HC Deb 21 December 1967 vol 756 cc1513-36

1.30 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

In introducing a debate on Commonwealth immigration, I am conscious that on 15th November, when the House debated the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, we had a full day's debate on this subject. We then dealt with the two basic problems of entry and of assimilation, and our duties towards those of the immigrant community when they have become full British citizens. I shall not waste farther time on that aspect today, but wish, instead, to deal with certain specific problems concerning entry which are causing bad feeling here and in certain parts of the Commonwealth.

Before I produce my arguments to justify that statement, I want briefly to give the background. If we are to understand the full force of my arguments, we must understand how the Commonwealth Immigrants Act came about, and its effect, first, on the new Commonwealth and, later, on the old Commonwealth.

From the end of the Second World War to 1960 the average net Commonwealth immigration to this country was about 30,000 a year. In 1961, it jumped to 136,000. Not only that, but whereas immigrants previously had come mainly from the West Indies, with a population of about 4 million, by 1961 they were coming predominantly from the Indian sub-continent, with a population of 450 million or more. The problem facing the Government of the day was very serious. In addition, immigrants tended to come from the lowest economic level of their community. They were non-Christians, and many of them were not English speaking and did not share our culture. They produced very special problems.

As a result, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed in 1962. Under it, all immigrants were treated in exactly the same way, but the Home Secretary could exercise some form of cultural or economic discrimination by means of the system of vouchers then introduced. As a result of that Act, immigration during the last six months of 1962 declined to 19,000. It went up to 60,000 in the following year and in 1964 it was 56,000.

In 1965, we had a new Government in power, and the Labour Home Secretary tightened up orders to the immigration officers and reduced the numbers of certain categories of vouchers. The Government also introduced the Race Relations Act which, in some quarters, was regarded as a quid pro quo to counterbalance the fact that the new Government had had to adopt many of the Measures that they had denounced when in opposition. It was generally believed in many circles that the Race Relations Act was designed to prevent discrimination against Commonwealth immigrants.

I justify that statement by quoting from the editorial in the latest edition of Africa and the World. It stated: The prime intention of Parliament in passing that Act was to protect non-white citizens of Britain from acts of racialistic discriminaton which are well known, thoroughly documented and a disgrace to a civilised community. The article later asked: Why have no major proceedings been brought against anyone with a white skin? That implication is not true. Proceedings have been brought, quite rightly, against people, irrespective of colour. The trial of Colin Jordan is a case in point. Nevertheless, in some circles this Act was regarded as a quid pro quo to the tightening of controls on Commonwealth immigrants, who were mainly from the non-white Commonwealth.

In 1965, there was a net intake of 57,000 Commonwealth immigrants. It is fair to say that in 1966 the Act originally introduced by a Conservative Government was beginning to tell on the old Commonwealth, and complaints started to come from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. I maintain that during this present year, 1967. these complaints have multiplied, and feeling has run high, particularly in Australia. That is the background of my argument.

Both parties—this is not a party political issue—have leant over backwards to be non-racial and to treat everyone alike, irrespective of colour, but I believe that, in so doing, successive Governments, having first managed to annoy the new Commonwealth by introducing the original Act, have, since then, infuriated many citizens of the old Commonwealth.

Personally, I do not believe that the colour of a man's skin matters a damn. What does matter is his cultural and educational background and, to some extent, his economic status. The people of the old Commonwealth have the same cultural and educational background as ourselves. Those who come here are not normally among the lowest wage earners in their own country. Some, but as yet a minority, from the new Commonwealth fall under the same heading: they speak English reasonably well, they have high economic standards, and can, therefore, be well absorbed into our society. Many from India or Malaysia probably have very much older cultures than our own.

On the other hand, I suggest that the majority of the new Commonwealth immigrants present a different and much more difficult problem. Most of them are, as I have said, non-Christian, they do not speak English, they have little educational background and, largely speaking, they come from the lowest wage-earning section in their own parent countries. They do an excellent job—I would not suggest that they do not—but they are far more difficult to assimilate. Further, they have many dependants. It was stated in the debate on 15th November that nearly 90 per cent, of the present intake was made up of dependants.

A further argument relates to emigration from this country. In a reply to a Parliamentary Question not long ago, we were told that about 50,000 professional workers a year are leaving this country, mostly for the U.S.A. and the old Commonwealth. These people represent the brain drain, and are, by and large, unlikely to be replaced from the new Commonwealth countries. A Gallup Poll published in the Sunday Times on 20th August, 1967 showed that 50 per cent, of Britain's 2½million 18-to-20 age group wanted to emigrate, and the countries they chose, in order of preference, were: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa. Perhaps I might be forgiven for saying that if the Government's planning goes along on its present lines this figure may well increase as we move into 1968.

It is a serious matter that this potential outflow is being replaced each month, as the Minister admitted in our last debate, by about 1,100 Pakistanis of the age of about 15 or 16. Is this what we want? I have no objection to their colour, but, as I said, many of them do not speak English. In that same debate it was. stated that no fewer than 444 schools of 40 local education authorities have over 30 per cent, of immigrant children. This shows the strain that is being placed, or could be placed, on our educational system.

What of the future? I do not want to stress this, but it should be mentioned that I asked the Home Secretary in correspondence in August this year if he could assess the number of Commonwealth immigrants during, say, the next 10 to 15 years. He explained how difficult it was, that it would obviously be an approximation—and a very broad approximation—but the figures that he gave me were that in 1971 we would probably have 1,350,000 Commonwealth immigrants, in 1976 1,650,000, and in 1981 1,950,000. However, there is an important reservation, because these figures do not include immigrant children born in the United Kingdom of Commonwealth immigrant parents. Therefore, we do not have the full figures of the immigrant community.

I am giving the House these figures because they illustrate that the net result of what is going on today is that, while the British brain drain is continuing, we are exchanging part of our younger population with that of the Indian subcontinent. I accept that that is a gross exaggeration of what has happened so far, but it is factually true and it is not what people in this country want.

When the Minister replies, perhaps he will be able to tell me how many British citizens last year were given Indian or Pakistani nationality. The figures, if he can produce them, will show that this is very much a one-way traffic; that their nationals are coming here and getting British citizenship and very few of our people are going to India and Pakistan.

This brings me to my main point— reciprocity. The current rate of British emigration to Australia was given the other day as 90,000 a year, to Canada as 63,000, and to New Zealand as 16,000. Surely nationals of countries receiving so many British immigrants should receive special consideration here. The nub of the case that I am putting is that many Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders think of themselves as British. They still talk about returning to the mother country. Few in the new Commonwealth think along these lines. Why should they? Yet, during the past two years, there have been many complaints about the treatment of Commonwealth nationals from the old dominions who have come to this country.

The first one that I read about was in a letter in the Daily Telegraph two to three years ago. It was an amusing one concerning an Australian lady who had married an American. On arrival at London Airport she said to her husband, "I am going through the Commonwealth queue and I will wait while you proceed in the foreign queue, because I will be through a long time before you". In point of fact, she came through the Commonwealth queue three-quarters of an hour later than her husband because she had been held up by an immigrant family who had taken a lot of the immigration officer's time.

This was the first case that I noticed, but this has been increasingly recently. Many complaints have been received from Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders that they do not seem to be wanted here. They are subjected, quite rightly, to questions by immigration officers. I am not questioning that right, but the general air seems to be, "Why do you want to come here?", which is against the normal traditions of this country and against the desires of the people who have always felt themselves to be British.

Coming down to concrete cases, which I will not dwell on for long, because they are not really very good examples, two in particular have received a lot of publicity in Australia, I think they therefore should be mentioned.

The first is the case of Mr. Brownlie, who exceeded his permitted stay in this country and was, for various reasons, kept in detention for 30 days until the matter was fully dealt with. I do not want to waste the House's time. I accept that the fault was largely Mr. Brownlie's. He tried to dodge regulations. He did not ask for assistance. He could have had all kinds of assistance. The High Commissioner could have been informed. Mr. Brownlie must bear the responsibility for what happened to him.

I mention this case because it received, immense publicity in Australia and the full answer was not known until some days or even weeks later. Therefore, this case unfairly did this country considerable harm in Australia. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something about it when he winds up the debate.

The second case concerns a Mr. Watkins, who landed from the s.s. "Fairstar" not long ago. When asked if he was coming here as a visitor, he said that if he could get some work he would take it. This caused investigations to be made, which meant that his passport was removed for a couple of days. Though it was again the young man's own fault, it caused adverse comment in Australia.

Perhaps I can sum up by quoting a paragraph from Time and Tide of 14th December this year: One of the most respected of this Australian ' colony' said at the weekend, ' Would it not be a good thing for all concerned if your new Home Secretary, Mr. Callaghan, gave out an instruction to individual immigration officers, some of whom seem to be a bit truculent, to be a bit less harsh with Australians? ' Lower down the page it said: Young Australian visitors feel indignant about their treatment since the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1965. Before that they could visit Britain freely, as often and as for as long as they liked. I am not in any way criticisng the officials who have to implement the legislation passed by Parliament. Through no fault of their own these things happen. It may be because of bad publicity or perhaps because our regulations have not been explained properly in Australia, Canada or New Zealand. The point is that this is causing anti-British propaganda in countries which have sprung from our shores and which have been so closely associated with us for so many generations.

I suggest that we have taken the old Commonwealth for granted for far too long. I believe that the treatment of young visitors has caused more alarm and despondency in Australia than such things as devaluation, our east of Suez policy, or even the Common Market. Australians come here after school to see what the Mother country is like. They are young men and women fully educated, but not very well off, and who want to do some temporary work to pay their way while in this country.

What are the exact regulations that today govern this class of person from Australia, Canada and New Zealand who have been coming here for generations? I accept that the real worker has to get a voucher and go through the full system. That is fair enough. I accept that students are exempt. They are defined clearly because the regulations say they must do so many days or so many hours' study a week. These worker students fall half way between the two and I want the Minister to take some administrative action to relax the controls on this type of visitor-cum-immigrant many of whom only want to stay for up to two years at the outside. I ask this, because the present policy is having an adverse effect on Britain's reputation in the old Dominions—countries who share the same Sovereign. These countries willingly take British immigrants, so surely they are entitled to special consideration.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) wanted to develop the subject of Gibraltar, but, unfortunately, he has had to leave the House. I want to remind the House that Gibraltar is a small Colony. It is under blockade, and has been for some years. Recently, it held a referendum to show its complete loyalty to this country, it is known that Spaniards find it easier to come here than Gibraltarians. Looking at the figures, we find that in the last year hundreds of Spaniards have been allowed to come into this country, but only 42 Gibraltarians. The Minister has said that Spaniards can come here only on a permit and stay for one year whereas Gibraltarians, if they are allowed in, can stay for the rest of their lives. The point is that many of these Gibraltarians are like the category of Australians that I have referred to—people who want to come for a stay of two years and do temporary work during that period. They also should be given special consideration. We owe a lot to Gibraltar in return for the loyally she has shown in very difficult circumstances. The least we can do is to give Gibraltar a quota on the same lines at Malta.

To sum up, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was wholly non-racial, or, to put it another way, it affects people of all races. This is probably the correct approach, but it has had the effect of closing Great Britain to many traditional immigrants and to long-term visitors from the old Commonwealth. This is wrong, and it should be corrected by administrative action.

The present position is gravely damaging to traditional and important links between the mother country and Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and I hope that the necessary action will be taken before it is too late. I realise only too well that the Minister cannot take action today, but I hope that what he says in reply will show that we in this country are doing all we can to preserve the traditional right of people from the old Dominions to come to the country which they regard as their mother country.

1.51 p.m.

Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvin-grove)

The House will have observed that the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) spoke with, I thought, unusual temperateness in this debate. I am bound to say, however, that "me thinks the hon. Gentleman doth protest too much" about not laying any stress on colour.

I am impressed by the hon. Gentleman's argument about the old Commonwealth, and I agree with much of what he said, but I am concerned about the new Commonwealth, too. Immigration has always raised objections and forecasts of dire consequences which have never been fulfilled. I can only say that many aspects of Commonwealth immigration into this country still need to be repeated and stressed. It is well known that certain of our essential services would collapse were it not for immigrants from the new Commonwealth. For example, 60 per cent, of hospital doctors under consultant status are coloured immigrants. Undoubtedly, the whole Health Service would not just be under strain but would disintegrate altogether if it were not for these doctors who are helping us so magnificently and have done for a number of years. We know also what would happen to our transport services if we did not have coloured immigration.

The hon. Member for Haltemprice has spoken of assimilation. In my view, this word ought not to be used so freely in the context of immigration. We should talk about integration. There is a big difference between assimilation and integration. Many of the immigrants who have come to this country during the past 100 years, or even the past 1,000 years of our history, have integrated themselves beautifully into the community and become part of it without necessarily assimilating, without necessarily becoming similar to everyone else in the community. Differing and different cultures in a society benefit and enrich that society. It does not follow that immigrants must assimilate into the community. Some will, and I have no objection to that, but others will feel that they wish to retain some of their own characteristics, and this is a desirable estate of affairs for the host community.

I have here a copy of one of the medical magazines which I have sent to me as a doctor. I see on the front page that an Indian doctor with an M.A. and M.B.Ch.B. of Edinburgh University spent three days on hunger strike outside the Indian High Commission Office—in Glasgow, I regret to say—pressing his demand to be repatriated or deported to India because he could not find employment in this country as a doctor. Apparently, we are so profligate in our use of medical manpower that we cannot find a job for an Indian doctor who qualified in this country, and qualified in one of our major medical schools.

It is not just against immigrants from the new Commonwealth that objection is taken and has been taken. I have here a quotation from a paper called the "North Briton", in which John Wilkes, writing about Lord Bute, said: The Scots, in addition to being outstandingly unpleasant specimens of the human race, are also complete aliens in this country. We quite understand that they want to get away from their own country; but why should we be the sufferers? Now Lord Bute tells us that he is a Briton, and as such entitled to be the Prime Minister of Britain. To which our reply is that he is a North Briton and that he should stay somewhere North of the Tweed. Now there is a lot of talk about the Act of Union; but even if there were a hundred Acts of Union, it would not alter the fact that the Scot is a complete and utter alien to us and that his presence here is intolerable. We will not tolerate him in any capacity, much less in the capacity of a Prime Minister. And we say to Bute and his ilk, this is our attitude and it will never change. Englishmen, arise and kick the stranger out ! That is an indication of the kind of thinking which motivated some of the elements in our society 200 years ago. No one will deny the tremendous benefit which the mixing of Scots has been to the community south of the Border. There has been assimilation, but I would say that the Scots have integrated very well into the English host society.

I know that there are problems involved here, but I counsel the House, the British people and those who formulate British opinion not to exaggerate the problems occasioned to our society by the admixture of different races. We should keep a sense of proportion. It is most important in this day and age that we, as the Mother of Parliaments, should take a definite stand against the pseudo-scientists who peddle racialism in various guises. It may be that we have to err somewhat on the liberal side in so doing, but it is something which we must do not only from a moral point of view but from the point of view of fairness, justice and the interests of our own society. It is essential that we take this stand and do not deviate from it. There are people who peddle the pernicious ideas of racial superiority in face of the knowledge of reputable scientists the world over that the potential of the human race is very much the same regardless of skin colour, social background or cultural antecedents. The potential is very much the same, and it is potential that we are considering here. It is potential that we should be getting out of human beings.

I hope that the Government will stick to the principles which they have enunciated. That which commends itself to me is the indication that they recognise that complete rigidity of principle and standardisation of organisation are neither possible nor desirable—

Mr. Wall

I take it that the hon. Member does not mean that we should not, by administrative action, be able to make special efforts to maintain the traditional rights of young Australians and New Zealanders to come here?

Dr. Miller

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that restrictions on immigration should have nothing to do with colour of skin, even white skin. I would be very pleased to see an increase in the number of people coming from such countries as Australia and New Zealand. There should be less of a one-way traffic and more of a two-way traffic.

I ask my hon. Friend to keep in mind the necessity to make the stand to which I have referred. Although we may feel that our influence in the world is not as great as we think it should be, we know that there are still large numbers of people who look upon our country as a refuge and haven. I do not mean simply those coming in looking for work. Ours is a country which upholds principles for which it has fought, and for which other people are also fighting. If we keep to a fair and just immigration policy we will not be letting these people down.

2.5 p.m.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

The whole House is glad to have this opportunity of discussing such an important topic. We are glad for a number of reasons and the first is that immigration, when as concerns such a small and highly-populated country as ours, assumes important proportions. This debate gives the Government a further opportunity to make known their views. We are especially glad about this, because in the debate of 15th November many points were raised about the operation of the immigration system.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) was primarily responsible for these questions, and in some cases the Government gave a "spot" opinion. Now that they have had time for more mature reflection we hope that they will be able to tell us how they intend to meet the points raised. This is an excellent "follow-up" debate and we should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and Mr. Speaker for this opportunity.

I want to raise the point about members of the old Commonwealth, which was deployed by my right hon. and learned Friend in the earlier debate. It was pointed out then and has been stated again today, that considerations here are of a somewhat different character from those applying to other parts of the Commonwealth. There is a very considerable outflow from this country to these countries, and it has been asked whether it is sensible to have the whole panoply of the system of control in relation to these countries.

This time last year I had the pleasure and privilege of being in Australia, basking in the sunshine. There, I enjoyed nothing but kindness and lavish hospitality except for a certain amount of badinage about my "Pommy" accent and habits. All this was good fun. There was not so much good humour when we came to discuss the way in which young Australians coming to this country are treated. There is a case for special consideration of the Old Commonwealth countries, and especially of the young people from those countries who wish to come here for a short while.

This is quite a different problem from that posed by the rest of the Commonwealth. These people from the remainder of the Commonwealth wish to live here permanently and want to bring their dependants with them. This is not the case with those coming from Australia, Canada, or New Zealand—or it is so in only a very small number of cases.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Ennals)indicated assent.

Mr. Buck

I am glad to see the Under-Secretary nodding. Presumably he agrees that this is a different problem and one which should be tackled.

We have raised this point on more than one occasion. Although it was raised in the November debate by my right hon. and learned Friend there was no reference to it by either of the Government speakers. I have been through the speeches again with a fine toothcomb. This time last year this matter was causing great concern, and all hon. Members acknowledge the difficulty here. We want to strengthen Commonwealth ties and to ensure that these people are not subjected to unnecessary controls.

Since we have had a change in the top management at the Home Office since the last debate, it might be helpful if we had a restatement from the Home Office of its continued allegiance to the twin principles which have brought about a fair degree of unanimity on this subject. They are, first, that it is necessary to have strict control and, secondly—and this point was stressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller)—while people are lawfully here they must be treated with complete equality. There must be no second-class citizens.

There is next the very vexed problem of dependants. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary to deal with the suggestion put forward from this side of the House, that we should take steps to determine the size of the problem.

At present, dependants are coming here in large numbers. About 40,000 arrived in 1966 and, from what we have been told, the number for this year is likely to be larger. What will it be next year, and the year after that? We do not have the slightest idea of the numbers who will be entitled to come in future, and much of our estimating must be done in terms of pure guesswork.

We are today coping with the problem of dependants of people who came here on vouchers in the early days of the legislation and the dependants of those who arrived before the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed. We do not know how many Commonwealth citizens have these statutory rights to entry. The Government should seriously consider taking steps to find out how many there are.

I do not see why it would be unreasonable to ask those who have entered, either with vouchers or before the Act was passed, "Let us know how many dependants you may wish to bring here in future". There could be a system of registration, with plenty of time for people to be registered. A clause for hardship cases would, of course, be necessary. Let us at least establish a register so that we may know how many dependants will have the right of entry; and then we will begin to understand the real nature of the problem. Such a register would have the practical advantage of enabling proper inquiries to be made in the countries of origin. Such things as ensuring that dependants are truly dependants could then be checked.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I apprehend that the hon. Gentleman is talking about the registration of dependants of immigrants. Is he aware that to attempt to form such a register might cause resentment among Commonwealth immigrants because they would feel that, if the number of persons on the register was very large, there might be future restrictions? They might, therefore, feel that they should not give the required information. Otherwise, they might give the wrong information.

In any case, if the purpose of the exercise is to create a register for future immigrants, a better way to go about it would be to conduct a sample survey, and not to do it by interrogation in the way the hon. Gentleman has suggested.

Mr. Buck

I appreciate the problems raised by the hon. Gentleman, but I suggest that we have gone beyond the stage when, because this might cause a small amount of annoyance to a minority of people, it should not be done. This is a trivial aspect. I do not agree that they would take the view that, following the compilation of the register, stringent restrictions would be introduced. In any event, in such a serious matter as this, if a minority of people hold the sort of feelings the hon. Gentleman believes they hold, they must be overruled, regrettable though this may be.

As to people giving false information, this is unlikely if they know that occasional checks will be made about the dependants named on the register. Naturally, the whole thing would have to be done as tactfully as possible and I believe that the balance of advantage in compiling such a register outweighs any other considerations.

A number of my hon. Friends and I are concerned about the problem of teenage boys—mostly Pakistanis—who are coming here in large numbers. I am referring particularly to youngsters who are nearly 16 years old and who come here to join an all-male community. Often they come to their fathers in this country. The then Home Secretary said six weeks ago that he was considerably worried by this problem. He added that he was not in a position to suggest ways by which the Government intended to deal with the matter, but six weeks have passed and I hope that, with a new Home Secretary, the Parliamentary Secretary will say what the Government intend to do to deal with what seems to be a socially undesirable problem and something which is disadvantageous to the young men in question.

At the same time, I recommend the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the problem of dependants who come here and live in grossly ill-housed communities. We do no great service to them—and this particularly applies to young men and girls who come here—if we allow them to come here only to live in appalling housing conditions. Especially in considering the problem of young males who come here to join all-male households, is it possible, by legislation or administrative means, to ensure that they are properly housed?

The former Home Secretary gave an analysis in November of the problem of Asian immigrants to this country—from East Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and so on—and who hold British passports. I understand that more than 10,000 such immigrants arrived in Britain during the last nine months. The problem was analysed by the then Home Secretary. Perhaps the present Home Secretary will take his predecessor's analysis a step further and indicate what the Government intend to do about this problem. Have there been talks with the various Governments involved?

Have the Government given more thought to the question of entry certificates? I am appalled by the present position, when more than 1,000 people are allowed to get here each year but are then sent back to their countries of origin. This raises considerable human problems and the only way out of this difficulty is the introduction of a certificate system, with the certificates being issued in the countries of origin.

We have reached the point in the history of our immigration laws and affairs when action is needed to deal with some of the problems which have been reiterated today and which were adduced on 15th November. Action really is necessary. Many hon. Members are getting restive. On many occasions we have discussed and analysed the problems, but it appears that the Government are not taking positive steps to solve the principal ones. I hope that the Under-Secretary will reveal some of the positive steps which the Government are taking, or intend to take, to deal with the difficulties, some of which are of considerable magnitude.

2.20 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Ennals)

The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) realises that it is always quicker and easier to ask questions than to give answers. He recited a number of questions about the issues which we debated at some length on 15th November, concerning entry certificates and the problem of dependent children, which concerns my present as well as my former right hon. Friend. I shall not, just before Christmas, attempt to make a detailed statement. I assure the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) that the question of dependent children, and particularly the social problems which arise from those joining all-male households, is very much in mind. We are not simply waiting. We are having useful consultations with social work organisations and other bodies.

I welcome the debate and the introduction of it, in very temperate and reasonable language, by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), because he dealt with a part of the subject which we did not adequately cover on 15th November. Because I want to consider seriously the points raised by the hon. Gentleman, I shall not attempt to go into the problems of emigration from the new Commonwealth, except to say one thing. We often talk of the problems of Commonwealth immigrants. I am glad that recognition has been given today to the opportunities which exist as a result of people coming to this country. We are faced with problems but it is true that were it not for those who have come from the old and new Commonwealth this country would be much worse off than it is. Many of our services and professions would be under-served and worse served were it not for those who have come here. I draw no distinction between those who come from the old Commonwealth and those who come from the new Commonwealth. We should get the situation in perspective.

It is true that over the years an increasing number of people have come from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, mainly as visitors or as working holidaymakers. The numbers have continued to increase regardless of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. People want to come and do come here. While a substantial number of people go from this country to Australia, it is interesting that in 1966 the number of United Kingdom citizens who emigrated to Australia was smaller than the number in 1965. The hon. Member said that over 40,000 dependent children came here last year. In fact, the number was over 30,000. The figure has slightly increased.

There has been reference to Gibraltar. There is no doubt that there exists in the House a great deal of sympathy and respect for Gibraltar. While it is not my place to talk of our links with Gibraltar, this matter must inevitably influence our attitude to Gibraltar. It must be recognised, however, that Gibraltar is part of the Commonwealth and that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act applies to it. The referendum and any constitutional changes which may be negotiated do not deal with the movement of people.

The situation of Spaniards has been raised. This is a quite different matter. Spaniards come here to take up employment. They are permitted to come here with Ministry of Labour work permits. They are not permitted to settle here immediately. Normally they come for a brief period and then return to their own country. To compare the number of Spaniards who come here with the number of people from Gibraltar who come here for settlement, which is a relatively small figure, is not reasonable. People come from Gibraltar on holiday or business and these short-term visitors are very welcome. There has been some pressure to the effect that Gibraltar should re- ceive special consideration in terms of employment vouchers. This is not the moment to make an announcement, but this matter is being considered very sympathetically, especially by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

I wish to concentrate most of my remaining remarks on Australia. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Haltem-price for warning me in advance that he wished to refer to this question. He said that there has been strong feeling in Australia. It is true that Australians resented the fact that there ever was a Commonwealth Immigrants Act which affected them at all. Australians look on this country as home, and we are all glad that they do so. None of us would want to put obstacles in the way of the links which exist and which we hope will continue to exist between Australia and this country. Sometimes situations relating to individuals are blown up out of proportion, and sometimes quite inaccurately. Hon. Members would be unwise to make statements relating to particular situations without having ascertained the facts.

The statements made in the Press and by hon. Members about the two cases referred to by the hon. Member for Hal-temprice have done a good deal of damage.

Mr. Wall

By me?

Mr. Ennals

No, not by the hon. Member for Haltemprice. I should like to touch on these two cases before going into the generality of the situation. The number of cases in which there is a dispute concerning Australians is very small. Whenever there is one, it can often be blown up because of statements which are unfair.

Mr. Brownlie, a young man of integrity and good parents, arrived here and was admitted as a visitor for six months on 8th July, 1966. By 6th January he had stayed for six months. He could then, had he wished, have made an application to stay here longer and there is virtually no doubt that he would have had an extension. He did not make an application. He did not consult the Home Office or his High Commission. By accident—and it really was an accident, a skating accident, as a result of which he was taken to hospital—his passport was found. It was discovered by the police that he had exhausted his authorised stay by approximately eight months. He admitted that he had done so and has not sought to extend his stay.

He decided, first, that he did not want legal aid; secondly, he did not apply for bail; thirdly, he said that he did not wish to be in touch with his High Commission; fourthly he did not wish to be in touch with his parents. He said that he wished to see the matter through on his own. Unfortunately, the fact that he was detained awaiting trial was not known to his High Commission nor to this House. I think that he recognised afterwards that it was very unwise of him not to take advantage of the facilities which existed here. The Home Office and his High Commission are very helpful. Happily, the Home Office and the High Commission have very cordial relations.

The other case referred to by the hon. Member for Haltemprice concerned Mr. Wayne Watkins, who arrived at Southampton on 30th November with an entry certificate endorsed as a visitor. He was not immediately admitted but was held for 48 hours because he admitted to the immigration officer that he came not as a visitor but to stay, and that a short-term permit was of no use to him. He said that he had incorrectly informed the entry certificate officer of the purpose of his coming. He arrived here with 15s. in his pocket, no return ticket, no relatives in this country and no indication of what he wanted to do.

It would have been utterly irresponsible of the immigration officer, knowing what he did, to have admitted Mr. Watkins without finding out more about him. Mr. Watkins was sensible enough to get in touch with the Australian High Commission. We never put obstacles in the way of that sort of contact. After discussions, it was agreed to admit him for a brief time. The Press blew up this matter as if it was wrong, as if the immigration officer had behaved imprudently and as if the Government did not wish to welcome Australians to this country. That is not so. All Australians who come here are welcome. We want to discover ways for them to know it and for us to encourage them to come here.

Therefore, this narrows down the question of whether Australia should come under different legislation from other parts of the Commonwealth. We could say that the principle should apply to Canada and New Zealand, too, as old members of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Wall

Not only because they are members of the Commonwealth, but because of reciprocity. They take many of our own citizens.

Mr. Ennals

That is a point which I do not think has much validity. Far more people go from this country to Australia than come here, but that is because Australia is a country of emigration. Australia goes to great trouble to attract people. She is not overcrowded, as we are. We are not beseeching the world to come and fill the vacant spaces of the United Kingdom. Those two things put those countries in a quite different category.

I was considering whether we should discriminate in favour of one or more countries within the Commonwealth, and I do not think that we can. The 1962 Act applied to all Commonwealth countries, old and new alike, and its administration is impartial. I am certain that when the party opposite introduced the 1962 Act, they intended that it should be administered impartially so that every member of the Commonwealth was in a similar category.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

Does the hon. Gentleman altogether dismiss the fact that Britons, Australians and New Zealanders are people of one blood and bone?

Mr. Ennals

That is not in dispute, although I am not certain what revelance it has to the argument.

In opening the debate on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said that we should look to a time when there would be a fresh look at the relationship of ourselves and the various Commonwealth countries. He did not go very far with that. He would have got into difficulty had he done so, unless he was prepared to argue that Australia, because of blood, colour and race links, should be put in a different category from other parts of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)

I put to the Home Secretary a much more concrete, point, disregarding any relationship and disregarding immigration from this country to those countries. There was last year, and there has been for some time, a net outflow of Australian citizens from Great Britain to Australia and, therefore, it was futile to pretend that any kind of social problem could possibly arise by a more generous treatment of Australians, Canadians or New Zealanders when there is a net outflow of the citizens of those countries.

Mr. Ennals

That is right. To come to the crux of his proposal, however, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would obviously have to suggest an Amendment to the Commonwealth Immigration Act and that certain parts of the Commonwealth should for that purpose be treated differently from other parts of the Commonwealth. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman puts his argument forward, I believe that he is exaggerating the problem.

As was said by the hon. Member for Colchester, the vast majority of Australians who come to this country do not want to settle here. They have very few difficulties in coming here. In 1966, of the 82,000 Australians who came here, 46,500 came for visits of three months or less and a further 12,500 came for longer visits. Another 17,500 were people already settled here returning from temporary absence abroad. The balance includes students, passengers in transit and others, including a very small figure of 165 who came in with labour vouchers —a tiny proportion by comparison with the very large numbers who came here for temporary purposes.

Mr. Buck

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving those figures, which illustrate cogently the point which I was making. Is it not an absurdity that Australians coming here should be subjected to the whole panoply of a system which is designed to deal with people who will come and live here permanently and bring their dependants over?

Mr. Ennals

The hon. Member suggests that they are subjected to a "whole panoply ". It is true that they have to present their passports and are asked questions. That is because we have to make certain that they come for the purpose for which they say they are coming and that that purpose is a recognised one. The case to which I referred of the young man was a good case in point.

The majority, apart from business men and tourists coming for short stays, are young people. There has been a long tradition of young Australians coming to this country for a protracted visit during which they also travel around Europe, eking out their funds by taking temporary employment. I am glad to say that our control creates no difficulties for those young people here. We are glad to welcome them. We regard them as working holidaymakers.

They are admitted usually for 12 months in the first instance and we see no difficulty in extending their stay to up to two years or so, which is as long as they normally require. During the time they are here, they are able to take employment to pay their way. Our concern is to see that they come for that sort of purpose rather than for permanent settlement. As has been said, the vast majority of them do not want permanent settlement. Having had a year, 18 months or two years here, they return to their own country.

Mr. Hogg

If that is so, will the hon. Gentleman look again at correspondence which I have had with the former Home Secretary about a Miss Morrow, a young Australian actress, who lived in my constituency for a time, and see whether he could not have been a little more generous about prolonging her stay? She only wanted to act, which is a most unpermanent form of occupation.

Mr. Ennals

I do not have the case in my recollection. I will certainly look it up. I receive a number of cases of individuals who for some reason, want to stay here longer than the endorsement in their passport entitles them to stay. We take a liberal and understanding attitude on these questions. While there are sometimes difficulties, in the vast majority of cases the young Australian is able to do what he wants. It must, however, be recognised that if we were simply to exclude certain parts of the Commonwealth from the operation of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, that would be much resented.

I will be told that there is a cultural bond—and that is true—which is happily retained by the fact that more and more Australians come here. Other arguments are put forward that because so many people from this country go to Australia, reciprocally we should permit any number to come here. The argument which would be seen most widely in the world and in this country, however, is that somehow we had one rule for white and another for the coloured, one rule for the old Commonwealth and another for the new Commonwealth. I do not believe that that is what the House would wish. I do not believe that it is what either the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone or the hon. Member for Haltem-price would wish. I am certain that it is not what the country or the Commonwealth would want. To have legislation which was as openly discriminatory as that would do much to render damage to the relationship which exists between our own country and individual Commonwealth countries.

I have had very close and friendly contact in recent weeks with the Australian High Commission concerning some of the general and individual matters which have been referred to. I have been very glad to learn that the High Commission has recently taken steps to convey to all Australians in this country that they should abide by the requirements of our control, which means that after, say, six months, if that is the duration, they should apply for extension. If they do that, they certainly need expect to encounter no difficulties from the Home Office. The rare case of difficulty which attracts a disproportionate amount of attention arises when people disregard the control and get themselves into difficulties of their own making.

It is my concern as, I hope, it is of hon. Members to secure better understanding of the realities of the situation on all sides so that these difficult cases need not arise. Our own High Commission in Australia has done a great deal to let it be known the way in which the Commonwealth Immigration Act applies, and recently a senior officer of our Immigration Service made a special visit to Australia for this purpose to help to ensure that there was a general and full understanding.

I would conclude with two points. The first is that I hope that when there are incidents in which a particular issue arises of a case of a young man hon. Gentlemen and, in so far as my remarks can be directed to the Press, they also will not leap into drawing assumptions which are not founded upon fact. The hon. Gentleman in referring to the Brownlie case said it was a long time before a statement was made. As soon as the situation was known both I and the Australian Government, I having had an immediate meeting with representatives of the High Commission in London, took steps to ensure that in Australia the facts were known. But then statements were made, and editorials were written, which were repeated in Australia and which led to misunderstandings. I think those sorts of misunderstandings are due to statements which are not based on fact.

I want to reiterate on behalf of the Government that we welcome visitors from Australia to this country. Not only do we want them to feel close to us; we want them to know that we feel close to them, that their presence here is warmly welcomed, that we shall do every thing we can to remove any difficulties or disadvantages or any problems which might emerge, because we are anxious to maintain close and friendly relations not only with the Government of Australia—and particularly at this time— but also with Australia's people.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I may be allowed to intervene irregularly, before I call the next speaker, to say that I am sure the House would wish me to pay tribute, at the end of the year, to all the servants of the House, without whose devotion to their work the work of the House would be gravely handicapped. I know that every hon. and right hon. Member appreciates excellent service generously given.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Speaker

I would remind the House that this next debate ends at 3.30.