HC Deb 12 March 1970 vol 797 cc1546-8
23. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement of Government policy on the admission to the United Kingdom of Asian holders of British passports resident in East Africa.

Mr. Callaghan

The special position of the United Kingdom passport holders in East Africa is provided for by an allocation of 1,500 vouchers a year. This allocation is kept under close review, and I would not be willing to jeopardise the success of the present policy in bringing immigration as a whole under strict control by increasing this allocation without effecting a corresponding reduction in immigration from elsewhere.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Could the right hon. Gentleman, however, do two things to alleviate the situation? Could he encourage the Government to reach agreement with India so that she assumes her fair share of responsibility for East African Asians? Second, would he consider providing some form of financial assistance to holders of British passports who are in need and distress because of the delay in granting them entry certificates?

Mr. Callaghan

On the first part of that question, the Indian Government have always expressed their willingness to accept Asians from Kenya if they are ready to become Indian citizens. But I gather that not very many of them have been willing to do so. They seem more ready to remain in Kenya until they can come to this country. On the second part of the question, I have no proposals.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Are not those East African Asians who attempt to enter without the proper travel documents in effect jumping the queue which has been established by our High Commissions, and is this not very unfair? Would my right hon. Friend maintain a strict control over the entry of this group of people?

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, there is a difficulty here. There is no doubt that a number of those who are attempting to jump the queue do not strictly come first in order of need. Therefore, they are setting back those who should have priority. The House must recognise that there is always bound to be a small amount of seepage, where a Home Secretary must use his discretion as to whom he admits, but, basically, I hope to have the support of the House in ensuring that, so far as possible, only those with vouchers are allowed into this country.

33. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will stop the issue of work permits to immigrants until people from East Africa, who are in possession of a British passport or were in possession of such a passport at the time of the presentation to Parliament of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, have been offered the rights which a British passport carried prior to that Act.

Mr. Callaghan

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my hon. Friend to a Question by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) on 26th February. —[Vol. 796, c. 394.]

Sir J. Langford-Holt

The Home Secretary has already said that this cannot be achieved without corresponding restrictions on immigration from elsewhere. Is he aware that that is precisely what I am asking him to do, without calling into question the overall numbers at present? Does he agree that when a United Kingdom passport is issued, the person in receipt of it regards it as a contract? Is it not high time that we got our priorities right?

Mr. Callaghan

Parliament reached conclusions on this matter quite clearly and conclusively two years ago. I bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I take note of his point. I am bound to say, however, that the very great reduction in immigration which has taken place during the last decade—there were 136,000 immigrants in 1960–61 while last year there were 36,000—is itself a contribution to good relations, which I am anxious to maintain.