HC Deb 21 November 1968 vol 773 cc1532-5
Q7. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if he will appoint a Minister for Repatriation.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is the most satisfactory "No, Sir" I have had for years? Is he further aware that, in addition to the grave constitutional implications that could arise from the formation of such a Ministry, it would mean increased public expenditure, hordes of officials and that, if other countries followed our example, it would mean that millions of Scots would come back to Scotland?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend asked if I was aware that this was the most satisfactory "No, Sir" he had had for years. The answer to that is "Yes, Sir". The answer to the second part of his supplementary question is that I am aware that such a proposal would have the consequences he has described.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Whatever our views on this matter, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is deplorable that, for fear of violence from enemies of free speech, university bodies should seek to prevent students from hearing my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) on this matter?

The Prime Minister

I am in favour of free speech at the universities and everywhere else for all forms of opinion, but in view of the way in which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has clothed these utterly evil proposals, I am not surprised that he has provoked some reaction.

Mr. Walden

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that opinion polls have shown overwhelming support for the restriction of immigration but that the same polls have not shown any support of the same quality for the other panaceas of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West? Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that, in view of the exemplary attitude of the Leader of the Opposition on this question—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—there is no need to waver? If the Government did waver and harass and bully some of Her Majesty's subjects towards the boats, British politics would sink to the gutter.

The Prime Minister

Government policy on the question of restriction has been fully stated by me in my speech in Birmingham and by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary repeatedly in the House. I think that the point about the opinion polls is that the Government, the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Home Secretary have made clear on all occasions that, whatever arguments there may be about entry, once Common-weath citizens are here they must expect to have the right to be treated on the basis of equality with all other citizens regardless of colour. This is clearly the position of both major parties in this House and in the country, and I agree with my hon. Friend that no party in this House is going to allow the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West to drag the politics of the country into the gutter.

Mr. David Steel

Has the right hon. Gentleman made an estimate, and if not will he make a rough one, of the number of people who would be liable to land on our shores if every other country in the world were to establish ministries of repatriation for those of British stock?

The Prime Minister

For a start, it would mean that I would not have to travel to Gibraltar to meet Mr. Ian Smith.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us share considerable problems in connection with speeches made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—but that many, both in and outside the House, particularly bodies like committees of conciliation, find their work made increasingly difficult by these continuing speeches which dish out the dirt to a certain minority of the community? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that at the same time we are desperately anxious—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is too long."]—that the Government should give us all the help possible to remedy the defects left by 13 years of Conservative Government—[Interruption.]—particularly in housing and education—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions must be reasonably brief.

Mrs. Short

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in today's Evening Standard of the disgraceful campaign against a Biafran student at Eton College and has he seen the causes attributed to it by the headmaster?

The Prime Minister

I recognise, as do most of us in the House, at any rate those who are willing to listen to my hon. Friend when she puts a question, the very deep problems which she has to face in her own constituency. All of us bear testimony to the restrained and responsible way in which she has consistently fought for her Wolverhampton constituency—[HON. MEMBERS: "She will still lose it."]—where things have needed to be done. Hon. Members must not cover their embarrassment about some of these questions by making silly jokes about my hon. Friend. Their duty is to show their solid support for their leader in this matter. This is not a matter for joking; it is one of the deepest and most difficult issues which we have to face.

My hon. Friend will have been pleased to see the Bill introduced yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary dealing with some of the very special problems of urban areas following the pledge which I gave at Birmingham last year. I think that the House will also be glad to contrast the attitude of my hon. Friend, facing the same constituency problems as her neighbour, with the action of her neighbour in dragging this matter into the gutter.

Mr. Fortescue

When earlier this year she was Minister of Social Security, the Paymaster-General told the House that there were circumstances in which a Commonwealth immigrant could be assisted to return to his own country. Will the Prime Minister tell the House what those circumstances are and to whom such an applicant should turn?

The Prime Minister

The facts were given to the House by my right hon. Friend, but in general, as the hon. Gentleman will know—there has been no change in policy under the new Secretary of State—this relates in particular to Commonwealth immigrants who desire to return, who are willing to return, and whose continuance in this country would impose a charge on public funds.