HC Deb 14 May 1970 vol 801 cc1450-3

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

43. Sir D. RENTON

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will propose further steps for reducing the net inflow of immigrants under the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts and the Aliens Order.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

In the first quarter of this year 6,728 Commonwealth citizens were admitted for settlement, compared with 10,118 in the first quarter of 1969, and 13,539 in the first quarter of 1968.

The figures are the lowest since statistics were first collected in 1962. They show a reduction of 33½ per cent. on 1969, and of 50 per cent. on 1968. The rate of immigration is now under effective control.

I do not expect any marked increase in these modest figures for Commonwealth citizens. Nor are further steps required to control immigration by aliens.

Sir D. Renton

The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that my Question also refers to the net inflow of aliens. Does he recollect that last week he gave me figures which showed that in 1969 there was a net inflow of 26,000 aliens, which was 20,000 more than in 1968. Is this considerable increase in the net inflow of aliens justifiable while we have so many unemployed?

Mr. Callaghan

I do not think that those two facts are relevant. The number of aliens coming in and moving out varies very much from year to year. It has been between 15,000 and 20,000 in most recent years, but there are hundreds of thousands who arrive, and hundreds of thousands who depart. The net result at the end of a day increases the population of this country by an insignificant figure.

Mr. Hooky

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to have another look at the special hardship being caused to British citizens in East Africa who hold United Kingdom passports?

Mr. Callaghan

Not to increase the total number coming into this country. I have said many times that I am prepared to look at any scheme which would result in additions from one area, provided that there was an equivalent reduction elsewhere.

Mr. Thorpe

As the net inflow is controlled, and the Home Secretary has announced that it has reduced, it means that the quota is not fully taken up. Surely, on humanitarian grounds, we should look again urgently at the position of British citizens of Asian descent in East Africa, many of whom are destitute and virtually Stateless?

Mr. Callaghan

I do not believe that the two things go together. According to my information, more than 50 per cent. of those now in Kenya have lived there for relatively short periods, and were born in India. There would be nothing to prevent them from returning to India if they wished to do so, if they are suffering in the way suggested. There is some hardship there, but, on the general point, I believe very firmly that the reason why we have taken a lot of the heat out of the immigration problem is that the country knows that the figures are under firm control, and I should not wish to be a party to increasing the total immigration at this stage.

Mr. Hogg

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm my understanding of his original Answer, which was that his figures relate to individuals, and not to heads of families? Will he again consider the possibility, to which he was at one time sympathetic, of introducing legislation to bring into harmony the two separate codes relating to these two classes of individuals?

Mr. Callaghan

There are big differences between aliens and Commonwealth citizens, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, and I fear that I could not give an undertaking this afternoon to introduce legislation.

Mr. Hogg

Would the right hon. Gentleman deal with the first part of my question? I asked whether his figures related to individuals or heads of families.

Mr. Callaghan


Dr. Gray

Will my right hon. Friend consider allotting some of the vouchers that are not taken up to the East African Asian holders of British passports and at last do them some elementary justice?

Mr. Callaghan

I would not be willing to do that, because it would increase the total number coming into this country.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

If the right hon. Gentleman has any difficulties about doing anything in respect of East African Asians, could he get the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to make representations to the Governments of Kenya and Uganda to pursue more liberal and less discriminatory policies in regard to those people, who, in the main, have a very substantial contribution to make to the economies of those countries?

Mr. Callaghan

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend, but the process of Africanisation has been long announced by the Governments of the countries concerned.