§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 2, leave out lines 7 and 8.
Perhaps it would be convenient to discuss, at the same time, Amendment No. 2, in page 2, leave out lines 16 and 17.
This has been done in recent years and has the obvious advantage that, as one Minister is responsible for the administration of both bodies of law and one immigration service responsible for administering them, we can discuss them together.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
On a point of order. May I clarify that, Mr. Irving? If we agree to this, which will, I think, be satisfactory, will it be in order to raise the matters which I tried to raise in the form of the third Amendment, which has not been selected?
§ Sir D. Renton
These Amendments represent a procedural fiction which has been found convenient. The last thing that we would wish is for either of these items to be left out of the Schedule, but this procedure enables us to have a debate on immigration and generally to consider how the legislation has worked over the past year, how it has gone wrong, and to make suggestions for improvement. I shall, of course, be asking leave to withdraw the Amendment at the end of the debate.
418 Immigration controls are always difficult to administer. Therefore, I would, first, like to pay our annual tribute to the immigration officers. They deserve our thanks for the way in which they have performed their public duty, a duty which becomes greater as the numbers passing through our ports increase, and in many ways it becomes more difficult each year. Only this year some of them expressed uneasiness about their tasks. Their complaints were heard by the Home Office, indeed, by one of the Ministers, and I hope that, however improperly made the complaints may have been, they were heeded.
When an aircraft lands or a ship docks, the immigration officers must apply to each of many different kinds of passenger one or other of several elaborate sets of rules, which may vary according to whether the person is the holder of a United Kingdom passport issued in the United Kingdom, a holder of a United Kingdom passport issued elsewhere, a Commonwealth citizen subject to control under the 1962 Act, or an alien, subject to the Aliens Order.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who will be with us shortly, said two years ago in one of these debates that it was time that we had one body of permanent legislation to cover all these matters. That would not necessarily mean that all Commonwealth citizens and all aliens would be treated precisely the same. But surely we have now reached a stage at which we have gained sufficient experience of both systems and the difficulties to which they give rise for each of those systems to be thoroughly revised and largely assimilated. That was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in his important speech on immigration at York in September, and it would be a creative task which I commend to the Home Secretary.
I deal, first with the renewal of the Aliens Order for, I think, the forty-ninth time. It is based on what was originally temporary legislation. I would remind the Committee that the number of aliens staying here permanently increases by between 15,000 and 20,000 each year. In 1967, subject to correction on the figures as I have read them, the increase was about 16,000. Do we really need to have 419 such a large permanent addition to the alien population of this country year by year? We should consider that.
Most of those admitted for long-term employment enter the catering trade or domestic service. I must confess that about eight years ago I arranged that they should become condition-free after being here for four years, having previously had to have their work permits and leave to remain in this country renewed annually. After four years, however, they and their families can settle here permanently as long as they are of good behaviour. But as we now have more than half a million unemployed, and we have had it for some time, the policy of admitting so many aliens for employment and then for settlement should surely be reconsidered. I hope that the Government will tell us of their intentions in this matter.
I turn now to Commonwealth immigration. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone has pointed out more than once in our debates that in recent years we had achieved a bipartisan approach based on two propositions: that we should keep a tight control on immigration; and, secondly, that we should treat people lawfully in this country on the basis of absolute equality. I hope that we can all agree on those two propositions.
There are, of course, honest differences of opinion as to the best way to act upon each of those propositions. You would probably rule, Mr. Irving, that only the first of them is strictly relevant for detailed discussion in this debate, and I propose to confine myself to how we should keep a tight control upon immigration. I hope that today we shall consider how tight the control should be, whether the intake should be substantially reduced and what would be the best and fairest methods to attain that object.
I recently returned, with other hon. Members, from a delegation which took me to two emerging Commonwealth countries and a colonial territory. Wherever we went, we had a very kind welcome and generous hospitality. I found in those countries, as in other Commonwealth countries which I have visited, that they have strict immigration control and that they understand and 420 accept our need for control. It is clear from the public announcements of Commonwealth High Commissioners in London that they respect our rules in this matter in a responsible way and they wish to see their own countrymen abide by them.
I need not remind the Committee of all the reasons for keeping a tight control on immigration. Some people emphasise one reason more than another. There are many right hon. and hon. Members, on both sides—and I am among them—who are worried about the ever-increasing density of the population of England itself, in spite of a high rate of emigration.
There are those of us, on both sides, who are worried about the strains on our education system caused by high post-war birth rates and we have recently been told by the Registrar-General that another large birth "bulge" is on its way. In the Midlands and elsewhere, large numbers of immigrant children and children of immigrants have greatly increased the difficulties in our schools through sheer weight of numbers as well as through language problems, but hon. Members representing those areas can describe far better than I the serious position of our education authorities who are so placed.
In considering what degree of control we should have from now on, we should bear in mind what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in his speech at York, and I shall quote his words. He said:I do not believe that it was even individual colour prejudice which generated heat last April. The cause of the outcry was a deep-rooted feeling among a large section of the nation that here was a problem affecting them personally in their daily lives over which the Government had little or no control. They felt that here was a situation out of hand which would work to the detriment of their children and of future generations, that here was a near crisis unresolved which could change their way of life and the very nature of society in their own native land.I do not think that anyone could dispute those measured words. They mean, however, that we should take stock of the position which we have now reached.
With the aid of several different sets of figures obtained from the Library, and calculating the matter in several different ways in accordance with those figures, I am convinced that at least 1¼ million, 421 and possibly 1¼ million, coloured people are now settled in this country. As we know, and as is clear from the figures, they are increasing at a rate of about 50,000 a year through immigration alone. Of that 50,000, about 40,000 are women and children.
Details of birth rates are difficult to obtain, but they are probably somewhat higher than the present national average live birth rate, which is 17 to 18 per 1,000. It varies from quarter to quarter. However, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research assumes that there was an average of 25,000 births among the coloured population in each of the years between 1961 and 1966. It has risen since then and may now, therefore, be approaching 30,000 a year.
The vital question which in all earnestness and seriousness, and doing our duty to our constituents, we have to decide is whether an average net annual increase of 50,000 a year by immigration alone should be substantially reduced by positive action or allowed to continue indefinitely. I hope that, fairly stated, that is the crux of this debate.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that the number of immigrants entering Britain, both under the voucher system and as dependants, should be "severely curtailed". Those were the words he used. I do not know whether the Government agree or disagree with that, although a statement has been issued by the Home Secretary to which I shall refer later.
Let us consider what the Government have done so far since the present Home Secretary succeeded to the Home Office. In February, he introduced the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Only 62 hon. Members, of all parties, voted against its Second Reading. Some of those who did so, including some of my hon. Friends, accept the need for immigration control, but they voted against the Act because they placed the sanctity of the United Kingdom passport above any reasons for tightening control. They were in a small minority. The Act was intended to tighten control in various ways besides preventing the large flow of Asians from East Africa. The Act succeeded in stemming the large numbers from there.
Apart from achieving that purpose, however, it has apparently had 422 little effect. Indeed, in May and June this year we had the largest net increases of dependants in any months since the 1962 Act came into force—over 4,000 in May and nearly 5,000 in June. I hope that the Home Secretary will tell us in detail what has so far been the result of this year's Commonwealth Immigrants Act.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
I do not understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point. The Act did not purport to deal with the general question of dependants; it dealt with particular classes, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well. In all cases where it was intended to handle particular areas it has been successful, as he says. What other point has he in mind? The Act obviously could not bite on groups against which it was not intended to legislate.
§ Sir D. Renton
I have here a copy of the Act, and the right hon. Gentleman also can refer to it. I have again read his speech on Second Reading, which I heard at the time. Although the Act deals with matters of details, it purports to tighten the control in at least three respects, and I am about to ask him to tell us in greater detail what has hapened upon those matters. The Act was a modest and not far-reaching attempt to tighten the control, but, to the extent that it attempted to do so, we would like now to know the result.
We would like to know especially what the effect of the Act has been with regard to dependants who were formerly allowed to join only one parent here if both were alive, but who, under the Act, were obliged to have both parents here if they were still alive. We would also like to know the effect on the discovery of clandestine immigrants now that more time is allowed for their examination. I have always agreed with Home Office Ministers who have said that clandestine immigration has been in a fairly small scale, but I fear that Home Office Ministers have been pretty starry-eyed about evasion by immigrants passing though the ports, particularly evasions by people falsely claiming to be dependants.
In the statement to which I referred the Home Secretary said that he considered that there was only "a small minority of bogus claims". Of course, 423 the number of bogus claims detected by the immigration officers is quite small, but is not that perhaps just the tip of the iceberg? I do not blame the immigration officers for the fact that many immigrants bluff their way through the control. The pressure of the numbers arriving is considerable, and their ingenuity knows no bounds.
The Public Accounts Committee has drawn attention to that ingenuity manifested in another way, which it is in order to mention in this debate because it may involve the exercise of the Home Secretary's power of deportation if the courts so recommend. The Public Accounts Committee pointed out that of a sample of 1,000 Indian and Pakistani immigrants it was found that 52 per cent. had made fraudulent Income Tax claims in respect of non-resident dependants.
Paragraph 4 of the Third Report of the Public Accounts Committee of last Session states:Assuming that this proportion (52 per cent.) was a true measure of the incidence of fraudulent claims amongst this particular immigrant group, and applying the results of the survey to the 125,000 Indians and Pakistanis working in this country, the Department assessed the annual loss at about £5 to £7 million and the cumulative loss to 1967 at about four times that amount.Each of these cases and any others discovered should be, and may already have been, the subject of prosecution. In the more serious cases the courts could recommend deportation, and the Home Secretary would have power to deport. I therefore feel obliged to ask him how many prosecutions there have been so far, what was the outcome, and whether it is his general policy to deport in such cases if the courts recommend it.
The High Commissioners for India and Pakistan have, rightly, condemned the behaviour of their countrymen, for it must worry them as much as it worries us, and I hope that the Home Secretary will put us in the picture about this lamentable affair.
In considering how the net intake of immigrants can be reduced, as surely it must be, two principal matters only need to be considered: first, the number of vouchers issued; and, secondly, the number of dependants admitted. The total 424 number of A and B vouchers issued in 1967 was 8,409, and the number of voucher holders admitted was just under 5,000, a slight fall compared with the previous year; but that figure of, say, 5,000 means that when they are joined by their families we can expect an increase of anything from 15,000 to 30,000 immigrants in due course, according to the extent to which the voucher holders are men rather than women, according to the length of stay and the numbers there are in the family to follow them.
For the first nine months of this year I understand that the voucher figures have been running at about the same level as the year before, and I suggest, on those figures, that there is scope for a reduction in the number of vouchers issued. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) said at York, "Each individual granted an entry voucher must be justified as essential for the purpose stated". Much as we need more teachers and doctors, we must remember that they are needed far more desperately in their own countries, especially in India and Pakistan. This should be borne in mind when deciding how many B vouchers are to be issued.
Government spokesmen have said frequently that as soon as those men who came here before about 1962 have brought their families over the number of dependants arriving will fall substantially. I wonder whether that is right. It is taking a long time to happen, and it looks as though we shall continue to get large numbers of dependants each year. The largest influx of men started in 1958 and continued until mid-1962. There has been from six to 10 years for them to get their families over here, but the net increase of dependants still continues at this high level of about 40,000 a year. The Home Secretary, in his statement, said:We must expect to see dependants continue to come to join heads of families in this way.That rather implies that he did not expect the number to fall very much in the foreseeable future.
We have also now reached the stage at which young men who came here as teenagers are starting to send for fiancées who are, of course, admitted readily if they are going to marry. A 425 snowball process has started through the admission of fiancées and, I understand, even of proxy spouses.
It is the policy of both Front Benches to admit the genuine—and I stress "genuine"—dependants of men already here. But we must remember that this is an open-ended commitment and one which lends itself easily to abuse. To measure the size of the commitment and check abuse, it is necessary to find out how many more dependants of men already here will claim to come in.
One would expect the Government to have made an estimate of the number concerned—a forward projection. Have the Government made any such estimate or forward projection? If so, what was the result? If not, why have they not done it? There has been plenty of pressure from hon. Members on this side to try to get the problems measured by registration or in one way or another, and I hope that the Government have been paying attention to this and that we shall hear something about it from the right hon. Gentleman. If the Government are not in a position to give any information to the House and the country, then they are not doing what the country expects them to do to find out what numbers are likely to come here under the present procedure in the years to come.
In his speech at York, my right hon. Frield the Leader of the Opposition put forward constructive detailed proposals. The Times called them "valuable suggestions" and most other national journals praised them too. One hoped that the Government would welcome his proposals as a fresh and effective solution to a most difficult problem. But what happened? The Home Secretary produced a statement of eight foolscap pages completely rejecting my right hon. Friend's suggestions and containing, I am sorry to say, a good deal of detailed exaggeration.
The Home Secretary also alleged that these proposals would create "a category of second-class citizens". That comment seemed to me to be uncharacteristic of the Home Secretary—because I know him well and respect him very much—and also unworthy of a Home Secretary. It is untrue and preposterous to say that admitting people for 12 months at a time for the first four years turns them into second-class citizens. At present, 426 many Commonwealth immigrants are admitted on a temporary basis subject to a time condition of only three months or six months, which is stamped on their passports. Does the Home Secretary seriously suggest that this turns them into second-class citizens?
§ Mr. Callaghan
They are visitors to the United Kingdom. They are not citizens as are the Commonwealth immigrants.
§ Sir D. Renton
The right hon. Gentleman has got this wrong. A Commonwealth citizen who is admitted with an employment voucher under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act does not at once become a citizen of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman knows that quite well. He is using a specious and damaging argument which can do no good toward achieving better feeling on these matters in this country.
If, when the Leader of the Opposition puts forward constructive proposals recognised as constructive by a large body of opinion, the Home Secretary, two weeks later and after mature consideration, issues a long statement in which more than once he says that these proposals would create second-class citizens, it does not help.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman seek to equate an alien with a Commonwealth citizen?
§ Sir D. Renton
I have not sought to equate an alien with a Commonwealth citizen—nothing of the kind. What I do say is that a Commonwealth citizen who is subject to a three months' or six months' time condition does not become a second-class citizen and that the Commonwealth immigrant subject to a 12-month time condition would not become a second-class citizen, either.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
It is important that we get this right. Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not trying to say that people coming in for anything up to a six months' stay, which appears on their passports, are to be set against those who have come for employment under the voucher system? People do not come under the voucher system to visit.
§ Sir D. Renton
What I feel about this is that the Home Secretary has made a 427 mistake in using the phrase and that the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), like the Home Secretary, is simply splitting hairs in trying to justify it. We should leave the matter at that.
I am sorry to have to say that it is plain that the Home Secretary's utterly negative statement has made much more difficult a bipartisan approach to this matter, and I hope that today we shall hear something much more positive from him which may help restore the position. Surely the Opposition, doing their duty, are right to put forward constructive alternative proposals. That is what my right hon. Friend did. Equally, the Government have a duty to consider those proposals on their merits. Yet the Home Secretary's statement—I do not suppose that many hon. Members have read it, but it was referred to in the Press—was utterly negative and unnecessarily contentious and has done a great deal to make a bipartisan approach more difficult.
However regrettable the need for it may be, firm and effective control of immigration and a big reduction in numbers are essential to remove the fears that lead to racial tensions, as well as for several other reasons, some of which I have mentioned. This is especially so when we have continuing high unemployment, too few houses, too few school places and too few teachers. All of us, I hope, are progressive in wanting a higher standard of living for all the people in our multiracial society, but, in spite of emigration, our high birth rate, coupled with an annual net increase of between 15,000 and 20,000 foreigners and of 50,000 people from the Commonwealth, can only frustrate social progress. It is, therefore, with all sincerity that I beg the Government to take bolder steps than those they have yet contemplated to ensure that the intake is considerably reduced.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) stands well to the right of the Conservative Party on this matter and it is unfortunate that he was asked to open the debate for the Opposition. I understand the reasons why the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) cannot be present, but when I 428 knew that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire was to speak I recognised that his attack would not bear the signs of the usual moderation we get from Conservative Party spokesmen.
I would like to examine any constructive proposals put forward, but I am bound to say that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, at York, just before the Conservative Party conference, seemed to bear all the marks of a desire to unite the Tory Party as far to the right as possible.
I did not find many constructive proposals in it. However, I examined it. I understand that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) does not particularly dissent from it, and I am not surprised. I examined very carefully what the right hon. Gentleman said. Indeed, I thought it only courteous, as well as an aid to clarity of thought on the matter, that I should put out a reasoned comment on what he said. I do not think that it was particularly contumacious—indeed, I am sure it was not—because I was not anxious to get off to a very bad start.
But I did not think that the Leader of the Opposition made many constructive proposals. Having reached that conclusion, I set out not just to state my conclusion, but also to state the reasons for it. I thought that, under a smoke screen of words, the right hon. Gentleman was not putting forward any proposal which would lead to any substantial reduction, which was what he indicated he wanted to do.
The analysis that I put out to the Press, which the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire did not attempt to dispute, has not been disputed by anybody yet. Therefore, I repeat what I said then: that I know of no proposal put forward by the Leader of the Opposition which would substantially reduce the number of immigrants coming into this country.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Sir D. Renton
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman should say that I did not dispute any of his statement. Indeed, I did. I described it as containing a good deal of detailed exaggeration, and I complained particularly about one 429 phrase that he used. I said that there were contentious matters in it, so I did indeed dispute it.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that, but he did not enter into any close argument about it and attempt to show in any detail where the statement was wrong. It is easy to say there are exaggerations if no attempt is made to prove them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made no attempt to do so. Indeed, he knows that he would have failed.
The only suggestion that the right hon. and learned Gentleman made, as far as I can see, is that we should cut down the number of vouchers issued. The number of voucher holders who took up vouchers last year, as he correctly said, was about 4,500—rather under 5,000. By what figure does the right hon. and learned Gentleman want to cut it down? By 1,000, 2,000, 3,000? Or does he suggest we should cut it down altogether and have nobody coming in under the voucher system?
Let us assume that, with the great Draconian severity that he proposes to introduce, he reduces the number of voucher holders coming here by 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000. That still will not deal with the other 50,000-plus dependants to whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, which is the core of the problem. I think that it is shirking the problem not to attempt to deal with that particular issue. The Leader of the Opposition has said quite clearly that he would regard it as wrong to separate a man from his family, and that if a man is here the family should be allowed to join him.
The right hon. Gentleman says that it would be inhumane to do anything different. I agree with him. I believe that is the policy of the Conservative Party, which appears in the mid-term manifesto which I have. So why does the right hon. and learned Gentleman pretend—presumably for the sake of a little cheap popularity—that he will make substantial inroads into the problem by reducing the number of voucher holders from 5,000 to 4,000? If he really wants to make an incursion into the problem he has to cut down the number of dependants coming here. In other words, he has to reverse 430 the policy of his party, and he did not have the courage to say this afternoon that that is what he wants to do.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham) rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am dealing with the official policy of the Conservative Party. If that is the case, all in this House have to live with the fact that, because of the large numbers of workers who arrived in this country before the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1963, and before the substantial limitation on the number of work vouchers was made in 1965—that is when the limitation took place—a large number of dependants have arrived and will be arriving with the full consent of the Leader of the Opposition. He does not want to cut into that number at all.
We ought to be able to get away from the argument that we can deal with this problem by pretence, or by fierce phrases about the lackadaisical nature of the Home Office. I hope that the Opposition will not alter their policy. I believe that it would be inhumane. I pay credit to the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition, who has no desire, any more than 99 per cent. of people in this country, to separate a man from his family. That being so, this is the situation today.
From what I can make of the figures which have been published so far, and the numbers coming in—I will come back to this in detail a little later—it seems as though we are now on a plateau concerning the number of dependants. Obviously, in time the fact that there is such a very much smaller number of vouchers being issued is bound to have an impact on the numbers coming in.
The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire quoted a total increase of perhaps between 15,000 and 30,000 per year in due course. Depending on the number of single men who arrive, and whether they bring fiancêes, I suppose that that estimate is within the bracket of probability. This is bound to happen in due course. I cannot foretell when it is likely to happen, although I should like to satisfy the right hon. and learned Gentleman later about the number of people who have arrived, relating the numbers to the years in which they arrived, and from that one can make certain deductions about future arrivals.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I agree that dependants of persons who are already here should be allowed in, but the figures seem to show that six or seven persons follow every voucher holder who comes in. Therefore, if 5,000 voucher holders come in next year about 36,000 dependants will follow in later years. If the figure was cut by, say, 2,000 the figure in a few years would be cut by perhaps 12,000 dependants a year.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That follows only if the hypothesis is correct. I will come back to that later. I should like to develop my speech in my own way. I have this point in mind. But it does not follow that every voucher holder brings anything like six or seven dependants with him.
Perhaps I might follow the train of my speech on this and deal with a number of the points raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire.
First, permanent legislation. That is still an ideal to be worked for. Although it does not necessarily mean the assimilation of Commonwealth legislation into aliens' legislation, as I have explained in my statement following the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, such a pure assimilation could mean a substantial increase in the number of Commonwealth immigrants coming to this country. Therefore, one has to look at it on a slightly different basis.
There are two reasons why I am not able to propose permanent legislation. The first reason is shortage of legislative time. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman and other hon. Members have noticed, but the Home Office has five Bills in the current Session. Today, we have the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, tomorrow there is a debate on prisons, on Monday there is a debate—I had better not say what Monday's business will be, because no one knows. However, later there will be debates on the Representation of the People, House of Lords, Genocide, and 432 a Children's Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has experience of these matters, will recognise that five major Bills in the course of a Session is as much as the draftsmen in any Department can cope with. That is one difficulty about permanent legislation at present. Nor do I think that that kind of legislation should take precedence over other legislation that I shall be bringing before the House.
The second reason is that there is some advantage in grafting an appeals system on to the present machinery of control. Hon. Members have pressed me in the past to have an appeals system. That is another Bill I should have mentioned that I shall be bringing forward fairly shortly. There is something to be said for grafting it on to the existing machinery of control and having a period of experience of the operation of the system before the comprehensive permanent legislation is brought in. I am not going to promise it this Session. We shall have to see how matters develop.
Despite the appearance given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman this afternoon, there is no difference between the Government and the Official Opposition about the need for an effective system of immigration control. I regard it as unhelpful that the right hon. and learned Gentleman tried earlier today to promote the idea that there was no effective control over immigration, and that a host of new measures were needed to bring it under control. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that that is not the case. There is the most strict control over immigration, and I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's approach does justice to the facts of the situation.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the Measure which I introduced into the House several months ago in relation to Commonwealth immigration, which dealt basically with the East Africans, but also with some other groups, and perhaps I might give some figures about that. The 1968 Act was introduced to keep effective control over the large number of United Kingdom citizens of Asian origin who were coming from East Africa. By the end of 1967 the rate of arrival was more than 13,000 during the year, and this was double the number in 433 any previous year. I think that some statements from the benches opposite helped to create uncertainty about the situation, and probably increased the number of immigrants who might otherwise have taken time to come here, if indeed they ever came.
§ Mr. David Steel
The right hon. Gentleman is making a stricture on the Opposition. I hope that he will make a stricture on himself, and accept that in the immediate period before the legislation was introduced there was a considerable influx of people who would not have come here if he had not introduced the Bill.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I accept that. That is the consequence of deciding to introduce legislation, but I brought the influx to a stop. In other words, I did not make noises about it when there was no power to act.
If the House is to pursue its legislative function, there must be an interval between the date of the announcement of legislation and its passage into law. The rate continued to increase fast in January and February, and the flow became a flood. Although there was substantial criticism of the Measure in some quarters, there is no doubt that the result of the Act has been to reduce the flow to its pre-crisis proportions.
The special allocation of 1,500 vouchers per year which was made available for the heads of families under pressure to leave East Africa and find a home elsewhere is proving adequate, as, indeed, I forecast at the time it would. I was told by the critics that I was hopelessly wrong, and that is a good test. During the first six months, out of 1,500 vouchers for the year, 684 were issued, and not all the 684 have been taken up. It is a much lower number than that.
The position has been stabilised, and we have also been able to reach a satisfactory understanding with the Indian Government about the admission to India of Kenya Asians who have to leave Kenya and prefer to settle in India rather than in the United Kingdom, as undoubtedly a number of them will do.
Given that in the interests of regulating this flood we had to act, I have also to say to the Committee today that the 434 change in the law has not only had the desired effect, as the figures show, but I claim that it has been exercised carefully and humanely. I was asked by the House at the time, and I agreed, to institute a special appeals arrangement because such was the hot blood at that time that people believed that neither I nor my officials could be trusted to look at the system in a humane way.
With the full consent of the House I invited two distinguished lawyers to go to Nairobi to hear what I was told would be a flood of appeals against the legislation, and these two lawyers went there. I think that it is a measure of the acceptability of our arrangements that from March to the end of September there were about 40 appeals. Although I had indicated to the House that two independent lawyers would go to Nairobi, I took it on myself to reduce that figure to one after the first month or two. Later, because the second lawyer wished to come back to this country, I transferred the hearing of the appeals, which I now report to the Committee, from Nairobi to this country.
This has brought no criticism from any Member of the House, or from those concerned, and I should like to place on record my indebtedness to Sir Derek Hilton, His Honour Judge Reeve, Q.C., and Mr. Butt. Q.C., who have taken their share of this work.
I can claim that the Act had the effect that was intended, and, indeed, that it has been operated in a humane way. It is ironic that those who criticised me then are now saying that I grossly overestimated the number of people who were coming here. I can only say in reply that the number of people who came here fell off immediately the Act was passed, and there is no guarantee that there would have been any change at all if no Act had been brought in. The criticism at that time was that we would be flooded with applications for vouchers, but we were not.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, the 1968 Act contained a number of other provisions to strengthen control over immigration. They were rather lost at that time in the welter of emotion about the major issue which I have been discussing, but they were important provisions, and I shall give the 435 Committee the figures for which I was asked.
There was, first, the provision to limit the right of admission of dependent children under 16 to those who had both parents here. The motive behind the amendment was the concern that I felt, after first-hand experience, about the large number of youths of near working age who were arriving in this country to join all-male households, and to go more or less directly on to the labour market without any opportunity of adapting themselves to our way of life, or of deriving any benefit from our educational system.
I propose, now, to give the figures, and perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will take note of the success of the Act. During the three months immediately preceding the introduction of the Act, that is, from December to February, 1,032 of these youths were admitted to join a single parent here. During the three months after the Act, that 1,032 had dwindled to 39. During the three months after that, that is to say, from June to August, the figure of 1,032, which had dwindled to 39, dwindled further to 14.
The plain truth, and I said this at the time and was bitterly attacked for it, is that many young men were coming from Pakistan in particular, especially for this purpose and for no other. They were doing themselves no good, nor were they doing their countrymen any good, and by introducing this Measure and making it effective we have had a useful effect on our relationship with that country.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
My right hon. Friend referred to the sharp reduction in the number of youngsters coming in. Can he say which countries, Pakistan, India, and so on, were involved?
§ Mr. Callaghan
It was almost entirely Pakistan. That is where the boys were coming from. In fact, of the 1,032 which I quoted as having arrived in the December to February quarter, 872 were from Pakistan. That is obviously where the reduction has been, and it has been very noteworthy.
The other group in respect of which the number has fallen sharply is that of 436 the so-called elderly dependent parents, fathers, who arrived in this country under a special concession by which they were allowed here for their children to look after them, but not for working purposes, and after they arrived it was found that they frequently did take up work.
I do not have the exact figures for that group, but my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can give them later, if required. They have fallen away just as sharply as have the figures that I have referred to, so the change of policy announced at the time has been a marked success.
I want to digress slightly from the course of my argument to deal with a point that has given some concern, namely, the detention of Commonwealth children and some women—only a small number—in cases where the examination of a claim to admission has had to be protracted. This has caused much concern—in my view, properly so. Because control is so rigid, during the last year there has been an increase in the number of passengers who have been detained while their claims to admission have been examined by the Home Office or pursued in the courts. Most of these passengers arrive at London Airport, where the detention quarters are not designed to hold people for long periods in conditions that the Committee would tolerate.
Almost invariably these are people who have not applied for entry certificates before setting out for the United Kingdom. As the law stands neither I nor the magistrates have power to release on bail people who have been refused admission. There may be power in some cases for a court to grant bail, but such cases are in the minority. Therefore, at the moment they have to be held in prisons, remand homes and remand centres.
This is clearly unsatisfactory and I want to avoid it if I can, so I am now having discussions with the airlines, the carrying companies and other bodies at the airport with a view to providing a building in which families can stay together in conditions which are both reasonable and secure. These discussions are still at an early stage, but I thought that the Committee would like to know that I am aware of this problem 437 and am trying to deal with it in circumstances which I believe the Committee would approve of, without waiting for the introduction of an appeals system.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked for some figures about the number of dependants likely to come here. Although I cannot give him the exact figures, as he probably realises, the Home Office has been conducting regular surveys of dependants arriving here, for a number of purposes—to make forecasts for the future, and to see what the present age structure is, for example.
I will take the children first. The results of the survey so far show that over half the children arriving are under the age of 10. The remainder are spread fairly evenly through the age groups from 11 to 15. There is no marked concentration in the 14–15 age group. These surveys have been carried out since we cleaned up what I regard as an abuse in relation to the youths that I have already spoken of, and there is nothing in our surveys to show that there is any concentration in an age group coming here immediately before the children concerned would leave school.
It would not, therefore, be right for me to recommend to the Committee that we should reduce the age at which children enjoy a statutory right of admission to join their parents. If the age limit is to be fixed with a view to preserving family unity—which is an underlying purpose of the statutory right of admission it— would be hard to justify fixing it at an age lower than 16.
Therefore, spelling out in more detail what I said in my original statement, I see no room here for manoeuvre. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to cut down the number of people arriving in this country, if he sought to do it with this age group, he would be open to considerable—and, in my view, valid—criticism, on the ground of human rights. I am sure that he would not wish to put us in breach of the Convention of Human Rights, which enjoins respect for family life. Nor do I accept that any reduction in the age limit would have a marked effect on the numbers coming here. It might well happen that the children would be brought in earlier.
I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman paid tribute to the immigration officers. They carry out a 438 thankless task. One weekly newspaper never has anything good to say about them, and is constantly publicising the rare cases in which they make mistakes. I support all that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about the manner in which they have approached their work. There is no doubt that their patience is sorely tried on occasion.
Hon. Members would understand this if I were to tell them of some of the subterfuges that people get up to. Some young men dress up in girls' clothes so as to get past the immigration officers. That is one of the more obvious cases. The immigration officers have an extremely difficult job to do, and I have no doubt that they are acting as fairly and humanely as they can in administering the Acts and the regulations laid down by the House of Commons.
As for clandestine immigration, there has never been any clear evidence that large numbers of immigrants have succeeded in establishing themselves in this country, but whatever the scale of entry there has, naturally, been a great deal of public disquiet. The result of the change in the law has been satisfactory. There have been only two known instances of landings since the Act was passed. Both were detected, and have resulted in criminal proceedings being instituted against the person alleged to have been responsible for landing the immigrants. Needless to say, I shall continue, together with immigration officers, to be very vigilant in this matter. The police forces mainly concerned have established liaison arrangements not only within this country, but with authorities overseas, that at the moment seem to be satisfactory.
I have dealt with the problem of elderly parents, but perhaps I can say that since raising the age limit only six have been admitted over a period of eight months, in marked contrast to what was happening before, not because they had been refused entry but because they had not arrived.
The examples that I have given of the effects of the 1968 Act indicate that it would be wrong for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to suggest that the Government have been remiss in taking measures to strengthen the control where it has been necessary. That is not so. They have taken measures to strengthen control where everyone has agreed that 439 such measures should be taken. Those measures have turned out satisfactorily and are succeeding at present.
Before leaving this matter altogether I want to turn for a moment to what I started with—the question of the admission of dependants. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should have made it clear if I have not stated the position correctly. He has not dissented. It is common ground between the Government and the Opposition that there should be no curtailment of the statutory rights of admission of wives and children under the age of 16.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman now says that he said so. The implications of that statement are profound. Either he does not understand them or he is deliberately not spelling them out.
It the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that it is possible to reduce markedly the number of immigrants arriving here he should explain to the Committee how this can be done without curtailing the rights of dependants. At the moment, over 85 per cent. of the total flow of immigrants into this country consists of dependants. The number of vouchers is very small in relation to the numbers that we have been referring to.
The survey of dependants to which I have referred produced some interesting information about the length of time that may elapse before dependants come here to join the heads of their families. This is part of the answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's question about forecasting the future situation. The pattern is not uniform between the different parts of the Commonwealth, but the most recent survey carried out suggests that nearly half the dependants who are arriving now are joining men who settled here before the number of employment vouchers was severely curtailed by this Government in 1965.
A number still fall into the pre-1962 batch. Sixteen per cent. are coming here to join men who settled here before immigration control was introduced in 1962. The Committee will remember the large numbers which arrived in 1959, 440 1960 and 1961, so we are still seeing the arrival of a considerable number of dependants after an interval of years during which the heads of the families have been working here to establish themselves and provide for their families when they bring them together again.
They have been doing this in the knowledge that our legislation has guaranteed them the right to bring their families here. For years, they have been operating on that basis. It cannot seriously be proposed that we should now go back on this. I ask again: how then does the Leader of the Opposition propose to achieve the reduction in the numbers arriving?
I have already dealt with aspects of the suggestion about the assimilation of Commonwealth and foreign workers into one piece of legislation. Does it mean admitting Commonwealth workers without a ceiling on numbers, as is at present the case with aliens? I cannot believe that it means that, but that is the logical consequence of the proposal. We do not have nor, in my view, do we need, a numerical restriction on aliens, because only a modest number seek settlement here and the grant of work vouchers is sensitively attuned to the needs of the domestic market, but, because most Commonwealth workers are seeking settlement, we maintain a ceiling. That is the difference.
The prospect must surely be that, if Commonwealth workers were free to come here without a substantial restriction on numbers, as with aliens, there would be a marked increase rather than a severe curtailment of numbers. But this is clearly not what the Opposition intend.
§ Sir D. Renton
I wonder whether, in saying what he has just said, the right hon. Gentleman has perhaps overlooked the weight of numbers of the foreign population—a steady 15,000 to 20,000 a year increase over some years. That seems a very large increase, bearing in mind the temporary nature of the work that many of the foreigners have to do. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would state the Government's intentions on the employment front, because it is from the employment policy that this large permanent increase of 15,000 to 20,000 a year is derived.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes, I can state the Government's intentions. I have no intention at the moment of introducing any numerical restriction on aliens, because I do not think that it is necessary. It is getting this matter out of proportion for it to be suggested that an annual increase of 20,000 people coming here for permanent settlement, even taking the right hon. and learned Gentleman's upper figure, which has persisted for many years—we are not talking about the last four or five years—will really destroy the basis of the British ethos. I regard it as a retrograde step for us at this time when there is freer movement throughout all the countries of Europe—most of these workers come from Europe—to try to impose a restriction which would cut down the permanent increase in settlement of 15,000 to 20,000 aliens.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Does my right hon. Friend not find it most odd that there should be a suggestion along these lines, since the Opposition are fairly widely, at any rate, in support of joining the European Economic Community, which requires, above all, freedom of employment of labour?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes, of course it is at odds with a move to join the E.E.C., where, as I think everyone knows who has studied this problem, there is a large movement of workers, certainly by means of work permits, and their families from one country to another. Therefore, I have no proposals for doing anything of that sort.
Another question which has been raised a number of times—not particularly by the right hon. and learned Gentleman today, but it would be convenient if I dealt with it now—is the proposal to make entry certificates obligatory before dependants come here. I would not oppose this in principle. If it can be shown to be administratively sensible, there is every reason why we should do it. There may be arguments for doing this on administrative grounds, but if every dependant entitled to admission is to be given a certificate, how will this affect numbers? It was put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in his 20th September speech—at least, he implied it, as he did so many other things; he did not actually say, "You 442 will get control over it if you impose the necessity to have entry certificates"—but the numbers would not be reduced and that, as I understand, is the basic object of the exercise.
It might have an effect on a small number of bogus cases, but the value of that should not be over-estimated. It almost follows that one does not have much evidence about any large number of dependants succeeding in getting past the control. If we had evidence, we should deal with it. But there are not many cases which come to light.
I find no reason to suppose, having been into this question with some care—though I am willing to go on looking at it, because there could be no issue of principle in this matter—and having talked to those on the spot, that an entry certificate officer overseas would be any better placed to detect and prevent this type of evasion than the immigration officer at the port of entry here. Indeed, the immigration officer has certain advantages, because he can confront the dependant with the alleged head of family here and examine the two together. That has been productive in a number of cases where there has been fraud, I fear, in trying to get people in.
If there is any suggestion that the number of entry certificates which would be issued under the Opposition proposals would be limited in any way—is that the suggestion?—say, by an annual quota, this should be stated clearly and not just hinted at, because it is entirely inconsistent with the general proposition in the other part of the Leader of the Opposition's speech, that entitled dependants should continue to be admitted. In other words, if they are entitled, they are entitled with or without a certificate, and there is not so much in the bogus point that I would want to introduce the substantial administrative system which would be required.
§ Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)
Would my right hon. Friend deal with the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) that young immigrants have contrived to bring in young ladies whom they claim as their fiancées? Is that so and, if it is, is there any control over this?
§ Mr. Callaghan
There has been a concession for some years about the admission of fiancées, which gives me some concern. Here again, I should like to guard what I say about this subject because of the consequences which can flow from anything which might be added to it. But, certainly, I am not unaware of this problem. I only say that, in relation to the total number of dependants which we are talking about, this also is a comparative trickle and makes no substantial difference.
But what I feel about these matters, and why I am willing to consider them, is that it is a great irritant even if only a small number of people are abusing the controls out of all proportion to the numbers coming in. That is the basis on which I propose to deal with it.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
The right hon. Gentleman has, of course, conceded that a certain number of bogus dependants are intercepted at the immigration control. Has he any figures that he could give the Committee? Obviously, those who get by altogether, in the nature of things, cannot be calculated, but how many has he caught?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I could give figures, but, I fear, not offhand. The figures are available for the number who have been turned back. My recollection is—I am checking it now, and perhaps my hon. Friend will deal with it in detail later—that fewer are being turned back now than a year ago and that fewer are presenting themselves now because the rules are laid down pretty strictly and they are becoming more understood. Perhaps, also, some of the traffickers in false passports, and so on, are now finding that Nemesis has overtaken them. Whatever the reasons, which are difficult to give, I will certainly have the numbers given later.
I come back to the proposal about entry certificates. The Opposition should tell us whether it is intended to cover all Commonwealth citizens coming to this country when the certificates are made compulsory. These are real practical administrative problems—not just debating points—and they have not been answered. Is it intended to cover, for example, all visitors and students?
There is an arguable case for considering whether we can use the system of 444 entry certificates so that the bulk of inquiries are made in the country of origin—I have conceded that—because that leaves fewer to be settled at the ports, to the discomfort of all concerned, when people's English is not good and they are tired after a long journey, and so on. This raises problems enough. It would involve susbtantial administrative difficulties and expense overseas without any reduction in the numbers of people coming here—that is, as long as entitled dependants continued to enjoy their present right of admission.
But to require entry certificates for all would be a totally different proposition. And yet we might be involved in that once we started on the other. It would entail imposing a type of visa requirement on about 250,000 Commonwealth citizens annually. That is something to which the great majority of aliens are not subjected. Over 95 per cent. of them who arrive here are free of any visa requirement. It has been the consistent aim of both parties over recent years to secure the breaking down of these barriers rather than the setting up of new ones.
Have the Opposition considered the effect on the Commonwealth of discriminating against Commonwealth citizens in this way? These are very important and substantial questions. I hope that I am approaching them in a manner which shows that I am not dismissing out of hand the suggestions by the Leader of the Opposition. But I have seen no evidence so far which leads me to the conclusion that they would result either in any reduction in the numbers or, indeed, an improvement in the system of control.
The other main emphasis in the Opposition proposals, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman to some extent put this afternoon, is the need for a much tighter system of control after arrival here. This is what I called the second-class citizen aspect of the situation. I repeat the phrase now because, although it is a shorthand way of saying it, it sums up the way in which we should be regarding these people. No one would be admitted for permanent settlement in the first place. I understand that that is the Opposition's proposal. I understand that to be the position. They would be kept subject to control from year to year for a four-year period of probation.
445 All immigrants, all visitors, all students, would be required to register with the police. I warn hon. Members opposite that the administrative burdens are very formidable. Finally, at the end of their probationary period, registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies following five years' residence here would be at discretion and not as of right—and presumably subject to proof of satisfactory behaviour, character, and so on. Is that the intention? It has not been spelled out.
All of this derives from the Opposition's completely mistaken conviction that the aliens system of control is well adapted to the quite different circumstances of Commonwealth immigration. In fact, it is not. I therefore beg the Opposition to reconsider what they are saying, because I believe that they are on the wrong track.
What is the purpose of this elaborate system of control? If the five-year probationary period is designed to reduce numbers, what reason have the Opposition for thinking that a significant number of immigrants admitted would fail to pass their probationary period. I must point out that the evidence in the possession of the Home Office suggests that all but a minute percentage would pass such test, if it were imposed, with flying colours. They are decent, hard-working, law-abiding people.
Moreover, the Home Secretary already has powers to deport Commonwealth citizens who are convicted and recommended for deportation by a court. That responsibility I carry out. The numbers concerned are few. Do the Opposition seek to justify keeping a large body of Commonwealth immigrants, as opposed to a tiny number—in fact, keeping the whole body of Commonwealth immigrants—in a state of uncertainty and insecurity for four whole years with the object of getting rid of a tiny handful, of whom I already have power to get rid anyway and of whom I do get rid? Is that likely to help race relations and integration?
I ask again: is this apparatus of control intended to prevent evasion? To justify it on that ground, it would be necessary to produce evidence that at present there is a substantial degree of evasion. I do not claim that there is no evasion. As the right hon. Gentle- 446 man properly said, it cannot be measured. But, as I have said, vigilant control is exercised at the ports, as the figures of refusals show. There are arrangements for keeping track of students and of others admitted for temporary purposes on whom it has been necessary to keep an eye. All these cases are followed up. I know of no evidence of any significant numbers slipping through the net.
It may be pointed out that our present system does not entail the registration and checking up of every Commonwealth citizen. That is presumably what the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition mean by control. That could be done. It would be at vast expense and inconvenience to all concerned. But no evidence has been produced that it is necessary and certainly no evidence has been produced that it would reduce the numbers here. We already arrange for this to be done where the immigration officer, on the basis of experience, thinks it desirable.
In particular, the Opposition proposals are apparently designed to secure the registration of all visitors. Does that literally mean everybody who comes to this country for a short visit? Of the 3.4 million aliens who came to this country last year, 2.7 million were short-term visitors. These are not required to register with the police, and the system would break down if they were.
It is far from clear to me what the Opposition are proposing for Commonwealth visitors in these circumstances. But wherever they draw the line, can they offer any convincing argument to justify the use of police manpower in keeping track of the movements of visitors from all parts of the Commonwealth, including Canada and Australia and the other countries from which the great bulk of Commonwealth visitors come? Can they justify this discrimination by comparison with aliens control?
It amounts to an elaborate system of control which has been proposed by the Opposition which would undoubtedly be expensive in Civil Service manpower and costly, and burdensome to the police without any clear argument being advanced to demonstrate that it is either necessary or likely to achieve anything of value.
447 It may be that some of the points made by the Opposition can be clarified, but they have not been clarified so far. That is why I thought it right to go on record at the time with a detailed analysis of the Leader of the Opposition's speech.
Next, let us consider the Opposition proposals for the registration of dependants still overseas. The advantages which are claimed for this are superficially attractive. It is claimed that it would give information which at present we lack about the number of dependants eligible to come here and would prevent evasion by bogus dependants. If there is substance in either claim, I think that the idea is worth pursuing, but it overlooks the great difficulty that there is no means of checking the reliability of the information registered.
It is well known that records of birth, marriage, and so on, are scanty in some parts of the Commonwealth. But the difficulties to which that gives rise already will hardly be remedied by inviting people themselves to supply the missing information when we shall not then be able to check it. Indeed, such a procedure would almost be an invitation to the evilly-disposed to manufacture evidence of the existence of dependants in order that later they could bring them in.
The inclusion of a name on a list, even supplied on the other side, will give no greater confidence than we can have at present that the claimed relationship is genuine. It will not give us any ground for deciding whether a dependant is to be admitted, nor will it affect his statutory entitlement, unless the law is changed. The listing of names would not give us the information which we need when trying to project the future trends—and no one is more eager than I am to do that. It will not give us the dates when various dependants are likely to arrive. We have plenty of evidence that the dates of arrival may be spread over a large number of years.
I have dealt with these proposals at some length because the right hon. Gentleman told me that they were a constructive series of proposals. What I chiefly deprecate is the mood of uncertainty, and it may be of tension, which they could generate among Com- 448 monwealth immigrants in this country. Under the Opposition's proposals, can it be said in all conscience that an essential element of our policy was that once a Commonwealth citizen was admitted to this country, his status, rights and obligations were the same as those of the rest of us? That is what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition told us was his objective. That is the purpose of his proposals. He thought that it was right that there should be control over entry but that, once here, they should live here and enjoy the same benefits as every other citizen.
It is clear that these proposals would do nothing of the sort. Could the right hon. Gentleman say that for the first period of five years they are not creating a category of second-class citizens? These are questions which I regard as quite as important to the overriding issue of good community relations as are any considerations of effective immigration control. I hope that the Opposition will carefully re-examine these proposals in the light of what I have said.
In short, it comes to this: it is clear that we are exercising a substantial, rigid control over Commonwealth immigration at present. We are still faced with the backlog of dependants coming here to join the breadwinners who arrived some years ago. As that number is completed, it is certain that we shall look forward to a decline in total numbers arriving in this country.
Though I keep the matter continually under review, and am ready to consider any practicable proposals which are put forward, in the same manner as I have carefully considered these proposals—for I have not just dismissed them out of hand, but have looked at them very carefully and have had them all analysed—I do not think that there is a proposal put forward by the Opposition up to the moment which would substantially reduce the numbers coming here. I think that these proposals would just create uncertainty and tension.
We are to set up a Select Committee, and the Conservative Opposition has agreed to join in, as has also the Liberal Party. I hope that it will be set up very soon. I should like to see it starting work straightaway. All these issues can 449 come under review there. It may be that during the course of the close scrutiny which takes place in Committees of that sort, it will be possible to reach conclusions outside a party atmosphere, because I think that this is too serious a subject to be left to politicians—if I may coin a phrase.
I do not really put it in that way. What I mean is that this is too serious a subject for inter-party debate across the Floor of the House of Commons, if the debate is conducted in the spirit in which perhaps sometimes some of our other debates are conducted. I should like to see these matters discussed in the Committee in the way things are discussed in Committee. There all these issues can be put forward, based, I hope, on a firm basis of fact. That is the right way to proceed.
The two pillars of our policy are those of the Opposition, as stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman at the outset of his speech, that there should be effective, fair and firm control over entry, and that justice and equal opportunity should exist for all those who are admitted to our country. I hope that this Committee today will agree that the administration both of the aliens' immigration and of the Commonwealth immigration is being done on a fair, just, humane basis, and in accordance with the rules laid down by Parliament, and that it is being done in a way which will improve race relations and not harm them.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
The Committee will be grateful to the Home Secretary for the account he has given—the annual account which we now have. In the light of the discussion we had exactly this time last year particular interest attaches to what he had to say about the workings of the 1968 Act. I think he is entitled to look a little bit smug about the outcome of the Kenyan Asians' entry in view of what was said to him in February and in view of the figures he has just been able to announce.
I note, also, that there has been a striking reduction in a sphere which caused his predecessor last year considerable anxiety, namely, the number of Pakistani youths coming, and accounting this time last year, if I remember rightly, for nearly half of the immigrants from Pakistan. I must add that the very fact 450 that the criticisms which were advanced in the debate last year have proved so valid and have led to such action suggests that this is a subject which lends itself constantly to very close vigilance and correction.
The Home Secretary was very confident about how the controls are going—I shall have some more remarks to make on that—but he will be the first to admit that there is no finite solution to the problem of control, and as long as there are as many as there are trying desperately hard to get in and evade control it will be as well if we continue to be vigilant.
A point I should like to take up is the Home Secretary's reference to the number of children entering. His analysis indicated that half the children are under 10, and that there is no marked concentration on the upper ages. This is in contrast with the impression which we were given by his predecessor this time last year. I think it makes a very big difference to the view some of us may hold. I must admit that I have always seen at least a case for examining the lowering of the age by one or two years in order to prevent young people from trying to enter the labour market, and young people, I would add, who arrive at the conclusion of their educational period, to work in this country without the advantage of any schooling in this country at all. Nevertheless, I am persuaded by what the Home Secretary has said on this point, that if there is no undue concentration on the upper ages, clearly there is no great virtue in seeking to control by altering the age of entry by one year or two.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I shall continue to keep these surveys going, in order to see whether there is any change in that distribution, because I agree with him that we must be constantly vigilant about this matter.
§ Mr. Deedes
I am glad to hear that.
More generally, I have thought for some time that our difficulty—and I do not think the Home Secretary will differ from me, and I shall be quite bi-partisan about it—has lain in lack of candour—political candour I mean; to a greater degree, to a lack of effective control machinery; and, most of all—and on this 451 the right hon. Gentleman's speech left me disappointed—lack of a long-term strategy. There seem to me a number of long-term questions to which we ought to address ourselves and answer if we are ourselves to know, and to convey to other people, where we think we shall travel in this subject in the next five to 10 years.
As to candour, I estimate that we have 1¼ million Commonwealth immigrants—I do not think the figure will be challenged—and we would be wise to work on the assumption that this number, certainly not fewer, probably many more, will be with us indefinitely, for the lifetime of us all, and to base our policy accordingly. The more candour there is and the more firmly accepted it is by both sides the less guilty shall we be thought of expressing it in euphemisms here.
I accept what the Home Secretary said, that it is a mistake to exaggerate what can be done by way of dramatically reducing the numbers by additional controls which would prove acceptable to both sides. I would add that it is a mistake—though not everyone would accept this—to exaggerate what a policy of repatriation can do. To organise repatriation and make it effective we would have open to us one of three courses. One, frankly, would be payment, compensation, bribery, whatever one likes to call it, on an unacceptable scale. The second would be direction. That, all of us would reject. The third would be harassment, which is a policy we would also reject. Therefore, if we want to bring the country to a realisation of the numbers involved and the responsibilities they will imply we should not blur the truth about either of these matters, the total number, or the prospects of what repatriation would achieve.
To me, a basic problem in a policy of repatriation is the vast difference there is between the standard of living in the Caribbean countries, that in the Asian countries, and our own, and as long as the difference is approximately 12 to 1 in the Caribbean countries and 8 to 1 in the Asian countries no one would be likely to be induced by payment because he would always have in mind what his relative standard of life would be two or three years after his return.
452 I am more critical of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on the question of lack of effective control. I am quite willing to accept that if the controls were as good as we could make them the difference in numbers would not be dramatic. On the other hand, I do take seriously the abuses which cumulatively may amount to a sizeable number and which throw discredit on the system which we are trying to operate. I accept that a great deal of tightening up has gone on. We were very unwilling—for that unwillingness we on this side of the House were responsible in 1962—to impose in respect of Commonwealth immigrants a machine comparable with the machine operating in respect of aliens. We rejected then a system ready to hand, and the Home Secretary says that he still rejects it.
Although this system is perennially attacked, and in the earlier days there was an annual exercise of attacking the system by which we controlled the entry of aliens, I am persuaded that not the least of the virtues it offers is that of uniformity of treatment. The very tightness of our controls goes a long way to ensuring that everyone gets the same treatment, and that very few profit by abuse.
We thought years ago that a system of looser controls for Commonwealth citizens was not only right but, in a sense, would be the fairest. I am doubtful whether this has worked out. In reality, a system that is too loose can act to the detriment of the honest and to the advantage of the less honest. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that a number of dishonest people have entered the country, either through agents or by their own endeavours, and that a number of honest people have been kept out. Paradoxically, the looser system is not more fair but less fair.
I have looked fairly closely during the last year—I may say with the assistance of the Home Office—at our system of control at Princeton House, at London Airport and elsewhere. I have reached two conclusions. First, while we are right to rely as heavily as we do on the discretion of the professional officers in charge of these ports, we impose a very heavy responsibility on that discretion. I 453 am struck at the degree of discretion which the Home Office—and, it follows, this House—is prepared to repose in these people. That is right, but in consequence they have to sense in the many difficult and doubtful cases they get what politically it seems to them is the right course of action when in doubt.
There is a considerable spillover which I put in the doubtful category. Students are one example. We have done a little since last year to prevent abuse here, but I am still not satisfied that we have done as much as we should. There are students who may never even report to the university or establishment to which they obtain entry, and students who more often leave that academy and are not heard of again.
The Home Secretary touched rather lightly on dependants who are not true dependants. I am glad to hear that the numbers of aged parents from India have gone down, as have the number of Pakistani boys. Those were the two categories that caused anxiety last year. But there are other sources of potential abuse, such as fiancées. The danger is that the more one talks of potential abuses the more one is liable to encourage them. When I raised the point about fiancées, I was given to understand that this was not a matter to be taken too lightly; that the numbers were mot to be exaggerated, but were not insignificant. The number of dependants who could arrive in this category is very large—disturbingly large.
My second conclusion was this. I am quite sure that the Home Secretary accepts that many of the difficulties imposed on these professionals at the ports arise from a lack of paper background. I cannot accept his implication that the entry voucher, whether applied universally or selectively, would not make a very appreciable difference. He will recall that the members of the Wilson Committee were quite willing to admit that the entry voucher would make a great difference, and deplored the fact that such a very small proportion of those found entering the country carried such a voucher with them.
The Committee advised that we should use every means to persuade the Asians and people from the Caribbean, to use the entry voucher. There are various 454 technical difficulties, but the difficulties do not belittle the value of the system if we could get it to work. The entry voucher is something which, if we have to stop short of compulsion, should be pushed by every considerable means. At present the officers have to act at this end either on no papers at all or on papers which often are indecipherable.
I do not want to exaggerate the numbers who are smuggled in. I believe that those who arrive on the coast on a foggy morning are very small in number, and they receive more attention, proportionately, than they deserve. Such incidents are important, and they are damaging because they convey to the public mind a lack of effective control. The more vigilant the police are in chasing these people up, or as vigilant as they are in chasing up those smoking cannabis, the better it will be: we shall be doing all right.
On dependants I am willing to accept that in the present year, when we are talking about 42,000 of them, no great inroads will be made into this problem without policies that would be unacceptable to either side of the Committee. We are not prepared to say that no children shall come in with their mothers or that no wives may join their husbands, but we should not dismiss the small categories in which abuses still occur and where some reductions could be made. That would have effect on the public outlook, and the public outlook is important.
I remain very doubtful about visitors. The Home Secretary knows that although we compel visitors from overseas to register we have a different system in respect of Commonwealth visitors. For other visitors we have two cards which are checked one against the other, on entry and on departure, and we are in a position to say whether or not any visitor has left the country by a certain date. That system should be applied to Commonwealth visitors as well, and a check should be made. As it is, it is too easy for such a visitor to overstay his welcome and get himself into a more favourable but unauthorised category.
Long-term strategy is related to the point I made about candour. There is a reluctance to promulgate plans which proclaim our awareness of how large the 455 problem is, and to impress on people the gravity of the consequences of what we have taken on. We need projections and analyses to help us to know what to expect up to five years ahead. That is something on which we ought to spend more money and energy. We must have some analysis of new arrivals and, as far as possible, of those Commonwealth citizens already here.
Much more important is our location policy. Are we to continue indefinitely allowing new arrivals to drift towards the centres to which the majority naturally gravitate—London, the West Midlands, and one or two other places? It is a policy which is increasingly adding to the difficulties of assimilation in those preferred areas. Are we to continue that policy, or are we prepared to contemplate pre-conditions both for location and residence? I am aware of the difficulties that would arise in that case.
The Under-Secretary of State will probably tell us that this is the sort of subject with which the Select Committee will deal, but we have had this subject with us now for a very considerable time. I believe that a location policy should have been thought out long ago. To say it is a job for the Select Committee does not answer my criticism. The difficulties could involve an element of direction, but this is a critically important matter. Do we attempt direction, or do we prefer drift? The alternative to some form of direction is to build up in some of the main immigrant areas an intractable problem in respect of schools, hospitals, housing, and all the rest, and a problem which, when the figures reach a certain percentage, will not be easily remedied by pumping in Government money. Do we, for example, envisage that new towns or new cities might be invited to take a larger share? What is our strategy about spread?
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
I am listening to the right hon. Gentleman very carefully. This is a very important problem. How would he work out his strategy to control the question of direction? Is he prepared to follow it through to its logical conclusion—that all people coming to this country would have to have identity cards, to report to the police, and to get per- 456 mission from the police if they want to move? Is he prepared to go so far? If not, what would be his strategy?
§ Mr. Deedes
I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by describing how this might work. We could start by finding the areas which would make a contribution. If that contribution were forthcoming, it would not be too difficult to persuade some immigrants to go to those rather than to the areas where there is high employment. I would try this in various phases. If a more voluntary phase did not work, we might have to go much further, but we have not tried to apply any policy here.
§ Mr. Callaghan
There is a real difficulty here and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would deal with it. Those who come here on vouchers are asked for by employers, except skilled people such as doctors, who go to particular hospitals. Will the right hon. Gentlemen explain how under the existing system we could allocate to particular areas people who already have employers when they arrive?
§ Mr. Deedes
Although they are asked for by particular employers, going to those particular employers is not made a condition of entry.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is true, but in fact they go to the employers who ask for them. It may be that eventually they change, but the great majority go to the employers who invite them.
§ Mr. Deedes
That may be so, but if we cannot interest more areas in receiving these people we might be able to get some employers to invite them where their employment is possible.
Finally, as to the countries themselves, how far have we discussed and decided the effect of the B vouchers on some of the countries of origin? This is something where we should have a conscience to consider, even if we cannot do anything about it. Do we take into account that from some islands and areas the loss of 500 skilled men can be extremely serious, whereas elsewhere the loss of 5,000 may be a less serious matter? This depends very much on the indigenous economy and the size of the territory concerned. We should consider it more because it will become ever more closely related to 457 overseas aid. Those who have read the speech made by Mr. McNamara of the World Bank, will accept that this could become intimately connected with overseas aid and conflict with the number of skills which this country is prepared to accept.
I have asked more questions than I have attempted to answer. That is not unusual in this debate when there are many unanswered questions, but I am sure that the Under-Secretary will try to answer some of them. This is a subject on which a Government and an Opposition should be able to offer some serious thought if we are serious in trying to bring the public along with us and make it clear that it will make a far bigger and more serious change in our social structure than many in authority have yet been prepared to admit. A contribution will have to be made from within this country, as well as from those on the respective Front Benches and the resources of the Government Departments.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
There were one or two points made in the early part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) with which I agree, but I have reservations about the latter points he made, although, of course, I accept that he made them in complete sincerity.
When I look at the present position of immigrants in Britain at the moment I am gloomy and despondent. Nothing would give me greater pleasure if the position was otherwise. One of the factors which has contributed to this was the speech made earlier in the year by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I gave him notice that I intended to refer to his speech because I think it right and proper that reference should be made to it.
I make perfectly clear that, although I am not normally hesitant to engage in party polemics, I would rather not do so when we are discussing race relations. Indeed, if the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman had been made by any of my hon. Friends my reaction and my comments tonight would have been just the same. The speech which he made in April was a concoction of exaggerations, prejudice and what I would describe as 458 the deliberate and artful playing on people's emotions in relation to colour which does a tremendous amount of harm to race relations. Following that speech, the right hon. Gentleman was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet, in my opinion rightly so.
What particularly worries me at the moment is what I describe as an escalation of demands made against the immigrant community. The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) who opened the debate for the Opposition, referred to his party's policy on immigrants. Like the Home Secretary, I found a number of those proposals somewhat obnoxious. I do not believe it right that we should have a situation in which Commonwealth citizens coming here have to register for a period of years. Neither do I consider it right that they should have to serve a period of probation before they are received as full citizens.
At the Conservative Party conference, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West went one step further. He spoke in terms of, "assisted repatriation and resettlement." He also spoke about the "humanity" of what he suggested. One could not help feeling that what he was actually suggesting, but did not want to say in so many words, was that a number of Commonwealth citizens—not criminals, but Commonwealth citizens—should be deported.
§ Mr. Winnick
An hon. Member says "No". It would be right if the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West would come into the Chamber and describe exactly what he had meant by what he said at the Conservative Party conference. What precisely did he mean by "assisted repatriation and resettlement"? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will come and explain what he meant.
By the escalation of demands made against immigrants we get into a situation in which people who come to Britain from Commonwealth countries and do not have a white skin find their lives are made more and more difficult and the whole problem of integration becomes more difficult in the process. I welcome 459 the proposed setting up of the all-party race relations committee. I hope that it will be able to look at the whole problem in a balanced way without prejudice. What worries me at the moment is the way in which the subject of immigration is sometimes raised by hon. and right hon. Members on either side of the House.
I do not deny that problems which arise from immigration should be raised in the House of Commons. Neither would I wish to deny that there are genuine social problems in Britain arising from immigration. I see no reason why such problems should not be able to be discussed in the House of Commons in a balanced way. It is far more proper that that should be so than that hon. Members should raise feelings against a section of the community who do not have a white skin.
§ Mr. Winnick
Further, I welcome the appointment of Frank Cousins as Chairman of the re-named Community Relations Commission. Mr. Cousins has a very high reputation in the Labour movement in Britain. Over the years he has shown a passionate sincerity in striving for equal rights for all. In my view, there could not have been a better appointment than Mr. Cousins as Chairman of the new Commission.
There seems to be a general image of immigrants as unskilled people who create all kinds of problems and overload the social services. It is rare that we have a debate in which respect is paid for the positive contribution which the over whelming majority of Commonwealth immigrants make to the life of Britain. We have been informed that a total of 4,978 Commonwealth immigrants were admitted on vouchers in 1967. I give the breakdown of professions for 2,590 of them—doctors, 938; dentists, 41; nurses, 148; various professions connected with medicine, 29; teachers, 565; scientists, 246; civil engineers, 147; other engineers, 276; agricultural scientists, 81; lawyers, 29; architects, 31; miscellaneous—accountants, economists, statisticians—59.
It could be argued, perhaps with some justification, that many of these people 460 should be in their own countries making a greater contribution to relieving much of the poverty there. My point is that many of those coming on vouchers are not unskilled; they are not people who will overload the social services. I do not deny that in the past a large number of immigrants have been unskilled and have created problems. Let us try to look at the position in a more balanced way.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Has the hon. Gentleman any information as to the average length of stay of the doctors and other similar professionals to whom he refers?
§ Mr. Winnick
I cannot give the information today, obviously. I am referring to those who came here on voucher during 1967.
It is possible that the qualifications of some of those who have come here are not high enough to comply with British standards. If so, I would ask what immediate steps are taken to ensure that people who have the basic qualifications can take courses to bring them up to our standards.
One point which is often made and which creates a tremendous amount of prejudice against coloured people is that they are always drawing unemployment pay and receiving more than their share of supplementary benefits. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research Review No. 41 of August, 1967, gave details of research whichshows quite clearly that the cost per head of the immigrant population in the health and welfare services is slightly lower than for that of the total population and considerably lower for National Insurance and assistance benefits.Obviously there are a number of reasons why this should be so—the age factor, and so on. The Review supports my assertion that the contribution made by Commonwealth immigrants is more positive than negative.
I may not have been in the House a long time and perhaps am not as professional a politician as some of my colleagues. However, I know full well that my remarks are not necessarily popular.
If I may say a few personal words, I represent a marginal constituency and my majority is very slender. Obviously I 461 have enough sense to realise that my remarks on immigration will not make me more popular in my constituency. They will not necessarily serve to increase my majority, apart from other factors.
It will be a bad day, however, for the House when we refuse to make certain comments because they happen to be unpopular with certain sections of the community. I hope that we in the House will always have sufficient courage to make the point we want to make, regardless of popularity.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Does it enter my hon. Friend's mind that he might indeed win more supporters than he loses as a result of his principled position?
§ Mr. Winnick
Perhaps so; perhaps not. I am concerned that we should not be frightened of expressing our point of view that citizens in Britain should be treated with full equality, without discrimination.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I do not have this problem in my constituency, but many hon. Members to whom I speak say that one of the biggest problems which it seems impossible to overcome is that of multi-occupation of housing. Did the hon. Gentleman include that when he said that Commonwealth immigrants do not overload our social services and do not create great problems?
§ Mr. Winnick
I said earlier that genuine social problems arise from immigration. The problem to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman refers obviously must be recognised. I am pleased that a White Paper has been published, that a Bill will soon be published, and that we are to have a debate, on multi-occupation. I am also pleased that my Government introduced the Rent Act, 1965, which has considerably helped many private tenants.
I do not particularly want to make party points, but I genuinely cannot resist one today. Many of those who act as the champions of the white person against immigrants—for example, the type of person who makes speeches which create only racial prejudice in our society—have not in the past gone out of their way to defend the interests of the white working class. One has only to remember the Rent Act, 1957.
462 One problem which we cannot overlook concerns those who were born here of Commonwealth parents and who have coloured skins. The great test is how far such children can live their lives in Britain without discrimination. If we do not succeed and if those born in Britain with coloured skins become, through prejudice, second-class citizens, we shall create much trouble.
The way to avoid such trouble is to remove discrimination. This is why I am very pleased that the Government introduced earlier this year the Race Relations Act, which has as its purpose the elimination of discrimination in housing and employment.
Finally, people outside and inside the House of Commons have referred to black power and black extremist movements. I want to make my own position perfectly clear. I have no time for extremist organisations white or black. I tend to look upon both such organisations with contempt. If we want to avoid black power movements and black extremists, we must ensure that no one is penalised or discriminated against because of colour. If we can ensure that, there will be no room for such mushroom black extremist organisations to flourish. The real test is how far we will be able to achieve our policy of creating a multiracial society in which no one is penalised because of colour.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I have always seen the problem which we are discussing today as one which arises out of the growth of populations in the world and the differences of growth in different parts of it. It was forecast by the West India Royal Commission about 30 years ago when it said:The sharp contrast between the present birth rates of tropical peoples and those of most peoples of European stock is indeed a phenemenon of the most profound importance, with far-reaching implications.As soon as the war was over and the shipping shortage receded, the differences in natural growth rate began to find expression as migration pressures. It was in response to those pressures that Parliament eventually, in 1962—very late in the day but, I suppose, overcoming reluctances which could well be understood 463 having regard to our imperial past—enacted the Measure the renewal of which is before the Committee now.
The reason why it is necessary to come back time and again to this subject is that, in spite of all the talk about it, the heat which it generates and the amount of controversy which has flared over it, still nothing has been done since the 1962 Act, and the problem continues at an unabated magnitude which, in my submission, cannot be allowed to continue.
It may be said that this very year the Home Secretary introduced the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968. But that was to protect us against an apprehended aggravation of the problem which would have happened if it had not been passed, and we should remember that, apart from a few minor provisions, the main problem continued unaffected by that controversial Act in our last Session and still continues today.
Last year, the population of this country was 55 million. The density was 585 to the square mile, which will become 650 by 1980. The figures directly relevant to our debate today, however, are those for England and Wales, where the present density is 830 to the square mile, which the Registrar-General expects to become more than 900 by 1980. Thus, apart from Hong Kong and Formosa and one or two odd spots like that, this is the most densely populated country in the world. Compared with us, countries like India and Pakistan are almost semi-populated.
The fertility of our soil is not a natural phenomenon but is man-made and man-maintained. All of the countries from which come major streams of migration to Britain are countries relatively sparsely populated, of greater average inherent soil fertility, receiving more rainfall and far more solar energy per square foot. They are, as one would expect, closer to the great sources of buried energy and have better access to them. Our ability to support here a staggering density of population at a standard of life which acts as a magnet to migration from all over the world derives from our remarkable energy and our ability to work together in institutions—in short, from the quality of our people.
464 Now, the growth of population begins to endanger the balance between countryside and urban area, to diminish the pleasantness of living in this most pleasant country, to stretch the daily journey to work, or else to stack families in flats rather than put them in houses, and to make us increasingly a country of crowds, throngs and clatter, with whatever tendency towards febrility and superficiality that may carry with it.
Those things being so, it seems to most people, I believe, that the net outward migration from this country ought appreciably to exceed the natural increase of births over deaths. The natural increase is running at about 350,000 a year. The outward migration of natives, as I shall call them since we are discussing Commonwealth immigration today, is 150,000 a year. That is for permanent settlement overseas. The balance of annual net growth of population is 200,000 a year.
One must add to that the figure of Commonwealth immigration, which we have heard today was running at 50,000 but, as is now known over the last four or five months crept up to an annual rate of 60,000. To that one must add the number of alien immigrants referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), that is, 15,000 to 20,000 a year, and the number of immigrants from Southern Ireland. This last number has never been available, for obvious reasons—there is never exactitude when one is dealing with the Irish—but it used to be put at 60,000 or 70,000 a year.
One faces, therefore, a net population increase of between ⅓ million and ½ million a year. This is the background to the problem. Anyone who has the honesty to approach it primarily from a demographic standpoint—though I appreciate that that raises questions of social policy as well—is bound to agree that to stand idly by while such a situation builds up would be to carry a heavy burden of guilt towards the future.
The element which particularly concerns us tonight has tended to be the proportion of coloured persons in that growth. One must look at that element, but before coming to it I have a word to interpose. Sometimes one is asked what one's attitude would be if these people coming in, the 60,000 a year, were 465 French or Scandinavians. My answer is that if there had come to us from France or Scandinavia over the last 15 years 1¼ million to 1½ million people for permanent settlement, and they were being supplemented at the rate of 50,000 or 60,000 a year, I should be as bitterly opposed to it as I am to the existing situation now. I go further. If they had come from France or Scandinavia, everybody would be against it; it would be stopped, and no questions asked. In some odd perverse way, it is precisely because they are coloured that the hesitations, controversies and doubts arise, and what is really a bit of obvious common sense has got mixed up with a lot of equalitarian nonsense.
I come now to some of the observations made by the Home Secretary today. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is as free as one's political opponents can be of prejudice in this matter—that is not very much, of course, but there it is—and he tried to analyse the magnitudes here. May I offer some thoughts to the Under-Secretary of State who is sitting in for his right hon. Friend?
In my view, the problem is being under-estimated. I said that the gross increase rate—the excess of births over deaths—was 350,000 a year. Subtracting from that the official figure of 150,000 emigrants for permanent settlement in such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and South Africa, all of whom are white and historically natives of this country, one is left with a growth rate of the indigenous element of 200,000. But one must subtract from that the figure which my right hon. and learned Friend gave in his opening speech of the estimated annual births of the immigrant population, which is 30,000. Therefore one is left with a growth rate for the historically indigenous population of 170,000 a year. Against that one must set the present incoming tide of migration from the Commonwealth of 60,000. I appreciate that it has fluctuated, so we will call it 55,000. Added to the 30,000 births, that gives a figure of 85,000, so we see that the balance sheet of population growth is 170,000 a year for the British as they used to be and 85,000 for the immigrants.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
When the hon. and learned Gentleman 466 says "the British as they used to be", is he talking about the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans or any of the other waves of migrants who, compounded together, have formed the British national characteristic? If he is not, in what sense is there any difference between a person who is born here white and a person who is born here coloured and goes to the same school and is subject to the same cultural influences?
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. Gentleman's intervention is really out of context. There are questions of value judgments about these various people. One can question the importance of what I am describing, but at present I am trying to quantify the rate of change of the population as a result of the phenomenon which we are considering—Commonwealth immigration. It may be useful to hon. Members to have this quantitative analysis What conclusions they reach as a result is a matter of argument, but I wanted to establish, what is the fact, that the net growth rate from all sources of the indigenous population—shall I say the pre-1950 population?—is 170,000 a year, and the growth rate from all sources of the Commonwealth immigrants is 85,000 a year.
I appreciate that the magnitude of the stocks is very different, but let us remember that the present tendency of those figures is towards a ratio of 2 to 1. In as much as it derives from the differential birth-rate, the tendency will grow for the coloured proportion to increase beyond that. Those are not figures that anyone can be complacent about.
§ Mr. David Steel
The hon. and learned Gentleman is not comparing like with like. The birth-rate among the immigrants here must be compared with that of the similar age group among the indigenous population if the hon. and learned Gentleman's statistics are to have any meaning, because otherwise he is comparing the birth-rate of immigrants who tend to be of a younger age group with the total indigenous population, which includes young people and a considerable number of people above child-bearing age.
§ Mr. Bell
I applaud the hon. Gentlemen's processes of thought, at least, because his intervention was about what I 467 was going to say in my next paragraph, which shows that our minds work along similar lines.
We start from those figures, which, as I was saying, are figures to make anyone pause. The question then is what should be done, what needs to be done, what can be done about the situation. If all the trends continued unaltered the character of this country would change very quickly. It has been suggested that perhaps the birth-rate would change. If the annual increase rate changed, that would have some effect, but I am of opinion—and one can only offer opinions here—that the difference in the increase rates between the two communities is under-estimated. I say that because the migrants come to us primarily from the Caribbean, India and Pakistan, and one knows that in their place of origin their increase rates range from three to four times that of the United Kingdom population's. It is to be expected that there will be some modification when they come here, but my view has always been, as I have said many times, that as long as they remain in consolidated communities in particular towns the process of adaptation is likely to be very slow. Therefore, I think that the birth figure should be higher than I have given, and that the rate of change, at least in the first generation, that is, 30 years, will be very slow. Accordingly, I do not believe, much as I should like to, that a change in the birthrate will bring about a substantial alleviation of the problem.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)
I am trying to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman's mathematics very carefully. I think that earlier he mentioned a figure of about 60,000 immigrants from the Republic of Ireland. Using his mathematics, and bearing in mind the general religious feelings of citizens of the Republic of Ireland coming here, could one prove that we are being overtaken much more rapidly by the Irish in this country?
§ Mr. Bell
I left out the Irish element in the equation. I have it here, but I was a little conscious that hon. Members should keep their speeches short if possible. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that if one takes 55,000 as the Commonwealth immigrants figure, 468 which is a fair one, and adds the 30,000 estimated births, which I think is low, one gets 85,000. If one adds 15,000, taking the lower figure which my right hon. and learned Friend gave for aliens, one gets 100,000. If one assumes Irish immigration at half what it used to be, which is a cheerful assumption, one finishes up with a figure of 135,000 net increase from outside, compared with a net increase of 170,000 of the original stock. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that that is a rate of change which should make any nation pause.
I return to the thread of my argument. I do not see much early hope in the birth-rate, and that leaves us with the questions which have been most canvassed during the debate. I should like to say quite shortly what I think should be done.
The first question is the voucher holders. We must greatly cut down the number coming in. I say that directly in answer to the questions asked by the Home Secretary. I see no difficulty. We heard from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) about the qualifications of some of those coming in. But he rather mistook the point, because the nurses, for example, are not affected by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, which we are discussing. The doctors are certainly not importantly affected by it. Anybody who comes here for training—and the nurses are here primarily for training—are not included.
§ Mr. Winnick
The qualifications which I quoted were that the people who came over here, not for training purposes—they had been trained in their own countries—were part of the number of voucher holders in 1967. In fairness, the hon. and learned Member should recognise the point.
§ Mr. Bell
I cannot comment on the hon. Member saying that his figure for nurses was for people with an existing nursing qualification. I am surprised by it, but let us pass that over.
The figure which I was about to look at was that of 565 for teachers which he gave. This has certainly come to my attention. I wonder whether the hon. Member noticed that the Association of Divisional Education Officers made representations, either early this year or late last year, to the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the influx 469 of people with teaching qualifications from the Commonwealth who were useless to them.
The Divisional Education Officer for Slough—which, according to the Home Office, has a 15 per cent. immigrant population—said that there had been so many applicants that it was scarcely possible to see them all, that most of them could not speak English intelligibly and that his opinion was that even if they stayed for some years to acquire a better command of the language and were given a mature teachers' training course, they would still never reach the standards required for English schools. That view commended itself to the Association of Divisional Education Officers, which so represented to the Secretary of State. That is the answer to the alleged need for these people as teachers.
I simply do not believe that there is any unsatisfied demand for skilled labour in this country which can be met from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean area. Indeed, if we are honest with ourselves, as we should be, we should recognise that the tendency has been to use Commonwealth immigrants as a source of unskilled labour willing to do jobs which the indigenous population was not particularly enthusiastic to do. That is, therefore, my first proposal: a severe cut in the number of voucher holders coming in.
I turn next, of course, to the figure for dependants. The Home Secretary made much of the preponderance of dependants. It is about nine to one or ten to one. He asked whether we would cut those down. He implied that the answer must be "No" on humanitarian grounds, and he went on to say that the number would decline in the nature of things. He said that we had reached a plateau.
We had a very interesting statistic from the Home Secretary this afternoon. He said that of the dependants now coming in—50,000 a year at the moment—one-half are coming in relation to persons admitted as voucher holders since a date in 1965. Of course, he put it the other way round. He said that half of those coming in as dependants were in respect of people who came before a date in 1965, but it inevitably follows that half are coming in in respect of those who came to this country since that date.
470 Let us examine the startling significance of the fact that, in 1968, 25,000 are coming in in respect of heads of families who first came here since, say, the middle of 1965. If that is so, it is nonsense to talk about a plateau and the numbers falling off [Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) agrees with me. Unfortunately, that was the Home Secretary's case.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon rose—
§ Mr. Bell
I have given way so much that I ought not to do so again. It is, therefore, clear that the number of dependants will continue at about its present level or rise further unless something is done. I hope that hon. Members will agree that that would be unacceptable. Therefore, something must be done.
I do not see quite the stringency of the humanitarian problem that some see. There are other ways of uniting a family than bringing them all to Britain. This is exactly where the third solution comes in, and that is assisted voluntary repatriation. The Committee will know that I put my views on this matter in the form of a Bill last Session. That is always a useful discipline because one has to tie up the loose ends.
I am quite sure that if sufficiently attractive terms were offered, many would want to avail themselves of a free return to a more congenial country and a resettlement grant. Ours is not exactly the kind of country in which somebody from the tropics wants to live out his whole life.
If we were to create for anyone who is refused permission to bring dependants to join him an absolute right to a resettlement grant to return to his country of origin, or to Guayana, I think that one would begin to see the magnitude of the contribution that this could make and a way also of cutting down greatly the number of dependants without the hardship which has worried so many people.
In this matter, perhaps I might pray in aid what the Home Secretary also revealingly said about the effect of the Government's restatement on the number of old people coming in. This shows how quickly the whole flow can be affected 471 by known legislative or administrative intentions in this country.
I apologise for detaining the Committee for so long, but I believe that the problems that face us are not so dreadful as we think. We have talked about them so much that we are convinced that they are terrible, just as some hon. Members were convinced a few months ago that the problems raised by the Kenyan East African Act would be intolerable. Of course, they did not turn out to be intolerable.
If we allow 1½ million people into our country in 15 years, we cannot expect to find a solution which is entirely anodyne. We must expect to have some problems. Bearing in mind, however, the nature of the problem that we have allowed to build up, it is astonishing how relatively simple is the problem now of controlling it and perhaps, in some degree, reversing the sad and fateful mistake that we made in the 1950s and the early 1960s.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)
It does not seem 12 months since we had the last debate on this subject, but it is almost a year to the day since we discussed the same issue, and a number of hon. Members who took part in the last debate are present. It is interesting to go through the speeches that were made 12 months ago and to compare them with what has happened since, including, of course, one's own speech, which is very often a salutary test of one's judgment. I believe that it has been an eventful 12 months, particularly with regard to community relations and the associated question of immigration control.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary dealt with a number of the events during that period, although it started with my right hon. Friend who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer. He might have mentioned, had time permitted, all the events, as they are so relevant to the two aspects of our discussion today; on the one hand, the entry of immigrants and, on the other, how to ensure that those already settled here are treated as first-class citizens of Great Britain.
My right hon. Friend might have mentioned in more detail the successful outcome of the discussion on race relations 472 and the passing earlier this year of the Race Relations Act, which contained measures which I wholeheartedly support and whose effects will in the years ahead contribute to racial harmony.
My right hon. Friend said that the Government are giving special assistance to those areas which are acutely affected by the entry of immigrants. While this does not meet the whole problem, it is a help, and I look forward to the continuation of special assistance for schools, teachers and housing. There is also the widely welcomed proposal to set up an appeals tribunal, and an interesting suggestion for the setting up of a Select Committee to make a study in depth and to give guidance to the House on ways of dealing with future problems.
I mention these matters so as to establish my bona fides as a strong supporter of equal rights for all those who have settled in this country. On this score the Government's record is a good one, although it has been subjected to a certain amount of misrepresentation.
The criticism I make of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is that he, I hope unconsciously, fatally confused the Race Relations Bill, as it then was, with immigration controls. The result was that we were lobbied, and we saw the people who demonstrated outside the House. These people were obviously confused about the intention of the Government's Measure. I found great difficulty in explaining to people who had been agitated by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the purpose of the Race Relations Bill and that it was concerned with a separate issue from immigration control. The situation is now considerably calmer and people are beginning to understand the difference.
I do not share my right hon. Friend's complacency on the subject of entry. As I made clear in the debate 12 months ago, while I am strongly in favour of equal rights, protection and assistance for those already here, I am equally strongly in favour of further restriction on entry. Does my right hon. Friend appreciate what the last 10 years have meant to many areas in the country? There are districts in Bolton, which is an old industrial town, whose whole character has changed during the last 10 473 years since the influx of Indian and Pakistani immigrants. The district has so changed as to be almost unrecognisable. It is not surprising that this is resented.
Although one can argue with and appeal to people to take a liberal view, it is not easy to persuade them to do so when this immigration has not been at our invitation. I do not mean that remark to be offensive, but we must accept that this amount of coloured immigration is not by invitation. It was a situation which came upon us and we have been taking action to overcome the problems ever since. I live in my constituency, in a nice part of the town—as I suspect do other hon. Members who live in their constituencies—a part not affected by the entry of immigrants. My constituents do not hesitate to point this out to me, which is one disadvantage of living in one's constituency.
I remember the fierce opposition of the Liberal spokesman to measures we took to restrict East African immigration. References were made to the hon. Gentleman's constituency and to whether he had appreciated the growing problem.
I take issue with those who refer to the numbers of immigrants having reached a plateau. The numbers entering still go only to certain areas, where the problem is growing all the time. The tensions are still there. We may have been horrified by the reactions of people to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but they undoubtedly expressed in an extreme form people's worries and concern. We must make sure that our constituents know that we appreciate their worries.
We are, therefore, trying to prepare the ground so that we shall be able to cope with the foreseeable future problems. We are looking at the experience of racially-mixed societies in other countries. At the same time, we must grasp the nettle and try to hold the situation in terms of numbers. This means that we must consider the key question of dependants. My right hon. Friend said that there is agreement between the two sides of the House on this, but unless there is a significant fall within the next few years acts will have to be taken to reduce or fix the number of dependants who are permitted to enter the country. Instead of being in the wake of events we should be in the van.
474 I believe, with regret, that it is necessary to say that the entry of dependants must be controlled and that we cannot continue to accept an open-ended commitment. This is the third debate in which I have heard the Home Secretary say that, eventually, the numbers of dependants entering will start dropping. But we are still waiting for the drop. I listened with interest to the quick calculations of the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and look forward to hearing my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State comment on the implications of the relation of dependants to those who have been coming in since we severely restricted the number of voucher holders. This is an important question.
While things have calmed down considerably since the great upset and fierce demonstrations earlier this year, my right hon. Friend must not delude himself into thinking that the problems have been overcome. They are still there. We shall eventually have to face the problems of open ended commitment and take action.
§ Captain W. Elliot
The hon. Gentleman has been referring to the existing communities. From his experience, does he think that dispersal would offer a solution? Would they disperse?
§ Mr. Howarth
Like most others, I have considered this point. I reject the suggestion, however. I do not see how one could do it, on a voluntary basis at any rate, and I would have no truck with any idea of directing people, which would certainly introduce a concept of second-class citizen. In any case, I do not see how it could be done. Any attempt would merely exacerbate the problems. While I hope that, in generations ahead, there will be a filtering into those areas which, I may point out, are well represented on the benches opposite, it will be a slow process and I would not suggest that it offers a solution.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Would not my hon. Friend accept that concentration has a great deal to do with demand for labour and employment opportunities?
§ Mr. Howarth
I am sure that this was probably the initial reason, but, of course, it is cumulative. Once a number of immigrants have established themselves in an area, whether or not there are employment opportunities at the time, they 475 act as a magnet to others coming in and, of course, dependants add further to the concentration. I do not see what one can do about that. That is why I believe that the emphasis has to be on entry, that the number of dependants should be fixed and that we should work back from that point.
This means, I am afraid, that we would go against the humanitarian view put by my right hon. Friend. But I still feel that, since we have already taken the decision that it was necessary in the long-term interests of our country to restrict immigration—we were talking particularly of India and Pakistan—we should take the logical step, if we believe, as I do, that the problem is tending to drift, of fixing the number of dependants. There are several ways in which it could be done. They involve, for example, questions of reducing the age of the children who can join their parents. There might be a quota system. This would cause a queue and one can envisage the possibilities of abuse.
We in this House have been forced since 1962 to take steps running counter to the old Empire and Commonwealth traditions that were a reflection of our past. I still believe that we have a duty to the present population, and particularly to the generations ahead, to try to head off problems which are finding expression in our country and which will, if we are not careful, grow. I congratulate the Government on the steps they have already taken, but until we grasp the nettle of the open-ended commitment on the question of dependants we shall still be failing to face the problem and meeting the demands of generations in this country as yet unborn.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel
I would normally be tempted to argue some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth), but I shall resist the temptation because we have had a number of speeches on the general topic of immigration. I spoke on that last year. I wish to confine myself now to one aspect, which is quite distinctive and separate. This concerns those of British citizenship affected by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1968, which amended the 1962 Act.
476 I congratulate, to begin with, the Under-Secretary of State on his appointment to his particularly difficult task within the Government. His predecessor in the job of dealing with immigration problems carried it out in an exemplary manner, particularly in dealing with individual cases of possible injustices—and I say that as one who had many disagreements with him on broad policy. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will follow the traditions of his predecessor.
During those heated debates on the 1968 Act we were told that the need for it stemmed from what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) called, in an apt phrase, a "run on the bank" situation—the fact that we had a sudden demand for entry of our citizens which we were in duty bound to honour in due course, but which had been brought upon us all at once.
The Home Secretary then put this "run on the bank" at about 1 million people qualified to come at a moment's notice. That is technically true. But one of my criticisms then, and reinforced since, was that, in rushing the Bill through both Houses so quickly, we were unable to get at the full facts. It can now be seen that to give a general figure of 1 million British citizens entitled to come at a moment's notice is misleading, because the great majority hold dual nationality. They have another nationality, which they retain, and it is not likely that they will want to opt for the rights they have to the British nationality they hold. I believe that the great majority of the million are in a separate position from those who hold our citizenship and our citizenship only abroad.
Have the Government any intention of reviewing this status of dual nationality? I was strongly critical of the 1968 Act, but I am sympathetic to the view that dual nationality is an anomaly that we can no longer maintain 20 years after the British Nationality Act. If we were to tackle the question of dual nationality in consultation with the other Governments concerned, we would be left with a smaller number of people—about 300,000 at the most—and not the million we were told about. These 300,000 would remain our problem and our problem exclusively as people with our citizenship.
477 I hope that the opportunity will be taken at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference to raise the matter on the agenda. I think that it is time the Commonwealth Prime Ministers discussed migration from different countries within the Commonwealth. We should also ask whether they would be sympathetic to a change in the dual nationality system.
In the hurry with which we passed the legislation in February we did not have precise figures about the real demand for entry to this country. Subsequent to the passing of the Act an all-party Committee of Members of both Houses of Parliament was set up under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt). The Committee has been going in more detail into the effects of the working of the Act and into proposals which it thinks would remedy what is basically a pernicious piece of legislation which should be removed as soon as possible. I should like to give some of the Committee's conclusions, although I speak for myself.
First, we had a survey made by Mr. Martin Ennals among the Asian community in Kenya regarding their intentions. Did they intend to come to this country and how many were there? A fairly detailed questionnaire was completed and copies were sent to the Home Office. I do not want to bore the Committee with details, so I will pick out one or two salient features.
It is estimated that the number of British citizens of Asian origin in Kenya who would be qualified to come here by by virtue of British citizenship is in the region of 67,000. Those who completed the questionnaire were asked:All things considered"—that is, the position in Kenya, legislation by the Kenya Government, and so on—what do you think is the most likely length of time that you will remain in Kenya?The answers were as follows:The rest of your life—9 per cent.Less than one year—17 per cent.Two to three years—35 per cent.Four to five years—11 per cent.More than five years—21 per cent.Not ascertainable—5 per cent.478 Another question was:If you were to leave Kenya in the near future, where would you prefer to settle?United Kingdom—18 per cent.India—67 per cent.Pakistan—1½ per cent.Canada—6 per cent.and other lesser figures.
Therefore, we are not dealing with a million people likely to descend on our shores, but 67,000 people over a period of years, according to this figure of intentions, of whom only about a fifth want to come here. So the figures are very small. I know that the Home Office has contested some of the figures, but, even allowing for a wide margin of inaccuracy, they bear no relation to the popular figure of 1 million which was put about in the country at large at the time when both Houses of Parliament were persuaded to pass this legislation.
I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider totally fresh legislation on a multilateral basis in consultation with other members of the Commonwealth. Bearing in mind the small number of people still qualified to come here under the voucher system, I hope that the Government will be agreeable to lifting this piece of legislation at the earliest opportunity.
I do not share the conclusion of the Home Secretary about the working of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a picture of a growing number of people coming here, thanks to the speeches of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and others at the time that it was rumoured that the Government were about to clamp down on the number of people coming here. The Home Secretary said that the fact that the legislation has been introduced and we have had only about 600 vouchers in the first six months, shows that the Act is working and that what he prophesied is happening.
That is not so. People in Kenya, in a desperate situation and holding on to their British citizenship, saw the cork about to be put on the bottle and they rushed through the neck in a great torrent. If this legislation had not been introduced I do not believe that there would have been any mass migration. 479 I draw the opposite conclusion from that of the Home Secretary.
Since the Act came into force I have been in Kenya studying the matter at first hand. I should like a clear statement tonight from the Government about the position of students. I think that hon. Members will agree that we were not given to understand that the passage of the Act in February in any way restricted the right of our citizens to take up places in schools and colleges in this country. Yet, when I was in Kenya, I found many cases of our citizens of Asian origin who had places in schools and colleges here being refused permission to take them up.
When I raised the matter with officials in the British High Commission I was told that in some cases these people were being accepted by educational institutions irresponsibly, because they did not have the necessary academic qualifications. I am prepared to accept that in some cases that is so. But, if so, it is a matter for the Ministry of Education. It is not right for us to expect our officials in Nairobi to act as a second educational screening process. If our citizens have places here they should be entitled to come without further let or hindrance. I should like to know the Government's policy on this matter. I ask the question, because after I took up the matter with the British High Commission I came back through Nairobi about a fortnight later to be told that a great number of these people had been given permission to come. However, it is important for the Government to lay down their policy on this.
One unfortunate effect of our legislation is that officials in the British High Commission in Nairobi have attracted a great deal of odium, which they do not deserve because they are only carrying out the dirty work we require them to do as a result of our legislation. The responsibility for the policy must rest here and must be stated clearly.
There has also been a great deal of human misery caused not just by the passage of the Act at the time and the rush for entry that followed. Human misery has continued. Some hon. Members may have seen the television programme "World in Action" showing the living conditions of an Asian family of 480 children here waiting for their parents to come and join them from Kenya.
I found examples at first hand in Nairobi. I was taken to a tenement building in the city. In a very dark room, where the electric light had to be switched on when I came in, I found an Asian woman aged 25, with two boys aged 5 and 3 and a girl aged 2 and two beds occupying most of the space. Her husband had been a railway clerk. He had no intention of leaving the country, but in the panic when the announcement came that legislation was to be introduced, he was one of many who scrambled on a charter aircraft and came here to secure his position.
These people are in some cases earning only about £10 a week. The prospect of being able to find enough money to bring their wives and families over in these circumstances is really negligible. The family I have mentioned had a house and reasonably comfortable living conditions in Nairobi, but it is now living in abject squalor. If the Home Secretary had been with me on that occasion—he is a humane man—I am sure that he would have shared my sense of shame at what we had done and would not have brought forward the same complacent attitude that he displayed this afternoon when talking about the effects of the legislation.
The second example is of an Asian youth who was on the same plane as myself going to Nairobi. He was a British citizen holding this second-class type of passport of a citizen of Asian origin. He was, presumably, a student. He was going to Kenya for a temporary visit. When he got off the plane at Nairobi he was immediately sent back here on the next plane because he did not have the necessary stamp to elevate his passport from second-class to first-class status indicating that he had an automatic right of re-entry.
Has this point been considered? Are the passport authorities at the points of exit from this country instructed to examine the passports of these people to make sure that this does not happen and to make sure, if we must have this process of rubber stamping, that at least it is done before they leave and not left to find that they are not allowed to enter Kenya.
481 We have been talking about Kenya, but problems have arisen in almost every country in the world. I have dealt with examples in Zambia, West Germany and Canada, but I can think of other countries in which individuals holding this type of passport, and being our citizens, have run into difficulties with the passport authorities, largely because there is no guarantee that the countries concerned will be able to get rid of these people. There is no guarantee that we will accept them. There are continuing difficulties with foreign Governments over this piece of legislation, and I should like to know what steps the Government have taken to discuss the position of these people with other Governments.
I propose, now, to deal with the agreement which has been reached with the Government of India. To the best of my knowledge this agreement has never been published, and if the Under-Secretary is able to tell us what the agreement is I shall be grateful. I shall be happy to be corrected if I am wrong, but my understanding of it is that it applies only to those who are required to leave Kenya, in other words, those who would in any case fall within the general emergency provisions which the Home Secretary made in his speech during the passage of the Bill. I understand that the agreement with the Government of India does not apply to any individual citizens of ours who decide to upstumps from Kenya and go to India. Is this so?
I understand, also, that while the agreement is applied to those who are required to leave Kenya, the provision is interpreted very narrowly indeed. I am thinking of a case about which I was told when I was in Nairobi. A person may want to leave Kenya for purely personal reasons and go to India, but, unless he is almost being deported by the Kenya Government, he will not qualify under the agreement with India. I want this agreement with India to be spelled out to the House.
The Home Secretary said that about 600 vouchers had been issued during the six months' operation of the Act. I should like to know whether these were people who were required to leave the country. My understanding is that most of the 600 come into that category. In other words, how many applications for 482 visas were there, other than those which were granted, from those who did not have to leave the country, but wanted to come here? It would be interesting to have that figure, rather than merely the crude figure of the number of vouchers issued.
I believe that this has been a pernicious piece of legislation which has not been equalled by the legislation of any other country. It is one thing to exercise our rights as a country, as we have done over the years, to regulate, as we are entitled to do as a State, those who come in and those who go out, and who are not our citizens. That is the right of every State. We may argue, as we have done, about what the numbers should be, but the right to take that action is clearly there. The question of downgrading some of our citizens to second-class status, and removing from them the right to come here when they wish is a very serious matter, and is not one which should be shuffled off in this general debate on immigration as being a minor issue. It is a distinctive issue.
This Act is a blot on the legislation passed not merely by this Government, but by the House, and I hope that the Government will take action early to remove it and introduce new and comprehensive legislation which will remove this stain from our record.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
If the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) looks at one side of the coin when talking about Commonwealth citizens, I suggest that he must look at the other side of it, too. If members of the Commonwealth seek independence, as they are doing, and we are willingly giving it to them, they must consider the consequences thereof.
Many hon. Members, on both sides, in their nostalgic recollections of Commonwealth and Empire, fail to recognise that one goes with the other. We cannot for all time continue the moral obligation which many of us would like to feel, for citizens of the Commonwealth, many of whom have moved across its surface, and now grown up. We and they must accept all the consequences of that.
I meet this pressing burden in my constituency. It is easy for me to think of the libertarian views which brought me 483 to this House, and to state them without the consequence of seeing how this burden affects thousands of people who live and work with coloured immigrants. It would be a travesty of responsibility for a Member to insist on, and persist in, his views on this vexed problem without taking account of the vicissitudes and the social problems which arise among his constituents, regardless of politics. It is from the point of view of having thousands of people from the Asian Continent in my town that I want to try to balance a philosophy of life with the claims of the ordinary people of this country, and particularly those who live where the problem is most acute.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) is not here at the moment. He contributes in an informed way to our debates on this subject. He asked how far the Government could go in dealing with the problem of coloured people congregating in certain areas. The right hon. Gentleman approached the problem in a constructive way, but then ran away from it.
I know something of the textile industry in Lancashire, and something of the wool industry in Yorkshire. For a long time the larger employers of labour—private firms, public utilities and Government agencies—have allowed wage levels in some industries to become so uncompetitive that indigenous labour will not take on these jobs. The other side of the argument is quite clear. I have been to Jamaica, and to other places like it, where there is a natural desire on the part of the Caribbean people to come here, but this is not particularly the case with people from the Asian Continent. Over a period of years the Home Secretary has approved applications by various firms in London, in the Midlands, and in the mill areas in Lancashire, to employ foreign labour, and has thus created the very problem about which the House is so often troubled.
If, for example, London Transport cannot recruit the necessary labour force in this country because of the conditions of service, and the Home Secretary issues vouchers for people to come in from overseas, then, in spite of what has been said this afternoon, industry must bear some cost incentives so that the burdens caused by the concentration of immi- 484 grants can be shared and our social services will be able to cope with the problems.
In certain areas like Wolverhampton and London there are schools in which 50 or 60 per cent. of the children are coloured. These people could have spread to Scotland, where, relatively speaking, there is now only a mere half dozen. I beg hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, where the problem does not exist, to remember hon. Members who represent areas in which social problems arise because of coloured persons. We all want to do the right thing. It is a question of trying to marry up the two sides of the question—the purity of the argument and the necessity to live in this world in a sensible and civilised way.
First, let me clear away any prejudice that may be thought to be in my mind and in the minds of my constituents. For many years there has been little prejudice, if any, merely on grounds of colour. My constituents welcome most coloured people. We have had swarthy people from the Ukraine. We have had people from the Caribbean—nice, gentle people. They are gloriously happy and pleasant people, who enrich the neighbourhood. It is the Asian people who find it difficult to integrate into our normal social structure.
My constituents are not prejudiced, in general, against coloured people; but they quickly react to the Pakistanis. This is a fact of life. I do not know why, but there seems to be a prejudice on the part of them against integration with us. Their way of life is against integration. Their background does not normally contain principles similar to ours or those of the Caribbean people.
I do not want to labour the difficulties, but I must be frank. The House is hiding from its responsibilities if it goes back on the legislation passed a few months ago. The problem arises not because of colour, but because of a completely different social outlook on the part of people from the Asian Continent.
I have here some alarming figures in respect of immigrant voucher holders, dependants and others—men, women and children—coming here during the month of September, and also for the whole nine months up to then. I am not over-worried about voucher holders, but the figures 485 show that the number of dependants arriving in the month of September is more than nine times the average since the beginning of the year for male dependants. The figure for female dependants for the month of September is 1,431, as against the average for the previous nine months of 1,243. The figures in respect of children are, 2,815 for September as compared with an average for the previous nine months of about 100 fewer.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
Is my hon. Friend giving figures for the month of September only?
§ Mr. Mapp
I am quoting from the document, "Commonwealth Immigrants Acts, 1962 and 1968" giving the number of men, women and children admitted for the month of September, 1968. The Library let me have it at half-past one, and I hope that I am accurately reporting what it says. That is my purpose. The Under-Secretary can examine it shortly if he wants to do so.
The net result is that the number of dependants, which should be declining since March and April, increased in September by between 5 per cent. and 8 per cent. I do not mind that, if the number of dependants can be harmonised in my mind with what we regard as a normal family unit. But my understanding, and what I am sure is the understanding of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, is not the same understanding as that which applies in the case of people from the Continent of Asia.
I have argued before—and I repeat, answering at the same time the point made to me by the Secretary of State in a letter to me—that at the point of entry an immigrant should be required to declare the number in his family at that time. I also take the view that those immigrants who have already settled here should, within a reasonable time, be asked to declare the numbers in their families.
In the past the Home Secretary has answered such a suggestion by saying, "How do we check it?". That is a quite erroneous point to make. All that I am asking is that at the point of arrival, in the case of new immigrants, or within a reasonable time, in the case of immigrants who have settled here, a declaration 486 should be made as to the numbers in their families. Then, when an immigrant has got together the necessary amount of capital to enable him to bring his family over here, he can be reminded of the declaration that he made and, other things being equal, no difficulties will arise.
I still say that that is the right procedure. A letter received by me some weeks ago from the Home Secretary stated that experiments had been made on these lines, but had proved abortive. I should like to know what those experiments were. The argument was, "Unless you test these statements, what good are they?". The good comes about when an immigrant says, "I want to bring over my four children and my wife" and his declaration can then be checked.
In the case of people from Asia, especially, a statement of fact made 12 months ago may, unfortunately, prove to be somewhat elastic after two or three years. To most of us a statement made two or three years ago would remain true, but the point that I have just made has been borne out by people not only in Oldham but in other parts of the country.
§ Mr. Robert Howarth
I can see that the information might be useful, but I do not see how it would affect the basic problem. If there is an abuse of the procedure, by which cousins, nieces and nephews are brought in, I do not see how that abuse can be prevented by limiting numbers. How does it help in terms of numbers?
§ Mr. Mapp
I accept my hon. Friend's point. I merely say that my constituents who live and work in this kind of environment want to prevent this evasion of the procedure. They are as conscious as anyone here of all the kinds of evasion that take place.
I was made aware of this just after the Dover event. I will not say how, but within a few days, as a result of something said in my "clinic", it became as plain as a pikestaff what was happening. My constituents—never mind their politics—do not like evasion of this kind. They like the procedure to work properly. The Secretary of State has told us that the number of parents coming in has decreased to next to nothing. This proves the wisdom of the legislation that was so much resisted in so many quarters a few months ago.
487 Considering family responsibilities, if a man is over here whose natural home is on the Indian Continent, rather than drag a pair of old people over here because he is in a fairly lucrative form of employment, it would be much better for him to send them an allowance to enable them to live in their own circle. I agree that the Home Secretary has the parents number down to six, so to that extent my point disappears, but most people, at least in our society, will often respect the old people's wish to continue with their present associations. The most valuable thing that he can do is to help them with voluntary finance. That is a far better family approach than allowing in parents of 65 and over.
Another difficult subject is that of dependants. Some Indian males over here with dependants over there have to exercise discrimination as to which members of the family they will bring over. These are the hard facts of life. They do not exercise the discrimination which most of us would, such as choosing one's mother or school children first. The choice is often possibly the mother and the wife and then those who may be in the labour market as soon as possible.
It is right that a man should be able to be joined here by his wife and family, but why not all his family? If he discriminates in a way which would raise our eyebrows, if he says, "I cannot afford to have them over, so I will bring over only some of the younger ones", this might be sensible, but if he wanted to bring over the three eldest boys who were now reaching the relevant age, that is not quite an argument of family humanity, but an economic argument.
The Home Secretary has asked: who would stand between a man or a mother who is seeking that their family up to the age of 16 should join them? In this Western society, 15 at least is the age under which we are responsible for children, but overseas such children might be in the labour market. I beg my right hon. Friend to bring his thoughts up to date and to regard the question whether they are still being educated in the light of what is the maximum or normal age for education in the country of origin. Even in Britain, most youngsters are in the labour market at the age of 15.
488 I beg my right hon. Friend, progressive though he has been in some things, not to forget that there are still areas in which ordinary people have this concern. I am not thinking of the politics of either side or the extravagances of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) or some of the libertarians on my side of the House, who probably have not the problem in their constituencies.
§ Mr. John Fraser
I am trying to follow my hon. Friend's argument about young children. There are many Commonwealth countries, like Australia and Canada and much of the West Indies, where children of 14 are not in the labour market. Would he distinguish between one culture and another?
§ Mr. Mapp
I take my hon. Friend's point. The contrast with Australia where they are mainly the stock of this country is that there is discrimination there to a large degree. They are now exercising a very discriminatory policy. We know it, and so does New Zealand, and what seems acceptable socially over there would be hotly disputed in this country. However, when I have been in the Caribbean I have found that 15 as the school age is not a reality, for instance in Jamaica. I accept the criteria of a range of age at which youngsters should be considered to be moving into employment, but the range which should be accepted is the generally accepted range of the country of origin.
I, also, was a member of the Public Accounts Committee and was very disappointed by facts I learned about tax evasion. I regard it as my obligation to tell most of the truth in my Income Tax returns. With all the limitations which we have, in a jocular sense, most people in my constituency and the country do not stoop to subterfuge to evade taxation. A pilot study of 1,000 showed that about 42 per cent. of coloured people were deliberately giving wrong information about wives and dependants that did not exist.
I am very disappointed that my Government find it administratively difficult to correct this. The price, I think, would be £5 million to £7 million a year and I would beg my right hon. Friend to come in to towns like mine, perhaps to places 489 where one gets refreshments at 9.30 or 10 o'clock at night, and find out what ordinary people are saying about this. These people tell me—though I do not regularly frequent these places—without any reservation that they are prepared to pay their just dues and taxes, but feel that other people should do the same.
When an hon. Member makes an Income Tax declaration he knows that a claim about a wife or grown children can be verified. If the Income Tax officers are to go on accepting these assertions of families when there is grave room for doubt, the time has come to require some evidence.
I can quote an example. Only a few days ago—I do not want to become too narrow, since one can be quoted locally about this—a man from the Indian Continent went to an employer for a job. He was competent for it in every sense. When the employer asked for his normal P.45 in respect of employment, he said, "Me do not pay Income Tax; me no have any P.45 form. Me do not want one, either."
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. The hon. Member must address himself to the Bill. Finance has nothing to with this debate.
§ Mr. Mapp
I am trying to illustrate the unwillingness of some people to enter whole citizenship, which includes paying taxation. This is part of the general question of immigration. The Home Secretary should therefore remain very much alert to the feelings of ordinary people. My judgment is not canalised politically. Feelings about this do not seem to fall into political lines. On either side of the House, we should be making a great mistake if we tried to canalise it in such a way.
I am, of course, entitled to disagree with the views of the Leader of the Opposition. Having read them more deeply, I am inclined to resist some of them. But I hope that the two parties can try to find a solution to this problem so that we may work together within our social fabric. I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend. I ask him to bear in mind that there remain areas in respect of which people want reassurance. A big step has been taken, but more may be required later.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
Since I have been in the House I have been deeply involved in the two fields of immigration and race relations. I have consistently supported a dual policy of strict controls of immigration and vigorous action to ensure that the Commonwealth immigrants who have become our fellow citizens receive absolutely equal treatment with all other citizens. I welcome recent legislation against racial discrimination and the setting up of a Select Committee of the House to oversee the operation of the Race Relations Act.
But today we are debating only immigration control—the other side of this twofold policy. To a great number of people in Britain, the flow of coloured Commonwealth immigrants still seems to be out of control. Many have fears for the future and many are angry—fears that the character of this country will shortly be changed out of all recognition and against their wishes, and anger that successive Governments have promised control without seeming to stem the inflow.
Why do they feel that the controls are not effective? The reason is that the numbers coming into the country are still so large. It is true that in 1963 employment voucher holders numbered 30,000 and in 1967 less than 5,000 from the whole Commonwealth. But in 1963 the dependants arriving were 26,000 and by 1967 they were 52,800.
All parties have agreed that a reasonable number of dependants must be allowed to come into the country where that is necessary for family reunification. That, I believe, is right. But still there is a large backlog of dependants for, as the Home Secretary said, most men came ahead to get established in employment before arranging for their families to join them. The latest forecasts which I have been able to get from the Racial Survey of Great Britain suggest that all the dependants of immigrants already here should have come into the country within the next five years. It is interesting to note the proportion of men to women in the three main geographical groups settled here: West Indies, one man to one woman; India, three men to two women; Pakistan, five men to one woman. That gives some indication of the length of time by which the men 491 preceded the women in coming to this country. Thus, the main families yet to arrive, in the nature of things, are Pakistanis.
While we are faced with that backlog of dependants over the next five years, I believe that, unless some additional measures are taken now to restrict entry other than of dependants, we shall be jeopardising the prospects of building reasonable race relations in Britain. In the urban areas of densest settlement, the social capacity to absorb these new arrivals has already been dangerously strained.
In the allied fields of immigration and race relations, our main concern, I submit, should be for our own society in Britain, as it is today, including one million coloured immigrants and some 250,000 of their children, mostly born here. These are now an integral and valuable part of our economy. They are making a great contribution to industry, to the public utilities and to the social services. They are gradually becoming part of our social and political life.
In five years they should have completed the reunification of their families. But, in the meantime, the process will add to the strains in the areas where they will be living. I do not believe that we should make the size of this problem greater by admitting even the 5,000 to 7,000 a year now entering on vouchers, and later to be followed by their families, at least while our towns are absorbing the backlog of dependants. In my view such entry should be restricted to a very few special cases.
By means of an Answer to a Written Question on 26th February—HANSARD, columns 242 and 243—the then Minister of Labour explained certain changes in the arrangements for issuing work vouchers for Commonwealth immigrants within the annual limit of 7,500. These are based on the assumption that our grossly overmanned economy—with, in addition, unemployment running at half-a-million—needs further reinforcement from outside both of Commonwealth citizens and of aliens. As I have said frequently in the House, I simply do not accept that, at this time, there is a need for external reinforcement. I have spoken about the constructive results of 492 immigration, but in the recent past one other result of such immigration has been to help slow down the process of modernising our industry, our ultilities and our social services.
For the immediate future we have the manpower resources here already, much of them grossly under-used. One result which I believe is particularly scandalous is the degree to which our Health Service has become dependent on reinforcements from outside. Today, I understand, 50 per cent. of the junior doctors in the Health Service are Commonwealth immigrants. In the first 10 months of this year, work vouchers have been issued to 2,393 Commonwealth doctors of whom 2,275—that is, all except about 100—came from India and Pakistan.
Some of these come for further training and to gain further qualifications, and they aim to return to their own country. These should not be classified as immigrants but as students. We should always be glad to provide this training and to accept gladly the help which they give to our hospitals while they are here. But it is wrong that our Health Service should be so dependent on doctors from India and Pakistan.
This was recognised by the Royal Commission on Medical Education—Cmnd. 3569. In paragraph 320 it states:Most, however, had come from countries whose own needs were greater than ours; we took the view that Great Britain ought not to rely on a continuing substantial contribution to its medical manpower from this source.Again, in the same paragraph:but we thought that the current excessive reliance on the services provided by young doctors from overseas was bad for them and for their countries, and was tending to distort the staffing pattern of British hospitals.I agree with the views of the Royal Commission. Do the Government agree with them? I would ask the Minister to deal with this point when he sums up. If they do agree with them, what are the Home Secretary and his colleagues going to do about them?
The statement of the then Minister of Labour, on 26th February, seems to invite an even heavier reliance on Commonwealth doctors. I would call the attention of the Minister to an article in the Lancet of 7th September, which suggests that we are taking from India and Pakistan the annual equivalent of the total output of six medical schools and 493 thereby making for ourselves an annual financial gain of £1.6 million—the cost of their training.
Whether this drain is acceptable to India and Pakistan is their business. They know, far more clearly than we do, the great needs for doctors in their rural areas, where their family planning campaigns are under way but are desperately short of qualified staff. Nevertheless, I believe that this drain of doctors, and, indeed, of other highly-qualified staff that we are taking over from them, must have a seriously adverse effect on the aid and technical assistance which we, and other industrialised countries, send to India and Pakistan. To this extent we are interested parties. However, my main point is that these reinforcements are distorting our own Health Service and slowing down long overdue reorganisation.
My view is that, over the next five years, while the backlog of dependants is arriving, we should reduce the issue of vouchers to a mere trickle, perhaps a few hundred, to cover very special cases. I hope that this manifest act of control will make it easier for the towns with dense immigrant settlement to absorb the dependants coming to be reunited with their families. I hope, also, that it will make easier the development of good race relations in those areas—one of the most difficult and important tasks which Britain is facing today.
§ Mr. Bidwell
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) whose thoughtful contributions to these debates have long been respected in this House, as they were particularly in Committee on the Race Relations Bill. I think there is substance in what he has been saying, except that it is noticeable, to me at any rate, that the question of the numbers of labour voucher holders is omitted on the part of his own Front Bench. I imagine that that could raise questions about employers' desires in recruitment of labour. Nevertheless, I accept the wisdom in the hon. Gentleman's contribution.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Yes, and that it did not appear in the contribution of the hon. Gentleman's own Front Bench today is 494 a matter of some significance, the more especially as my right hon. Friend specifically asked what the Opposition want to be done about new immigrant workers. That, in my view, is a not unimportant omission on the part of the Opposition. May be it can be dealt with a little later.
I shall make this next reference very short because the right hon. Member is not present here now, but I think it is a great pity that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), whose sensational speech earlier this year caused a great stir in the country, has treated this House with some disdain in this matter, and his contributions to these debates are as rare as excreta pushed through Wolverhampton letterboxes. However, I do not want to dwell on that, though I would have dwelt upon it at greater length if the right hon. Member had been present.
I think both my hon. Friends the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) and Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) will accept that the hon. Member for Southall must necessarily have some experience of these matters and is not likely to be starry-eyed about the problems; in other words, that if he is thoroughly honest, as it is accepted that hon. Members of the House always are at all times, he cannot be other than realistic about the problems of immigration and settlement. Into Southall a very large number of Indian people have come, and they came a little earlier than they went to other parts of the country. As I have said here before, we in Southall feel a little grown up about the problem. Some of the younger people in my constituency often wonder what all the worry is about. Certainly, there is still among the older generation a considerable amount of residual worry about problems which have been referred to by hon. Gentlemen opposite, such as the overcrowding of houses and the pressure on the social services.
It is not so much the children and dependent relatives who are the problem as the male workers. If they come, as, in the early stages, they did, from very primitive circumstances, may be in the Punjab, they are not used to urban life in India, let alone urban life in the British Isles. It always stood to reason, therefore, that there had to be a long 495 period of acclimatisation, and we in Southall long ago went through many of the arguments which have been advanced here today.
In one of my interjections I tried to put my finger on the spot. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East replied to part but not to the point I was trying to get at, and that was an immigration labour belt and the kind of opportunities which are offered the immigrant workers. It is true, as my hon. Friend said, that there is a tendency to get an accumulation of immigrants here or there. It is the result of people from overseas wanting to be with their own kith and kin and to go to areas where, they feel, they may be sure of a certain amount of comfort.
On the matter of Income Tax, I paid some attention to the figures given to the Committee today. I am constantly concerned about this matter. I hope my hon. Friend will deal with this point when he replies to the debate. I do not know whether he is in a position to do so, and whether he has got the figures, but there has been a certain amount of adjustment made through voluntary activities—in my constituency, through the Indian Workers' Association. An appeal has been made to people who have made wrong Income Tax returns to come forward, and their debts have been settled up over a longish period. I do not know exactly how successful the appeal has been, but I know that it has been partially successful. There was a certain psychology attendant upon the Income Tax question, in that in some quarters these people were told that to act in this way would enable them to send money home. I am glad to say that the people in my locality are getting away from that attitude.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) having spoken of the official Conservative policy, one cannot avoid being party political, although those of us who served on the Standing Committee dealing with the Race Relations Bill found an admirable spirit in which each side tried to avoid scoring off the other on this very delicate subject.
I agree with the Home Secretary's attitude to the idea of a four-year probation period for incoming immigrants. I do 496 not believe that we could do this without creating a kind of second-class citizen. I do not believe that the Opposition have thought out this aspect to the end of the line. What about voting rights? If one has voting rights, one is a full-blown citizen. If one is a ratepayer, one is a local authority elector with local authority responsibilities.
How could these things be assessed, unless it were on a colour basis? Are we to put immigrants from Australia, New Zealand and Canada on a probationary basis. Or, if we are to do it only in relation to coloured people, is it to be on the basis of educated or ill-educated coloured people? How can such matters be defined? It is best left out of the count altogether, because these things are well nigh impossible to assess.
I was considerably disturbed by the outburst voiced by a number of immigration officers on the occasion of the infamous speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. One can quite understand that they suffer from a certain amount of frustration, but one expects from such responsible people—and they have been patted on the back from both sides today, and I also pat them on the back in one sense—a standard of behaviour which leads them to make their representations in a proper way, and not in the form of a public outburst.
The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire said that immigrants bluff their way past the immigration officers. If that is occurring on any serious scale it is a very sad reflection, and one that I do not wish to make, on the ability of the immigration officers. I do not know how these officers are recruited, but I find plenty of people with judicial minds, in the trade union movement, in particular, who would perhaps be willing applicants for such positions.
The problem of dependent relatives worries all of us who represent areas having a high concentration of immigrant people, but let us remember that the people whom we are pleased to call "immigrants" are our constituents. I do not know how many Indian, West Indian and Pakistani constituents I have: all I know is that it is a lot of people, and I represent their interests in this 497 House. But I also represent large numbers of people who have lived in our locality for a very much longer time.
In my constituency surgery I find people of various colours waiting to draw my attention to personal problems, which are often related to the struggle to get into the country someone who is over the age of 16 but has not yet attained 18 years. One is approached about a lad who, his father says, is not yet 18. The boy is with his family at London Airport. Then he is taken to a London hospital to have his bones x-rayed in order to ascertain his age. One often gets a medical report that the lad is over 18. He may be the only member of the family needed to complete the family circle in this country. Such a medical report leads to a terrible heartrending experience for those trying to sort out the problem and for the family.
Students who come here for a period to study may fall in love with English girls. We cannot ship them back home because they came on a student voucher or student arrangement. They are now part of the British way of life. We cannot put judgment of these things on a knife edge. I welcome announcements made by the Government from time to time accepting that a great deal of education needs to be done in regard to the contribution of the immigrant worker generally to the overall position of the economy, and the fact that it is usually the younger man whose contribution is so much greater. But I do not want to get involved in all that.
The Race Relations Act, to which I gave wholehearted support, is the beginning of the process of change. It will be a long haul before we get a great Change in areas where we have such a heavy concentration of immigrant people and a great deal of overcrowding. As to overcrowding, I am informed that whilst, by and large, houses occupied by immigrant people contain more people than do those occupied by other households, the situation is improving. Gross overcrowding is tending to recede as employment opportunities and the earning capacity of the people concerned increase. It is a hollow sham to talk about dispersal. Where will we disperse them? If they are working in a local factory, where will we give them the employment opportunities. We do not believe in 498 direction of labour, so we have to fall back on selection to a large extent.
The tenor of our debates here have indicated that there is no last word on the subject; that it is a continuous discussion in order to equip ourselves to deal properly with it. But it is not a progressive situation. To talk of cutting down the numbers of certain people we will allow to come here is a retrogressive activity. We do not want a world in which certain countries have a privileged standard of existence with the bulk of mankind clamouring to get into those countries. We want to see a developing situation in which the civilised standards of country after country will be measured by the extent to which they can accommodate and work in with people from other countries, with all the diversity of cultural background that goes with it.
The Home Secretary is being particularly hard-headed about this, especially in his suggestion, which has been accepted, that we should have a Select Committee of the House broadly based with some outstanding legal brains as well as those with practical experience in their constituencies. In this way we shall be measured as a civilised country. It would be better for us to argue the question of rate of intake and the question of dependants. I am not so worried about hon. Members opposite, as about some of the worries of my hon. Friends who seem ultra sensitive concerning this situation. When we talk about reducing the number of dependent relatives we should remember that that does not include the cousin-brother or cousin-sister.
I was astounded at some of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), when he spoke about aged dependent relatives of over 65. One wonders what he would think of the Canadian Government if one of his offspring were rearing a family in Canada and wanted his old dad and mum to go to Canada. One wonders what attitude he would take if the Canadian Government said, "You are much too old", even though the younger people had the ability to assist him in residing in that country.
Looking back on our long experience in Southall, on the experience in the Midlands and in parts of London where 499 there are job opportunities, we see that we are beginning to get a situation in which we shall have established beyond any shadow of doubt work opportunities for people consistent with the new skills. I was at a technical college yesterday and I was struck by the number of coloured young people, who came pouring out at five o'clock. It is imperative that those youngsters should have job opportunities. This in the long run would be the solution to the problem. Coloured people should take their place in our trade unions and other institutions. In the Labour Party there is a turbanned councillor in the London Borough of Ealing and I understand that a number of local Indian people are members of the Conservative Party. One of the Conservative aldermen is a Sikh although he does not wear a turban. He was co-opted but made a very good run in the local elections.
I want to see immigrant workers taking their place in society along with white people and to see them taking advice on leadership in the battle for the solution of their problems. I said when I was selected to contest my constituency, that we should be able to look coloured people in the eye and if necessary call a man a fool without its having anything to do with the colour of his skin. Then we would be well on the way to success.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
When one speaks at this stage in an important debate one has mentally gone through the process of preparing and tearing up a vast number of speeches. At this stage, therefore, I shall content myself by making what I hope will be two minor but not unimportant constructive proposals of the kind which the Home Secretary said he would welcome, and in making one or two comments on speeches made in this Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and I, sharing a great interest in this subject, from time to time have had our differences on matters of detail in the treatment and integration into our community of those immigrants who are already here, although I do not believe we differ at all in our fundamental insistence that all should be treated equally under the law. With what he said this evening I find 500 myself in complete and total agreement, particularly when he urged on the Committee that the question of future immigation should be tackled, not by attempting to limit the number of dependants allowed in. I take the view, as I believe he does, that genuine dependants of those already here cannot in humanity be kept out.
I also take the view that the problem has gone so far in this country that we are faced with a situation where immigrants have arrived at a pace and in numbers which have over-taxed our capacity to assimilate them. Therefore immigration must be cut down. The way in which it must be cut down is clearly that of cutting down the number allowed in on vouchers. That has to be cut right to the bone. I share the view of my hon. Friend that from the point of view of servicing our industries it is quite unnecessary, if we put our backs into it, to take any more immigrants. Those already here must be assimilated, treated equally, and their genuine dependants must be allowed in, but we should cut down ruthlessly on future numbers.
When he dealt with this aspect, the Home Secretary showed an extreme complacency. Speeches which followed, particularly the moderate speech of the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) were in marked contrast. There is no doubt that there are areas where the presence of large numbers of immigrants is creating appalling problems in assimilation into the existing British community.
I put two specific proposals to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in making a minor but nevertheless constructive contribution to the problem of cutting down on immigration and integration of those already here. The first is concerned with illegal immigration. In the 1962 Act there was a provision in the First Schedule dealing with illegal immigrants which was absolutely ludicrous. I shall not read it in detail, but Part I of the First Schedule in effect provided that once an illegal immigrant had got through the net and succeeded in staying here for 24 hours, he was to be immune from interference and could stay here without question for the rest of his life.
501 There was an attempt to deal with that ludicrous provision—but a wholly inadequate attempt—in the legislation introduced this year. That legislation, by Section 4, substituted 28 days for 24 hours. I suppose that the substitution of 28 days for 24 hours is mathematically considerable, but it begs the whole question.
We are entitled to say that those who, knowing full well that they are not entitled to come here, save through the proper channels and with the requisite permission, evade those controls and enter illegally should be subject at discretion to be returned to their homes at any time, however long they have been here and even though they may escape the net for 28 days, 28 weeks, 28 months, or a large number of years.
I say "at discretion" because I do not suggest that deportation of illegal immigrants should be automatic. There may be reasons of humanity, after a long period during which a man has established himself here, perhaps reared a family and done the State some service, which would justify his remaining here.
What I propose is that when this legislation comes up for revision, as it ought to in the not too far distant future, provision should be made for illegal immigrants when detected to be brought before the courts and for the courts to have discretion to recommend their deportation. Such discretion should be then subject to the final over-riding decision of the Secreary of State, as is the present power of deportation for criminal acts subject to imprisonment. I hope that this, my first constructive proposal, commends itself to the Committee.
My second proposal concerns the question of deportation of criminal immigrants. I believe that the assimilation of decent, law-abiding immigrants—that goes for most of them—would be much easier if the British people felt that those who, having accepted our hospitality and made their homes here, do not abide by our laws and commit serious crimes were subject to deportation, no matter how long they had been here.
Sections 6–9 of the 1962 Act, which in this respect is still law and unamended, in effect give the courts power to recommend deportation where the person commits an offence punishable by imprisonment and where he has not resided here for more than five years. That, again, 502 is subject to the overriding discretion of the Secretary of State. I accept the wisdom of that provision. I think that there should be an overriding power in the Secretary of State in this regard. Where I join issue with the present legislation is that I believe that this provision should be extended so that the courts can recommend deportation however long the immigrant guilty of a crime punishable by imprisonment has been here.
There are two safeguards. First, we can rely upon the discretion of our courts not to exercise such a power of recommendation in an inhumane way. They do not do so now. They are extremely careful not to recommend deportation where the offence is not a peculiarly flagrant one which has done great harm to society. I speak with considerable experience here.
Secondly, if the courts were considered by the Secretary of State to have erred, he would still have power in his discretion to say that deportation should not apply. I believe that it would be a real sanction, in two ways. The first generation immigrant—by definition an immigrant is first generation, because his child is not an immigrant—would say, "I have come here. I am making my home here. I must abide by the laws of this country. I must not offend them. I must not commit any serious crime. If I commit a serious crime, I am liable to deportation".
I hope that this would to some extent mitigate some of the crimes which are being committed by immigrants. I do not want to go into this in any detail, but we are all aware that some of the offences in connection with the taking and dissemination of drugs are not unconnected with immigration. We are all aware, too, of the cases in which persons of colour, being more difficult to recognise by the ordinary British citizen, are used in hold-ups and such crimes for that very reason. I believe that the implementation of my proposal would assist society in that way and provide a sanction against the committing of crimes by coloured immigrants.
Secondly—I apologise for making this point again—I believe that the ordinary British people would more readily accept immigrants, and it would help to bring about the assimilation of immigrants, if they thought that immigrants, having accepted our hospitality, were subject to 503 the sanction that if they committed a serious crime they were throughout their lives to be liable to deportation.
Those are the two constructive proposals I make for the consideration of the Home Secretary. For the rest, I share the gladness expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking that a Select Committee composed of hon. Members on both sides is to be set up to play some part in the urgent task of ensuring that immigrants who come here and keep our laws and take their place in our society shall in every sense be equal to all the rest of us before the law and in leading their everyday lives.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)
I come from a part of the country which prides itself on its tolerance. Indeed. I do not suppose anybody who lived in Nelson was better respected than Sir Leary Constantine who, as the House will know, was the cricket professional at Nelson for many years before the war.
I am bound to admit that my heart missed a beat when, shortly before the by-election at Nelson and Colne, I read in the newspapers that Sir Leary had been invited by the local Liberal Party to stand as the Liberal candidate. I thought about the matter carefully and soon realised that Sir Leary would not be so foolish as to be associated with such a lost cause.
Despite all that, there is a feeling in our part of the country that the problem of immigration has not been handled correctly by successive Governments. There is a very strong feeling that we have often been left out of the decision-making by Governments. Today, we hear so much about participation, yet on a matter like immigration there is undoubtedly a feeling outside London that the politicians here do not know what is going on, that they do not understand the problems and anxieties facing ordinary people in employment because of the number of immigrants.
I agree wholeheartedly with some of the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) on the question of employment. It is hardly reputable to do what we have been doing for years, which is to encourage immigrants to come here to fill jobs 504 which are so badly paid that native-born Englishmen will not take them.
It has been an absolute scandal over the years that we have refused to pay doctors in the hospital service enough to attract native-born Englishmen to do the work and have relied on immigrant doctors to fill the posts, when all of us know that those doctors ought to be back in their own countries, where there is a crying need for their services.
I have what I hope are two or three constructive proposals to put. First, I see no objection whatever to the stopping of vouchers almost entirely for a period. Again, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking when he makes that point. It would have an important psychological effect. It would give people some confidence that something at last was being done, and that confidence has been lacking. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking has the Race Relations Act very much at heart, and I feel—although I have reservations about it—that a pause of that sort would give the Act a better start than it will otherwise have.
Second, there is a strong case for limiting the definition of dependant. It is absurd that young people can come into this country in the category of dependants when, in fact, they will go straight on to the labour market without being taught English. There would be no injustice in so limiting the definition of dependant, as to allow people to come here in that category only if they were going to school in England at least to learn to speak English before going on the labour market.
Third, I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion about registration of dependants made by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp). I regard that as a constructive proposal which, in time, would have an impact on the total number of immigrants coming to this country. Those who have responsibility for deciding how many vouchers should be issued would be helped by knowing how many dependants would be coming here in the years ahead. It is almost impossible at present to forecast how many dependants will come, because we do not know how many dependants all the various people who come under the voucher system will in due course accept into their homes.
505 All experience shows that, if a person has to declare the number of his dependants, this may act as a useful check thereafter on his honesty and bona fides. I know of a case—I was myself involved in it not so long ago—involving an Irishman who was prosecuted for a fraud on the Inland Revenue. He was eventually brought to court for one simple reason. One year, he had said that he had four daughters living in Ireland, aged 12, 11, 10 and 9. He was so ignorant that, in the following year, he said he had three daughters and a son; and the next year he said that he had two daughters and two sons. Moreover, his Income Tax returns showed that he had put the names down differently in each year.
Perhaps that is a facetious example, but it serves to show that a simple check would be provided if immigrants coming into this country under the voucher system had to declare, when they came in, who their dependants were. Some such simple check might close a number of loopholes which at present are allowing a large number of illegal immigrants into this country.
I urge the Home Secretary to show some appreciation of people's anxieties. The impression which I gained from his speech today was that he had no understanding at all that ordinary people are still desperately worried about the situation and about the level of immigration. I ask him most earnestly, if he does nothing else, to bring about a pause in the issue of vouchers in the coming few years.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
It is valuable for the House of Commons that we should have the opportunity which this occasion gives every year to consider seriously the subject which causes more anger and terror among the people we represent than any other single political subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) was absolutely right to say that the vast majority of the people we represent cannot but believe that the House of Commons is absolutely out of touch with their feelings and their anxieties. Therefore, we cannot too often direct our minds to this question.
It is useful also to have on the record what one was thinking and saying last year. Having looked at the record, as others have—the hon. Gentleman the 506 Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) said the same—I find to my gratification that I am in entire agreement with what I said last year. It would be tedious to repeat it, and I shall not do so save in one respect, because I think it useful constantly to keep before one's mind what we ought to be trying to do.
The ultimate object of all our attempts to solve the problem of the reconciliation of our native community and the immigrants is to create and maintain a society in which no one section will feel that it has not been fairly treated, a society which is just and decent, in which there is no legitimate cause for wholesale bitterness by any large section of it. This means not only the immigrants who are here must be properly treated, in so far as this House is responsible for the law, but they must be really accepted by the people among whom they live.
People are very frightened at the sudden influx of alien newcomers, as they see them, people whom they regard as totally changing the character of the nation, totally changing the whole ambience in which they were brought up and in which they expected to live the rest of their lives. We must not take that fear lightly. I find increasingly that the attempts which one quite properly makes to stimulate the indulgence and patience of one's constituents towards immigrants are frustrated by their deep anxiety that the Government and the Opposition are not really concerned to put a stop to the numbers coming in. That is what worries them.
Talking to my constituents constantly, as I do, I think that the vast majority—80 or 90 per cent.—can just be induced to say in effect—"All right; we accept it. We wish it had not happened. We blame you bitterly for having allowed it to happen. But, as it has happened, we agree that the only alternatives are either to drive all the immigrants down to the end of Southend Pier and shoot them into the water—an extreme solution though not one without historical precedent in principle—or, at the other extreme, to recognise their equal rights as subjects of the Crown and give them a proper and fair welcome in our country."
One just gets people round to that view if one tries. But what they will ask is, "How much more of this will 507 there be? There seems to be no end to it—5,000 a year coming in on vouchers, and how many more dependants flooding in?". And they go on with the same old story, which is not to be taken lightly, that they breed like rabbits, and so on. Those people are frightened. It is necessary for us to be able to say to them, "We are sorry about the past, if that is how you want to feel about it. But we can promise that this will now stop."
With the greatest respect to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I wish that he would not equivocate about strict controls and so on and then go on about admitting more dependants. I wish that he would say, "We shall stop it absolutely," because people need to be given that reassurance. After all, it will not make a difference to the rest of the world whether we have another 5,000 or 10,000 immigrants, but it will make all the difference to this country.
I want to modify with regret and apology one thing that I said last year. I was of the opinion then that it would not be right or practicable to stop dependants coming in. I have now changed my mind. The numbers and the presence and the continuing influx of dependants frightens people as much as anything else. Stopping them coming is a very difficult and objectionable political action to take. We have said to the immigrants that they can come here and in due course be able to bring their dependants. If we now say "We shall not admit your dependants", we are breaking our word to them. If we do so, because our greater responsibility is to the British people of our own country whose patience we must maintain, we must at least frankly acknowledge that we are doing so and pay them for it.
I do not know that we should give them compensation, for how one can one quantify it? But at least we can say that we shall send them back without any cost to them or burden on them. We should do it, because of the rate at which dependants are coming in. Figures have been bandied about the House. Let us not argue whether there are four, five, six or seven coming in per male already here. The figures are enough to frighten 508 people and make a big difference to the ecology of the constituencies of the hon. Member for Bolton, East my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne and others, and they know it.
It would be better, whatever the odium we might incur from those whom it would disappoint and distress, to say, "This has gone wrong, and our people have not the moral resources to withstand any further imposition on them". If we can say that, we can with a clearer conscience and more firmly tell them, "You will have to swallow some things which are deeply repugnant to you and allow those who are permanently here their full rights". I think that the response will be at it should be, and that we shall not hand on to our children a heritage of resentment and bitterness built up against them which will make the whole of our society suffer.
That is our responsibility, and it is touch and go whether we can meet it. I hope that we shall not make a mess of it by the ignorance and complacency which seems to possess people when they come to power as Governments or bear the responsibility of making policy in Opposition. We ought to come down more to the basis of all political responsibility and the ultimate source of the power with which we are entrusted and find out what people think. We should say to ourselves, "We represent these people". This is our country. Why should not it be our country? No one else will look after it, and it is our responsibility. We should have a deep and abiding regard for the interests and limits of tolerance of our people.
§ Mr. Hogg
While his speech is still in my mind, I should like to say something to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger). With a great deal of what he said I have the profoundest sympathy. His analysis of what people say and write to one is almost exactly correct. The question is what one says to them in reply, and I have tried to lay down two rules, which have not always attracted much popularity to me.
The first has been to try to say what makes sense, whether they like it or not. I do not believe that it makes sense in a country with 55 million inhabitants and 509 a national income of about £38,000 million a year—give and take a few thousand millions, but I do not think that I am very far wrong—to say that there shall be no people coming in any more than it is possible to say that there shall not be any going out. I realise that people who talk to one want that kind of reassurance, but if one cannot give it to them, and it is not sensible to try, surely the honest thing is to say so.
Secondly, although I shall come back to dependants in another context, I do not like breaking our word and before we did that kind of thing I should have to be convinced not merely that people want our word to be broken in order to reassure them, but that there was an objective reason, on grounds of national safety or extreme emergency, why we had to do it. Although it may be some consolation to say that if we break our word we must pay compensation for doing it, I am not sure that it takes us the whole way in moral justification.
I am bound to say to my hon. Friend, quite calmly, that he did not explain to us what he would do if the man concerned said that he did not want compensation and that he would stay here. I may be wrong, but my belief is that that is the situation with which we would be faced in the majority of cases.
I simply will not accept that by adopting sometimes an unpopular but always, if possible, a restrained position, I would be either shirking responsibility, sweeping problems under the carpet, being less realistic or representing my constituents any the worse. I simply do not believe that there can be a future for this country in its present position—I would almost say "at all"—if we do not found our general policies for those who live within our boundaries upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some of which are legal obligations, all of which are moral obligations and some of which are political obligations. Although I am conscious of the state of mind which my hon. Friend represented extremely well, he must understand it when I say to him that I do not go along with him the whole way.
It is a great courtesy by the Home Secretary to be with us, because I know that he has been in difficulties today, as I was at the beginning of the debate. I 510 want to say one or two disagreeable things to him, but they are not unkindly meant.
Whilst we have been discussing this problem—and I have played a part in this debate in the last three years—a certain amount has been said about a bipartisan approach. I was, perhaps, the author of the phrase in this connection, because I do not want a bipartisan policy. I want the Opposition to be independent. We owe it to one another, however, to approach this problem in a slightly muted emotional framework precisely because people feel about it so deeply.
If the Home Secretary attaches the same importance to that emotional approach as I do—and I fundamentally believe that he does—he must try to react to what we believe, rightly or wrongly, to be constructive suggestions in a slightly different spirit from that in which he reacted to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition at York, by an immediate Home Office statement, and in a slightly different way to that in which he reacted to the speech this afternoon of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton).
I must tell the Home Secretary that if that kind of reaction is to come from the Government benches when we venture to put our proposals forward, there can be no hope whatever for a bipartisan approach to policy in this field. It would be the end of it. Nobody, least of all I, can put up with that kind of approach in opposition. He had better rid himself of the idea that he can get away with that kind of attitude. When he is in a bit of difficulty, as he was in the earlier part of this year with the Bill of 1968, he is glad enough to get support from the Front Bench on this side; I do not think that he would have had his Bill if he had not. But when we put forward our policy, which we have thought through quite carefully, we get nothing but sneers and an absolutely negative, jejune and unconstructive Home Office brief read out at great speed for nearly an hour, and that is not good enough.
I will come back to this topic in a moment, but whilst I am on the disagreeable subject of castigating the Home Secretary, I will go on to say that he must realise that I went along with the idea of a Select Committee in order to 511 improve relations between the two sides of the House. I told him at the time that I had not much faith in it; I do not like these new Select Committees for reasons which may be right or wrong but which have nothing to do with hostility towards the present Government.
I have always been afraid that they would be used as excuses for inaction; that is to say, that the Government would use the Committees, and particularly this Committee, as an excuse for driving upstairs matters which ought to be discussed and acted upon on the Floor of the House. The Home Secretary has, once today and once in Question Time last week, shown the clearest possible signs that that is the way in which he will use it. If that is what he intends to do, then it will be a waste of time to conduct affairs through the Select Committee.
My right hon. and learned Friend told me that the Home Secretary, before I came into the Chamber, said that my selection of my right hon. and learned Friend to open this debate, and the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition at York were sops to the Right-wing of my party. If that is the tone in which this discussion is to be conducted, he might as well forget about a bipartisan approach. This is the worst cantankerousness of party politics, and he must improve his behaviour if he expects a continuance of the relatively amicable tone in which up to now the debate has been conducted.
Lest there be any doubt about why I chose my right hon. and learned Friend to open the debate and about where I stand with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I say that this is the third annual debate on an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill which has taken place in three years in each of which I have taken the leading rôle for the Opposition. The speeches which have been made show that we are right to put down an Amendment year after year, and those who have taken part in the debate have contributed to our general pool of wisdom on the subject. I also took the leading part on this side of the House in the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, 1968, and in the Race Relations Bill, when I made nearly 50 speeches.
512 I thought that I had possibly said most of what I wanted to say during that period of time and that it was appropriate, and it was my responsibility entirely to select my right hon. and learned Friend to make the opening speech and for me to adopt the less exciting but more reposeful task of winding up at the end; I still think it was a rational conclusion. But the idea that it was a sop to the Right-wing of my party or to its Left-wing or to any other part of my party rather than a sop to the exhaustion of my own eloquence is a big mistake.
I come now to the speech of my right hon Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I shall expatiate on the merits of the subject later, but first I have something to say to the Home Secretary. I am far too lazy to seek to improve on the eloquence of my right hon. Friend but the views which he expressed are, as anyone who is aware of what I have been saying to my colleagues in the past two years, the views I myself hold, although expressed in very different language, possibly more felicitous than mine.
Having said these disagreeable things, I come back—and I shall be the first speaker to do so—to the topic we are discussing, the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill in Committee. We are discussing two Amendments standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends, which would omit the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962.
Of course, as on previous occasions, we have not the slightest desire to divide on the matter because we know as well as anyone else that, if we omitted these Acts, the whole fabric of our immigration control would fall to the ground. We put the Amendments down to inspire a debate and I think that the quality of the debate justifies our action. But there is rather more than a purely technical point behind the Amendments. It is one which I made two years ago, but which becomes the more important to make today. I understand that, in my absence, the Home Secretary made a concession in this direction. I must remind the Committee of these Acts and, therefore, of the statutory foundations upon which we found our aliens control. I find them profoundly unsatisfactory and that is the 513 basis of the policy which my right hon. Friend was seeking to put forward at York.
First—the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919. On 5th August, 1914, as part of the emergency legislation for the First World War, Parliament passed the Aliens Restriction Act, which was so wide in its powers and so absolute in the discretion given to the Home Secretary that it was expressly limited to the continuance of that emergency or the apprehension of a new one. It was war-time legislation and it was passed in the course of a single night. This insecure piece of legislation remains the foundation of what we are discussing today. It is the law which we have moved to be omitted, after 50 years.
The only difference which was made by the Act of 1919 to this perfectly necessary piece of emergency legislation passed on 5th August, 1914, was the omission of the words, "relating to the emergency", so that it lasted indefinitely and not simply during the emergency. As a makeweight, the House said that it should last for no more than a year, because it was considered such an unusual and, at that time, outrageous thing that such serious, widespread and basically insecure legislation should be on the Statute Book at all.
From that day this legislation has gone on from year to year in the Schedule to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I suggested two years ago that this legislation should be made permanent. The Home Secretary now says that he has not time to do it this year, because he does not think it is important enough. It would be unkind, and possibly out of order, to compare it with the various pieces of legislation that the Government shoved into the Queen's Speech of only a week ago. But that excuse is a bit threadbare after 50 years. I suggest that the Home Secretary should take his job a little more seriously on that point.
The second piece of legislation is also an annual Act. That, also, I find objectionable. I refer to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, to which I will come back in greater detail later. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed at a time when we were seeking to get some kind of control into this sphere. I have made the point before—like the hon. Member for Croydon, 514 South (Mr. Winnick) I cannot resist the occasional party point—that we were bitterly opposed from the benches opposite and by the Liberal Party, but we proved to be right. During the course of that legislation we introduced a number of compromise solutions which I find wholly undesirable, and so did the Government, because some of them were removed in the latter Clauses of their own Bill of 1968—again in response to pressure from this side of the House.
I wholly agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) when he said that, on the whole, at least I am of the opinion that to achieve a humane administration in this sphere and in this state of the world, it is often important to retain wide statutory powers. I do not oppose wide statutory powers, but I should like to see them revised, consolidated and assimilated. I should have liked that done two years ago, and I complain with increasing bitterness that it was not done in this Session.
I come now to the second stage of what I have in mind. I ask the Committee to bear with me in what is necessarily rather a dull and technical exposition, since we have been challenged about it. I came to the conclusion some while ago that a great deal of the popular anxiety and a great deal of the administrative muddle in this sphere was not due to a double dose of original sin in politicians—and we all know that we suffer from a double dose of original sin; that is, those of us who do not suffer from a triple dose of original sin—but was due to defects in the administrative and legal structure under which successive Home Secretaries have been trying to work.
For this purpose it is important to differentiate between, as it were, four different levels. The first is the statutory structure itself; that is, the Acts of Parliament upon which we depend. They need to be right, and I am willing to concede to the Home Secretary—indeed, to demand for any Home Secretary—wide statutory powers. The second level is the published regulations under which we work. I refer to the Aliens Order, 1953, as amended, which the Home Secretary is responsible for administering and which can be bought and read by any alien who wishes to know the legal basis 515 upon which he stands. Then, there are a vast range of general instructions, some of which are published, and some of which are not but which can be ascertained on inquiry. Lastly, there are individual decisions, and a great deal of the humanity or otherwise with which the administration works must depend on the wisdom of the individual decisions.
Perhaps I might pause for a moment at what I think is a convenient point to say that I realise that the Home Secretary and the Government have meant well by the promise in the Queen's Speech to implement the Wilson Report which gives a kind of appeals structure from the decisions of immigration officers. I want to be as fair as I can about this. In the latter stages of the Bill in the spring of this year the Opposition Front Bench put forward an Amendment, which was not carried, to the effect that appeals should be on a rather more limited base to the High Court, but I must now express a certain element of scepticism about this approach.
I hope that I shall always be treated as a very loyal member of my profession. I always have risen to its support, sometimes like a trout rather than an angel, when it is attacked, but I must say to the Home Secretary that in matters of policy I very much question the extent to which a judicial or quasi-judicial, approach from his decisions is likely to arrive at wisdom. This is not because I doubt the wisdom of judges or lawyers, but because I want Parliament to remain in charge of policy, and because the criteria which any professional lawyer brings to bear in coming to a conclusion about a question of doubt or fact are different from those which the Minister properly brings to bear, just as they are different from the criteria which, say, a historian brings to bear.
All Ministers—and I have been one for a time—constantly have to act upon material which lawyers would find wholly insufficient. If they did not so act they would be bad Ministers. Ministers have to deal with the situation as it is, and the information at their disposal is often inadequate. I do not think that ultimate wisdom in the field of political discretion can be found in a purely judicial or quasi-judicial tribunal.
516 Where I should like the Minister to improve the present situation—and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with this—is that I do not like to see one man, however wise, or however humane, saddled with the responsibility for so many individual decisions. I should like to see the Minister bring in the kind of advisory apparatus which has already been successfully brought in in other fields in his Department, for instance, the parole board, which is to some extent under criticism here. I should like to see an advisory apparatus rather than a judicial apparatus.
I bring back to the attention of the Committee the basic framework upon which we are working. I hope I have satisfied the Committee that I want second-class citizens—if I must use that emotive phrase—as little as any hon. Member does; but there are one or two things which have to be said. In the first place, as I think one of my hon. Friends pointed out—I suspect it was my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell)—this country is not manifestly under-populated. Because it has a standard of life which, even under a Labour Government, is probably a source of envy to the greater part of the human race, it is clear that we have to erect a very stiff fence. Otherwise we shall be flooded out by persons from countries where the standard of life is lower. The question is not whether we erect the fence, but what sort of fence we need to erect.
I cannot see why we should discriminate as between Frenchmen, Indians, Americans, Canadians, Australians, Ghanaians and Brazilians; they are all members of sovereign independent countries, and they all operate immigration controls against us. That is the first thing that the Home Secretary must get into his head—and which, in my humble opinion, he has failed to get into his head—is what my right hon. Friend suggested at York. It does not involve us in doing anything to a Commonwealth citizen which is not already done to a Scandinavian au pair girl. It does not involve us in claiming any right for ourselves which is not only claimed but exercised by every member of the Commonwealth inter se or against us.
517 In those circumstances, the suggestion that we are in some way guilty of demanding a second-rate citizenship is the most complete and absolute rubbish. We are claiming the rights that every other civilised and sovereign country claims, and we are seeking to attract to ourselves the kind of administrative structure which other civilised, settled Commonwealth countries have attracted to themselves. Let us not talk this nonsense across the Floor of the House, because if it goes on it will destroy any hope of a rational or objective approach to the problem.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that we have a different attitude to Commonwealth citizens, to the extent that when they come here they receive complete citizens' rights and undertake the corresponding responsibilities. We already have that distinction. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposing to take that away?
§ Mr. Hogg
For this purpose I was not proposing to amend Section 1 of the British Nationality Act, 1948. I was about to tell the hon. Member the kind of thing that I propose. I do not want to trouble the Committee with too much technical detail.
The first and obvious difference between the way in which a Commonwealth citizen is treated and the way in-which, for instance, a Frenchman is treated, is that in the first place the Frenchman comes in for a limited stay, which is renewed, sometimes indefinitely. Once he arrives, the Commonwealth citizen is here for an indefinite stay. Before the spring, even if he came in illegally, after a period of 24 hours he could stay indefinitely. He can do so now after a period of 28 days.
I take the view that a great deal of the hostility engendered about this business derives from the fact that the rights which are given to the Commonwealth immigrant are given almost from the first, and almost without qualification, and for an indefinite period. That is why, and not because of colour, there is a feeling of doubt and anxiety among some of our people. At any rate, that is one of the reasons.
518 We have proposed that from the start there shall be a limited stay for everybody. This may be right or it may be wrong, but it is done in respect to every country outside the Commonwealth. We want to be given some rational reason why the two sets of people should be dealt with differently. If it is said, "What does Commonwealth citizenship mean if we take away the right to an indefinite stay inuring him from the start," I would point out that no other people in the Commonwealth extend this right to other members of the Commonwealth or even to ourselves. We are only giving it the same meaning, whatever that is, as all the other members of the Commonwealth give it.
Second—this matter has not been discussed, nor is it one upon which I would wish to give a concluded opinion—the Frenchman comes in on an individual work permit which enables the exact needs of the industry to be estimated and the social needs of the locality to be judged. But, as has been said, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), Commonwealth citizens come in on a voucher, which is not the same thing. There must be a case for discussion—I do not claim more than that—as to whether the work permit system is better than the voucher system. The former is not based, incidentally, on a numerical ceiling but on need, and the latter is based on a numerical system and is almost uncontrollable.
I do not say that one is necessarily better than the other, although I have my ideas, but to throw them both out and say that there is a reason for keeping them in different compartments according to the history of the country of origin or its subsequent decision to leave the Commonwealth seems to me to be wholly irrational almost to the point of insanity.
The next issue is the registration of dependants and the registration of voucher holders, if one prefers to continue the voucher holder system after they come in. Either this thing needs controlling or it does not. If it does not, I am ready to concede, of course, that there is no point in registration. It would be simply a waste of manpower, Civil Service energy and probably public money. But if, like us, one thinks that it needs controlling, I venture to say that some form of registration is absolutely essential.
519 What is quite certain is that, if people are in on work permits for a limited period of stay, which is true of other aliens, registration in some form, though not necessarily for all entrants, though at least for work permit holders, must be a necessity and a condition of control. I happen to share the view, which I have reiterated again and again that, on grounds both of humanity and of social policy, it is undesirable to keep a man away from his wife and young children.
I have already answered the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North that the best way would be to withdraw the statutory right and substitute repatriation, with a grant of compensation. The reasons which I gave against that seem conclusive. But two things still require to be said. The first is that we know that there is some abuse and illegal entry. We do not, of course, in the nature of things, know how many people have succeeded in evading the control and I would not ever think of pressing the Government to give figures of what they do not know. What we do know is that some people have been caught in the net, and when fishes are caught in the net, there are normally others in the sea.
I want to know why it is considered unreasonable to carry out a policy of registration for those seeking vouchers or, if we change to that system, work permits, at the time of their seeking them, so that it can be investigated at the time and made a condition of entry.
The Home Secretary said that he was concerned—and so are we—by the occasional cases in which young people are detained at the ports, and sometimes put into prison without bail. I was glad to hear him say that he was acquiring the right to give bail. If they were documented before they came, as part of a general system of registration, surely this kind of misfortune could be avoided.
I am not in the least seeking to withdraw the right of those who are lawfully here to receive their wives and young children in a proper way. We know that there is impersonation. We have heard of the case of the bogus fiancé and the proxy wife. We want to stop such cases. What is wrong with wanting to stop them, and why is registration not one way of doing it? 520 We all know that local authorities have difficulties, for example with housing and education. Why should they not be given prior notice of an individual's intention to bring his wife and family into their area? I am not disputing his right to do it, but why should they not be told in advance the kind of situation with which they will be faced, perhaps in three months' time? It seems to be a rational suggestion. If we are to document—as I hope we shall—the dependant-immigrant at the point of departure rather than compelling him to undergo different procedures at the point of entry, why should not the ultimate procedure be originated in this country so that they may document themselves properly?
§ Mr. Mapp
I am trying to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument about registration and advice to the local authority of the family's arrival. It seems to me very difficult to do that. I cite as an example the constant movement between Lancashire and Yorkshire. The local authorities there are faced with just this problem, and we see that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal is unworkable.
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not think that it is in the least unworkable, although I am the first to admit that by itself it would not solve every problem that the hon. Member can envisage.
We remember that the Home Secretary told us that 16 per cent. of the immigrants have been here for eight years or more and that half of them have been here since before the reduction of the number of vouchers in 1965. They must, therefore, have made some careful preparation before they decide to bring in their wives and their children. What is wrong with requiring such a man to say to the local authority or to the Home Office, "I intend to send money out to Pakistan for the following persons: one lady aged 34; two boys aged ten; and one boy aged six. Their names are as follows and they were born at…"—giving the names of the places where they were born. They would then come into the country with their documents and would surely be saved a good deal of trouble. The local authority would know that it would have an intake of three uncovenanted children of school age, being given an approximate date of entry. There is 521 nothing to stop the immigrant from changing his home in the meantime, but in a large number of cases immigrants will not do so. I am only saying that there is nothing inhumane in this, and it might prove of great assistance to local authorities in very great need.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)
In the case of Pakistanis, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that under Muslim law there may now be four wives. Would he notify all four?
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not want to get into these matrimonial religious questions, but I take the general view that one wife at a time is enough for any man, and too much for a great number. I must say that the kind of humanitarian impulse which leads me to admit the right of a wife and child to reside with the breadwinner begins to suffer from the law of diminishing returns in inverse proportion to the number of wives, and there comes a point at which he might visit them in Pakistan.
I think that when people come to this country they must observe the rather permissive mores which we allow ourselves at present, at least up to a point.
This leaves me with one other point to make, and that is that I cannot go the whole way with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) on the question of deportation. I think that the power of deportation is not yet tight enough and I think that the use of it is still too lax. If an immigrant comes in illegally, prima facie I think he should go out. If an immigrant, before he becomes a full United Kingdom citizen, that is to say, before the period of his fixed stay allowance expires, chooses to commit an indictable offence, I think that the ordinary course ought to be to send him home. I realise it causes a certain amount of pain. So, as a rule, do indictable offences. But I still consider British citizenship to be a privilege, a privilege which I am happy to own, and one I am glad to defend on the part of those who come here lawfully, but it imposes responsibilities as well as rights, and I do not think that, by failing to impose some kind of discipline on our own citizens and on others, we do much to further the cause of race relations.
522 If these things will be discussed by the race relations Select Committee which is about to be set up I shall be only too glad, but I ask the Home Secretary not to use it as a cloak for inaction.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just made a general charge about the manner in which the power of deportation is used. I happen to agree with him on his general principle, but when he puts these observations in this way, has he in mind any individual cases in which I should have used the power of deportation and have not done so? If so, I shall be very glad if he will let me know, but, with respect, I very much doubt whether he has.
§ Mr. Hogg
I have, over a period of months, accumulated various complaints, which I have not taken up with the right hon. Gentleman because once the right hon. Gentleman has decided not to deport it is very much like the Prerogative of mercy. I very seldom do take up these individual cases, but I have evidence of individual cases—or I have had evidence, is more accurate—for instance, this being the most numerous class of case to which I am referring, in which I feel the Home Office has not carried out the recommendations of the courts, and I have had evidence from some judicial officers that they are dissatisfied with the extent to which the Home Office pays attention to their recommendations for deportation.
§ Mr. Callaghan
This is the first time that complaint has been made. I have never heard it before. I would be grateful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would accept his responsibility and let me have details of these cases, if he has them, and I will undertake to inquire into them. At the moment, in the absence of evidence, I do not accept what he says about the attitude of the Home Office.
§ Mr. Hogg
I certainly will bring bring to the attention of the Home Office any live cases which come to my notice. I am very reluctant to take steps to intervene after the decisions of the courts, unless I am especially requested by the persons interested to do so, but I will try, should any further cases come to my notice, to bring them to the Home Secretary's attention, in the hope, not that he will inflict 523 severe penalties at my request, but that he will investigate the whole principles on which his office is working.
§ Mr. Rees
We have covered a great deal of ground tonight, and I will make it my main task to reply to some of the points raised. If I do not answer some questions, I will write in due course, which may cover up the fact that I have been doing the job only a number of days. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has made his 51st speech on this matter: I make my first.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will not know—and why should he?—that the first time I came across him—he would not have come across me at the time—was when I was standing as candidate in a by-election 10 years ago. He was speaking in the local grammar school where I played a very big part, and he attacked me as the candidate wanting to destroy the grammar school. That did not happen to be true, but all is fair on such occasions. I hope that on the next occasion I become associated with him he will be rather less magisterial than on the first occasion, when he had not found out my view. Tonight, for very under standable reasons, he had not heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I regret that, because if he had heard it he would not have been quite so magisterial in his remarks—
§ Mr. Hogg
I should like to correct the hon. Gentleman there and, in doing so, to congratulate him on his appearance at the Box. It was very remiss of me not to mention it; I was not then aware of it. I am glad to see him there. I did hear his right hon. Friend's speech, except for, perhaps, the first five or six minutes.
§ Mr. Rees
I should like to take up the question why we are still going through this annual procedure. My right hon. Friend made the most important point which I have found in the Home Office this week, which is that we have a great deal of legislation to get through. Another point is that because of the new Bill that will set up an appeals system, my right hon. Friend will have a great advantage in grafting an appeals system on to the present machinery of control and then having a period of experience of the operation of the appeals system, 524 and an annual look at it will still be of very great value.
It occurred to me that because we have been concentrating on Commonwealth immigration it would be of value to go more deeply into the facts and figures of alien immigration. The Opposition have recently been putting forward in pamphlets ideas about integrating the alien system with the Commonwealth system of immigration.
This, I feel sure, is one subject which is much better dealt with in Select Committee, and then everyone concerned, whether in the Committee or reading the proceedings afterwards, will be able to appreciate some of the very real difficulties that arise out of ideas and suggestions that seem first rate, but in which the gaping difficulties are shown very clearly as soon as the matter is taken up with the civil servants responsible for administration. The Select Committee will not be a means of sloughing off dealing with the problem, but will, I feel sure, be very valuable to the House. Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend accepts that his is the responsibility for the administration of this part as well as other parts of his Department.
One main point in the system of alien immigration is that individual immigrant examination takes place actually at the port. By the end of September this year about 3½ million aliens had landed in this country, and this is one fact that must be taken into account when thinking of dealing with Commonwealth immigration by the same system. There is the advantage in our method of control, which is different from that on the Continent, which has different problems, that the individual examination carried out at the port of entry reduces to a minimum the number of cases in which we have to resort to the drastic measure of deportation. I am glad to say that, in terms of what the hon. and learned Gentleman said a moment ago, these cases are few.
In 1967, the number of aliens deported was 78 and in the first nine months of 1968 it was 41. During 1967, 72 Commonwealth citizens were deported, and 183 Irish citizens, for reasons those interested in the matter will have found out over the years. All these cases are considered most carefully by my right hon. Friend. This is something I have found in the last week. He takes into 525 account compassionate factors as well as other factors in making his decision.
We were made aware in the early part of that debate that in recent months hon. Members opposite have suggested that a proper step might be to assimilate the method of control at present operated for aliens with that for Commonwealth citizens. I think one of the chief proposals which should be looked at carefully is that Commonwealth citizens coming here for employment would not be admitted permanently at the outset, but for 12 months. My right hon. Friend dealt with this in some detail. I make one point of a more general kind which should be taken into account. It is that the two systems, Commonwealth and alien, are of a different nature. For that reason, the different systems of control seem to justify their separate existence.
No fewer than 3½ million aliens a year currently come here. Of these, the great majority are visitors and the proportion coming here for settlement is minute. In round figures, about 50,000 come every year to take employment, but, unlike Commonwealth citizens, many come for seasonal and short-term employment. About half those who come for employment leave before the expiry of 12 months and many who stay for more than 12 months go back after two or three years. Adding together the aliens who come for employment and close relatives of resident aliens accepted here for settlement, the total permanent addition to our population varies between 15,000 and 20,000 a year. But the Commonwealth pattern is very different. The number of Commonwealth citizens entering the United Kingdom is no more than about one-seventh of the number of aliens. Further, the proportion who wish to stay here is much greater.
These facts about the differing nature of alien and Commonwealth immigrants show that it is not necessarily right to deal with both classes in exactly the same way. Another factor which should be taken into account I discovered in the last week. It is that the control of immigration for work by aliens is a control in the context of the labour market while the work voucher system for Commonwealth immigrants is not designed for that purpose. It is designed to control the rate of immigration. This is done for different purposes. 526 I am not arguing that any idea of putting them together should be put aside, but anyone who talks with certainty of this as if because both classes come in it can be done, when he investigates it closely, will find that there are a number of real problems he must face.
Another subject raised in the debate was the question of dependants. Here, the figure is up. We have had the fact stated that 16 per cent. of dependants came to join men who settled here before 1962. There is a danger of over-simplification.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) quite properly asked why we should not curtail, or even stop altogether—it does not matter very much for my argument—the number of work vouchers and have a breathing space.
There would be no breathing space, except very marginally, because by far the greater number of people entering are dependants. In all the arguments contained in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition, which I have read most carefully, and in documents issued by the Tory Party, the key to the numbers coming in, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognised this evening, is in the field of dependants. This is what we have to return to time and time again. If there is an argument for limiting vouchers, it is not an argument for dealing with the large number of people entering, because it would have precious little effect for a long time.
There has been some discussion of the question of entry certificates. If there were to be compulsory entry certificates, as the Opposition suggest, as my right hon. Friend said earlier at first look it is not clear how this would reduce the numbers entering. To return to the point I made a little earlier, if the statutory right of entry of dependants, who account for 90 per cent. of arrivals, is to be maintained, even if an entry certificate were made compulsory it would seem that all entitled dependants would receive certificates and, therefore, the right to enter.
The advantages for such a system of entry certificates must, I think, be found in another field. There are clear advantages in reducing trouble at the port of arrival, but to say that entry certificates have these advantages is quite different 527 from saying that they should be made compulsory or that they would affect the large numbers entering. The Wilson Committee went into this and concluded that it would be wrong to impose, in effect, a visa requirement on Commonwealth citizens to which the great majority of aliens arriving here are not subject. Here again, what at first glance seems to be a reasonable idea is found on investigation to present problems.
It is not the world's best argument, but I found from one visit to a port of entry that there is an advantage in an entry certificate. If bogus pieces of paper are being used to enter, there will be bogus entry certificates. If entry certificates cannot be checked at the port because holders of such certificates would be allowed in, the number of bogus people entering would perhaps be greater.
Immigration officers do an excellent job under the most difficult of circumstances. I saw one incident where an immigration officer talked to a young man and to his father separately. It was obvious that they were telling a cock-and-bull story. Cock-and-bull stories can be told in Pakistan and India, but confrontation is a check that would not come with the application for an entry certificate.
The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) asked how many bogus dependants are caught. The figures I have of all refusals are: in 1967, 2,218; in 1968 to the end of September, 1,732; but only one-third of these are dependants.
§ Mr. Deedes
The Government seem to have shifted their ground a little from last year. Last year we endorsed the Wilson Committee verdict that entry certificates were highly desirable and very useful, even though they were not made compulsory. This year I detect that the entry certificate is regarded by the Government as less valuable. Am I right?
§ Mr. Rees
I have been dealing personally with some of these problems for only a short time. I think that what the right hon. Gentleman has said is still the policy of the Government. There would be great advantages in having 528 entry certificates—we would deal with applications in Pakistan, for example. I am saying that to make them compulsory would not deal with the charges about people being bogus. It is my fault entirely if the way I put it seemed to suggest a change in Government policy.
I come now to the speech of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel). The hon. Gentleman said that he was not satisfied with all the information given by my right hon. Friend concerning the 1968 Act. Let me say, first, that the Government acted on the best information available. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act of this year was not a step which any Government would have been anxious to take just for the sake of taking it. I assure the hon. Gentleman of that. It is not right now to suggest that there was no problem at the time. Whether caused by injudicious speeches, Africanisation policies or not, there was a problem at the time, and my right hon. Friend showed today the effect which the policy has had.
The hon. Gentleman raised a number of matters, and I take, first, the question of numbers in East Africa and the investigation which took place. The figure then available to us was that there were believed to be 167,000 United Kingdom passport holders of Asian origin in Kenya alone. It has since been suggested, with some reason, I think, that that figure was too high. No one can be certain, but it may be that the correct figure is somewhat lower. Other estimates have been made, setting it 100,000 lower, and it is most unlikely that that figure is correct.
We are concerned not merely with the exact number of people in the Asian community in Kenya who do not have Kenya citizenship. It may well be that their children have acquired Kenya citizenship, but we have to look at the family unit and if the head of the family has to come here, his children will come with him regardless of their citizenship. It is that sort of consideration which makes it impossible to arrive at accurate figures. But it would be as foolish to underestimate the number as it is to suggest that the Government sought to exaggerate it.
529 I remind the hon. Gentleman and the Committee of what my right hon. Friend said at the time:It is not possible to make an exact count"—He was not claiming infallibility, although a good deal of infallibility on other matters was being claimed at the time—but, having looked at many figures, I am for the purpose of this Bill taking the figure of at least 200,000 in East Africa as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1246.]I do not think that, on any approach to the figures, this is likely to prove to have been an over-estimate. I remind the Committee also that it was made clear at the time that, while the problem lay in East Africa, there could be a problem in other parts of the world.
§ Mr. David Steel
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the general argument, will he appreciate that my point in raising the question of figures was to ask about the much larger number who have dual nationality? Will the Government tackle that?
§ Mr. Rees
I shall come to that in a moment.
First, the question of students. The hon. Gentleman said that they were being refused admission. I am advised that this is not so. Bona fide students are admitted in substantial numbers. I shall willingly obtain any figures which are available and pass them to the hon. Gentleman. But the entry certificate officers in Nairobi have to be on their guard against people posing as students who really intend permanent settlement. Experience has shown that evidence of acceptance by an education establishment in this country is not, unfortunately, an adequate test. Many establishments appear to accept freely those who pay a deposit.
The entry certificate officer has to look at all the facts and, if he considers permanent settlement to be the real intention, he has to refuse a student entry certificate. If the applicant is dissatisfied with the decision, he has the right of appeal to Sir Derek Hilton, who considers all these cases most carefully.
I think that the hon. Gentleman said that the Government should initiate the 530 abolition of dual nationality status, which, I think, is now held chiefly by Chinese in Malaysia. There would be no immediate practical advantage in doing so, because these people have not yet shown a desire to come here. Our nationality law is complicated, and a review would be a major task which must await an appropriate opportunity. The agenda of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference will be a matter for the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. But I have noted the hon. Gentleman's suggestion and passed it to my right hon. Friend.
There is no secrecy about the agreement with India. It has been published, and I think from what the hon. Gentleman said that he completely appreciated its nature, so I shall not give any further explanation. It is a matter not only for us, but for the Indian Government. The hon. Gentleman may under-estimate its practical value, if he thinks it does not go far enough. Since the agreement was reached it has enabled 865 people to benefit, as against 399 who received vouchers to come to the United Kingdom in the same period. It is a substantial additional benefit.
On the special vouchers scheme, it is true that vouchers are being issued only to those with some degree of priority, but the quota of 1,500 is allowing all urgent needs to be met, and some of lesser priority as well. So far, 1,974 people have applied, and 1,118 had received vouchers up to the end of October. Incidentally, when I get these figures and read them out I see one advantage of a Select Committee, for which the figures will be provided. In the Select Committee one will be able to consider them at leisure, rather than throw them across the Floor of the House.
The boy who was refused admission to Kenya suffered not from any defect in our arrangements, but the refusal of the Kenya authorities to admit him without a visa. That brings us back to the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The boy could have obtained an endorsement in his passport from us, guaranteeing him the right of re-entry to this country, and he should have obtained it before travelling to Kenya. His failure to do this led to his difficulties with the authorities in East Africa, and it was not any fault of ours. Our High Commission 531 in Nairobi did its best to help, as the hon. Gentleman no doubt knows.
We have done our best to publicise the arrangements for obtaining re-entry endorsements. I am finding this week how difficult it is to publicise these things, so that everybody who at some time may want the information can know the facts of the situation.
§ Mr. David Steel
I accept that it was the boy's fault that he did not have the right stamps in his passport. My point was whether this should have been checked when his passport was examined when he was leaving the country. Should not that be part of our general regulations?
§ Mr. Rees
I shall look into this. I have a feeling that I have had a similar case this week. I cannot say now whether it should have been done and that there was an error, but I suspect not.
The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) raised a number of points on which I have sought to get information. There was the question of dispersal on which it would be idle to pretend that I have any information, though I have some thoughts. It is a serious problem which calls for study, so let us study it in the Select Committee. It is easier to say that than to see a clear way to solve the problem. The issues raised include direction of labour, which immediately raises many hackles in all sorts of places. The bulk of immigrants now arriving are dependants of men already here and are bound to go where the man is—to the existing centres of immigrant concentration. How does one get round this?
There are obviously difficulties in checking students, which was another point raised by the right hon. Member. The Home Office follows up all students admitted on conditions, all fiancées admitted to marry and all visitors placed on conditions who, in the opinion of the immigration officer at the time of admission, need to be followed up and who are therefore specially referred to the Home Office, where records are kept. The right hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about the system. In other words, where there is judged to be a need to follow up an immigrant a record is kept and he is checked on. We check on his 532 departure, and if, after a reasonable time beyond the due date, he has not gone we refer the matter to the police. It is a complicated system.
My right hon. and learned Friend dealt with the question of fiancées. All I would say, because he chose his words carefully, is that the Committee can be assured that we are studying this problem carefully, but it is not an easy matter to resolve. The humane practice by which we permit people to enter this country for marriage is one which we should not lightly set aside, nor is it correct to suppose that our present concession offers an easy, straightforward means of evasion and that there is no control.
People in this category are admitted for only three months. They are not permitted to settle unless they produce evidence—presumably, a certificate—at the end of that time that a marriage has taken place. The great majority do so and it would be wrong to suppose that any large number of men coming here for the purpose of marriage later fail to go through a marriage ceremony. It would be wrong to conclude that the fact that people come here for marriage constitutes an abuse.
What may be a matter for concern is not that people come to this country for marriage, but that the numbers coming begin to constitute an unduly high proportion of those coming here for settlement, which is a different point.
§ Mr. Deedes
If they arrive ostensibly for marriage, but do not contract a marriage, have we the machinery for following them up and asking them to leave?
§ Sir D. Renton
I should like to say to the hon. Gentleman that on his first appearance in his new office he is being informative. I wonder whether he is able to tell us the position with regard to proxy spouses?
§ Mr. Bidwell
Would my hon. Friend agree that if we are not very careful 533 in this matter, and announce new restrictions on the intake of fiancées, we might bring about the flight of the "birds" from India, for example, to Britain?
§ Mr. Rees
I hope that I have not announced anything at all. I was being helpful, which was what the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested I might be.
The question of doctors has been raised by a number of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite. As most hon. Members know, most of the doctors work in the National Health Service, mainly in training posts. Many of them obtain higher qualifications before going back home. It is a postgraduate occupation. Together, however, those who return and those who stay make a great and valuable contribution to the work of our hospitals. I recognise that there is concern that we may be relying too heavily on their services. In planning the expansion of medical schools which is now in progress, the Government have had regard to the need to limit excessive reliance on such doctors in the future. The Government have the view of the Royal Commission on Medical Education.
That enables me to make another point. When considering the subject of numbers and the argument which took place last year between my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and hon. Members opposite about what the numbers will be in the future, while the outcome is the result of Government action, so many factors are constantly changing that anybody who dared to make a statistical estimate of the situation in the future would be making an error that one finds in large numbers of Royal Commissions which have been set up to consider population generally.
The Royal Commission on Population, of 1947, was, I think, wrong, because things change. One of the factors is that the fertility rate is not a biological function. It is in large degree a social function. Once people get new ideas and outlooks in this country, I suspect that the fertility rate will change as well. As yet, however, I have not sufficient knowledge on that matter after one week in my present office.
I was asked how many prosecutions there are for evasion. There are very few. We have no statistics. The passenger is sent back to the country of 534 origin and is not prosecuted. Occasionally, a sponsoring relative who has given false evidence is prosecuted.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) confronted me with some figures. The number of dependants arriving in September—over 4,000—was higher than the monthly average for the first nine months of 1968. The fact is that the figure is correct. It proves precious little, because the figures always vary from month to month and September is a peak month. Just as September is a bad month for the Treasury, so for people coming in it is a boom month; but it is the cumulative figures that matter. During the first nine months of 1968 the number of dependants arriving was less than in the same period last year. It was markedly lower, notwithstanding the inclusion earlier on this year of the larger number of Kenya Asians.
I have not covered all the ground, but I have mentioned briefly the subject of the optimum population and I have said that the calculations are mostly wrong. It would not be the first time that man has miscalculated economic forces, nor would it be the first time that matters of immigration have evoked political passions. I took the opportunity during this week to look back to before the First World War, when there was an influx of Jewish refugees from Russia and Poland. People were then saying almost exactly the same things as they are now saying about Commonwealth immigrants; that they should be sent back; and we know that it fizzled on and became worse during the 1930s. This debate has, quite properly, concentrated on immigration, and I have tried to keep in order by concentrating on that subject.
When I was young, and lived in a mining village in Wales, a long time ago, many of the older generation had no job opportunities. I heard the former right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, the late Aneurin Bevan, say on one or two occasions that when he was young, and boys left school at 11 or 12, by some curious alchemy they did not become lawyers or teachers, or go into the professions; they all went down the pit. Not only because of the party to which I am pleased to belong, but for other reasons as well, the social opportunities for young men in all parts of the country have changed in the 535 last 30 years, and I personally owe a great deal to that.
In the first few days of taking up my new job I am haunted not so much by the problem now which is inevitable, but by the problem of second generation coloured Englishmen and Welshmen. If by some curious alchemy they do only the unskilled jobs, I doubt whether they will have a political means to change things and they might turn to other extremes. We must consider not only the immigrants, as we are quite properly doing now, but also the younger generation. Otherwise, I should hate to be here in 15 years' time to hear people say that we have slipped up again, as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen now say that we have slipped up in the last 15 years.
I believe that the Government and my right hon. Friend are in control of immigration. If the numbers are to be reduced drastically that reduction must be in the number of dependants. As I understand, the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of his party, and my right hon. Friend are in general agreement on that and, in view of that general agreement, I feel sure that the Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ Sir D. Renton
Although I am not able to register total agreement with the hon. Gentleman, I would like to congratulate him upon his speech. I have been in the same position of having to speak for the first time at short notice, and he did very well. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 55 (Third Reading), and agreed to.