HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1469-546

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Humphrey Atkins.]

4.11 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Robert Carr)

May I open the debate by saying how much I welcome the presence of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins). I am sure that the House also welcomes him back as the principal Opposition spokesman on home affairs. We are all sad to lose his predecessor, the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), from this post.

I am glad to have the opportunity for a full debate on race relations and immigration. We have on the Table three important reports from the Select Committee dealing with some of the most serious problems in race relations. There is the report on housing, the report on police-immigrant relations and the report on education. No doubt many hon. Members will wish to concentrate mainly on one or more of these reports. The Government will welcome, and will take seriously into consideration, the views expressed about the reports. I want the debate to cover immigration as well as to discuss race relations because it is essential to set off discussion of race relations within this context. I say that because the Government believe strongly that the creation of public confidence in respect of the effective limitation of future immigration is an essential pre-condition for a constructive approach to the problems of race relations.

When I last spoke to the House on the subject, when we debated an aspect of illegal immigration at the end of June, I laid down four basic principles on which the Government founded their policy of race relations and immigration. I shall briefly recapitulate those principles.

The first principle was that in this country we should have no second-class citizens. Everyone born here, everyone peacefully, lawfully settled here, should be equal before the law and should be treated equally in the daily practices of everyday life.

The second principle was that further permanent immigration must be cut to a small and inescapable minimum, because we are an overcrowded country and because over the last couple of decades we have accepted a large number of new citizens as immigrants.

The third principle was that our small capacity to accept and absorb new permanent immigration must be reserved almost wholly for the two categories of people to whom we have special responsibility. The first category is close dependent relatives of those already settled here lawfully. That was a clear promise in our election manifesto in 1970. The second category of people for whom we must reserve a place within our small capacity is those who, as a result of our imperial past, possess citizenship of this country and no other. I am referring to people who are often described as United Kingdom passport holders.

The fourth of the basic principles I laid down in June was that we must do all in our power to halt illegal immigration.

I want to review progress in putting these four principles into action. I start with the second and third of the principles in the order in which I enumerated them, namely, action to reduce immigration to an inescapable minimum and action to reserve our small capacity for dependants of those lawfully settled here and United Kingdom passport holders. Our instrument for achieving action on these principles is the Immigration Act 1971. The Act leaves untouched the previously established right of heads of households lawfully settled here to have their close dependants join them and settle with them in this country. As I have reminded the House, my party specifically promised that in its election manifesto.

The Act also leaves untouched the right of United Kingdom passport holders to come here under the conditions established in 1968. Thus two priority classes were confirmed in the new legislation, but in almost every other way the 1971 Act has established an entirely new situation.

The Act came into full force in January of this year, so we have had nearly a year's experience of it in full operation. As a result, since January of this year no Commonwealth citizen, other than a patrial, entering Britain for employment, any longer enjoys a right of permanent settlement either for himself or for his close dependants. Work permits issued for 12 months initially apply strictly to approved employment. A permit can be renewed after the first 12 months, and if it is extended for up to four years the holder has the right to apply for, but not automatically to receive, permanent settlement in this country. This is an absolutely basic change. I want to stress that it is a change in reality, not just a change in name.

Before January this year any Commonwealth citizen given one of the old entry vouchers for employment knew that, once admitted with the voucher, he had a legal right for himself and subsequently for his family to settle here permanently. That right no longer exists. I want to make that clear to every Commonwealth citizen who comes here with a work permit under the 1971 Act. Commonwealth citizens who come with these work permits must not assume that, if they are allowed to stay in approved employment for four years, they will then almost automatically be granted permanent settlement. I stress this because it is very important from the point of view of future good relations that the people who come with the permits do not come here with any false assumptions or false expectations, based on past practice, because the 1971 Act has fundamentally changed the situation.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell(Southall)rose

Mr. Carr

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman on this specific point, but many hon. Members want to take part in the debate, and giving way to interruptions leads to an inordinate extension of a speech.

Mr. Bidwell

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I well understand his point. I hope to catch Mr. Speaker's eye later, but I wish now to raise the question of second-class citizenship and the right hon. Gentleman's desire to obviate it, which he says is enshrined in his four principles. Does not he concede that we are in an odd situation? A Commonwealth citizen here with a work permit is confined to a specific occupation, but has citizen's rights as a Commonwealth person, in that he can vote and presumably can come to this House as an elected representative of the people.

Mr. Carr

I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman's implication is or what he wishes it to be. It is true, and we have never made any secret of it, that in terms of immigration for work and settlement here we are now treating Commonwealth citizens in the same way as aliens. We have always made that clear. But so far we have thought it right—I thought with the approval of the House, including the Opposition—still to distinguish Commonwealth citizens from aliens in many of the civil rights they enjoy while here. Those rights do not have to go with permanent settlement. As long as people come here under no misapprehension, we need not be bothered about any effects on race relations. The important thing is that they do not come here under any false impressions, with expectations based on past practice. That is why I wanted to say what I said.

The effect of the 1971 Act is already becoming clear. In the first nine months of this year 1,053 people arrived with the new twelve-month work permits. In the first nine months of 1970 a total of 3,124 people arrived with the old type of employment vouchers. Compared with three years ago, the numbers coming have been cut to only a third of their previous level. The much smaller numbers coming this year have, unlike their predecessors, no right of permament settlement for themselves or their families. This is, as we promised it would be, a dramatic reduction both in number and in future commitment.

I come to the dependants of heads of households lawfully settled here before 1st January this year, when the new Act came into being. Their rights are not diminished by the 1971 Act. We always promised that they would not be diminished by that Act. These dependants of heads of household settled here before the beginning of the year now constitute the major part of Commonwealth immigration. But their numbers are declining and will continue to decline, because since January this year new families are no longer acquiring any entitlement to settle here permanently. We no longer have new families adding themselves at the end of the queue of people with that entitlement to come.

Many people seem to fear that the pressure of dependants to come here is virtually limitless in both time and number, but that is not so, for the reason I have just given. No further dependants are being added to the end of the queue since the beginning of this year, so that that fear is not well-founded. I repeat that the number of dependants coming here is declining and will continue to decline.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

Is it not possible that immigrants might return to their countries of origin, establish families there, and then themselves return to this country, continuing in that way almost ad infinitum, bringing in dependants or having the right to bring them in? Is it not reasonable to say after a certain stage, "No more, because you have had five or ten years in which to bring in your family. We cannot grant that right indefinitely"?

Mr. Carr

My hon. Friend has a number of rather complex points all mixed up in one statement. I prefer not to answer them off the cuff because, without studying my hon. Friend's words, I am not sure what the implications are. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can give a considered reply when he winds up the debate.

Among other things, the sort of concept I think my hon. Friend has in mind would be very much involved with a review of British nationality law upon which, as I have already announced, the Government have started. They are no doubt all among the important matters which will arise when we discuss and finally decide the future of our nationality law.

What is important is that we are not allowing new heads of household to come here to work with a right of permanent settlement here for themselves and their families, which has been overwhelmingly the major form of immigration hitherto. That is what is immediately needed to deal with the situation.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I know the right hon. Gentleman did not want to give the impression that he was intending to deal only with what is primarily coloured immigration from the Commonwealth. He has given us figures showing a reduction in Commonwealth immigration from 3,124 in 1970 to 1,053 this year. Will he now give us the comparable figures for foreigners and EEC nationals and their dependants entering the United Kingdom?

Mr. Carr

My hon. Friend will do that, if the House wishes, but I do not think that it is germane to the argument about the concern in the House and outside. That is why I am talking about Commonwealth immigration. We could have another debate on another subject, but Commonwealth immigration is the matter which is of concern, and that is the comparison I am making.

I want to make it clear that the figures I am giving are not on a colour basis. A considerable proportion of the entry I have been talking about is from the white Commonwealth—as well as from the coloured Commonwealth. I am certainly making a division between the Commonwealth and the EEC and aliens. I am talking about the Commonwealth, but I am not making a division based on colour. The 1,053 who entered in the first nine months of the year with the new work permits were by no means all coloured workers.

Let us consider the figures for dependants and the fact that they have declined and will continue to decline. In 1967 the number of dependants admitted for settlement was 53,000. In 1972 it was 22,000, and this year, based on the figure for the first nine months, it is likely to be about 18,000. According to our forecasts, which have proved substantially accurate in the past, we expect a further drop, although probably not so steep, in 1974 and 1975.

The question of the future scale of entry of Commonwealth dependants rightly concerned the Select Committee on Immigration and Race Relations, which has recently reported on the education of immigrant children. This year's nine-month entry figures show that the Home Office officials were perhaps unduly cautious when giving evidence to the Select Committee in June, at a time when only the figures for the first three months of the year were available.

I recognise, however, in spite of the dropping figures over the first nine months, the continuing concern about the queue of dependants who may wish to live here. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will visit India, Pakistan and Bangladesh early next year to assess the situation and assure himself that our procedures are working efficiently and that only genuine dependants in the very strict categories eligible are being issued with certificates. The pressure is great, but we believe that the efficiency of our control is sufficient to resist any attempt—there may well be a considerable attempt—to get in as bogus dependants, and that we can sift out the genuine from the bogus. But it is important that my hon. Friend should examine the situation personally and report back to me on it.

I come next to the question of our second priority category, United Kingdom passport holders. I made it clear to the House in my statement on 25th January this year that our acceptance of the sudden and large influx of refugees following their expulsion from Uganda had created an entirely new situation, and that a repetition of it would place unacceptable strains on our society. I said that while we confirmed our responsibility to our United Kingdom passport holders we must ensure that the future entry of these people would be in an orderly and controlled manner and on a scale of the same magnitude as in recent years. The global quota for entry vouchers for United Kingdom passport holders was fixed in May 1972 at a maximum of 3,500 per year. Since the Ugandan expulsion the rate of issue of vouchers has been substantially below that maximum and I confirm again that we intend to keep it within that maximum.

We have decided however that, fully consistent with this policy, it will be possible to increase the allocation of vouchers to Kenya. We have been in close touch with the Kenyan Government about this and the consultations have involved not only our representatives on the spot but also my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary personally. I am glad to say that the Kenyan Government have assured us that they understand Her Majesty's Government's policy for the admission of United Kingdom passport holders and will help us to operate it in an orderly way by means of the special voucher scheme. We very much welcome this understanding. We have likewise kept the Tanzanian Government continuously informed about the objectives of our policy. As a result we are satisfied that the situation there can be dealt with satisfactorily within the policies of the two Governments. We are most appreciative also of the attitude of the Tanzanian Government.

I shall now sum up the progress we have been making in progressively reducing the total number of immigrants admitted for settlement.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

Will my right hon. Friend clarify and elaborate what he said about the effect of these new arrangements for Kenya and Tanzania? Will my right hon. Friend say whether the total number of passport holders who are heads of families and dependants will come within the maximum of 3,500 people a year as laid down in May 1972, or will that maximum in the case of Kenya, Tanzania or both be exceeded and if so why?

Mr. Carr

I am glad to have the opportunity to make the point absolutely clear because it is important that there should be no misunderstanding. The figure of 3,500 was fixed in May 1972 and refers to the number of vouchers which may be issued in a year to United Kingdom passport holders who are heads of families. It applies to all countries in which there are United Kingdom passport holders. It is a global total and does not apply to any one particular country.

We have always refused to publish any specific allocation within the total to any particular country because we wanted to maintain—and I think rightly—the flexibility to use up to that maximum but not beyond it in order to meet the needs of our passport holders as they varied from one country to another. We therefore have this flexibility within the total and we shall not exceed it, but within that total, and without exceeding it, although the amount has not been fixed, we have agreed fairly regular amounts with different Governments and we keep in touch with them. We are able while keeping within the total of 3,500 vouchers to increase for Kenya what has been its regular amount in recent years.

I want to emphasise however that the number of vouchers will not exceed for all United Kingdom passport holders in all countries that 3,500 global total which was fixed in 1972.

Sir D. Renton

And they are heads of families?

Mr. Carr

They are heads of families as they always have been. The family size varies but we have found by experience in order to arrive at the total number of people involved that the figure must be multiplied by between three and four—and it varies from year to year because we are talking in averages—and that is exactly as in the past. Not only the number of voucher holders but the total number of people coming will therefore be within the scale which has existed since the quota of 3,500 vouchers was fixed.

I come now to sum up the progress we have been making in progressively reducing the total number of immigrants admitted for settlement. Here I am adding together all the various categories. The latest detailed quarterly figures have just been published and they show a steep decline. In the first nine months of this year the total was about 20,000. In the first nine months of 1970 it was about 27,000. There has therefore been a reduction of new admissions of some 25 per cent. on 1970.

What is perhaps more interesting to many hon. Members is that it shows a reduction of no less than 30 per cent. on last year's figure, and it is the Government's firm judgment and intention that this decline shall continue year by year. In saying that I wish to stress again that I am referring to the total which includes all those categories including the United Kingdom passport holders. It is our policy to see that this overall total, which has been declining, continues to decline because that is both possible and essential to achieve.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend make a corresponding comparison for net immigration, that is "ins" minus "outs"?

Mr. Carr

We have never believed that taken on an annual basis the net inward and outward flows are a particularly good guide—

Sir D. Renton

It is the only final test.

Mr. Carr

Taken on an annual basis I simply do not believe that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) is right. Flows these days are so large, both in and out, because of the huge number of visitors entering and leaving that the recording system, though it is utterly accurate for total numbers, cannot identify within those total numbers those coming in and those leaving for the purposes of providing any foundation on which to base a judgment of those who will stay. The inward and outward flows over a period of years may be a guide but the fluctuations from year to year and from one part of a year to another are very great.

In the year ended September 1972 the net inflow was of the order of only about 4,000—and I am speaking from memory—which, for some reason I cannot explain, was very much lower than the same 12-month period for many previous years. Here again my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will be able to give more detailed figures if they are required, but the 12 months from September 1972 to September 1973 showed a considerably higher figure, but not greater than had been normal in most recent years. Frankly, I cannot explain why the 1971–72 year was so exceptionally low. When people look at the increase from 1972–73 compared with 1971–72, I ask them to examine the other years and they will see that it is the year from September 1971 to September 1972 which appears to be the exception rather than the latest year.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it was, in fact, at the time of the Indo-Pakistan war and that it was this which had a dramatic effect on immigration from the sub-continent?

Mr. Carr

My hon. Friend could be right, but we have no evidence on which to base our opinion. The inflow and outflow figures are not, on a short-term basis, an accurate guide to how many people we may expect to be seeking to come to the United Kingdom, let alone succeeding, to settle here or otherwise.

I wish to turn to another category of people who are given the right to settle here. It is a category which has been causing some people much concern. So far I have been speaking about people who are admitted for settlement in the first place. I deal now with people who, when they first came here, were admitted only temporarily on conditions, but who have subsequently had those conditions of stay removed and who, therefore, acquired the right to stay here.

Since the beginning of this year, the numbers of people in this category are being published regularly, quarter by quarter, along with all the other immigration statistics. The lists are displayed regularly for everybody to see and watch. The figures have been available before on request but have not been published regularly quarter by quarter until this year. For the last three years, the number in this category has been on a plateau of about 8,000 to 9,000 per year, considerably higher than a few years ago.

The concept of admitting persons temporarily with conditions of stay attached was introduced in 1965 or thereabouts, and it was only after five years that the majority of those people, under the old principle applying to Commonwealth citizens, acquired permanent rights to settle. In other words, it was only five years from when we first started imposing conditions that this category began to be a real one. For the last three years, it seems to have settled down at a plateau of about 8,000 to 9,000 per year. That is in addition to the figures for settlement of entry which I have referred to hitherto.

I have been studying the figures critically because I am determined that the removal of conditions on temporary visitors must not become a backdoor way of evading our immigration control. It is clear that in many of these cases there are obvious legitimate and understandable reasons for removing the restrictions on stay. Thus, nearly half the removals are accounted for by people who, after coming here, have established patriality or discovered that they had a grandparent born in Britain and proved it, or by women who married men already lawfully resident here and who automatically acquired the residential status of their husbands.

Nearly half the cases fall into this obvious category. I have, however, been looking particularly critically at one of the largest single elements in this category—students. I have found that between a quarter and a third of all those who have their conditions of stay removed come here in the first place as students.

We have always had a liberal tradition in Britain of welcoming students from overseas and so, in any year, we probably have between 75,000 and 100,000 overseas students in this country. I am sure that this is a tradition which we want to continue because it creates and cements long-term links with this country, which are of value to us. It also provides valuable technical assistance to many developing countries, particularly those in the Commonwealth.

The overwhelming majority of students come here to take their courses seriously, and, when they have done so, go back to their home countries with valuable qualifications. That is true of the overwhelming majority, but there is some evidence that a small minority spin out their courses by changing from one course to another, more with the intention of staying in this country than of seriously obtaining good qualifications of a specific nature to assist their careers in their home country. This is not fait either to their fellow overseas students or, indeed, to the students born in Britain. I intend to look closely at a number of aspects of our control over the stay of students.

For example, among the questions that I intend to ask myself is whether we should place some control on the total length of time that a student may spend here on studies in the ordinary way. I appreciate that in doing this one must take account of the fact that some courses of study and training, such as medical courses, in their nature take a long time. A number of other points will also need to be considered.

Should we so freely allow students from overseas to continue to study here by switching from one type of course to another, where two or more types of courses cannot conceivably form part of a recognised programme of studies for a qualification in one discipline or in related disciplines?

Next, we should ask whether we should not be more demanding in the minimum number of weekly hours of study which qualify as a genuine course for student status. That point was raised by the Select Committee in its education report. We should ask ourselves also whether we should obtain, as a matter of routine control, more regular and frequent reports from the institutions where students are working to make sure that admitted students are attending the courses for which they have been admitted, and without which they would not have been admitted.

In looking at these points and deciding how to tighten our control, I should stress that I shall not in any way change our liberal welcome for the great majority of those overseas students who are taking their courses at least as seriously as any people born in this country. What I am talking about is the small minority, and it would be wrong from every point of view to allow that group to snowball into a definite abuse of our immigration control.

I come to what I stated as the fourth of our basic principles, namely, that we should do all in our power to halt illegal immigration. The 1971 Act has given important new powers in this area. It has created a new offence of assisting illegal entry and it has created a new power to confiscate ships, aircraft and other vehicles which are proved to have been involved in carrying this trade of illegal entry. These new powers will be increasingly valuable. We can make use of those powers effectively only by strengthening the effort put into detecting and controlling illegal immigration.

The immigration service has now established its own intelligence unit, which is building up an ever-increasing index of people and organisations, as well as ships and aircraft known to be involved in this illegal trade. The police have also established their own central intelligence unit dealing with illegal immigration.

Members of the immigration service of the Home Office are about to begin visits to entry certificate offices overseas to tie-up the two ends of the operation. Immigration officers here are trying to stop illegal immigrants coming in and the entry certificate officers in overseas posts are dealing with entry requests. It is important that there should be closer links between them than in the past.

Arrangements for co-operation between police and other Government services in dealing with all these matters are also being strengthened, and the new arrangements will be set out in letters which my Department will shortly be sending to the chief constables of the forces principally concerned.

In addition to that, the immigration service of this country is building up co-operation with its counterparts in some seaports and airports on the continent. The smuggling of immigrants is often also linked to other criminal activity, and therefore liaison between our police forces and police forces on the other side of the Channel is also being strengthened. Finally, when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is making his visit to the Indian subcontinent, he will also go into, with all the people involved, including the Governments of the countries concerned, what, if any, action can be taken at that end to try to attack this evil trade, this modern version of the slave trade, in illegal immigration.

I sum up now on the immigration aspect. I think I can claim that in 3½ years a very substantial reduction has been made in admissions for settlement, and I can say that we are determined that this reduction shall continue. I can also claim that there are greatly intensified efforts to prevent abuse of our tighter controls, whether by illegal immigration or by other devices.

Thus, I believe that we have made a great deal of progress towards reducing immigration to a small inescapable minimum, and therefore towards creating what we believe to be the essential conditions precedent for a strong positive attack on the problems of race relations and therefore towards the fulfilment of living up to our other basic principle, the first that I mentioned—that we must not allow second-class citizenship to develop in this country.

What is the scale of this problem? To the best of our knowledge, about 1,500,000 coloured residents were in this country in 1971. If that order of magnitude were evenly distributed over the whole country, the problem would not be very difficult to deal with. But for all sorts of reasons, economic and social, a large proportion of that 1,500,000 or thereabouts are concentrated in a relatively few places in a relatively few of our big cities. For example, we have about half of the West Indian-based coloured population living in the Greater London area.

This is what creates the difficulty, and I do not want to underestimate it in any way. I do not believe that it can anyhow at the moment be precisely quantified, but it is substantial and it is certainly not going to melt away. But we do have to face it ; we cannot wish it away. Whatever we do, we must face the fact that the great majority of these coloured residents are here to stay.

The harmony of our society in the future depends to a very great extent on the white majority learning to live and work with them and on helping them—our coloured residents—to live and work with us on equal terms. This will require sustained positive policies and actions in many directions. Basic to everything else, I believe, are housing and education, and these are the subjects of two of the reports of the Select Committee to which the Government will soon be making their reply and on which I am anxious to hear the views of hon. Members.

Perhaps next in importance comes employment and this, I am glad to see, the Select Committee will be studying this Session. I look forward to its report on this matter also. But in advance of this, the Government have been taking some recent initiatives which are important. In particular, it is important that the Government should set an example as employers and so, in the last few weeks, a circular has been sent out by the Civil Service Department to all Government Departments containing advice about the adoption of a positive attitude in Government Departments to making equality of opportunity in employment in the Civil Service a reality, and I shall follow this up in order to watch progress as closely and as realistically as I can.

The Department of Employment, which has already been developing the work of its advisory services in this area, will now be urging private employers with increasing intensity to follow the example laid down in the Government circular and which Government Departments will be following.

Police-immigrant relations is another important aspect. Here, the Government have already replied to the Select Committee's report and are seeking to get the majority of its recommendations implemented by the people involved. But I realise, of course, that the main problem falls on local communities and local authorities in a relatively few areas. Much has already been done to help them meet these needs.

Thus, under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, grants of nearly £8 million are being provided in one year to meet 75 per cent. of the cost of the extra staff employed by these local authorities to deal with the problems of high immigrant concentration. Then there is the urban programme, which, of course, although not specifically designed for race relations, does nevertheless work in a way which means that some 60 per cent. of the urban programme money goes to authorities with high concentrations of coloured residents.

The expenditure of the urban programme is running at about £14 million throughout Great Britain this year, and a further increase is on the way. The White Paper on Public Expenditure, which will be published shortly, will show an increase in the urban programme funds of some £2 million a year above last year's forecasts.

In addition, I am glad to be able to announce today that the urban programme will be further increased by about £6 million spread over the next three years. This further increase is being found from the funds which would have been made available to the aid programme and corresponds to the amount which we would probably have provided as capital aid for Uganda if circumstances there had been different.

It is my intention that this extra £6 million should be used exclusively to help local authority areas where the social services are particularly under strain because of the high concentration of immigrants, and in distributing this additional help I shall bear in mind that the burden of absorbing Asians from East Africa falls with special severity on a very limited number of areas.

In addition, I think that the Prime Minister's action in appointing me as coordinating Minister for all the urban programmes and the establishment that goes with it of the Urban Deprivation Unit, which I mentioned during the debate on the Loyal Address, again points to the increasing importance which the Government give to the problem of life in parts of our cities. This is, of course, not essentially a racial problem in itself but in practice it does determine the environment in which race relation problems have to be tackled in most of the big concentrations of coloured populations.

Of course, there is a lot to be done, but I hope that we shall not forget that there is a lot to be proud of about race relations in this country. Let us always praise where we can both what is done by the white population and what is done by the leaders of the coloured community, because the basic fact we have to get hold of and recognise in all our actions and activities is that there is this population of coloured people, who have come from far parts of the world, who are with us and who are here to stay, and that more than one-third of them were actually born here as British children.

The success we have in reacting to this fact and the problems it presents will to a large extent determine the future harmony of the whole of our society. That is why the Government are committed to reducing future immigration to the inescapable minimum. That we believe is the condition precedent for the right atmosphere to bring about a constructive approach in our determination to live up to our first principle that there shall be no second-class citizens.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)

I find myself coming back after a relatively brief interlude of, I think, 20 months to the feel of a Dispatch Box in front of me and to the less tangible return of a departmental subject from which I have been away for a rather longer interval—one of almost exactly six years. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his kind words of welcome and am glad that my first appearance in this new Shadow rôle should be in a debate on a subject as important, even if also as delicate and in some ways intractable, as that which we are discussing today.

Certainly it was one of the aspects of my work at the Home Office which I and those who were with me between 1965 and 1967 found most worth while. We were then able to do something to create an atmosphere of hope. I was particularly happy, before leaving, to be able to announce the shape of the 1968 Race Relations Act, which was certainly not perfect but which I believe marked a substantial step forward. There was far from universal approval for it when my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) carried it through.

I was glad to see that the Home Secretary made an honourable and frank statement of the evolution of his party's view when he addressed the conference of the Race Relations Board at Nottingham in September and said : Whatever differences of view there may have been in 1968 I want to put it clearly on record with you that the Government fully endorses the principles of the Race Relations Act under which your Board is established. I was a little less happy to see that in that same speech he gave a rather discouraging, although not final, reply to some proposals of the board for amending legislation arising out of its experience.

I began at the end of 1965 with much weaker legislation than we have now and with a board which was only in embryo. The appointments had not been made, although they had been discussed. It was also a much smaller board. On the whole, I found it desirable to let the board build up the case for the changes it wanted and then, subject obviously to the discretion of the Government and the House, to act broadly on its recommendations. I believe that the Home Secretary, while giving himself adequate time for reflection, might be wise to follow the same course.

The board has sense on its side in what it is proposing. These are not extreme proposals. One of them is to rid it of a rather nonsensical obligation which it has to investigate complaints which it would not regard as being worth investigating. The recommendations should be acted upon, subject only to a point to which I shall come a little tentatively later, that any legislation should perhaps be set in a broader context of anti-discrimination legislation generally.

In contrast with the Home Secretary, I want to devote the greater part of my speech to race relations rather than immigration, but I want to say something about immigration first. The right hon. Gentleman proudly announced his reduced figures for the first nine months. I do not dispute that reasonably low figures make the problem easier to handle. We welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Kenyan and Tanzanian position. It is a small but welcome and sensible change. I gather from what he said that it will be welcome to the Kenyan Government, who hope to stabilise the position. Today's statement was wiser than that which the right hon. Gentleman made in January. I happened then to be in Nairobi, and there was a grave danger that the statement made here for home consumption might have precipitated the circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman and all of us were anxious to avoid.

We must have limited and low figures, but in some cases the price to be paid for the limited reductions to which the right hon. Gentleman was pointing can be too high. I want to refer to three matters. First, there are still split families among Ugandan Asians. I understand that the figure is at least 250. The Uganda Asian Resettlement Board, as I understand it, is soon to be wound up, but there are problems remaining. How does the Home Secretary envisage dealing with this problem of split families, which is quite unacceptable? How quickly can it be dealt with? The second matter was brought out during Question Time today and has to do with the fact that British females have no right to bring in husbands to join them in the same way as do British husbands. I know that there is a tu quoque answer to this, and that we can exchange these opinions across the Floor of the House a good deal. We march on in the struggle for equal rights for the sexes and it is difficult to see on what basis of sex equality this absolute lack of any right at all can in present circumstances be justified.

Mr. Carr

May I get rid of the tu quoque idea? I approved of the action taken by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when he was Home Secretary. I did so regretfully, because although there was growing evidence that men were getting round our immigration controls and coming here to marry, women were not doing so. If women were as irresponsible as men in this way we would get back to sex equality.

Mr. Jenkins

I am not disputing that there is a problem, although it was concerned mainly with fiancés rather than husbands. The marriage contract is a little more permanent, at any rate, than the undertaking that a marriage might take place in certain circumstances at some stage in the future. I am not inviting the Home Secretary to open what could be a wide door to abuse, but there is a problem which must be considered seriously unless we are prepared indefinitely to proceed on a direct basis of sex discrimination. That would be difficult to do. Even within the rule which gives husbands greater rights than wives, some intolerable delays are taking place.

A case was raised by a constituent about which I wrote to the Home Secretary a short time ago. He has not had time to deal with it. I make no complaint of that, although it was a few weeks ago that I wrote. I know that the Home Office grinds a little slowly. An extremely well-established Pakistani, a British subject holding a British passport, with a good job at Birmingham University, clearly here for permanent settlement, with a permanent job, had a wife whom he wished to bring in. He came to see me and said that his wife had been to see the high commissioner in Islamabad in June. He gave me a letter, which appeared to say that she was to come back in September. I looked at the letter and said, "I quite see that a delay from June to September is not desirable and that you are getting a little impatient, but, after all, September has gone by and three months, while long, is perhaps tolerable." He said, "With respect you have misread the letter. It does not say that she is to come back in September 1973 ; it says that she is to come back in September 1974".

That delay of 15 months between the first and second interview, in a case of the reunion of husband and wife is unacceptable. There is a suspicion that this is being done not because of an intolerable administrative burden ; it is being welcomed in that it produces satisfactory statistics by reducing the numbers. To the extent that that is so, the Home Secretary should not congratulate himself upon statistics that are produced by these inhumane methods which cannot fail to interfere with family life and cannot be conducive to good relations. When the Under-Secretary of State goes on his tour in the New Year, he should, as he must, deal with questions of possible abuse and also try to ensure that there is more speed and courtesy in treatment by the immigration departments of the high commissions in dealing with genuine cases of this sort.

I agree with the Home Secretary's unequivocal acceptance that we have a coloured population of about 1½ million ; that successive Governments, and Ministers in successive Governments, are responsible in varying degree for their being here—not least the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) when he was Minister of Health ; that, except at the margin, they are here to stay ; that it is moonshine and misleading to pretend otherwise ; and that on every ground of morality and expediency they must not be treated as second-class citizens.

The Home Secretary, however, is some-times stronger on liberal sentiments than he is on positive action. I am not quite sure that he appreciates—and this emerges a little from the balance of his speech between immigration and race relations—the strenuous and unremitting nature of the struggle there must be if the avoidance of second-class status is to be a reality and not just a pious aspiration.

I should like, without, I hope, wearying the House, to offer some reflections on how the problem looks to me, coming back after six years, compared with how it looked when I left it in the autumn of 1967, and to try to see, in a relatively non-controversial way, where progress has been better than might have been expected and where, on the other hand, the problem has proved less tractable.

In attempting such a survey I have been much aided in the last week or so by the successive reports and evidence collected by the Select Committee. We all owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) and other members of the Select Committee which produced a great deal of valuable work. We in the House have more reason for gratitude to the Select Committee than has the Select Committee to the Government for the response it has received.

What, for instance, has happened to the response of the Department of the Environment to the housing report, which is nearly two and a half years old? The response on police-immigrant relations has been forthcoming, after a delay of just over a year. How much time is likely to elapse before a response is received from the Department of Education and Science to the latest report on education? I see that the Secretary of State is here. I shall willingly give way to her if she wishes to answer that question now.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

By Easter.

Mr. Jenkins

I am glad to hear that. It will set a standard which I hope the Secretary of State for the Environment and other Departments will note. I forget whether Easter is early or late this year, but it is a great deal nearer to us than the two and a half years for which we have awaited the response of the Department of the Environment. But paper response, important though it is, is still well short of implementation.

I return to the attempt at a survey of the development of the position over six years. The pattern is a jagged one. Some things are better than one might have expected, others less good. The employment opportunities, particularly for girls in London, have proved better than looked likely. In the PEP report, which was a basic document in those early days, it was not thought likely that by this relatively early date girls would be so well established in secretarial jobs, in department stores and in food shops as they are. There has been progress and acceptance here to an encouraging extent.

On the other hand, the position of young males is much less good, particularly among those of West Indian origin. The 1971 census showed that there was 16.2 per cent. unemployment amongst boys born in the West Indies compared with a national average among boys of 8 per cent. That was in a period of higher unemployment than now. But the discrepancy was worse than it looked, because those born in the West Indies were concentrated to an unnatural extent in areas of high employment, whereas the indigenous population was spread over the whole country including the areas of heavy unemployment. This group of boys who have just left school and should be in their first or early jobs but are not is clearly a sensitive group from the point of view of future attitudes and race relations. Indeed, there is a depressing indication of a hardening of exclusive, hostile attitudes amongst precisely this group and its immediate predecessors.

Mr. Christopher Woodhouse (Oxford)

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the statistics which he has been quoting give an indication of the level of employment amongst boys of West Indian origin born in this country?

Mr. Jenkins

I think that it is less, but not significantly less. The figures which I have relate to those born in the West Indies. There might be a slight improvement when the figures which I was relating—namely for those born outside the country and the figures for those born in Britain—are taken together. I have no doubt that the same pattern would be reflected, but possibly to a lesser degree, if the category which the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Wood-house) has mentioned were taken instead of the category used in the figures which I have given.

We have not exactly moved to a less equal performance in education, but we have become more conscious of inequality. That is partly because of the work of the Select Committee. There is not just a culture conflict for those born outside the country. It persists amongst those born in the country as part of an interlocking pattern of deprivation and poor opportunity. To some extent it is bound up with the white problem in the same areas. In that context there is also deprivation and poor opportunity. It is not specifically a colour problem. Where there is difficulty and a culture conflict, and where other adjustments have to be made, the problem is accentuated to that extent. It is not unique to the minority groups but on the whole it is worse for them.

There are some brighter spots. The Asians do very nearly as well as the average in London although, for some reason, a little less so outside London. The West Indians generally have more difficulty. Language can be crucial. That may sound paradoxical in view of what I have just said. The West Indians are not entirely free from language difficulties. Not nearly enough has been done in that direction. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Education and Science is listening to the debate. To take one example, there are a number of people among the Ugandan refugees who came here last year who were teachers in Uganda and who are not teaching in this country. They are, on the whole, doing jobs which are less useful and perhaps less worthy. Of course, I do not like to say that any job is less worthy than another, but the fact is that they are doing jobs which are less closely related to their talents than those which they were doing before they left Uganda.

Given the great shortage of teachers in many parts of Britain and given the language problem amongst minority groups, it seems to have been a great waste of opportunity not to have put those from Uganda with teaching experience on a short crash course. Very little effort would have been necessary to make them fully qualified to teach in this country and to enable them to make a substantial contribution to the problem.

The Pathway Unit has been operating in Southall in the London Borough of Ealing for three years. It is a limited project which has cost only £25,000. Nothing has grown from the project during the past three years. At the same time, as is undoubtedly the case, the cost of employing people in industry without adequate knowledge of English has greatly increased. There are other countries which have faced the same problem. For instance. Sweden has been spending far more money—I accept that the spending of money is not the object—and employing far more resources in dealing with the problem of people working in the country who do not know the country's natural language. That underlines the importance not only of an early response but an adequate response from the Department of Education and Science to the Select Committee's report.

Mr. Tom Ellis (Wrexham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Russell Report on adult education refers specifically to the problem which he has been discussing? Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will turn her attention to it?

Mr. Jenkins

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis) for raising that important and informative matter. I shall be glad to let the point ride off me and on to the right hon. Lady. I hope that she will pay attention to it.

I now turn to the important matter of police relations with minority groups. The background should be hopeful. It is often forgotten that amongst the coloured or minority groups the crime rates are below the average for the host community. The crime rates for the Asians are about half the rates of the host community. I think that we would all express the view, "Long may that continue". It should be the foundation for good police-minority group relations. To the extent that it is, it greatly increases the chances of such relations continuing. To the extent that it is not, it greatly reduces those chances.

The position of police-immigrant relations is patchy. In some ways it has improved. We have more coloured policemen. We now have about 70 coloured officers. That is a small number. It is less than one in a thousand. It is less than one-tenth of 1 per cent. That bears no relation to the fact that approximately 3 per cent. of the population is coloured. However, there has been progress since 1966 when, I think, the first coloured police officer and certainly the first in the Metropolitan Police, was appointed.

At a noisy meeting at the Central Hall, Westminster, on an occasion which I believe is annual and which may be familiar to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the police appear out of uniform and, to some extent, free from inhibition. On such an occasion, in October 1966, my words to them, couched, as always, in moderate terms, when describing the desirability of having some coloured policemen in their ranks were greeted with a noise which I did not take to be the sound of enthusiasm. Such an event would be impossible today. That is substantial progress. None the less, prejudice still exists amongst the police as amongst every category of group and body within the country.

It is not surprising or directly blameworthy that prejudice exists amongst the police as amongst other groups. However, it is more dangerous amongst the police because it endangers future relationships. Considerable efforts are being made. They are being made by the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and by a number of other high-ranking officers. For example, the Chief Constable of Birmingham has done a great deal. A great deal can be done by determined effort. It can be done by lower-ranking police officers.

A great change has occurred, for example, in Lewisham in the course of the past year. That has been achieved as a result of a determined effort to deal with a situation which was not very good and which has become a great deal better as a result of that effort. There could be dramatic results from facing the problem and making a vigorous effort. The Home Secretary has a particular responsibility. I hope he will quickly press on with a complaints procedure containing an independent element.

One other matter I want to raise takes on a somewhat more critical note than I have adopted hitherto in my remarks. I refer to the passport raids that took place in London on two days in October. I believe that those raids were most disturbing and created uncertainty and resentment. I believe that they are also contrary to assurances given by the Home Secretary that the 1971 Act would not be implemented in a way that would lead to harassment.

These raids were co-ordinated police operations. I understand that in the first raid about 15 police officers and one immigration officer were involved. They arrived early in the morning and cordoned off a block of buildings near Tottenham Court Road. They conducted a house-to-house search, asked for passports, and those who could not immediately produce them were taken off in vans to Leman Street Police Station—a police station in a different part of London—and they were detained there for several hours. A few illegal immigrants were caught—nobody objects to that—but they were a small proportion of those detained and a tiny proportion of those who were subjected to these mass raids. It was a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I do not believe that this fishnet technique—a technique involving pulling in a number of people and throwing most of them out again without any apology and causing grave inconvenience—is a process which will lead to good relations with a peculiarly law-abiding, but necessarily somewhat nervous, section of the community.

Mr. Bidwell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the retrospective effect of the 1971 Act, to which the Labour Party were resolutely opposed, inevitably imposed this new burden on the police?

Mr. Jenkins

I remember making this point when I wound up for the Opposition on the Second Reading of the 1971 Act. The incident I have illustrated proves that that point still has some force. I believe that, even with the Act on the statute book, it should still be possible to operate it in a way which would avoid a repetition of this incident. I very much hope and believe that that is the Home Secretary's intention.

I read his speech made in Nottingham in September with a great deal of interest and perhaps I may quote from it again. He said : The point I want to stress today is that we in this country have a strong tradition of personal liberty, and once a person is in the community we do not expect him to carry an identity card or be subjected to inquiries and control at every end and turn. It seems to me that that principle includes the fact that as a result of a mass raid people should not be carted off to a distant police station and kept there for a period of time because they have not been able immediately to put their hands on a passport.

There is one other very disturbing feature of this raid and a subsequent raid on 25th October. Who authorised this raid and at what level was it authorised? I know that it was not the Home Secretary, and I believe that he has said so. It was not the Commissioner of Police, nor apparently was it even the local Commander of Police, who was unaware that these raids had taken place until after they had happened. If this technique of mass raids of this sort, amounting almost to a dawn raid and involving the cordoning off of an area, is ever again used—about which I am very doubtful—I am certain that it should be authorised at least by the Commissioner, if not by the Home Secretary himself.

We should have an assurance tonight from the Under-Secretary of State that the level of decision making on a point of this sort will be raised substantially, and that there will be no repetition of this casual entry operation, merely on information being laid, without any senior person either in the police or in the Home Office being consulted and asked for authority in what can be a dangerous procedure. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State, after consultation with his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, will apply himself to this when he replies tonight.

There are other factors which must be considered at the present time when most people want to see the British birth rate stable or falling. It is encouraging that there are indications that the same thing is happening to a very large part of the immigrant population. There are substantial indications that the birth rate among West Indians has fallen to a greater extent and more quickly than might have been expected. The crude figures show that the number is down to two-thirds of the figure in 1970.

The broad conclusion seems to be mixed. Small towns have found ways of dealing with the problem. I am referring to small towns where the problem exists and is not merely academic—such towns as High Wycombe, Slough, Rochdale and Rugby. Small towns paint a rather more encouraging picture than do some of the large conurbations, but since three of four of the people concerned live in the large conurbations it is no good pretending that we have dealt with the problem just because we have coped on a small-town basis.

Opinion on this subject in this country has stood up moderately well, despite sporadic attempts from a number of people, some with powerful voices, to stir up suspicion without providing constructive solutions. While there may have been some cases of hardening opinion, I think that this has not gone very far and action can be taken to prevent its going too far.

I come to a number of specific points. I refer first to the winding up of the Uganda Resettlement Board. Some 20 per cent. of Ugandans in this country are still unemployed, although out of camps. What machinery have the Government to deal with the remnants of the problem?

My second point relates to the Pakistan Act. Many of the forms which need to be filled in by Pakistanis are complicated and inevitably lead to queries. Where queries have to be settled verbally, this has to be done by people going to an overcrowded office in Croydon from other parts of the country. I have raised this matter with the Home Secretary and I believe that he has applied himself to it. I hope that he can work out a solution which to some extent will provide for decentralisation of the procedure.

My third point relates to the position in regard to the Civil Service. A circular was issued from the Civil Service Department on 19th November, which on the whole is a good circular. It related to employment and to another very important consideration—promotion prospects. However, there was one gap in that circular. No machinery was set up to monitor and review the situation. Everybody who has been concerned with this subject in detail knows that monitoring is an essential follow-through procedure as outlined in the circular. I do not want to over-burden the Under-Secretary of State with too many specific points, but this point is one among other specific points on which I should like a reply. I hope that the monitoring procedure can be set up as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, therefore, I wish to make three broad points. First, even with the very small addition which the Home Secretary intends, I do not think that there is enough positive help and action. The Home Secretary is not complacent. I do not think that any of us could accuse him of that. But I doubt whether he is quite sufficiently activist. I doubt whether he has yet given indications of taking his urban co-ordinating rôle within his manifold other activities and making it sufficiently central to his attention. He will need to do this to make sure, for instance, that the Department of the Environment does not take another two years to reply. I hope that he will do something about that very quickly. I hope that there will be a general indication of a greater sense of central direction than we have had hitherto.

Going a little wider, I think that we are probably moving towards a position in which we need a new structure for dealing with the whole problem. I am not sure that it is wise to go on indefinitely with the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission as entirely separate entities. Their work is different, but it overlaps to a great extent. United States experience suggests that it is easy to have too many agencies dealing with these matters.

It is also the case that we are to have anti-sex discrimination proposals introduced. We have the Green Paper. The problem is sometimes the same as that which confronts us when we are dealing with minority groups. It is similar, it overlaps, but it is not identical. It appears from the Green Paper as though certain aspects will be dealt with here which are not satisfactorily dealt with in terms of race relations, and that certain aspects relating to sex discrimination will not be dealt with which will be dealt with in race matters. It might be considered whether we should not get a broader, more embracing and therefore more acceptable approach to the anti-discrimination problem if we moved towards a unified structure, not only for the different aspects of race work but for antidiscrimination work of all kinds.

I put that suggestion forward tentatively. What is important is to have effective machinery for both types of discrimination, and I do not claim to have reached a final judgment.

My third and last point is that there is no doubt that the problem which we are discussing is and remains a major challenge to our civilised values, to our traditions of tolerance and to the basic beliefs of us all—certainly all of us on this side of the House—in the equal rights of human beings. It is as fundamental to what we believe in or should believe in as any subject which can be debated in this House. It is also one of the factors which may be crucial to social peace in the future. It must not be neglected. It should not be seen through rose-tinted spectacles. But still less should it be viewed with either complacency or despair. Approached in that way, I believe that it is a problem which can be solved on a basis of which we can all be proud.

5.44 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Chapman (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I am surprised as well as diffident to be called immediately after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins). I dare to intervene briefly because I have the privilege of representing an area where, to say the least, there are very real problems concerned with immigration and race relations. I calculate that 25 per cent. of the population in my constituency is made up of coloured immigrants.

There is no doubt that the problems have been accentuated by emotion. There is nothing wrong with that. I claim to make a few observations today because I have been living in the middle of my constituency for 3½ years and because I welcome this as being the first real, wide-ranging debate on immigration that we have had since I was first elected to this House.

Naturally, I am anxious that the problems that we face should not be exaggerated. Nevertheless, they should be appreciated and fully understood, especially by those people who do not live in the areas which some of us represent.

At the outset I must say that, coming new to the problem, I cannot understand why it was not faced by the nation 20 or certainly 15 years ago and that it was only in a real sense dealt with halfheartedly 12 years ago. Especially irritating are the people who should have taken the more sensible decisions about controlling immigration those many years ago now blaming the people who have to deal with the problems very much on the ground as though it were our fault. I believe that that point should be made because it is of psychological importance to the people who live in such areas.

The problems of immigrants who are grouped together, so causing the very real social problems which exist today, are caused not because of the individuals they are but because of the simple and understandable fact that they want to live together collectively and because collectively the problems are increased, especially in relation to the social services in those areas. It is these problems which set up a chain reaction about which we all know.

I am not an expert in predicting population trends, but I ask hon. Members to understand why it is that I do not feel that anyone can be certain about the future. It is interesting to note that the person who probably should have been the expert, the then Registrar General, made a prediction in 1949 that the population of Britain in the year 2000 AD would be less than it already is today. We hopelessly under-estimated the population explosion which occurred in the 1950s and the early 1960s. I note that the number of live births in the United Kingdom reached a peak in 1964 and was approximately 1 million. It has dropped every year since then. In 1972 the number was about 831,000. I believe that the great danger today is that we may be hopelessly over-estimating the population increase.

Obviously, I cannot speak about future population trends in immigrant areas with any authority. But one factor about which I am sure is that, the more people think that the number of coloured immigrants in those areas will rise as a proportion of the population of these areas, the more likely it is to be true simply because other people will move to other areas. I have an interest, I hope from the highest motives, to see that that does not happen. I want to ensure that these demographic changes do not take place because I believe that to have balanced communities in our society is the best way of dealing with the problems that we have to tackle.

The right hon. Member for Stechford said that the overall problem nationally was one of 3 per cent. Obviously that varies in different parts of the country. However, the fact remains that, the more the proportion of coloured immigrants in an area goes up, the more difficult it will be to achieve any solution of the problems.

One of our problems in Birmingham arises as a result of rehousing our citizens generally to areas outside the city. Obviously few coloured immigrants qualify for rehousing. We hope that in future years the proportion who do will grow, and that may help the problem somewhat.

The issues as they relate to Hands-worth can be stated simply. We have had quite enough talk about the problem. We are getting a little sick of the pseudo-psychologists telling us what is wrong about us. We want action and understanding. Action has been forthcoming from the Government since 1968. It would be churlish of me not to recognise the extra funds that have been made available in parts of my constituency by way of urban aid, housing and education.

I wish to mention one particular problem. I welcome particularly the extra resources that my right hon. Friend announced today, but it is important that all the resources should be better co-ordinated. They should be seen to be going to the immigrant areas. As a small practical suggestion, I submit that in dealing with the urban aid programme the Home Office may find on occasion that it is well to go over the heads of the local authorities and give specific amounts for projects, in response to direct applications, to organisations working on the ground rather than have them channelled through the local authorities.

We obviously need more understanding about the problem. We must accept the problem locally, although it is a national matter, but much more should be done by the Government to bring home to people all over the country the real size of the problem.

The Government have an economic responsibility. They must severely tighten up on immigration, for the obvious reason of numbers, and they must ruthlessly root out illegal immigration.

The right hon. Member for Stechford referred to the problem of coloured school leavers finding employment. I take the point that he made about the disparity between coloured school leavers and the national average. In Birmingham at the last census I think the figure was four to one. I suggest that not only the Government, but the CBI and the trade unions have some responsibility for this situation. It may be a question of education. I do not know. However, I suggest that everyone has a part to play in helping to solve that problem.

There is also a responsibility on immigrants in their communities. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will not think that I am trying to make a party point. I am not talking about the merits or demerits of the Immigra tion Act 1971. I know that some of the immigrant communities were led by their leaders into believing the most dreadful exaggerations about that legislation before it became an Act of Parliament. Therefore, there is a responsibility on immigrant leaders to see that the right information gets across to their members.

There is a responsibility on all who live in immigrant localities. I should like to touch on two points in Handsworth. I very much recommend the system that has been set up by the police in my part of the City of Birmingham. An advice bureau has been set up to advise the immigrant communities on their rights. That office has been set up in the middle of an immigrant area. The police have made very real efforts in this respect and deserve to be commended for what they have done in Handsworth. I believe that the situation has improved considerably over what it was five years ago. I pay tribute to the chief constable, the deputy chief constable and particularly the chief superintendent of "C" division, which covers this area, for the welcome measures they have taken.

I should like now to refer to the work that is being done by organisations on the ground. If any hon. Member feels pessimistic about the ability of this nation to solve this problem, I suggest that he should look at some of the work that is being undertaken by different organisations. I do not wish to underestimate this very real problem, but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it presents a tremendous challenge. It is no exaggeration that the most difficult situation in the world today is that of different races living together in peace and harmony. If we can solve that problem in some of our immigrant communities in this country, it will be a shining example to the world.

I do not think that it is an exaggeration to express the wish that if we can identify the problem, deal with it with a little less emotion on occasions, and recognise, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, that we cannot wish or will it away, but accept that it is with us, we shall then begin to tackle the real problem of race relations and immigration in this country.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

It would be obvious to any observer that this debate has revealed the closeness of the Government and the Opposition in their determination to work for and achieve harmonious race relations. The Home Secretary, at the end of his speech, deliberately underlined that point, and, as we would have expected, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) trebly underlined it. We might have expected that that would be his position in view of his fine record in dealing with the problem in earlier years. Therefore, he brings great experience to the debate.

In preparation for the debate I looked up the phrase for which my right hon. Friend became famous. It is interesting for the House to seek to determine whether what he said in 1966 is working out in the areas of heavy coloured immigration and its effect on the indigenous population. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) and I understand only too well, because of the nature of our constituencies, the travail in this problem. Both he and I have already had experience from our joint membership of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. I think that he and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey) would agree that an indivisible feature of the continuous study of immigration and race relations is that we are learning all the time. We are in a continuous process of learning and of change.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stechford in 1966 defined integration not as a flattening process of assimilation—which means to make the same—but as equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance. I believe that that, in a slow way, in a kind of upward moving escalator, is taking place in our society now.

When the members of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration have travelled about, whether we have been in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Liverpool, London or Bradford, we have been struck by the similarity in purpose and spirit of the witnesses before us. Whether they are teachers, educationalists, industrialists or trade unionists, when they have to rationalise the situation before such a committee, the feed-back is not noted for its diversity as much as for its similarity.

Of course there is diversity between employers and unions, between Church representatives and social workers and those who show the tinges of prejudice, but one generally finds an enormous spirit of good will. During our education inquiry, we were conscious of the wonderful spirit of the teaching profession who have to confront the enormous difficulties of teaching and handling children in a developing multi-racial society. That is the kind of society which is developing and which, whether some people like it or not, will remain with us.

The exercise can be limited to the question of numbers. There is public anxiety about the rate of entry from the new Commonwealth. But it would have been better if the Home Secretary had admitted earlier that there has been a deliberate curtailment of immigration from the new Commonwealth, as distinct from other immigration. When he set out his four principal points, with the repetitious phrase, "inescapable minimum", he was alluding expressly to new Commonwealth citizens. He could not possibly be talking about immigration from the EEC or from the white Commonwealth, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.

Under the rules, we have deliberately freed millions of people from any real or effective control and given them liberties enshrined in the treaties with the EEC, including the absolute right of abode removed to two generations. It is in this regard that I have seen the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in a new light, remembering the amendment which he moved to the 1971 Bill, which the Labour Party and the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) supported and which was overcome by the Government by means of the rules.

Whatever view one may have of the entry certificate system, which existed before the present Government took office, I believe that the Government have been allowing the rules to overcome the statutory edict of the 1971 Act. If one asks, as with the chicken and the egg, which comes first, the rule or the statute, the answer must be the statute, because that is the will of Parliament as expressed through a painstaking Committee stage and then again on the Floor of the House. In this case, there was no fight on the Floor of the House.

Enshrined in the 1971 Act to a large extent are the principles of family unity. That is the point at which the Opposition and the Government join hands. That is true of the Select Committee and of the bulk of hon. Members. We are anxious that a breadwinner in this country should have the right to be joined by his wife and family. That is why we drew up the rules and even raised the age limit for dependants from 16 to 18 to bring Commonwealth citizens into line with aliens and EEC nationals. The Home Office can also consider wider matters, such as older children and other people in the family circle who are not easily categorised ; they can be let in if a connection is firmly established.

In a particularly worrying case with which I have dealt recently, the Home Office has shown a lack of humanity and seems to have ignored the indelible principle in the 1971 Act of the right of a wife, in this case—not a fiancée, or a male seeking to join the female—to join her husband. It is an abominable case and sharply reminds one of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Stechford said about the terrible delay, especially at Islamabad.

I was going to ask Mr. Speaker for permission to raise this matter on the Adjournment, but I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to put the facts before the House. The House and the British people will, I think, be astounded at what the Minister ruled in this case, which highlights the agony of husband and wife separated in the way that my right hon. Friend has described.

A 19-year-old Pakistani bride, Nasreen Kausar, recently arrived at Heathrow Airport with an entry certificate, had been told to come in April 1974. But when she arrived at the airport, her marriage was already 12 months old. A short time earlier, a brother of the bride's husband was married, but, because he had stayed in Pakistan for some months and had been insistent at the Islamabad control office, his bride was allowed to accompany him to this country, as was her right once the bona fides of the marriage had been established.

But when Nasreen Kausar arrived without her entry certificate, she was told that she could not be admitted although it was established beyond doubt that she was the wife of my constituent. She was held in detention for two weeks at the Harmondsworth detention area, and then the matter was brought to my attention. I pleaded with the Under-Secretary to allow her to come in, but he said—and I understood his thinking, though I did not accept it—that if he gave way he would be opening the way to a mass arrival of wives from Islamabad in similar circumstances.

I ask him, in all conscience, to weigh what this young women has been through. She was prescribed some pills by the airport doctor, and she took an overdose because she was distraught. She was then taken to Hillingdon hospital and then—partly because of my intervention, and partly because of Home Office compassion—she was allowed to join her husband for nine days. So she took her luggage, which included her bridal gown, to the home of her new in-laws, but was rearrested nine days later and taken back to the airport.

Lord Avebury then intervened and suggested that the lady might be mentally disturbed, because she had taken on overdose of pills. I do not know the nature of the psychiatrist's report, but I can only assume that it was a negative one and that it was not considered that she came within ambit of the Act which would have protected her as a mental patient, because she was sent back. I plead with the Minister to give me an assurance that the full weight of his office will be brought to bear upon the Islamabad control office, because this young woman, who has been through such torture, has an absolute right under the statute to join her husband in this country as soon as he can arrange it.

I could spend hours talking about my constituents but I will confine myself to two cases which are very much in my mind and which keep me awake at night, even though they do not keep the Under-Secretary awake at night. Another of my constituents, Mr. Qadir, has his home ready, and his marriage is 21 months old. He has been interviewed at the Croydon office and, as far as I know, there are no impediments and he should have a clearance. I do not know when the Under-Secretary will be going to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, but if it is very soon perhaps he can do something then. But I do not think he will run to earth any traffic in illegal immigrants, because I do not think they would parade themselves around the Islamabad office, the Bombay office or the Bengal office. I have not been to Bangladesh, but I have been to those other offices and I think that illegal immigrants will use other routes.

I am aware that there are other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who want to join in the debate, so instead of talking about other constituents I shall merely say a few words about the reports of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. As the right hon. Member for Stechford pointed out, we are awaiting the rejoinder of the Department of Education and Science to our recent study. The London Borough of Ealing is worried about a curtailment of the money which they get for the bussing system, which they intend to phase out when they are able to do so, and I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to pay attention to the evidence given to the Select Committee by the London Borough of Ealing. The borough is very conscious of the need to increase primary school places at the west end of Ealing, which is in my division. But, as it cannot do that immediately, I ask the Under-Secretary to look carefully at the representations that will be made.

The question of police-immigrant relations has been worrying the London Borough of Ealing, and the Home Office must understand that there is some substance in the complaints. But it is also necessary for the immigrants to understand that the police are certainly not at war with the immigrant community. That could not possibly be so, if the report of the Select Committee is correct in stating that most Asian people are more law abiding than the rest of us, because the old Southall area is essentially an Asian community area. I have been very sensitive about this matter and have continually warned against exaggeration.

I suggested earlier that the 1971 Act imposed upon the police certain new duties which should never have been imposed upon them, because a policeman's duty is to look for suspicious characters, and if he did not do that he could not do his job. Officers vary considerably in the way they carry out their duties, but we know that the police themselves have been working on this problem. I have visited the police training establishment—the "knife and fork college", as they call it ; the top hat college.

But there was the Kane case, where a boy was thought to have stolen £50 from a garage and it turned out that the money had never been missing, so he could not have stolen it. Details of that case, which involved allegations of brutality, were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I wrote to the Minister of State and he eventually replied that the Metropolitan Police, under no less a person than Sir Robert Mark himself, had carried out an investigation. But the Minister's reply to me begs a great many questions, such as where the interrogation took place. The Minister's letter stated that the interrogation could be seen from the road, but that is nonsense to anybody who knows the locality.

I do not want to bandy words about this case, except to say that it underscores the need for a different system of police inquiries—a need which the right hon. Gentleman said he accepted 12 months ago. We wait for an announcement about this new system. We do not want the police to be seen as judge and jury in their own court. A reform is long overdue, and that view is supported by the Police Federation. It would go a long way towards allaying people's fears that, because of the profound esprit de corps in the police force, painstaking investigations into allegations of malpractice do not take place.

I conclude by emphasising the principles on which I began my speech. I believe that as regards the immigrants' struggle to have a system of family unity in this country much more can be said about what militates against it, and so on, which involves much technical detail which is flowing continuously into the Home Office. But there is a twin entity of desire on the part of immigrants to make bridges and to build friendships. They have inevitably done that, though not to the marked degree that many of us hoped. One-third of the immigrant population, if we think of immigrants as coloured people, brown and black, have been born in this country. They are, therefore, brown and black Britishers. They pass through the British education system. When I take parties of coloured and white youngsters through the House I find that there is no feeling of distinction between them.

In the development of our multiracial society the music of the future is to be heard in the universities, colleges and schools, where there is no militant racialism but only the presence of mutant anti-racialism. "Enoch in the dock" is the cry in the universities. The Young Conservatives of London have disowned the right hon. Gentleman's main theme that it is valid to send people out of this country in great numbers. The British people would not stand for that. That is not in our spirit or nature. It is not what we desire. The future is not with the middle class and certainly not with the Government. It is with the working class, which I understand as well as any because of my background. Before becoming a Member of the House I was a trade union education officer, a former railway worker. We had the very early experience—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is going very wide indeed. He has been speaking for 26 minutes.

Mr. Bidwell

We had the earliest experience of mixing up the fine principles which people have applied in approaching these problems. This is the kind of society which British working-class people know.

6.23 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

Without endorsing every word that the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) has said, I am glad to be speaking immediately after him because we are both founder members of the same club, the members of which, I think, now predominate in the Chamber.

I should like to acknowledge very warmly my debt to the members of the Select Committee, in particular the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), its distinguished Chairman under the previous Government. In a very sensitive area, the members of the Select Committee have made it possible for the Committee to issue unanimous reports on four subjects—it would have been five but for the last General Election—some of which at least have touched some of the realities which face us.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) whose return to this milieu we welcome—he seems hardly to have been away—referred to the response from the Department of the Environment, the Home Office and the Department of Education and Science. I would only say that we await these responses with interest. We are awaiting with rather additional impatience the response from the Department of the Environment. We welcome what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science said in reply to a Question about the speed with which her Department will be responding. I have no complaints on that score.

We visited some 30 centres which are grappling with this relatively new social challenge and we talked to about 1,000 witnesses. This place comes in for a good deal of knocking about. However, the fact that the Select Committee should have been able to present about 152 unanimous recommendations, some of which at least have borne fruit, seems to be a modest advertisement for the way in which we can, if so minded, tackle contentious subjects in a reasonably constructive way. I thank the hon. Members who are present for their contribution. Nor do I think that anyone who has read objectively the report on education would accuse us of conspiring to conceal difficulties or of selling truth short in order to get a consensus.

Having said that, I must now speak entirely for myself, not committing the Committee in any way. I admit at once to a profound uneasiness about the way things are going in this sphere. I feel simply that we are not matching the task that we have set ourselves by the resources needed to get us out of trouble. Notwithstanding all that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said this afternoon about urban aid and so on, to some of which I shall come shortly, after five years in this work, and particularly after the last report on the schools, that is my predominant impression.

I take issue with those who think that it is in the best interests of race relations to belittle the difficulties. Our last report stated : If … one conclusion stands out above all others, it is that we have failed to grasp and are still failing to grasp the scale of what we have taken on. Far too many who are closely involved show reluctance to assess it realistically. There are many factors, which I shall not rehearse now, which induce those with responsibility in this sphere to play down the size of the task. They do it often in reality, not because they are complacent but because they themselves are uneasy.

I see no way out of this difficulty unless we can persuade ourselves—I hope that the Select Committee has offered a lead on this—to bring much more candour to bear on the subject and to face and state uncomfortable facts and not run away from them. On a more controversial matter, we ought not always to turn our face away from people who say things that we dislike.

I want now to make some comments about my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) who was dealt with rather severely, as always, by the hon. Member for Southall.

Mr. Ridwell

Not severely enough.

Mr. Deedes

For my part, I should like less abuse of what my right hon. Friend says and more disposition to sift and weigh what he says and then, if necessary, to argue with it. The voice of my right hon. Friend is not diminished by disapproving silences or abuse ; it is simply magnified. It is not good enough to declare always that he is wrong, out of step or offensive on this subject and that we, by contrast, are always reasonable and right—because we are not. In the past we have proved ourselves to be ingorant, complacent and self-deceiving on this subject. I am talking not about some people in the country but about Members of this House. If my right hon. Friend has erred from time to time, which he has, by exaggeration or by hyperbole, others have equally erred and played into his hands by seeking to gloss over awkward facts and figures. When the Select Committee's proceedings finished, my right hon. Friend was entitled to say to the country at large "I told you so." It played into his hands. He cannot be blamed for the staff of Government Departments who have been presenting wrong figures.

It is as well to face the fact that there are still many in the areas of concentration, and of all parties, who have not reconciled themselves to the policies and their consequences of the last 25 years. Those who shared experiences with me in the sub-continent may agree that if 25 million British people had settled in the last 25 years in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, there might be some in the sub-continent who felt the same way. That is a side of the coin which we do not look at often enough. If these irreconcilables are totally wrong, why have we progressively changed our policy and become more restrictive? The present Government and the previous Government have done this. There is no notional figure for immigration or level at which it is possible scientifically to declare that enough is enough.

We must recognise that we have had no strategy and no long-term policy. As successive Acts of Parliament have shown, we have played it from hand to mouth. The policy has been entirely pragmatic. We have played it by ear, moving from one expedient to the next. As in other spheres, events have then occurred outside our control which have pushed us off course.

I welcome what my right hon. Friend said about illegal immigration, although I have other views on this. I also welcome what he said about overseas students. I want, however, to dwell on the Kenya situation. It is important that we embark upon dealing with it in the full knowledge of all the figures involved. I shall put one or two questions to which I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will be able to reply.

Of the 3,500 vouchers now under discussion, 1,500 were used for Uganda but have not been used in the last year. Of these, about 750 have been going to Kenya and the proposal now is—I say this subject to checking—to double the number. I make it 1,500 additional vouchers for Kenya, a round total of between 5,000 and 6,000 people in all, because vouchers are given only to the heads of families. My information, however, is that roughly 15,000 are in the queue—that is to say, under pressure to leave Kenya. Only 1,500 had their licences taken away, but about 15,000 are in the queue. In all, there might be about 30,000 United Kingdom passport holders. I stress that these figures are subject to checking.

My question is this. As I suspect that the numbers may be a little larger than we are at present talking of, what approach has been made to India? The Indian Government are willing to receive a number of these people, given an endorsement from the British High Commission that we accept ultimate responsibility. I think I am right in saying that only about 8 per cent. of those with that endorsement who went to India changed their minds and wished to come to the United Kingdom. That is a small percentage.

The Indian Government have been highly co-operative to my mind, as I am sure the Minister would agree. Are we enabling the Indian Government to make the contribution they would make, given the half-way move by us, the certificate of responsibility? These figures, I repeat, may prove to be larger than we are thinking about. There is an area I should like to see explored.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

Is it not the case, and does not experience bear out, that the Indian Government do not refuse these people, even without the certificate of ultimate responsibility?

Mr. Deedes

I cannot answer that with certainty, and I want to stay within my own knowledge. The Indian Government have shown a mood of considerable co-operation. I hope to say more about this later.

I revert to my earlier theme. If we continue in our haphazard way administatively to deal with the consequences of a haphazard immigration policy, we shall run into serious trouble. That is the biggest conclusion I have reached after five years' work on the Select Committee. In no sphere is this more true than in schools.

Let us consider, for example, the way in which we have been assessing our task. The Department of Education and Science feels that it has been unfairly pilloried over its selection formula, which has now been dropped without, apparently, any alternative. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science wished to be present and has apologised for her absence. It is vain for the Department to declare that counting coloured heads in schools is of no assistance and that in any case teachers and local education authorities are unwilling to do it. The Select Committee never asked for such a count. What we have sought is a way of assessing the special needs of children entering this country, or children who are born here, for whom English presents special difficulties. How in the world can resources be applied unless facts are known? That is our case.

Nor is it valid to declare that indigenous children may suffer the same difficulty and must enter the same calculations. Rightly or wrongly, we have made discrimination against coloured people an offence, endorsed by an Act of Parliament. If we push through our schools coloured children who are deficient in English and thus handicapped when they seek jobs in an advanced society, we are sowing for a terrible harvest of discrimination and bitterness and storing up trouble for the future. Some schools in some areas are tackling this problem, but others are not.

Leicester, a city well to the fore, still reckons that between 15 and 20 per cent. of immigrant children in Leicester might leave school at 16 with insufficient capacity in English to compete with contemporaries in the labour market. That is in a relatively advanced city.

The overall picture is of resources far behind needs. It is against this huge deficit that we must realistically examine now the entry of children from countries of origin. Here I take issue with Whitehall. There are still considerable numbers to come here, particularly from Pakistan. I listened carefully to what my right hon. Friend said. I am not entering into argument now about his estimate of the number of dependants still to come to this country. Some people seem to have difficulty in grasping that as long as we have, quite rightly, free movement between this country and countries of origin—and 50,000 entered this country last year from the subcontinent alone, after visits abroad—we will never reach a finite point with dependants, although the figures may decline.

To attempt to show a decline in current figures may not be meaningless, but it can mislead. As the right hon. Member for Stechford complained, queues of applicants at Dacca, Islamabad and Delhi are growing ever longer.

Mr. Wilkinson

My right hon. Friend mentioned Pakistan. Appendix 2 of the report of the Select Committee, derived from immigration section figures in Islamabad, shows that the number of entrants on employment vouchers declined from 13,526 in 1963 to 75 in 1972. The number of dependants has dropped more than threefold in the past six years, from 17,500 in 1967 to about 5,500 in 1972. Although there are long queues of would-be entrants to the United Kingdom at our embassy there has been a marked decline in admissions.

Mr. Deedes

The appendices must also be examined for the estimates from the posts of how many are still likely to come. There are more than my right hon. Friend is willing to accept, and the waiting time grows ever longer. The right hon. Member for Stechford is wrong to say that officers are acting in a highhanded manner to those who apply. I have rarely seen British officers anywhere applying themselves more conscientiously to a harder duty than these entry certificate officers. They are dealing as patiently as they can with a difficult lot of applicants.

It is wrong to blame the officers. They are confronted by a large number of applicants who, having been bamboozled by agents, have secured—I will not say how—false particulars. The work is enormously increased by an unconditional appeal system. Figures for Islamabad alone show that in 1972 about 1,300 applications were refused. Half of those applicants appealed, and 82 per cent. of the appeals were rejected. That system should be urgently reviewed, in fairness to the genuine applicants.

The crux, however, is the continued admission of 15,000 or more children up to the age of 18 a year unconditionally. Those children are the bulk of the dependants. We said in our report : With hindsight the drawbacks can be seen of the policy which has prevailed since 1962 of permitting dependent children up to the age of 16 (since January 1973, 18) unconditionally. In the eyes of many immigrants the short-term prospects of their young on the labour market have understandably taken precedence over their long-term educational interests. Because wider considerations are involved we did not pursue our conclusion, but I must add a personal view. To add this total annually to the heavy deficit of children deficient in English already in our schools should be thought about very carefully. Hon. Members may well exclaim that to curb it would be to divide families. I doubt whether the House realises the extent to which our policy has divided families already and continues to divide them. Many families are divided now, and will by choice so remain. Sons are here and daughters there, mothers here or there. There are many complete families in this country—it depends very much on the different parts of the sub-continent from which they come—but many families are split and will remain split.

We should realise also that the Governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh take a far more realistic view of this than we do. They do not seek outlets for their people here. It is one of the great illusions that they do. They would not resent or resist curbs sensibly applied. Their sole concern, as Ministers know, is discrimination, the humiliation of their citizens already here. That is precisely where our policy is apt to take us with these young if we take on more than we can properly help with their English and future chances of employment.

We must be businesslike about the matter. It is incumbent upon the House as well as Ministers to exercise judgment, to look ahead a little. Outside the House, the claims and counter-claims are difficult to assess. But I should like modestly to suggest that an all-party Select Committee is available to offer the facts and throw a little light on the subject.

If Governments duck unpalatable findings, if they flinch from the necessary steps to bring achievement of the task within our reach, in the short term they may avoid trouble and criticism but they will be sowing for a bitter harvest. They will unwittingly be leading to a Situation—what irony it would be!—in which some of the grimmer prognostications of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West might even come to pass.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East)

I thank the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) for his kind references to my work as the first Chairman of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. He will recall that, when the Committee was set up and I found that he was the leading member of the then Opposition, I suggested to him that we should have two aims. The first was to try to get race relations out of party conflict. The second was to get the members to project their minds 20 years forward, to see that the public would then be able to say that, as a result of the thoughtfulness and application of the Committee, race relations were better than they might otherwise have been.

As part of that exercise we not only appealed to the members of the Committee to co-operate but we put them in alphabetical order in the Committee room to avoid a party line-up. In that first Committee we had members ranging from the extreme Right to the extreme Left, but because the Committee had to study the facts and be objective in its reporting it is no surprise that each report presented to Parliament was unanimous.

Our first report, presented in 1969, dealt with the coloured school leavers. We naturally had meetings in the House, but we also felt that to study the problem properly we should go outside as well. We went into the towns, and there was resentment from the local authorities about that. The Leader of the House was told that going into the towns was not the business of Members of Parliament.

Having been a local councillor, and at one time Vice-President of the Association of Municipal Corporations, I told local government representatives that the last thing I would ever want to do was to damage local authorities. I said "What we are trying to do as Members of Parliament is to see the problems caused for you as a result of legislation passed by the House". In due course the local authorities were anxious that we should go to their towns to see the situation for ourselves.

We met not only local authority representatives but representatives of the police, trade unions, employers, teachers, the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission. We saw as many people as we could to obtain first-hand information. We naturally also sought the advice of Government Departments and heard evidence from them.

The first report produced 46 recommendations, all of which were accepted. Most of them have now been put into effect.

We went on to consider Commonwealth immigration. Unfortunately, before we could produce a report the General Election intervened, but the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and I produced a report for the Runnymede Trust. We could not state the views of the Select Committee in that report, but I think everyone accepts that the Select Committee agreed that the entry certificate system for controlling the admission of dependants had to be seen to be fair and efficient.

Incidentally, the distances travelled, the delays that result from pressures of demand and the need to document fully to meet appeal requirements, and the detailed examinations which are carried out at their interviews, must cause hardship for many applicants. However, I share the view of the right hon. Member for Ashford, though perhaps not so wholeheartedly, about our officers. On the whole I accept it, but the circumstances cause the difficulties to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) referred.

It is inevitable that genuine applicants whose bone fides cannot be proved without careful examination pay the price of having to undergo the strict checks made necessary by the fact that some people seek to evade the controls. As happens elsewhere, the innocent suffer because of the guilty.

It appears to me, on the basis of cases sent to me and to other members of the Committee and of what I have heard this afternoon, that there is interminable delay for those applying to come to this country from Commonwealth countries. I think that an explosive situation is building up, and the Government must treat the matter urgently.

When the Under-Secretary goes to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh he must satisfy himself that in the High Commission posts there are enough staff of the right quality and with the right attitudes, who have been given the right training and experience, to carry out the difficult and delicate task that has been entrusted to them.

The Committee also studied housing. The housing problem is not merely an immigrant problem. It is the responsibility of the Government, Parliament, local authorities and society to provide good housing for everyone. In our report we highlighted some of the problems facing the immigrant community.

I, too, am disappointed that the Department of the Environment has not yet seen fit after a long delay to offer some answers to the 36 recommendations we made, but I shall not dwell on that point because it has been adequately emphasised.

We then went on to police and immigration relations, and there is no doubt that there is need for improvement in this matter. But the police as an organised section of our society are probably better informed and better able to handle race relations than other organised sections. Some of the older men that we met had their patience tested and perhaps they can be criticised, but often not without some sympathy for their position. Equally, some of the young men are arrogant. I am confident that some of my colleagues and others too must have had the experience that I did in one of the provincial cities where an inspector was described as a racialist. I was so disappointed with his behaviour that I mentioned the matter to his chief constable, and I hope that it was put right.

On another occasion when the committee went to Bramshill police college I suggested to a class of about 30 inspectors that it might be a good thing if occasionally they said a few words of welcome to a member of the Asian community in Urdu. One of the inspectors asked "Why should we learn their language? They have come to our country." I looked around the class and was glad to see that not one of the other inspectors nodded assent. They all disagreed with him. I should like in particular to pay a tribute to the chief constable of my constituency. It is not often remembered that at the time of the Notting Hill riots there were also riots in Middlesbrough.

When I became the Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough, East in 1962 I was aware of these troubles. The police chief said to me that he had a way of handling them which was not orthodox, and he hoped that he could count on my co-operation as the local MP. I believe that, as a result of his handling of the situation then and since, race relations on Teesside are as good as anywhere in the country. I can assure my colleagues on the Select Committee that I have never pressed for the Committee to go to Middlesbrough but we have a substantial number of immigrants in the area.

There is a need for immigrant organisations to make their contribution to a better understanding, and on the whole they do it. However, there are some self-appointed local representatives who behave in a way which does not encourage good race relations. The Home Office paid us a compliment which I believe we deserve—I am glad that we met with its approbation—when it said that the Select Committee had made a notable and constructive contribution to the discussion of the emotive subject of race relations.

Our most recent report has been on education. The right hon. Member for Ashford has explained why the Secretary of State for Education cannot be here. I am sorry that she is absent but I am confident she got my message that I intended to be critical of the Department. Education presents a muddled picture with contradictory statements issued by the Department. We described the Department's formula for the keeping of statistics as useless. The Department should have been prepared for that because in 1969, when the coloured school leavers report was submitted, we drew attention to this fact. It said that the Department should look at the matter more carefully and produce a formula which would be useful.

We made positive proposals about the handling of the immigrant problem in the schools and we asked the Government to give serious consideration to numbers and to the period during which immigrant children attend school. We first drew attention to the problem in 1969 but it was not until this last report that we had action. What action did we get? A reply to an inspired Question accepted one part of our recommendation but not the substance of it. I see the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey), who is also a member of the Committee, suggesting that the Question was not inspired. If it was not inspired, I withdraw what I said, but it seems strange that the Department answered a Question dealing with this important matter, accepting the minor part of a recommendation and ignoring the substance of it. Whether it was an inspired Question or not, it would at least have been polite to inform the Chairman of the Select Committee about it and about the proposed reply. At the Committee meeting I remonstrated with the Chairman and he told me that he knew nothing about it. I think I am therefore entitled, on behalf of myself and other members of the Committee, to express disapproval at the way in which the Department treated the Committee.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Timothy Raison)

I have been authorised by my right hon. Friend to say that she regrets what happened and that she has conveyed her regrets to the Chairman of the Select Committee.

Mr. Bottomley

I thank the Under-Secretary very much. It is very kind of him to give that apology.

In the report we said there were inadequate programmes for coloured schoolchildren at local levels and inadequate information and direction from Government sources. We said there was too little planning and evaluation to improve the schools for the future. The Under-Secretary was kind enough to convey the right hon. Lady's apologies to us. I hope that the Department will give serious consideration to these matters and in due course perhaps make the kind of report that the Committee is expecting. I gather that this may be done before Easter.

I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Stechford on the Opposition Front Bench again. Perhaps it would be appropriate for me to end with the words he uttered when he was Home Secretary. He described the coming together of the races not as a flattening process, not as a process of assimilation, but as an equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance. Our greatest opportunity is to participate in the democratic process in our community. Good citizens do not intrude upon the personal territory of others to dictate or decide in what way those persons shall pursue happiness. A considerate person will do his part in helping to build a community in which everyone has an equal chance to live his life to the full and command respect and consideration from his fellows. In return for these opportunities and that respect and consideration, it behoves everyone, whatever his rights, to make the best contribution of which he is capable and thereby to earn the respect of others.

I should like to join the right hon. Member for Ashford in saying that no two men could have been served by a better group than those who have been on the successive Select Committees. An indication of that is that when Parliament tries to tackle one of the social problems of the day, it can do it and it can do it well.

6.59 p.m.

Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West)

I shall not pursue the points raised by the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), but I support his comments about the police. It has always been remarkable to me that the police keep a balance in a most complicated situation, and the right hon. Gentleman's comments on the police in his constituency certainly apply to the police in mine.

I should like to support what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). I want to deal with what I shall call the numbers game and I have particular constituency reasons for doing so this week. On Tuesday evening there appeared in the Bolton Evening News a feature article headed Shock increase in immigrant figures". It was based on various research done by the secretary of the Bolton Council for Community Relations. The figures were no shock to me because the true figures were similar to those that appeared in the paper. But it is time that we returned, in the subject of immigration, race relations and so on, to a proper use of the English language.

The so-called "shock" figures in the article indicated that one-eighth of Bolton's population were foreign-born or of immigrant birth. Because of the euphemistic way that we try to discuss the race relations subject, we now get the picture that one-eighth of Bolton's population is coloured and that that proportion will be increased through the birth of coloured children. The article confuses me when it says that one in 12 is coloured. It purports to give the actual figures, saying that Bolton has 19,058 residents born abroad or to immigrant families. Sizeable minorities come from Ireland, Poland, the Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia, and they are all white.

I ask myself, what about the third generation of coloured people who have been living in Bolton for a long time? Their grandfathers might have been immigrants, but they themselves are not. It is time that we stopped playing with numbers and applied the problem of community relations in two parts. The first is that we must accept that Britain is overcrowded and we cannot take any more people. I said that to a recent meeting of 400 members of the Pakistan Society in Bolton. My remarks were reported in the Press. The following week I received a number of letters saying "It is time you said that in Parliament and not at a meeting of Pakistanis." Now I have said it in Parliament and got it on the record. But it was apparently a revelation that a Member of Parliament, who supported the Government, could say a thing like that, because it did not seem to have got about that Parliament had taken action. I found that the Pakistanis and Indian people of Bolton who heard me say it agreed with me entirely.

The second part of the problem that we must face on community relations is that Hindus and Moslems do not yet integrate either with themselves or with the indigenous people. I have two examples. The Moslems do not realise the chaos they can cause in factories when they follow the Koran to the letter and observe Ramadan or get out their prayer mats at an inconvenient part of the working day. We should also note that the Hindus who are in Bolton, and probably in other parts of the country, operate the caste system which is illegal in India. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will take note that we have second-class citizens among the immigrants. We should face up to the fact.

Alongside the newspaper article, in the right-hand column, was a letter to the editor from a Mrs. McBriar of Radcliffe. Mrs. McBriar showed a genuine lack of understanding about Parliament and its procedures. Among other points, she said that too many laws were passed without the consent of the electorate. As an example, she mentioned the subject of immigration. She said that the subject had never appeared in a party manifesto. I regard that as typical of the lack of information about immigration that seems to prevail throughout the country.

I have tried—I know that the Government have tried, but I wish that they would try harder—to drive home the fact that the Immigration Act 1971 is on the statute book. I realise that a vast problem is created by the presence of people whose habits and customs are totally different from ours, but it should be known that the Act has been passed and that Britain is probably now the most difficult country in the world to which to gain access.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows of case after case which I have sent him which prove that the Act is strictly operated. Far too many Indians and Pakistanis are setting off from their home country intending to stay in the United Kingdom for a short time and are turned back at Heathrow because they do not have proper papers. I accept that there may be delays on the Indian sub-continent in issuing proper papers, but it is right that they should be turned back if they have not got proper papers on arrival. If the fact that that happens were more widely known, we would be reassuring some of those who are worried about the immigrant numbers here. We know that under the Act dependent relatives may come to this country, but do people realise how tough the Home Office is in interpreting the word "dependant"? Again, I have passed to my hon. Friend case after case showing that we are extremely strict in interpreting it. It is right that we should be strict.

I mentioned attending a meeting of the Pakistan Society in Bolton some months ago. I was told that coloured people are assumed to be guilty before they have the chance to prove anything. The society cited to me the case of a man who had been living in Lancashire and working there for some time. He went home to Pakistan, but when he came back he was refused entry because nobody believed that he was genuinely coming in and he was thought of as an illegal immigrant. I checked the incident with my hon. Friend and we discovered that the man arrived at Heathrow with a passport which had obviously been torn to shreds and sewn together in amateur fashion and that he had baggage bearing someone else's name. In those circumstances, I do not consider that it was unreasonable for the immigration officer to be suspicious.

My advice to anyone is that, whatever the colour of his skin, he needs proper papers to enter the United Kingdom. I have always made it clear to the coloured community in Bolton that I regard my passport as extremely important. I should not want to try to get back into this country without it after going abroad.

We must get it home to people that they must not try to come here unless they are absolutely sure that they have proper papers. I have asked the Bolton Council of Community Relations to stress this among the immigrant communities. I hope that the Home Office will also try to do something and that, when my hon. Friend goes to the Indian sub-continent, he will read the Act in all the languages he can and make it clear that Britain is a difficult country to enter. It is necessary to do this because it is necessary for places of stress caused by the influx of new people—places like Bolton—to get more assistance. I was glad to hear what my hon. Friend said about that today, and I shall study his remarks in HANSARD tomorrow. I will be asking him how much Bolton will get out of it and I hope to get a generous answer.

We have peculiar problems in Bolton because we have large numbers of people who are not being integrated with the ordinary communities. Sometimes there is no attempt to integrate. My right hon. Friend talked about white people learning to live with immigrants. But I stress with all the power I can that I am as much concerned for members of the indigenous community, many of whom feel adversely affected by the influx that has taken place in recent years. The best way to deal with this is to speak plainly and stop talking of immigrants when we mean coloured people. It should not be regarded as racialist to say that a man's skin is not as white as ours.

We must accept the fact that not all people with coloured skins are immigrants. My right hon. Friend was correct when he mentioned that. I have constituents whose skin is a very different colour from mine but whose accent is exactly what mine is—or sometimes even more broad Lancashire than mine—and I do not regard them as immigrants. But I recognise that they look a little different, and with the influx of others they are very often told "Go home" when they have no other place to go to but Bolton, because that is where they were born and that is where they belong.

7.11 p.m.

Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)

The Home Secretary was correct when he told us that, in a number of parts of Britain, we have indeed a multi-racial society. He was also correct when he went on to say that that situation will continue. Anyone who believes that repatriation will solve any problems that immigration has brought to the country is just beating the air. Multi-racial Britain is here for many parts of our country, and it is here to stay. But the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), with whom I agreed completely, was correct in telling us that the need for candour is overwhelming. It is far better that we should acknowledge situations as they exist than try to pretend that they are not present with us.

I was one of the three members of the Select Committee who visited the City of Liverpool. I need not tell the House the findings and comments we made as a result of our visit. They are set out in our report for all to read. But I confess that I came away from Liverpool with a feeling of something approaching depression because Liverpool, as far as its coloured population is concerned, is quite different from any other part of this country.

Liverpool is different because its coloured population has been with it for generations. If hon. Members take the opportunity to read what we felt in visiting Paddington comprehensive school in Liverpool, they will see the need for a positive attempt and a positive policy by all of us to face the issues that the presence of different nationalities brings to our communities. These problems will not just go away.

On the subject of immigration and race relations, I speak not only as a member of the Select Committee but as one who, within his constituency, has many immigrants of varying sorts. In addition, I speak as a lawyer who is consulted not only by those who live in Coventry but by immigrants throughout Britain. It is out of that knowledge and out of the knowledge I acquired from my visits to India with the Race Relations Committee that I believe that we have to acknowledge that immigration into this country, despite what the Home Secretary said today, is likely to continue in measurable terms for some long period still to come.

It is a pity that the House today is dealing with the whole matter of race relations and immigration. I had hoped that the two last reports of the Select Committee, in relation to the police and education, could each be made the subject of a separate debate because each in its own way is of vast importance. The relations of the immigrants with the police are important in maintaining good general relations. The impact of education upon the immigrant population is a way of creating good relations with the immigrant community. It is, therefore, a pity that these two matters are not being dealt with separately.

I want to speak now about the relationship with the police. For that purpose, I want to quote from Volume 2 of the evidence taken by the Select Committee in 1971–72. It is reported on page 146. The witness is Mr. William Palfrey, then Chief Constable of Lancashire, the largest police force outside the Metropolitan force. He said : Up to three years ago you very rarely found an Asiatic boy running foul of our juvenile liaison scheme ; it was practically unknown. Even today there are fewer Asiatics coming to the net than our host children. It is because, as my chaps tell me, there is a closer family life amongst the Asiatic families ; but unfortunately the Asiatic children are beginning to follow some of the bad habits of our host children, so that we are getting one or two through the net ; but even at this moment —February 1972— there is not one Asiatic under supervision by any juvenile liaison officer in my county, and this speaks well for their families. Mr. Palfrey was then questioned by the right hon. Member for Ashford, who asked him : You are saying that, talking in terms of juvenile crime, the Asiatic juvenile compares favourably with our own? He replied : If our own children were as good as the Asiatics then we would not have such a crime problem. The right hon. Member for Ashford asked : Would you apply that also to the West Indians? Mr. Palfrey replied : Yes, but not quite to the same extent. That was the voice of a most experienced chief constable. The point I want to make is that what the Chief Constable of Lancashire said in his colourful answer was repeated time and time again by the police forces we contacted on this question. The pattern was that as far as the commission of crime was concerned the Asians were the best behaved, the West Indians came next and then our own indigenous population. What puzzles me is that this was the general picture that was given to us by police forces right throughout the country, and yet we get continually the allegation that the police discriminate against those whom they interrogate because they are coloured.

We had before the Select Committee witnesses who said to us, speaking of the police. "They pick on us." The remarkable thing was, as we pointed out in our report, that often, although the allegations were made, documentary support was lacking. Frequently the examples given were quite old. I have never believed that every policeman is a Dixon of Dock Green. They are not. On occasions they are bound to make mistakes and to be in the wrong. It might help if sometimes the respective chief constables could admit that their officers were occasionally in the wrong. These allegations of discrimination against the coloured population by the police are easily made but the evidence to support them is often woefully weak.

As a lawyer I am consulted by immigrants from all over the country. Long before I entered this House, and even today, I spend my time defending those who are charged with criminal offences. I always defend and never prosecute. Any lawyer in my position could say that this allegation that the police picked upon certain sectors of the community is easily made. Students, taxi-drivers, bus-drivers and, for good measure, prostitutes say, "The police always pick upon us." This is an allegation continually reiterated and does considerable harm to immigrant-police relations. This is something I have seen time and again.

In all of my experience I have never had a case in which I considered that the police had acted in the way in which they acted because of the colour of the skin of the man being interrogated. It is only right that that should be said, especially now when there has been a spate of propaganda against the police in respect of alleged discrimination. I say this as someone who knows the position from the inside. My experience has been largely with what is now the Warwickshire and Coventry Constabulary. There is no reason whatever why that experience should be any different from that of any other police force.

I will add that there have been cases in which I have been engaged when I have formed the opinion that the police have gone out of their way to help a defendant because he had a coloured skin. I would say that with the police forces the boot is on the other foot. It is not that they discriminate against a man or woman with a coloured skin. It is more the other way round. They go out of their way to help so as to prevent any allegation that such a person has been discriminated against.

I do not say there are no cases which cannot be raised and queried. What I do say is that for every one that can be produced I am certain that I could produce many others in which a white man or woman would raise the same complaint. I am glad to have the opportunity of saying that.

The Home Secretary told us he anticipates that there will be a fall in the number of immigrants, whether heads of families or dependants. We have to yield to the greater knowledge of his Department. It would be a pity if what he said turns out to be wrong. We have to treat all these matter with a certain amount of circumspection. I recollect that it was said in 1969 that the number of dependent families would decrease. The logic and reasoning behind that was the Immigration Act 1962 which resulted in the number of heads of families being cut down. It would take about seven years for them to be able to set up home. By 1969 it was said the number of dependent families would decline. We know what the situation is. It did not quite work out that way.

Above all I want good relations with the immigrant community. If we have a similar situation to that of 1969, if the prophecy turns out to be wrong, it can only rebound upon us in a way that we do not want. What gives added force to my remarks is that we know that the queues at Islamabad, Delhi and Bombay are longer than ever. It is reasonable to think that the applications which will be made must of necessity be large and the backlog will be such as we have never previously seen.

The Home Secretary will probably acknowledge that one of the reasons why the staff of the immigration section in Islamabad, Delhi and Bombay is kept down is that if there were more staff, more people would make application. I hope that what the right hon. Gentleman has said is correct because upon that could easily depend our good community relations.

I am glad to hear that the Minister is to go to the sub-continent of India to see for himself what is happening in the immigration offices. I have been to India twice in the past 14 months. It has to be acknowledged that the burden we are placing upon the staff who administer the issue of entry certificates is considerable. They cannot see the end of the road and the harder they work the larger the burden upon them seems to be. They have always to take into account the real problem of those seeking to gain entry but who ought not to have entry. Because of that they have to be rigorous towards the genuine applicant. This rebounds upon us. The man whose wife genuinely wishes to join him wants to know why she should be interrogated in this way. It simply rebounds upon the entry certificate officers and the other staff.

There is the question of appeals. I have participated in many appeals on behalf of immigrants, on behalf of those in this country trying to bring their families here. I say in self-defence that my record of success is much higher than the 80 per cent. which seems to be the average. The House does not perhaps realise the amount of work that is involved in appeals. It is nothing for the paperwork in one appeal to amount to 20 sheets of foolscap paper.

The carefulness with which the entry certificate officer has to give his report is conditioned by the fact that somewhere, somebody at some time will go through it with a tooth comb with the purpose of trying to succeed in an appeal. I hope that when the Minister goes to the subcontinent he will see for himself the great burden that is placed upon entry certificate officers. Speaking from considerable experience, I pay testimony to the care with which the entry certificate officers do their work. They are subjected to many criticisms, but they do a good job in extremely difficult circumstances.

The machinery that we have set up to make sure that those who claim to come here have the right to come and are enabled to come is considerable, I have one answer for those who criticise what we do. No country in the world does as much to protect the right of those who wish to enter the country as does Great Britain, and it is time that we said that aloud.

7.31 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I hope that the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) will not have got himself into any trouble with the Law Society, for he has performed an important service by what he put on the record this afternoon about the behaviour and standards of the police. I hope that the contents of his speech will be well noted out of doors amongst the public generally and in particular amongst the police forces.

The debate has not lacked a whole series of encomia upon the work of the Select Committee, three of whose reports are before the House. Some of the encomia have been bestowed upon them by hon. Members who belong to that Committee ; but they are reports remarkable in their value and in the quality for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) called, of candour.

I want to concentrate upon not the least remarkable of the paragraphs in the report entitled "Education", one to which my right hon. Friend himself referred—paragraph 209. With hindsight the drawbacks can be seen of the policy which has prevailed since 1962 of permitting dependent children up to the age of 16 (since January 1973, 18)"— as a matter of fact, throughout most of the whole period since 1962 there has been an extra-statutory concession which went up to the age of 18— to enter Britain unconditionally. That is a hindsight which I share.

It is difficult now in 1973 to regain the perspective which existed 11 years ago when the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of that year had reached the statute book. To almost everyone it seemed that we had broken the back of the problem, that at last a necessary resolve had been taken and that, though we could not put away the consequences of what happened before 1962, at any rate the bulk lay behind us and it was merely the implications of what had already happened to which we would have to look in the future. In that perspective it was natural that we should have provided a statutory right of entry for the dependants of those already resident in this country. It was a provision which I approved and which I defended in public. But our expectation was greatly mistaken.

I do not imagine that anyone in 1962 would have credited that between 1961 and 1971 the number of new Commonwealth immigrants would treble. In other words, of the new Commonwealth immigrants who were in this country at the 1971 census, two-thirds had entered during the 1960s. That is a point which I know will be of interest, and maybe unfamiliar, to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman). I make no complaint of that, because those of us who have lived with this for many more years than he have found it hard to recognise the proportions and the time scale of the event which the House is debating.

Mr. Bidwell rose

Mr. Powell

I am anxious to be as brief as possible.

Mr. Bidwell rose

Mr. Powell

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. He knows that time and again I have given way to him, and engaged in debate with him ; but I am anxious, and have promised, to make my remarks as brief as possible. I ask him on that account to forgive me for not giving way.

Again, if we take instead of 1961 the point of time when the control came into force, even then we find that the immigration after control came into effect until 1971 census day was equal to the immigration before control. That was a prospect which nobody seriously envisaged at the time when control was first introduced. It was only gradually, as the 1960s moved on, that the proportions of what had happened before and of what was still happening came to our knowledge.

There was, of course, no accurate information on immigration before control was in effect—by the nature of things, by definition, there could not be—but some years passed after 1962 before, in the course of time, the decisive facts began to become known. For me perhaps the first was the lengthening series of birth figures from Wolverhampton and Birmingham. These showed in the case of Wolverhampton that from 1962 onwards—there were no figures before that—never less than one-quarter of all the births were to Commonwealth mothers. This cast an important and undeniable light not only on the future but upon the scale of immigration that had already taken place.

Then in 1967 there was the estimate given from the Government Front Bench that by 1985 the figure for the coloured population might even be "as low as" 2½ million. Shortly after that, however, when the particulars required at registration of births were increased, we learnt that some of the crucial assumptions upon which that official estimate had been made were ill founded and that in fact coloured births—if the expression may be forgiven—were 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. greater in number than had been assumed by those who made the calculation. Now at last, in the early 1970s, despite all the difficulties and limitations of our information, we know that the younger generation, those under 25, in many major towns and cities and in major parts of the metropolis, is from 20 per cent. to 40 per cent. coloured.

I here return to the interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth. He was right to point out how slippery are projections. Incidentally, what the Registrar-General issues are not predictions but projections of what would be the population, assuming—which, of course, the Registrar-General does not—that the birth rate and all other factors will remain as at the moment. My hon. Friend is also right to say that of all possible factors the birth rate is one of the most slippery—that much misused term which means, when used correctly, births divided by relevant population.

However, the future which is portended by the facts that we now know is not dependent upon projections, and it makes no significant assumption about birth rate—indeed, in nothing I have ever said or written on the subject have I assumed any difference between the birth rate of the new Commonwealth population and that of the indigenous population. We are not looking at a projection or a conjecture about the future. We are looking directly at the future ; for the future is here. The generation aged under 25 is the future, and the make-up of that generation is now determined—the new Commonwealth content of that generation will not diminish, it is determined at least as a minimum. There is, therefore, no element of assumption or conjecture which enters into our thoughts when we say that we are looking at the future.

As long ago as 3rd November 1966, in a debate in another place, my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor said : The noble Lord, Lord Elton, gave an estimate of the future coloured population in this country in 50 years' time. We have to recognise that in less than that space of time, one-third of the whole population in certain large areas of our big cities is likely to be coloured ; maybe in some cases it will be one-third of the whole."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 3rd November, 1966 ; Vol. 277, c. 707.) That was an ex-Home Secretary : my right hon. and noble Friend was Home Secretary from the time when control came into force. He was also ex-Member for a London constituency. Everything that we now know has confirmed the statement of fact which that former Home Secretary made in another place over seven years ago.

Candour and recognition of the realities were mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. He said that just these were called for in the light of the facts. Yet there is still the usual ingredient of unrealism and hallucination about today's debate. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in introducing the debate did so with a most comprehensive and thorough speech. Yet I thought, as I listened to it, what irony it was that so much of it—I make no complaint of this—was devoted to figures not one of which exceeded five digits.

It is true that in the end my right hon. Friend got around to quote the false figure, with which we have now been presented by a defective census, of a coloured population at census day of 1½ million. Let it pass, however, whether we accept that incredible minimum figure or a figure of, let us say 2 million, which many who have looked at the other data would regard as more likely. That is not the important fact. The figure is large ; but it is little compared with the future already implicit in what we know—even upon the basis of the census, let alone the corrected census—about the new generation in this country, the generation which will be the future.

It is not possible to acknowledge the fact which seven years ago Lord Brooke put on the record and to have no policy. It is not possible to acknowledge it and, either for a simple Member of Parliament or for a Government, to decline to say "Is this a future which is acceptable?"

Mr. Wilkinson rose

Mr. Powell

I am sorry, my hon. Friend must forgive me. I must be just as between him and the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), who would have just complaint if I gave way. I ask my hon. Friend to forgive me for the same reason.

It is not possible to acknowledge that prospect as a fact and, having done so, to remain silent in front of it. We have to tell the people of this country whether it is a future which is accepted, whether it is a future which is regarded as acceptable. We must tell them; for in the end it is they who will have to decide whether it is acceptable. That is why there has been so shattering a silence, so persistent a silence, year after year from those in authority. They say "We do not know. All this is very conjectural. All this is very uncertain." That is their silence in the face of the prospect which is known.

The Select Committee, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford in his personal capacity, left us in no doubt what was meant by the "drawbacks" now perceived "with hindsight". It has obliged the House to consider, for the first time in any official context, whether it is right that the statutory automatic admission of all genuine dependants as defined should continue. It has not only placed its finger upon what is the principal single cause of the present dimensions of the second phase, the post-1962 phase, of the phenomenon ; it has called in question whether it is right and necessary that divided families should be reunited by the dependants coming to Britain.

Divided families, if they so desire it, should not be prevented from being reunited ; but there is an alternative way, which this country stands ready to assist and which it now faces, now that it has been raised and been placed before the House by the Select Committee.

That in itself is not a policy ; but it is part of a policy, it is the beginnings of a policy. The future implicit in the facts which I have quoted from the mouth of Lord Brooke is not yet irreversible or predetermined. It is not beyond the resources of this country or the policy and Government of this country profoundly to influence whether or not that prospect will be realised. If its realisation, when one has once admitted the scale of it, is fraught with the danger that many believe not only to the indigenous population but to all, the avoidance of it is an object to which the resources and the policy of the State may fitly be harnessed.

Therefore I ask my right hon. Friends to take the first step, which, once taken, cannot be the last. That is to acknowledge with candour what they must know or what, if they do not know, they can ascertain. It is not too late for this country, with justice and benefit to all and in the interests of everyone concerned, to avert what is portended by the prospect that I have put before the House.

7.51 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

I do not want to take up in detail the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), but I merely want to place on record that I believe the policy of allowing dependent children to come to this country as of right is a sane and sensible attitude. Where we fall down—and this is a subject on which some of us are anxious in terms of the high percentage of immigrant children who will be brought into the country—is that we have never matched that intake with the resources and knowledge of how to deal with children from an alien culture who have special language difficulties. The difficulty has not been so much the fact that these children have come here but that we are ill-equipped to deal with the situation and do not devote sufficient resources to it.

I do not believe that all is lost or that we are by any means in a hopeless situation. One of the outstanding things about the latest report on education is that it calls for more resources, for more training of people in education and for a better understanding among us all of how we can begin to live and operate properly in a multiracial society.

One of the difficulties about immigration and race relations in this country over 10 or more years has been the fact that the argument has always been advanced—an argument put forward not only by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West but by others—that the way to improve race relations is to restrict numbers and to send back people who come here from a different country, or perhaps—this may be the view of some—even to sterilise them so that they will have no more children. It has been argued that if we restrict the numbers sufficiently, then this will go hand in hand with the improvement of race relations. But the system does not work like that and it never has done.

Arguments aimed at repatriation or ceasing to allow children to come in will never have the effect of improving race relations, unless control of immigration is seen to be handled sensibly and fairly irrespective of the colour of those involved. Black people who are already in this country and their children—and even their children's children—will see that they are not wanted and are not accepted, but that white immigrants, particularly under the EEC arrangements, are more welcome than they. Strict policies of immigration control have never been related to the whole subject.

The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West dismissed some remarks by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) by saying that that hon. Member was a relative newcomer to the problems of immigration and race relations. I am an old-stager in the sphere of race relations. I have lived with this subject and have been interested in these problems for a very long time. I have personally been involved in the education of children whose background or whose parents' background may be different from our own. I have not changed my mind on many of the facts which I have stated over the years. I repeat that if we have fallen down, it has been in the sphere of resources.

The right hon. Gentleman cannot escape the logic of his own argument. I do not put all the blame on any individual or group of individuals. I do not play the numbers game. In respect of the birth rate, did the right hon. Gentleman when Minister of Health not encourage immigrants to come into this country to help us run the National Health Service? Did he not make such appeals to people whose skins are of a different colour from our own? In so doing, did he imagine that they would not have children? Did he imagine that those children would be white? Of course he did not. It is no good implying, as I have heard the right hon. Gentleman imply, that he was never given the correct information and therefore did not understand the situation regarding the numbers of people coming into the country.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) pointed to areas such as my own—Slough, High Wycombe and others—as areas which have escaped some of the graver difficulties in the aggravation of social problems which immigration has accentuated. There are many reasons for this. This ties in with the comments made by the hon. Member for Handsworth. I do not pretend that we do not have difficulties in my area, because of course we do ; but my area is one in which we are always crying out for labour.

Slough was built up on a demand for labour. The Slough trading estate brought people from Wales, Scotland and Ireland and from other parts of the world to take up work there. There has always been work in Slough. Although we have had a housing problem, there has never been a situation involving the use of large old Victorian houses which have become slums lending themselves to overcrowding and a concentration of people. Because we are an area of this kind, we have escaped many of these problems, although we have some of the same problems which apply to some areas of London, Birmingham and other parts of the Midlands.

It is not the concentration of immigrants by itself that causes problems, except perhaps to the person who has a colour prejudice. What causes problems is the conditions in which people live. Nobody would seriously suggest that the appalling slums in Glasgow are caused because the people who live in them are white. The problems of the slums in Glasgow arise because of bad housing and inadequate accommodation. This has nothing to do with the colour of the people who live there, but arises because of the appalling conditions in the area. Unfortunately, a large number of immigrants and their children have concentrated on areas which are already deprived and inadequate in their housing provision. This is a fact and it is this sort of problem with which we must deal. We must also make sure that no artificial barriers are erected to prevent people from moving out of areas which are already overcrowded and which offer inadequate facilities. This has happened in many cases in respect of immigration.

I believe that for many years to come we shall have to deal with concentrations of people identifiable by their skin, whether or not they are immigrants, in certain areas of our large towns, partly because of the work situation, partly because they cannot afford to move anywhere else, and partly because many people like to live together. A similar situation arises when white emigrants go abroad. They tend to seek out people whom they know and who come from the same countries and backgrounds.

I do not regard that as alarming. What is alarming is the appalling conditions under which Commonwealth immigrants have to live when they come to this country. In every report of the Select Committee, whether it has dealt with education, housing or the environment, the Committee has called for more resources to deal with some of the very difficult problems, not all of them caused by immigrants, but all of them surrounding the density of immigrants in our deprived areas.

In the second volume of the report on education, for example, there are two comments which interest me greatly. The first occurs in paragraph 12 on page 3 which says that it is not clear why so many West Indian children in London and other areas are concentrated into schools for the educationally subnormal. It makes certain guesses and produces some suggestions. But it says that no one knows why this is. Then on page 91 there is a direct reference to the appalling child-minding conditions and facilities which exist. I believe that the report on housing also refers to this.

Unless we grasp the fact that the day-minding facilities for all children of working mothers in working class areas are appalling, we shall never see any improvement. We have to bear in mind that of 120,000 West Indian mothers with children under five, two-thirds go to work, that we have a third fewer day nursery places today than we had in 1945, and that more mothers are working.

It does not require a great deal of insight into education problems to understand that probably there are more poor working-class children and West Indian working-class children in appalling child-minding conditions in our large cities than anywhere else in the country and that this state of affairs is connected directly with the poor performances and the behavioural problems of West Indian children in many of our schools today. Of course, the same is true of many working-class children at the lower end of the social and economic groupings. I do not want to over-state the position in terms of West Indian children. However, they tend to live in the poorer areas of our cities because many of their mothers are unsupported and are forced to go to work for that and a variety of other reasons. The conditions under which their children are looked after are damaging them long before they ever get to school.

There was an extremely interesting article on the subject by Brian Jackson in last week's New Society. He goes into these matters in some detail and he writes of what he calls a typical mother in this situation in Manchester : She has a child and is short of money. She is a woman and almost certainly, in factory terms, unskilled. Probably she is black. If you are an unsupported mother and black, then whether you are mixing chocolates or counting deodorants, you must expect rock-bottom wages. Because money is hard to gain, overtime at double rates is gold. You never say no to work. … To earn … money in that situation (I'm talking of £16–£19 a week) you get up at 5.45 a.m., give a sleepy child a perfunctory and undemanded breakfast … carry him on a cold dawn to a sleepy, illegal minder … catch the 6.30 a.m. bus … clock in your card by 7 a.m.—and are glad to work … till 7 p.m. Pick up the child at a quarter to eight, struggle with the tired tot home, then an impossible supper, and sleep for him. … One of my first speeches in this House was about illegal child minding, and I want to repeat today what I said on that occasion. Unless and until the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Social Security get together and decide on a completely different organisation for our pre-school children which does not separate the already disadvantaged away from education into day nurseries and to illegal child minders, the situation will never change.

The small nursery school programme that we have makes no contribution to these children. Part-time nursery education will not help them. Until we sort out this situation and rearrange our preschool opportunities for young children, we shall perpetuate a state of affairs whereby large numbers of poor working-class children, many of whom by definition are black, will start off unequal in our society.

On the basis of what I have seen for myself and the surveys which have been done by others, I am convinced that there is a causal relationship between the number of so-called ESN children in our schools and the appalling child-minding conditions in which many of these children have existed for a very long time. It is about time that the Secretary of State for Social Services and the Secretary of State for Education and Science got together with a view to sorting out this problem. Until it is done we shall continue to look at it in an isolated fashion, not connecting some of the causes.

There are other causes, of course. Bad housing is one. All sorts of deprivations contribute. But this is one of the causal factors and one that we have not yet managed to deal with. I am very happy that my party has made reference to this in our document dealing with education policy. I believe that all facilities for pre-school children, certainly from the age of three years, should be under the control of the Department of Education and Science. If that is not done, we shall deprive children who have the greatest need of educational stimulus at the age of three or four from having it. I believe that the Department of Education and Science and the Department for Health and Social Security have to get together to consider how they can best improve the situation. We must have more trained registered child minders and additional facilities for women who need to leave their children when they go out to work.

In 1968 the Nursery and Child Minders Act was amended to discourage illegal child minding, and we increased the penalties for such ventures. Since then, there have been five or six prosecutions. That is about all. I do not suggest that prosecutions help. However, much as I supported the amendment of the legislation, I was among those who pointed out at the time that it would fail if we did not increase the facilities for people to leave their children legally. As a result, illegal child minding went on, and it is increasing all the time. We have cut down our day nursery places by one-third. Today we have many more working mothers than we did in 1945, and even then facilities were considered to be inadequate.

We must also look more closely at what is going on in our schools. I take off my hat to the tremendous work done by teachers, often with inadequate resources and with knowledge and understanding that they have gained only as they have gone along. I salute them for their tremendous work in my constituency and in other parts of the country to deal with language and cultural difficulties and a host of other problems. Out we need a great deal more training. Despite figures given to me about the training of teachers working in multi-racial societies when I was a junior Minister, the amount of training available in our colleges of education is quite inadequate. It is beginning to improve, but it is nothing like what it should be.

There is another point that we must take on board, although in the last two or three years we have improved a little in this regard. Just as working-class children when they go to school, are presented with values that are a little foreign to them because they are usually middle-class values, so children with black or brown skins, with Asian or West Indian backgrounds, when they go to school, are presented with materials—visual aids, primary school readers, and so on—that rarely include them. They are excluded from it. Until we present to our children, both black and white, the real world in which they live and get them to understand that it is multiracial—I do not care whether they are in immigrant areas or not—we shall not convince immigrant children that they are included in our society because everything they see teaches them that they are not included.

A small multiparty working group sits in a kind of ad hoc way here from time to time to discuss this problem. Sometimes we have looked at comics and other material that is available to children. We have been appalled at the almost total exclusion of the black or brown child from so much of our reading and pictorial materials. I believe that the situation has improved over the last year or so. Many experiments are going on in universities and other places to try to get this balance right. I beg the Department of Education and Science to look at the matter and to find out where, for example, one can buy a birthday card for a black child in which he can see himself presented for what he is. These areas have been sadly neglected.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond) that it is a tragedy that people with black or brown skins should be regarded as immigrants and that all immigrants should be regarded as black people. This is the measure of the failure of our society to present itself as multiracial.

I recall a situation when a young girl, born in this country of West Indian parents, came to help in a nursery with which I was connected. A mother said to her, "Where are you from, dear?" The child, who was about 15, said, in a London accent, "I am from Battersea." "No", said the mother, "where were you born?" The girl said, "I was born in Wolverhampton." The mother said," No, dear. I mean before that." This was a child born and educated in this country. How did she feel?

If we go on in the way that certain people have suggested, immigrants will never feel that they belong, the children of immigrants will never feel that they belong, and the indigenous population will never feel that immigrants' children born and brought up in our society belong here either.

I support the suggestion, accepted by the DES in this connection, that we should change our whole method of collecting statistics on immigrant children with our ten-year definition. I found this pretty useless during the short time that I was at the DES. I would be given a brief about a school and be told that it had 10 per cent. of immigrant children because the ten-year rule applied. Many black children are not immigrants according to the DES. I would go to the school and be told that it had 40 per cent. immigrant children. I would say, "But my brief tells me that it has only 10 per cent., or 12 per cent. immigrant children." The person with whom I was dealing would then look a little blank and say, "Yes, we have 40 per cent. black children here." This system has not been fair in analysing the problem. Nor has it been fair to the children in our schools.

I believe that it is important to redefine deprivation, recognising that it includes a variety of degrees of those who are deprived. It can include the Asian child who is deprived or deficient in language. That is one area of deprivation. It can include poverty, which can apply to both black and white children alike. It can include the inadequate home, which may not necessarily be poor—the home that is deprived in the sense not of poverty but of English culture and customs.

I believe that the problem of the education of immigrant children should now be merged into the whole problem of the education of deprived children generally and that the concept of positive discrimination for all children in need should be applied fully and generously. We should break down the definition of those who are deprived or have special needs into the special needs that they have.

That does not mean that immigrant children are deprived children. They are not. Those born and brought up in this country often are not deprived. But whatever criteria are used to determine deprivation, it is certain that some will apply to a large number of immigrant children and to a substantial number of children of the indigenous population, and all these children, whether black or white, will be found largely, though not exclusively, in certain big industrial areas of this country. If we approach the problem in that way I believe that we shall begin to understand the many facets of deprivation and how we can best deal with the problem.

Great attempts have been made in our schools to avoid any form of discrimination among children. All that can be done has been done in our schools, with one or two exceptions, to try to avoid that discrimination. We all recognise that schools do not exist in a vacuum outside society and that the pressures and attitudes of parents and speeches made by various people in the country play a great part in separating and quickly dividing people into those who have prejudice and those who cannot seem to operate in a multiracial society.

People who came here as immigrants in the 1950s did not expect equal treatment. They regarded themselves as immigrants. But their children and grandchildren, as we are beginning to see, will demand and expect to be treated as equals. That is a perfectly healthy and normal situation. Unless we extend not only our attitudes but resources into these areas—whether for housing, education or whatever it may be—the expectations of those young people will not be fulfilled. If they are not fulfilled we shall be setting the scene for a great deal of trouble in this country. I am not despondent. I hope that the lessons and reports of the Select Committee on which I served in the early days will be heeded because what they demand is urgent.

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