HC Deb 21 January 1971 vol 809 cc1257-9
15 and 16 Mr. Gurden

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what caused the unexpected increase in new arrivals of immigrant children who have entered Birmingham schools since June 1970;

(2) what reply he has given to the Birmingham Education Authority to help in their investigation into the cause of the increase in child immigration.

Mr. Sharples

For the year ended 30th September, 1970, there was a reduction of about 10 per cent. In registrations for school places by immigrant children in Birmingham. While there was a marked increase in the July to September quarter of 1970 this trend has not since been maintained, and no cause can be assigned to it. The national trend of entry of Commonwealth children has been steeply down.

The position has been discussed with Chief Officers of the Birmingham Corporation and my right hon. Friend will continue to keep it under close review.

Mr. Gurden

Is the Minister aware that suddenly, apparently from nowhere, came an extra 400 immigrant children into the schools in Birmingham who could not be accommodated? This is not, as his right hon. Friend said, a matter only of community relations but of providing the buildings.

Mr. Sharples

I appreciate that in the July-September quarter there was a sudden increase in the number of children coming in, but the number has now returned to the normal level. What is needed is a warning to local authorities in areas where the number of children coming in is likely to increase. We have that under review.

Mr. Faulds

Is not the simple answer to this stupid question a publicly unacceptable but straightforward Anglo-Saxon expression?

Mr. Freeson

Will the Minister advise his hon. Friends and bear closely in mind that the constant use of the term "immigrant children" for children born in this country is offensive? Such children are not immigrant children. We should refer to children being immigrant children only when they are coming to this country and not when they have been born here.

Mr. Sharples

My hon. Friend's Question referred to "immigrant children" they are the children coming into this country and my answer referred to them.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Local authorities in many areas have no machinery for finding out that local employers have attracted into their area people with children, of whatever colour. With its expertise in this matter, will not the Home Office have words with the Department of Education and Science? Wherever children come from, it is a bad thing if, when they go to school in September, there are no places available for their education.

Mr. Sharples

Yes, but the difficulty is in anticipating the number of children who will be coming in at a particular time. Arrangements are made by the High Commission Office for labels to be attached to passports which may be detached as the children come into the country, but the difficulty is that the local authorities receive that information only after the children have arrived.