HC Deb 16 June 1966 vol 729 cc1654-6
07. Sir D. Renton

asked the Prime Minister what steps are taken by Her Majesty's Government to predict future trends of population, to influence such trends, and to ensure that social policies are planned in accordance with a realistic and acceptable policy of controlling immigration and encouraging emigration.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's Question covers a very wide field, but if he will let me know the particular points he has in mind I will write to him.

Sir D. Renton

If I may express the matter generally, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he accepts that the strain upon our physical resources due to overcrowding creates the most serious social and economic problems? Will he show a good deal of awareness of the problem?

The Prime Minister

Although our population is forecast to rise to nearly 75 million by the end of this century, I would not go so far as to suggest that even by that time, if we use our national resources, including land, wisely, we shall be an overcrowded island. There are many problems. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will mention any of them, I will be very glad to go into them either by letter or by a statement in the House.

Mr. Rowland

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, according to a Parliamentary Answer that I had last year, immigration represents a net increase of only 7 per cent. in the population and that it is the rise in the expectation of life and the high birth rate which are more serious factors in what I regard as a disturbing trend?

The Prime Minister

It is a fact that the rise in the expectation of life is, as much as anything, responsible for the projections of population. We have a tremendous problem to find land now, but it is a problem mainly caused by housing difficulties and slum clearance, and we have to tackle that problem before we can consider whether we have a more difficult problem in the years to come.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is not the probable density of population in the southern part of the island in the next 25 years a matter of the gravest concern? Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that various things like immigration and natural growth are cumulative? Is anything being done to follow up the policy statement of the former Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, that the Government would consider giving financial assistance to immigrants who wish to return to their countries of origin?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the southern part of the island, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers, it is precisely because of the distortion of our industrial distribution and the over-congestion of that area that we have been giving increased priority to the problem of enhancing the industrial attractiveness of many other parts of the country, including my right hon. Friend's very important statement yesterday about industrial development in Wales. So far as immigrants are concerned, I have nothing to add at present to our White Paper and successive statements by my right hon. Friends. If the hon. and learned Gentleman cares to put down a Question on that specific issue, I will see that it is answered.