Lords Amendment: No. 13, in page 3, line 36, after second "time" insert:
(and as soon as may be)".
Mr. Deputy Speaker
It might be for the convenience of the House to take at the same time Lords Amendment No. 14, in page 4, leave cut line 11 and insert:so that the statement of those changes be laid before Parliament at latest by the end of the period of forty days beginning with 581 the date of the resolution (but exclusive as aforesaid).
§ Mr. Maudling
These two Amendments deal with the question of parliamentary control of the immigration rules. As the House will recall, it was decided on principle at an earlier stage in the passage of this Measure that the negative procedure should be adopted, and this was confirmed in the other place. These Amendments exercise a certain amount more control on the Secretary of State in the rather unusual circumstances of this particular negative procedure.
The point, as the House is so well aware after many discussions on it, is that one cannot be left for a period of time without any rules at all. That is why it is provided that, while the rules are to be laid before the House and can be negatived, they continue to have effect.
The way in which we propose to meet this point, in so far as it is possible to do so, is to make sure that if and when rules are disapproved of the Home Secretary cannot just ignore it but has to submit a further statement to the House within a stated period of 40 days. I think that this is the best way of dealing with the situation.
As the House is aware, these are rather unusual rules. They have not in the past been subject to parliamentary control. We have made them agreed on principle subject to negative control, and we think that these Amendments proposed in another place somewhat strengthen the power of the House over the Executive.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
We have indeed made progress since the Bill was first introduced. In the Bill in its original form the Home Secretary was given power to make a statement of the rules over which the House had no control at all. At the first sitting of the Committee the Minister of State did the best he could in the circumstances by assuring us that:It would not be possible for my right hon. Friend, or any successor, to alter the directions given to immigration officers without informing Parliament that he was doing So."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 18th March, 1971; c. 44.]Some of us felt that we had been returned here by our constituents for more positive purposes than to be informed of what the right hon. Gentleman was doing. 582 Admittedly, in Committee the right hon Gentleman finally allowed himself to be persuaded by arguments and he agreed to introduce a form of parliamentary control, although, as he has just rightly said, it was limited to the negative procedure Some of us were not happy about that, and would have preferred the affirmative procedure for reasons which were elaborated at the time and since in another place and which I will not weary the House with again tonight.
The answer of the Government was that that solution would not be sufficiently flexible to meet a situation where the House was not sitting, where there was a sudden emergency which demanded instant Government and where it was not possible to convene the House in time. It was said that in that situation we might even be left without any rules at all. In these circumstances we have not persuaded the right hon. Gentleman to go further and to agree to an affirmative procedure.
The agreement which we wrung from him in Committee itself raised a number of problems. Supposing that Parliament disapproved a statement of the rules? Even at this late stage some of us are left a little puzzled as to what is the difference between laying rules before the House and laying a statement of the rules. Does "a statement" mean a factual, textual account of what the rules will be? If that is so, why not lay the rules before Parliament? If it is merely a statement about the rules, how informative does the statement have to be, how detailed and how much does the House benefit from seeing it?
If the House disapproves of that statement, then the effect of the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman introduced in Committee was that the rules would not be invalidated. All that would happen was that the Home Secretary would merely have to make another statement and lay it before the House as soon as may be. We were left wondering what was meant by "as soon as may be". But, outside what was "as soon as may be", what happened if he did not lay a statement as soon as may be? Did we go to the Divisional Court and seek an order of mandamus? Did we invite the court to decide what was "as soon as may be" or, alternatively, did some individual at some subsequent stage 583 submit to the court that, because the Home Secretary had not laid another statement as soon as may be, the original rules were invalid? All these questions were left awaiting a solution.
We put forward at the same time another question. Assuming that it was open to the House to disapprove of the Home Secretary's statement, what actual power did that give to individual Members of this House? Presumably we set down a Prayer to disapprove of the statement. That Prayer is valueless unless parliamentary time is afforded to debate it. Presumably the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman introduced to the House a few moments ago was intended to meet the former difficulty, and I accept that he has gone some way towards meeting our problem, even if perhaps I sounded a little less than gracious at the beginning of my remarks.
There is a need, obviously, to balance the requirements of flexibility to deal with sudden emergencies and to ensure that there is not a period when there are no rules, against what for many of us is still a fundamental fact of parliamentary Government, that rights of vital importance to a lot of people are embodied in these rules and that Parliament is entrusted with the task of protecting these rights. We have discovered during the passage of the Bill how many of those rights are in fact embodied in the rules. Some of us would have been happier if more of them had been embodied in the text of the Act.
We learned, very surprisingly, only a few days ago that a matter on which there was a great deal of discussion in this House and which was regarded as very important by a number of immigrant organisations, civil rights organisations, many of the people to whom it would apply and many hon. Members was at last to be resolved in the way in which we have invited the right hon. Gentleman to resolve it at an earlier stage, but resolved not in the context of the Bill but in the rules.
There is the question whether immigrants, having arrived hot-foot in this country, perplexed and bewildered, are going to be ask right at the beginning to register with the police. I do not propose to enlarge on that question now but I am worried a little because the 584 House will never be invited to debate this matter, since it is to be dealt with by a change in the rules, and at some stage someone could move a Prayer to disapprove of the rules, with all the consequences that we have been discussing up to now and leaving all the problems still unsolved.
We are still left with the major difficulty: how do we ensure that if a Prayer is set down it will be debated and the House will have an opportunity to disapprove of the rules? This was discussed at some length in Committee. I cannot resist repeating what was said in a special Report from the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments in the Session 1970–71:Until fairly recent Sessions, it was the practice of the House that time was found for a debate in the House on all motions praying that statutory instruments be annulled;That is not even a statutory instrument.
if for any reason time could not be found within the forty days praying time, it was the convention that time would be found for a motion in similar terms to be debated … In recent Sessions the practice of the House has changed. It is now not uncommon for prayers to remain undebated either 'in time' or 'out of time'.As we shall no doubt be told if we press the right hon. Gentleman, this is not his province; it is the province of the Leader of the House. But I suspect that the Leader of the House might listen with deep respect, as we all do, to the views of the right hon. Gentleman, and it would help us if we could be given an assurance that when a Prayer is set down to annul the rules laid under this Bill, every effort will be made to find time for a debate not months after it has been set down but before the position of too many people has been affected by the rules.
It might be that we on this side of the House could have found a solution to this problem. I cannot resist saying this. I know it is a problem which confronts all Governments. We thought at one stage that there would be something like a week between the time when we were confronted with these Amendments and the time when we debate them. In fact, we have spent the last two days getting documents in such form as they happened to be at that moment, trying to compare them with former documents and trying to ascertain in some detail what we would 585 be discussing tonight. That was no one's fault; perhaps everyone was trying to be as helpful as possible. But some of us cannot help reflecting that this is not government by steamroller; it is government by making a dash for it, and this is not the best way to ensure that these matters are debated. At every stage debate has been well repaid in terms of further amendments, further concessions and improvements to the Bill. If a little more time had been given, the Bill might have emerged finally as a much better instrument than it is, although some of us have accepted from the beginning that it is far short of perfect and that it is very difficult to perfect it.
We on these benches will not divide against this Amendment. It represents a very real concession from the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope I have not been too ungracious about it, but some of us are left with the problem how we are to protect effectively the interests of our constituents and others who have entrusted their rights to us, and we shall welcome any help that the right hon. Gentleman can give us.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
In introducing the Amendment it was suggested that it would lead to greater control by Parliament over the Executive. This matter caused great concern in the Standing Committee where we spent a great deal of time discussing the various procedures which were to be used. Some of us felt that the different procedures were certainly far from satisfactory because it meant that there was very little control by Parliament over the Executive. Recent events have shown this to be so.
I do not think anyone on this side of the House cavils at the flexibility shown at the very last minute in the other place when the requirement for registration with the police was changed. What worries me is that whilst we spent hours arguing in great detail and with great passion on both sides about this question of registration with the police, suddenly it can be changed by the rules. We are told that the rules have to be laid before the House, and all the rest of it, and yet the rules are not before us today even in their modified form. We have the modified version in Cmnd. 4792 586 but that version does not refer to recent changes mentioned in another place. So the flexibility which the Home Secretary and his colleagues in Committee assured us was necessary has certainly proved to be necessary. Apparently without even the other place being officially told that the rules were to be changed, the Press was able to tell us that the rules were changed. The only information that we have comes either from the Press or from a perusal of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House of Lords.
My point of view with regard to registration is met, although it does not go as far as I should like, because aliens are not included. However, that is neither here nor there. It seems that it is far better to have these provisions written in the Statute rather than having a system of rules outwith the Statute. That is why we were pleased to find the first of the Amendments on the question of access to this country of families of people already here.
We fought in Committee for a long time to get this procedure adopted but we were told that it was unnecessary. We were given the same story as we were given today, that these things can be done by changing the rules. The important point to me is that whilst this change which we are discussing satisfies the point of view of myself and my hon. Friends, the opposite point of view can just as readily be met. It is easy for the Government to change this question of registration back to what it was, because the Bill as it stands leaves the powers of registration of Commonwealth citizens, and we object to this.
Other things are presented to us which can he changed by the Home Secretary, and I should like the Home Secretary to explain a little more clearly how these changes can be discussed by the House. I should like to know specifically when we can discuss this change in the rules which was announced in the Press and in the other place. How do we get a discussion and possibly a vote on it?
These are very important matters in relation to parliamentary control. One is constantly told about different legislation coming forward which is broad and general in character, only the details of which are left to be effected either by Statutory Instrument or by some other means. We are told that changes of 587 policy can be questioned only under a certain procedure.
Although I would not seek to press this matter to a Division, I am not sure how the additional 40 days, and possibly 40 nights, will strengthen parliamentary control. I do not think it is good enough. It is a pity the Government did not give way during the Committee stage and allow us by way of Amendment to write into the Bill some of the matters which they are now putting in by Amendments at this stage of the Bill and also by seeking to change the rules. Had such changes been proposed by the Government during the Committee stage, the whole of the immigrant community would have accepted them earlier.
This raises a serious point. Does it mean that changes in the rules will come about, not because of parliamentary pressure or control, but because of outside extra-parliamentary pressure? There is no doubt that it was not the speeches which I and my colleagues made on the matter of registration which made the Government change their mind; it was outside pressure, particularly pressure in the Press. These are the things which, I am forced to conclude, make people change their mind. This is bad for the status of Parliament and for the people who are prepared to spend hours in Committee upstairs discussing legislation. It is far better to have changes brought about in the House and in Committees of the House rather than through outside pressure. This is the difficulty into which the Government have landed themselves by the flexibility in the rules of procedure.
I hope that we may have assurances that when the Government next seek to bring forward a Bill of this character—and certainly after entry into the E.E.C. we shall be back on the treadmill of citizenship and its relation to the Immigration Bill—they will adopt a different style of procedure, with a little more giving on the Government side and a little less defence of what apparently was an Establishment position.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
I hope my hon. Friend will forgive me for intervening in this debate, because I spent most of the parliamentary session dealing with other 588 relations, namely industrial relations. I was thereby prevented from taking part in the debates on the equally important subject of race relations.
It seems to me that the two matters overlap. I am concerned that, in spite of the wording of the Amendment and the requirement of 40 days beginning with the date of the Resolution, what we had seen is not government by statute or Resolution but government by leaks or statements to the Press on a matter of the utmost concern, namely, the question of registration. It would appear to be extremely dangerous that the Secretary of State can make further changes in rules merely by informing the Press of such changes, rather than by coming to the House and saying what those rules are. The proper way in which to deal with this matter was to have written into the Bill exactly what the rules were to be on registration.
We on this side of the House have throughout been opposed to the very principle of registration, and we are at least thankful for small mercies in that registration is no longer to be with the police, but with the Department of Employment. In that context I express some concern as I have a special interest in this matter.
The Bill should contain within its provisions, rather than in some regulation or rule, some guidance about the position in which labour exchanges will find themselves in regard to staff and provision of buildings. Where there are large concentrations of immigrants there should be provisions covering those people who will be engaged in interpreting for and in aiding in other ways immigrants who find themselves in this sort of situation. These matters should be clearly set out in the Bill and are matters of real concern not only to the Home Office but also to the Department of Employment.
We have had from the Government no estimate of the additional cost of administering registration under the Bill or under the rules subordinate to the Bill. Those are matters which should have come before Parliament and which should not be left to the Minister to be covered by announcements in newspapers. This is particularly relevant at a time when the labour exchanges are already under great 589 strain because of the policies of the Government which have led to almost a million unemployed.
We are also concerned about whether the existing structure of the labour exchanges is such that it will permit the easy slotting in of this extra function, and we should like to know how this will work. In addition to the Home Office, the Department of Employment should be answering on these matters.
Happy as we are at the ending of the principle of registration by the police, we feel it is not good enough for the Home Secretary to come along and make vague statements and move vague Amendments when this involves the work of another Department about which no anouncement has yet been made. I hope an announcement will be made so that it will be possible to debate these matters in full at a later stage.
What will be created under these rules will be two classes of immigrants. Those who are already here and who will not have to register will be divided from the immigrants who are not yet here and who will have to register. This is a matter on which certain High Commissions have expressed a great deal of concern since this will divide one from the other in their own communities. Certainly the trade unions must be more than concerned at the idea of a second-class status for some workers here. This is a form of sufferance in the context of another Bill, which allows people to have the right not to join a union when they will be subject to pressure by their employers by reason of registration. Yet none of this can be debated in full in this House because it is not part of the Bill. We shall have to wait for subordinate legislation and rules. This is to be left to the good sense of the Home Secretary. Lately certain other matters have been left to the good sense of the Home Secretary. and we know what the results have been and I shall say no more about that.
It is most unsatisfactory for the Home Secretary to put forward an acceptable Amendment in itself and then to go entirely against the spirit of that Amendment by announcing quite welcome changes in another context without coming before the House and laying Regulations and allowing them to be debated 590 in full so that the House may know he full implications of registration.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I hope that the Minister who is to reply on behalf of the Government will take the opportunity of explaining the rules and will say how the Home Office will publicise what it intends to do about altering the Regulations from time to time. Anybody with connections in the Commonwealth will share with me the utter distaste for this Bill and the restrictions which these provisions and Regulations put on people who come to this country and who wish to work here. Anybody who has tried to assist people of this sort wishing to work in the City of London and in other places will know all about the sheer frustration of trying to deal with the Home Office on these matters.
§ Mr. Maudling
I should be quite happy to deal with complaints about the Home Office and registration, but under the rules of order, I do not see how I could deal with them on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Harrison
Then may I appeal to my right hon. Friend to give us some indication of how we shall be able to safeguard the position when it comes to a proposal to alter any of these Regulations? I hope that he will assure us that we shall not just have, as we have seen recently when there has been a variation, some form of statement in the Press instead of a proposal being put before this House.
The Treasury Bench seem very anxious to help you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to keep order. I do not wish to stray outside the bounds of order. I want only to protest about the way in which Regulations have been carried out previously and about the restrictions that there are in these present regulations.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
I wish to support the remarks which have just been made by the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison). He has expressed doubts, anxieties and uncertainties which are not confined to this side of the House. In Committee, certain hon. Members opposite would have expressed similar doubts and uncertainties, but perhaps from time to time they were stifled from doing so.
591 In these rules we have various concepts which should more properly have been enshrined in the legislation itself. They touch upon matters which will be of enormous importance to the immigrant population residing here. But many hon. Members are satisfied that there is to be no effective parliamentary control of the rules, notwithstanding the mitigation which has been introduced into the legislation by the Home Secretary. The fact is that there is no effective parliamentary control, and we have a situation where a mere statement has to be placed before the House. We cannot take effective action to negative the rules. We can only negative the statement and, as has been said already, if the statement were negatived, the Home Secretary could simply put another statement before us, as a result of which we should be back to stage one.
That there is great uncertainty in this area is exemplified by certain answers to questions by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in another place. When asked about the immigration rules, he said:The immigration rules will be subject to parliamentary control. Therefore, unless Parliament agrees with him, there is no question of the Home Secretary of the day suddenly changing the rules."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 19th July, 1971; Vol. 322, c. 702.]However, that is not right. As the Bill is drafted at present, the Home Secretary can change the rules at any time he likes. It may be that the present Home Secretary will take a more liberal view than certain other Home Secretaries in Conservative Administrations, but we cannot rely on that sort of situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham also said that, if Parliament did not agree with the Home Secretary, it could negative the rules. But, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) pointed out, that is inaccurate, too. If the Government do not know what they are talking about—that is not an unusual state of affairs for this Government—when it comes to interpreting rules which are so vitally important to many hundreds and thousands of our people, it is a matter about which Parliament should be desperately anxious.
592 There is no doubt that this situation has been highlighted by the way in which the Government, in their convoluted manner, have changed the rules with regard to registration. We were not able to debate the change and neither were Members in another place, once the Government had made their decision. What sort of democracy is that? How are we to debate this matter? How are we to determine whether this is an effective way of dealing with the position? After all, it was the Home Secretary who, day after day, asserted that this could not be done, that it was a ludicrous proposition, that he had investigated with his Department every possible way of dealing with registration and had come to the conclusion that registration with the police was the only practicable proposition, despite all the fears of the police and despite all the fears of the Community Relations Commission and other organisations of that character. Suddenly, without warning to anyone, it is all changed. It is a remarkable state of affairs.
What has governed the right hon. Gentleman's thinking on that point? If he can do it with regard to this matter, he can do it with regard to anything, and we shall be given no adequate opportunity to debate changes which may be of vital importance to many people. The House is entitled to an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman, which he has refused so far, of how the rules will work, what they mean, and what protection hon. Members will have in ensuring that the rights of their constituents are represented adequately in this House.
It goes without saying that if we had had the affirmative procedure, many of these rules would have been changed. It is interesting to note that the affirmative procedure applies to the Code of Industrial Relations Practice. If the affirmative procedure can be embodied there, why cannot it be applied here? Again we have had no effective explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. Although he has made certain concessions, and although he has tried to represent to the country that he is a man of great liberal distinction, the fact remains that this Bill will never become a perfect instrument. It is a rotten Bill, it has been introduced by a rotten Government for rotten motives, and nothing can mitigate that state of affairs.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. Before calling the next speaker, I remind the House that this debate has ranged fairly wide. I draw the attention of the House to the Amendment and to the Clause to which it applies.
§ Mr. Powell
My remarks will be in accordance with your reminder. Mr. Deputy Speaker.
We find ourselves in a difficulty, and it is one for which our procedure does not always make provision. It is a general principle that when this House parts with a Bill and sends it to another place it does not again concern itself with the contents of the Bill or the arguments which have arisen upon it unless proposals reach it from another place for that which it has passed to be amended. If we did not have that rule, it would be intolerable that, subsequent to our Third Reading, it should be at large for hon. Members to debate matters which have gone through all their proper stages in this House. Yet here we are confronted with a case which is out of the ordinary course. There is a provision in Clause 3 which was the subject of debate not only on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" but on Amendments moved to alter the text of the Bill.
When the Bill goes to another place an announcement of policy is made there, but with the intimation that that change in policy, though it goes to the root of the matters which were discussed in a Committee of this House and again on the Floor of the House, does not require an alteration in the Bill.
Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you are absolutely right, and you would be right in reminding my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it is improper—since there is no proposal before us from another place to change the Bill—for that matter to be debated. Therefore, all that we can do—and this is not necessarily a criticism of the Government—is to register our sense of disturbance that a matter which, rightly or wrongly, was decided one way on the text of the Bill when it left this House, has now been announced to be dealt with in the opposite way in such a manner that this House, though it has the Amendments 594 in connection with which that announcement was elsewhere made, cannot, within the rules of order, address itself to it. I believe that that at least ought to be put on record before we part with the Amendments.
§ Mr. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
I shall not keep the House very long, and I hope not to stray beyond the bounds of order.
It seems that the two Amendments pass some parliamentary control to the backbencher as against the Executive. That is something of which I am always in favour. Because of certain events which have taken place in my area over the weekend, I should like an assurance that these new rules will cover the situation. Certain rumours have been flying around Nottinghamshire over the weekend This concerns another secret document. I seem to be laying my hands on a number of Government secret documents and I am making quite a file of them. The Immigration Control Association claims that it has heard a leak by two civil servants over the telephone—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not test the House, far less the Chair, to this extent. I hope that he will have observed what has just been said both by the Chair and by hon. Members.
§ Mr. Concannon
I am coming to the situation. I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall be through in one moment.
It is very difficult when one has not served on the Committee and has been so busy during the last Session with other Committees. I had a tremendous amount of work to do on other Committees in the last Session.
I know that the rumours in my area have been dispelled by the Home Office. However, I was wondering whether, if anything of this nature came forward, there would be provision, within the rules of the House and within the Amendments, for me, as the representative of my area, to challenge the statements or new rules which were coming into effect.
The statements which were flying around are of great importance to my area. The Immigration Control Association has said that the Home Office is proposing to make immigrant reception 595 areas of certain towns in the East Midlands. I should like to know whether these rules will cover the point that at least Members of Parliament for the areas concerned will be able to challenge them.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Bidwell
I fully accept that the debate must necessarily follow extreme limitations. I think that the House also accepts, as it often does in some respects, the wisdom of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), and I accept it in this regard. But the House of Commons, notwithstanding the limitations of those general edicts, is entitled to exhibit its anxieties on a matter which ought to assist the Government.
We recently passed an Amendment restoring the statutory right of Commonwealth citizens coming here to work to bring their wives, children and dependent relatives. I take it that means those over 65 years of age, because of the words now written into the Bill. I stress the extreme importance of the Home Secretary's coming to grips with the principle which has so far been stated, said because he can go some way to relieving anxieties in immigration area communities.
We know that the change in the regulations, which has been announced elsewhere and was referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer), has come about partly as a result of widespread pressures, partly as a result of the very tough debate which we had in Committee, but a great deal, too, as a result of what has been said in another place. I thought at one time that we might abolish the other place, but I am having second thoughts about that because of the progressive development in its attitude on the Bill. In that regard the Government have made a headlong retreat.
It is now important to go a step further. Under the regulations the Home Secretary will not have to lay the statement of any changes before Parliament before the end of 40 days. Or do I take it that he must and that, therefore, on the negative procedure, we shall be able to debate the whole method? We should like to know whether that is so 596 when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate on the Amendment.
The Home Secretary now has something different from what the Minister of State had in Committee when talking about the possibility of regulations requiring a work permit holder from a foreign country being on a kind of probationary system, first of one year and then for an extended period of three years. I do not know whether that kind of regulation is still in contemplation. It is important to lay it before people of national and ethnic origins which distinguish them in this country by virtue of the pigment of their skin. Their relationships with the authorities and, more especially, with the police—that is why the Police Federation adopted the attitude that it did—have some bearing on the change, and I welcome it. So far as it has gone, it has been an enormous relief to feelings, and I congratulate the Home Secretary on that score.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to heed the fact, however, that with the restoration of the statutory right of dependent relatives to join the breadwinner here it will be difficult to follow through any concept of the guest worker, which many of us have feared. Under the regulations, such a man had to do this probationary period of four years, without the right to have his family join him, and was then kicked out, having suited the purposes of British employers. We have had an unending procession of such labour in Britain. We cannot have that now, and I welcome it, because it has been my great fear. However, we are entitled to have far more detail on the whole question of registration in this regard.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Before the Home Secretary replies I should like to ask one question. I believe that this is the appropriate place at which to put it. I should like to know whether, in the power which will now be given under the amended subsection, there will be provision to deal with the question of the East African Asians arising out of the decision of the Court at Strasbourg.
I raise the issue because, so far, the Government have made no announcement about what will follow from the inquiries that they have made in the light of the observations that fell from the lips of the Court at Strasbourg. Those who 597 have been following this piece of litigation with interest are anxious to know the Government's views, and how they propose to reconcile the observations of the Court with the provisions of the 1968 Act.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not think that the hon. Member was in the Chamber when I expressed my views about the debate. I hope that he will not start afresh to test the Chair.
§ Mr. Lyon
I hope that I shall never transgress any of your Rulings, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am simply seeking information about the regulations to be made under the Act, dealing with the administration of the Act. If, in due course, the Home Secretary says that the regulations will not be wide enough to cover such a change, he may be able to tell us how he proposes to make the change. It is on that basis that I pose the question.
The question that I have asked is pertinent, and it ought to be asked at some time during this debate on the Lords Amendments because no other opportunity is available to us, apart from Question Time, to raise this issue. That is so because the yearly review will be removed from us. I raise the question now so that the Home Secretary will have an opportunity to explain the Government's position. The situation which appears to have developed at Strasbourg is that the Act is likely to be branded as a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
If that happens, we shall have to take some steps to bring ourselves into line with the European Convention. That can be done either by repealing the 1968 Act or by amending the Bill. It is too late to table an Amendment to the Bill. Is it possible to deal with this issue by means of the regulations to be made under this part of the Bill? Is the power there provided wide enough for that to be done? If not, how does the Home Secretary propose to deal with this issue?
§ Mr. Maudling
With the leave of the House, perhaps I may reply to the debate.
I think that the point made by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) is way beyond the narrow terms of these Amendments. That is so, first, because the point is wholly hypothetical. Second, because I do not see how one 598 can amend a Statute by regulation. If the situation envisaged should arise, we shall have to consider it, but I trust that it will not.
The purpose of the Amendment is very narrow, indeed, and the tendency of hon. Members during the debate has been to stray beyond what is contained in them. The Bill provides that the Secretary of State shall from time to time, lay before Parliament statements of the rules, or any changes in the rules, laid down by him as to the practice to be followed in the administration of the Bill when it becomes an Act. Subsection (2) says that the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament statements of the rules laid down for administering the Act. Subsection (3) says that if a statement is disapproved the Home Secretary shall lay a further statement before Parliament. All that is agreed, and is not called into question by the Amendment. That is the procedure agreed earlier in this House, and confirmed in another place. There is no question of making any rules under the Bill until it becomes law, but for the benefit of the House we have circulated the draft rules in the form in which we intend to make them.
The only thing that the Amendments do is to provide that the obligation laid upon the Secretary of State shall be discharged in a shorter time than he would otherwise have to discharge it. There is no change in his obligation to lay a statement before Parliament. All it says is hat that must be done "as soon as may be". The obligation is the same. He must lay a statement of the rules before Parliament. Under the Amendment that will be as soon as may be, which will be immediately the Bill becomes law.
If it should happen that the statement of the rules is disapproved by Resolution of either House, the Bill provides that a further statement must be laid before Parliament accordingly. The Amendment says that it shall be done within a minimum of 40 days. That is the only effect of the Amendment.
If the Amendments are not made, it will mean that the Secretary of State will have infinite time in which to lay further statements. I am sure that the House would regard that as a mistake, and that it would wish to support the proposition which would provide for further control by Parliament over the Executive. It was 599 for that reason that the other place put forward these Amendments, and I hope that the House will support them.
The hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) and the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) raised a point about "statement of". It is not "statement about", but "statement of", and it means the actual wording of the rules. The reason why there is not a reference to the rules themselves is that if there were that would put them, as it were, in the same category as a Statutory Instrument, and these things cannot be done by Statutory Instrument. They are not intended to be in precise legal terms. They are intended to be a guide to immigration officers, and they would be approved in that form. If the rules themselves were in the draft, it would be treated as a Statutory Instrument, and that cannot be. The phrase is "statement of". It is not "statement about". I am advised that legally it means, and will be interpreted as meaning, the rules themselves. I hope that I have cleared up that issue.
I accept that it is important to have time to pray against the rules, or against any changes in the rules. I think that the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton anticipated my answer by saying that I could not bind the Leader of the House, at this or any other time. This must be a matter of common sense and parliamentary practice. When we lay the first rules, of course an opportunity will be given to pray against them if that is what hon. Members wish to do. That must be the proper practice.
If an amendment were made to the rules then, unless it was a minor amendment, I should have thought that it would be right for Parliament to be given the opportunity to pray against that amendment. That is the spirit of the Bill, and the spirit in which Parliament has dealt with this Measure. I cannot conceive of that principle being infringed. As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, one cannot lay down in statutory form what one has in mind, but I give the undertaking that that is the spirit in which I intend to deal with the problem and I am sure that every Government, from whichever side it comes, will work to that principle.
600 I shall resist the temptation to be drawn into issues which go beyond these Amendments. The purpose of these Amendments is not to alter the powers of the Secretary of State, but to ensure that what he is already enjoined to do he will do within a limited time.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.