the matter into perspective, of some figures which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary gave. I do not intend to repeat them in detail. To give two figures which he mentioned, last year from October, 1964 to the end of September, 1965, no fewer than 2,700,000 aliens entered the United Kingdom. There were only 4,154 refusals of leave to land—in other words, a percentage of 0.15.
With great deference to the Committee, a Department which succeeds—I hope that it succeeds—in discharging its responsibility at any rate to watch those who come to these shores, to ensure that undesirable persons are not admitted, or are not admitted in too great numbers, and to ensure that proper regard is had for security considerations, cannot be a Department which is impervious to considerations of humanity and to the duty which everybody of conscience owes to the broad civilised concept of civil liberty and civil dignity if it admits that vast host of persons—2,700,000—and excludes only about 4,000.
I most earnestly put it to the Committee that it would be right, in fairness to my Department and, I hope, to my administration and to my predecessors' administration, not to approach the matter as if our proceedings were proceedings which gave rise to a train of unhappy cases in which cruelty was exhibited in wanton decisions given without consideration and without careful analysis and sifting of the facts. That is quite wide of the mark. It just is not the case.
No doubt in this country, with its tradition of hospitality and liberty, it would be, if we were able to manage it, desirable to throw the doors open as wide as possible. But I think one must accept—I believe that all my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite who have 300 spoken during the debate have accepted—that in the case of an island of our sort, with its territorial limits, frankly it is not practicable to apply a principle of that sort. Therefore, one has to have some immigration control and some control of persons who are not citizens of this country while they are here.
Hon. Members have mentioned only three cases—Mr. Benson, Colonel Delgado and Miss Balogh. This is not the appropriate place for me to add to what I have already said on those cases—on the first two, publicly in this House. It really is quite unrealistic to think that decisions are arbitrary and not open to challenge. I can be challenged, and ought to be challenged, day in and day out by hon. Members from their places in this House.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Before he leaves this point, will my right hon. and learned Friend say how many of the 2,700,000 people he mentioned are holidaymakers and tourists coming to this country and how many of them are persons who have applied for entry into this country either to work or to stay here?
§ Sir F. Soskice
To give the complete breakdown would take time, but I accept at once that a very large number are holidaymakers and visitors—the great preponderance. But they need just as careful examination as anybody else. One cannot say that they are holidaymakers and so one can forbear from making any inquiry into their cases. The responsibility which my Department owes to the public is to examine and consider all entrants. No doubt a different and perhaps more thorough type of examination is devoted to some than to others. As to au pair girls from Iron Curtain countries, I say at once that I would not pretend that persons who come from behind the Iron Curtain are treated on exactly the same footing as others. A certain care has to be exercised for security reasons, which I do not think I need dilate upon in this debate. One has to use—I try to use—a sensible discretion in assessing the degree of care and the thoroughness of examination which is appropriate in the case of the various classes of entrant. I have figures here, but it would take time to read them out. I will give them to my 301 hon. Friend if he wants them. So I start from that general proposition.
What have been the points of substance raised in the debate? I accept at once that there have been a number of points of substance. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), whose sincerity and, I would add, Parliamentary dexterity are well known in this House, raised the general point that it is utterly undesirable that the fate or destiny of an individual, particularly an alien who is not naturalised, should rest in the arbitrary discretion of a single person, the Home Secretary of the time. It is a little of a misdescription to say that. The Home Secretary is rightly subjected to every sort of pressure where it is suspected or thought that he has committed an injustice or has failed to take into account something which ought to have been taken into account in favour of the person applying for naturalisation. I accept that it is open to question as to whether his ipse dixit should represent the final decision in the matter. I shall come in a moment in that context to the Committee that we thought it right to set up.
There is a broad question of principle which I accept. In the debate last year these matters were ventilated, and I accepted then that there was a case for some kind of appeal if it was workable. I pointed out then the practical difficulties of an appeal in the case, for example, of refusals to land and in the case of requirements to leave, but particularly in the case of refusals to land. But there is a point for consideration, and that is one of the reasons why the Government have announced the setting up of the Committee. So I accept it when it is said that there should be—
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I accept the force of that criticism. I will try to answer it. This House, as a matter of deliberate policy, in Section 26 of the British 302 Nationality Act, 1948, in terms relieved the holder from time to time of my office from the requirement to give reasons for decisions which were reposed in his discretion. That was a broad matter of policy. The question is whether it is right or wrong. One may take two views about it. One may say that one should always give reasons, or one may take the opposite view and say that one should never give reasons.
It is the worst of both worlds if it is left to the Home Secretary's discretion sometimes to give reasons and sometimes not. The result of his sometimes giving reasons is that the individual who cannot get a reason, in whose case there may be a very adequate ground for withholding the reason, naturally goes away with the feeling that there is some stigma upon him, some mystery attached to him, which he cannot discover and which seems thereafter to be a blot on his character, and this creates doubt in his mind. That being the situation, the Government in 1948—it was in the time of the Labour Government—deliberately adopted the view that it was better to say that one need never give reasons.
§ Mr. Lubbock
in the case of the alien who exercises his right of appeal to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, reasons have to be given. It is only when the motive for deportation is imperative for reasons of national security that reasons are not given. Therefore, such a person has the worst of both possible worlds if reasons are given in the cases presented to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate and not in the cases which are not so presented.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would argue in this House that if the ground is a security one the reasons should be given in a case of that sort. If he says that, I must say that really it would be quite impossible to administer any security system. One could not do it. If it had to be said in the case of an individual against whom it was suspected, rightly or wrongly, that there were security objections "We suspect you of that", in which case the name of the informant and so on would have to be given, we should have to pack up any security system and say that there was not to be one.
§ Sir F. Soskice
Frankly, I do not accept that it should prove it. It has to take an executive decision. If the Minister who is responsible for the security department is not adequate to the performance of his duties, this House has its ordinary remedy by making it perfectly clear that it has no confidence in the Minister. That is our constitutional position.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East) rose—
§ Sir F. Soskice
I cannot give way again. I must go on.
So I start from the position that if one has a security system and it is accepted that in certain circumstances with certain activities a risk may be engendered to the security of the country, it is essential that a certain degree of secrecy should be observed with regard to it.
Those are the views which I put to the Committee. Hon. Members may or may not agree with them. Recognising that many hon. Members do not agree with them, the Government have decided that the time has come when we ought to set up this Committee. Two points arise. One is whether the alien legislation should depend on annual renewal, as I have said and all my predecessors for years have accepted. There is something to be said for it because it provides annual reconsideration, but, nevertheless, I accent on balance, as all my predecessors have constantly accepted, that it is anomalous that legislation of this degree of importance should rest upon Section 1 of an Act passed in 1919, after the end of the First World War.
The question then arises whether we are, as a purely mechanical process. simply to write out in the terms of a single Statute Section 1 of the 1919 Act and the various Orders which have subsequently been made under it and which now in combination contain the existing aliens legislation, or whether we should review those Orders and change their form where necessary, bring them up to 304 date and see where the shoe pinches and where there is danger of injustice.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee will, I think, say unhesitatingly that it is not the slightest use just writing it out in a single Act. One has to review it and reconsider it. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who has taken such a prominent part in these discussions, would, I know, say at once that he does not want just the mechanical process of writing out and that he wants reviews. Because we recognise that, in the terms of reference, which I hope hon. Members will regard as suitable—I know that there will be criticisms—we announce that we propose to set up a Committee to do what I believe to be necessary to enable us to put these provisions in permanent form.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton in particular criticised the terms, but first he criticised the nature of the Committee and argued that it should have been a Select Committee, and I know that for long that has been his view. It is a question of balance. We carefully considered my hon. and learned Friend's view, but we thought on balance that it would be better to have an independent body to examine what is a subject involving very careful and minute investigation. We may have been right or wrong about that, but it was a question of a balanced judgment. I still feel that on balance we were right, although I see the force of my hon. and learned Friend's case.
The question then arises whether the terms of reference are appropriate. I hope that when hon. Members examine them, they will agree that they are. Let me take the example mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne. He said that in the United States an alien who was refused leave to land had the right to appeal to a judicial body to determine whether he should be allowed to land. In other words, what is done in the United States is that there is an executive act which refuses the alien leave to land and then, if the alien disagrees with that act, he has a right of appeal. It is precisely that which the Committee which we are setting up, as I read its terms of reference—and it will be for the Committee to interpret them and not for me
305 to put a gloss on them—will have the right, arid I would have thought the duty, to investigate. The Committee will be able to consider whether there should be a right of appeal and, if so, what right of appeal and other remedies for aliens and Commonwealth citizens who are refused permission to land.
The alien who lands in the United States and who meets that executive decision then has a right of appeal. The Committee will no doubt direct its mind to whether we should have some system of that sort in this country. I think that my hon. and learned Friend would accept at once that it is not arguable to start the proceedings by judicial inquiry. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne at one time was rather inclined to think that that would be appropriate, but that was not the view of my hon. and learned Friend. After all, 2,700,000 aliens ask leave to land and a certain percentage is refused. We have to decide as a mater of inevitable need by way of executive decision whether in the first place they are to be allowed leave to land. Where there is disagreement with the decision, we then have to investigate whether such aliens should have the right, by way of appeal, to challenge the decision.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I quite accept that. In a great many cases the original executive decision is accepted and the question arises only when it is not accepted. What we are saying is that when the executive act has been challenged, the issue of whether it should remain valid should be a judicial decision reached in a judicial way.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I have been pointing out that it is precisely that question which its terms of reference will enable the Committee to investigate. Therefore, I would have thought that the terms of reference were perfectly appropriate to discharge just that very end. It would not be for the chairman and the Committee to decide whether the terms of reference enabled them to ask in the first place whether when an alien lands he should go before a tribunal without an executive act. I do not think that anybody could possibly argue that such a proceeding was remotely practicable. I hope that these terms of reference are exactly apposite and appropriate.
§ Mr. Paget
The comparison with America breaks down. In America everybody has a prima facie right to enter. That is the idea of the melting pot. That right is limited by law, the quota law and others. The immigration officer operates a known law and tells the alien that he cannot enter for a certain reason, and the alien can then appeal. Our difficulty is that, on the contrary, nobody has the right to enter this country and the reason for an alien's exclusion, the general rules, do not give anything on which to judge. I am saying that the terms of reference of the committee are all wrong because we must decide what are the rules, as in America, for excluding people and then set up a tribunal to judge. As it is, there will be no rules on which a tribunal can judge.
§ Sir F. Soskice
When 2,700,000 aliens are being allowed to land and 1,400 are being refused, it makes very little difference in practice whether there is a prima facie right to land or not. The alien has the very strong hope that he will land. Prima facie right or not, the procedure is that refusal of leave to land is a decision which is never taken in the first place without very careful inquiry into the individual case. The person who is refused leave to land is always allowed to get in touch with friends or relatives by telephone and they are given the opportunity to make representations on his behalf. No alien is sent away by the authority of the immigration officer alone. He has to consult his superior. Where there is a case of difficulty, it goes to London and to Ministers for decision. Whether there is a prima facie right to land or not, with all those safeguards and with the numbers in fact allowed to land, that is a distinction without a difference.
That is how the inquiry will work at the admission side. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne then referred to the case of a person who had applied for and had not yet got naturalisation and was, therefore, an alien and subject to our arbitrary power to expel him. My hon. Friend did not invite me to deal with the facts and hon. Members will understand that, while I am perfectly prepared to do so, I would be in danger of infringing your Ruling, Sir Herbert, if I set about it, and I will not 307 do so. However, I hope that the Committee will recognise that there are two sides to every story and that this is one of those stories.
Take the case instanced by my hon. Friend, that the terms of reference to this Committee were so narrowly drawn that they could not consider that sort of case. His argument was, "Here is a man who, after years, is subject to your arbitrary power to tell him to go". But the terms of reference invite the Committee to consider whether a person who is required to leave, which would include that person, is to have a right of appeal or any other rights with regard to it. Therefore, I ask him to consider this seriously. The terms of reference are so drawn as precisely to cover the sort of case which he instanced as an example of the undesirability of there being an arbitrary power vested in the Home Secretary to require persons who are aliens to leave. Having listened most carefully to his arguments, and having had some part in drafting these terms of reference, I feel that they cover the objections which have been uttered here. In substance, the point made is that considerations of humanity, justice and human dignity require that even although a Minister is subject to criticism in this House there should be a further judicial inquiry in the case of an executive act which is adverse to the individual.
The Committee can inquire about that, but there are two views on this. There are practical difficulties about it, but it may be that the Committee will think that those difficulties ought to be overcome. Certainly it is within its terms of reference, and I would hope that my hon. Friends would feel, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has very generously said, that at any rate in this regard the Government have gone far to meet the perfectly legitimate and proper criticisms that have been voiced for years in the course of these debates. We must go into it and see where we stand and then we can consider how we may change the legislation properly. In those circumstances, I hope that the Committee will agree that, having thoroughly discussed this Amendment, we should at least be given an annual renewal, for one year, 308 of the Aliens' Act, 1919, Section 1. We could not get on without some control, even if the existing control is one which ought to be changed as a result of an inquiry by the Committee. I therefore hope that the Committee will not accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Paget
I would like to ask the Home Secretary to deal with one or two more points before we leave this matter. What I am primarily concerned with at this point are the terms of reference of this Committee. My right hon. Friend says that considering the enormous number of people we admit and the few who have been refused admission, it does not really matter whether there is a basic right to come in or no basic right to come in. In that case why are we talking about a tribunal? If one is going to have a tribunal, then it must have some law or rules on which to judge. The American tribunal has a perfectly good set of rules on which to judge the law permitting the exclusion of an alien. The tribunal decides whether the Executive is inside the rules or outside of them in excluding that alien. That is a justiciable question. If, on the other hand, the alien has no right to enter anyway and there are no rules, it seems that there is no justiciable question for that tribunal to consider. I would ask that the terms of reference of the inquiry should be extended to see whether it could recommend, as in America, laying down the general rules under which aliens may be excluded.
If these general rules are then laid down, the appeals Committee set up after the Executive act could decide whether the Executive acted within the rules. If there are no rules there is nothing for the Committee to decide. To deal with the question raised when the alien is here, my right hon. and learned Friend says that what is conceived is the placing of the law which we renew annually on to a permanent basis. That law covers the control of aliens while they are here. Would it be within the terms of reference of this Committee to consider and advise on what rules are necessary, if any, to control movement of aliens while they are in this country, and will it be within the terms of the Charter of Human Rights to lay down and reconsider the 1948 Act with regard to naturalisation? As my right hon. and learned Friend 309 says at that time, that Act did not require him to give reasons. It is none the less part of what happens to aliens when they are here, and I should have thought this was a perfect opportunity to consider that. After all, since the 1948 Act we have adhered to the Charter of Human Rights. There is something to be said for making oar law comply with it.
There is another question with regard to expulsion orders. If an alien has no right to be here there are no grounds for removing him. Unless one has some grounds, it is a little difficult to see what is the justiciable question to decide whether the Executive is or is not acting within its rights. Will my right hon. and learned Friend extend the terms of reference to consider not merely whether one sets up a tribunal but whether that tribunal has any rules upon which it can adjudicate?
§ Sir F. Soskice
With the leave of the Committee, I will speak again. If my hon. and learned Friend is saying that aliens should have a right to land here, I can answer him by pointing out that that can only be a matter of broad Government policy. I do not see how on earth one can expect an independent tribunal investigating questions of appeal to investigate broad issues of policy of that sort. It is certainly for the chairman to interpret his own terms of reference, but I would think it would be unlikely for him to take it upon himself, within the terms of reference, to decide broad issues of Government policy. This must be for the Government and not for a committee. Whether aliens, and in what circumstances, are to have a right to land in this country cannot be a matter for the Committee. It must be a matter of Government responsibility. Therefore, I would answer my hon. and learned Friend by saying that my view is that the answer to his question should be "Certainly not".
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The purpose of my Amendment was to enable us to have a debate on a subject which is of interest and importance. I thought it was right that we should have this debate. I must say that I lean a little nearer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view than some of his hon. Friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"] My own view is that a very substantial 310 measure of executive power will, in any event, have to be retained by the Home Office in this matter. But these matters are referred to the Committee, and since we have had a full discussion on it and I know that some hon. Members on both sides of the Committee wish to move on to a wider discussion of the question of Commonwealth immigration, I would beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Before I call the next Amendment dealing with the Commonwealth Immigration Act, it should be noted that only those provisions which concern control of immigration are continued and, therefore, are debatable. The provisions relating to deportation are permanent. They do not expire, and, therefore, cannot be discussed under the next Amendment.
§ Mr. Freeson
On a point of order. It may be within your knowledge, Sir Herbert, that within recent weeks both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House have indicated to the House that it was intended that there should be a general debate on the question of Commonwealth immigration, including the proposals covered by the recent White Paper. May we have your Ruling whether we shall be allowed to have such a broad debate?
§ The Temporary Chairman
The debate is on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and on the Amendments which appear on the Paper. If assurances have been given by the Prime Minister or by the Leader of the House that there would be a full debate on various matters, that is not a matter for the Chair. It is the duty of the Chair to carry out the rules in the best manner possible.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
I accept, as you say, Sir Herbert, that it is for the Chair and not for the Leader of the House to decide what is in order for the Committee to discuss. In deciding, however, whether an Act should be continued for another year, are we not entitled to consider what the Government have said will be their policy in administering the powers under that Act? If they administer them in one way, we might be prepared to let them have it; if they administer them in another way, 311 we may have doubts whether they should have it. I submit, therefore, Sir Herbert, that to discuss this question would be entirely within the ambit of discussion on the Amendment.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that matter. There is no doubt that certain of the matters which are referred to in the White Paper, Cmnd. 2739, would be entirely within the area of discussion. I hope that the hon. Member will equally accept that other matters which appear in that White Paper would be outside the scope of discussion of this matter.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Further to the point of order. Is it not the case, Sir Herbert, that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, was itself an Act for making temporary provisions? Its Preamble, which governs the whole of the Act, refers to its being temporary. It is that Act, I understand, which is to be continued by the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Therefore, I should have understood any matter covered by the original Act to be in order in this debate. On a strict question of order, irrespective of any undertaking which may have been given by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, I suggest that anything in that Act, which itself is a temporary Measure, should be debatable in the debate today.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I think that I can help the hon. Member. If he refers to the Schedule of the Bill, he will see that what is continued in force is Part I and Scchedule 1 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962. Those are the parts of the Act which are being continued. Perhaps we can see how we get on.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
Further to the point of order. I understand, Sir Herbert, that Schedule 1 of the 1962 Act is one of the matters which can be discussed. Paragraph 4 of that Schedule is headedDetention of immigrants pending further examination and removal.I respectfully suggest, therefore, that deportation is proper to be discussed under that Schedule.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. and learned Member is, I think, in error. 312 It would be a good idea to let the debate proceed. If hon. Members endeavour to assist the Chair in giving the proper freedom of debate, I shall be obliged.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 15 and 16.
After that interchange, I feel that a certain responsibility rests upon me to start the debate wide enough to give at least proper recognition of the undertaking that was given to us by the Leader of the House, but, at the same time, perhaps sufficiently narrow not to incur the reproval of the Chair.
I assure the Committee that my purpose in setting down the Amendment was to secure a wide debate, because I felt that it was desired not by one side of the Committee but by both sides that we should consider fully a difficult and important matter covering entry, the effect of that entry and the controls necessary to secure that entry, and to discuss it, as we have managed to discuss it before, with restraint and moderation but with the fullness which is necessary to a subject of this character.
The background to any discussion of Part I of the 1962 Act must be the policy which the Government adopt in administering Part I. Therefore, the first point to which one must necessarily turn is the White Paper in which the Government set out their policy as recently as August of this year. I must be frank and say that hon. Friends of right hon. and hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite regarded that policy with scorn. On 26th October they put down a Motion in the most scathing terms in which they criticised both the ceiling which the Government intended to impose under the Act and the reforms in control which they forecast as their intention to introduce, and they condemned both.
I must equally say in fairness to the Home Secretary that, although the policy which he has forecast for the administration of the Act falls far short of what we on this side want on the subject both of control and of dealing with the effects of that control on what is sometimes called integration, but which is better called the fitting in of those who are allowed to enter under the Act, we on this side 313 would, perhaps, be less scathing in our attack than would the Home Secretary's own supporters.
The reason why we would at least give some support to the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that over the months and years he has moved a little closer to the position of the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have some agreement on the benches opposite. The Home Secretary has moved closer to the position of the Conservative Party, that is to say, the Government Front Bench have today accepted that at least a reduction in the number of immigrants allowed in under Part I of the Act must be secured. Irrespective of whether they have done it in sufficiently precise terms, the Government have set that out. They have also made it plain that under the Act permission will no longer be granted, in effect, to the unskilled worker.
Virtually, the entry with which we are concerned under these provisions is the entry of either men and women who have a job to which to go, and who have been carefully selected for this purpose or of skilled workers. Of course, this alters very substantially our whole approach. The question now is not why should we keep them out but by what conceivable justification do we allow them in? Think of the demands for, say, doctors in some of the areas from which doctors are drawn. Those of us on both sides of the Committee who move in High Commission circles know the criticism which we are under for taking more people with such skills. When I read the other day that the Minister of Overseas Development was paying special allowances to persuade British doctors to go to these overseas territories while doctors in such territories were being asked to come here, I asked myself how much sense there was in all this.
We are not taking merely unskilled men, the holders of C vouchers. We are taking men who would be of the greatest value in the countries from which they are drawn. I therefore say that under this Act, and in particular Part I, the question which we have to ask ourselves is not what is the justification for keeping them out but what is the justification for continuing to bring them in.
314 The statement of Government policy lends no support whatever to the view that it would be "mad to keep immigrants out". I do not know whether the First Secretary of State ever used that phrase or not. I should warn my hon. Friends that he claims that when he used it he was talking at a local government conference about immigrants from Hampshire into Sussex. Apparently, he was terribly misrepresented by members of the national Press, all of whom thought that he meant immigrants coming into this country from abroad. This shows into what dangerous postures one can be led by using ill-advised phrases on a public platform.
All that is swept aside. The case is no longer argued by the Government that Part I of the Act should be used for some economic purpose in this country. The numbers of immigrant workers now referred to are certainly not large enough to make an impotant impact on the main economic future of the United Kingdom. Therefore, all those arguments are abandoned.
The importance of the White Paper was stressed by the Prime Minister. There is no doubt that a great deal of thought and consideration went into it before it was laid before the House. On 4th November, the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) asked the Prime Ministerwhether, pending further research and consultation on the problem of immigration into the United Kingdom, he will now withdraw the latest White Paper on the subject.The Prime Minister answered:No, Sir",and went on to say in answer to a supplementary question:I cannot believe that there is any subject in recent times which has had more research, more discussion and more careful consideration than this one. The White Paper was put forward as a result of that. I should think that the House is most likely to be debating the matter in the near future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1965; Vol. 718, c. 1231.]We are debating it—with some difficulty, let me say, but we are debating it.
I suppose that a very unsophisticated Member, when he heard the Prime Minister say "No, Sir", might have believed that he meant "No, Sir". But we who know the Prime Minister realise 315 that he is much deeper than that. Therefore, we were not surprised when, five days later, we found him in the Queen's Speech effectively withdrawing all the legislative proposals in the White Paper. It was no surprise to us. It was just another typical bit of double-talk. I must say frankly to the Home Secretary—I do not blame him for this—that it is not treating the Committee with proper respect not to be franker with it in matters of this character.
Let me start with the controls because they are central to this part of the Act. The policy by which they are to be carried out is in paragraphs 23, 24 and 25 of the White Paper. In effect, what is said there is this. First, for these controls under this part of the Act to work properly, it is necessary to be able to impose conditions upon people who enter with these vouchers. Secondly, it is necessary to have a general power to refer these cases to the police. Thirdly, if this part of the Act is to work properly, power to repatriate should be taken by the Home Secretary. I will not argue the general question of repatriation except in the narrow sense in which it has been argued by the Home Secretary and by the Government as necessary to the implementation of this part of the Act.
Those paragraphs are extremely important and I should like to read the last of them, paragraph 25:At present a Commonwealth citizen may be deported"—I am not arguing the general question of deportation—only if a court has made a recommendation to that effect on convicting him of a crime punishable by imprisonment. The Government regard it as important that there should be a speedy and effective power to repatriate immigrants who in one way or another, e.g. by obtaining entry"—that is, entry under this part of the Act—by misrepresentation or by flouting the conditions on which they were admitted, evade the stricter control over immigration that is now envisaged. Without it"—and these are the important words—the effectiveness of the control would be greatly weakened.Those are very important words indeed.
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Roderic Bowen)
Order. Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman is now going on to dis- 316 cuss matters which inevitably will have to be the subject of legislation. He is entitled to make passing reference to them, but he is not entitled to develop the matter at any length.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I appreciate that, Mr. Bowen. That is why I am making passing reference to the matter. The point is simply this. The Government have said that their administration of Part I of the Act, screwed down to a much narrower intake of immigrants, would be gravely weakened unless they did something on the lines of paragraph 25. This is, and surely must be, relevant to a discussion of the Act which we are seeking to renew. That is the only point—the narrow but vitally important point—that I wish to make. The question that I want to ask is: does the Home Secretary today accept that, without it, the effectiveness of the control would be greatly weakened? I want an answer to that question.
That brings me to the figures of entry—entry, let me hasten to add, permitted under the Act—which are set out in the first part of the White Paper. The figures are that in 1963 there were 57,000 coloured immigrants. I am drawing the distinction between the coloured and the white because it is drawn in the Government's White Paper, and I will come to the whites in a moment.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The Home Secretary draws a distinction between immigrants broadly from Canada, New Zealand and Australia on the one hand, and the broadly coloured immigrants on the other hand. The hon. Gentleman probably has a copy of the White Paper. I am not discussing the subject in an aggressive way, but factually so that we can debate it with restraint and moderation.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
If the hon. Gentleman prefers not to use the word, he need 317 not use it. If he prefers, I will use the expression "from the new Commonwealth". I do not mind a bit. But in discussing the matter, if we are going to be honest with ourselves, the question of colour does come in and it is better not to put it under the carpet. We should be quite open about it. There is no other reason why the Home Secretary has drawn the distinction between the two.
If I may give them, the figures are these. For the new Commonwealth, coloured or whatever one prefers to call them, in 1963 the entry was 57,000, in 1964 the figure was 75,000, and in the first six months of 1965, 33,000 have come in. Those are A voucher holders and their dependants. That class of immigration is running at a pace which will increase by about ½ million over the next 10 years in addition to the 800,000 that exist at the moment, and it is additional to any natural increase resulting from births which will take place during that period in the ordinary course of events.
Those are formidable figures on any account, and there are two questions which the Committee ought to ask itself. The first is, is there evasion which is swelling the figures? The other question which has to be faced quite frankly, because it is debated outside and it is much better that it should be debated in the Committee, is, can we accept immigration on that scale over that period?
§ Mr. Freeson
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, could he tell us whether he is talking about immigration as a whole and whether the country can accept it, or is he talking about one class of immigrant from one part of the world?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have just been talking about immigration from the new Commonwealth, as the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) prefers to call it. I am going to deal with both classes, but I want to deal with them separately, because I beg the Committee to face the facts of evasion, first of all, by coloured immigrants and, secondly, by white immigrants. But let me develop my argument, because the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) can develop his own in a few minutes.
318 Has there been a measure of evasion which has swelled those numbers? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary came to the House on 4th February and made a rather grave statement about evasion. What he did was to take the net addition of coloured immigrants over two years. He then took the number who had been permitted to come in either by voucher or as dependants of voucher holders, and he subtracted the one from the other. I may say that the phrase "coloured immigration" has been used by him, and it has been used in the other place. It is a shorter way of putting it. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that in the case of coloured immigration, the discrepancy was 10,000. The fact is that if one examines the figures, the discrepancy in 1963 was only 900, in 1964 it was 9,000 and in the first six months of this year the discrepancy is already 7,000. The discrepancy in the case of whites was 5,000 in 1963, 10,000 in 1964 and is about 14,000 at the present time.
The Committee ought to ponder those figures both in the case of the new and of the old Commonwealth. If the discrepancy or error is expressed as a percentage of the number allowed in, in the case of the coloureds the error or evasion was 2 per cent. in 1963, 18 per cent. in 1964 and is running at 25 per cent. today. In the case of the whites the error was 150 per cent. in 1963, 300 per cent in 1964 and is running at 1,000 per cent. in the present year.
I put forward those figures both for the coloured and the white because there are lessons to be drawn from them. We may say that the Act is not discriminatory. I do not want to argue the Irish point, but there is some evidence that under the weak, unreformed controls which the Home Office has at the moment the law is being administered in some sense upon a discriminatory basis.
The point that I would like to put to the Committee is, can we really pass this Measure for further reform without considering very carefully the figures that I have put forward, which tend to show that the Act is beginning to break down? What I would say to the Home Secretary is that the figures that I have given powerfully reinforce what he has said in his White Paper. Without his new proposals, the effectiveness of the control will 319 be greatly weakened. The more one screws down the legitimate entries, the more the evasions will grow and the more such discrepancies will arise.
In those circumstances, I do not think that the Home Secretary can do other than honour the pledges that he has given in the White Paper. I believe that it is vitally urgent. It is playing with public opinion on an explosive matter to leave the White Paper while he does some long-term study of what would be the ideal arrangement for dealing with either aliens or Commonwealth immigrants and whether there should be rights of appeal and the rest of it.
As the Prime Minister said, the Government statement was prepared after months of study. Few subjects, he said, had received more careful consideration than this, and those words were not put in lightly. I say that the combination of those figures that I have given and the Government's own statement compel the Government to act. To evade that action would be a terrible thing to do. What excuse would they have—the pressure from their back benches? What possible apology could they offer? This Act is breaking down, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman well knows it, and it is his responsibility as Home Secretary to see that the Act is properly implemented and that the right steps are taken to do so.
I turn from that to the longer-term, and there is a longer-term, problem. This is not simply the problem of procedures with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Prime Minister dealt in the Gracious Speech and some aspects of which we debated on the last Amendment, such as the right of appeal, the various responsibilities of the Executive and the judiciary, and so on. The longer-term problem is policy as well as precedure, and the question that we have to ask ourselves is whether, bearing in mind not only the interests of the native inhabitants of this country, but the interests of the immigrants themselves, it is possible to go on with immigration at this pace. On the figures as they are emerging from the White Paper, it is becoming clearer and clearer to more and more people that this is not going to prove possible.
320 There is, of course, one great problem about Commonwealth immigrants which distinguishes them from alien immigrants. When a Commonwealth immigrant comes in on an A voucher granted by the Minister of Labour he takes a job for a month, but he is here for life. He is here with his wife and his children, and perhaps, if the Home Secretary is humane, with his granny as well. This is the problem, because under the system that we have at the moment for every Commonwealth imigrant whom we bring in, we also bring in four or five dependants. The reverse is the case with aliens. I am not talking about the short-term visitor but about the man who has a labour voucher for 12 months or more. For every four such aliens there is one dependant. This is borne out by the foreign entry statistics. For every four aliens there is one dependant, whereas for every Commonwealth immigrant there are four dependants, and they are here for all time.
Is that really in the interests either of this country or of the immigrants? I have studied this matter and discussed it with my hon. Friends and those with experience of it. People have told me that what they really want is conditional entry similar to that operated by the countries from which the immigrants come. It is probably a very good thing for a man to come here from a Commonwealth country for a couple of years, do a job and get experience here, get associated with our trade union movement, and so on, and then go back and do a good job of work in his own country. This may be an admirable thing to do, and at any rate it would take a great deal of the heat out of this situation. It would slow down enormously the number of new dependants who have a right to come in.
Of course, there has to be a study of the longer-term problem, but it is not just a technical study. It is a study about policy, about what this country really ought to do about Commonwealth immigrants, and it is not an easy problem. I am not pretending that it is. If we move the Commonwealth immigrant over and assimilate him with aliens in the policy study it may require big decisions about the registration of Commonwealth immigrants, and so on, and all sorts of difficulties and problems will arise, but I 321 believe that we would be failing in our duty in this Committee if we did not start to apply our minds to this matter. If we do not, we are just trying to stem a little a problem which, on the figures I have given, on the Government's own admission and, if I am allowed to refer to it in passing, on experience in the country, is manifestly arising under the administration of this Act at the present time.
§ Dr. Miller
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if a Commonwealth immigrant has a good job and has his family with him he is much more likely to become integrated into the country than is an alien who is here for a short space of time and who cannot become integrated because he is going to leave shortly?
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
To some extent this is a matter of opinion. If a man is going to stay for a long time, it is better that he should have his family with him. This is true of the alien and the Commonwealth immigrant, but, because of the different systems under which aliens and Commonwealth immigrants operate, fewer aliens settle here, and then only those who really feel themselves able to fit into this country and who have settled in and established themselves in jobs. The Minister of Labour knows this as well as I do. The alien who settles here is the man who has got on with his pals, fitted into a trade union, and so on. Having been here for four years, the Home Secretary gives him a permit. He gets his wife am children over and they become admirable citizens, but this is the reverse of the position with Commonwealth immigrants who, whether they are going to fit in or not, come over and have a right to stay here permanently with their wives, children and the rest of it.
I propose to deal now with the question of dependants. Under paragraph 19 of the White Paper the Home Secretary describes a new procedure—not involving legislation—under which immigrants let the Home Secretary or the Home Office know the number of dependants who are coming in. Are there any figures of the number of dependants waiting to come in? I think that in the public interest more consideration of this problem is necessary. I agree with the hon. Member 322 for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) that, in general, when a man is over here it is better for him to have his wife with him. I am not so happy about three wives coming with him. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. George Thomas
I know the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that we have no examples of two wives coming in with an immigrant.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am delighted to hear that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] There is nothing to withdraw. I am saying that I am not very happy with three wives, and no hon. Member has ever been asked to withdraw that remark. I am agreeing with the hon. Member for Kelvingrove that in general it is better that a Commonwealth immigrant, or indeed an alien who is staying here for any length of time, should have his wife and children with him. I think that is right, but I think we ought to be told the number who, so to speak, are in the background waiting to come in. If it were decided to move over from the system of the right to permanent residence which today exists for the Commonwealth immigrant to the system which operates for the alien immigrant, experience shows, and the Government's statistics show, that the problem of the dependants, would be very markedly reduced, if not solved. That is the longterm question of policy.
There is a long-term question of procedure. We have debated it in another context already this afternoon, but it applies in this context too. It applies not just to deportation, but to entry under Part I of the Act. The problem is: when someone arrives, should it be an executive decision, or a judicial decision whether to let him stay? These are not very simple questions, and obviously when one is considering them one considers aliens as well as Commonwealth immigrants. One considers wide questions like the whole of our law on extradition and fugitive offenders. It is an immensely complex field and it will take months and months of struggle.
Let us not pretend that matters of this kind can be solved by any independent committee in a few weeks, or even months. Even when it has been discussed by the committee there still follows, rightly, very anxious consideration in Whitehall and between Ministers, because 323 some of these questions go to the root of our constitutional arrangements. That consideration should take place, but it would be a disgrace for this Government to say that we have to wait for all that before dealing with things which they themselves admit are already greatly weakening their control. We cannot let the best be the enemy of the good to that extent.
I want to say a few words about the more positive side of Part I. The question is not only how many people we let in under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act but how we deal with them when they are let in. Unless we face that problem and debate it it is very difficult to debate the Act, because if some of the social structures are already breaking down the case for operating Part I of the Act more stringently than in the past is very strong. Equally, on the other hand, if we find that we can deal with this question reasonably easily, and where suggestions can be put forward from either side of the Committee for dealing with this matter, there is a case for being a little easy.
Some of my hon. Friends—and I am sure that this applies to some hon. Members opposite—will want to go into these matters more than I do. I merely want to make two passing references. The first concerns the question of education. Quite apart from the administration of Part I we have the gravest doubt whether the Government have yet organised themselves to deal with the practical results of the operation.
Let us consider the question of education. The other day I read a series of articles which appeared in the Daily Express on the subject. They were good articles. One said:There is a characteristically British reluctance to admit that in the past any problem existed. Indeed it seems to have been considered bad form to 'count heads'. 'Thought is now being given', said the Ministry official cautiously. 'to a nation-wide inquiry through local education authorities to assess the scope and size of the problem'.When we think of the appalling problems that exist in parts of the country at the moment on the education front we might have hoped that this inquiry had started a little earlier. The results are now beginning to come through. The Report goes on to say that 324even if the inquiry is undertaken results cannot be expected soon. 'We hope to have a picture by the spring,' said the official"—that is, a Ministry official—I asked if they knew in what areas the immigrant children were living. We know roughly where they are', he said, 'But it seems to vary a good deal. Of course it's hard to keep pace, as there are no valid statistics. We have known for a long time that this is an increasing problem in a lot of areas and a lot of, schools'. But the Central Government has been hesitant to prod, let alone probe, local education authorities. Short of legislation by Parliament the Minister claims it can do little.I can let the Minister have a copy of the article. I am sure that his Department has a copy.
I hope that inquiries have been made, not only in his Department but in the Ministry of Education. Is legislation necessary? If it is—I am quoting what has been said by officials, but I am prepared to be contradicted—the House should find time for it. It is one of the most pressing of our social problems.
Let us now turn to the problem of housing. In the People the other day I read an account of what has happened in Lambeth. Lambeth has a very fine record in this matter and has been trying to tackle a very difficult problem. There may be instances of discrimination, but for every instance of discrimination there are thousands of instances of people dealing fairly between man and man, whatever their colour. There is much to praise in the atmosphere in Lambeth in this connection, butin one of the frankest documents ever issued by a local authority on the immigration problem, Lambeth Council appeals for 'massive assistance' from the Government. Until this comes … the problem remains insoluble.Anyone who knows that area knows what it is like.
In the White Paper the Government say that they will give help in the usual way by providing that the more houses that are built the more help is given. Is that really good enough? Is not special assistance required for those areas which are hardest hit by the problem? Before they are finished the Government will have to deal with this problem not simply on the control side but on the constructive side—in questions of education and housing. Something more is required than merely to say, "We will help by providing more social workers, and the 325 rest." Heaven knows that is necessary, but the Government may have to treat some of these areas in a really special way.
I want to summarise what I have said. First, I cannot think that the Government can be justified in failing to honour the pledges that they have made in their White Paper. It was published only last August, and it was produced only after a most careful study. They made it plain that unless they took urgent action in a number of important fields the situation might break down. These were serious words, and the Committee should take them seriously.
I have exercised a good deal of restraint on the subject of immigration, as anyone can see who studies my speeches on the subject. I am not one who wants to drag the matter unnecessarily into party politics, but if pledges made only a few months ago are to be dishonoured by the Government it is a political issue of the first order, and must be dealt with as such.
The first thing that we should ask the Government is whether they are going to carry out the policy that they themselves have put forward. Secondly, in the longer term, they should direct their attention not only to problems of procedure but to problems of policy. We all learn as we go on in these matters; I am not going back over the years, or through their reversal of form, because I dare say that in this matter no party is beyond reproach. They should ask themselves whether they should not deal with the facts as they are known now, and as the figures are emerging. The right hon. Gentleman should ask himself whether the Government are not going to cause an explosion which will do damage to the immigrants themselves as well as to this country.
Is it not worth while beginning to think afresh on this subject, and to ask ourselves whether we could not deal more fairly with immigrants in this matter if we treated them in the same way that we treat aliens. This is not a matter which should he dismissed. If we are going to do a long-term study of procedures the policy to be pursued is more important than the question of the machinery to be used to implement that policy. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, either within Whitehall or in a Cabinet Committee, to 326 have the suggestions that I have put forward carefully studied.
Thirdly, some people have criticised the Government for weakness in control and for "running out" on the White Paper but many of my hon. Friends and I are equally concerned about a certain flabbiness on the positive side—in education and housing. I do not pretend that the task is easy. The problems which some of these local authorities are facing are enormous. We talk about not having more than 30 per cent. coloured children in a school. Think of the problems of transportation which are involved in dealing with and administering a policy of that kind. Some of these authorities say that they cannot do it unless they get more Government assistance. So, on the positive side as well as in other respects, we ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to adopt for the Government a rather more robust approach to one of the most difficult problems which confronts this country.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Sir F. Soskice
Some things we agree upon. This is a most difficult subject; it is a painful subject and one on which we all ought to exercise restraint. Generally, the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) does exercise restraint, but I thought that he was a little below his usual form today in throwing out a rather jeering, pejorative reference to "three wives". I hope that in this very important debate on immigration—if he wishes, he may use the phrase "coloured immigration"—we will be able to continue as we have in the past and treat this as a great problem which concerns our community, not appropriate for party political controversy.
It is upon that basis that I propose to try to deal with the case he made this afternoon. I and my hon. friends have considered how best we could assist the Committee in approaching this subject. The conclusion to which we came, and subject to my colleagues being fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Chair, is as follows. The right hon. Member for Monmouth has challenged me particularly over the subject of controls, which are the particular responsibility of my Department.
However, he rightly touched also on the subjects of education and housing. 327 It is obvious that, in a broad human problem like this, which now affects a million of our fellow citizens, the responsibility of a number of Departments is involved. We thought that it would be for the convenience of the Committee that all problems such as education, health and housing, should be dealt with at a later stage in the debate—which I apprehend may continue for some time—by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary, and I will deal with control.
A crucial feature of the debate may be the question of the number of vouchers to be issued. The subject of the absorption of labour into this community is obviously one which features very prominently in any consideration we can give to the problem. It was hoped that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour—again if he catches the eye of the Chair—would address himself to that topic at a later stage in the debate. Therefore, we hope that, for the assistance of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, we can give the Government's answer in the course of a broad survey of the problems which now present themselves.
I would first give some account of the figures for which the right hon. Member asked. He asked first about paragraph 19 of the White Paper and wanted to know whether the forms had got out. The answer is that the forms have gone out. The White Paper promised that they would go out in September: in fact, they were sent out last month. There has been, so far, a response in terms of hundreds; about 500 dependants are covered by the particulars given in response to those forms. He went on to rehearse some of the figures which form a major subject of consideration when we approach this matter.
He asked about the position with regard to 1965, after having reminded the Committee of the earlier figures. I will seek to comment on the break-up of those figures, relevant—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree—to control in particular. As he pointed out, from the "new" Commonwealth countries—if I may use the phrase—during the whole of 1964, there was a net inward balance of about 62,000. He mentioned the figure of about 9,000, which is sometimes referred to as the "crude evasion figure".
328 He then gave the figures for the first six months of 1965 on a comparable basis and I can bring this a little more up to date. In the first nine months of 1965—that is to say, up to the end of September—the net inward balance was about 50,000. The number admitted for settlement was about 41,000 and the balance was about 9,000.
I think it right to give that figure because, when the right hon. Gentleman was giving the figure, he referred to what he called a discrepancy figure of 7,000 which now, in another three months, had gone up by 2,000. In the last period of the year, as happened in 1964, there may well be a decline in that discrepancy figure. Hon. Members may recollect that in the last three months of the year there is sometimes a net outflow which reduces the total discrepancy figure. It is now 9,379.
I should like to call the attention of the Committee to one figure. Those admitted for settlement in the first nine months of 1965, as I said, totalled some 41,000. The reason I particularly refer to that figure is that, as in 1964, of the numbers accepted for settlement in that year, there was a very large proportion of dependants. The Committee has on previous occasions considered the situation in which there is overseas a very large number of wives and dependent children under the age of 16. Estimates have been given of a figure of 500,000. There is no means of telling whether that is right or wrong, and one can refer to it only as a problematical figure.
However, it is perfectly clear that there is still overseas a very large number of dependent wives and children. In 1964, of the 52,000-odd "new" Commonwealth citizens who were admitted for settlement, about 37,000 were dependants. Obviously, that means that there are now coming to this country—perhaps in increasing numbers—dependants who have all along been entitled under the terms of the 1962 Act to come, who have remained in the countries of origin until their menfolk had arrived here, secured steady incomes and then called for them to join them in this country.
There is that large pool of wives and dependants in overseas countries who may, over the years, be expected to come to this country and who, under the 1962 Act, have an absolute, unfettered right 329 to come here. Thus, out of 52,000 for settlement in 1964, some 37,000 were wives and dependants. In the first nine months of 1965, we see the same pattern. Out of 41,000 settled here, no fewer than 30,000 were dependants from overseas. That gives a very different picture from that which might at first be thought to be the right one when one looks at the gross figures which have been relayed. Of the 41,000 who have settled in nine months in this country, there is—if I may use this phrase in terms of human beings; I hope that it does not seem too hard and heartless—a drawing upon the wives and children waiting overseas to the extent of about 30,000.
In due course—unless we change the terms of the Act, which nobody has hitherto proposed, by taking away the unfettered rights of those people to come here—over the years the wives and children who are now overseas will wish to follow their menfolk to this country and join them in family units, the menfolk having established themselves here and having put themselves in a position to earn stable incomes. Therefore, the intake in 1965 is a reasonably modest one. On top of the difference between the wives and children and the intake of those for settlement, there are about 11,000, and what the right hon. Gentleman called the discrepancy figure of about 9,000.
§ Mr. Buck
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that it is vitally important in assessing the whole of this problem to do everything we can to find out the numbers of people who might in future years be likely to come here as dependants? In this context, would he think it unreasonable to suggest that over, say, the next six months or a year those who are here should be required to register their dependants so that we may have some idea of the numbers involved?
§ Sir F. Soskice
That is similar to the scheme outlined in paragraph 19 of the White Paper, although that paragraph does not go as far as the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. However, it would be a major undertaking to ask the Commonwealth citizens who are now here—coloured citizens, new and old Commonwealth citizens—to undertake a large census of that sort, and whether or not it 330 would serve a useful purpose is, I should have thought, open to considerable doubt.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain this point for greater clarity? Following that intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck), I do not quite understand why, under paragraph 19, the Home Secretary does not know the numbers because he says in paragraph 19, "You have every right to be here but we do not know how many dependants you have overseas". Could one not also say, "It is rather unfair to the immigration officer not to know how many dependants are involved, so that all should use the form"? In any event, the right hon. and learned Gentleman must know how many certificates have been applied for.
§ Sir F. Soskice
Yes indeed, but I did not want to overburden the Committee with a great many figures. Since the form came into use in October, 260 completed forms have been received at the Home Office. Those are from people who are living in this country, and paragraph 19 applies to persons already settled here and who wish their dependants to join them. Those 260 completed forms contain a list of 569 dependants—so, as far as it goes, it will be seen that it would be a very long process to get a completely reliable estimate of the total number of wives and children who are still overseas. In any case, there must be a considerable number. The relevant and important thing to point out is that of those settled in this country this year there has been a drawing upon, as it were, of wives and children overseas to the extent of about 30,000, which presents a rather different picture.
I return to the speech of the right hon. Member for Monmouth, who said that he thought that our policy did not go nearly far enough; that is, the policy in the White Paper, taken in conjunction with the measures which I announced in February of this year—the policy which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out that we stand by. I retort by asking the right hon. Gentleman a question. I have spoken of the dependants; the wives and children overseas. Under the 1962 Act they have 331 an absolute right to come here and cannot be stopped. The Home Secretary, and no other Minister, has any power to refuse them entry so long as they establish who they are.
Having said that, I now ask the right hon. Gentleman, in all friendliness and without wishing to try to make this a party issue, whether his party would change Section 2 in that respect. It is an important question and I ask him to answer it.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I hope to give the right hon. and learned Gentleman a fair answer. This is why my hon. Friend has been pressing him on this matter. It is indeed very difficult to deal with this on a basis of a completely unknown figure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that he has had applications for 200 certificates, amounting to 500 dependants coming in. I believe that the first thing he should do—and this in fairness to everyone concerned—is to insist that any immigrant who is here and who wants his family to come over should provide the numbers concerned, the members of that family. I suggest that that is not an unreasonable thing to ask. It is, in effect, very close to paragraph 19. We could then discuss this matter together. Let us discuss it in as uncontroversial a way as possible against a background of known facts.
§ Sir F. Soskice
As the right hon. Gentleman says, paragraph 19 does not go quite as far as that. It provides that the immigrants here who wish to be rejoined by their wives and children may apply for a form and fill in that form with the details of their dependants. That would greatly facilitate their entry. I am not sure that I quite follow just what the right hon. Gentleman is proposing. Is he suggesting that we should now go round to every father of a family in this country who is an old or new Commonwealth citizen and say, "You must fill in a form saying how many dependants you have overseas"? If we did that and they all complied I dare say that we would get an accurate estimate of the number of wives and children overseas. However, it would be a major undertaking which would need a host of people to carry out in order to try to compel all of them to fill in those forms. It would be a large, new scale, new 332 fashioned census which would be very difficult to undertake.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not going to raise too high the question of administrative inconvenience. We are here dealing with one of the largest social problems confronting this country now. I am not asking him to put a ban on all the dependants coming in. I have made some suggestions about how I think the future numbers might be limited. I am as conscious as he is about the problems of husbands living apart from wives and so on. This is a desperately difficult problem, and surely the first thing which the right hon. and learned Gentleman should do with a really difficult problem of this sort is to try to get a measure of the problem, to see the size of it. Merely to talk about the number of clerks who would be needed to get these forms filled in is not an adequate answer.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I am always perfectly willing to consider anything. As I say, it would be a most elaborate process. We have the best estimates we can get on the best information available to us; and, on any view, there is a very large number of wives and children overseas.
I must return to the question I put to the right hon. Gentleman. He is critical of the Government's policy. I ask him whether his party, of which he is a distinguished member, would seek to amend Section 2 of the 1962 Act. Would it seek to put up some barrier against wives who wish to join their husbands here and against children under 16 who wish to join their parents? If he says "No"—and I would greatly hope that that would be his answer because it would be very inhumane if he did not say "No"—then he and his party are committed to accepting, as the party in power at the moment is committed to accepting, the fact that wives and children have a right under the terms of the 1962 Act to join their husbands and fathers in this country. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman says, "The Government's policy does not go far enough" I ask him where we fall down over it and whether he accepts that what I have said is right. I hope that he will reply, "We accept that you are right".
I come to the question of vouchers. They have been reduced in number under 333 the terms of the White Paper to 8,500 a year, including 1,000 for Malta. Would the right hon. Gentleman reduce it still further or say that no vouchers should be issued, or would he cut the number down to 5,000, 1,000, 8,000, 7,000—or what number would he suggest? Indeed, it would not make very much difference if we made just that change.
I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman, in the name of his party: would he seek to reduce the vouchers further? He voiced what many people might think was a criticism that has some validity in saying that we draw on the doctors, and that the doctors are greatly needed in the countries from which they come. Many of them go back to those countries and take with them, we are glad to think, the experience they have acquired in our hospitals and from our teaching. It is excellent that they should take that experience back, and a great many of them do go back. It is a question of how the division between the A and B vouchers should be made, and my right hon. Friend will be very ready to answer any questions on that point that may be raised.
If we accept that the wives and children must come, there is very little room to change the scale of voucher allowance, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to accept that fact. I ask him: Is there all that room for very much change? The right hon. Gentleman has spoken to me in very severe terms about control. I would refer him to the words used by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 9th November when, speaking on the Loyal Address, he gave the answer. I should like to repeat that answer, because his language is perfectly clear.
If the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that my right hon. Friend proceeded to speak of the White Paper as a whole, and said:This remains our policy, and we are implementing it.That is perfectly true—we are implementing it; the rate of vouchers has been scaled down to 8,500, and we are taking those measures that are outlined in the White Paper. We have not yet introduced the legislation which paragraph 25 foreshadowed, and I should like to remind the Committee of what exactly the Government's approach to that is. 334 One thing I was rather glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman. I understand him to say that he thinks that there is a case for putting aliens on the same footing as Commonwealth citizens. He may be right or wrong about that. Many people would say that we should not treat Commonwealth citizens at least any worse than aliens. That is a view, I hope, that he would equally support, but it follows as a matter of necessary logic from his acceptance of the position that that is an open question which we should investigate; that we are perfectly right, as the Prime Minister says we are to do, in setting up this committee. That is the obvious answer.
I should like the Committee to look closely at my right hon. Friend's language. In the penultimate paragraph of column 50 of the OFFICIAL REPORT he says:Both these problems raise very thorny problems, not least the problem of securing the right balance of treatment as between Commonwealth citizens and aliens"—That is the same point on which the right hon. Gentleman dilated for a moment—and again the broader problem—the need for the Home Secretary to keep a balance in his responsibility to Parliament and the nation for the proper administration of the system of control, and on the other hand the need to ensure that the individual concerned has a due and fair opportunity to state his case.All of that, I would hope, especially from the terms of the previous debate, the right hon. Gentleman would gladly endorse; the previous debate, added to what he has said this evening.
My right hon. Friend went on to say:We want to get this legislation right"—That is, the legislation dealing with the entry and departure of Commonwealth citizens and aliens alike—and the Government have decided to appoint a small independent committee which can consider the whole problem and make recommendations …".He then sets out the terms of reference, and concludes:… and in the light of this we shall prepare the legislation as soon as possible thereafter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1965; Vol. 720, c. 49–50.]I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman cavils at that approach. He 335 has pointed to the problem of the interrelationship of our treatment of aliens with our treatment of Commonwealth citizens. He has said that the legislation is not right. We want to consider it in order to get it right. We have set up this Committee to investigate the whole problem. It will make recommendations to us, and we shall legislate as soon as possible.
Therefore, when he asks whether we stand by paragraph 25 or whether we are running away from the White Paper, the answer is that we are doing nothing of the sort. That White Paper, as the Prime Minister said, was formulated as a result of the most careful consideration after the Mountbatten Mission had gone to the Commonwealth countries. It was most carefully and anxiously considered before it was printed and, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said perfectly clearly, we stand by it. We say that before we legislate we want to make quite sure that we get humane, sensible and balanced legislation; that we get legislation which deals not only with the alien and protects his rights, but that the justice that should be accorded to him should equally be accorded to the Commonwealth citizen.
That is our approach. We stand by this White Paper, and intend to legislate in the light of the recommendations made by the Committee in due course. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman. We are fully conscious, and always have been, of the strains under which they live. They are admirable citizens, and they play a useful and excellent part in the community; they are likeable, and they are easily assimilable when one gets to know them, but when they congregate in large numbers social frictions do develop—
§ Dr. Miller
Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves the point of granting permission for entry to Commonwealth citizens, will he say whether this Committee will consider extending and increasing the number in the event, say, of some disaster occurring in a Commonwealth country or Colony? I am thinking, for example, of what happened in Tristan da Cunha, when citizens were brought to this country and settled here. Could 336 that apply also, for example, to Rhodesia, where there may be four million Commonwealth citizens who are facing a disaster at present and who may wish to come here?
§ Sir F. Soskice
We have said quite clearly what we would do in the case of citizens of Rhodesia who might wish to come here, live here, or take refuge here, and I cannot add to what we have said. In the case of a disaster such as that at Tristan da Cunha, of course, as a matter of ordinary common kindness, if people are in great distress we help them as we helped those people, and we are glad to do so. I do not know what sort of disaster my hon. Friend has in mind, but if he means the kind of natural disaster that occurred at Tristan da Cunha I hope that this country would always respond to the claim of help to persons in distress.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Referring directly to the point that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was discussing—controls—he said that the Government produced paragraphs 23, 24 and 25 as their considered view of necessary measures to be taken. In paragraph 25, the Government said:Without it"—that is, the proposal:the effectiveness of the control would be greatly weakened.Is the Home Secretary proposing to legislate this Session? I must tell him that, if he is not, there are many of us on this side who feel that the Prime Minister was merely welcoming an opportunity to shove the whole of this problem under the carpet, forget it, and leave British residents for months, and perhaps for more than a year, without this protective legislation.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir F. Soskice
That, I should have thought, was a discordant note introduced into a debate in which such a note was wholly inappropriate and I hope that we can get away from that kind of controversy. The Prime Minister has been perfectly clear in this matter. He said that legislation, when it is introduced, will take account of the recommendations of this committee. It will be introduced as soon thereafter as possible. I cannot guarantee that it will be this Session, but the Prime Minister's word will be kept and it will 337 be as soon as it can be. That is what he has said. It is a promise to the House and the country that what has been said will certainly be fulfilled.
As the right hon. Member knows, we have a very important programme of social and legislative reforms, and we will, when we feel that we have the legislation in a completely appropriate and satisfactory form—to quote the Prime Minister's words, "as soon as possible thereafter—introduce the legislation. I am afraid that beyond that I cannot go.
That is the measure of the problem. It is a problem which is not the creation or fault of any Government. It is a problem which in its human aspects we should be glad to take on as a challenge. It is not a cardinal sin of a person who lives overseas in a more impoverished country a an our own to seek to come here. We should be glad to help him within our capacity, bearing in mind that we want him here not as a stranger but as a citizen and that, wherever we look, populations are moving and will go on moving all over the world as the world gets smaller in its confines.
Those are the answers I give to the right hon. Member. I hope that we shall continue to approach this problem in the future as we have been approaching it throughout the course of the year. If the right hon. Member criticises our policy and says that we fall short of what we intend to do, he should say so and should say what his party would do to improve it. He has no right to criticise us unless he has an alternative measure to propose to the House and the country.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
What we are debating this evening is nothing less than whether we shall be able in this country to avoid the atmosphere of racial bitterness and outbreaks of racial hatred which hang like a menacing cloud permanently over America. This is something to which we must all set ourselves.
Listening to the Home Secretary, I had no doubt about his good will, but I was not quite so sure about his determination to save our children and grandchildren from what may come to this country if the right decisions are not taken now. It requires, of course, action both locally 338 and nationally. I agree with what is said in the White Paper about local liaison committees. My borough of Camden has set up a strong committee on community relations. I was glad to be present at the meeting to inaugurate that committee. This fulfils an essential need; responsible local people of all parties and none must be brought together to consider carefully what are the local implications and manifestations to which attention needs to be given quickly if an undesirable racial atmosphere is not to build up. I am sure that representatives of the immigrant community ought to be included in these committees.
Nationally, when I was Home Secretary I had the benefit of the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Council under Lady Reading's admirable chairmanship. It produced three excellent reports in my time, and another has been presented to the present Home Secretary. I am not at all clear why that Council has been wound up. It made an invaluable contribution in its time to the problems of assimilation of the enormous numbers of Commonwealth immigrants who poured into this country before there was any power of control. It seemed to me it would have been wiser to continue with that Council than to set it aside and to replace it by a new body.
If the Act of 1962, which made possible for the first time a control of the rate of immigration, had not been passed, the strains in this country would already by now have become insupportable. Anyone who looks at the figures for the years immediately before the control was brought in must accept that. When I was Home Secretary I received very interesting reports from the police in the year after control had become effective. I wanted to find whether in fact the operation of the Act had aggravated or mitigated tensions locally. Almost without exception the reports I got back were that the racial situation was improved. In most cases the principal reason given for that was that now there was a system of statutory control over the rate of entry of Commonwealth immigrants it seemed to people for the first time worth while to try to tackle the problem locally because, for the first time, there was evidence that the Government were trying to handle the situation nationally.
339 I am quite sure that the building up of acceptable social relationships throughout the country depends on national control over numbers of immigrants. What we have learned in these last three years is that the 1962 Act, which at the time was criticised as oppressive, was in fact not a sufficiently effective instrument. Parliament insisted at the time that the Act should be framed generously and administered generously. Immigration officers were given to understand that applicants to land here were to be given the benefit of the doubt. Questioning was not to be too searching. The applicant's bona fides was to be assumed.
In consequence of all that, after a time and as the pressure built up it became known among some of the would-be immigrants what methods to use if they wanted to evade the control. That is how the evasion started. For example, one could pretend falsely that one was a close relative of someone already in this country. Another way was to claim that one was coming as a student. Parliament had insisted that there must be absolutely no obstacle in the way of students coming from the Commonwealth to this country. That was entirely right, but it opened the door to people who pretended that they were coming as students but in fact did not apply themselves seriously to any course of study after they were here and simply entered the labour market.
Aliens are normally admitted to this country subject to a time limit. If they are found here long after that time limit has expired, the Government have the sanction of being able to deport them. But once a Commonwealth citizen had got past the immigration officer, he was here for good. Until recently, very few Commonwealth citizens were admitted subject to a time limit, although I understand from the Home Secretary that that is now being applied to students and some others. But it is no use fixing the condition of a time limit on an immigrant, unless there is an effective way of enforcing it. Up to now I do not believe there has been.
There must be an effective power of actually enforcing a time limit on the stay of Commonwealth citizens. Otherwise evasion cannot be penalised or stopped. That is what is worrying me 340 about the Government having drawn back from the firm words they used in the August White Paper about the necessity for further legislative action. The situation now, in 1965, demands a more complete machinery of control than Parliamentary opinion was willing to accept in 1962. The Government clearly recognised this fact in August of this year. Are they now, under pressure from their Left wing, running away from what they know to be the truth about that? In August the Government said that they regardedit as important that there should be a speedy and effective power to repatriate immigrants who in one way or another … evade the stricter control over immigration that is now envisaged.Do the Government still regard it as important, because by agreeing to set up this new Committee they have evidently postponed for a considerable time the moment when that new legislative action can be brought in? In August they said that it was necessary that it should be speedy. Do not they any longer think that it needs to be speedy now?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Is the right hon. Gentleman implying that he would be against the setting up of such a Committee, whether for aliens or for Commonwealth immigrants? If he is in favour of the setting up of such a Committee, what is his objection to what the Government are doing?
§ Mr. Brooke
If the Committee is thought necessary, well and good, but the Committee certainly should not be allowed to cause delay to action which the Government themselves have said is speedily needed. It would be perfectly possible for the Government to ask Parliament straight away for powers in this respect, which they themselves have said are needed speedily, and then to carry out the longer-term inquiry if they thought fit.
§ Mr. Silverman
Does this mean that what the right hon. Gentleman is asking the Government to do is to pass the legislation first and consider whether it is right afterwards?
§ Mr. Brooke
I think the Government have in fact followed that line of action on several occasions already. I was not making a fresh appeal to them to pursue again their frequent course of action.
341 I hope I shall not be out of order, Mr. Lever, in comparing the procedure regarding Commonwealth immigrants with that affecting aliens. Control of alien immigration is exercised under a code which is now 50 years old and is continued from year to year in the strange way which we have been debating this evening. Control of Commonwealth immigrants rests upon a radically different code—this is important—which is less than four years old. We have, even in these three and a half years, learned a great deal about its strengths and its weaknesses. In the longer term I believe, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), that a determined effort should be made to bring the two codes closer together and to replace the Aliens Act and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act with a single composite Measure. I fully recognise that that cannot be done in a few weeks or months. It requires long study. Where here are differences between the treatment of aliens and Commonwealth immigrants, I am sure that Commonwealth immigrants should have the preference. But I cannot believe that the two problems are so utterly distinct from one another that Parliament ought to accept indefinitely the continuance of these two utterly different and unrelated codes.
I do not see why Commonwealth citizens generally, like aliens generally, should not be admitted to this country in the first instance for a limited period. At the moment there are powers in the 1962 Act to do that in certain cases but not in other cases. The Home Secretary Knows as well as I do that it is extremely doubtful whether a time limit is effectively enforceable, until the new legislation which the Government said a few months ago was speedily needed has been Drought before Parliament.
When I said that I believed that Commonwealth immigrants, like aliens, should generally be admitted in the first instance subject to a time limit, I would certainly make an exception in favour of he wife and young children of an immigrant who is already here. That was the question which the Home Secretary put to my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth a short while ago. I cannot speak for my party. I can speak only for myself, but I have no doubt whatever about what my answer to that 342 would be. On that account I could not agree with the extreme suggestion I have heard made, though I have not heard it made in the House of Commons, that all further immigration should be halted, temporarily or permanently, until we can get the situation here at home under better control.
Besides wives and children, of course we should admit and welcome genuine students, genuine holiday makers, genuine business visitors, and particularly we should welcome those men and women who want to come to this country and take a professional or vocational course here to fit them for life, in order that when they are qualified they can go to work in one of the developing countries. I certainly do not see why we should lay permanent claim to all those people who come to undergo training here. It would be unfair of us to do so. We should give every facility to those who wish to obtain such training in this country and then use their new-found skills elsewhere.
Having said that, I must state, except for a very small number to whom special circumstances may apply, I do not think that we ought to admit any more Commonwealth immigrants for permanent residence here until we have made much greater advance in providing for the million or so who are already here, and helping them to adjust themselves to life in Britain.
A few minutes ago the Home Secretary said that it would not make very much difference if we cut down the issue of vouchers. I must remind him that each new voucher holder who comes here will normally be the head of a family. In coming he will carry with him an entitlement to bring his wife and small children. They in due course will set up their own households in this country. It is the voucher holders who cannot be counted in ones alone. Each one means starting a new family in this country.
After all, a million Commonwealth immigrants here already amount to one in fifty of our whole population. There are vast tracts of the country where they are hardly ever seen. I am not surprised if right hon. and hon. Members coming from those constituencies are less acutely aware of the problem than we are in London and the big cities. If the million 343 were equally spread over the whole of England, Scotland and Wales, the problems of adjustment and mutual acceptance would be infinitely easier than they are. But there is no power of compulsory geographical direction in this country, and no one wishes there to be. It is idle dreaming to suggest that the problem can be solved in that way.
Perfectly naturally, the immigrants congregate where work for them is easy to find. Unfortunately, many of those places are also the places where there would be a housing problem even without them, and where their coming has made the clearance of slums and the improvement of housing conditions far more difficult than it would otherwise have been. It is not the overall numbers who are in the country; it is the local concentration that accentuates the risks of race feeling.
It is to guard now against the possibilities of race tension and race hatred in the future that I am concerned. It is primarily with this that Parliament should now be concerned. In all that I say and do on this crucial question, I intend to be guided by two firm principles, which I hope will be generally acceptable to the Committee. All people with lawful permission to live in this country as fellow citizens of ours should be treated alike, should have equal opportunities, and should be given every chance to bring up their children as good British citizens. There is a great deal more to be done, if we are to satisfy that principle.
Secondly, and parallel with that, the numbers of newcomers admitted to permanent residence here must be limited to those who can be successfully absorbed in our towns and cities. Having decided how many can be absorbed, we must make the control effective so that that purpose is achieved.
If we neglect either of the principles that I have stated, the risk and disaster of racial outbreaks in years ahead will become a certainty. We have to think far ahead. The Government must clear their minds as to what the broad lines of policy are to be towards future immigration of both Commonwealth citizens and aliens into this already fairly densely populated island.
This is the time, I submit, for fundamental thinking about that question, and 344 then for policy decisions based on longterm purposes, and not on day-to-day pressures. What the Committee is entitled to discover tonight is whether the Government and the party which supports them are clear in their minds on all this, whether they are firm in their purpose, and whether or not they are united.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)
I would begin by taking up one of the remarks by the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke). It seemed to me that he was arguing that there might be no solution to the problem of immigration and race relations in this country except by virtually limiting further immigration to the wives and other immediate dependants of those already here.
In arguing in this way, the right hon. Gentleman drew an unfair parallel with the United States. One of the striking differences between the United States and what has happened here in the last few years is that in the United States the bulk of the Legislature and Executive are now firmly committed against any form of racial discrimination and are moving away from discrimination based on quotas in their immigration policy towards a much more liberal immigration policy, and this at a time when we are moving in the opposite direction. I take this opportunity to pay a much deserved commendation to the United States.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman a question, whether he believes that unlike France, unlike West Germany which has absorbed 1 million immigrants since the war, unlike the Netherlands which has absorbed 100,000 immigrants from Indonesia—its immigrant population is closely equivalent to what we have absorbed—we are incapable of achieving the same reasonably good race relations as the countries of the Continent have achieved? If that is the case, we must ask why this is so.
I am afraid that I disagree with the right hon. Member for Hampstead and the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) when they argue that the result of the 1962 Measure was to improve race relations here. I believe that there has been a deterioration in the last few years. That deterioration has not followed because certain limits have been applied. Most of us would argue that there necessarily have to be certain 345 limits based on the capacity, economic and social, of this country to absorb people from outside, regardless of whether they are from the Commonwealth or other countries.
The crucial difference is that in the last two or three years we have failed to undertake the job of educating both the immigrant community and the host community, a job which fell to us to do. Time and again opportunities to show our public the true facts about immigration have been lost in the desire to win votes on a subject which is far too emotionally weighted already and far too crucial for the future of this country and the world for us to engage in such an operation.
I want to take two points which are consistently distorted and misunderstood First, there is the point about evasions. I was glad that the right hon. Member for Monmouth mentioned this. We must point out time and again that evasions occur on the part of all people who transfer from one country to another, not specifically immigrants to Britain, and not specifically immigrants from the new Commonwealth countries to this country. It is our duty not continually to build up the subject of evasion and demand more and more controls. We ought to try to put the matter in its context. How many of those whom we now call evaders evade because they still regard this country in some sense as their mother country but do not recognise the number of requirements which have to be satisfied before they can settle down here? I have met Australian students who fail to register but go on living here and eventually take jobs, and they do this not because they want to break the law but because they are unaware that the law exists.
Again and again the right hon. Member for Hampstead stressed the weight imposed on the social services and housing by the immigrants. We must look at this rationally. We must balance what immigrants, alien and Commonwealth, contribute to this country against what they take out. I do not believe that even hon. Gentlemen opposite who keep labouring the point about diseases brought into this country could deny that the contribution made to the National Health Service by Commonwealth immigrants is infinitely greater than what they take out 346 of the country. I do not believe that it can be shown, although it can be argued, that even in respect of housing the contribution made to the construction industry by all immigrants who claim to be Irish is less than what they take out. All one can say is that the assumptions have to be proved.
Finally, we must face the fact that there is a genuine balance here. On the one hand, there is the improvement of the standard of living here brought about by the presence of the immigrants—and that means an improvement in the rate of economic growth. On the other hand, there is the attitude which hon. Gentlemen opposite are increasingly taking towards immigration of all sorts, that no more should be allowed. If that is the view which they take, all right. But let them be honest and admit that this means a more slowly rising standard of living than we should otherwise get and that this is the price that our people will have to pay. Let them contrast it with West Germany, where the increase in the standard of living and economic growth certainly owes, in the view of the West German authorities, a great deal to their relatively liberal policy towards immigration.
I turn to one or two specific points. First, I congratulate the Home Secretary very warmly on setting up the Committee to consider appeals against deportation. All of us on this side of the Committee are glad about that, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite are, too. We believe that it would be extremely dangerous to undermine our democratic structure in order to pursue a temporarily popular policy. We believe that in this respect the setting up of the Committee is a step towards the protection of our fundamental and vital institutions. Secondly, we are grateful for what at least appears to be the emergence of a rather more liberal attitude towards those dependants who, through no fault of their own, require the support of an immigrant already in this country.
However, having said that, let me make two constructive comments. First, the White Paper and the Immigration Act, 1962, whose continuation we are considering this evening, both depend to a very great extent on the services given by immigration officers. I have no doubt 347 that the men and women of the Immigration Service do their very best under what is often great strain, but we must recognise that in the present situation more and more executive powers are being given to them and that more and more depends on their ability to make a judgment, which is necessarily often a judgment made within a matter of minutes.
I therefore suggest that we should try as far as possible to place at each of the main ports and airports of entry someone capable of speaking the essential languages used by Commonwealth immigrants in order to be able not only to interpret but, as the situation requires, as far as possible to act as a liaison officer between the person entering and the immigration officer when the language spoken by the person wishing to enter is not primarily English.
Secondly, I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to consider either publishing the rules now governing the behaviour of immigration officers or, if that is not possible, at least making them available to the new Commonwealth Immigration Committee under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Canterbury so that full consideration can be given to the rules by a body set up for the purpose.
The right hon. Member for Hampstead spoke of avoiding the problem of race relations in this country by getting rid of the problem altogether, but of course, it is too late to do that. Most of us on this side of the Committee would not think it right to do so, but, anyway, it is too late.
§ Mr. Brooke
What does the hon. Lady mean by "getting rid of the problem"? There are one million people here already and their number will multiply. How can there be any question of getting rid of them?
§ Mrs. Williams
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me that the problem cannot be got rid of. The point I was making was that several times in the course of his speech he insisted on saying that we would find that we had the same sort of race relations problem as in the United States if we did not now as far as possible end further immigration into this country. What he has to face up to, as we all have, 348 is what price has to be paid for an illiberal attitude towards immigrant people.
As the Government and the Opposition of 1962 moved towards a more restrictive attitude towards immigration, they placed upon themselves a crucial responsibility for improving relations between the immigrant community and the host community. The right hon. Member for Hampstead spoke of the creation of British citizens out of an earlier generation of immigrant people. The section of the White Paper dealing with immigration is absolutely crucial to this issue of creating citizens out of the immigrant community here.
Perhaps particularly in respect of apprenticeships, where we are beginning to create a skilled and leading group among the immigrant community, and in respect of fair employment practices, not least promotion in employment, we need to ask the Government to look very carefully at the execution of the policy so far laid down to see whether we can create within the immigrant community a body of people who recognise that in promotion and apprenticeship and education itself—and in this I want to pay some personal respects to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science for the efforts which he has made in this direction and which, although not always successful, have certainly been well intentioned—integration lies at the very nub of the problem.
We will be able to look with genuine sincerity at those who look to us and who ask, "What lead did you give in what was the most crucial domestic problem of your times?" only if we are able to say that we worked on immigration and made sure that these people became British citizens one generation later on. We will be able to avoid the problems which the right hon. Gentleman outlined only if we make such an effort to integrate those already in our midst.
§ Mr. William Deedes (Ashford)
I find myself in considerable sympathy with nearly everything the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) has said. I hope that she and other hon. Members opposite do not necessarily assume that there is a fundamental difference in philosophy between the outlook of some of us on this issue and the outlook of the hon. Lady herself and others. That would not be true.
349 I want to return to the exchanges between the Home Secretary and my right Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) on the issue of the dependants and the point which arises from those exchanges. The Home Secretary challenged my right hon. Friend on what his policy would be in respect of these dependants and my right hon. Friend replied that, without further knowledge of the prospects and without more knowledge of the figures at stake, he found it impossible to answer the question.
That brings me to the main point which I want to make to the Committee in a very short speech. It is an aspect of this whole problem, on which I hope Members on both sides of the Committee may find something in common. It is something which has exercised me for a long time, and I now think it exercises the Home Secretary. It is the total inadequacy of the system for keeping an adequate record of Commonwealth immigrants who enter this country, who reside in this country and who leave this country. I do not believe that we are going to be able to carry on much longer without a better system of accounts. I hope that in saying that I speak for both sides of the Committee, because no one benefits from a slipshod method of accountancy which leaves everyone in doubt as to what is really happening. We must face up to the need for a better system, not least in the interests of the immigrants themselves.
I do not believe that we can tackle evasions, sensibly or justly—and it is accepted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there are evasions—on the present basis. Nor can we get, and no one is able to give in the course of this debate, the accurate picture which ought to be given on the immigrant state. I mean not immigrant prospects but the present immigrant state. This must include not only those who come, but those who have left. I am not without misgivings on this and a certain amount of reluctance, but I am convinced, after looking through this pretty thoroughly, that we shall have to adopt part of the machinery which is now used for checking the entry and exodus of foreginers or aliens under the other head.
In the White Paper the Government really go far towards admitting the evi- 350 dence which leads one to this conclusion, only it seems that they deny the conclusion itself. There may be reasons for doing this. I think that at the time when the Act was first discussed in this House, in 1962, there were reasons for keeping a very strict dividing line between the system which then obtained for aliens and the system that we hoped would obtain for Commonwealth citizens.
This is a point which now ought to receive fresh attention, for administrative reasons. Paragraphs 23 and 24 of the White Paper foreshadow action which would demand a more systematic approach to our accounting, if that is the right word. Paragraph 23 says:The Government propose to seek a general power to impose conditions on the admission of any Commonwealth citizen who is subject to control.This simply cannot be done on the system under which we are now operating. Such a system can only work if there exist for Commonwealth citizens something of the machinery which now works in respect of aliens. It bears stating, and I do not think it has been said tonight, that the present system operates most unfairly upon the highly skilled corps of immigration officers. A number of challenges have been thrown down tonight on whether there should be executive or judicial responsibility for refusal of entry. What happens in effect is that the immigration officers at the ports hold the bulk of the responsibility in respect of Commonwealth citizens for decisions which are taken.
I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that they are being given impossible duties. This is illustrated in the words of paragraph 11 of the White Paper which says:On 4th February, 1965, the Home Secretary informed the House of Commons that he had found evidence that evasion of the existing control was being practised on a considerable scale. He was therefore instructing immigration officers to scrutinise more carefully the intentions and bona fides of Commonwealth citizens who sought entry, and to make full use of their power to impose conditions.Members of the Committee will accept that this reads all right in a White Paper. But what is one asking the immigration officers to do? Those of us who know a little about this work which they are being called upon to do will know that all this is much more easily said than done. The 351 Committee ought to realise this. The officers handle something like 16 million people in the course of a year. This figure rises by about 10 per cent. every year. The figures were quoted in another place by a representative of the Joint Under-Secretary's Department. Unless conditions can be enforced, they become valueless. I submit that as things are they cannot be enforced.
I hope that hon. Members, and the Home Secretary in particular, will refresh their memories from the proceedings in the 11th Report of the Estimates Committee. Pages 55 to 91 go thoroughly into the method practised in respect of aliens and Commonwealth citizens at the ports, which in the context of this debate illuminates precisely what has to happen if we seek stringently to check or to control entry into this country.
In the case of all those who are granted leave to land, those who are called aliens—totalling, I thought, 2½million, and the Home Secretary mentioned a figure of 2,700,000, out of a total of 15–16 million a year—those not holding British passports are required to fill in a landing card and later an embarkation card. This, indeed, is what most of us are required to do when we enter or leave Commonwealth countries. That is a point to be borne in mind.
Those cards concerning aliens are dispatched to Princeton House, alphabetically filed and paired. This is called the Aliens' Passenger Traffic Index and 75 per cent. of it relates to bona fide visitors who come and go. When, however, after a specified period, one card is not matched by another, chasing inquiries are set afoot.
At this point we may well find that there must be a divergence in the system. We know who have come in, we know who have gone out. We have an accounting method, and linked to this in the case of aliens there is for all except the permanent foreign residents, 300,000 in number, the need for a portion of them to register with the police. In the case of Commonwealth citizens, there is no card of one sort or another and no registration. In other words, in the first category all are accounted for individually. As to the second category the Joint Under-Secretary will I think accept that the 352 record is simply statistical. The Home Secretary had to admit in last year's debate thatSince the control began, nearly half a million visitors have come into this country, but it is difficult for me to inform the Committee what is the number who went out because Commonwealth citizens leaving the United Kingdom are not, under the existing system of control, classified.That, I think, is still true.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that when they leave,one does not know whether they are workers, visitors or students, because no record is kept to classify them".The right hon. and learned Gentleman added to those remarks the observation that a certain number of visitors had undoubtedly stayed on and evaded the terms of their admission and that this was a problem of seriousness. Those were the Home Secretary's words.
Up to now, for good reasons—as both sides, I think, would accept—we have set our face against too close a relationship between the two systems. Again, the Home Secretary said thatto go further than the existing scheme of control … one has to contemplate … the type of severe control which we apply to aliens."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November. 1964; Vol. 702, cc. 280–1, 284.]In our earlier proceedings tonight the Home Secretary gave that system a fairly good chit in response to some of the criticisms that were being directed at him by the Committee.
I hope that no hon. Member is under the illusion that we are discussing a Draconian system in contrast to a more friendly system, because that is not true. The Home Secretary's own words are quite correct. He does not say that it would be impossible to do this. He merely says that it would be very much resented. This is the thing to which I hope minds will be turned afresh. I agree that there would be substantial difficulties in bringing in the aliens' machinery—the accountancy side of it—for this category of Commonwealth immigrant. What I must ask is: do the defects which arise from evasion and other problems outweigh those difficulties?
There seem to me four reasons why this matter should be considered very seriously. First, evasions cannot be 353 checked without a better system, and evasions are grossly unjust, not only to those already here, but to those who are kept out. It can be just to none if some who know the ropes can get in while those who are out and who try to come here a straightforward way are kept out.
Secondly, there is the question of repatriation to which the White Paper refers. How can repatriation be justly worked without a basic check system? Take the case of a Commonwealth student who has turned to employment in this country. What check can be kept in respect of him? Or take the person who has been repatriated and then has returned to this country. In respect of aliens, that is not generally possible. In respect of Commonwealth citizens, it is possible, and it is to nobody's advantage that that should be so.
Thirdly, I think that we must declare more closely the statistics of those who come and go, not only in totals, which is done now, but in categories. That seems to me an imperative necessity at this stage. This has a bearing on national acceptance of those who are already here. It is no good blinking the fact that at least one fundamental source of disquiet among reasonable people is the belief that we have no exact control; we do not know exactly what we are doing. We cannot always account for all the numbers. The White Paper makes clear that this is a justified source of disquiet.
Fourthly, in so far as we get the system to work, we have to misuse over-worked immigration officers who, I repeat, are given an intolerably difficult task. For political reasons, we require them to undertake work which they should not be asked to undertake. We call on them to exercise judgment which it should not be for them to exercise. In the absence of adequate machinery, we ask public servants to make good a deficiency which it is not their job to make good. This is not only inefficient; it is unjust. All law which cannot be enforced is unjust, and it is the greatest folly to believe that we can temper justice with mercy by flaccid administration. I would describe the administration in this respect as flaccid. We confound justice; we do not assist it.
I know from some little experience of the Aliens' Department that some hon. Members are critical of it, both in par- 354 ticular and in general respects. Certain hon. Members, year after year, quite rightly bring forward their complaints against it. Succeeding régimes have sought to prove and alternative régimes have sought to convince us that it is more equitable than it appears to be.
However, this can be said: at no time has any criticism of the Aliens' Department which I have heard included the charge of wide-spread evasion. That is one charge which has never been laid against the administration in particular or in general, and it seems to me a point in its favour. Those who have the immigrants' cause at heart should support the belief that administration in this sense should be made more efficient and put on a proper accounting basis and not left to some ludicrous lottery which favours, not the honest people who want to come here, and have a right to do so, but those who cheat.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
I want to begin by conceding gladly the first point that was made by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). Hon. Members on this side of the Committee know very well that the gulf which divides them from some hon. Members opposite is not as great as might be supposed. The operative word is "some", because the gulf which divides Members on this side from hon. Members opposite is very wide indeed. Anyone who wants proof of that has only to remember as far back as the remarkable performance by the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) in opening the debate.
He began by saying that during the last year debates on immigration had been marked by a conciliatory tone. I believe that is right, and I have played my own insignificant part in trying to bring it about. But I do not think that even the right hon. Gentleman himself would believe that the things he said today were intended to strike an uncontroversial note or to be conciliatory. Even making allowance for the right hon. Gentleman's normally ebullient, indeed, frenetic style, I think hon. Members on this side must have heard his remarks with the gloomy conclusion that his intentional purpose was to bring about a higher level of emotion and a more intense level of debate.
355 He made what was, in my view, an entirely distasteful reference to the three wives whom he suggested might be brought in or had been brought in by immigrants. That remark was indicative of the sort of campaign that some of us faced in the Midlands a year ago and the sort of campaign that has been going on in the Midlands ever since, but it was also indicative of something deeper than that, which I fear to be the right hon. Gentleman's real attitude.
He seems to be obsessed by one single word, and that is the word "colour". Let me take an example to demonstrate that. I believe entirely in the propriety and the desirability of the Ministry of Education's Circular No. 765. Some of my hon. Friends disagree, but I believe in the necessity for limiting the number of non-English-speaking children in any one class to 30 per cent. When the right hon. Member for Monmouth made his contribution in favour of that Circular he said he wanted to see the limitation of the number of coloured children in each class to 30 per cent. Those two things are very different, and they are entirely indicative of the great gulf that divides some hon. Gentlemen opposite from the overwhelming majority of hon. Members on this side.
I have admitted before in the House, and I admit again, that over the last three years my attitude to the legislation, the continuance of which we are considering tonight, has changed. Three years ago, I suffered from a tendency to oversimplify, and I was opposed to the Bill as it then stood. I remain opposed to many of the motives that prompted it, but I can see the necessity of its objects, and the necessity of the things it brought about. Those of us who admitted that we have changed our views on this crucial issue expected, in the nature of politics, that we would be required to eat some dirt. Some of us have had that diet thrust down us for many months. No one complains about that. If that was the only price that one had to pay for better race relations, it would be a price worth paying. But a more sinister note has crept into the Government's acceptance of some of the principles of the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, because the more the Government have moved 356 towards accepting it, the further the Opposition have retreated in the other direction, ensuring that the gulf dividing us is as wide as ever and that party political issues can still be wheeled out if at a future time they are regarded as expedient.
Any right hon. or hon. Gentleman who doubts the accuracy of that judgment has to do no more than read the remarkable speech made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in Birmingham on Sunday night. I say without any trepidation that I am always suspicious of the motives of Front Bench spokesmen whose specialisation is something different from home affairs but who choose to go to the heart of the Midlands, to Birmingham, to advance their views on tighter immigration control.
I am particularly sceptical of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West whose reputation in this House and in the country is based on, first, his overwhelming support of a free market economy; secondly, the absolute pursuit of that policy with a ruthless logic which is not compromised no matter how unpopular his advocacy may be; and, thirdly, his complete and absolute integrity; yet he comes to the city in England which is more labour-hungry, which is more in need of additional workers than any other place in the Commonwealth, and, as a representative of a free market economy, and with the ruthless logic that must support it, tells them that he wants to see immigration to this country substantially cut down.
That does not seem to fit into any of the things on which his reputation has been based. It does not seem to fit in with his reputation for ruthless logic, overwhelming authority, and overwhelming integrity. The figures he then quoted were notoriously bogus. They are specially selected to give the most damaging, the most critical, and I think the most hysterical, concept of the immigration problem in Birmingham.
I understand that the Minister of Labour is likely to take part in this debate. I do not know what his views are, or indeed what the Government's views are, on the economic issues of immigration, but from my point of view it seems that economically all the arguments are in favour of immigration being allowed to 357 extend, being allowed to expand, being allowed to continue in much more substantial numbers than at the moment. The economic arguments are all in favour of more immigration. They are all in favour of more labour and greater growth.
But I do not see the debate as an economic one. It was the right hon. Member for Monmouth who produced the remarkable economic analysis of the situation by talking about "the importation of additional male workers into this country." That is a phrase which typifies the right hon. Gentleman's attitude rather than mine. I believe that the debate is a social rather than an economic one.
I support the continuation of the 1962 Act, and I support the continuation of controls. Indeed, I support the extension of controls which I think should be applied a good deal more rigorously and stringently, because I believe it to be a social necessity. I say that because in the country there are people who do not look at immigration with the quiet, objective logic that should be possible in this House.
We know, and we should put it on record, that the immigrants cause virtually none of the problems about which we have heard this evening. They are not flooding into this country and sapping the National Insurance Fund.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that if he takes that to its logical conclusion he is accepting the point that he made a little earlier, that the more we proceed in accepting this point of view the more we ate accepting the basic idea which the Opposition have put forward?
§ Mr. Hattersley
My hon. Friend seems to have arrived at the conclusion of the point I am making while I am only at the beginning of it. If he bears with me until I have made my point, I shall give way to him again if he wants to say that the gulf which divides me from hon. Gentlemen opposite is not as wide as I say it is.
I am saying that the social crises in our great cities have not been caused by immigrants. They are not poaching council houses. They are not causing the housing shortage and the housing crises which the right hon. Member for Hamp- 358 stead (Mr. Brooke) implied they were, and I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman at least would have known that the Milner Holland Report says:Immigrants are the victims, not the cause of the London housing crisis.Immigrants are not going to flood the labour market. They are not going to imperil the solvency of the National Insurance Fund. They cause none of these problems, but one has to face the fact, not with approval but with reluctance, that many people believe that they do.
If one is realistic one has to face the fact that people who are short of houses and who are afraid that hospital beds will not be available, and people who are worried about the education of their children, suspect that immigrants have some part in bringing about the unsatisfactory state of our social and welfare services. I believe that those who take an interest in immigration have three duties. The first is to do all that we can to demonstrate that immigrants have not caused these problems; the second is to allay the fears of those people who are misguided enough to believe it, and believe it genuinely with fear that occasionally amounts to terror. The third is to encourage the immigrants who are here and those amongst whom they live to build a genuinely, truly and freely integrated community, to such an extent and degree that the fears that turn to prejudice are eventually abandoned.
The critical issue by which we must all be tested as we vote in favour of extending the policy of immigration control is whether or not we genuinely want the immigrants to come here and want those who will come here in the future to be fully and completely integrated into the community. The arguments which exist —I admit they exist and, in a sense, I am glad that they exist—between myself and my hon. Friends are not about that fundamental problem. My hon. Friends and I may disagree about whether or not integration can best be brought about by the encouragement of additional immigrants or by a limitation on immigrants, but our intentions and objectives are to build a truly integrated, multi-racial society.
359 The right hon. Member for Monmouth is so concerned about integration that he rejects the word altogether. He produces words of his own, such as "adjustment", "alteration", and "change". We on this side of the Committee believe integration to be the justification for a policy which temporarily limits the numbers of immigrants—or, at least, I do. Some months ago I coined a phrase which, for all its inadequacy, remains the best I can do. I believe that integration without limitation is impossible; equally, I believe that limitation without integration is indefensible.
One of the things which must cause all of us regret is that in his opening speech the right hon. Member for Monmouth, representing the party opposite, cast integration aside with a few cursory remarks at the end. I believe that more money must be set aside for genuine and positive integration. I believe that those local authorities which, by design or mistake, discriminate in their housing regulations against immigrants must be stopped from discriminating. I believe that those schools which are so organised that immigrant children get less than adequate education must be reorganised. I believe that those building societies and insurance companies which, by design or mistake, discriminate against immigrants must be stopped from discriminating.
This is why, six months ago, I was one of those who particularly regretted that the Race Relations Bill missed an opportunity of putting immigrants on a parity with indigenous citizens in those fields where parity matters: housing and employment. I believe genuinely in integration. That is what this debate should be about. I believe that limitation can only be decent if it is regarded as a prop for a policy of integration. If we are discussing a limitation of entry for its own sake we are at the top of a slippery slope which may begin with some votes being won or lost and some temporary popularity, but which must end in the sort of racialism which I genuinely believe most hon. Members abhor and wish to avoid.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
I go some way with the views expressed by the last speaker, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on 360 a balanced policy of stricter controls as a condition of a proper adjustment. I use that phrase because I prefer it to the others that have been used. I believe that we need a far more vigorous policy on immigration. We need stricter control of entry and more positive measures to help immigrants already here. The Government's policy seems to me to be failing on both these counts.
First, on controls. The Home Secretary has spoken on several occasions about evasion. It is not good enough to promise, as the Government did in the Gracious Speech, to set up a special committee to review all the control procedures. The Home Secretary has indicated that legislation is unlikely during this Session. We should not wait for that legislation, I believe, before taking action. If the Home Secretary has the powers, he must use them. If he has not, he should seek them from the House without delay. Longer-term controls can be devised in the light of the findings of the special committee.
On the subject of control, I find myself also in agreement with the general proposition of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke). He wishes to avoid allowing a problem to develop in this country which might later get out of control. I have real sympathy with that view and I think that it was a basic idea behind the speech of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook.
There is a detailed matter of control on which we should have a change and we should have it immediately. Can we, in a comparatively much richer country, defend taking from poorer countries some of the skilled manpower which they desperately need? The Government's recent policy statement makes special provision for a continuing, though much reduced, flow of nurses, doctors, dentists and teachers—all from the Commonwealth. These are to be part of the annual quota of 8,500 voucher holders. In recent years, many of them have come here planning to stay, because they find the openings in their own country unattractive by comparison with prospects in Britain. We have no justification for attracting them to come and to stay here when their services are needed in their own country. But there are others in these four groups—the majority, I believe—who 361 come here with the backing of their Governments, to gain additional experience and higher qualifications, and then return home. These, surely, should be treated as students, with the periods of their stay defined, or they could be treated on an equal footing with those who come here for industrial experience and who are catered for in paragraph 18 of the White Paper. Under either of these schemes, they should be welcomed, as students have been welcomed and should continue to be welcomed. But they should be outside the quota and the voucher system, which is for true immigrants. So much for controls.
The Government's failure on the other side of the immigration policy is, I believe, serious. In the measures set out in the White Paper to help immigrants adjust themselves to life in Britain, they have shown a dismal lack of imagination and leadership. It is here that they have lost a great opportunity to show in action that they mean what they say. In their statement of policy, they failed to give any impression of practical good will. They give no resolute lead to public opinion. The hon. Member for Spark-brook stressed the importance of giving a lead to public opinion and making the facts known. Nor do they propose an effective programme of national measures to help. They seem to wish to contract out of direct responsibility and to leave the initiative largely to local authorities and voluntary bodies.
This is surely far too important a social problem—for us and our children, for the immigrants themselves, for everyone in Britain and for our relations with the outside world—to be treated in this way.
The central machinery of Government for dealing with this matter is not nearly strong enough. I believe that the Junior Minister charged with this responsibility has done a good job, but it is really not enough to have him working part-time in a Ministry which should have most of its attention concerned with other affairs. The responsibility should surely be in a Ministry concerned, in the normal course of its duties, with immigration. And the Minister responsible should be supported by a stronger staff, including regional officers directly responsible to 362 his Ministry, and he should have greatly increased funds at his disposal.
I now wish to deal with two main points; housing and employment. Housing is only one of the keys of adjustment. For reasons which have been vividly described in the House of Commons, in the Press and in the B.B.C.'s helpful series "Colour in Britain" we know that immigrants are often forced to settle—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Harold Lever)
Order. Detailed consideration of the integration of Commonwealth immigrants is not in order, although passing reference to it may be made. The hon. Gentleman has gone into this question already in rather greater detail than is permissible, but he must not pursue this point in any greater detail.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
That Ruling fills me with some dismay, Mr. Lever, in view of the very wide range of all the speeches which have preceded mine in the discussion of the measures of integration. I agree with previous speakers that this is one of the things that we are called upon to discuss in this debate because it is on the absorptive capacity of the country and the measures for adjustment and integration that we must base our outlook on the controls which we think are necessary. However, I will try to keep as far as I may within your Ruling.
As I was saying, it is for the reasons which have been described in Parliament, and which are known to many of us, that people have been forced to live in dilapidated, old urban centres where I am sure they have, unwillingly and often at high cost, been forced to form self-segregating groups. This is a poor basis for adjustment.
In such groups, whether coloured or not, there has always been resentment against the world outside; and outside there has usually been a reaction of hostility. The formation of self-segregating groups is taking place in this country today. If this process is allowed to continue and develop, it will, at best, slow down the process of adjustment and, at worst, lead to the violent explosions of resentment of which Britain has had only a taste but which can be seen in the appalling communal clashes in the vastly 363 different and far more difficult situation in the United States. In the White Paper, the Government have deliberately avoided the issue of a national policy for tackling the worst housing problems of immigrants, and this is the point, Mr. Lever, that I was trying to make in describing these conditions.
I believe that what is required is that the Government, basing themselves on the precedent of the developed areas, should designate certain areas of special housing need. Such an arrangement is recommended in the Milner Holland Report. They should, then, set up the machinery for tackling the housing problems of the various local authorities in the area, if necessary on a regional basis. For this task, they should be prepared to grant special assistance, as they do for development areas.
And now I come to employment. What brought most Commonwealth immigrants to Britain? It was opportunities for employment—employment that would give them and their families a better future. Most immigrants achieve this objective soon after they arrive, and look forward to prospects of steady employment for years ahead. This, in itself, brings a sense of security. This is stage one, and its results are reassuring, but what about stage two? What about the prospects of getting ahead, of securing posts demanding higher skills and the exercise of responsibility? What about promotion, and access to training schemes? What about apprenticeships? What about—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman must be guided by the principle I laid down for him. Of course I appreciate the relevance of what he says, and that is why passing reference is allowed to it, but it is relevant to the balance of payments and innumerable other subjects which cannot be examined in detail, and be in order, in this debate.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
These are problems that I believe we should deal with now though I must not seek to deal with them any more in this debate. But, if we do not deal with them now, we shall be handing these employment problems on as a legacy of bitterness to our own children.
364 Finally, I would ask the Home Secretary to look again at what I can fairly describe as the miserable White Paper of last August. I would ask him to take far more effective measures to check widespread evasion of controls and to reduce the inflow of new arrivals. I would ask him to balance these measures by giving the country a positive and vigorous lead in the steps required to help the immigrants who are already here to take a full part in the life of Britain. In particular, I would ask him to give the local authorities and the voluntary bodies far more generous financial support to help them carry out a clear-cut national policy.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
The right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) commented on the fact that hon. Members might have different views on the subject according to the number of immigrants they might have in their constituencies, and I understand the point. I come from a constituency which has very few Commonwealth immigrants, and I certainly do not have the knowledge of the problem of, for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) who has spoken with such knowledge on the matter—and with such courage, in my belief—and to whom I look forward to hearing in this debate. Therefore, I cannot speak with close individual knowledge of the matter.
However, I think that this is an issue on which all of us must give our views, or be prepared to give our views, whatever may be the particular situation in our own constituencies, because I believe that it affects not only the question of immigration to this country but the relationships of this country with Commonwealth countries and many other countries throughout the world.
Moreover, although in my own constituency we have very few Commonwealth immigrants, it is a constituency that has absorbed many immigrants in the past. Some generations ago in my constituency in Ebbw Vale and Tredegar there were very bitter battles about Irish immigration. We ought to put these things into perspective. No one would say today that Irish immigration in that part of the world did not contribute to the welfare of our society there. The assimilation has taken place. It is a justifiable proposition that every wave of 365 immigration we have had into this country has benefited this country. The only people who can possibly protest against that proposition are the Celts who were driven into Wales, into Cornwall and into parts of Scotland. I do not see how we Anglo-Norman-Saxons can protest at that for what a lot of mongrels we are, including many on the Front Bench. [An HON. MEMBER: "Integrated?"] Some of them are not yet integrated, so far as I see.
We should try to put the question of immigration into historical perspective. If we did that we might reach wiser conclusions. I do not think any hon. or right hon. Member on the benches opposite who has spoken can claim to have done so. Hon. Members opposite who have spoken in this debate have done so with consistent meanness. I dare say that a few other hon. Members opposite will speak in different tone because we have hear them speak before on this subject, but almost every speech made from the opposite side of the Committee today has been solely concerned about how to get the controls fiercer and tighter and to make sure that no one should slip through who is not entitled to slip through. Everything has been considered from that point of view.
I have listened to the whole debate, but I do not think a single word has been said by hon. Members opposite about the injustice imposed on immigrants, whether they are immigrants already here or those who want to come here, by the operation of the Commonwealth Immigration Act, 1962. My view of that Act has not changed since 1962. When it was introduced I thought it a detestable Measure. It was one which I hoped we would get rid of as swiftly as possible. I said last year that I thought it a detestable Measure and I still think it a detestable Measure, in some ways even more detestable because of the further measures this Government have introduced.
My first objection to the White Paper is that it is utterly disingenuous. For example, in paragraph 3 the Government talk about the reasons for the introduction of the original Measure and say that:It was with even greater reluctance that control over immigration from the Commonwealth was introduced in 1962.That is supposed to be referring to the House of Commons and the country as a whole, but that is not what happened. Talk about rewriting history!
366 Everyone in this House at that time remembers what occurred over that Measure. Some of the most notable debates which have taken place since I have been a Member occurred at that time. The Labour Party bitterly attacked the Measure on moral grounds, economic grounds and every other ground. A most formidable attack on the whole idea and concept of the Measure was mounted by the Labour Opposition at that time. If the Government have changed their mind on the subject—as they have—it would be much better for them to try to explain why they have changed their mind than to say that it was with even greater reluctance that the Measure was introduced in 1962.
The present Government were bitterly opposed to the Act. The present Opposition who introduced the Measure did not do so with such reluctance in 1962. Some of them may have shown some reluctance, but others eagerly wanted the Measure. Do not let us rewrite history and say that such was the case when it was not the case. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said quite honestly that he has changed his mind on the Measure. It would be much better for the Government to say that they have changed their minds, not only about the main Act but in recent months, and that it made them introduce the White Paper. They should explain the reason for the change.
If they had done that, they would be in a stronger moral position. They might have been in a weaker argumentative position, because if they had tried to state the detailed facts upon which they have changed their minds the facts might not have stood up to analysis. The facts are not in the White Paper as to why they have changed their minds. The details are not there. As my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East has often remarked, the detailed facts on which the change of mind has taken place have never been given to us.
Therefore, I think that the Government, particularly when they were dealing with such a sensitive matter as this, particularly when they were dealing with a matter in which the moral credit of the Labour Party was so deeply involved, should have gone into much greater detail as to why they have changed their mind.
367 They certainly should not try to pretend that they have not changed their mind, because all the world knows that they have.
Part of my complaint against what the Government are doing is that by pretending that they have not changed their minds and by introducing such phrases as I have read they have encouraged a cynicism about the whole situation—and a dangerous cynicism, not merely about politics generally but in particular amongst immigrants. I do not think that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench yet fully understand how deep is the offence to multitudes of immigrants in this country at the introduction of this White Paper and how bitter is their feeling. Compliments are often paid to them for the service they do to our economy. Everybody knows that. It is very insulting to many of them to be told, "We do not mind you coming in, but we do not want many more, you know". That is what the White Paper said. Therefore, I hope that the Government will better understand what is the feeling throughout the country and in many sections of the Labour Party on this subject, particularly in view of what we said in the past. Therefore, when the Government on a matter of this nature decide to change their mind, they should say so much more openly.
I come now to what I referred to earlier, what I thought was the meanness of the approach of many hon. Members opposite and some of the implications of the White Paper, too, in dealing with this subject. Hon. Members opposite spoke as if the sole question was how to ensure that the controls work. What about the effects on individuals? I quote one case tonight. I do not say that there are many cases like it, but I should have thought that there are quite a number. I could quote many other letters I have had dealing with individual cases. I quote this one because I happened to receive it this morning and because I think it illustrates the grievous individual injustices which are imposed by this Act and by the further operation of the White Paper as it has been applied by the Government already.
I shall not give the name of the person concerned. When I have quoted the letter I will send it to the Government in the 368 hope that they will do something about this individual case. This case illustrates the whole situation. It is a letter from somebody in Kent:My wife comes from Jamaica and her father died recently leaving her mother virtually destitute except for the small amount earned by a second daughter, unmarried, who has never left home. The only way to save my mother-in-law is for her to come here and live with us, and I have been battling for over six months to get her over here. I have established that my mother-in-law can gain entry to this country as a dependent relative, but obviously she cannot leave behind her other daughter who has always lived with her. This daughter has no one else to turn to and would be left entirely on her own if her mother came to this country. I think you can imagine the heartache and misery that this would cause. So I have been trying to get permisson for my sister-in-law to come to this country with her mother, and this is where officialdom has got me beaten. The British High Commission in Jamaica told my sister-in-law that she could not qualify as a dependent relative and would have to produce an employment voucher. So I then arranged for a firm to offer her employment and apply for a voucher on her behalf. Back came a reply saying that there would be a long delay, which is no help because with every week that passes my mother-in-law's situation becomes more difficult.He then wrote a letter, which was passed to the Ministry of Labour. I have the reply from the Ministry of Labour on this subject. It says:Our letter of the 26th October, which you enclosed with your letter, was addressed to"—a certain firm—who applied for the voucher for"—a certain person—to whom they have offered employment. I am sure you will understand that in an application of this kind the employer is the principal and we cannot discuss the case with anyone else. I would remind you however that the application has not been rejected. All we have said is that because of the further restriction on immigration announced on 2nd August and the number of earlier applications already held, this application cannot be considered at present.9.30 p.m.
That is the Government's policy in operation. I do not know whether any hon. Member would like to defend that process. I remember many of the protests against Russian behaviour that we had at one time because of their severance of families. We are engaged in it, too, and engaged in it on an extending scale. I would like to see the process reversed. The Home Secretary said three 369 out of four people coming in now are dependants. I hope that the Government will look at all cases of dependants with the utmost generosity and humanity, and I hope that they will so look at this case and all similar cases. It would be some mitigation of the offence caused by the White Paper.
But that is not the major offence that the White Paper has caused. The reason why the White Paper is so bitterly detested by immigrants and those who uphold their cause is that it involves an element of colour discrimination. That is the fact of the matter. Members of the Government are in no position to counter this argument. The fact is that the form of control introduced by the White Paper means that the vast majority of the people affected by it are those who come from what is called the new Commonwealth.
We are told in the first paragraph of the White Paper:This policy has two aspects: one relating to control on the entry of immigrants so that it does not outrun Britain's capacity to absorb them.But that is not the basis on which the Government's Measure is drawn up. We can disprove their claim by citing the case of the Irish. If one says that one will draw up a White Paper based on how many people should be allowed into the country, one has to take into account the number of immigrants coming from Ireland. It is no good saying to me that I must not use that argument to prove that it is a colour Bill, because that is precisely the argument which was used by many of the spokesmen of the Labour Party Front Bench when the Measure was introduced.
When the Commonwealth Immigration Act, 1962, was introduced one of the principal charges of the Labour Party against it was that it involved colour discrimination, and the way it was proved and driven home was by saying that if one wanted to remove the element of colour discrimination one must base it solely on principles and apply the Measure to the Irish. I am not for a moment arguing that we should apply it to the Irish, that we should stop Irish people coming into this country. That would be an utterly abhorrent thing to do. Particularly recalling the history of this country, it would be a great depriva- 370 tion to ourselves to stop Irishmen coming in, quite apart from the economic argument. But if it is overwhelmingly the case that we must not stop the Irish coming in because of these principles, the same argument applies to Commonwealth citizens. The logic of refusing to apply this abhorrent doctrine to stop the Irish coming into the country is that we must not stop Commonwealth citizens coming in. If we choose to say that we will stop Commonwealth citizens coming in, and everyone knows that the bulk of those who will be stopped are people with coloured skins, we must not be surprised if people say that we are applying a colour bar, and we must not be surprised particularly when that was precisely the charge the leaders of the Labour Party made against the Conservative Party when it introduced the Measure in 1962.
I am bitterly opposed to any form of legislation, particularly legislation introduced by a Labour Government, which involves an element of colour bar. It is an appalling thing to have happened. I want to see us returning as swiftly as possible to a situation where we wipe away this stain on the reputation of the Labour movement.
There have been some moves in a better direction, contrary to what has been said by hon. Members opposite. I greatly welcome the Government's decision about deportations. I am very glad that they are not proceeding with individual legislation to deal with this subject and that they now propose to examine the whole matter coolly and intelligently to try to draw up a humane method so that we shall take the arbitrary powers from the Home Office and ensure that Commonwealth citizens and foreigners are treated in a civilised manner in this respect.
That is a departure from what was said in the White Paper, but, as I do not like the White Paper, I welcome the departure and I would have thought that every civilised person would rejoice in it. That is what I mean by the meanness of hon. Members opposite, because they have pounced on this not because of its humanity, but because, they say, it is a departure from the strictness of the controls. I welcome the concession and I accept it in the spirit in which I trust it is given.
371 I believe that it has been given because the Government have had second thoughts. They have listened to representations and they now wish to modify the policy which they introduced last August. I believe that the White Paper was not introduced after all the careful study we were told about, but in an almost hysterical frame of mind. I hope that the Government are now approaching the matter in a cooler spirit. The more they do so, the more they will return to the principles which the Labour Party enunciated in 1962. Do not let them forget that this Act which they are asking us to continue is itself a temporary Measure. Nobody said that we would have a permanent system of dealing with Commonwealth immigrants. Most people said that the Act was a grave departure from our traditions. I believe that it was a grave departure also from our Commonwealth traditions.
I never expected to see the day when I would hear one of the greatest friends of this country, the former Prime Minister and the present Leader of the Opposition in Jamaica, Mr. Manley, one of the world's great Democratic Socialists, bittterly attack a Labour Government on this kind of subject almost as fiercely as he attacked the Conservative Government. I look forward to the day when men like him, who are this country's best friends in the world and the best friends of the Labour movement throughout the world, will be grateful because we have wiped this Measure from the Statute Book altogether.
I do not say that it can be done immediately, although I would like to see it done immediately, and if it were the processes of integration would be stepped up. If we got rid of this Act, we would get quicker and not slower reaction on the other matters. But I hope that the Government will understand that many of us still regard the Commonwealth Immigrants Act as a detestable Measure and a temporary Measure and that some of us will go on fighting until we have restored the principles on which the Labour Party stood when the Act was introduced, principles based on an absolute respect for racial equality and the refusal to accept any form of racial discrimination.
If we in this country, which is better qualified to say this than most others, 372 take our stand on that principle, so far from being afraid that what has happened in the United States or in Africa will spread here, we may be able to use our influence to extend civilised ideas of racial equality to those other continents. If we cannot solve the problem and if we cannot face the problem of racial integration, where can it be faced? Many of us regard what the Government have done as a painful and humiliating retreat from our best principles and we shall be working as best we can to see those principles re-established brightly in the future.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I hope that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will forgive me if I do not comment too closely on his argument. Much of his phraseology when referring to what he called the meanness of hon. Members was not conducive to the right sort of spirit in which the debate should be conducted. I think that most hon. Members on this side of the Committee and quite a few hon. Members opposite are earnestly striving, regardless of party line or the colours of the skins of the immigrants, to solve this problem in the best way we know and sincerely.
When one talks of the difference in the policies of the two parties there is not a great deal of difference in the policies of the two Front Benches at the moment. When we refer to immigrants we do not concern ourselves so much with the colour of their skins. Most of those with whom we are dealing happen to be black, but whether they are black or white, we must still face the severe overcrowding problems in schools and the accommodation difficulties which meet these newcomers to our country.
In my constituency we have very few coloured immigrants indeed although we happen to be a large dormitory area for some of the biggest cities in the country. Occasionally it is possible that those who are not concerned, constituency-wise, with the day-to-day problem, can cast a fresh line of thought upon the subject. Sometimes, in other words, it is possible not to see the wood for the trees. Since the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, one has watched the door to Commonwealth immigration slowly closing. It began with the 1962 Act which gave the door a gentle push towards closure. The White Paper produced in August by the 373 Government gave the door a further push and made it more difficult for immigrants to enter the country.
I believe most sincerely, and without any reference to the opinions held by my Front Bench, that it is our duty to advocate complete closure of this door until such time as those immigrants who are with us can be absorbed properly. I do not like to use the word "integrate"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not, what is wrong with it?"]—until they can be accepted within the limits of our society, so that they can live in the decency to which I think anyone who is a citizen of this country is entitled. Unless that course is taken we will fairly soon have a partial or almost complete breakdown of the social services in some parts of the country.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
I was wondering why the word "integration" was so offensive to the hon. Gentleman and, secondly, why he rejects our accusation of meanness, when his Front Bench speaker, the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) refers to "coloureds", and people coming in with three wives, and thirdly just when does he determine when people are integrated? I suspect that if it is left to Members opposite it would never happen.
§ Mr. Farr
I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of speaking and giving his views. I merely refer to the fact that this legislation, of which we are considering the renewal, concerns coloured immigrants and what is the point of trying to hide the issue? Why not admit it? Several hon. Members opposite were a bit touchy when my right hon. Friend referred to the case of immigrants with more than one wife. I believe that my right hon. Friend was possibly referring to one or two instances which have been investigated recently, whereby this has been a method when people holding work permits here were able to get more than one wife in and more than one family of children.
§ Mr. George Thomas
I think that it is very important to make it quite clear that we have no official knowledge at all that such a practice has been followed.
§ Mr. Farr
I will continue with what I was saying about the conditions which 374 are developing in certain parts of the country already. Hon. Members may have read one of the Sunday newspapers, in which a correspondent talks about the very difficult conditions which are already being experienced in the Borough of Lambeth not far from here. This Press article described the intolerable conditions in which many thousands of immigrants were living in Lambeth.
We in the House of Commons, whatever our party, have a duty to our constituents, black or white, who are already here, to make certain that they live in conditions which are worthy of people who live in this country before we allow thousands upon thousands more to come in annually, adding to the overcrowding, the squalor and the incredible conditions of horror in which many of them live today.
When one is aware of these difficult conditions, which already exist in parts of the country, of the rate at which by natural regeneration our own indigenous population is expanding and aware, too, of the vast plans for redeployment of many aspects of industry—the coal mines, agriculture and commerce—which will require the provision of many more new jobs for those who become redundant, one must surely realise that the day has come for the flow of immigrants to be halted. In closing this door, we would have nothing whatever of which to be ashamed.
Since the war, when we were faced with a stupendous problem of catering for our own needs after the crippling days of 1939 to 1945, what other country with a population comparable to ours has accepted a million immigrants from the Commonwealth? Probably some hon. Members, on both sides, would prefer an uninterrupted or fairly strong flow of immigrants to continue because they are rightly concerned with the conditions in which many members of our coloured Commonwealth live, particularly in some of the Caribbean countries, where they live in extreme poverty. Even when they come here, however, many of them continue to live in conditions of similar squalor and filth.
I believe that our best course of action is not to allow tens of thousands of immigrants to come here but rather that 375 through the Department of Overseas Development we should channel real assistance in cash and technical aid to some of those countries, perhaps especially in the Caribbean area, to help them to establish new industries in their home territories, to give them work at home, which is what they would all prefer, instead of coming to this country and to our strange climate. We should make a real effort to provide work and jobs for them in their own homeland.
It appears to be a point of amusement to certain hon. Members opposite that I make this suggestion, but I was in Jamaica and the Caribbean area a year ago with a delegation. We were fortunate enough to go round to a number of factories which had been established by British capital in Jamaica. We visited, for example, a cigarette factory employing several hundred people, a china factory and quite a number of other recently-established factories around the city of Kingston—
§ The Chairman
It is in order for the hon. Gentleman to refer to these matters, but I do not think that he can develop them on this occasion.
§ Mr. Farr
I beg your pardon, Sir Samuel. I was pointing out that all the coloured people in Jamaica to whom I spoke and a good many whom I met in this country would prefer to work at home, just as we in this country would prefer to remain in our own homeland. It is only because they have to go abroad to work that they come to this country in the first place. I was going to suggest that possibly it would be of great interest to the Committee to learn what projects the Minister of Overseas Development has for stimulating the export of capital in this way.
I should like to summarise what I believe the Government's course should be. First, I believe that the door which has been steadily closing since 1962 should be shut today until such time as those who are here can be assimilated and permitted to live in decent conditions. It is a duty which we owe to all those who are already here to make the conditions such that we should be proud to speak of them.
Secondly, I understand that it has been estimated that, even if the door were 376 closed to work permit holders, many hundreds of thousands of dependants would still be permitted to enter the country under the existing regulations. I see the Joint Under-Secretary of State nodding his head. The figure which I have heard, although I have no substantiation of it, is that about 500,000 relatives would be entitled to enter this country. But whatever the figure, I believe that the time has come when immigrants' relatives and dependants should be far more strictly controlled.
In the interest of those who are already here as well as of those who are to come, there should be no question of a man bringing with him more than his wife and dependent children under 16. A firm indication should be given to an immigrant who wanted to bring a relative with him that if he wished to live with his mother, grandmother, wife's aunt or whoever else is dependent on him that would be more than this country could absorb and that he and his family should go back to the country from which they originated. An unmarried immigrant who is already here should either go home to marry or marry a girl who is here, but he should not be permitted to import a person for that purpose.
Voluntary repatriation of immigrants should be encouraged and our powers of deportation should be strengthened. I believe most sincerely that if this warning is not heeded by Her Majesty's Government today we shall all wish in five years' time that in 1965 sincere and firm action had been taken to close the door.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
The Committee has been concerned mainly with the general principles of the Act. I should like to refer specifically to the part of Section 2 which deals with the power of an immigration officer to refuse permission to a person to come into this country on the advice of a medical inspector or a duly qualified medical practioner if he is suffering from a mental disorder or if it is, as the Act says,otherwise undesirable for medical reasons that he should be admitted".I feel that that is a fallacious attempt to reduce the disease that we find among immigrants, because it has been conclusively shown that disease among immigrants is mainly contracted after they have arrived and is not brought by them to this country. They are more likely to 377 contract disease because they are living in overcrowded conditions and tend to keep together, as do any immigrants when they first arrive.
It is estimated that 50 per cent. of the immigrants in Bradford who have tuberculosis have contracted it here. I have particular knowledge of that, because there is an overflow of tubercular patients from Bradford hospitals into the hospitals of my own constituency of Halifax.
The solution to the problem lies not in opposing their entry, as the Act does, but in the Government White Paper which lays down extremely good proposals for limiting the disease that might arise among immigrants once they have arrived here.
Then the question arises, what is the principle for repatriating certain immigrants after a health check on arrival in this country? Why are they sent home from the port of arrival if they are found to have a disease? Is it to safeguard the public from Commonwealth diseases which are supposed to be imported? Surely that can be done by treating them straight away in Britain when they arrive.
If they are sent home, will they necessarily be treated when they get there, because many of the countries from which they come have completely inadequate medical services? Are we sending them home to avoid undue stress being laid on our National Health Service? I doubt that, considering that it is only a very small proportion of immigrants who are repatriated on grounds of disease, and I am sure that our National Health Service of which we boast can easily take in the extra people who present themselves with a disease when they arrive here.
Great power is vested in the immigration officers and in one doctor only to refuse admission to immigrants. He does not have to be a specially qualified doctor, He can be either a medical inspector or one general practitioner. There is no word in the Act as to how extensive the examination is supposed to be, and it is quire clear that in the average conditions of an airport or seaport the medical examination must be extremely limited and very hasty. We know, for example, that. London Airport has only one X-ray machine, or it did until recently, and there are certainly not X-ray facilities at 378 all our air and seaports. It is a purely arbitrary decision, therefore, on the part of the immigration officer and on the advice of one doctor whether someone should be allowed entry or sent home.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
In making that last point, is the hon. Lady suggesting that because of the inadequate facilities and the rushed examination, people who are ill get through, or that people who are not ill but who are supposed officially to be ill are refused admission?
§ Dr. Summerskill
I am trying to illustrate that the Act is inconsistent and that people who are ill are getting through, whereas the Act is designed to prevent them getting through. It is not being carried out as it should be, assuming that one accepts that the Act is a good one in these circumstances.
Further, it makes no attempt to decide what diseases are to be refused admission and what diseases are to be accepted into the country. For instance, it states specifically that anyone suffering from a mental disorder can be refused admission. That is an extremely vague term, and the general practitioner who sees these people is not even a qualified psychiatrist. Mental disorder can range from the mild to the very severe, from the curable to the incurable, and it is wrong that this sort of condition should be diagnosed—
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.