HC Deb 28 February 1968 vol 759 cc1689-93

In the principal Act the following section shall be inserted after section 12:—

'12A. The Secretary of State may make arrangements for financial assistance to persons admitted to the United Kingdom under the principal Act or this Act to enable them to return to their country of origin '.—[Mr. Hogg.]

Brought up and read the First time.

Mr. Hogg

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The proposal in the Clause was originally in our election programme, but the need for it is probably greater now than it was then owing to the situation created by the present Bill. The present Bill arises out of the sense of insecurity of a large number of United Kingdom citizens who, I think, of their own accord would not have wished to leave their place of origin at all but have been impelled to do so by fears of how they may be treated if they stay or fears that if they do not move quickly they will be forestalled by legislation—the latter of their fears proving correct up to a point. Our feeling about these new immigrants is that, on the assumption that East African countries and other countries where they at present reside behave in a way which all of us would consider proper towards persons who have been in their territories sometimes for generations, that is the best place for them to be.

6.15 a.m.

Other immigrants arrive here under the existing principal Act. It has sometimes been thought that this is an anti-immigrant proposal, but I do not so treat it. They think that there are plenty of people who would wish to return if they had the means. Certainly I do not. I think there may be people who harbour a delusion that if money were provided for repatriation a great number would return. I do not take that view, but there must be some and, if that be the case, arrangements—which is all that is proposed—to provide financial assistance towards repatriation would be an act which would be both beneficial to this country and an act of generosity to those in need of help. I propose the new Clause taking advantage of the present Bill to do something which we promised in our election pledges.

Mr. Hooson

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that one of the dangers of this provision might be that people could have a long holiday here and get financial assistance to go back, unless there is provision for safeguards against that?

Mr. Hogg

All that the new Clause says is that the right hon. Gentleman should make arrangements. The arrangements would have to be satisfactory to prevent abuse. Those who come in under the principal Act have vouchers involving employment which they are to take up, or alternatively, a particular skill. One would think that those who now come in would not be coming for a holiday. Obviously the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) is right in saying that the arrangements envisaged in the new Clause would have to have safeguards against abuse.

Mr. Ennals

The Government do not believe that this new Clause is necessary. It is true that some come here as immigrants and wish to return, and many do. Sometimes they come as residents and sometimes they go home and settle because they have come here for only a short time. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was right to put the question, "Might it not be to the economic advantage of some who wished to go home if the Government should generously offer help for them to do so?" I am surprised that in this year and at this time in the morning he should suggest that we should be spending money which would not be necessary.

Power exists and is used by the Supplementary Benefits Commission to pay the fare of a Commonwealth immigrant who wishes to return home and who cannot obtain work here. Each case is decided on its merits. The provision is already there. It is a provision which is used by a substantial number of immigrants wishing to return home but who cannot afford it. In fact, an average of a hundred a year do so. There would be no point in our providing additional Government funds to pay to immigrants who could afford to go home. There are other provisions which enable children to be repatriated in certain circumstances, which I need not go into unless I am hard pressed.

As we already have ability to do what the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants, it would be unwise very widely to publicise it, first, because it would be open to abuse, and second, it might look as though this was a sort of "Blacks go home" campaign. We ought not to create any impression that it is really our wish to "Send these fellows home".

Mr. Ogden

I was glad to hear my hon. Friend's detailed explanation. I can put a much simpler reason. In recent days and weeks, I have voted to break my own election pledges, I have voted to break Conservative pledges made in the past, and I am damned if I see any reason why I should now vote to keep Conservative election pledges.

Sir G. Sinclair

I welcome the assurance given by the Under-Secretary of State. I think it right that this provision should be made on the basis which he outlined because, with him, I see some danger that those who adopt a very different attitude towards immigrants coming into this country might pick on a special provision such as is proposed in the Amendment to suggest that this was what a great number of people in this country wanted—that immigrants should go home. This would make the Government's policies in race relations and everything else less than credible.

It is right to put this provision on a supplementary benefit basis so that the whole circumstances of the case can be gone into in a disciplined way. We should not hold out a carrot for anyone who thinks that we should get rid of immigrants. Nevertheless, I am glad that the present arrangements have been given a bit of extra publicity, because several of my colleagues have told me of cases in which they have had considerable difficulty in gaining access to funds through the source which the Under-Secretary of State mentioned.

Mr. David Steel

If it is any consolation to the Government at this hour, we do not like this proposal either.

Question put and negatived.

Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, considered.