HC Deb 07 November 1968 vol 772 cc1048-50
2. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement as to his policy in respect of the admission to this country of the dependants of Commonwealth immigrants already here.

Mr. Callaghan

I have nothing to add to past statements on this matter.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify whether those past statements mean that he is or is not prepared to allow unrestricted entry to the dependants of immigrants already here? If that is his policy, how does he define dependency for purposes of this application? How, in view of the difficulties which the Inland Revenue has encountered, does he check on genuineness?

Mr. Callaghan

That is a subject for a speech and not for a Parliamentary Answer. But I can sum up by saying that to prevent a man's wife and children from joining him here leads to social problems in the community. The only way to prevent those problems is to allow families to be reunited. Indeed, it is only common humanity to do so. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that I am here echoing the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and I agree with them.

8. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the annual average rate of entry of dependent immigrants over the last five years.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

Slightly under 40,000.

Mr. Ridsdale

Can the hon. Gentleman give an estimate of the cost to the social services of this number of people over the last five years?

Mr. Rees

I answered a Question which touched on this subject the other day. I cannot give the figure in detail, but from an article in the Economic Review it appears that there was a study which indicated that for immigrants the cost of health and welfare was about national average, of education and child care a little above and of social security benefits well below the national average.

Sir D. Renton

What average rate of entry of dependants does the hon. Gentleman expect over the next five years?

Mr. Rees

It is impossible to give that figure. While it would be very rash to give a judgement based just on this year, for figures of this kind do not always follow the norm, the figures are lower than last year.

Mr. Ridsdale

; On a point of order. In view of the vagueness of the hon. Gentleman's reply, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

Notice should be given in conventional form.

9. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many dependants entering this country in the last two years received or expect to receive full-time education.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I do not have exact information but estimate that, of the Commonwealth citizens admitted for settlement in each of these years, about 25,000–30,000 were under 15 years of age, a proportion of whom would be below the age of compulsory school attendance.

Mr. Ridsdale

Does not this make an estimate of the amount of money needed for education by these immigrants running into tens of millions of pounds?

Mr. Rees

To get absolutely correct figures for all immigrants is extremely difficult, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department of Education and Science takes sample checks and has sufficient figures to deal with the problem.

Mr. Bidwell

Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that people coming from overseas to work in this country should have the right to draw their families around them when they are legitimately their families, and that in the long run this is the most civilised way to do it?

Mr. Rees

That is a view which has been expressed not only on this side of the House, but by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Frederic Harris

How does the Home Office define dependent immigrants? Is there any limit to the number of dependent immigrants to one immigrant?

Mr. Rees

I cannot give a statistical definition, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman. Dependants are allowed in.

Mr. Hogg

Presumably, the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given in the last two Answers relate to some supposed definition of immigrants and dependants. Surely those are contained in the 1962 Act; or is he relying on something else?

Mr. Rees

No, the same definition.

22. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made in setting up a register of dependants in which immigrants claiming wives and children as residing overseas can enter their claims.

Mr. Callaghan

I am not yet satisfied that the compilation of a register of dependants would yield the advantages claimed for it.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that last summer he said that he would consider this matter very seriously? I hope that he will be able to make up his mind soon. A number of immigrants come from territories where illegitimacy is rife and where it is difficult to distinguish between legitimate and lawful families and those which are not. Is it not necessary for the immigration officers to have a register to which they can work when these so-called families arrive?

Mr. Callaghan

As the hon. Gentleman indicates, there are many factors in this matter. I have examined it, as I undertook to do some months ago. I do not think that the increase in work which would be involved would bring any great benefit at the moment, but this is one of the matters which could well be discussed in the Select Committee on Race Relations which I believe the House will agree to set up very shortly.