§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 2, to leave out lines 7 and 8.
It may be convenient, Sir Eric, if, with this Amendment, we were to discuss the Amendment following it, in page 2, to leave out lines 16 and 17.
§ The Chairman
This question was raised last year, when it was pointed out that these two Acts raised distinct points. There is the possibility of some confusion, but if it is the unanimous wish of the Committee that the two Amendments be discussed together, they can be so discussed.
§ Sir D. Renton
I am much obliged, Sir Eric.
I have discussed this with hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, and I think that we shall have a more fruitful and a better ordered debate if the two Amendments are discussed together. After all, it is one 1168 immigration service for which one right hon. Gentleman is responsible. I thought that it was a very good idea to have one Under-Secretary of State responsible to the Home Secretary for the administration of immigration control and for dealing with naturalisation and the important work of race relations. I extend my best wishes to the Under-Secretary in this important work.
Every country now has some form or degree of immigration control but we need it, perhaps, more than any other country, for three reasons. The first reason is that ours is one of the most densely populated and over-urbanised countries, and would certainly become more so even were immigration stopped altogether and emigration were doubled. Secondly, our standard of living and way of life, whatever may be the Government in power, seems to be attractive to millions of people, who would rather live here than in their own countries, and who would do so if we let them in. The third reason is that if more people were to come here we could not hope to maintain and improve our own high standards either for newcomers or for those already here.
Immigration controls are rather difficult to administer, especially when we have thousands of people pouring through in one day, as we have, for example, pouring through London Airport. I would, therefore, pay a warm tribute to the immigration officers. They do a difficult job with tact, discretion, fairness and firmness, and with great linguistic ability. They are tested a great deal, and it should be mentioned in this House what a debt the country owes them.
On four occasions in the past, when replying on behalf of the Administration to the annual debates on the Aliens Order, I agreed that, in principle, it should be embodied in permanent legislation. But I explained why we did not do it and I assure the House that I was sincere about the reasons I gave at the time and that, looking back, I have no reason to regret what I said. Of course, with every year that passes, those reasons become less valid.
I wish to ask a question knowing well what the answer will be. Why are we not having permanent legislation at this moment instead of once more using this 1169 Bill for the extension of the Aliens Order? The answer is that the Wilson Committee is considering the matter.
In my opinion, it was unnecessary to appoint that Committee to do what the Home Office could have done quite well. It was a stalling operation. Tomorrow will be the first anniversary of the Prime Minister's announcement that the Committee was to be appointed and I suggest that it has, therefore, already had more than enough time to do its job. We did some of the work for it by embodying parts of the Aliens Order in the Schedule to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962. I ask, however, when the Committee will report, when its report will be published and when legislation based upon it will be introduced.
As one who had to bear a good many kicks from right hon. and hon. Members opposite while the 1962 Act was going through the House, I am delighted to find that the Government have not only paid us the compliment of keeping it in force from year to year, but have to some extent already—and I am glad they have—tightened up the control under the Act and, in their White Paper, published in August last year, undertaken to legislate to strengthen it more fundamentally.
This I find very encouraging when I reflect that the Prime Minister in 1963 and 1964 frequently referred to the Act as being based on a colour bar. It never was, of course, and presumably the Home Secretary does not think so, for otherwise he would not ask us to renew it. However, we are accustomed to the Prime Minister saying one thing and doing another and it is reassuring to know that, in this matter as in others, he has not the slightest intention of practising what he preaches.
The proposals in the Government White Paper overlap considerably with the proposals put forward in the Conservative election manifesto last March—and I shall refer again to the manifesto. This reveals a growing understanding between the Front Benches of the need for a more stringent control, however much we may regret it. I think that there is also, if I may presume to say so, a growing understanding between hon. Members on both sides, as there has been in the country for a long time, about two 1170 things which I believe to be basically true and essential for us to accept.
The first is that the United Kingdom has become, or is becoming, seriously overpopulated. Anyone who doubts that should read the presidential address given at the British Association meeting at the end of last August. The second consideration is that we have already got as many people from the new countries of the Commonwealth as we can absorb socially and economically.
When replying to a debate in the House in December, 1958—I think that it was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne)—I said that 210,000 people from the new Commonwealth had settled here. In last year's debate on the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, Lord Stow Hill said that there were 1 million. Presumably that figure was based on information available on 30th September, 1965. During the 12 months since then—the period ended 30th September, 1966—there has, I estimate, been a further net increase from the new Commonwealth of 45,000. If I am wrong I stand to be corrected.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman refers to the "new" Commonwealth. Could he be more precise? My impression is that the figure was for the whole Commonwealth.
§ Sir D. Renton
No. My figure for the whole of the Commonwealth is substantially higher. The number of people from the new Commonwealth has, therefore, increased fivefold in the past eight years—from 210,000 to over 1 million.
That is a formidable addition to this highly populated land of ours, especially when we reflect that, throughout this time, there has been a shortage of homes, schools and hospital beds, that our own population has increased pretty fast, and that, let us note, we have absorbed a considerable extra number of people from the old Commonwealth and the Continent of Europe each year. I do not think that any other country in the Commonwealth, except Australia, would have accepted an increase of population of any kind on the scale that we have done over the last eight years.
There are those economists, Professor Kaldor among them, who believe that the 1171 faster we increase our numbers here the easier it is to beat inflation. But there are others who argue the opposite and I agree with the latter view. I am only a lawyer, but it seems to me that the argument that immigrants are needed for our economy overlooks the effort required to house and feed and clothe them and their families, educate their children, provide hospital and maternity services for them and enable them to send money home.
In the excellent and balanced speech he made on this subject in our debate on 23rd March last year, Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, who did so much to help us all reach balanced conclusions in this matter, said, in speaking of the economic argument:To try to get ourselves out of our short-term difficulties by the soft option of a continuous inflow of new workers from these poor areas of the world and pay the price of what undoubtedly will be a long-term social problem of major magnitude is something which any Government ought to pause a very long time before undertaking."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March. 1965; Vol. 709, c. 341.] I have never known that wise statement seriously challenged since then.However, I do not think that we need to get stuck in an intellectual quagmire on the economics of the matter for it seems to be accepted by the Government, as it is by the Opposition Front Bench, that we cannot hope to improve our standard of living fast enough if the demands for houses, schools and hospitals are greatly increased by substantial annual increases in immigration.
But what about those who are already here? About them, I am happy to say that we all agree that everything feasible should be done to improve race relations and help the million or so immigrants to live happily among us—not, on our part, being arrogant about forcing integration upon them, but helping them to adapt themselves to our ways so far as they wish to do but preserving their own religions, cultures and customs.
I pay my sincere tribute to all those engaged in this work, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, as Chairman of the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, down to the social workers of all races who are devoting their daily lives to this vital task. Many of these social workers are the first to say that their task would be made easier if the 1172 numbers of immigrants did not so greatly increase by immigration each year, as they are doing still.
Judging by the Minister of Labour's speeches last year, and Lord Stonham's candid speech in another place last week, I think that the Government appreciate the need for a drastic reduction in the annual increase in the numbers of those settling here, but it is one thing to say that there should be a drastic reduction and another to decide how it is to be achieved. I shall, therefore, ask the Committee to bear with me while I consider in some detail how a drastic reduction might be achieved. I hope to make some constructive suggestions and I shall try to avoid differentiating between the old and the new Commonwealth.
First, as to vouchers. Last year, the Government wisely reduced the number of voucher holders admitted from the 1964 figure of 14,700 to 12,800 in 1965. They then announced that for 1966 the number would not exceed 8,500, including 1,000 from Malta. In fact, during the first nine months of this year the number of voucher holders admitted was 4,285, so that there has been a very substantial reduction. The published figures do not divide men and women, but I assume that out of the 4,285, about 3,000 were men. Of course, nearly all of those 3,000 men, sooner or later, will bring in their wives and children, as they have a right to do.
Do we need to issue anything like as many as 8,000 vouchers in a year, or 4,285 in nine months? Do we need to issue any A vouchers at all—those are the vouchers issued to those who have a job to come to? We now have nearly 500,000 unemployed and the Government feel that our services are over-manned—all the services except the Civil Service—and that is why we have the Selective Employment Tax. Obviously, we need the nurses and transport workers who are already here, but I suggest that we should try to avoid getting any more, and I doubt the need for any more.
As for B vouchers, vouchers issued to those with special skills, doctors, for example, nearly all of these people are desperately needed in their own countries, where they are needed even more than we need them here. Are we not being plain selfish as a nation in having them here instead of in their own countries?
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman like to explain to the Committee what would be the state of our own National Health Service if all these admirable nurses and doctors were repatriated?
Sir D. Renten
I have not so far suggested that all these admirable doctors and nurses should be repatriated. If the hon. Gentleman had listened, he would have understood that. Perhaps I did not speak distinctly enough. If he reads HANSARD tomorrow, he will read that I said that we obviously needed the transport workers and nurses already here. I suggested that we did not need to have any more.
I stand by what I said about doctors. We are short of doctors. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has been to India or South-East Asia, where I was this time last year, but if he has he will know that the shortage of doctors there is something which we have not experiend here, I should have thought, for 200 years.
I turn to the subject of evasion of control. It is clear from the figures and was admitted by Lord Stonham, that evasion is still taking place on a large scale. During the first nine months of this year, the net inward balance from all countries of the Commonwealth was nearly 52,000 people. That, of course, is a permanent increase in our population of 52,000 in nine months. Eleven thousand were men. It is rather strange that there should be a net increase of 11,000 men while only 3,000 men were admitted as voucher holders. It seems that nearly 8,000 more men settled here than had permission to do so, all of them entitled to bring in their families, unless their evasion is detected, when they can be sent home, which does not mean that they will be.
It is also clear that evasions are taking place not only among men, but among women and children. The net increase during the first nine months of women and children from all countries of the Commonwealth at 40,500 was nearly four times the net increase of men. Even if many dependants came to join men who arrived here before this year, the proportion of women and children in the net increase seems to be rather high, and is a 1174 further indication that evasion is taking place.
I refer to a speech I made, and which caused a certain amount of merriment among the then Opposition, when the Act was going through. I referred to our proposed definition of "wives". I said that common law wives would be admitted, but it is my recollection—I am ashamed to say that I have not checked it—that only one wife was to be admitted. However, we were told by Lord Stonham the other day that there have been a number of cases of two wives being admitted, but no case of three wives. I should have thought that one wife was enough for any man especially bearing in mind our bigamy laws. This is a matter of detail to which the Government could well give their attention.
In paragraph 24 of the White Paper last year, with a view to checking evasion and also preventing long-term settlement, the Government proposed a general power to impose conditions of admission, that is to say, the admission of any Commonwealth citizen would be subject to control. The Conservative Party manifesto also advocated that. There is already a fairly wide power under the present Act to impose conditions as to the length of the visit, and we have been assured that that power is being used as widely as possible. Why is it, therefore, that evasions continue on such a large scale? I think that the answer must be that the conditions are not being enforced.
The reason for the lack of enforcement is the lack of administrative machinery of the kind which makes aliens control so surprisingly effective and successful. Having had four years' experience of the administration of aliens control I can assure the Committee that it would be very difficult to enforce conditions over the length of stay effectively without requiring people to notify their addresses and changes of address.
The easiest way to do this is to make them register with the police as aliens have had to do for years, with very little trouble. There is another way of doing it and that is to get the immigrants to notify local authorities of their addresses and changes of address. Incidentally, notifying local authorities would have the further advantage that the local authority would be able to get a better assessment 1175 of its housing problem. Local authorities where immigrants tend to congregate are having to carry out a great deal of work in connection with them and I would have thought that we could achieve both of these purposes by having the local authority as the body to which immigrants should give their addresses and changes of address.
Then the local authority could keep in touch with the immigration department of the Home Office and its card index—which was always kept for aliens and I presume is being kept for immigrants—can be checked against the index of the Home Office.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
A few moments ago the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the need for integration. Would he not agree that this suggestion would make Commonwealth immigrants in Britain second and third class citizens and that this is most undesirable?
§ Sir D. Renton
I could not accept that. I have said specifically that it would apply to people from the old Commonwealth as well as from the new. If I was able to carry the hon. Gentleman in my preliminary observations, at the beginning of what is becoming, I am afraid, an unnecessarily long speech, I would hope that he would agree that immigrants would consider that it is a privilege to be allowed to come to this overcrowded island, and that it is not asking too much for them to go to the length of notifying their addresses. That does not make them second-class citizens.
§ Mr. Chapman rose——
§ Sir D. Renton
I have given way too much. If I may now get on with my speech, it would be to the advantage of the Committee.
This problem of evasion is fundamental, and I hope that the Government will say when they are going to deal with it in a fundamental manner. They have reduced the net intake a good deal already, but nothing like enough.
I want to turn to another proposal put forward in the Conservative election manifesto earlier this year. It recommended that we shouldHelp immigrants already here to rejoin their families in their countries of origin, or 1176 to return with their families to those countries, if they wish.That is a practical proposal, inspired by a sense of humanity. It is a sad fact that many immigrants do not settle down here, and never will in spite of the strenuous efforts made to help them. They may not like our climate, our food or our customs, at work or leisure; inability to speak the language may frustrate them.
The National Assistance Board already repatriates a few at public expense if they have become too continuous a charge upon the Exchequer and seem likely to remain so. Much more could and should be done. Although someone else, for good or bad reasons, may have advanced money for the fares here in the first place, many cannot raise the money for the return fare when they would like to go home. If people want to return to their native land it is wrong to keep them here against their will. We should do everything that we can to facilitate their return.
There are two ways to achieve this. First, for those already here or those admitted in the future, we could substantially increase the number repatriated at public expense, and secondly, in the future we could make people coming here produce return tickets or a deposit to cover the fare. This is the usual practice under the Aliens Order. The immigration officer, before allowing people in, has to be assured either that they are entitled to come for permanent settlement or that they intend to leave when their time limit expires and have the means to do so. That means having a return ticket, or depositing the fare. There is nothing new or difficult about this and I hope that the Government will consider applying it to Commonwealth visitors.
The Conservative manifesto also advocated better health checks. I know that there are practical difficulties about this, but they could be overcome by having much more done, especially in the case of those travelling by air, by way of medical examination before they ever leave their own countries.
Immigration is the most serious social problem of this century. We owe it to our constituents, including the million or so people in our midst from the new Commonwealth, to do all that we can to 1177 solve it. We can do it in two ways, by kindness, practical help, and real understanding shown towards those already here and secondly by a firm, realistic and courageous policy of immigration control.
Frank discussion is essential. A conspiracy of silence by politicians or the Press can only make matters worse and would leave the way clear for extremists. If both sides agree, so much the better. I hope that the Government will not delay for much longer the further measures which they promised 15 months ago, and that when those measures come they will be bold enough to prevent the problem from becoming a crisis.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Maurice Foley)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) has spoken in very measured terms. With a great deal of what he has said I could agree. There are, however, one or two contentious elements and this emphasises, particularly when we are talking about the plight of those who have come from overseas and living in our midst, the dangers and the narrow path that we tread. We do not want to give credence to rumour and innuendo and yet, at the same time, we do not want to ignore the real, urgent and pressing need.
I would like to run through the existing laws and regulations relating to both alien and Commonwealth matters than to deal, in particular, with the statistics on alien and Commonwealth persons in the last 12 months. The first Amendments which we are considering relate to the laws governing aliens. The Aliens Restriction Act, 1914, authorised the making of Orders in Council imposing restrictions on aliens in war time, imminent national danger, or great emergency.
Although these powers were taken with the circumstances of the First World War in mind, the Government did not feel able to abandon them after the war, and Section 1 of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, allowed the powers to be exercised also in peacetime but for one year only. They have since been renewed annually by successive Expiring Laws Continuance Acts. In the absence of such renewal, the powers in the 1914 Act could be used only in time of national emergency. There are no 1178 other powers for controlling either the entry of foreigners into the United Kingdom or their activities after admission.
Prior to 1914, the Measure controlling the entry of aliens was the Aliens Act, 1905, which applied only to steerage passengers on ships. The main Order under which the present control over foreigners is exercised is the Aliens Order, 1953, which consolidated and replaced previous Orders. It has been amended by the Aliens Order, 1957, which eased the requirement regarding registration at hotels; the Aliens Order, 1960, which exempted resident aliens from police registration; and the Aliens Order, 1964, which contained certain provisions relating to aliens enjoying diplomatic immunities and privileges and to aliens entering the United Kingdom via the Republic of Ireland.
All four Orders were made under the 1914 Act as extended by Section 1 of the 1919 Act. They provide in particular for the examination of foreigners entering and leaving the United Kingdom, the control over their employment or occupation here, the registration of addresses and personal particulars and the deportation of undesirables.
As has been indicated, the Government accept the view that the time is long overdue for placing on a permanent footing the laws relating to the control of immigration. The present Measures have been criticised often enough in the annual debates on Expiring Laws Continuance Bills, mainly because of the extent of the powers granted to the Home Secretary and to his immigration officers without any formal right of appeal against their decisions.
As the Prime Minister said during the debate on the reply to the Address on 9th November, 1965, we want to get this legislation right. To this end, an independent Committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir Roy Wilson, the President of the Industrial Court, with the following terms of reference:To consider whether any, and if so what, rights of appeal or other remedies should be available to aliens and to Commonwealth citizens who are refused admission to. or are required to leave, the country".This Committee has now been at work for several months. Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I, too, am anxious to see its findings. I understand that it has received a large volume of 1179 written evidence. Its members have been to see for themselves the working of immigration controls at the ports in this country; and, indeed, the chairman and the secretary went to North America to study at first hand the systems of control in the United States and Canada. These, as hon. Members will know, make provision for the hearing of formal appeals against exclusion and deportation, the kind which some Members have been advocating in the House for a number of years.
We have set no time limit on the Committee's inquiry. I cannot accept the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement that the Committee was not necessary, that the information was available within the Home Office. Speaking as a junior Minister, albeit in the Home Office, I welcome the fact that there is an independent examination. The House has had its annual debates on the subject, but it has not been explored seriously outside the House and the framework of the Home Office for the last 50 years. The Committee has a complex and difficult task to do.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked when the Committee would report, whether its report would be published and when the Government would act. I can assure him that we hope to receive its report in the first half of next year. It will be published as soon as possible. The report will prepare the way for permanent legislation. It is impossible at this stage to earmark Parliamentary time for the new legislation, but the Government accept the need for it and will proceed with it as soon as possible after the Wilson Committee's submissions and as soon as their other commitments allow.
§ Mr. Foley
Not necessarily. It means that there will be no legislation on this subject during the present Session of Parliament.
The reason is that we want to get the legislation right. We want it to be effective. We do not want to deal with the matter piecemeal. We do not want to have to carry out a re-examination after one or two years as a result of finding 1180 loopholes. For this reason, we have not been breathing down the Committee's neck and saying that we want the report next week or the week after. We want to convey a sense of urgency and yet at the same time give the Committee ample opportunity to investigate and study and to consider experience elsewhere and for people to make representations.
I turn to the operation of the controls at ports of entry. Foreigners wishing to enter the United Kingdom must obtain leave to land from an immigration officer. These officers, who work under instructions from the Home Secretary, are empowered to attach to the grant of leave to land conditions governing a foreigner's length of stay and his freedom to take work here. They can also turn back the comparatively few whom, for one reason or another, we are not prepared to admit.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman paid tribute to the work of the immigration officers and the immigration service. I have had the opportunity in recent months to see this work at first hand at London Airport and at Dover and Folkestone. I, too, would like to add my tribute to the officers who perform a very difficult and valuable task, often in trying circumstances. They carry out their duties with sympathy and understanding, and I know that they apply their instructions with all possible fairness.
More people than ever are now moving in and out of ports of entry in the United Kingdom. Total arrivals and departures during the last 12 months increased from over 17½ million to over 20 million—a rise of 12½ per cent. Included in this latter figure were over three million foreigners granted leave to land. This is over 300,000, or 12.9 per cent. more than in the corresponding period of 1964–65.
Between 1st October, 1965, and 30th September, 1966, 4,706 foreigners were refused leave to land at United Kingdom ports. This figure may be seen in its true perspective when it is compared with the overall total of nearly 3,030,000 foreigners who entered the United Kingdom during the same period. It represents a mere 0.12 per cent. of arrivals, or one in just over 830, and is a decrease in the rate at which foreigners were refused admission last year. Of these 4,700 people, nearly 2,000—well over one-third of the total—had come here to work 1181 without first obtaining valid labour permits.
Eight hundred and eleven lacked sufficient means to support themselves during their proposed stay. Eighty-five were refused admission for medical reasons and there were 100 stowaways. A further 390 were travelling without a valid travel document and 130 tried to enter without a visa when a visa was required. Two hundred and two wished to live here permanently, but were not eligible to do so. Then, 702 transit passengers were refused leave to land for technical reasons, but were allowed to continue their onward journeys.
Most of these were stateless aliens, and refusal of leave to land in such cases may be necessary, even though this country is not their final destination, because an alien has been deported from some other country and is passing through the United Kingdom on his way home, or because he is holding a travel document of restricted validity. Then there were 58 foreigners with criminal records or criminal propensities, 10 who were attempting to return here in contravention of deportation orders, and 61 seamen who had come to seek sea employment without the necessary contracts. The remaining 170 odd defy subdivision into categories since the reasons for refusing them admission were so varied.
One ought to say that there is a fallacy which supposes that an immigration officer is the sole arbiter of the destiny of a foreigner who is refused leave to land. Article 30(2) of the Aliens Order, 1953, requires him to act in accordance with such instructions as may be given by the Secretary of State. These instructions specify that no foreigner is to be sent back without the most painstaking and sympathetic consideration being given to each case. A decision to refuse leave to land must be confirmed by the immigration officer's immediate superior.
Difficult cases are referred to the headquarters staff at the Home Office and to Ministers for a final decision. A foreigner who is subject to such a refusal to land is allowed to get in touch with friends or relatives or any other person whom he thinks may be able to assist him, and any representations on his behalf are always considered carefully.
1182 I have read closely similar debates of recent years, and it has been argued that the foreigner who is refused leave to land invariably should be told the reason for the decision. In a few cases where, for example, the foreigner is refused on grounds of security or mental health, disclosure would hardly be appropriate. In general, however, the reason for refusal is made quite clear to the foreigner. For example, if someone comes here to work without a valid labour permit, which is the commonest reason for refusal, it is made quite clear to him why he has been refused admission. Home Office staff have been instructed to give a clear explanation wherever possible to friends or representatives of a foreigner refused leave to land or to any other person with a legitimate interest in the case who asks reason for the decision.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the figures about refusals to enter at the ports, could he give any figure of the number of prospective immigrants who have been refused permission even to leave their own countries by Ministerial exchange? I have a case in mind where a constituent of mine has a Russian brother who was refused leave even to begin his journey. If the Minister has no figure available, perhaps we could have it later.
§ Mr. Foley
I have no figure available at the moment. I assume that the hon. Gentleman refers to people coming from countries where a visa is required. That applies to the Iron Curtain countries, and so on. It would not apply to countries in Western Europe and other parts of the world which are non-visa countries, and there would be no grounds for refusing a person leave to start his journey. I have no figure available. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular case in mind, I will be glad to look into it.
I want to turn now to an aspect of control which is distasteful but which nevertheless is inevitable and an essential part in logic of any immigration control system. Wherever immigration control exists, it is ineffective without some power of deportation. That sanction must be available against those who have abused our responsibility, for example, by failure or refusal to comply with the conditions on which they were admitted to this country. In addition, the power must be available against those who have been 1183 recommended for deportation by the criminal courts. However, deportation is used rarely and usually as a last resort. The average number of foreigners deported in recent years has been slightly less than 90 a year, and in 1965 the total was 65. During the first nine months of this year, 42 deportations were carried out.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Could the hon. Gentleman give us a figure of the number of deportations recommended by the courts, to set against the actual figure carried out?
§ Mr. Foley
I am coming in a moment to the deportations recommended by the courts and the right of appeal to the Chief Magistrate, which indicate the kind of field about which the hon. Gentleman wishes to know.
Except in security cases or where a recommendation to deport has been made by a criminal court, a foreigner who has been here for two years is permitted to make representations, with legal advice if he wishes, before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Bow Street. Since 1956, when the practice was instituted, 121 people have been eligible to make representations, but only 69 have availed themselves of the opportunity. In 46 of the 64 cases which he has considered, the Chief Magistrate has agreed that deportation would be justified. Although the Chief Magistrate's opinion is only advisory and not binding on the Home Secretary, no deportation has yet been carried out where the Chief Magistrate did not agree with the Home Secretary's proposal to deport.
I appreciate that I am not answering the precise point raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden). I will look it up and answer it later in the debate for him.
The number of deportations is an extremely small proportion of the total number of foreigners in this country at any one time. This is always well over 1184 400,000 and probably exceeds comfortably half a million during the holiday season.
All relevant factors are taken into account before a deportation order is made. Points in favour of clemency may be the foreigner's long residence here, marriage to a British subject, or a good employment record. All such mitigating circumstances are balanced carefully against the offence or offences for which he has come to adverse notice, not only by those hearing representations but also by the Home Secretary, who himself signs every order.
The deportation order requires a man merely to leave and stay out of the country and does not specify a country to which he must be deported. In practice, however, a deportee has to return to a country of which he is a national unless some third country is willing to take him.
I turn now to the question of Commonwealth immigration, to take up some of the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and answer some of the questions that may be in his mind and those of other hon. Members. We are now in a position to survey the immigration control after the first full year of the various changes of policy announced during the course of 1965. They began with the Home Secretary's statement of 4th February, though most of them are set out in Part II of the White Paper entitled "Immigration from the Commonwealth", published in August, 1965. The changes were brought into force as and when they were announced, and the Committee will find them incorporated in the new edition of "Instructions to Immigration Officers", which was published on 10th August last.
§ The question has been asked: what effect have these changes had on the immigration control? As the Committee will be aware, statistics of commonwealth immigration are published annually. The latest for the year 1965, was published last May. Monthly figures are placed in the Library as they become available. It may be convenient to the Committee if I draw attention to some of the more significant statistics. I should say that the points raised in relation to vouchers and some of the other issues raised by the right hon. Gentleman will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. 1185 In addition, I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will participate in the debate and answer further some of the questions which have been raised.
§ The most noticeable change has resulted from the reduction in August, 1965, in the rate at which Ministry of Labour vouchers have been issued. Previously, the rate was 20,000 a year. Since the White Paper, it has been reduced to 8,500 a year. This did not have any immediate effect on the number of voucher holders admitted, for a voucher is valid for six months, and many of those who arrived after the reduction was announced will have received their vouchers earlier. Nevertheless, the number of voucher holders admitted has fallen markedly. In 1964, it was 14,705. In 1965 it was 12,880, and in the first nine months of this year it was 4,285, which is less than half the number admitted during the corresponding period in the previous year.
§ The other main changes in the control were designed to reduce evasion. Immigration officers were instructed to look more closely at claims by Commonwealth citizens to be admitted to the United Kingdom, and to use their powers to impose conditions more fully. This has, inevitably, led to a few more people being refused admission at our ports, but, in the context of about 300,000 Commonwealth citizens admitted during the first nine months of 1965, 1,060 were refused entry, and the number has fallen during the first nine months of this year to 864.
§ It is now the practice to admit all Commonwealth citizens who come here as students or as visitors, subject to the condition that they leave within a specified period. This has meant an enormous increase in the number subject to conditions. Whereas in February, 1965, it could be measured in hundreds, now there are hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth citizens who are admitted, with a formal limit, usually of six or 12 months, in terms of their stay in this country.
§ There is, of course, a follow-up on all these, and they are reminded a month before their time expires of the conditions under which they were admitted. Most of them automatically observe the conditions and leave. Nevertheless, there will 1186 be a minority who will want to stay on, and who will want, if possible, to be in breach of their conditions, or to have their conditions altered. Clearly, this will be an evasion of the whole voucher system. In the last resort, enforcement of these conditions is necessary. It is cumbersome, and it may even be distasteful. It involves a police prosecution for those who are in breach of their conditions, and it means eventual deportation.
§ Sir D. Renton
The hon. Gentleman is giving us a very full and clear picture, but can he say to what extent the information available to him shows that people are evading simply by breach of the conditions?
§ Mr. Foley
This is a very difficult matter to try to determine. We have not evolved a fool-proof system. Equally, people who come here as bona fide students, and as bona fide visitors have nothing to fear, and are welcome. It is a question of trying to devise a system by imposing a condition. If, for one reason or another, a student wants to study further, or someone engaged in business wants to carry on for a little longer, he can apply for his conditions to be extended for another year. He has this means of extending his stay.
It is difficult to determine the extent of potential evasion, or real evasion. I am inclined to believe that the measures which we have taken will, in time, reflect and show that we are dealing reasonably effectively with evasion. While not being complacent, I am not one of those who are haunted or mesmerised by figures, and 1 certainly would never accept the notion that thousands are evading our controls, weekly, monthly, or annually. This is not the case.
§ Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)
Has the hon. Gentleman encountered any difficulties with the home countries to which immigrants were to be deported? Have any of them said that they do not want them back?
§ Mr. Foley
In one or two instances people have claimed political asylum in this country from some parts of the troubled world, and although not the country which should give them asylum, we have done so. I cannot think of any case where a country has refused to take a deported person. I might not be 1187 correct about this, but I shall examine the matter and write to the hon. Gentleman if I am wrong.
Perhaps I might give the Committee the figures for the first nine months of this year for the whole of the Commonwealth. The figure for visitors was more than 200,000, a considerable increase over 1965. For students it was more than 11,000, rather fewer than in 1965. For voucher holders the figure was 4,285, less than half the number in the equivalent period in 1965. Others admitted for settlement, mainly dependants, numbered nearly 33,000, which was roughly the same as in 1965. The net balance for the first nine months of 1966 was more than 50,000. The net balance, that is the total number admitted last year less the total number who embarked, was more than 50,000, which is about 12,000 less than in 1965.
I imagine that there are some hon. Members who expect me to go a little further in defining these figures, and to talk about the newer Commonwealth and the old Commonwealth. If this is the case, and I noted the question which was asked earlier, the position is that the net balance from the newer Commonwealth is 41,663, a decrease of 8,782 on the figures for the equivalent period last year.
§ Mr. John Hall
Will the hon. Gentleman give the Committee figures, if he has them, of the numbers who have entered the country under certain conditions which limit the period of stay here, and those who have evaded those conditions and are still here illegally?
§ Mr. Foley
The figures are not at hand. I can give the hon. Gentleman the figures which I mentioned for visitors and students. Since the introduction of the White Paper last August, visitors and students have been on a time condition. Most of them are on a time condition of six months to one year; and towards the end of this year, and early next year, we shall be reminding them that their time limit is up. If they can show that they are bona fide students, or visitors, they should send in their passports and these will be renewed automatically for another 12 months. If they do not send them in, they will be chased up as to why, and how, and so on. It is too early to give 1188 figures in relation to the time condition system which was imposed as a result of the White Paper.
I come, finally, to the question of those who come here to live. I was grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for his comments in this respect. The Committee will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary now has the responsibility for positive action to promote integration, as well as the negative duties of immigration control. On this question of our responsibility, we ought to be quite clear, and we should be determined to ensure, that there shall be no discrimination on grounds of race or colour in any part of our national life.
To my mind there is no room for further argument on this fundamental issue; nor do I believe that any reputable body of opinion, inside or outside the House of Commons, would oppose the Government's view as I have just enunciated it. There is ample room for debate about the best way to achieve our purpose. This can be healthy if it shows the most efficient methods to employ in making a success of our multi-racial society.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
I do not wish to resist the renewal of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, but I feel that this is an opportunity to examine our whole attitude towards this question and the problems which it raises. In particular, I want frankly to discuss what is perhaps the most delicate aspect of the question, namely, the racial aspect.
I probably have more African and Asian friends than most hon. Members. I have no sympathy whatsoever with Europeans who adopt an attitude of superiority towards people of other races. But that does not mean that we should ignore the racial aspect of the immigration problem. We talk about the new Commonwealth and the old Commonwealth. We all know what we mean. It is as well frankly to recognise that, generally speaking, the immigration problem is one of race and numbers.
People say that it is a question of assimilation, but that is just a roundabout way of saying the same thing. If the numbers are small, immigrants of all races can be assimiliated without any great difficulty, but when numbers are 1189 large the racial aspect of the problem becomes important. It is much easier to assimilate immigrants from Australia and New Zealand than from India and Jamaica.
On a recent visit to the United States I was painfully impressed with the extent of the violence, bitterness and misery caused in that country through the tensions between white and coloured citizens. But it would be quite wrong to suggest that this is an issue between the white and coloured races. These same difficulties have arisen between Africans and Asians in East Africa, Malays and Chinese in Malaysia, Indians and Negroes in Guyana, and Fijians and Indians in Fiji, and in many other countries with mixed populations. But the difference between us and these other countries is that they, for the most part, inherited this problem from the past, whereas we are creating it today. Despite the unhappy experience elsewhere we are deliberately building up trouble for ourselves in the future.
This is not a party issue; Governments of both parties bear their share of responsibility. The fact is that, during the last few years we have admitted many more immigrants of non-European stock than we have been able to assimiliate, and there are at least another half million dependants who, under present regulations, are entitled to settle here whenever they choose. Everyone agrees that we do not wish to create two classes of citizen. Nor do we wish to create a nation within a nation. But that is precisely what we are doing.
African and Asian immigrants have come here in such numbers and at such a rate that it is quite impossible to integrate them properly into the life of the nation. Many of them, particularly from India and Pakistan, show very little desire to be integrated. Whether from preference or necessity, then tend to congregate in certain areas, where they live in more or less separate communities.
A large proportion of these immigrants perform unskilled and lower-paid work, and this tends to create a certain class distinction between them and their fellow citizens. When differences in occupation, earnings and national habits coincide with differences of colour we are a long way 1190 towards building two nations. During recent years many of the old barriers of class and prejudice among our own people have, happily, disappeared. Must we now needlessly create new divisions and new tensions of a kind which will be infinitely more difficult to remove in the future?
Most of these immigrants are doing a very good job, but is it really true that Britain cannot manage without a continuing influx of new labour? I am not talking about those who are already here. But do we really need, year after year, a continuing intake of new labour from outside? Most people would agree that many of our industries and services are not using their manpower very economically. The importation of workers from overseas inevitably retards the introduction of labour-saving processes and modernisation. This is surely not in our long-term interests.
Mr. Norman St. John Stevas (Chelmsford)
Having heard the Minister give the figure of 4,285 for the first nine months is my right hon. Friend seriously suggesting that the issue of these vouchers can have any substantial effect on our economy? The effect must be quite infinitesimal.
§ Mr. Sandys
This process is going on continuously. We already have admitted many more people than we are able to assimilate. One may say that the additions are not great, but they add to the problem.
It is true that some of these immigrants possess special skills and qualifications—such as doctors, and dentists—but I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) that we must ask ourselves: is it morally right to deprive these underdeveloped countries of the services of these men, when their need is so much greater than ours? Would it not be better to try to stop the outward flow of our own skilled and professional men by making conditions more attractive here at home?
I welcome the Government's efforts to cut down the number of vouchers, but, I consider that this is still not enough——
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I have always understood that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) 1191 is one of the leading supporters of the Common Market. The Common Market involves a voucher-free entry from Europe, everybody included.
§ Mr. Sandys
The problem of assimilating people from the Common Market will not present altogether the same problem—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] It is true. Everybody knows that it is.
There must, of course, be exceptions to all rules, but I suggest that, in the present situation, the Government should make a further effort to reduce to the absolute, barest minimum the issue of further vouchers until those immigrants who are already here have been fully assimilated.
I am not, of course, suggesting that we should stop the entry of dependants, since this would cause untold family distress. But I think that we ought to review the categories of those who are entitled to be admitted and tighten up the safeguards against abuse.
I have no doubt that many people who are not dependatns and are perhaps not related at all to people already here are getting in in this way, and taking on jobs in exactly the same way as people with vouchers——
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)
It is important that, as far as we operate this control, as we do, we should exclude evasion as far as possible. But would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough, following up his other thought, to tell we what categories now admitted he would exclude?
§ Mr. Sandys
I would not like to pursue that in my speech, but I should be very happy to discuss it with the right hon. Gentleman.
My right hon. and learned Friend said, and I agree, that we ought also to give generous assistance to immigrants already here who wish to return to their home countries. I hope that the Government will consider that.
To facilitate assimilation of those who are already here, we should try to find ways of reducing the over-concentration of immigrants in certain limited areas. I suggest that industry and local authorities should be asked to help by offering these people employment on good terms in other parts of the country.
1192 We ought also to consider whether there is any longer any real justification for retaining the distinction between Commonwealth immigrants and immigrants from other countries. Hardly any other Commonwealth country accords a preferential right of entry to Commonwealth citizens as such, without reference to their country of origin, while several of them take positive steps to keep down the numbers of immigrants of non-indigenous races, whom it would be difficult to assimilate.
Therefore, if we were to change our procedure in this respect, I do not think that there could be any reasonable objections from other Commonwealth countries. This would, naturally, not prevent us, if we wished, from concluding special reciprocal arrangements with particular countries which regularly receive an appreciable number of immigrants from Britain. I am, of course, well aware that some may consider that my recommendations go too far. All I would say is that anything less would be just tinkering with this problem.
§ Mr. Chapman
I found the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) not just astonishing, but astonishingly depressing. It is depressing to think that he was once Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. What did he say this afternoon? He said when he began, "I do not believe that black and white can ever live together in harmony"——
§ Mr. Chapman
Oh, yes. He said that. He said that the racial strife which one sees around the world is inevitable and that we are heading for the same trouble in this country——
§ Mr. Sandys indicated assent.
§ Mr. Chapman
The right hon. Member for Streatham is nodding in agreement, so the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. J. Wells) is wrong.
The right hon. Gentleman's attitude was not so far different from that of the man who says, "I do not mind black men, but I do not want my daughter to marry one." He says, "I have many black men as friends, but I could never live with them in my community." It is 1193 depressing that, after being Secretary of State, the right hon. Gentleman should come here with this defeatism.
I am not defeatist about this. There are communities in the world which are solving this problem. The right hon. Gentleman was selective in his choice of examples. What about Jamaica, Barbados, or Trinidad? The hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) rightly hates the phrase "multi-racial society" and thinks that the phrase "non-racial society" is better. I agree. These three countries have it. Is the right hon. Member for Streatham saying that what they can do, and what other countries are trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to do, we should give up the attempt to do? This is what the right hon. Gentleman was saying in the terrible speech which he made——
§ Mr. Chapman
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) is wrong; the right hon. Member for Streatham is nodding in agreement.
§ Mr. Chapman
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) says, that is advice from an expert and should be treated seriously. I am not excited. I am deeply depressed, which is an entirely different matter.
Another thing which the right hon. Member for Streatham said was that there is this division in our society based on the fact that the coloured population, at the moment, unfortunately, does the menial jobs in our society and that there will always be this distinction. But the answer is not to give up the ghost and say that it is inevitable. The answer is to begin to find ways—such as apprenticeships or professional acceptance in the better jobs in our society—to eradicate this sort of prejudice against the coloured fellow worker.
One does not give up over things like that, yet, with all the power of an ex-Commonwealth Secretary, the right hon. 1194 Member says that these things are inevitable and that we cannot fight them. I am surprised that he has sunk to this level.
There are ways in which improvements can be made; and the work which my right hon. Friend is doing at the Home Office is leading us to the point when we can make a great break-through on the jobs front. The right hon. Member for Streatham knows as well as I do that the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination—"C.A.R.D." as it is known—has collected a great deal of information about the problem. We know where and why it occurs. I understand that the Ministry of Labour has been looking into some of the allegations of prejudice against coloured workers in particular jobs.
We are reaching the point when a lot of people of good will are working quietly and steadfastly—it has needed my right hon. Friend to be in office; this work is going on in the Ministry, in the Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants and elsewhere—to solve this problem. But now there must be top-level discussions between trade unions and employers on measures that can be taken specifically to introduce coloured people with the appropriate qualifications into some of the bigger jobs in our society.
These people should be on display. It should be publicly known that they have been appointed, and appointments of this sort by the big shops and Government Departments would help the breakthrough to occur. If we decided to give up, like the right hon. Member for Streatham, none of these things would be happening. However, if we can go steadily along this road we can try to make a non-racial society in Britain and thereby show leadership to the world.
I suppose that the right hon. Member for Streatham would also give up on the question of housing. What truth is there in this business of coloured ghettos? The right hon. Member for Streatham said that these things were inevitable. I have with me some photographs of the notorious Marshall Street, in Smethwick. Hon. Members will recall the discussions that took place some time ago about Marshall Street. It was alleged that it was becoming a coloured ghetto and that" if coloured immigrants went to live in other streets, those streets would descend to the level of Marshall Street.
1195 The photographs which I am holding up show some of the houses in Marshall Street and include a dozen or so houses on which the Alliance Building Society has given mortgages to coloured immigrants. The Alliance sent its surveyor to look at the houses in Marshall Street after the mortgages had been granted and after the coloured immigrants had been living there for some time. These photographs were then taken. This is no ghetto. These are not rundown houses in a disgraceful state.
We see that these people have made the other break through, towards home ownership. They become proud of their homes and have an added incentive to adapt themselves to our society. These houses have been turned into little palaces and it is interesting to note that the Alliance Building Society's surveyor reported:I am quite happy with the houses upon which we have advanced in Marshall Street and my only reason for bringing this subject to your notice is that it is of topical interest.He reported:Looking back, I suppose we may feel some pride in not having declined an application in Marshall Street because of racial discrimination.He added:As far as I am aware the demand for houses in Marshall Street is still as high amongst coloured immigrants … prices have appreciated not depreciated".I am referring to part of an area which was supposed to be an example of what coloured people do to their houses—the sort of area which the right hon Member for Streatham thinks is inevitable in our community. I urge him to stop despairing. People are trying to solve these problems, including building societies, the Ministry of Labour, trade unions and others. He has no need to be as defeatist as he is.
Lest I be ruled out of order, I come to the main subject—the level of immigration, as controlled, into this country. I am somewhat upset about the way in which we put a ceiling on Commonwealth immigration, but do not put a ceiling on alien immigration. It is not good enough for us to advertise to the world that we have a top level of 40,000 to 50,000 Commonwealth immigrants, including dependants and, at the same time, say that we allow aliens in when there are jobs available, 1196 although their total number does not matter. This is a hang-over of coloured discrimination in the Home Office and is an issue which my hon. Friend must tackle.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Chapman
I was not aware of that figure and I am obliged to my hon. Friend for bringing it to my attention. Nevertheless, for political and social reasons, we are limiting the total influx, particularly from the coloured Commonwealth. The trouble is that many people ask, "Why should we be limited when a top limit is not placed on aliens?" It smells a little of colour prejudice when you put a limit on the ones who it would seem you are most afraid of in that sense. However, I accept my hon. Friend's figures and agree that they no doubt work out right in the end.
I am concerned about the sort of pressure that may be placed on people in certain areas—the Midlands, for example—when there is a threat of growing unemployment. Without going deeply into the argument now, I will only mention the sort of pressure that is building up about the dangers of what is supposed still to be a "tidal wave of coloured immigration." Typical of this was a comment in a Birmingham newspaper a few weeks ago, when someone was reported as saying:This promise to restrict immigration has, like other pre-election promises, been swept under the carpet…. At the moment, 1,250 immigrants are coming into this country every week.That was stated in the context of a fear of short-time working and unemployment, and it implied that the Government are allowing in 1,250 people per week.
I have taken the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) up on a similar wild allegation which he made about a week ago in this Chamber when he complained that 60,000 people had been allowed in during September "to flood the market". That is completely untrue and is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. The hon. Member for Louth 1197 knows it and there is a grave danger that people like him and those who make the sort of statement which I quoted from a Birmingham newspaper will quote false figures until a dangerous racial situation has occurred, particularly if unemployment grows. I beg the hon. Member for Louth to study the figures carefully.
Commenting on some of the wild figures that are bandied about, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour stated that apart from the question of Malta… over two-thirds of those admitted have professional qualifications which are in short supply in this country".The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) is, no doubt, aware that many of the people who come here do so to study, and to work in hospitals so that they may take the skills they have thereby gained back to their own countries.
My right hon. Friend stated:… over two-thirds of those admitted have professional qualifications which are in short supply in this country, e.g. doctors and teachers, and this shortage is not likely to be affected by the rise in unemploymentThen he said:The remaining third amounts only to some 2,000 a year which is negligible in view of the size of the working population.I hope that this is one of the figures which will go out from the Committee today. I hope we shall make clear that as unemployment is unhappily rising we should not have the cry that "thousands are being admitted every week to compete with unemployed and short-time workers for jobs in various parts of the country".
The Minister said that it is 2,000 a year. He also said that, given the present state of the labour market, most employers would take a man readily available and unemployed now rather than wait the many months which have to elapse before an employer can get a voucher for someone from abroad. If there is plenty of suitable British labour, it is certain that employers as a whole will be happy to accept it and will not wait for vouchers for Commonwealth immigrants to fill jobs.
Finally, it is an old truth, but it needs repeating, that people outside do not realise that for two years now the Government have not issued any vouchers 1198 in Category C, vouchers for people with no skills and no prearranged job. There is no inflow of unskilled people simply looking for jobs.
§ Sir D. Renton
Except by evasion. One must accept on the figures that there is a substantial amount, as Lord Stonham has said.
§ Mr. Chapman
I am talking of the intentions of the Government, which is the main thing we are discussing: I agree that evasion must be cleared up.
I am one who, as the Committee knows, regrets the half closing of our immigration door. I accept it now as something inevitable because we have found it impossible to get assimilation on the scale that I should like to see and hope that our country will eventually face. I accept the present restrictions as a pause. I hope that we shall move steadily, as we solve some of the social problems in areas where immigrants have mainly permeated, and as we come through to the other side of those problems we shall begin to admit more. I look forward to a multi-racial society in this country. In contrast to the right hon. Member for Streatham, I think that we can do it. I think that we can show this example to the world and I repeat my distaste for his defeatism.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), towards the end of his very moderate and restrained speech, said something what, I thought, profoundly true—that unless we are frank in discussing a subject of this kind, with its implications of race relations, we leave the door open for extremists to jump into the void which is thus created. For that reason I was also glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) made the speech he made. It is very important that we should not evade this problem by circumlocution, by using phrases which are intended to conceal the truth rather than to reveal it.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman). It is quite clear that on the surface of his speech—although in this Committee he perhaps tends to overstate himself a little and I might agree with him a little more outside—there could be no common ground between the 1199 hon. Member and myself. He said that he looked forward to the time when this will become a multi-racial country. The hon. Member accepts the Commonwealth Immigrants Act which we are proposing to renew in this Schedule only as a pause, from which I infer—indeed, I think he expressly said it—he wishes to see the pace of immigration quickened again.
When the Commonwealth Immigrants Act intervened, immigration to this country was running at a rate—I do not accurately know any longer and probably I shall be corrected—of about 160,000 a year. Already, with the experience we have had since 1960, we have at least 1 million Commonwealth immigrants. They are from what has been called the new Commonwealth, but I prefer to call them tropical immigrants; for that is what we mean. If the policy of the hon. Member were to be pursued the number would mount very quickly indeed towards his ideal of a multi-racial society. I say at once that I am opposed to massive immigration into this country from anywhere in the world, because I see this country as one which is already grossly overcrowded. It has too many people in it already.
I must confess that my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) woke up to this matter long before I did. Many of us were perhaps rather bemused by imperial responsibilities. What I think alerted most of us to this problem and converted us to the need for regulation was the magnitude of the influx into a country which plainly ought not to be a country of mass immigration. It is as simple as that. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham was absolutely right in saying that once we get immigration on that kind of scale the implications of race come in, because of the greater difficulty of assimilation or absorption. That, I think, is the true picture.
Approaching it in that way, the conclusions which I reach and put before the Committee are that we have two problems. One is the rate of influx and the other is of the 1 million or more who are here now.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne) rose——1200
§ Mr. Bell
No. I shall not give way to the hon. Member who has just walked into the Chamber. Others have been sitting here for a long time.
The million or so who are here now are increasing—let us face it—by a natural increase of a very high rate. This raises problems to which we ought to give frank answers. The first I give is that the influx ought to be virtually stopped. There is a statutory right, of course, for wives to come in. I adhere to the definition of a wife given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire—a monogamous one. Everything else is a matter of discretion. This situation having been created in this country, I do not think it right to allow a further influx of tropical immigrants.
I may be asked, what about dependants? We have to have exceptions to any rule and I am not proposing something of absolute rigidity, but I suggest to the Joint Under-Secretary of State that this should be looked at as an exception. Wherever possible it should be suggested to the person who wishes to be reunited with his family that that reunion could advantageously take place in his land of origin and, as was proposed in the Conservative election manifesto earlier this year, he should be invited to accept financial help to enable him to do that.
§ Mr. Foley
I hope that the hon. and learned Member is aware of what he is suggesting. He is suggesting that people who came here in good faith and were told when they came, "You have the right to bring your wife and children", to a man who has saved for four or five years and established a home to which he wants to bring his wife and children, that he should be told," We were wrong. You go back to them."
§ Mr. Bell
I think that the hon. Gentleman has got this slightly wrong. I am not sure whether anyone would tell them anything, but they would discover from the provisions in the Act that they are entitled to bring their wives and children.
I think that is the legal position. It appears from the White Paper that wives are in a different statutory position from that of dependants. I was basing my remarks on the Government's White Paper. At any rate, I am describing 1201 what I would like to see for the future. Because of the magnitude of the problem, this is something that ought to be done. So much for dependants.
We should also cut off the category of the so-called skilled immigrants, again with the exception of outstanding cases. It is sometimes objected that we need them here. Two of my right hon. Friends referred to the interests of the home or exporting country. I invite the Committee to look at it also from the point of view of our own interests.
It cannot really be in the interests of this country, for example, in the Health Service, that so high a proportion of doctors should be immigrants. It may please the prejudices of the hon. Member for Northfield, but it cannot really be good national husbandry. The language barrier, or instance, is greatly underestimated as a rule—perhaps more so with aliens than with Commonwealth immigrants, but it does exist in both cases. The hon. Member will know that in respect of aliens it is a major medical factor.
Secondly, the progressive replacement of indigenous British doctors in the hospitals and in the family doctor service by immigrants must be something that we should look at with real alarm. It cannot be a good thing.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Would not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be better to have immigrant doctors than no doctors at all, which seems to be the alternative?
§ Mr. Bell
That is where my hon. Friend is wrong. I will carry the argument one stage further, which I had intended not to do because of the time factor.
No, it does not work that way. If we have a few immigrants as nurses or doctors in hospitals, I do not think that it has much effect on individual recruitment. To be frank, if we have more than a certain proportion in hospitals of immigrant personnel—horrible word—we find a diminution in recruitment either of nurses or medical staff. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no good saying "No". I have looked into this, and it is so.
1202 The Under-Secretary of State regards certain matters as being beyond argument. There are varying views on this matter. I do not think that it is questioned that people have different judgments upon the matter. They are entitled in a free country to have different judgments. If, in fact, one finds that something is so, it is no use pretending that it is not just because it would indicate that many people are acting upon a judgment with which one happens to disagree.
I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) that we would not have this heavy dependence, in the National Health Service, on immigrant labour if we kept their utilisation below a certain percentage. I understand that in relation to nurses the critical point is somewhere about 20 per cent., and beyond that white recruitment goes down sharply.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Charles Loughlin)
I do not know where the hon. and learned Gentleman gets his evidence. Surely the point which he is making is not dealing with the question of inadequacy, but with distribution.
§ Mr. Bell
I was originally dealing with medical staff. The hon. Gentleman will know that one of the problems we face—I do not know whether he listened to the answer, having asked the question—in relation to medical staff is emigration. That is to say, if they do not like the conditions of their work here, they tend to go abroad—that is, the British staff. It may well be a question of distribution, but it is distribution over the globe and not inside this country.
It is sometimes urged against what I am suggesting—namely, the total stoppage of the influx—that there is a shortage of workers in the country as a whole. That is the thesis which was put forward in a speech this week by Dr. Kaldor—or is he Professor Kaldor?—who is not unknown to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Somewhat to my horror, The Times, in its leading article, picked up this theme and said that if what Professor Kaldor said was right—that there was a shortage, that the problem of this country was a shortage of labour—then we ought to be allowing more Commonwealth immigrants into the country. It referred to the experience of the United States of America which, 1203 it said, would never have achieved its industrial expansion without massive immigration.
One of my hon. Friends interrupted my right hon. and learned Friend during the course of his speech and asked whether 4,000 vouchers had any relevance to the labour situation in this country. I will give him two answers: first there is a gross immigration figure of about 75,000 a year; and, secondly, there are still influential voices in this country pressing now, last week, and on the other side of the Committee, for a resumption of mass immigration. I think my hon. Friend would probably agree with me that that would certainly have an impact on the labour situation in this country.
§ Mr. Chapman
I am quite happy to accept what the hon. and learned Gentleman has to say about me, but what I said was that I was happy that the pause would end when we had solved the social problems in those areas having a concentration of immigrants. I was not pressing for mass immigration now.
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. Gentleman made it quite clear that the pause would end when problems of assimilation had been overcome, and he hoped we would press on to a multi-racial society in this country. I do not think that I have misrepresented him. I am saying there are influential voices pressing for a resumption of mass immigration in order to supply an alleged shortage of manpower in the industrial life of this country.
I suggest that what this country is experiencing is not a shortage of manpower, but under-employment of the existing manpower. My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham convincingly said that there is under-employment of existing manpower. The most urgent task that faces us is redeployment of manpower so that it is fully and usefully employed. Commonwealth immigration or any immigration is, in fact, inimical to that process. It holds it up by providing a ready-made reservoir of at first cheap labour which weakens the impulse to use better the labour which is already at our disposal.
I turn to my second point. After stopping the influx, have we really tackled the problem? The influx, after all, has been checked, but we are left here with over 1 million tropical immigrants in this 1204 country. Of course, when the inflow was small and the number was small, nobody cared about it. I certainly did not. I could not even have told anyone what the number coming in was until it reached dramatic proportions.
But now we have this vast number and they are increasing very rapidly and becoming an ever-larger proportion of our population. Even if we stop Commonwealth immigration now, I do not see how one can prevent the growth of two nations in this country. I do not think that it can be done just by stopping the influx, because they have already agglomerated into their separate communities and have begun to acquire a life of their own. Nothing that the Under-Secretary can do will stop that.
Therefore, I come to my second conclusion, which is that we must do something about the number which is here, unless we are to acquiesce in that. The hon. Member for Northfield would find that easy; he would say that we should acquiesce in it and have a multi-racial society. I do not think that would work, partly because this is a cold and somewhat damp island off the north-west coast of Europe. I wonder if the Under-Secretary can think of anywhere else in the world where a multi-racial society is working in this kind of latitude. Indeed, is he sure that it is working at all anywhere else?
Other countries have this problem. They inherited it. They must do the best they can with it. I am not at all sure that any other country is succeeding. I can see in South America great tragedy attending the varying solutions which have been attempted. Integration has been fully carried out there. I wish we could say that people in South America were not colour-conscious. Whereas here perhaps we are colour-conscious between black and white, there they are colour-conscious through all of the shades through black to white. Everyone knows this is true. This is the misery that haunts a country like Venezuela. I am not saying that these matters are insoluble. I am merely saying that it is much more difficult than some people seem to think.
Because the problem is so difficult, it would surely be mad to create it in this country for the first time and pass it on to our successors. I beg hon. Members not to sweep all this aside as a question 1205 of prejudice or as the backwardness of some members of the community. There is a real problem here which must be faced.
I press upon the Home Secretary that we should do everything we can to encourage and finance the voluntary return to their countries of those immigrants who do not want to stay here. This is not merely in accordance with Conservative policy, though that might not commend it to the right hon. Gentleman. It is not in the Government's White Paper, but I remind the Secretary of State that it was in a statement made from the Dispatch Box by his predecessor as Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, who announced that it was the policy of the Labour Government.
Why is it not being pressed forward? It is a constructive solution to some of this problem. I have been told that about 600 have been repatriated by the National Assistance Board on the ground of their not being assimilable.
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is going very wide of the Amendment to the Schedule. I do not think this is catered for in the Act. He must return to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Bell
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Irving. However, the Under-Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire were allowed to base themselves on the White Paper. I understand your difficulties. I will try to weave my speech into the context of the Schedule.
I hope I have made the point that the action I propose can be done under the Act. It is entirely compatible with the Act. It is not in the White Paper, but it has been mentioned as Government policy and it would make a contribution to solving this problem. I recognise that I must refrain from making other constructive suggestions, because the more constructive a suggestion is the more likely it is to be out of order, almost by definition. If the Secretary of State will address himself to this problem, he will find that there are constructive solutions to it which are consonant with the Act and, apparently, with the conscience of his political party.
1206 6.15 p.m.
In conclusion, and resuming my point of difference with the hon. Member for Northfield, this has always seemed to me to be a basically demographic problem, not one of race, colour or even of social standards. I have always seen the problem in this way. Is not this an unanswerable argument in favour of the renewal of this Act and the carrying forward of the policy it embodies?
These people came here under population pressure from such countries as India, Pakistan and Jamaica. We all know that this is so. The question we must ask is whether we are to allow this country, which is in the temperate zone, to be used as a relief valve to any degree for population pressures in tropical areas. We all know that the problem there is a terrible one. There have been debates on this matter in another place. There has not been nearly enough discussion of it in the House of Commons. This is the problem of the next 10 years which will overshadow every other problem.
§ The question we must ask is whether we are to say that we will help these peoples in every other way we can, by spreading family planning and by making money and techniques available, but that we will not allow this country—I would go further and say the countries of the temperate zone generally—to be used as receptacles for the population surplus of tropical nations during the, I fear, extended period which will elapse before the longer term measures there can bear fruit.
§ However, if we do allow this country to become such a receptacle, what shall we be doing except allowing ourselves to be swamped, because we are a highly developed people practising family limitation because we are highly developed, by more primitive peoples who are not practising family limitation precisely because they are more primitive and less highly developed? The implications of that are simply shattering in terms of the final mix of world population. It is because I know exactly where I stand, not without reluctance and sadness, in this great problem or struggle which is going on, that I so warmly support the renewal of this Act.1207
§ Mr. Hattersley
Had it not been for conduct which I am sure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will describe as monumental Parliamentary ineptitude at the beginning of this debate, I should have objected to both Amendments being taken simultaneously. Having heard the debate, I feel even more strongly that it was very unfortunate that I did not make that objection, not simply because of debating convenience, but because, by implication on the part of the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) and quite openly and overtly on the part of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), constant parallels were drawn between immigration from the Commonwealth and the immigration of aliens. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Streatham went as far as to say that he and some of his hon. Friends felt that the time had come when no distinction should be drawn between these two categories.
For my part and, I suspect, that of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, even those who are enthusiasts for British entry into Europe, there remains a total distinction between the entry into this country of citizens from the Commonwealth and the entry into this country of people who were, erstwhile, categorised as aliens.
The distinction between the two points of view was best made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire, when he spoke about it being a privilege to enter this overcrowded island. Let me make my point of view absolutely clear. Like him, I support limitation of number. Like him, I support stringent limitation on entry, but I do not equate it with a privilege for the few who get in. I see it as a denial of rights for those who are kept out, an inevitable denial of rights in the present circumstances.
§ Mr. Gurden
On this question of the morality and the display of conscience so often held up on this matter by certain people, perhaps including the hon. Member himself, is he not now attacking this question of discrimination? If he really believes in the morality of nondiscrimination, why does he suggest that there should be a discrimination 1208 between Commonwealth immigrants and aliens?
§ Mr. Hattersley
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance that if I could follow that point I would certainly answer it.
I draw a total distinction between our attitude and our responsibilities to citizens of the Commonwealth and citizens of Europe. This must characterise the great gulf that there is still between both sides of the House on this problem even though we are now united in our belief that some form of stringent control is necessary. The great divide that still exists was very strongly represented by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire. I have heard him move so many Amendments and speak so often on this subject that I am no longer confused by his moderate tone and urbane manner. I sincerely admire both those things but there is a great gulf between him and many of my hon. Friends, not least about his reference to what he described as the "arrogant view" on integration.
I should make clear at the outset that what he described, and what was so described 18 months ago by Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, as an arrogant view on integration is not a view which I advocate. I do not suggest that some common form of behaviour and attitude should be superimposed on immigrants. When I speak on integration, I say that we have an obligation to make sure that they know how the fruits of life in this country can be enjoyed and where the benefits of life can be obtained. We have an obligation to make sure that those fruits and benefits are as freely available to immigrants as to everybody else. This does not seem to me to be an arrogant view of integration but a fundamental necessity in a civilised society.
I have been fortunate over the last two years in catching the eye of the Chair in three debates on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Nobody who has spoken in all three of those debates would argue with the contention that the tone of the House during the debates has completely changed. It reflects a genuine change of tone in the country and the fact that since 1964 there has been a relaxation of tension and a reduction in 1209 friction. The chances of conflict over immigration are now negligible.
All of us who have an intimate and material interest in immigration politics very much welcome this. The relaxation of tension is in no small measure the result of the changing attitude of the governing party, the fact that the Government have now accepted the necessity of renewing the 1962 Act and that a year ago the Government accepted the necessity of making the control even more stringent.
Perhaps, therefore, it might be assumed that people who, like myself, supported both those decisions would feel a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction today that the things they hoped would be brought about by those two decisions have been achieved. In some ways that satisfaction, which is real and genuine, is spoilt in part by the knowledge that many of the things which we hoped would come about when the tension was relaxed and the friction was over have not been achieved. Many of us who supported the reductions in tension which we believed would be the natural consequences of strict limitation on entry did so because we believed that they would create a climate and atmosphere in which genuine proposals for integration could be put to the population, accepted by it and implemented.
It would be hard to argue that all our great hopes about integration have been achieved. In my arrogance after seven days in the House of Commons I announced in my maiden speech that integration was the first priority of Government, and in the same sort of arrogance I warned the Government of the trouble they would have from me and several of my hon. Friends if they did not implement all my proposals immediately. Nobody would pretend that the great hopes of those of us on this side who stood for integration in 1964 have in any way approached realisation. This is no criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) who does his extraordinarily difficult job extraordinarily well and has obtained the confidence and support of many of the immigrant population and, to a very great extent, those amongst whom they live. It is a criticism of the speed at which the Government have chosen to move, but it is not a criticism of the 1210 things the Government have said about immigration. They have said noble, honourable and proper things. But it is in part a criticism of the speed they have chosen to put those honourable and noble sentiments into operation.
I wish to give two examples, both from my home town of Birmingham and both proposals for increased integration which would not cost the Government money. This is perhaps an inopportune time to propose a series of Government measures to integrate immigrants into the general community which would involve large public expenditure. There are two examples of what the Government could do, have said they would like to do, but have not yet done. Neither directly relates to the Home Office but both are things in which my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich must have a personal and pertinent interest.
Immigrants in the city of Birmingham-are required to wait on the housing list for five years before they are considered for houses. I make no comment on whether the five-year waiting period is designed specifically to make it difficult for them to be rehoused or whether it is pure coincidence. But it is a fact, whatever the reason. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, said laudable and proper things about the impropriety of such a waiting list qualification being imposed. That was a year ago, but it is still imposed and no real attempt has been made to insist that the Birmingham local authority abandon this unfortunate rule.
A year ago, the Government White Paper of which I was a substantial and devoted supporter urged that immigrants in schools, especially non-English-speaking immigrants, should be limited to not more than 30 per cent. in a class. That appeared in Circular No. 7 1965, I think, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education said proper and laudable things about the necessity of implementing it. But there are still schools where 70, 80 and, on occasions, 90 per cent. of children are immigrants, and there are now headmasters who choose to implement the Government's White Paper unilaterally by closing their doors to additional immigrant children on the basis that this is what the Secretary of State for Education 1211 told them to do, and since the council is too cowardly to operate his scheme they will operate it individually and unilaterally.
This is a totally dangerous and potentially explosive state of affairs which should have been remedied by strong and positive Government action, by insistence that the Government's educational policy so far as it affects immigration should be implemented by local authorities, including those which feel that decisions will be too painful, too dangerous and too unpopular for them to face. Having said that, and assured the House that individual criticisms of that sort exist and could be made, I reiterate that it is not intended as criticism of the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich. I know very well in my constituency and in the immigrant communities in Birmingham as a whole of the respect in which he is held.
Some of us stood two years ago, and in the time that has passed since then, for control of immigration. We stood for those controls notwithstanding the fact that in 1962 we were bitter, continual and outspoken opponents of the original Act. We ate a good deal of dirt in the House and other places, suffered a great deal of condemnation from benches below the Gangway and our constituents, but we did it because we thought it necessary and right, and because we thought that only by that limitation and that control could the atmosphere be created in which genuine integration was possible. We did not do that to make sure that another six or ten seats were not lost but to make sure that the things in which we genuinely believed should be brought about. Those of us who supported those unpopular measures during that time believe that the Government owes it to us and to our consciences, but most of all to the immigrants, to bring about the sort of integration which the controls we shall confirm today make possible.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Gurden
I am sorry that my intervention was above the head of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). He said that he did not understand it. I am not quite sure now, knowing him as I do, whether the hon. Gentleman 1212 did not understand it or did not want to understand it. I shall try to put it in simple terms. [Interruption.]
Apparently, the Home Secretary did not understand it either, so perhaps there was some fault on my part.
As I understood him, the hon. Gentleman was arguing that there should be a discrimination between our acceptance of aliens and our acceptance of Commonwealth immigrants into this country. I said that he was always displaying a conscience on the morality of discrimination and asked why, then, he put forward that there ought to be a discrimination in favour of Commonwealth immigrants as against aliens. That was my question, which he did not answer.
§ Mr. Hattersley
The hon. Gentleman makes it clear now, and I am happy to answer. There are two reasons. First, I accept, as does the particular brand of Conservatism, Birmingham Imperialism, in the area from which the hon. Gentleman comes, that there is a special and peculiar bond between Great Britain and those parts of the world which were once our Colonial Empire. We have obligations and duties towards them. We have some sort of obligation arising from our omissions in the past.
The second reason is that we are likely in the near future to come into an association with Europe which, under Article 48 of the Treaty of Rome, will require us to be a good deal more liberal about the influx of workers from the Continent of Europe. If this were to happen, I should do my best to make sure that we were equally liberal about the influx of workers from the British Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Gurden
That was at least a clarification of what the hon. Gentleman was arguing. He is now saying that there ought to be discrimination because of certain home interests, and in home interests he includes the Commonwealth. He should recognise also that there are certain home interests of our own people who live here as distinct from those who do not.
The fact that immigration causes a great problem in this country is now accepted. It is accepted by the hon. Member for Spark-brook, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), 1213 who so bitterly opposed the Act when it was introduced, has accepted it also. Of course, the hon. Member for North-field has never made quite clear why he changed his mind so rapidly, but being in the next-door constituency to North-field I recognise that the heat was on pretty much at the time of the General Election.
The hon. Member for Northfield spoke about employment. This is a very important question since the motor-car works in Northfield faces the problem of redundancy and unemployment. The hon. Gentleman presented the figures to us in a quite false way. He complained that other people had exaggerated the figures of immigration and the effect on unemployment, but he himself completely underestimated the effect of immigration on employment. He gave the Committee the figures of vouchers issued and vouchers taken up, saying that these represented employable people who would come over to take jobs—only that very small number.
There are two points to be made on that. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that a large proportion of the total number of immigrants coming to this country come to Birmingham and compete with the unemployed in his constituency for the jobs which are available. They come under the authority of the Ministry of Labour, on vouchers issued by the Ministry, to take jobs which should go to the unemployed from the B.M.C. works. The hon. Gentleman did not take this factor into account when he told us about unemployment.
The other point is that there are very many children brought in as dependants of immigrants who are now qualifying for those jobs, too. It is nonsense to say that the dependants do not take jobs or that the children do not grow up and take work on leaving school. These people are all competing for the jobs which are available, or not available, for the people of Birmingham.
I shall not say very much about discrimination, and you may rule what I have to say out of order, Mr. Irving, although ether hon. Members mentioned the Acts which have been passed on the subject of discrimination. In my view, it will be very difficult to stop discrimination between aliens or Commonwealth 1214 immigrants and our own people. These things cannot be stopped by laws. The other day, I read a report of an incident in which a Commonwealth immigrant had taken up a gun to defend himself from someone who had thrown a firework on his doorstep. This is made publicly known in the Press, but, if it were the other way round, we should hear very little about it. Because it happened to a Commonwealth immigrant, it is called discrimination. This is the trouble. I am sure that it causes the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) as much trouble as the genuine cases for discrimination.
Both parties in the House have accepted the need for control of immigration. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), that there ought to be a revision of the law and that these provisions ought to be replaced by an Act to prevent further immigration for at least 12 months, if only because of the unemployment figures. As I have said, vouchers are being issued by the Ministry of Labour for the taking of vacancies at our employment exchanges, when those vacancies ought in all cases go to the people who are put out of work by redundancy.
§ Mr. Chapman
The number of B vouchers issued for the Midlands in the first nine months of this year is 332. Will the hon. Gentleman put that in proper perspective, in relation to the total figures about which he is talking?
§ Sir C. Osborne
In relation to the unemployment which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends said would not exist.
§ Mr. Gurden
If there were only half a dozen, that would be half a dozen too many if chaps are being thrown out of work in Northfield. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, according to the Ministry of Labour's figures, there are already over 9,000 immigrants on the unemployment register. Yet we are told that in total there are over 50,000 immigrants who have come in during this year, 1966.
§ Mr. Gurden
There are far too many dependants coming in. What are the qualifications for dependants? Are the students who are allowed in allowed to bring their dependants? What about the ages of children? I am told, and I know from experience, that it is not possible to find out the actual age of some of the children who are brought in as dependants.
I myself have asked some of the children what their ages are. They do not know. One such person I saw was brought into the country as a dependant and sent to school as being under the age of 16. He had a very large black beard and turban and looked to be at least 30. I could not tell whether or not he was 16, and neither could the immigration officers.
What about the wives? Mr. Thorney-croft last year asked Lord Stow Hill how many wives were to be allowed in. There was some hooting about this from the benches opposite, and Mr. Thorneycroft was derided for mentioning the fact that some immigrants might want to bring in more than one wife. Now we are told that his warning was not heeded and that more than one wife of an immigrant is allowed in. We want to know how many wives will be allowed in.
§ Mr. Foley
If the hon. Gentleman wants to find out the definitions of dependants allowed into the country, I commend him to the instructions to immigration officers published on 10th August last. If he wants to go further and investigate the nature of the marital arrangements in terms of the decisions taken, he should read the debates which led to the establishment of the principles in the 1962 Act and ask his right hon. Friends, who were the Ministers responsible, what the definition of wives is.
The hon. Gentleman can also—because there have been a number of cases recently—look at the question of how we interpret marriage in the sense of the common law marriage of the West Indies or of the proxy marriage of Nigeria. There is no doubt that, in this respect, there is very little evasion.
1216 The innuendoes and nuances that somehow there are all kinds of people bringing in several wives are disgraceful and dishonest. In my experience in the Home Office, I have handled hundreds of cases myself, and I can assure the Committee that I have never come across one instance——
§ Mr. Gurden
The point is that in another place a speech was made which refutes what the Under-Secretary of State is saying.
§ Mr. Gurden
Be that as it may, I ask for the figures. The hon. Gentleman says that it is a disgrace to put this forward as a problem. But what are the figures? What about the ages of the children coming in? Does he know how many of the children are over age? These are simple questions. If he promises me a reply later, I will accept it as good enough for now.
What about health checks? Are they satisfactorily made? We hear medical officers of health and others connected with public health telling us that the checks are not efficiently made. They say that this is a serious problem, that we are importing diseases. We know that diseases have been brought into the country by immigrants, and the Government have promised many times that the matter will be followed up and efficient health checks made in the country of origin. Are the health checks satisfactory now? Are we likely to run into another patch of disease?
My hon. Friends have mentioned evasion, which is a great problem. Lord Stow Hill told us what a serious problem it was. He did not hide the facts, and I hope that they will not be hidden tonight. Would it not be a good idea to have a better form of identification, which is also a great problem? It is a problem in towns like Birmingham, where the local authority is supposed to carry out the laws on overcrowding and multi-occupation. It cannot always identify the landlord. Would it not be better if there were fingerprint identification so that he local authorities responsible for carrying out these laws knew that they were dealing with the right persons?
1217 I recently had an experience which surprised me. A man telephoned me about a job and said he was an Irishman. I said, "You sound to me rather like an Indian or Pakistani by your voice. He replied, "Yes. I am an Irish Pakistani". He said that he had got into the country through Ireland and without any control operating against him at all. In fact, he had jumped the control. Whether or not anyone thinks this fair or reasonable, I suggest that this method may be one form of evading the control.
What we want to know is the size of the evasion. We have never yet had a figure. If there is evasion, we should know how big the problem is. Clearly, there should be a better form of control and to have this Bill for another year is wrong. The tightening up of the number of vouchers is obviously not giving us the reduction which the Government have been seeking. If we are to have Commonwealth unity surely our own people in this country ought to be part of that unity and to like to have the company of the other people of the Commonwealth.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) said that Commonwealth immigration was no problem once. It was no problem when I first entered the House. None of my constituents raised it. No Birmingham people ever objected to the number of immigrants we saw around, simply because there were so few of them and assimilation was not a problem. But assimilation will take a long time unless we reduce the numbers very drastically indeed.
§ Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
I do not raise my voice to speak with any enthusiasm for the continuation of these laws for another year. But the fact that we have these proposals before us pre-supposes that there is a problem.
I believe that, whatever the number we may impose in terms of people from the Commonwealth being allowed into this country, the problem of the second generation is the one which should occupy us most, because the first generation were only too pleased to come here and take any kind of job. It is when one gets to 1218 the second generation that the real problems arise.
It is in this respect that I should like to comment on the work of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State with special responsibility in these matters. First, I think that there is considerable evidence on both sides of industry of widespread discrimination, and it would appear that the better the job in terms of status the more discrimination there is. It is in this respect that my hon. Friend and also my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour can use their influence, because there is, I believe, a gleam of light.
At the Brixton School of Building, situated in an area where there is a large number of immigrants, in the department dealing with surveyors and architects the students entered for this academic year are almost wholly composed of immigrants. This seems to be the chink of light that many of us have sought, because if we can break the barrier between unskilled and skilled jobs we are tackling the problem. I hope that my hon. Friend will take note of this and encourage other institutes of learning to follow the example set at Brixton.
The problem arises in its most acute form with skilled workers. I am not afraid to speak out about this, but there seems to be as much reaction and prejudice among members of trade unions as was displayed by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). I believe that with an imaginative approach this prejudice could be overcome. If we are to accept restrictions on immigration, we must at the same time accept the obligation to absorb those who are already here. It is my firm belief that this can and must be done and that we need and will continue to need more people for our industry. If we require more labour as time goes on, we will have to allow more immigrants into this country. I do not accept that the present figure must stand for all time, and I hope for a suitable reaction from my right hon. Friends. I do not accept the view that this is a problem which must be assimilated and that, once assimilated, it will be ended. We must provide opportunities for immigrants to work here, and we need their skills.
Many of the occupations, including many of the skilled occupations, which 1219 immigrants are now following are precisely the kind of jobs likely to disappear under the impact of technical change, so we will have the problem of training and retraining. Arising from the current figures for the motor car industry, how many immigrants to date have applied for any kind of retraining?
Young people do not share the prejudices of their elders, and there is much evidence to show that youth organisations are very concerned about the problem of the second generation. I should like my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) to say something about this aspect of the work, because it will be easier for us to support the continuation of these restrictions for another year if we hear something about the work being done in this important respect.
This problem is not new or peculiar to the United Kingdom. Over our thousands of years of history we have assimilated many people. Immigration is not a new problem to areas like Brixton, which over many years have absorbed people coming from many countries and running away from many different tyrannies. We have a moral as well as a self-interest responsibility eventually to allow more immigrants to come to this country, and I echo the sentiment that we have a special responsibility because this country grew rich by exploiting the countries from which these people come. We must therefore make sure that we absorb them, provided we can do so without causing immense problems, and I believe that we can.
I reluctantly support the continuation of these regulations for another year, knowing full well that my hon. Friend is working on the positive side and that we shall be able to assimilate and integrate and allow the figure for immigrants to be reviewed perhaps next year or the year after.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I should like, first, to congratulate the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) on the very moderate, responsible and wise way in which he has set about this most difficult problem. Experience has taught him, and if the members of his own Front Bench had spoken with his moderation and wisdom 10 or 12 years ago when I first raised this problem, England would not now be faced with the tragic problem which I then told hon. Members would face us.
1220 I congratulate the hon. Member on the moderation and wisdom with which he is now looking on the problem and I thank him for the figures which he has given and which prove that the regulations are beginning to bite and that, in spite of his starry-eyed supporters, who do not have the benefit of his official knowledge, these regulations will be tightened still further and not relaxed. He also promised a certain number of other figures later and I look forward to hearing them.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) is here, because I want to defend him and then to say something against him. He was unfairly treated by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), who, unfortunately, is not now in his place. If there is one hon. Member whom shame should have caused to keep quiet, it is the hon. Member for Northfield, for all his vitriolic outpourings of 10 or 12 years ago have been proved to be utterly and completely wrong. If there is one hon. Member who out of sheer decency might have kept quiet, it is the hon. Member for North-field.
The hon. Member attacked my right hon. Friend for saying that black and white could not easily mix. It is the story the whole world over, wherever one goes, that there are problems of racial hatreds, black against brown, yellow against black, black against white, white against white, black against black. As far back as 1952 in my speeches I was asking why we should bring those problems to this country. Good men and fine women of every race over the centuries have devoted their lives to tackling this problem. [Laughter.] This is not something at which Labour Members should sneer, for it happens to be true.
Men and women have done their best to get races of various outlooks to live together, but so far, unhappily, not even the Quakers, fine people though they may be, have found the answer to this almost impossible problem. However, I greatly wish that my right hon. Friend had made his speech of tonight 10 years ago, when he was a distinguished member of the then Government and I was urging these considerations upon my right hon. Friends, for we would not now be faced with the problems about which he is worrying.
1221 The hon. Member for Northfield asked why we should limit the number of Commonweakh immigrants and not the number of aliens and he suggested that this smacked of colour prejudice by the Home Office. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) that the 1 million immigrants in this country must be treated exactly the same as everybody else and have the same protection and so on, but that the number in future should be severely curtailed. I am glad that the hon. Member for Northfield has now returned to the Chamber. He ridiculed what my right hon. Friend said about 60,000 immigrants coming here in one month. Of course, the number includes children, who will not be going on to the labour market immediately. But they will when they grow up.
Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman made another statement, nearly as stupid as that made by another of his hon. Friends. He said that Commonwealth immigrants should not be asked to do manual jobs. Who is to do them? Will he make Englishmen do them? Who will do them? Hon. Gentlemen can look at what I said 12 years ago. I said that when the children of these people grew up they would not be prepared to do menial jobs and this is proving to be true. I am immensely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the promise he made that the regulations will be tightened and not loosened, as some of his emotional friends hope—[interruption.] So this is true. After all, the House is governed by those who sit above the Gangway and not those who sit below it.
The regulations should have been reintroduced at least eight years earlier. I feel sure that just as the Labour Party has had to change its mind over this it will have to change its mind when its responsible Ministers put on further restrictions. I would like to ask the Minister, if I may have his attention for one moment, whether he would investigate Clause 2 (2,b) which deals with families entering the country. I would make this prophecy, that if a Labour Government are here in 10 years——
§ Sir C. Osborne
One never knows about acts of God. I speak in terms of an 1222 insurance man. If they are still here, I am warning hon. Members below the Gangway that their own Ministers will tighten up that Clause. I beg the Minister to look at it again. He cannot give an answer about it tonight, but will he please give an answer some time?
May I ask the Committee to look at this problem in its wider context? It cannot be discussed merely as an English problem. I wish to refer hon. Members to a United Nations pamphlet. Hon. Gentlemen opposite usually accept such things without any quibbling. In the foreword it says that there are two problems facing the world. It goes on to say:… world food production, according to the F.A.O.'s preliminary estimates, was no larger in 1965–66 than the year before, when there were about 70 million less people to feed.Except in North America production of food fell. In Africa and Asia, it fell by 2 per cent. in total and by 4 per cent. to 5 per cent. on what is called a per caput basis.
The report goes on to say that:… the world food situation is now more precarious than at any time since the period of acute shortage immediately after the second world war.Hon Gentlemen opposite will know quite well that immigrants come to this country—sensibly enough, I should be here like a shot if I were one of them—because there is more to eat, more wages to earn, and a higher standard of living to be enjoyed.The pressure of poverty and population will increase enormously over the next 20 to 50 years. Hon. Members must look at this broad picture, because it will affect our country. The food position here is about as bad as it has ever been since the end of the war. Furthermore, the pressure to come to this country comes largely from the Far East, where most of the people are rice-eaters. Page 10 of the pamphlet says:Rice is the staple food of approximately half the human race…. More than half of the world harvest of 250 million tons of paddy is retained on the farms where it is grown.This is an important point to bear in mind.
The report goes on:This makes the task of increasing rice production more difficult, because of the low responsiveness of the farmer to monetary incentives.1223 I hope that I am not going out of order.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. The hon. Member is now getting very wide of the Amendment under discussion.
§ Sir C. Osborne
It is these shortages which are causing people to come to this country and which have made necessary these regulations. It is this pressure of food, population and poverty—and I have said this so many times that I can almost say it in my sleep—which make these regulations necessary. If these world forces were not operating then they would be quite unnecessary. I think that that brings me in order.
The pamphlet says that the world population increased by 70 million last year. Most of the immigrants wanting to come to this country are from India and Pakistan. At present, in certain States of India there is terrible famine. Hundreds of thousands or millions of people are suffering from starvation, and this will increase the pressure to emigrate to this country. It is against this background that the regulations are necessary and stricter regulations will become necessary.
The F.A.O. estimates that by the end of the century the world's population will be more than double today's figure of 3.3 thousand million. It will have risen to over 7,000 million. To give even the most moderate standard of living world food production has to increase five-fold. During recent years it has fallen and the pressure on immigrants to come here because of hunger will increase. Sterner regulations will become necessary. Whichever Government are in power, this Bill will be increased enormously in its severity. Let us stop fooling ourselves in the face of the facts.
Let me now turn to the employment aspect. The hon. Member for Northfield, who seems to buzz in and out of the Chamber, talked about jobs. Today, there are over ½ million people unemployed. By the end of February I feel in my bones that there will be 1 million. The Prime Minister said to the T.U.C. that if the incomes and prices policy was not successful, the figure could rise to 2 million. It is surely crazy to issue even a single work permit when there is this 1224 kind of Government-organised unemployment. It is the height of madness to allow men with their families to enter the country. It is no good saying that they are only youngsters, because if they are not going to work they would be a burden on our social services and if they are going to work they would be competing with 1 million of our people who would be unemployed.
The income per capita in our country is estimated by the U.N. at 1,688 American dollars a year. In India, it is 89 and in Pakistan it is 76. This is what makes this country the honeypot. This is the magnet which draws them here and which will continue to draw them here until there is hardly standing room. The hon. Member shakes his head, but some years ago a distinguished Member of the Opposition who has since died pleaded that we could afford a proportion of 1 per cent. of immigrants in our country. We now have 2 per cent.
May I ask the Home Secretary what figure of Commonwealth citizens he estimates this country can comfortably contain? What is the maximum number? He is a reasonable man when we put facts to him. If the rate of immigration were unlimited and the growth in immigrant population were greater than ours, the actuaries in the City of London will give him the date by which there will be more coloured people than white people in this country. Some hon. Members may want that. I do not. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman does, either.
Therefore, there must be some absolute restriction at some time. The greater the number of Commonwealth immigrants who settle here, the more difficult it will be to impose further restraints because they will have more relatives they can legitimately drag in under the Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] It is not nonsense. If the hon. Gentleman goes to the City of London, and gets a good actuary to work it out, he will tell him when we shall reach the limit.
Ten years ago, when this matter was first discussed, had I said that there would be over 1 million immigrants in this country by now, I should have been greeted with cries of "Nonsense."
§ Mr. John Wells
I am following my hon. Friend's argument closely, but I 1225 think that he and the Committee must bear in mind that even the most distinguished actuaries tend to go wrong on this matter of population statistics. It is not more than 30 years since they said that we should be in a declining population, not an increasing population. I think that it is perhaps foolish for my hon. Friend to call actuaries in aid.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I am much obliged for that intervention. Like all human beings, actuaries are liable to make mistakes—like the gentleman who drew up the National Plan, who assumed that there would be 200,000 more jobs than people to fill them.
§ Sir C. Osborne
I was provoked to say that, Sir Myer. I will now conclude. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not before time."] The hon. Gentleman says "Not before time." That was said to me 10 years ago, when people would not listen to me. Had I been listened to ten years ago——
§ Mr. W. S. Hilton (Bethnal Green) rose——
§ Sir C. Osborne
No. The hon. Member was not here then.
I beg the Home Secretary not to give way to what I call the softies who sit behind him and who want him to promise that he will relax these controls in a year's time. He will have to increase them, not relax them. I therefore reluctantly support the continuance of the Act, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at the Section to which I referred him and see whether something can be done about it.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I were to intervene now for a short time, although let me make it clear that my intervention is in no way intended to suggest that the debate should end before its natural term. We have provided three Government spokesmen for this debate and were perhaps prepared, from previous experience, for a bigger onslaught than has been mounted. Therefore, it might be useful if I were now to say a few words. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry 1226 of Labour, a Department intimately concerned in these matters, will reply to other points at the end of the debate.
I think that everyone who has spoken is agreed on the need to continue these two Acts and not to press the Amendments. As my object is to secure the rejection of the Amendments, that is gratifying, but there has been a great variety of sentiment leading to that conclusion expressed in different ways by right hon. and hon. Members. I will deal with some of the points made and give my views as I go along.
I should like to begin factually, and therefore I hope neutrally, and describe the position in relation to Commonwealth immigrants from the new Commonwealth, since this is what arouses most concern and interest, as it has developed since the publication of the White Paper. Net immigration between 1st August, 1964, and 31st July, 1965, was approximately 63,000. Between 1st August, 1965, and 31st July, 1966, the comparable figure was approximately 45,000. That was a substantial, although not perhaps overwhelmingly, reduction.
I believe that the real rate of inflow may have been reduced somewhat more substantially because, for a reason which it is not entirely easy to explain, as between these two periods the number of returning residents who were of Commonwealth origin increased by 9,000. This is a change which could occur from time to time and therefore I do not press the point more strongly, but I think it more likely than not that the reduction from 63,000 to 45,000 rather understates the underlying change in the position.
§ Sir D. Renton
What significance does the right hon. Gentleman attach to the net increase—I am giving the comparable figure—of 51,600 or so in the first nine months of this year, which is much higher than the increase of 45,000 in the 12 months ended 31st July?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I think that I can fairly quickly, and I hope satisfactorily, clear up the right hon. and learned Gentleman's doubts. I was coming immediately to the figures for the first nine months of this year compared with the first nine months of last year.
For the first nine months of last year, the net figure was 53,000. For the first nine months of this year, it was 41,000 1227 for the new Commonwealth. The right hon. and learned Gentleman arrives at the figure of 51,000 by adding 10,000 for the old Commonwealth, as it is commonly called. None the less, 41,000 looks big for nine months in relation to the 45,000 which I gave for 12 months. But there appears quite strongly to be a seasonal pattern in these matters—it was so in 1965, and it appears to be so in 1966—in which, broadly speaking, the net figure for the whole year has been more or less attained by the end of the third quarter and in the last quarter there is no net change. I think that that deals precisely with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point.
I turn to one of the underlying issues of the debate, the question of whether in present circumstances we should restrict further the rate of inflow. The hon. Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) and Louth (Sir C. Osborne) and the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell)—I am not sure about the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys)—certainly thought that we should restrict further. What would be involved? First, numerically, the overwhelmingly more important aspect relates to dependants and not to voucher holders.
Therefore, were we to make a further substantial restriction we should have to go back on the policy which has been accepted by both parties and which, I noticed, was accepted explicitly by Lord Brooke, an ex-Home Secretary, speaking in the House of Lords last week, who said that it would be wrong to go back on this policy.
It would be extremely undesirable on social and other grounds to say that people who are here should not be allowed to bring their families here. It has been suggested by some people—certainly in one speech in another place, but I am not sure whether it has been suggested this afternoon—that, although that position should be accepted in relation to immigrants already here, it should not be accepted in relation to new entrants who come in under vouchers. I cannot see any argument in logic or morals for that. If it is right on broad social grounds that those already here should be allowed to bring their dependants with them, I cannot see why a 1228 distinction should be introduced for those whom we decide, as a result of a system of control, should come here in the future.
§ Mr. John Wells
Could the right hon. Gentleman remind the House whether an applicant for a voucher has to state on his application what dependants he has?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Yes, I think that he has to do that. But that is not of great significance, because it would not be right to judge whether an applicant should or should not come here according to whether he had dependants or otherwise. I do not think that it would be desirable to encourage applicants to make false statements in that way and possibly give rise to difficulties in the future. There is not a great deal in the point, though I believe that factually the position is that he has still to make such statements, though should I be wrong on that I will let the hon. Member for Maidstone (Mr. John Wells) know.
Hon. Members must face up to the fact that the only substantial impact which could be made would be by going back on policies regarding dependants. That would have the most damaging social consequences and would work against having an immigrant community which is assimilable, reasonably free from crime, and which broadly fits into the life of the country.
I come, then, to the point about voucher holders. At present, vouchers are being taken up, which is the significant factor, at the rate of about 6,000 a year or perhaps a little under; that is about 400 a month. Two-thirds of those are Category B vouchers which go to doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists and technologists. I am aware of the argument that this is a sort of brain drain in reverse and that there may be some disadvantages about that export of people from the point of view of developing countries. One cannot dismiss that argument entirely.
It is also important to remember, as I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) pointed out, that many of the people who come here under Category B vouchers gain valuable training here and perhaps do not stay indefinitely but take the results of such training back to their own countries. Even if that 1229 point be left aside, it would not be right for us to take up the position of an open door in regard to our outward brain drain but a closed door in regard to our inward brain attraction.
Nor do I think that it follows that if many of the highly qualified people who wish to leave their own countries were not allowed to come here, they would necessarily stay at home or go to another developing country to work. It is more likely that they would find their way to another highly developed country, and we should have a kind of double brain drain, being by-passed by the people who now come here.
The remaining one-third are the Category A voucher holders. The number taken up amounts to about 2,000 a year, or 160 a month. They are all people who are coming here for specific jobs. Vouchers are not applied for and they do not get them until specific jobs are made available to them. A substantial proportion of them are jobs for which they are peculiarly qualified. Given the fact that we now have an immigrant community, they are jobs which are specifically suitable for immigrants to come and do. It might be a case of working in a retail business run by nationals of the country from which the man is coming. In any case, the important issue is that this is really a minute number. As I say, the figure is running at about 160 a month, and were the employment situation to change so that such jobs were not available, it would fall well before that. No one could possibly argue that a figure of 160 a month is having a substantial or worthwhile impact upon the employment situation.
§ Mr. Gurden
Would it not be better to offer these jobs to the 9,000 immigrants already here and unemployed?
§ Mr. Jenkins
No, because they might not be suitable in all cases. The hon. Gentleman must not assume that all immigrants are easily transferable from one job to another, any more than all natives of this country are. That is an extremely facile assumption on his part. Broadly, the position is that the numbers are minimal, but, unless there are overwhelming reasons for it, it is desirable that we should not turn off this tap entirely.
1230 In the course of a number of interesting remarks, the right hon. Member for Streatham said that he was very anxious to avoid creating two classes of citizen and a nation within a nation in this country. However, if one takes a particular ethnic group and says to them, "You will be different from anyone else; you will be different from the aliens"—and the right hon. Gentleman is an old supporter of the Common Market; almost as old as I am——
§ Mr. Jenkins
—"you will be different from anyone else here because you will be in an isolated garrison in the sense that no more of your kind will be allowed to come here and do jobs", that is very much creating a nation within a nation and two classes of citizen. To say, "No one else is ever to be allowed to come; here we stand, and no further can we go", is doing the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to avoid.
The first point to bear in mind is that the consequential effects of past immigration are numerically the more important, and I doubt if we ought to react quickly to a short-term change in the employment situation. We should judge it on the basis of the longer-term social considerations about our capacity to absorb, rather than deal with this very small number on the basis of shorter-term considerations.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak has interrupted several times and spoken about this. He says that, if there is any unemployment there should be no immigration. But there are very few hon. Members who would say that if we get into a situation where we have 100,000 more vacancies than unemployed we ought to increase the voucher list to that substantial number. It is more important to take a broader view and judge it on the important longer-term considerations than on the very short-term economic considerations.
There has been a good deal of talk about the problem of evasion and how much it amounts to. By its very nature, it is difficult to make an accurate estimate of it. It falls into two categories. First of all, there is evasion which takes place by people claiming that they are dependants when they are not. There is bound 1231 to be that sort of evasion, though we try our hardest and shall continue to try to keep it to the very minimum. Immigration officers are doing a very difficult job extremely well. If they make a mistake by saying to someone that he is not a dependant when he is, often a great deal of trouble arises for them, for the Home Office, sometimes for me, and sometimes for Members of Parliament.
It is not possible to operate the control fairly without some element of error. But this element of error in people getting past controls by saying that they are dependants when they are not is, by its very nature, something which is not statistically measurable. If we could measure it, we could stop it. It is as simple as that.
There is the second category of evasion, the people who come in with certain conditions, perhaps a limitation of stay, and who do not observe the conditions, who do not go when they ought to go. It is somewhat more possible to measure this. We can measure it in a slightly rough and ready way, and a slightly long-term way, by comparing the number legally admitted for settlement on the one hand with, on the other, the total number admitted, minus the total number who left over a given period. It is necessary to have a fairly long period for these statistics to mean anything.
For what it is worth, the statistics as measured in the latter form show that in 1965 there was an evasion of minus 233 from the new Commonwealth, though from the old Commonwealth there was a substantially larger figure. But I do not take the view that these figures have great significance, because they are essentially residual figures. They have validity only in the long-term, and provided that there are fairly stable conditions.
§ Sir D. Renton
I think that it is very important, if the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to do so, for him to explain how it is that in the first nine months of this year the number of men increased by 11,000, when only 3,000 of them came in with vouchers.
§ Mr. Jenkins
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman made the point, I thought that probably in dealing with his 1232 figures he was a little confused by not separating the two groups of Commonwealth figures. Secondly, I thought that the figure of 3,000 which he gave was not based on published figures but was an assumption about a split between men and women which he had worked out for himself. Thirdly, it is not the case that we cannot have men coming in quite legitimately as dependants, because people settled here are entitled to have their aged parents with them, and that includes aged fathers. There may, therefore, be a substantial number of them, but I would not like to say that that produces arithmetical accuracy, because that is not easy to obtain.
The right hon. Member for Streatham knows how much I dislike getting involved in an argument with him, but he made one or two points on which I should like to comment. He spoke very strongly against the whole principle of immigration. I thought that he slightly confused the social argument, which he said quite bluntly applied to coloured immigrants only—he dismissed it when one of my hon. Friends put the European point to him—and the economic argument, which necessarily, if it is true, is of much broader validity.
On the economic front the right hon. Gentleman took up a straightforward position that immigration is bound to be economically bad for a country, that it is bound to retard its development with regard to the careful use of labour and labour-saving devices. I would not wish to take up a dogmatic position about the economic effects of immigration, but it seems to me that it is possible to argue this, and to argue it with some force, from both points of view. The right hon. Gentleman took up a dogmatic position against immigration, and I find it difficult to think of a shred of supporting evidence, in either history or geography, for the extraordinary proposition which he put forward.
I find it difficult to believe that those countries which have been most successful in developing a vast store of capital equipment, and which have used labour most skilfully—shall we say the United States in the past and Western Germany in recent decades?—have been those which have been protected from immigration, or that those countries which have had no immigration, but, on the contrary, 1233 have had a shrinking population—shall we say Ireland in the second half of the 19th century?—have been particularly successful in these vast technological advances and in the powerful use of machinery as opposed to labour. I find the right hon. Gentleman's argument very surprising.
§ Sir C. Osborne
The right hon. Gentleman cited America. For the last 40 years America has had the most stringent restrictions on immigration, and it is during these 40 years that technological advance has beer so great, which proves my right hon. Friend's point.
§ Mr. Jenkins
There are two points about that, though I do not want to get involved in too detailed an argument about American experience. First, the most rapid rate of American economic growth was during the earlier period when America was wide open to immigration from almost anywhere. Secondly, it would be very easy to exaggerate the intense nature of American anti-immigration control. Nearly as many Puerto Ricans have gone into New York City alone in the past decades as we have had immigrants of any sort into this country. The hon. Gentleman must get his premises right before he tries to erect false conclusions on them.
My approach to this matter is that we are certainly bound to be governed by the capacity of this country to absorb immigrants, and to absorb them in a civilised way. We should not try to introduce a larger number than it is possible to do. It would be a mistake to have a larger number than makes that possible. Equally, it would be a mistake to have a number so small as to produce a sense of apartness among the immigrant community, which may be extremely damaging to any hope of a good policy of assimilation, or integration, or whatever word we use.
In my view, integration is rather a loose word, because I do not regard it—and I hope the House as a whole does not regard it—as meaning the loss by immigrants of their national characteristics and culture. I do not think that we need, or want, in this country a sort of melting pot which will turn everybody out in a common mould as one of a series of carbon copies of someone's misplaced idea of the stereotyped Englishman. 1234 It would be bad enough if this were to happen to the few people in this country who happen to have pure or almost pure Anglo-Saxon blood in their veins. If it were to happen to the rest of us, to the Welsh like myself, to the Scots, to the Irish, to the Jews, to the mid-Europeans, and to the still more recent arrivals, it would be little short of a national disaster. It would deprive us of most of the positive advantages of immigration, which I want to develop in a moment, and which I think can be great. I would therefore define integration, not as a flattening process of assimilation, but as equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.
§ Mr. Sandys
I raised the point about integration. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is unfortunate that these immigrants tend to concentrate, I think to an undue extent, in certain areas, and does he think that something should be done to try, not to split them up as he suggested, but at any rate to disperse them rather more throughout the country?
§ Mr. Jenkins
Up to a point I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I thought that in his speech he rather made this a special charge against coloured immigrants, that they were doing this, and this therefore showed that they were necessarily unsuitable to be part of our community. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was putting the point quite wrongly, because I think that all immigrants necessarily tend to congregate. This applies not only to immigrants. All sorts of groups tend to congregate. Conservative Members congregate in Belgravia. This does not mean that they are unassimilable—at any rate I hope not—by the rest of the community.
I do, however, take the right hon. Gentleman's point that there are concentrations in certain areas which are greater than is desirable from a social point of view. I think that there is a duty on the Government, and on all those concerned, to encourage a wider and more even spread of immigrants, but I do not regard the fact that this concentration has happened as being a charge against those who have come, because, in the absence of positive measures to control it, it is a natural, and indeed inevitable, thing to happen.
§ Mr. Jenkins
There may be a certain concentration in Hampstead, but I do not know where the hon. Gentleman lives.
§ Sir C. Osborne
Are we to understand that the famous Sunday morning sherry parties are no longer being held there?
§ Mr. Jenkins
There is one reason why they would not be held there, if they ever were held there. I will leave the hon. Member's point, at any rate.
I said that I wished to say something about the positive advantages of immigration as they appear to me. There are some people, not all of them illiberal, who believe that if everybody would only stay at home in their own countries the world would be a much easier and better place to live in. From this view, however, I beg formally to dissent. Easier the world might conceivably be in those circumstances, but certainly not better or more civilised, or more innovating. For centuries past this and every other country that has played a part in the mainstream of world events has benefited immensely from its immigrants. Some came in much more aggressive ways than those we are discussing today, but at least from the Norman Conquest to the wave of German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian refugees of the 1930s we have been constantly stimulated and jolted out of our natural island lethargy by a whole series of immigrations. Those who have come were always made unwelcome by some people, but they have rarely failed to make a contribution out of proportion to their numbers.
If anyone doubts that, let him look at British business today and at the phenomenal extent to which the more successful companies have either been founded or rejuvenated by those whose origins were outside these islands. But it is not purely a matter of business. Where in the world is there a university which could preserve its fame, or a cultural centre which would keep its eminence, or a metropolis which could hold its drawing power, if it were to turn inwards and serve only its own hinterland and its own racial group?
To live apart, for a person, a city or a country, is to lead a life of declining intellectual stimulation. Nor should we underestimate the special contribution 1236 which has been made by the recent immigrants from the West Indies, India and Pakistan, and from other Commonwealth countries. Some are highly gifted, with outstanding talents in a wide variety of human activities. They and many others are making a major contribution to our national welfare and prosperity. They work in our hospitals as doctors and nurses, they build houses and run transport services in our cities. They help to fill the many labour shortages, particular in urban areas and in vital but undermanned public services. Let there be no suggestion, therefore, that immigration, in reasonable numbers, is a cross that we have to bear, and no pretence that if only those who have come could find jobs back at home our problems would be at an end.
Far from this being the case, our doctor shortage would become still more chronic; many of our hospitals and institutions—especially those performing tasks like the care of the aged, which are medically unglamorous but socially essential—would have to close down, and our urban public transport systems would be reduced to skeleton services, with mounting public inconvenience and a disastrous effect upon private car road congestion.
There is, therefore, no overall rational basis for resentment of the coloured immigrant population in our midst. Far from hindering our successful national development, they in many ways positively help it.
But it does not follow that we can absorb them without limit. We have to strike a balance. That is what we are trying to do and I feel that we have been reasonably successful in recent months. We cannot lay down absolute numerical quantities, but I think that we have struck a reasonable balance and also that in the past year we have made substantial progress towards producing a healthier atmosphere, in terms of integration, on both sides—amongst both the indigenous and the immigrant community. The Race Relations Board has made a good start, and a great deal of work has been done by the Archbishop's Committee.
I am glad that my hon. Friend has been transferred to the Home Office, because the Home Office has the distasteful 1237 responsibility of operating the negative aspects of this policy, and it is therefore right and desirable that it should also deal with the positive and constructive aspects. Since the debate a year ago we have made good progress in this field and I hope that we can continue to make good progress and need not have our debate on this question in this form indefinitely. I hope that we may soon be able to introduce permanent legislation, but I also hope that next year we can make as good progress as we have made in the past.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
I am sorry to see the empty Liberal benches on a day when a subject so dear to Liberal hearts is being debated.
I followed the Home Secretary's arguments with great attention, and with the broad sweep of his approach to the problem I find myself in general agreement. There are, however, one or two matters which I should like to take up with the right hon. Gentleman and those who may succeed him on the Government Front Bench.
The Minister stated that we should not base our immigration controls on our short-term economic needs, but should give more weight to social reasons. He also stated that countries which had used immigrant labour skilfully had made rapid economic growth. I ask him whether he thinks that this country is making skilful use of its labour today. I shall hope to develop this argument. If the right hon. Gentleman is unable to stay I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will be able to answer this point.
On the first point, I want to draw the Home Secretary's attention to a restatement of Government policy on the control of immigration set out only last week in another place. The Government spokesman there said: that the Government's policy wasto control immigration for permanent residence at a level related both to economic need and to our capacity to absorb the newcomers into the community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 3rd November, 1966; Vol. 277. c. 718.]That is the very basis of the controls as explained in another place by a Government spokesman.
1238 I agree that immigration controls should be based on our manpower needs. But what are those needs? The National Plan projected a shortfall of 200,000 in our manpower by 1970, but that Plan is already discredited. Its author, now the Foreign Secretary, in March, 1965, wanted to import limitless reinforcements from outside. He said:It is absolutely mad to talk about limiting immigration when Britain needs an expanding labour force".I wonder what he says today, in the midst of our mounting numbers of unemployed. Does he still want limitless reinforcements, whether from the Commonwealth or from outside it? Surely his idea was nonsense in 1965, as it is today.
What are the basic facts about our manpower needs? During the weekend hon. Members may have read an article in the Sunday Times, by William Allen, the consultant who set up the Fawley manpower agreements. He says that our economy is grossly overmanned and that it could, with proper capital investment in equipment and power, produce as much as it does today with half the manpower. Our labour force is twice as fat as it should be. This is a very gross condition.
This assessment is, I believe, far nearer the truth than the ideas now interned with the National Plan. This country could, during a period of stripping, meet from its own wasted resources all the manpower needs of our growth industries. We could begin at once, without waiting for the results of increasing investment which this Government's actions have greatly discouraged. We could begin by dealing with restrictive practices and overmanning of existing equipment.
By failing to deal with these problems, by failing to secure the co-operation of organised labour for the better use of manpower, the Government are helping to produce the entirely artificial shortages of labour which Dr. Kaldor so disastrously tried to solve with the Selective Employment Tax. The Government should take a fresh look at our own hidden manpower reserves. They should re-assess our needs for reinforcement from outside, and revise their immigration control measures accordingly. This should mean that we should admit as workers only those with special contributions to 1239 make to our economy. These are styled Category B.
Let us consider B vouchers, with which roughly 4,000 or 5,000 Commonwealth immigrants are now coming in annually. Here there is another important factor, which has already been mentioned several times, in this debate—a factor which the Government have neglected. That is the desperate need of developing countries, of which I have some personal experience, for all kinds of highly trained manpower. In one area in which I served there was one doctor for half a million people. The whole object of our considerable effort in technical assistance is to help meet these needs.
What justification have we in this country for accepting 1,541 doctors from India in 1965 and another 1,160 in the first nine months of this year, when the rural areas of India are so desperately short? I think that the Indian Government themselves are feeling uneasy about this and are wondering what measures they can take to retain more of their trained medical strength.
What right have we to accept 700 technological graduates" from India in the first nine months of this year? If these doctors and technologists are here merely to gain further experience or higher qualifications our policy should be to welcome them, just as we do students. But we should not set them against the quota for permanent citizens. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to consider this suggestion. This would be a proper contribution to our technical assistance programme. In an effort to increase our technical assistance to developing countries, I would welcome far greater numbers than we have at the moment if our universities and our medical schools could absorb them with fairness to our own people.
In 1965, we accepted from India and Pakistan 1,750 teachers and this year, so far, 600. If they are fully trained, they are desperately needed in the rural areas of their own countries. Hon. Members should consider the literacy figures. But I fear that many are being wrongly admitted to this country as teachers. Most have degrees, but many have no training and no teaching experience and little ability to communicate in English and so are unable to 1240 take teaching jobs in this country. So, many go into other employment. I would ask the Home Secretary to look again at the criteria by which his representatives in India and Pakistan classify such applicants as teachers, "having special skills required in this country" and so worthy of B vouchers.
One other main factor underlying the Government's policy for the control of immigration is this country's absorptive capacity. This was one of the two criteria cited by the Government's spokesman in another place last week. On this, in general, we are not doing nearly enough. In this I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). The present Government are not doing not nearly enough nearly fast enough to help the immigrant communities to adjust to life in this country and make the best use of their talents.
We are faced with the problem of how best we can adjust ourselves and our social services to the arrival, over a few years, of many newcomers with great differences of background, custom, religion, language and colour and their formation into dense groups in the poorer parts of our main industrial cities. This, as we all know, has put a considerable strain on our social services, such as health and education and even on community life. The strains have been intensified by language barriers.
By far the greatest and the most explosive problem is housing. The central government must accept a direct responsibility for dealing as a matter of priority, with the overcrowded twilight areas in the old urban centres, where there is overcrowding and dense immigrant settlements—areas which could become what I think is called self-segregating. I do not believe that this task can be left entirely to local authorities. The only real solution here is for the Government to make funds available to local authorities, if necessary on a regional basis, to rehouse, to clear and to rebuild. This would be a major step towards absorbing our newcomers and providing them with a proper basis for family life, work and happiness. I hope that the Home Secretary will give this suggestion careful consideration.
I hear that one local authority—Lambeth—has taken over such a twilight 1241 area across the river, not far from this House. It has abandoned its plan to clear and rebuild and instead is embarking on a programme of "patching up" and improving the houses. Further, it is beginning to reduce the overcrowding. When tenant families move out, the rooms released are not filled by new tenants, but are used to give more room to those who remain. In such twilight areas, this could be a useful interim measure.
Perhaps local authorities, with their powers of control can manage this problem better than private landlords. But many such areas are long overdue for redevelopment. I hope, as I have said, that the Government will give special grants to help local authorities to clear and rebuild.
I should like to deal briefly with controls. We are, in my view, rightly committed to allowing Commonwealth immigrants already here to bring in their families. In spite of all the difficulties which I have mentioned, I should not like to see any Government go back on that policy. As the Government admitted last week in another place, there are serious evasions. If these are properly checked, the Home Secretary could afford to deal more generously with the genuine family hardship cases, examples of which are known to many of us.
Families must be the basis of adjustment if our new citizens are to make their full contribution to our community and to live full and happy lives. Reports from the Lumb Lane area of Bradford, which has given a fine lead in helping immigrants, show that when Pakistanis living in male hostels succeed in having their wives and families brought into the country, they leave these overcrowded areas and disperse of their own accord.
My reports are that, as family units, they have found little difficulty in settling into their new neighbourhoods. Housing and voluntary dispersal are two important keys to adjustment and absorption. Until we have made progress in dealing with this problem, the shortage of decent housing should be a real factor in limiting the inflow of Commonwealth immigrants.
We have a tremendous task ahead of us to help our newly arrived immigrants and their families to adjust to life here, 1242 to make the best use of their talents and to make their full contribution to our economy and to the variety of our life. Great efforts have already been made and I join the tributes that have been paid to the Race Relations Board, the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the many others who are working on this problem. They have made real progress, but the Government are not putting enough initiative behind these efforts. They are leaving it to others. This is particularly so in the sphere of housing, where the most explosive problem remains to be solved. I believe that the Government have not yet begun to tackle this.
§ Mr. Orme
I propose to raise a matter relating directly to the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, and not to deal with the question of immigration generally. I regret that a representative of the Home Office is not on the Government Front Bench, because although my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is in her place, I do not believe that her Department is primarily concerned with the case I propose to raise.
On a day when Parliament is discussing in some detail the question of Commonwealth immigration, it is right that, at the same time, the Committee should be prepared, while dealing with the broader issues, to consider the plight of one man and his family. On a number of occasions the case of Mr. Bert Bensen and his wife has been raised in Parliament. Mr. Bensen is now a prohibited alien. He is an American citizen receiving a war pension from the United States. While living in this country some time ago he became involved in some activity which brought him into conflict with the police. That activity was in relation to anti-nuclear demonstrations and particularly the Committee of 100. This led to Mr. Bensen being summonsed and, foolishly, he went underground and tried to elude the police.
Later, after the case had been tried, Mr. Bensen was declared a prohibited alien and was not allowed back into this country. At the time when Mr. Bensen was involved in those activities, his wife, an English girl, was employed at the Foreign Office. She left this country with her husband and, with their child, the 1243 Bensens now live in Frankfurt, West Germany.
Mr. Bensen was excluded on security grounds and was considered not a suitable person to be readmitted. Because of family difficulties, relating to his wife, he was allowed back for a short visit after being declared a prohibited alien, although he had to leave the country again. This matter has been raised by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). When in Frankfurt last year I met Mr. Bensen and his wife and discussed the case with them. I have no axe to grind, apart from my feeling that an injustice has been done and that it is causing great hardship to this family.
Mr. Bensen has given every assurance about his future behaviour and is not asking to be given leave to return to this country permanently. He is merely asking for the right to visit, with his wife and child, his wife's parents who live in Britain. I am raising this matter now as I did 12 months ago; to ask the Home Office to allow this family to return to Britain at Christmas time to pay a visit to Mrs. Bensen's parents. The Home Office could then see what develops and, if the visit is successful, the Department might consider further visits, although at the moment I am appealing for the family to be allowed to come here merely during the Christmas period.
Mr. Bensen probably acted most indiscreetly in the past and perhaps foolishly in relation to the activity on which he was then embarked. Because of that, he may have angered the security services. However, I do not believe that there is any security risk in Mr. Bensen, other than the fact that he may have been a nuisance. It is not in line with British justice to carry a grievance indefinitely.
I submit that the Government could now allow Mr. Bensen and his wife and child to visit Britain during Christmas. Having recently had a further communication from Mrs. Bensen, who feels keenly about this matter, and having met the family, I submit that it would be to the advantage of the Bensens if they were allowed back to Britain this coming Christmas.
1244 I trust that the Home Office will give sympathetic consideration to this case and allow the Bensens to return for a short stay over Christmas, which might be the start of future communications. Tonight, I am merely asking for this one visit.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I am glad to have caught your eye on this occasion, Sir Myer, although that is not, perhaps, surprising since I appear to be the only hon. Member on this side of the Committee who is attempting to do so.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
At any rate, at the moment.
In some respects one must feel pleased that today's debate has not been so well attended as some of its three predecessors, in which I took part, for it is an indication that the emotional issue has rather subsided. At the same time, it would be sad if this poor attendance were an indication that people are no longer concerned with this vitally important problem at the crucial stage which it has reached.
I suppose that one should not complain about a lack of audience. As St. Francis de Sales said, one soul is diocese enough for a bishop. I suppose that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) is audience enough for a Conservative hon. Member, not to mention the dignitaries assembled on the benches opposite.
Certainly there is no more important subject than this which is before us. It has an unique quality in that many of the problems with which we are faced today are either insoluble in themselves or they are problems about which we can do very little. This problem has the unique advantage that it is very much within our powers to put forward constructive and effective solutions. I attach the highest importance to the preservation of the national consensus on this issue which has emerged since 1964. The first part of that concensus is that there should be strict control of immigration to Britain but at the same time the door should be kept ajar and the principle of some entry to Britain from the Commonwealth should be preserved. I was very glad to hear the Home Secretary in a passage in his speech lift the debate on to a higher level of principle when he spoke about the value to the world of preserving as 1245 much free movement of peoples as is possible.
The second ingredient of our national consensus is the determination to preserve family unity. I was glad to find that that part of the consensus was accepted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). The third part of the consensus is the determination to treat all citizens, including immigrants equally once they have arrived here, a concession of equality of rights and also equality of duties. It would be quite out of accord with the spirit of that last part of the consensus to be pressing upon immigrants all the time return passages for them to go back to their own countries. That would be a very dangerous policy to adopt and it would be a very insulting and degrading policy as well.
To preserve this consensus, tolerance and restraint are necessary on all sides. They are all the more necessary at this time when we are facing a very serious economic recession. Those who exaggerate the number of immigrants coming to this country, who create alarms and arouse fears and prejudices in the minds of those who perhaps do not follow this question very closely, are doing no service to this country. They are in fact doing the country a grave disservice. Everyone in the House should be grateful to the Joint Under-Secretary at the Home Office for the very full figures he gave the Committee in his speech which enable us to put this problem in some kind of statistical perspective.
The number of vouchers issued for the first nine months, we are told, was 4,285, considerably less than in the equivalent period of last year. The number of dependants coming into the country, far from rising alarmingly, is much the same as it was in the same period of last year, 33,000. It does not help the discussion further to produce the figure of 500,000 potential dependants waiting to descend on this country. That is an academic distortion of the issue because the effective figure to look at is the figure of the actual number of dependants coming in.
If we look at these figures and the way in which the number of vouchers have been reduced how can one possibly argue that there can be a further drastic reduction in the number of immigrants to 1246 Britain? How can one say that and at the same time preserve the consensus which has emerged? We can have a drastic reduction only in two ways. One is to cut out the issue of vouchers altogether and the other to deny to immigrants the ordinary rights of family life. There is no other way of bringing about a drastic reduction in the number of immigrants in the present situation. Both those solutions would be quite unacceptable, particularly the latter, in a domestic country like Britain. Furthermore, it would be a policy of almost incredible social folly to deny ordinary family life to immigrants coming here. It would make a mockery of the whole ideal of equal treatment upon which we are allegedly all agreed.
The number of those who can be admitted to the country is directly related to what is being done for those immigrants who are already here. We cannot separate the two; one is dependent upon the other. The most important thing to ensure, both for those coming to us and for those already here, is equality of opportunity in employment and in education. That is vital if we are to preserve civil peace in future. We are at a crucial stage now because attitudes are being formed which will determine attitudes of generations which are to come.
By 1980 we shall have well over 1½ million coloured immigrants in Britain. That is 2.75 per cent. of the enlarged population. It will be infinitely more difficult to tackle the problem successfully if we wait until that moment to do so. Today the problem is comparatively small and it is manageable. Our task is to set patterns of behaviour and attitudes now which will carry on into the future. I pay tribute to the courage and humanity of the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) for what he has done, but I think much more could be done. Having paid tribute, I am afraid I shall rather spoil it by saying I think the Government could have done very much more in this direction. I do not share the complacency which I detected in the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) spoke at some length about housing. I want to deal in similar 1247 detail with the problem of employment. First I want to deal with the issue of unemployment because that is very relevant to the issue of entry and control. Unemployment is not being felt sharply as yet among immigrants. That is because not many immigrants are employed in those industries which are feeling and bearing the brunt of the recession, such as the car industry, but, as the squeeze becomes more intense, so the problem is likely to grow. It is essential to establish now absolute fairness in the criterion which is applied for dismissals in industry. The ordinary rule of industrial practice must be fairly carried out—last in, first out. That must apply to everyone irrespective of racial origin.
There are considerable dangers here because of the pattern of employment which has already emerged in certain parts of the country. Let me give one example of what I mean. This is a problem which has arisen particularly in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but it is also found in certain firms in London where night shifts are almost entirely composed of coloured immigrants. The temptation in the present situation would be simply to discontinue the night shift. I do hope that employers will resist that temptation, because it would be unjust in itself and would cause explosive discontent and sharp tension.
This sort of practical problem underlines the importance of not segregating immigrant workers and so disturbing the ordinary pattern of employment.
The second part of the issue concerns the employment of school leavers. At present only a small percentage of school leavers are, in fact, coloured immigrants. The average is about 2 per cent. But the significant point about the figure is that it is increasing all the time. Within the last 12 months, in places such as Oxford, there has been a 50 per cent. increase in the number of coloured pupils, and in Birmingham, in the late seventies, the proportion of school leavers who are liable to be immigrants will probably be about 17 per cent.
We should remember, when considering this problem, that the immigrant population is on the whole a very young population, with about a quarter probably either at school now or under 5. Whereas at the moment many coloured 1248 schoolchildren have had only about two years at an English school, in future we shall have very many children who will have passed right through the school system from beginning to end. We have to plan now to deal with the problem which will reach its most intense point in ten years' time.
There is some cause for hope in industry, and there is also some reason for alarm. It is true that one does not see a great deal of prejudice or discrimination in manufacturing industry as a whole, although there has been some difficulty in coloured immigrants getting apprenticeships. In this respect the trade unions could have been of much more help than they have been hitherto.
I should like to make two points. First, there is a duty on the part of industrialists and managers in industry to avoid building up patterns in industry where the heavy, unpleasant work is done exclusively by immigrants, because this creates undesirable associations in the minds of the non-coloured majority. Secondly, immigrants who deserve it should certainly be promoted. That is good for immigrants, obviously, but it is also good for others. To put it in its crudest terms, it is important that there should be some bosses who are black.
I think of London Transport in this respect. It has a very good record of employing people, but its record of promoting people to the rank of inspector, etc., is not so good. A very different picture from that in the manufacturing industries emerges in the service industries. Here we have every reason to be depressed, because we are not dealing adequately with the people who are here, let alone those who are coming in. First, in all those occupations which take people into the home, from painters to electricians, it is extremely difficult for immigrants to get employment. This is important, not only in itself, but from the point of view of creating contacts and breaking down personal prejudices.
Again, very few coloured immigrants are employed in the sphere of retail distribution. The reason given is that the customers would not like it. There is no proof of this statement. The opening up of this sphere of employment to immigrants is of great importance because of the contact with the public which the retail trade affords.
1249 I hope that the Under-Secretary will appeal to the big employers to do their bit in opening up the trade to coloured employees. I certainly appeal to them now. There are some firms which have set an example—firms such as Sainsbury's, John Lewis, and Tesco Stores; but there are others which could do a great deal more.
My third cause for anxiety over the employment situation is the grave difficulties which the more talented, the more gifted, and the more ambitious immigrants are finding in achieving their legitimate ambitions. Their paths are continually being blocked. May I give one example, namely, the situation in the banks, where the record is very bad indeed. It is said that customers do not like money to be dealt with by black hands. That, I think, is a libel on customers; yet that is the excuse which is put forward by the banks for falling down on their duty in this respect.
If the situation is bad in the banks, it is equally bad in insurance companies and building societies. There is very little opportunity for a coloured girl to get a good secretarial job and very excellent secretaries are forced to go into factories because there is no alternative.
§ Mr. Chapman
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's information. Is it his information that the big five banks have put up a ban in this way? Has he information on this point?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
My information on the attitude of the banks is gained partly from private sources and partly from observation. Of course, the big banks have made no formal declaration to the effect that it is because their customers would not like it that they have not employed coloured employees; but from my researches, and from conversations I have had, there seems little doubt that that is the reasoning which determines their attitude. There are certain exceptions, but they stand out. The only exception I know of is the Camden Town branch of Barclays Bank, where I think hon. Members may find a coloured employee; but, alas, that is an exception which does prove the rule.
I turn briefly to the teaching profession. Here again, opportunities are limited. Here the situation is, in fact, being made worse by the Ministry of 1250 Labour. I hope the hon. Lady will tear herself away from her conversation with her colleague and will listen to this indictment of her rule. Very often the Ministry of Labour will issue vouchers to teachers. Then the Ministry of Education finds out that it cannot confirm those teachers in teaching posts, or cannot find a post for them; and in many cases the Ministry of Education is justified in its attitude because the vouchers were issued by the Ministry of Labour to those who are, in fact, below standard. I would ask the hon. Lady if she could not establish some form of closer cooperation with the Minister of Education in this respect.
I have sketched out the general situation in employment as I see it. We must now ask what can be done? Ultimately, it is the attitude of employers that counts. But the Government can help in a whole variety of ways. First, they themselves can set an example. I believe that the Civil Service Commission, for example, is fairly colour blind. I also believe that greater initiative could be taken by the Home Office with regard to the police. After all, there are only a handful of coloured policemen in the whole of England. I believe that there is one in Coventry and there is one in Birmingham.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I appreciate that the Home Secretary has no direct power over police forces outside London, but he has power and influence with the Metropolitan Police. Why are there no coloured policemen in the Metropolitan Police? We are entitled to an answer to that question.
The record of the nationalised industries is very bad. For example, in the Midlands many corporation bus services employ coloured immigrants, but hardly an immigrant is employed in the nationalised regional services. Apparently immigrants are not trusted to run buses on long distance routes. Why is this?
Besides setting an example, the Government can actively promote the interest of employers and industrialists in this problem. The Government can create an industrial and commercial public 1251 opinion on the issue. Why does not the Under-Secretary follow the example of the Prime Minister over the question of productivity and call a public conference so that there can be the fullest and frankest discussion of these issues and an arousing of interest, both in industry and outside it, in these problems and how they are to be solved?
The third thing that the Government can do—I merely touch on this in passing—is to amend the Race Relations Act to cover the question of fair employment. This is desirable not only to discourage the prejudiced employer, but to strengthen the hand of the unprejudiced employer as well.
The fourth way in which the Government can help is in education. One of the great difficulties which immigrants face when they apply for employment lies in their poor or inadequate English, their extremely limited vocabulary, and their very low level of comprehension, which is not immediately obvious. They have basically the same difficulties as the working class child, but in the immigrants they are intensified.
Here co-operation is needed between State and voluntary organisations to ensure that their level of comprehension and their level of capability in English is raised. A very interesting experiment is now going on in Huddersfield. It is a variant of the old Sunday school. Mothers are going to school to learn English, and the children are going to learn Urdu. In this way there is both an integration into the community by the learning of another language and the preservation of the immigrant's own culture, which the Home Secretary so rightly stressed earlier today.
The final way in which the Government can help—in this matter I appeal to both the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour—is by providing information. If effective action is to be taken, it is essential that the facts are known. We need statistics which are both comprehensive and reliable.
I fully appreciate the arguments springing from equality against collecting statistics about the coloured population; but the Home Office and the Ministry of Labour must rid themselves of the notion that somehow it is discriminatory to know 1252 the facts. It is not. Ignorance in this sphere is very much less than bliss. I put this in very concrete terms to the Parliamentary Secretary. Will she publish three-monthly figures of unemployment in industry of immigrants and nonimmigrants so that we may know what is going on? I know that these figures are kept by the local employment exchanges, but it would be useful if they were made generally available.
The racial problem in Britain is a serious one, but it is by no means unmanageable, nor is it insoluble. We are right to reject any pessimistic forecast to the contrary. I cannot believe that there is anything absolute in colour prejudice, that it is a question of pigmentation of the skin. Rather, I believe that it is a matter of association, it is what people connect with colour. If colour in Britain comes to mean poverty, bad housing, and unskilled occupations, under-privilege and all its associations, we shall have lost the battle. But there is no reason why this should come about if we take resolute, intelligent and adequate action now.
If we look across the Atlantic, we see the baleful example of a society whose whole fabric is being threatened not only by the scale of the problem but also by the cumulative effect of long years of neglect. Let us not be Bourbons, at least in this respect, and let us learn cheaply and vicariously from the experience of others. We must take action now for the securing not only of racial justice but also for the preservation of civil peace and concord, which is at once the prerequisite and one of the highest achievements of a civilised society.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
I shall not detain the committee very long, but as most hon. Members know I have a special constituency interest in the immigration problem and thereby in the colour problem. I warmly endorse the tenor of the speech by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). I could not help thinking that I might prompt my local Conservative association to invite the hon. Member to come to the constituency to enlighten it on this difficult problem, which we have there. I found myself underscoring and saying "Hear, hear" to most of what he said.
Immigration is a running problem and, therefore, a transient problem. I do not 1253 think that a once-a-year discussion on the problem is too frequent. One cannot write into Acts of Parliament permanent restrictions on the movement of human beings. We live in a country that is privileged from a living standard point of view, although that will not always be so. I happen to know something of the philosophy which makes the hon. Member for Chelmsford tick, and I believe that he, too, would think in terms of a world of equal national standards, where people did not feel driven to move across the world in search of something to eat. The problem must, therefore, be transient, but it is a very difficult human problem.
I believe that in Southall we have the biggest concentration of immigrants. But one sometimes wonders what that term means these days, because quite a number of children now going to school in my constituency were born there, and it is erroneous for the reactionary people in our locality to talk of immigrant children, although they may be children of immigrant parents.
There is, of course, a very difficult housing problem. Because of the deficiencies of privately-owned houses where one has a large concentration of old terraced property, the Indian people—they are substantially Indian people and not of another nationality—are inevitably concentrated, bringing considerable problems and apprehension.
I should have been remiss had I not taken part in the debate even at this late stage to say to my right hon. and hon. Friends that we would anticipate continuous assistance being given to the local authority, which is now the Greater London Borough of Ealing, in the manifold problems it still has in fighting to preserve the present relatively peaceful and harmonious situation.
Hon. Members will know that I have been involved, unfortunately and distressingly, in the first case under the Race Relations Act, 1965. I shall not dwell on it. It was a distressing experience, which I hope will not be repeated, but, as a result of loose coverage in some sections of the national Press, I have had letters of abuse, erroneously based, though I am proud to say very few from my own constituents who, of course, thoroughly understand my attitude to 1254 these problems and the facts of life in Southall.
Changes are taking place in Southall all the time. I have seen some of our aboriginal population, so to call them, some of our older working people who treated the coming of immigrants with such hostility a few years ago, now making a great fuss of the children. This is their way of life. Humanity must come together. We are going through this experience, and I am proud to be able to say these things in the House of Commons.
I found it rather distressing to hear the contribution of the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne). I shall not dwell on it, as he is not present, but I can well understand that his hon. Friends took little notice of him 10 years ago, as he does not make a constructive contribution to the solution of the problem.
I take the point—I shall not detain the Committee by repeating arguments which have been adduced—that if we move at all towards a system of segregation, whether on the basis of nationality or of colour, which tends to drive the Commonwealth entrant or the coloured person into a second-class job, into a second-class position as a citizen, as a home dweller and as a job seeker, we shall tend to create second-class behaviour. On the other hand, in so far as we live together and we stick firmly to the principles of absolute equality in this democratic society of ours of which we are so proud, we shall develop a harmonious situation. Because of natural in-built prejudices and because of the nature of my constituency, it is possible that there could be consolidation of a ghetto system in Southall, and this I shall do all I can to prevent because it cannot make for harmonious circumstances.
When I think of some of the speeches in the debate which have shown that there are those who seem horrified at the idea of mixed marriages, I think of the many happy couples, coloured and white, in my constituency who have come together as a result of their living experience and who are living in harmony together. When I think of the racialist propaganda in the country, and then look at our children, my children, playing happily together in the streets, I feel 1255 myself wishing to indulge in some of the violence which is the habitual characteristic of the racialists.
I think back to my experience in fighting the election in Southall, a difficult constituency. A great deal of speculation attended upon the outcome in Southall, Smethwick and Slough. I am proud of the results which were achieved, because the normal pattern, the normal economic laws providing the political results, went to work as they had hitherto.
I think back to the occasion when I saw a white child and a coloured child on the street corner and I handed a pictorial leaflet to the white child. She put her arm round the coloured child and said, "Do not leave my friend out of it". That is a suitable note on which to close.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hogg
As the Amendment which we have been discussing most of the day stands, technically, in my name, I hope that I shall be forgiven if I intervene at this stage of the debate. Perhaps I should first explain, though it will be quite unnecessary for hon. Members now present, that the last thing any of us wish is that the Amendment should be passed. It is a procedural device quite properly adopted in order to secure discussion of an important subject. When the Minister has replied, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) may seek leave to withdraw it without offence to anyone, because the last thing we would wish to see in any ordinary sense is the omission of these Acts from the Bill.
Unlike the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), I am glad that we are discussing these two subjects together, because there is one sense in which I would wish to see that the Amendment could be realised. That is to say, I share the view of those right hon. and hon. Members who think that it is a minor scandal that an Act passed so long ago as 1919 should still continue to find its place in the Schedule of an annual Bill. It should be supplanted by permanent legislation. I feel that the same is true of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.
1256 While strictly on the technicalities of the Amendment and before I embark upon discussion of the more substantial issues underlying our debate, may I say that, although I would not have approached the subject from the same angle as my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), there is a great deal more in his suggestion that the two blocks of law relating to aliens and Commonwealth citizens should be brought together than appeared simply from the argument he adduced in support of it.
The thing which appals me the more I think about the law is its complexity and the difficulty anyone has in finding his way about it. Since I was called to the Bar 34 years ago, the complexity has increased in nearly every aspect. It is a jungle, and I cannot believe that it is really satisfactory to have two separate blocks of legislation, dealing with two separate blocks of people not British citizens, so closely resembling one another and yet differing in so many points of detail.
This has been true of the two Acts in the Schedule. I would not be in order in extending the scope of what I am saying, but I would point out that exactly the same problem has arisen in relation to the legislation under the Fugitive Offenders Act and the Extradition Act, and exactly the same problem arose under the law of nationality. I cannot but believe that the time has come to codify the whole complex.
I am far from thinking, as does the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), that this would operate to the disadvantage of Commonwealth immigrants. Let us take the problem of employment, which my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) was talking about. I believe that it is easier, under the aliens legislation, for an alien to get employment than it is for a Commonwealth immigrant. Let us take as an example employment as a cook in a Pakistani or Indian curry restaurant or a Chinese restaurant. If the employer is taking on an alien he has only to establish what is not difficult in this context—that it is not a job suitable for an Englishman and that an Englishman is not really available to fulfil it. But if he 1257 wants to employ a Commonwealth immigrant he has to go through the whole business of getting a voucher at source. The point I am seeking to make is that it is not necessarily to the advantage of Commonwealth immigrants in this respect to have separate legislation. There is great virtue in simplicity in legislation and, quite apart from the arguments which my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham adduced and which I do not necessarily endorse, I hope that his suggestion that the whole complex of law should be brought into harmony in a single piece of comprehensive and permanent legislation will be seriously examined by the Government.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire moved the Amendment deliberately from the back benches. This was designed to take the emotional steam out of much of the debate. I am very gratified to notice that the Ministerial team has taken almost exactly the opposite tactic. We are to have not one, not two, but on this occasion three Ministers taking part in our discussions, and we treat this as a compliment. We think that it shows a growing respect for the House of Commons which we are very glad to welcome on the Government Front Bench, and we think that it shows that the Government take the subject matter of the debate seriously.
We do not think that it would have been suitable on this occasion to adopt a strict party attitude. Almost every subject of importance is, or inevitably becomes from time to time, a matter of party controversy, and perhaps it is in the nature of things that this should be so in a Parliamentary democracy. Obviously, at any given time, faced with the responsibility for carrying on the business of the country, any Government are bound to have a defined policy, and an Opposition who respect themselves need to put forward a definite programme at an election. We did so, and the more I reflect upon the debate, the more convinced I am that the two points in this respect which we selected, namely, a provisional period of stay for immigrants to be prolonged into indefinite stay and a statement about dependants, were valid.
But during the course of a Parliament on the whole, it is much more beneficial as far as possible to discuss subjects 1258 objectively. It would be both hypocritical and undesirable to pretend that every hon. Member on these benches thinks exactly the same about these issues, and I very much doubt whether every hon. Member opposite thinks the same about them. The less we adopt monolithic party attitudes on matters not necessarily involving party principles, the more we shall enhance the dignity of Parliament.
Several hon. Members have stressed the gradual loss of emotional steam which this subject has elicited. The first to do so was the hon. Member for Sparkbrook. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) did so, too. He claimed to be the man who had been right all along, at any rate for ten years. I must say that he is one of my favourite colleagues. I have the warmest affection for him, as have nearly all his hon. Friends. I am not sure that he did not slightly overstate his case. There is a tendency to over-simplify matters in which he sometimes indulges, but I think that he was right to point out that the steam went out of this subject originally when the Labour Government accepted the Conservative policy.
After all, it is true that a few years ago the Labour Party, then in opposition, spoke in the most violent terms against the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. They voted against it 48 times, I am told, at one time or another, and they heaped upon my colleagues, and in another place myself, the most violent terms of contumely.
They even trundled out the Archbishop of Canterbury to do me damage in the House of Lords, so that now I find myself facing them, when they are putting the Commonwealth Immigrants Act into the Schedule of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill for another year, and I am bound to say that I feel that they might have been a little more generous about the origin of this particular legislation.
All the same I would accept and welcome what my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said, that there has developed, since the acceptance by the Labour Government of the Conservative Party's policy, a kind of consensus between the two Front Benches on the subject which we have been discussing. I would accept what I assume to be my hon. Friend's main contention, that this consensus stands on two legs.
1259 The first is a fairly close control of immigration, and the other is the absolute equality of treatment for people who are legitimately here. Both of these policies must be pursued if the consensus is to continue and if we are to have popular opinion behind us. I do not accept in its entirety the three reasons which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire gave. One of them is beyond gainsay, and that is that if one deliberately sets out to acquire and maintain, as we have acquired and are determined to maintain, a higher standard of life than, in the main, other people enjoy, it is absolutely inevitable that this country will act as a magnet to the less fortunate of any colour.
It is unfortunately true, despite the depopulation of part of this island, that we do not have great empty spaces of fertile land like the Americans of the nineteenth century, to whom the Secretary of State referred.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that it is desirable that coloured people should not be insulted by the implication that they bring to this country such things as disease and problems which have in fact existed here for many years, but which it is implied have developed only since coloured immigrants began to arrive?
§ Mr. Hogg
I certainly do not think that they should be insulted in any respect. I was about, at a later stage and in a different context, to mention a question of health. The fact is that if one enjoys a high standard of life and desires to maintain it, as we do, some control over immigration is necessary.
If we are to avoid what hon. Members opposite are happy to call an economic free-for-all in other connections, I would have thought that the control of immigration was not merely an elementary right of the independent sovereignty of this country but also a salutary example of economic planning. No nation is bound to import a social problem, and no nation does so. There can be no doubt that the absorptive capacity of any community to take in people from abroad must give rise to a social problem.
1260 We know full well that it has done so here and elsewhere. To that extent I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham was perfectly right in reminding us that white people do not have a double dose of original sin and that these problems arise in Guyana and have arisen in India and Malaysia. Lest anyone should think that I am selecting coloured areas for choice, may I point out that they have arisen in Canada between English-speaking and French-speaking populations. This is not an easy problem. Nor is it true that we are bound to import problems by giving free rein to immigration.
When hon. Members speak, as they do quite legitimately, about the relatively relaxed view of race relations which exists, for instance, in some parts of the Caribbean, they should reflect that those parts of the Caribbean have immigration policies of their own. A Member of the House of Commons who desired to go and live there permanently would not necessarily be able to do so without passing through an immigration check. Although a different situation may well exist, for all I know, in some of the countries of South America, I am not sure that I know enough about them to detain the Committee by discussing them.
The second leg is equally important. I assure hon. Members opposite, who at times showed a little doubt about it, that there can be no question but that it is as strongly the policy of the Conservative Party as it is of the Government to ensure absolute equality of treatment of people once they are legitimately here. I say that not simply because I think that it is a matter of humanity and justice to do it, but because I believe it to be in the interests of the existing inhabitants of this island to ensure it.
If we start to discriminate between different classes of our own society, we do not only damage the lives of those who are the unprivileged targets for discrimination; we poison the outlook of the whole population and render life ultimately intolerable for any person of any race who wishes to dwell in such a community. Precisely because of that I attach just as much importance as hon. Members opposite do to the problem of assimilation and to the importance 1261 of insisting on absolute equality of treatment between people of different race and colour.
May I say in passing—and I hope that I shall not be too much out of order in saying it—that we must all recognise that there is no moral or scientific basis for believing that one race is naturally more talented than another. I suppose that if we had lived here at the time of the Romans, as no doubt the ancestors of the Secretary of State did, although I doubt whether many of mine did, a visiting centurion would have maintained that, covered with woad and driving a scythed chariot and probably committing human sacrifice on the island of Anglesey, the right hon. Gentleman's ancestor was incapable of improvement and belonged to one of the lesser races.
But time has gone by, and I suppose that it is now the inhabitants of this island who adopt a certain attitude of arrogance towards other human beings. Of course, it is true that at one time or another one nationality or one race develops more technologically, sometimes culturally. Very largly these are the accidents of history. No man can foretell what will be the relative positions of the various races in 50 or 100 years. There is no basis for believing that we are in any way superior animals.
I personally think that the slight outbreak of racial literature which has developed quite recently in my personal correspondence, for the first time since the war, is something which will prove to be a very passing phase in the experience of Members of Parliament.
If I may now deal with some of the individual questions which have arisen, in the first place I agree with the Home Secretary that dependants must be allowed to come. The social consequences of having a large number of married men coming into the country and unable to bring their families behind them would be both inhumane and extremely damaging to the social fabric of this country as well as that of the country which they have left. But because the Home Secretary referred in detail to the possibility of evasion which takes place on this front, he should examine carefully the suggestion for a declaration of the identity of dependants at the time a voucher is given. I quite agree that it might be considered 1262 wrong to examine the number of dependants as a condition of permitting entry, but it would provide some checks two or three years later on whether a given applicant was in truth a dependant to find out if that applicant had been referred to at the time the voucher was granted. Therefore, I do not think that it is a suggestion which ought to be ignored.
In the course of the earlier part of my speech, one hon. Member asked me about health checks. I agree with him that immigrants should not be insulted by the suggestion that they are in some way unclean; nor, as a matter of fact, this is a problem necessarily connected with immigration, but it is connected strongly with air travel of all kinds. Within a matter of hours, it is possible to move from an area of bubonic plague or smallpox to our own island. I feel that the existence of air travel emphasises the necessity for health checks, which need not necessarily be tied to immigration but which ought to be tied to the permission to land, to a very great extent. There are some extremely incapacitating diseases from which a would-be immigrant ought to be free if he is to retain a voucher for work; a far gone case of tuberculosis is a clear example. There are other diseases, not necessarily contagious ones, about which one would wish to know, and therefore the demand for health checks is not necessarily a degrading one if it is asked for with sensitivity and a due sense of awareness of the dignity of human beings.
I think that my right hon. Friend and one or two of my hon. Friends were wrong in asking for the B Category vouchers to be curtailed severely. It is a difficult problem. The case which is made that we have no moral right to deny the country of origin their services is a plausible one, but I wonder whether it is not also a little specious. If we are going into the belief that human beings, especially educated human beings, should be free to move about the world and seek their own fortunes and advantage—after all, there is no people who have done that more consistently than the British over the last 350 years—we should be a little careful of restricting people by law. I remember that I had exactly the same kind of problem in reverse over our own scientists going to North America.
1263 Whereas I have always resented conscious attempts to recruit, I have always equally resisted any attempt, either on the part of ourselves or anyone else, to prevent the free movement of highly qualified and gifted people about the world. I should have thought that they were probably by far the most easily assimilable into any society and that they were performing a most useful and valuable function by coming here, although I am bound to add that I wish our system of taxation and the general incentives which the Government give to our own qualified people to stay did not give them such an easy field for recruitment, but that would not be in order in this debate. I accept the Home Secretary's view that the number of A vouchers is small, but I still believe that the amount of evasion is probably greater than he has allowed for.
Whilst, on the whole, I see no reason whatever for a division between the two Front Benches in this debate, I end by telling the Home Secretary what I said to the House at the beginning of my speech, that I think he has to thank the Conservative Government for having passed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, and not his own party for having opposed it.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mrs. Shirley Williams)
I very much appreciated the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) in winding up the argument from the Opposition benches. I shall come to a number of detailed points which were raised by him and by his hon. Friends.
I should like to begin by giving a few additional facts about the voucher system which it is the Ministry of Labour's responsibility to administer. I think that the Committee may be interested to know the figures for applications under the A and B systems, as well as the figures for vouchers actually issued. The figure for applications for Category A vouchers has now dropped from about 300 a week up till July, to about 200 a week. This already reflects a feature of immigration which will be familiar to hon. Members on both sides, namely, that it very closely follows the economic fortunes of the country to which the immigrant intends to 1264 go. There are now about 200 applications a week, as against 300, for the obvious reason that there has been an increase in the number of those unemployed.
About 60 vouchers a week are being issued at present, of which 20 are for Malta, and I think that both sides of the Committee accepted at the time of publication of the White Paper that there was a special case with regard to Malta. In Category B there are about 263 applications a week, which is being fully maintained. There is little sign of any fall in the number of B applications, of which 100 are being issued.
I stress that point because although most hon. Members have kept the matter very much in perspective, it has perhaps got out of perspective in one or two speeches. The total number of these issues amounts to .04 per cent. of the total people employed in this country, and, therefore, we are discussing a matter which, to say the least, is so marginal as to raise an almost infinitesimal point.
The 15 per cent. limit on Category A applications, that is to say, a limitation of 15 per cent. on applications from any one country, has meant that there has been a considerable waiting time for some countries, amounting to many weeks, and this in itself means that many vouchers are not issued when they become due because the person to whom they were to be issued is no longer anxious or available to come to this country.
The Committee may be interested to know that between February and July, 1966, that is six months, although 4,164 vouchers were issued, only 2,834 were taken up, rather less than three-quarters of the total. The reason why the figures were higher in earlier months was that there were many pre-White Paper applications. The figure for pre-White Paper vouchers ran at about 21,000 a year, so there is a substantial backlog, and this partly explains the length of the queue.
I turn from that, which is really a description as far as possible of the voucher system to say that, in regard to the Category A people, of the 3,073 vouchers issued between 2nd August, 1965, and 2nd August, 1966, only 993 were for Malta, Maltese immigration is 1265 falling much more heavily in Category A than in Category B.
I want, first, to deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), who spoke shortly after my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had dealt with the earlier part of the debate. The hon. Gentleman raised a number of points which I can answer directly and which, I hope, will be of assistance to him. His first point concerned manpower needs. It would not be appropriate for me in this debate to go fully into that question, but I have explained that the figures, in terms of manpower needs, are minute.
As Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour I would not quarrel with his argument that labour can be more effectively used in this country. That is true of most industrialised countries, although it is particularly true of this country, for historical reasons. But I submit that there is at least as effective a use of immigrant manpower in this country as there is of local manpower, because of the way in which the voucher system operates.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the question of teachers. It would not be the Government's desire to deny that some teachers who come to this country under Category B are not employed in the teaching profession. But the qualifications have been considerably tightened up in the past year and, whereas 2,000 vouchers were issued for teachers in 1965, only 755 were issued between January and September, 1966.
The hon. Gentleman may also like to know that the Department of Education and Science is running full-time courses of 15 months to teach British teaching methods, and particularly the use of English, to immigrant teachers. Although it is too early to comment in detail the scheme shows every sign of being very helpful in giving teachers from Commonwealth countries the full use of their talents. There is also, at Leeds University, a project to study the use of teaching machines for immigrant children. I would point out that in the teaching of immigrant children the teacher himself or herself who knows the language of origin is often the right person to assist in the education of these children in a way that an English teacher without any knowledge of that language cannot expect to be.
1266 Secondly, with reference to Category B, my right hon. Friend answered this point to a great extent, but the hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that we are countering this to some extent by having introduced, since April of this year, a category of industrial trainees, in respect of whom 474 applications have been granted of about 550 received. The purpose of this scheme is to enable the trainees to study in this country on the basis of a year, in the first instance—although that is extendable—before they return to their own countries. This is by way of some return for the talents that we are getting from other Commonwealth countries.
In addition, we have a seasonal workers' scheme which applies largely to Cyprus and Malta, under which applications may be granted for eight months for those coming purely for seasonal work.
On another point made by the hon. Gentleman, a grant will be made to local authorities under Clause 11 of the Local Government Bill under which £1½ million a year will be made available to enable staff to be recruited by local authorities to work with those of other languages and cultural background and to bring them as fully as possible into our own society. This is an attempt to assist local authorities so that they will not be penalised by the fact that they have been chosen, for one reason or another, areas of settlement by immigrants.
The other point raised by the hon. Gentleman concerned housing. Every hon. Member agrees that this is difficult. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government recently saw a deputation from the National Council for Commonwealth Immigrants, and he promised that he would press local authorities to increase, as far as possible, their assistance to housing associations—a number of which are moving into the field of integrated housing—and have another look at the improvement grant system which is very relevant to the level of housing of immigrants and—perhaps most relevant—that he would raise with local authorities the question of the allocation of housing which came under the control of councils. To that end he is looking forward to arranging a conference with local authorities.
I want also to deal with one or two points raised by the hon. Member for 1267 Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). There would not be much point in repeating what he said in less elegant language, because I agree with virtually every word. That may be embarrassing to him, but it happens to be the case.
The point at which he admonished me for speaking to my hon. Friend was the point at which we were trying to answer one of his points. He said that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was, in effect, himself a diocese. I should have thought that he was a somewhat theoretical one, in view of his past clashes with the Archbishop on the subject now before the House.
In dealing with the points of the hon. Member for Chelmsford, I will turn, first, to those points about the existing immigrant population and the information which we have about them. He raised the fundamental question of principle as to how far it is proper for a country which has before it an objective of integration, to distinguish in its statistics between immigrants and nonimmigrants. The difficulty is the greater because such statistics as are available apply only to those who came after 1957, for obvious reasons.
Consequently, there can never be as clear a distinction as some hon. Gentlemen would like to see between people whose skin happens to be black and those whose skin happens to be white. The only distinction which the statistics can give is between recent immigrants and those who were immigrants long enough ago to be fully part of the British population. So the best information which we are likely to get will come from the 1966 Census, which will give a good deal of information about the position of more recent immigrants. I agree with the hon. Gentleman very much about the difficulties which those who have spent only a short time in British education meet in employment.
The best impression which we get—I stress that it is an impression and has no firm evidence—is that it is not particularly difficult for immigrant school leavers to get work in factories. It is not altogether difficult for the immigrant school leavers with higher qualifications to get apprenticeships. The real problem 1268 arises in the cases which the hon. Gentleman rightly mentioned—those of service industries, and particularly some service industries, where there are still prejudices or objections, many of which are very difficult to sustain. I would very much underline his remarks in this respect.
I should like to mention the Government's example and that of the nationalised industries. In the first case, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, the Civil Service has recruited to all grades a number of immigrant people and coloured British citizens. In the case of the nationalised industries, I would point, at least in passing, to the General Post Office, which does not seem to find the same difficulty over money passing into coloured hands as the banks do, since many people who serve in the Post Office are coloured immigrants.
I would refer also to the L.P.T.B., the National Health Service and British Railways. The record is not perfect—no one would pretend that it was—and in the case of promotion it is very much less than perfect, but it is still, I suggest, quite a reasonable record, by comparison to some areas where, as yet, there is virtually complete discrimination.
I now turn to something else which the hon. Gentleman said, which brings me also to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone. Both the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. and learned Gentleman made the point that this country would, in effect, meet the crisis of its success or failure in the situation of race relations and the integration of immigrants in the case of the second generation, the men and women, the boys and girls, described in a recent book by Professor Davison, of the University of the West Indies, as "The Black British".
It is worth making this point, although I regret that he is not now here, to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who said that there is a danger of two nations developing. In fact, of course, we are a multi-racial society. There is no going back on that. There is no possibility that our coloured fellow citizens—that is what they are—will return en masse to their own countries.
Some of us would regret it, none of us would accept it and all of us would recognise that anything which made it 1269 possible would involve an evolution of methods and attitudes in this country of a kind which we would all deeply regret. We must, therefore, accept that we are a multi-racial society, with all that that implies. What does it imply?
As the hon. Member for Chelmsford said, it implies equal opportunities for boys and girls who have had the same education, as most boys and girls in 10 or 15 years' time will have had. It also implies equal opportunities for promotion and for the good as well as the bad jobs. This is the crux of the issue, because if we do not succeed in achieving this it will be only a matter of time before the problems that have overtaken some other countries—close to us and similar to us in their approach to this issue—will be our problems also.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone rightly said that there was a kind of consensus growing up on both sides of the Committee, not only about restrictions but the acceptance of equality. I am sure he will agree that this consensus is not yet enough, not only in the House of Commons but, probably more so, outside. A good deal of education, propaganda and persuasion needs to be done before we can say with certainty that we have established a complete consensus in Britain of the attitude that men and women are equal, regardless of colour. This involves all of us in a great obligation, since we, as hon. Members, are to a considerable extent the leaders of the community.
I must also comment on another important topic raised by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone: the position of other countries which are related to us within the Commonwealth. It is worth remarking, to get it on the record, that many tens of thousands of British citizens live in other Commonwealth countries, often holding down very responsible jobs, and that by and large, despite the many upheavals there have been in those Commonwealth countries, they have been allowed to live in peace and in a considerable degree of amity with their fellow Commonwealth citizens there.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone—and I do not blame him—made a good deal of the debates 1270 that preceded the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962. Looking back to those debates, I still feel that there was a certain matter of principle at stake—that we should not completely lose sight of something said by my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell); we should recognise that restrictions on the liberty of movement of human beings is always a step back from an ideal, even though at times it may be necessary because of the pressures of housing, social services or even of population within a country.
But perhaps the ideal was expressed a very long time ago by a right hon. Friend who is no longer with us, Ernest Bevin, when he said that one of his ideals was that passports should disappear and that men and women should be allowed to move freely as they chose about the world. This is not an ideal of which we should completely lose sight.
Coming to what was said by my right hon. Friend who was then the Leader of the Opposition during the debates on the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, it is also fair to say that he was at that time presenting to Parliament and the country a picture which now, we may feel, was not one that could be satisfied or lived up to but which, at that time expressed the principle which most of us would deeply believe in, at least as the ultimate goal.
In saying that, I complete my remarks by agreeing that we seem to have established a consensus; first, a consensus which does not make me happy but may be necessary—that there must be tight restrictions on immigration into this country because of the circumstances in which we find ourselves—secondly, and more important, that there is a consensus in accepting the equality of those citizens who are here; and, thirdly, I suggest that this means that we accept that we are now a multi-racial community and that, therefore, future debates will, I hope, turn increasingly to the question of integrating once and for all what will soon be our fellow black British citizens and will turn away from the subject with which we have had to deal during the last few years.
§ Sir D. Renton
Since we are in Committee, I would be allowed to speak again. However, I will not inflict another 1271 speech on hon. Members, although I am tempted to answer the remarks of the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary.
We have had a valuable debate which has been both constructive and frank. The Amendment which I moved earlier was, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) pointed out, a purely procedural matter and I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment by leave withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed.