HC Deb 15 May 1969 vol 783 cc1639-40
Q2. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to establish a Department to handle immigrant problems and improve liaison between the Government and the local authorities where there is a large immigrant population.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department gave to a similar Question by him on 8th May.

My hon. Friend was appointed to this specially created post and gives a great deal of his time to the issues which the hon. Member has in mind.

Mr. Smith

But is the Prime Minister aware that many local authorities are not at all happy wih current Ministerial responsibility for immigrant problems or with the lack of freedom which Whitehall grants them in these matters? Should not local councils at least be granted a greater say in the spending of the money which is allocated to them to enable them to deal effectively with immigrant problems?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the need to ensure that we get value for money from this new expenditure in dealing with immigrant problems which was proposed by this Government but was never made forthcoming by the previous Government.

Mr. Winnick

Would it not be one helpful way to deal with this matter if the Leader of the Opposition dissociated himself from those Tory candidates and Members of Parliament who are calling for the repatriation of coloured immigrants?

The Prime Minister

I think that the posture of the right hon. Gentleman is always to dissociate himself in tone from his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) but never to dissociate himself from the policy.

Mr. Heath

Will the Prime Minister now address himself to matters of substance? Will he not recognise that there is here a matter of great importance as to whether this special allocation of money, which is largely for schools and nursery schools and other special facilities of that kind, would not be better handled for the local authorities through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, so that the Home Office would remain responsible for the control of immigration, but the actual handling of finance would be through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which is well experienced in these matters? Would it not also have the advantage that it would prevent anybody in the local areas from saying that this was a discriminatory allocation of money for immigrants? Could it not be handled for the community as a whole, bearing the needs of the immigrants in mind?

The Prime Minister

This is a perfectly serious point, as I recognise, and it was carefully considered. As I announced in Birmingham last year when I spoke on these matters, the Home Secretary was being asked to look at an urban programme not entirely for immigrant areas and making some provision for areas where there is no major immigrant problem. It is important, particularly in areas where there are immigrants, that these matters should be discussed with my hon. Friend who is almost full time on this subject. There is a great deal of flexibility in the expenditure and it would be wrong to leave it to the individual spending Departments.