HC Deb 15 May 1969 vol 783 cc1791-832

Lords Amendment: No. 7, in page 13, line 16, at end insert new Clause "A"—

  1. "A.—(1) In subsection (2)(b) of section 2 of the Act of 1962 (under which a woman may not be refused admission into the United Kingdom if she satisfies an immigration officer as to the matters there specified) after the words 'satisfies an immigration officer' there shall be inserted the words 'that she holds a current entry certificate granted for the purposes of this paragraph and'.
  2. (2) In subsection (2A) of the said section 2 (under which a person under the age of 16 may not be refused admission into the United Kingdom if he satisfies an immigration officer as to the matters there specified) after the words 'satisfies an immigration officer' there shall be inserted the words 'that he holds a current entry certificate granted for the purposes of this subsection and'.
  3. (3) The Secretary of State shall make arrangements for securing that the persons having authority to grant entry certificates on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom shall, on due application, grant such a certificate for the purposes of the said subsection (2)(b) or (2A) on being satisfied that, apart from the foregoing provisions of this section, the applicant would be entitled to admission into the United Kingdom under the said subsection (2)(b) or (2A) or would be so entitled if the applicant's husband, parent or parents were admitted with the applicant."

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The Government have decided to make the possession of an entry certificate obligatory for settlement by Commonwealth dependants. I will come to the question of aliens later. Section 2 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, lays it down that admission may not be refused to the wife of a Commonwealth citizen who is already resident in the United Kingdom, or who accompanies her and is on that occasion admitted, unless she is the subject of a deportation order; nor may admission be refused to children under 16 whose parents are here or who are admitted with them.

The effect of the Amendment will be that these rights of entry will remain exercisable provided that the passenger has obtained an entry certificate for the purpose from the appropriate British representative overseas; but that admission may be refused if he has not. The change is, in substance, important though purely administrative. I wish to make it clear that it is not the intention of the Amendment—nor could it be by virtue of the rights involved—to lead to a reduction in the number of dependants coming in.

This is a method of improving the machinery of entrance for dependants. It is important that all people coming to Britain should obtain entry certificates. The point that has moved my right hon. Friend concerns the problems that arise principally at London Airport of dependants of Commonwealth citizens who travel perhaps 3,000 or 4,000 miles across the world and come here without good documentation.

Subsection (3) is designed to ensure that everybody entitled to a certificate receives one, and I shall return to this issue later. Entry certificates will also be obligatory for dependent relatives who have no statutory right of admission for example, children over 16 or aged parents.

A separate Amendment to Clause 22(5) provides for the new Clause to come into operation as soon as the Bill receives the Royal Assent, which we expect to be tomorrow. Although this Amendment does not restrict the right of entry, already this week London Airport has had a larger number of people arriving without proper documentation and this has stretched the immigration service to the limit. This is, however, only a minor reason for the timing of the measure. There are a number of other reasons; for example, the cases in recent weeks, which have been unfortunate, of people arriving, again without proper documentation.

It has seemed to my right hon. Friend that when the Bill becomes law and is implemented—we hope that this will be by the end of this year or early next year—there may be certain administrative difficulties—"swamping" is too strong a word—unless something of this sort is done. We also thought that perhaps the Select Committee might have considered this matter. However, in its wisdom, it did not; and we therefore felt that this was the time to deal with the matter.

We accept that the Wilson Committee, while giving a great deal of support to the need for entry certificates, and the need to deal with them voluntarily, did not recommend that this should be done, but experience since that Committee sat of the large number of people coming in without entry certificates has convinced us that something ought to be done.

We have failed to persuade sufficient of those coming for settlement to obtain entry certificates. From the West Indies, there is no problem, nor is there from West Africa and Cyprus. But the great majority of dependants from India and Pakistan make no use of the entry certificate procedure. There is no doubt that people with entry certificates almost walk through our immigration control points, because the documentation has already been attended to.

During 1968, more than 48,000 Commonwealth citizens were admitted as dependants coming for settlement; over 30,000 from India and Pakistan. The majority come to London Airport, and it is here that difficult problems have arisen. The least suitable place for investigation regarding documentation, or questioning simple people coming from almost another world, is a great international airport, with all its bustle.

This problem would not be solved by the introduction of the appeals system provided for in Part I of the Bill, but the Government intend that there shall be an extra-statutory appeals system for such dependants before Part I is implemented, and that this part of the system will be introduced immediately in advance of the Measure itself.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)

The hon. Gentleman says that this provision will come in immediately on the Bill getting the Royal Assent, which he hopes will be tomorrow. He also said that the very announcement of this new Clause had brought in a flood of additional people during the last few days. What happens to those people who arrive tomorrow and the day after who do not have an entry certificate? My question is not asked critically.

Mr. Rees

All I can assure the hon. Gentleman is that it is to be implemented tomorrow, but that because of the overlapping period it is not my right hon. Friend's intention to be dogmatic. We shall have to take into account those who started their movement in advance of this part of the Bill coming into force.

It is not at present considered necessary to increase the number of offices in India and Pakistan from which entry certificates may be obtained. Incidentally, the entry certificate takes the form of a stamp in the passport. There are four places in India and four in Pakistan where certificates may be obtained.

It may be suggested that the Government should open more entry certificate offices overseas nearer to some of the main areas of emigration, but paragraph 72 of the Wilson Report expressed the view that the offices were conveniently located. We think that the first priority must be to reinforce the eight existing offices in India and Pakistan, and that is where the additional staff will initially be located. Subsequently, it will be for the High Commissioner to decide how best to allocate the resources at his disposal. We have seen, and shall see, that the High Commissioners are made aware of the various suggestions that are being made.

It is certainly not the case that we have decided at this stage not to make facilities available in additional places for the issue of entry certificates, but there are practical difficulties. It is not just a question of sending a few people up country, or wherever it may be. We must keep an open mind on the subject, and continue to look at it. I am advised that most applicants at present seem to be quite content to go to the main centres to apply for passports, and they can apply for entry certificates at the same time. The offices are encouraging applicants to make the first approach by post.

It is not to be expected that Commonwealth Governments will positively welcome a Measure which for certain of their citizens changes the entry certificate from an optional facility, but the Government firmly believe that it is in the best interests of Commonwealth immigrants of all nationalities, and they trust that the provision will be seen in this light.

I shall say a few words about arrangements for appeal, because I understand that this is an aspect which is exercising the minds of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides. When the statutory appeals system is in force, a Commonwealth citizen who is refused an entry certificate will be able to appeal to an adjudicator in this country and, with leave, to the tribunal; and one who arrives with an entry certificate but is refused admission will be able to appeal to an adjudicator and, as of right, to the tribunal.

10.30 p.m.

As I have explained, it is not practicable to bring Part I into force immediately. I have said that we shall, however, have an extra-statutory appeals system at once. The appeals will be decided by one of a number of independent lawyers to be nominated for the purpose by the Lord Chancellor, and my right hon. Friend undertakes to abide by the lawyer's decision. Appeals against refusal to grant an entry certificate will be dealt with in this country in accordance with the procedure recommended by the Wilson Committee and in conformity with the extra-statutory arrangements already made for dealing with such appeals for United Kingdom passport holders in East Africa.

If the appellant so requests, his sponsor in this country or a lawyer or voluntary organisation acting on his behalf will be able to present the case orally to the lawyer dealing with the appeal. The interim arrangements, as have said, will be based on the Wilson Committee's recommendations in paragraphs 125 and 187.

Upon deciding to refuse an entry certificate, which is the point which is exercising some people's minds, the entry certificate officer will hand the applicant, or send him by post, a notice stating briefly the reasons for the decision and informing him of the arrangements for appeal. The information supplied about rights of appeal will explain that an appellant can, if he wishes, be represented at the hearing of his appeal by a relative or friend in this country or by a voluntary organisation here. I will say something about that in a moment.

All applicants for entry certificates as dependants will, unless the application is completely baseless, have sponsoring relatives in the United Kingdom. Unsuccessful applicants will be informed of the facilities for advice and assistance available from voluntary organisations, both in their own countries and for the purpose of appeal in the United Kingdom. An appellant will be able to indicate on the notice of appeal whether he wishes to nominate anyone to represent him in this country.

On receiving a notice of appeal the entry certificate officer will transmit it with a report on the case, accompanied by any relevant documentary evidence, to the Home Office, where the case will be assigned to one of the lawyers whom the Lord Chancellor will nominate to deal with the appeals. Any person or organisation whom the appellant has named to represent him will be sent copies of the entry certificate officer's report and informed of the date and place of the hearing. The decision will be transmitted to the appellant through the Home Office and the entry certificate officer and will also be made known to his representatives.

We have been discussing with a number of voluntary bodies the part they can play in the representation of appellants under these arrangements, both in the long term—the Ports Welfare Advisory Committee, based on the Clarke Report—and in the short run. The basis of discussion is the Clarke Report. There still is a job to do. There will be less, as a result of this Amendment, to do in this country. Now we are concerned with work in the country of origin. Appeals will be in this country. We will spread the lawyers near to the centres of immigration, not just in the London area.

We want to help the organisations, principally the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and International Social Service, to help in the country of origin. We have invited them to let us have more details of their plans, with an estimate of costs. This estimate we have now received, and we shall consider, in consultation with the Treasury, what measure of financial assistance we can provide so as to ensure that immigrants are fully aware of and able to exercise their rights under the new procedure.

We do not under-estimate the practical difficulties of introducing this kind of appeal system, but we should not, in considering how to overcome them, lose sight of the painful aspects of the system of immigration control that it is to replace.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

My hon. Friend has been talking about the Ports Welfare Advisory Committee. Is it the position, since the meeting at the Home Office last week, that this proposal is still to be implemented, or is there a breakdown in negotiations between the committees and organisations which were to sponsor the Committee?

Mr. Rees

There has been no breakdown. There are two aspects. In the long term, there is the Port Welfare and Advisory Committee, based on the Clarke recommendations. The N.C.C.L. has withdrawn its support from this, but the other organisations have not. In the long run we want to set up a ports advisory and welfare service, but it is not to be implemented until the end of this year or the beginning of next.

The immediate need is through the J.C.W.I. and I.S.S. to deal with the problem that will arise straight away. This is exercising the mind of my right hon. Friend. We want to be as helpful as we can, because it is necessary that we do something in the country of origin.

Mr. John Lee (Reading)

I realise that my hon. Friend wants to be as informal as possible, but which are the voluntary organisations that will have locus standi in this matter?

Mr. Rees

I have here a list of all the organisations that played their part in the Clarke Report. Perhaps I could let my hon. Friend know later.

As a result of what happened last week, the two bodies that will principally play a part in the country of origin will be the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants and International Social Services. They are only two of the bodies interested in the more long-term Ports Advisory and Welfare Service. There is also the Kent Council of Social Service and others. I will see that my hon. Friend receives a copy of the Clarke Working Party's Report with its recommendations.

An entry certificate holder appealing against refusal of admission will be able to attend the hearing of his appeal and not be removed from the United Kingdom until the appeal has been withdrawn or dismissed. A corresponding change in the law will not be required for alien dependants, because, unlike Commonwealth dependants, they have no legal rights of entry. There is an essential difference. Two changes in administrative practice will be made to bring the admission of alien dependants into line with what is now proposed for Commonwealth dependants, so far as this is consistent with agreements for visa abolition.

Admission of alien dependants for settlement is on a much more modest scale than admission of Commonwealth dependants, and is limited to wives, children and other relatives of aliens who have themselves already been accepted as residents here, normally as a result of having spent at least four years in approved employment. In such circumstances dependants are admitted for settlement if the head of the family is able and willing to support and accommodate his dependants without recourse to public funds.

On this basis, about 1,350 are admitted for settlement each year, of whom about 1,000 are wives and children. The balance are dependent parents or other relatives. Dependants of aliens who are visa nationals are required to obtain visas before coming here for settlement, so this is already in line with what is proposed for Commonwealth citizens.

Resident aliens who are nationals of countries with which we have entered into arrangements for visa abolition often obtain Home Office approval before bringing their dependants here. In future, they will be advised to obtain this advance approval. Where it is not obtained the dependants will not be admitted for settlement. If they appear ineligible for settlement the immigration officer will not allow them to land. But if they appear eligible they may be allowed to enter for a short period and advised to apply to the Home Office for permission to settle.

Under the Bill, arrangements for appeal in this country have already been approved for people who have been refused entry certificates. This is already the procedure we have agreed to. Now we are asking that all dependants should obtain entry certificates. My right hon. Friend regards this change as extremely important. It has become clear to us in recent months that something like this would have to be done. I do not think that it is something that divides the House politically. There is no fundamental difference between us. What we all wish to see is that this new change is implemented in the best possible way and that those who have a proper legal right of entry will be able to obtain this in the country of origin.

That is an administrative improvement and I am sure that at London Airport, where I have been particularly moved by this problem, we shall have a far more civilised method of entry, especially for Commonwealth citizens.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

The issuing of entry certificates and the appeals machinery in the country of origin is obviously crucial if this system is to be seen to be fair. Has my hon. Friend any plans if this goes on for having an inspectorate, or officials, or hon. Members, members of the Select Committee, go to see how the system is actually working in the countries of origin?

Mr. Rees

At the official level this is something which we will look at extremely closely in the next few months, because it is crucial to the working of the Bill.

It is not for me in any way to suggest what members of the Select Committee might do, but if they were to put their minds to this problem, it might seem appropriate for them to look at the difference between the arrangements in the West Indies, and, for example, in Pakistan and India, and also in Cyprus and Malta. The problem is dealt with differently in each. No problem has arisen in the West Indies, for example. It may be appropriate for the Select Committee to look at this, but it is not for me to do aught but put the suggestion on record.

Mr. Deedes

It may seem gracious of those of us who have pressed for this system of entry certificates to acknowledge what the hon. Member has said and to welcome this course of action and not be captious about it. I want to be not captious, but cautious.

Personally, I have no criticism of the way in which this is being done, although it has been subject to criticism elsewhere. This is a big item to inject into a relatively modest Bill at this stage, but I accept the hon. Member's hint that there were compelling reasons for acting swifty, as we learned early in 1968, and perhaps this is the best way of going about it.

As I surmised, and as the hon. Member confirmed, this is not a sudden change of attitude by the Government, but, as the hon. Member put it, something which has grown on them in recent months as being the sort of thing that would have to be done. The policy having been determined some months ago, the opportunity to act quickly has come.

I am not quarrelling with that approach, but questioning whether the rush which, I know, the hon. Member had in mind unless this were done in a certain way would, in fact, have materialised. I do not dwell on that, but I question whether, in those circumstances, the rush would have materialised to the extent feared.

Nor, if this system works properly, do I think it humbug to stress that the entry certificate system is emphatically not restrictive but calculated to be far more humane than the methods which some of us have seen working at the ports. Certainly, my own findings from a view of the ports early this year were that the strain on the immigrants and on the immigration officers had become intolerable under the present system. This was inevitably reflected in the indignities on the individuals whose credentials were doubtful and had to be examined.

To effect a shift in the burden of proof from the ports, which are the worst possible places for protracted examination, it had become essential to shift the administration to the country of origin. I imagine that the additional burden that the appeals system will impose on the immigration staff had made some relief of this kind necessary. Nevertheless, as hon. Members opposite have stressed at times when they have wished to resist pressure for the entry certificate system, it will undoubtedly impose certain burdens on our administration overseas. When he made the announcement, the Home Secretary said that he was satisfied that the staff would be adequate.

The hon. Member has just referred to the number of offices which he things it will or will not be necessary to open. Can he give us any quantities? What additional staff will be required? There will obviously be a considerable demand on the High Commission staff already dealing with this sort of thing. This is not just an administrative quibble. The entry certificate has come to be regarded, rightly, as an additional safeguard, proof of the bona fides of the person entering, and on the evidence of the ports, where many fewer of those without entry certificates have been refused entry than those with, that is a right supposition, but it will continue to be so regarded. Scrutiny, therefore, will be less severe and inquiries at the ports less protracted. That is the object of this. In other words, the entry certificate will be heavily relied upon.

10.45 p.m.

It is imperative that it remains reliable. That depends in part on the preliminary work in the countries of origin, particularly in countries or districts where details are hard to get, and a great deal of time may be occupied in doing that. Second, it will require a good deal more care in the department of which we spoke earlier, the department of forgery. It is no good blinking the fact that forgeries which have been unnecessary in the past in this sphere of the entry certificate will now become a factor. The entry certificate will join the passport and the port of embarkation stamp as a profitable forgery.

I am not imagining this. I will quote words which the Under-Secretary himself used in November, when stating the case against the entry certificates: If bogus pieces of paper are being used to enter, there will be bogus entry certificates. If entry certificates cannot be checked at the ports because holders of such certificates would be allowed in, the number of bogus people entering would perhaps be greater."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 527.] I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not depart from that view which he held only a short time ago. But a moment ago, he said that those holding entry Certificates would, in effect, almost be able to walk through. That is what we all expect. I trust that this matter of the right degree of scrutiny at the ports will receive careful attention. It would be wrong to neglect it.

What will be the scrutiny of the entry certificate or visa form in the passport? I take it that there will be safeguards against forgery of the entry certificate, and at both ends. Obviously, I am not pressing for details of this, contrary to the spirit of an earlier Amendment, but I hope that we shall not spare pains to prevent the entry certificate becoming an area of forgery.

The main injustice which will be done—if it is done—will be to the immigrants who are unjustly kept out while illicit immigrants get in. How long will applicants have to wait after putting in for an entry certificate? I realise that this may vary greatly according to the district where application is made, but what would be the longest period?

Finally, appeals. I have said that this is a very tenuous system. The refusal will lie with the officer of the High Commission in the country of origin, and the appeal will be by an adjudicator somewhere in this country, and between the two, a good deal of paper will have to pass. We have all had the experience of receiving letters from Australia rather more quickly than those posted internally in this country, so I do not rule out the possibility that this could be done, administratively, expeditiously and without undue delays.

Again, I stress that it will depend very much on staffing, at each end. It is not difficult to see how long delays could be involved. An exhausting bureaucratic system could be established in which nothing happened very quickly and in which the appeals system became a farce. That causes me to lay additional stress on the question of staffing. I hope that the Minister will say another word when he replies.

Generally, therefore, with those reservations I welcome this step. We acknowledge the difficulty that the Home Secretary has had concerning the timing of it and I for one, therefore, resist using the word "belated", but we dwell on the administrative obligations to which this will give rise.

If the Treasury is cheeseparing about this and the Home Office or the Foreign Office do not get the staff which they should have, our gains from all this will be very small. That will be the result. It is not too difficult to imagine that if this is skimped, we shall simply have added to the complexities of our system without reducing the injustices which this approach is designed to meet.

Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, All Saints)

I, unlike the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), have serious reservations about what the Government are doing. However, I understand the problem which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman have set out. I know that there have been great strains upon our immigration officers at the ports, and especially at the airports.

I fully accept that the Government have changed their minds and are making this change only because they think that this will be a more just, humane and watertight system. I do not want to make a lengthy address setting out all the arguments that my right hon. and hon. Friends have heard many times before. Perhaps we can make the deal that they can take them as read. They know the sort of objections that people like myself have to the system.

I should like to make one comment and ask two questions. My comment is, in a way, similar to that of the right hon. Member for Ashford. I am worried, despite what my hon. Friend has said, about the number of places and the staff manning those places who are available on the Indian sub-continent for the issue of the entry certificates. I have real doubts about that.

It was well said by the right hon. Member for Ashford that we do not want the worst of all situations in which we add to the bureaucratic complexity without in any sense getting rid of the injustices or the hardships. Therefore, I am not sure that we have enough places. Constituents tell me stories about obtaining entry certificates or failing to obtain them. I do not by any means say that those stories are necessarily true in every detail, but the sub-continent is a big place. I am not sure that eight places at which certificates can be ob- tained are enough and I am not sure that there is adequate staff for what will need to be done.

I reiterate the plea made by the right hon. Member for Ashford that we should not stint money on this. I add, parenthetically, that we are learning that immigration control, as many of us suspected, is exceedingly expensive and gets more and more expensive the more just and strict it is in enforcement.

Now, my questions. I understand—I am open to correction—that the lack of an entry certificate does not automatically mean that an immigrant will not get in. [Interruption.] This is what I want my hon. Friend to say. I understood that the lack of a certificate meant that an immigrant almost certainly would not get in, but that there is discretion. The way my hon. Friend spoke led me to think that there was discretion. This point has been put to me several times; I had assumed what is plainly the common view of the House. I am told there might be discretion and, if there is, I want to know what it is.

My second question relates to a point that is constantly put to me and I think I know the answer, but I would like to have it on the record. What discussions have taken place with the airlines? It would be wrong to suggest that the airlines should carry out administrative functions which properly rest with British Government representatives, but have there been discussions, and how far has it been possible to arrive at an arrangement? If it has not been possible to arrive at an arrangement, what are the reasons for this?

By limiting my remarks in this way, I am sure the reply from my right hon. Friend will not be less charitable on that account.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)

I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in welcoming the new Clause. The system of entry certificates is a sensible procedure. There is nothing more degrading and distressing than that people may come to this country in the belief that they are able to enter only to be turned away at the port of entry or at the airport. As has been said by the hon. Gentleman, a system of entry certificates is basically humane, rather than the reverse. The system will facilitate the means of entry for those who are entitled to come here.

There are, however, one or two things that perturb me in the immediate position. The hon. Gentleman stated that the new Clause will come into effect with the Royal Assent, which he expects to be given tomorrow. I do not have the 1962 Act before me, but, according to the wording of the Clause, from that moment onwards, it will be necessary for anyone who is to enter this country as a dependant to satisfy the immigration officer— that she holds a current entry certificate granted for the purposes of this paragraph … I am not being critical, but merely asking for information. This appears to be a mandatory requirement, without discretion. If this is so, what will happen to the flood of people on their way here, who were mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, when the Bill is given the Royal Assent? This applies not only to the people who arrive tomorrow or the day after, but to those who are on their way by sea, believing that they are entitled to enter, and to those who have committed themselves to coming here within the next week or two, none of whom will have an entry certificate.

Will they be stopped? If so, since the entry certificate is to be granted in the country of origin, will they have to return to their country of origin to get the entry certificate? I am not being critical, but just mentioning the difficulties of immediate application.

My second point concerns appeals. There is something slightly naive in the idea that the entry certificate is to be obtained in the country of origin whereas the appeal is to a lawyer in this country, who is presumably to be announced by the time Royal Assent is given tomorrow, if the appeals system is to be put into immediate force.

Appreciating what the hon. Member said about the post—that it is quicker to get a letter from India than from Swiss Cottage—it is even more naive to tell that to a person who would have the right to appear in person before an appellate tribunal——

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The appeal applies to people who have their entry certificates refused before they get to this country; in other words, it applies to the position under the Bill as originally drafted.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Carlisle

I apologise; it was an unfair point. I was trying to follow what the hon. Member was saying. It would be strange to give a person the right to appeal and to provide that he would have to come to this country to be heard and would then have to return.

My other general point is that it seems that this provision has almost been brought about by a sudden emergency. We have heard of the need for urgent implementation of this provision. What is the reason for the urgency? Is it that there has been an increased flood of people with doubtful applications in the last few weeks or, as I suspect, that a greatly increased number of dependants has been coming in recently? I am not saying that this is wrong, but it should be borne in mind that once this provision is introduced it is a means by which we can phase the entry of dependants into this country.

When I talk about the urgency I merely ask—in view of the statements made and the criticisms of hon. Members opposite, not least the Front Bench opposite whenever we have talked about the phased entry of dependants—where is the difference? Are not the Government in fact introducing a system which will entitle them to phase the entry of dependants by the granting of entry certificates?

I am not saying that I criticise such an idea; I merely ask—when I hear that the need for this provision is urgent—whether the urgency arises from the greatly increased number of dependants coming here.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

I have a very big constituency interest in this matter. I have a large concentration of Indian people in my constituency and am constantly involved in questions concerning the anxiety and anguish that attends divided families. Nothing in what we have heard today suggests to me that this provision has anything to do with a deliberate attempt by the Home Secretary to prevent those who are legally entitled to come to join the breadwinners of their families from doing so.

I speak as a member of the Select Committee on Race Relations. The idea that children, in particular, should be kept out of this country if they are dependent upon a breadwinner here, is repugnant. In my view, the sooner they are sent here to take advantage of our educational system and to train for a position in our society, the better.

Nevertheless, I must voice a few anxieties. I want to probe the matter from the point of view of technicalities. I do not know what an entry certificate looks like, or what it means in practical terms if appended to a passport—whether it is simply a rubber stamp on the passport. I join with the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in expressing a sense of anxiety—since it adds a new dimension to the regulations concerning people arriving here, especially from India and the two States of Pakistan—that this provision should be exercised with scrupulous care.

It will be an additional piece of paper or information which will be crucial. I want to know, in practical terms, what it means for a wife or a child who hitherto could come in without such a certificate. I want too, to press the discretionary aspect of what we are writing into the law. I thought that I detected some measure of discretion on the part of the Home Secretary in the use of the word "may" somewhere along the line. It seems elementary that the Home Secretary should have this small amount of discretion. I support the general idea, having been involved in this.

It should be made clear to the public why it is necessary to take this step, that it is both in the interests of the indigenous population, and the incoming immigrants. Over a wide area of the world there is no proof of the date of birth. There have been struggles going on, at London Heathrow particularly, seeking to prove at one end of the family scale that the lad is not as old as he appears. As I have said, the man lands up in hospital, having his bones X-rayed. At the other end of the scale, there is the dependent relative over 65, and it is sometimes necessary to prove that he is older than he appears to be to the immigration officer.

This is a degrading, inhuman activity. Then, because we have not provided better accommodation, these people land up somewhere like Brixton Prison, while the tug-of-war goes on and, the M.P. having put his nose into it, prolongs the agony. In the end, if no proof is available, these people have to be shipped back, half-way across the world. I accept the necessity for some far better arrangement, but I express this great anxiety about the total social consequences of the family being kept apart.

Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)

Unlike most hon. Gentlemen who have spoken so far, I totally oppose the new Clause, unequivocally, and on grounds of principle. I find it extraordinary that this extreme point of principle should be introduced for discussion at this late hour, on a Thursday, when a large number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have already left the House to go to their constituencies. There is a major point of principle at stake, and this is not the time to discuss it. Why has it been introduced so late in the Bill? I want to dwell on this because I have a feeling that there has been a strange undercurrent in the remarks of the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), as if they somehow knew something, but were not prepared to say.

Lord Stonham, in another place, introducing this new Clause, said that to make the change first known at a late stage in the Bill reduced to the minimum the risk of a rush to enter in advance of the alteration in the law. I want to know whether we have been fooled and whether the Government have intentionally delayed this until after the earlier stages in this House for the reasons spelled out in another place, and whether the Government were entirely straight with the House in the reasons that they gave.

Why have the Government changed their mind at all? It is not good enough for the Home Secretary to tell us that certain cases in the past few weeks have made it necessary to act in this way, or that persuasion has exercised itself on his mind. In November, 1968, he said quite clearly to the House that for administrative reasons it could not be done.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Perhaps I can help the hon. Member. I remember the occasion very well. My right hon. Friend meant, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will perceive, that it needed an Act of Parliament because one was altering statutory rights. It was to that aspect that my right hon. Friend was then referring.

Mr. Pardoe

I do not read the passage like that, but I accept that it is one interpretation that could be put on those words.

But the Home Secretary produced another reason for saying that it could not be done. He said that it would discriminate against the Commonwealth citizen, and nothing that the hon. Gentleman has said tonight indicates to me that anything has changed in that respect. Under the existing legislation, dependents of Commonwealth citizens who are already resident here or have the right to enter have a right of entry, but under the Bill that right will now depend on their having a certificate of entry issued in the country from which they come.

I come to the vitally important point that the word used tonight is precisely the same as that used by the noble Lord. The word used was "may". What does that mean? The noble Lord said that "admission may be refused" if the immigrant does not have a certificate of entry. What does the word "may" mean there? Does it mean that the immigration officers will be allowed to exercise discretion, or that in very special cases they will not be allowed to exercise discretion? Or what does it mean? It is right that we should ask for a very clear definition, because the wording will have a great effect on a very large number of individual cases.

Nor can I see the Government's reason for changing the whole recommendation of the Wilson Committee on this point. That Committee looked into this matter very carefully—far more carefully than most of us in this House have had an opportunity of doing. In paragraph 68 it spelt out the appalling situation which arises at ports of entry and airports. The Committee was well aware of these conditions, and stated: … the entry certificate was introduced for the convenience of Commonwealth citizens; and it has obvious advantages for those who use it. When such a certificate is granted, the Commonwealth citizen who has properly obtained it has normally a virtual guarantee of admission. When it is refused, the Commonwealth citizen not only saves the cost of his fare but is relieved of the strain of waiting in a kind of no man's land for his fate to be decided at the port. From the point of view of the Home Office, too, it is desirable to reduce as far as possible the number of difficult cases which first arise for decision at the port of entry. The Committee was well aware of all the difficulties that arise by allowing immigrants to come here and then refusing them entry. In spite of that awareness, the Committee nevertheless turned down the entry certificate as being "out of the question"—its own words. Further in the Report, the Committee states: After careful consideration we have come to the conclusion that it would not be right to make the use of entry certificates compulsory. I will not read out the reasons given, but I again emphasise that the Committee came to the conclusion that this step, which the Government have introduced here, and in another place slightly earlier, was out of the question.

11.15 p.m.

Shall we not be transferring the human misery that now occurs at our ports of entry to the areas surrounding British High Commission premises in the sub-Continent of India? It has been pointed out that, together, India and Pakistan form a large area. Those concerned will have to make their way to one of eight points of certificate issue. Their journey may not, for them, be as far as London Airport, but for many of them the journey to one of the issuing points may be just as difficult. Considering the conditions in that part of the world, some of these people would no doubt prefer to make a journey by sea than cross overland to one of these issuing points.

Mr. Rees

I have been studying the maps and the Wilson Report, including those parts of it from which the hon. Gentleman did not quote. Is he aware that the parts of India and Pakistan from which most immigrants come necessitate a journey overland, in any event, just as a journey overland would be required to travel to one of the High Commissioner's offices? Would he give an example, on the evidence in the Wilson Report, of the sort of journey he has in mind?

Mr. Pardoe

I am putting that question to the hon. Gentleman. Can he say what distances, on average, these people will have to travel to get to one of the eight issuing points? How long will that journey take them?

The Amendment makes a complete change in the principle of the Bill. It is one thing to hear the appeals of people who are here and can attend the hearings, but it is another to hear the appeals of people who have been refused entry and are in far-away countries. Conducting appeals in this fashion, on paper, does not seem to square with anything that I could call the British sense of justice. I would not like any appeal of mine to be heard in that way.

This proposal will remove the appeals procedure from the gaze of the public eye in Britain. How will hon. Members and the voluntary organisations which are interested in these matters be able to act? Many of these organisations perform a valuable task in surveying the process by which entry certificates are granted or refused. These voluntary watchdogs will find it difficult and vastly more expensive to safeguard overseas the principles of justice which we have so far maintained here.

Without wishing to criticise the people who will carry out this task on our behalf in other countries, the process here is different. There is a degree of tolerance in Britain; it is perhaps not universal, but many people here maintain the tradition of bloody-mindedness when a principle of liberty is involved. That tradition is exercised towards people when they come here, but I fear that it will not be so exercised in other countries. The would-be immigrant will be tried in his absence and justice will not be seen to be done.

To set my mind at rest, will the Minister answer some important questions? Will our High Commissions be able to cope with the administrative problems involved in the great number of applications that will be made to them? The number is bound to be larger than at present, since the hon. Gentleman said that only one in five of would-be immigrants now apply in their countries of origin. Although cost is not a matter of principle, how much will this proposal cost? Will aliens also have to go through this process? He said, for instance, that it was not the same because they had no right of residence anyway, but I am not sure exactly what rights of residence Commonwealth citizens have after recent legislation.

Mr. Rees

The Commonwealth citizen, when he comes here, comes in as a Commonwealth citizen. He goes on the voters' list; he cannot be removed. He does not have to report to the police. He is in a very privileged position compared with aliens. The alien coming into this country is not a citizen until he has applied to be naturalised. When there is a great deal of talk about equating the position of aliens with that of Commonwealth citizens, it all depends on which way the equation takes place. In this sense, Commonwealth citizens are privileged in comparison with aliens.

Mr. Pardoe

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that further explanation, but I am not quite sure how that has changed since the time when his right hon. Friend said in November that it was one of his main objections to taking this step.

There is, too, a great need for a far better advisory service overseas. What do we know about the reasons why people in Pakistan and India do not get their certificates on a voluntary basis, whereas those in the West Indies do? Presumably it is at least partly because the advisory system in the West Indies is infinitely better. What have we done to improve the advisory service in Pakistan and India? What research have we carried out to find out why these people come here without voluntary certificates? As far as I can see, this advisory system will still be needed because even when this Bill has been passed there is still going to be the problem of ensuring that the certificate is a real one. The right hon. Member for Ashford raised the whole problem of forgeries. It is a very considerable problem, and I can foresee a vast scale of forgery going on—certainly in the early stages. If it becomes too widespread, the certificate will cease to mean anything and precisely the same operation will have to be gone through at the port of entry to scrutinise whether the certificate is a real certificate, just as we now scrutinise whether the dependant is a real dependant.

This is a bad Clause, and if it is passed it will make this a very bad Bill. The Government have to explain to us in some detail why they have, as I believe, made fools of us by bringing it forward so late in the day.

The Government's record on immigration will, I think, be the thing of which members of the Parliamentary Labour Party will be most ashamed when they sojourn in the wilderness. Tonight will be a black day in their memories. No retreat is too rapid, no attitude too supine, for the Government before the prejudices which have swept this country in recent months. This House will, I suppose, pass this new Clause tonight, but I believe that it will disgrace itself in so doing.

Mr. Evan Luard (Oxford)

I agree with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) that this is an extremely important Amendment for two reasons. The first is that to a large extent it nullifies, for a large proportion of the immigrants with whom we are concerned, the provisions in the Bill as it originally stood.

But the Amendment is important for another reason. It reverses the recommendations of the Committee which the Government themselves set up to look into these very problems.

The Bill as a whole implemented these recommendations, and my right hon. Friend announced more than six months ago that it was his intention to implement the recommendations as a whole. In introducing this Clause he has reversed that decision, and decided to go against a major recommendation of the Committee.

I do not go along with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North, however, in condemning that decision out of hand. I agree with a lot of what has been said by other speakers about the terrible miseries that are created at London Airport, at the ports and elsewhere by the system as it works at present, which needed to be ended. But I do think that to be able to justify this very radical change in the Bill and in the principles which had previously been adopted by the Government, it is essential to show that they have provided adequate arrangements in the country of origin for two purposes. The first is to examine the applications for entry certificates and ensure that the examination is fair and seen to be fair. The second is to make sure that there is an adequate system of appeal which is easily accessible to the immigrants and again is not only fair but seen to be fair.

I do not make the criticisms made by one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite about the small number of offices in the countries of origin or the distances that persons may have to travel. When people are taking the very great step of removing their domicile to a distant country, they are probably prepared to travel a long way to make the necessary arrangements.

But the difficulty arises with the kind of inquiry that has to be made in a case of this kind. We have all dealt with many cases or read about them in the newspapers. The inquiries are mainly about the exact age of a person or about establishing the identity of a person. Both things may require not one visit but several visits and certainly very detailed inquiries from the control post with the applicant and probably members of his family and others of his acquaintance. I have not heard descriptions of the kind of arrangements that will be made to satisfy me that it will not be very much more difficult for the immigrants to establish their identity or age and to acquire their entry certificates than at present.

Ideally no more immigrants should be able to come under this arrangement nor any less than at present, but I suspect that a number less will be able to come because of the difficulties created for them.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I am interested, and I know of my hon. Friend's practical knowledge of this. Could he elaborate a point? At the moment only a small proportion of immigrants from Pakistan come with entry certificates, but others apply for them and go through the procedure, a large number with little bother, with no appeal system. Why should it be more difficult to convince the entry certificate officer in Rawalpindi, say, who will, in most cases, be a seconded immigration officer, than if he were doing the same job at London Airport?

Mr. Luard

My hon. Friend raises a point that I was going to make. The immigration officer at London Airport has an extremely difficult task. But one point in his mind is that if he refuses a certificate he has to compel the immigrant to travel all the way back to the country of origin, with all the hardship and expense that may be involved. In these circumstances he is more prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the person than will be the officer in the country of origin.

It may be said that some people get in who should not, but I doubt whether this is so. I suspect that the present may be a more humane system than the proposed one. I think that many of the officers in the countries of origin may require a much more conclusive standard of proof than is required now. I can visualise cases in which it is found extremely difficult for the families and dependants to establish their identity or age to the satisfaction of the immigration officers.

These arguments apply even more strongly to the question of appeals. My hon. Friend must agree that at first sight it is an extraordinary system of appeals that is established under which the dependant who wishes to try to get a decision of this kind reversed is unable in normal circumstances himself to appear and present his case in person. It will be extremely difficult for him to instruct lawyers in an adequate manner. We are dealing with people who are often of a not very high standard of education. The appeal is conducted at a distance of 5,000 to 6,000 miles from where they are situated. It will be difficult in those circumstances for them to conduct their appeal in a way which satisfies them that they have been given a fair deal and that justice has been done to them.

11.30 p.m.

I and most hon. Members accept the principle of going over to the system of entry certificates if the Government can convince us that they have provided for the applicant, in the first place, a thoroughly fair system of presenting his application, and having it heard fairly, and, second, a thoroughly fair system of hearing his appeal. But I am not at all convinced that the kind of system set out in the Clause will provide such a fair arrangement either on application or on appeal. Above all, it must be proved to be a system which will convince people in the countries of origin that they have a fair deal. What must concern us in the House is whether we are providing a system as fair as that which we are replacing and as that which the Government intended to introduce by the Bill as they first presented it. I am a little doubtful on the point and I shall be grateful if in his reply my hon. Friend will clarify some of the issues which I have set out.

Mr. John Hunt (Bromley)

I welcome and support the entry certificate system, which, on the whole, is a sensible and humane arrangement, but I am concerned about the interim period between now and when the new system is fully under way.

In response to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), the Minister told us that the entry certificate procedure need not necessarily apply to those who are in the pipeline—that is, on their way here. But I understand—and perhaps he will confirm it—that the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which will be much concerned with this scheme, has been given an assurance that there will be one month's grace for the new system to come into operation. It feels that even that month will not be sufficient for it to establish the kind of appeal machinery which it wants to encourage in the Indian sub-continent.

I therefore ask the hon. Member to comment specifically on that point and to tell us, if he can, whether he feels able to be a little flexible in the matter. We know the difficulties and I appreciate the dangers of a flood to which he referred, but it is important to establish good will in the matter, and I therefore hope that it will be possible for him to be rather more flexible than he indicated in his reply to my hon. Friend's intervention.

I echo the doubts which have been expressed about the adequacy of the four centres in India and four in Pakistan. I have not studied the map, but I am assured that in many cases it means that intending entrants to this country will have to travel between 200 and 1,000 miles. That is a very long distance. I therefore hope that the hon. Member will keep an open mind on this issue and that if, after the system has been in operation, he receives representations, he will see his way clear to establish more centres in order to facilitate dealing with applications which are made. I hope that in his reply the Minister will give some reassurance on those points.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

This is not the time of night to discuss a subject as important as this and I will keep my remarks as short as possible.

I neither support nor oppose this suggestion. In the words of Mr. Asquith, I am prepared to wait and see. In theory there is much to be said for this system. In theory it should not mean any reduction in the number of dependants who come to this country. It should simply be a more humane and efficient way of determining their right of entry. Therefore, there is something to be said for it. I have no doubt that between them the Front Benches will adequately put the advantages of the proposed system and the disadvantages of the present system.

I want to dwell on the disadvantages of the proposed system. I am left with some reservations. An appeals system where the decision has to be made at the port of entry has the virtue of immediacy of treatment. The moment the decision is reported to the applicant, he can go to the tribunal through the adjudicator, and the matter can be dealt with swiftly. Swiftness is an essential part of justice.

An additional important element is that he presents his case orally. I have occasionally had to look at some of the appeals brought under the National Insurance Regulations by constituents of mine to the National Insurance Commissioner in London. Such appeals are dealt with entirely on paper. There is often such a great difference between the Commissioner's finding of fact and the facts as I see them when I interview the appellant that I am struck by the great difference between an oral hearing and a written application. Such a system when it is transferred thousands of miles to a different continent, and when it takes place between people who are basically illiterate and a highly sophisticated lawyer in London, is likely to lead to a diminution of the effectiveness of the system which it is proposed to introduce. An argument for an appeals system on the style proposed by the Wilson Committee loses its attractiveness when decisions are to be announced in countries of origin and the appeal is to be made in writing.

The aspect that worries me most—this is a fear which I voiced in an inadequate way when the Home Secretary made his announcement—is the rôle of the Advisory Committee. The important rôle of this body was featured in the Report of the Clarke Committee and foreshadowed in the Report of the Wilson Committee. The whole idea of the Advisory Committee has been foreshadowed by the valuable work of voluntary agencies such as the Joint Council, I.S.S., and the N.C.C.L. All these bodies have in a comparatively short time developed a considerable amount of experience in dealing with these difficult cases in distressing circumstances. There was a hope that if there was to be an appeals procedure set into the system, these people with their experience would be able to take the maximum advantage of it on behalf of immigrants.

The rôle of the Advisory Committee is very limited. I heard what my hon. Friend said about the intention of two of the main organisations to continue their support. I notice that the N.C.C.L. has withdrawn, for reasons which I can appreciate. What is required is a much more effective advisory committee in the countries of origin than seems possible on the funds which are likely to be made available. High Commissions should desirably provide staff to advise those who have been refused entry certificates, but this is an expensive undertaking. It seems that we have the worst of all possible worlds in the advice which may be tendered to the intending immigrant. It is true that he will be in his country of origin and against his own domestic background and able to talk to local friends or his local headman or even, if that is his situation, to a lawyer, in his own language, and there are advantages in that.

But there are grave disadvantages in his not having an amicus curiae who actually knows the procedure and intimately knows the personalities and so on. Many of these things which are an exercise in discretion are dependent upon an intimate knowledge of the procedure and of the personalities involved, and my fear is that too many refusals will be given when the applicant will not know how to appeal, or to whom to appeal.

It is true that he will have his relative in this country who may be able to initiate proceedings from here, and that is why I say that I am prepared to wait and see, because the upshot of this experiment should be that ultimately there will be no reduction in the number of immigrants.

But how we are to tell that I do not know. The number of dependants coming to this country fell last year by 20 per cent. If it falls by 20 per cent., or even more, in the coming year, I do not know how we shall be able to tell whether that is caused by the natural decline in the number of dependants who might be likely to come or by this system. The only way in which we shall ever know is by making a detailed investigation on the spot, and therefore I support any suggestion which may be made for an investigation by an independent source.

The Select Committee would be highly desirable for this and I hope that it will take it upon itself in the coming Session to see how the system is working. If the upshot is, as my hon. Friend claims, that there is no reduction in the number, but that decisions are made more effectively and humanely, I shall do nothing but support this proposal.

The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) suggested that this might be the prelude to a phasing operation for the entry of dependants. I am sure that he was making that suggestion with the intention of causing some concern on this side of the House. If I thought that there was any truth in that suggestion, there would certainly be some expression of concern on this side of the House. Again, we will wait and see. If it happens, the Government will be in for a very rough time.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

I approve of this Amendment, but I join whole heartedly with the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) in deploring the hour at which it has been introduced. I also join with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) in deploring the stage of the Bill at which it has been introduced.

However, I agree with the Under-Secretary that an international airport is the least desirable place for checking the credentials of a potential immigrant. The system which we have operated for the last seven years has caused the maximum hardship to intending settlers. It has also been the system most designed to stir up political and racial antagonisms.

Every person rejected becomes a cause célèbre in his country of origin, or the community to which he hoped to go. After seven years of operating the system we are still left without adequate accommodation for those whose credentials we wish to check further. While it may be insane to wish to come and live in this country, I see no reason why it should be treated as a criminal offence and why those who wish to enter and whose credentials have to be checked should be sent to prison.

Therefore, on humane grounds, I support the introduction of the entry certificate system. The present system has the advantage of immediacy. One of the best ways of stopping people entering a country when they are not wanted is just not to deal with their application. This has happened to me in recent years. On occasions I have wished to visit North Vietnam and have written to President Ho Chi Minh asking for permission to enter his country. I have never received any reply and have been unable to visit the country. He has not turned me down, he has just not replied.

This can well apply now. Last year, 48,000 dependants came here. When we pass this new Clause, as I assume we will, without further reference to Parliament it would be possible for a Home Secretary to reduce that flow to 4,800 or even 408. The Under-Secretary has said that there is no intention of using the new Clause to reduce the flow of dependants. It is a political platitude these days to say that Home Secretaries can change. The other day, while opening a reception centre for women ex-convicts, the Home Secretary said that Home Secretaries do not go on for ever. No doubt the present Home Secretary will not go on forever. He might be replaced by someone who wished to dramatically reduce the number of dependants entering the country.

Then, without reference to the House, he need only reduce the number of people at the High Commission offices dealing with entry certificate applications. He could say that the office would be open from twelve to one each day but would be staffed by one man who, alas, suffered from some tropical illness which meant that he would be absent for six months of the year. With no further reference to Parliament, purely by administrative means, the flow of dependants from India and Pakistan could be reduced to 100 a year, or even nil, merely by holding up their applications forever.

This is a profound change in our legal system, and is not one that we should be dealing with at this stage of a Bill and this late hour. Why has this happened? I do not believe that the Home Office introduced it in this way because it wished to cheat in a Parliamentary fashion. I think that it introduced it because it has realised that the warning I gave on Second Reading was right. I said that the result of setting up an appeal system would be that whereas immigration officers at London Airport had previously leant over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to those who arrived, because they realised the hardship that would otherwise be involved, they would now lean over backwards the other way and say, "We have some doubt. Let it go forward through the appeal machinery." So, instead of 1,200 people being turned back, as happened last year, there might well be 10,000 or 12,000 cases going to appeal each year under the system envisaged. I think that the Home Office realised this fairly late and realised that administratively it could not cope. Therefore, it finally introduced this vastly important Amendment, which changes the whole nature of the Bill.

I acquit the Home Office of trying to cheat, but this has happened before. We have had Bills introduced by the Government which have changed their nature greatly by Amendments suddenly introduced at a very late stage. It just crosses my mind that hon. Members opposite might wonder whether this could happen with any Bill dealing with industrial disputes that might be introduced in the weeks ahead.

Miss Lestor

In the early hours of the morning, not too long ago, we debated a Measure that I opposed on the question of Asian immigrants from Kenya. I opposed it because I felt that it was a concession to racialism, and I still hold that view.

Tonight, also at a very late hour, we are debating immigration again, but I do not believe that this Measure is a concession to racialism. I do not believe that it is a concession to some of the pressures that I know are continually put on the Home Office to do something about the number of people illegally entering the country. If I did, I would not have given it the qualified support I give it.

I share the anxieties that have been rightly voiced tonight on the question of adequate machinery being set up in the countries from which dependants of Commonwealth citizens come. It is clear that had the recommendations of the Wilson Committee been implemented in the way suggested some of the misery at London Airport would have been avoided.

Some of the Bill is not as vital or fundamental as it was before the Amendment was introduced. That must be clear, since the method of appeal and the need for appeal will be somewhat different. But I accept the assurances of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that the intentions behind it are humane, and that it is not an attempt to try to reduce numbers.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) that we shall watch what takes place afterwards with great interest. This was why I welcomed the obvious enthusiasm of the Under Secretary on the suggestion that there should be a means of overseeing how this works out in the months ahead.

The number of dependants has been referred to by one or two hon. Members opposite, as well as by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. The question of 48,000 dependants who have been coming into this country must be related to the fact that 50 per cent. of them, according to the Home Office, belong to Commonwealth immigrants who came here before 1964. Therefore, the number of dependants in relation to the number of work vouchers issued is falling and is bound to fall. I understand that for every work voucher that is issued, roughly four dependants are now allowed into this country.

I have not time to go into the question of aliens, but it is crucial to this matter. My hon. Friend spoke about the differences between aliens and Commonwealth citizens. It is true that Commonwealth citizens have the right to bring in their dependants and that aliens may bring in theirs. In practice, aliens bring in their dependants with very little difficulty. The differences between the two in that respect may be one of right and one of discretion but, nevertheless, in practice they work out precisely the same. It would be quite unfair if this Measure were seen to put Commonwealth citizens in relation to their dependants at a great disadvantage.

What is to happen particularly in the countries from which dependants come? I underline that it is on this aspect that those of us who have this matter in our constituencies will, naturally, be very interested to see how it works out, because in trying to set up adequate machinery in a country where travelling arrangements are exceedingly difficult, where illiteracy exists and where an illiterate can be charged as much as £40 for having a letter written by a scribe, the question of how to set up adequate machinery both for the obtaining of cerficates and appealing against their non-issue is of crucial importance. If we find that there is a reduction in the number of dependants coming into this country, clearly the system will not have worked.

I do not think that the misery at London Airport, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) referred, has ever been given enough attention by many hon. Members. Some of us have been aware of it for a long time. It is something of which many of us have been ashamed when we have seen it.

Some people have come into this country who may not have had a right to come in; they may not have been dependants within the meaning of the Act. It is also true—and all of us who have had anything to do with this know it to be true—that many people have been sent back to their country of origin when they were dependants of the people of whom they claimed to be dependants. Their documentation was not in order, it was not possible to establish their relationship and, therefore, they were sent back when they had the right to come in.

If that can be dealt with in the country of origin before the dependants come here, the Amendment will be a humane measure and will contribute something to removing what has been a stigma at London Airport and other places where, for example, a young Pakistani girl was nine weeks in prison while one tried to establish whether she was the dependant of the person whose dependant she claimed to be.

These situations have made myself and others come to the conclusion that whilst we operate our system of immigration, we must find the most humane method of ensuring that dependants do not suffer the indignities and misery that many have suffered at London Airport and other places of entry.

We will watch progress with interest. I am sure that this is not a concession to racialism. It is an attempt to deal with the problem in a humane fashion. If this involves public expenditure, I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have supported the new Clause will not criticise the Government for spending more money in an endeavour to be fair and humane than they would have spent on the implementation of the Wilson recommendations, or than is now being spent.

12 m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

The longer this debate continues the more I realise how wrong it is that this matter should be dealt with so late at night and so late during the progress of the Bill.

The Amendment turns the Bill into the "Immigration Non-Appeals Bill." The entry certificate system is likely to be more humane and fairer than the present system, and in this I totally disagree with the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard). It would be much better for a United Kingdom citizen wishing to take up, for instance, permanent settlement in Turkey to be able to discuss his documentation and entry certificate in this country and arrive in Turkey with the documentation in his hand.

Only in the matter of appeals does the system appear to be inadequate. To make the Amendment a real part of the Bill there must be a genuine appeals system built into the programme in the overseas territory. There needs to be a proper system of appeal to independent lawyers, possibly independent British lawyers attached to the High Commission.

Administration of the system abroad may involve a danger of forgery and an even greater danger of the transference of entry certificates. The Home Office will have to work out how to overcome the danger of an entry certificate issued to one person being presented at the port or airport of departure by another person.

I would draw the attention of the Home Office to the personal export scheme—the Under-Secretary is looking surprised, but this is not a trivial suggestion—whereby the documentation for an article purchased in this country is married up with the article at the port of departure. There is an opportunity here for counterfoils of the documents to be married up at the port of departure. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is listening to me; he is one of my constituents, and I particularly wish to keep in touch with him. Documents could be married up with a counterfoil at the point of departure.

The Under-Secretary did not mention the cost of this scheme. It has been said that the cost of the appeal system set out in the Bill would be about £500,000. The cost of appeals in this country under the new entry certificate scheme is likely to be lower than expected. There will probably be fewer appeals here if screening is done in the country of origin. I suggest that we might find ourselves with 48,000 new permanent settlers. If each entry certificate were charged for, in the same way as visas are often charged for abroad—at, say, £5 for each individual—we could arrange to gather, in the countries abroad, about £240,000 to go towards the cost of setting up a really good, fair, and watertight system, including a system of appeals, which is a possibility that we should consider.

There is no reason why the British taxpayer should have to pay £250,000 to overseas countries for the cost of setting up this new system. We have not had an estimate, and that is as good a one as I can get. I seriously ask the Home Office to consider making a charge for entry certificates as a way of defraying the cost of this new system to the British taxpayer.

Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)

Because of the large Indian and Pakistani communities in Coventry the Amendment raises a real constituency problem for me. It must have occurred to other hon. Members who have such large communities within their electorates that there was a better way of dealing with the situation than the existing one. It was because of that that when I went to India last year I made it my duty to make inquiries on the spot about the situation there and the possibility of improving the system so that the distress and upset so often caused when individuals came to this country could be eliminated.

As a result of the inquiries that I made on the spot I have come to the conclusion that making this sort of entry certificate available in the country of origin is a far better way of dealing with the situation than the one that we are operating now; so much so that ever since I came back from India I have told all those Indians and Pakistanis who have asked me what was the best thing for their relatives to do if they wanted to come here to join my constituents, "Tell them to go to the point of origin—the High Commissioner's office—and get an entry certificate before they come." I am satisfied that this is the better way.

The present system undoubtedly plays into the hands of the unscrupulous airlines and travel agents. The Amendment will go a long way towards providing a solution to this difficult problem.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) has given his constituents good advice in telling them to tell their relatives to obtain their entry certificates before embarking on their journey here and spending a great deal of money on their air fare, but there is a great difference between doing this voluntarily—as the hon. Member recommends to his constituents—and making it compulsory, as the Home Secretary intends. I cannot understand why there is so little realisation among hon. Members that we are concerned with matters of principle and not questions of detail.

I thought that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) came nearest to the truth when he pointed out that administrative action by future Home Secretaries could drastically alter the position of dependants in Commonwealth countries without any change in the legislation, especially if we have somebody who is less liberal than the present Home Secretary—if I may put it that way—by merely reducing the number of persons who deal with the applications of Pakistanis or Indians, or by arranging it so that they are present only at certain hours of the day which are inconvenient to applicants, with the result that many people have to wait in the queue, with none being dealt with from one year to the next.

This is the kind of consideration which hon. Members should have had in their minds. Unfortunately, it came here so late that we have had practically no opportunity to obtain advice either from the organisations which defend the interests of the immigrants and their families or from the Commonwealth countries principally concerned.

The hon. Member for Coventry, South said that he visited India last year. Since the Clause was tabled, has he been able to obtain the advice of the High Commissioner in India? Has the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor)—I was surprised to hear that she was perfectly happy with this situation—been able to consult the immigrant organisations in her constituency?

I have had some discussions only with the National Council for Civil Liberties, with which I am closely concerned. It is wholly dissatisfied with this Clause and has expressed its objections in the strongest possible terms in the memorandum which it has sent to hon. Members. In particular, it says that the Clause came so late that public discussion on the issue has been effectively stifled. We, in this House and in another place, have been prevented from raising objections in time to influence the final draft of the Bill. This is a fundamental point of principle. As the hon. Member for Beckenham said, how often will legislation be altered in its nature in the last stages, when we have practically no time to take into consideration the important issues involved?

I know that the Under-Secretary is humane and liberal. I have had a great deal of discussion with him about the difficult problems which we face with dependants arriving at London Airport and other points of entry without valid documentation. I recently drew to his attention the tragic case of a young boy from Kashmir who arrived at the airport in February. The story was that his mother had died in Kashmir and he was coming to join his father and stepmother who were living in Birmingham. The immigration officer said that he did not believe the evidence produced by the boy, who was aged 11, that the mother had died. There were two affidavits from people who said that they had attended her funeral and a certificate signed by the equivalent of the chairman of the council in the boy's village, and a sworn statement which the father had made before a commissioner for oaths in Birmingham—which, unfortunately, he subsequently altered.

But the point is that the customs and background of people seeking to enter this country are not the same as those of our own people and one cannot apply the same standards. I was convinced, after looking through the documentation in this case, that the facts were as set out, even though the papers which had been produced in support of the statement could be called wholly unsatisfactory by British standards. This young boy spent from February until the middle of last week in detention at London Airport.

I agree with the Under-Secretary, whose opinion I know it to be, that this was tragic and wholly unnecessary, but I wonder whether, in introducing a new Clause designed to deal with cases of this kind, we have not overlooked the fact that the Bill itself is not yet in operation. There is no such thing as an appeals machinery which could have enabled this kind of case to be dealt with far more expeditiously than by taking it through the High Court, and by applications to an hon. Member and the Home Secretary and his Department, with last minute delays of 24 hours while the Under-Secretary could reconsider it. Suppose that we had had this appeals machinery, which is the purpose of the Bill. Would these tragic cases not have been avoided? I hope that we have not anticipated matters by taking panic action at this late stage which might have proved unnecessary had we waited to gain experience of the operation of the Bill.

12.15 a.m.

I have so far dealt with matters of principle. Although some important matters of detail have been raised, I will not delay the House by reiterating them. Am I right in assuming that the people who will be considering applications in the countries of origin will be on the staff of the immigration service?

Mr. Merlyn Rees

indicated assent.

Mr. Lubbock

Assuming that the proposed machinery will be set up—I must assume that since the hon. Member for Beckenham said that the Amendment would not be taken to a vote; I suppose that at this late hour few hon. Members would be available to vote against the proposal, although I would be delighted to do so—may we be assured that those who will vet the applications in India and Pakistan will have knowledge of the customs and habits of the people of those countries?

It would be wrong to send out an immigration officer who has done a three-month stint at London Airport, or an officer whose experience is confined to dealing with immigrants here, and expect such a person to deal with sympathy and understanding with cases arising in remote parts of the Indian sub-continent. I am not criticising the immigration service as a whole. While, overall, it does a good job, in individual cases I have had to pass some strictures on their conduct.

If we are to establish a remote service which will not be under the scrutiny of, for example, the National Council for Civil Liberties, we must ensure that those who will be acting on our behalf have knowledge and experience of the countries in which they are operating.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

When moving the Amendment I dealt with most of the points that have been raised subsequently. If, in replying to the discussion, I overlook matters of substance, I will write to the hon. Members concerned explaining the position.

I assure the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that the Bill as a whole is not a modest Measure. The appeals procedure represents a fundamental change in the treatment of immigrants, and that is still the position. The change which we propose was not determined a long time ago. Indeed, it was finally decided only on the day when my right hon. Friend announced it to the House.

The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) raised a number of interesting points, and I assure him that no panic is involved. The whole matter was considered for months, and only on the day that the decision was announced was the issue finally decided. After all, there is nothing to panic about. In terms of the numbers of immigrants coming here, we have constantly been pointing out that the figures are falling.

I do not know why the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) should be sneering. In the last six months I have spoken with his hon. Friend the Member for Orpington about this subject on many occasions, which is more than I can say for him. This has been a question of dealing in a humane way with a situation that could be dealt with only by legislation.

Mr. Lubbock

When I used the word "panic" I was referring not to the number of immigrants but to cases involving young children being detained for long periods at London Airport, cases which might have been avoided if the Bill had been in operation.

Mr. Rees

Those cases certainly influenced us in this matter.

Several hon. Members referred to the issuing of entry certificates. There will be no question of an extremely long examination. I should point out to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) that it will not be a certificate as such but a stamp in one's passport.

Reinforcement of staff is confined to India and Pakistan. The primary grade will be entry certificate officer. We shall send ten extra and that will double the number. With ancillary staff it will cost £50,000 but that will save what would otherwise have been spent in this country.

I have to tell the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) that my right hon. Friend has discretion which will be used in the short run but afterwards only in the most unusual cases. I point out to him again that there is not a vast increase in the numbers coming in.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) mentioned the question of transport costs and we shall be dealing with the subject of carriers later. We should otherwise have had much greater expense, because we were getting to the point of a small Ellis Island in the neighbourhood of London Airport.

I advise the hon. Member for Cornwall, North, who has come to the subject again—

Mr. Pardoe

What exactly does the hon. Gentleman mean by my coming to the subject again? Does it mean that hon. Members can speak only on a subject on which they have spoken before? Can he not contain himself and his temper a little?

Mr. Rees

All those hon. Gentlemen who spoke had read the Wilson Report and knew what they were talking about. The hon. Gentleman did not come into that category. If he wants some reading, let him read paragraphs 75 to 81, and especially paragraph 72 of the Report, and all his questions will be answered.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) made the profound point that some immigrants would not get through as a result of examination at overseas posts. But the entry certificate officers will know that those whom they turn down will appeal to lawyers here, and that will concentrate their minds to some degree if they are tending to slip up. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) spoke on the same point.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) for her support because I know that she, like my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), has a great deal of expertise in the matter.

The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) spoke of Hanoi. The great difference is that if he could have written to the Member for Hanoi he might have got something done. I assure the hon. Gentleman that most people write to my right hon. Friend and to me, and a great deal can be done in that respect, and will continue to be done. To draw a comparison with North Vietnam in this respect, if in no other, is the wrong thing to do this evening. What we are doing is right, and I commend the Amendment to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

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