HC Deb 04 July 1968 vol 767 cc1663-6
3 and 4. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) why 2,115 men from India and 2,096 men from Pakistan were allowed to enter Great Britain under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, in the month of April, 1968, in view of the fact that there were over half a million permanently unemployed persons, and many more on short-time employment; and if he will now stop all further immigration until those unemployed are provided with work;

(2) if he is aware that 1,321 children and 1,318 women from India, 448 children and 296 women from Jamaica, 919 children and 709 women from Pakistan entered Great Britain under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, in the month of April, 1968, besides large numbers from other countries; and when he expects the flow of immigration to cease.

Mr. Ennals

The hon. Member's figures are of all admissions, including returning residents, visitors and others coming for temporary purposes, and ignore figures of departures. The number of those coming for settlement is much lower in every case. From the whole Commonwealth only 355 men arrived with employment vouchers in April. The majority of those coming for settlement were dependants.

Sir C. Osborne

Since unemployment is at its highest for 30 years and the Government are quite impotent to cure it, surely it is reasonable to expect that jobs at home should be safeguarded for our own people before any more are allowed in. I wish to press this matter. May I ask two supplementaries, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

Two Questions answered together do not entitle the hon. Gentleman to two supplementaries.

Sir C. Osborne

Secondly, the Home Secretary—and I wanted him to reply— voted twice on Second Reading and Third Reading against the 1962 Act, which he is now implementing. Since he has changed his mind once, why cannot he change it a second time?

Mr. Ennals

It is, perhaps, too much to expect some hon. Members to be reasonable about this. I gave the hon. Member the figure. It was only 355 men who came in for employment in the month in question. The vast majority had skills such as those of doctors and nurses, which the country very much needs.

Mr. Brooks

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the great majority of recent immigrants have been taking jobs in which there is no shortage of vacancies and that the serious problem is not so much employment but the depression of wage levels in such unattractive occupations as immigrants tend to take?

Mr. Ennals

It is quite certain that the small number of people who come in with vouchers largely come in for jobs for which the country has a substantial economic need.

12. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the report of the International Commission of Jurists regarding the operation of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968, details of which have been sent to him; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ennals

The article in the Commission's bulletin to which the hon. Member refers does not add anything fresh to the arguments advanced in our debates earlier this year, when Parliament decided that legislation was justified.

Mr. Fisher

When such a distinguished legal body condemns the 1968 Act as violating human rights, creating second-class citizens, worsening race relations and legislating on racial lines, does not this make the hon. Gentleman wonder for a moment whether his Act was a wise and tolerant one and whether it should not be amended or modified?

Mr. Ennals

I have read the article with care, but I must point out that it is not a report by the International Commission of Jurists but an article published in their bulletin. I have no evidence that they as a body have made any pronouncements on this subject. I certainly would not reach the conclusions reached by the hon. Member. The Act is working effectively and it seems to me that the number of people who apply for vouchers can be properly dealt with.

Mr. Luard

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, quite apart from that expression of opinion by the International Commission of Jurists, the Act was the subject of considerable condemnation during the recent conference on human rights in Teheran and that it is considered by some people to be a violation of the Universal Declartion of Human Rights? In those circumstances, will my hon. Friend consider having further consultations with the Governments of India and Pakistan as it is now believed that the vast majority of these people would prefer to go to India and Pakistan, and it might be possible to reach an arrangement with those Governments if we would relax our own restrictions?

Mr. Ennals

There is a later Question on the Order Paper concerning that matter to which the hon. Gentleman has directed his question. There have been criticisms, but this was carried by an overwhelming vote of the House. I would remind the hon. Gentleman of the words of the Solicitor-General in the debate: … if the Bill is to be regarded as not being basically a refusal of entry Bill but a Bill for ordering the process of entry, it does not contravene the principles in international law referred to."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1580–2.]