HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1546-82

Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

This is a good time to have a race relations debate. I had thought it was a time when there was no particular controversy affecting race relations and immigration. The Pakistan Act was safely on the statute book and it appeared from first figures that the Immigration Act 1971 was going well. Then my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) added an electric note of tension to the debate. But now we have had a thoughtful contribution, if somewhat lengthy, by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), whose speech was well-informed and well researched.

I should like particularly to comment on the way the Home Secretary set the debate in its context. My right hon. Friend should once and for all have laid the ghost that has been stalking these corridors, if not the country, of the hordes of people who are still coming into Britain. I think he clearly showed beyond controversy that the intention of the Immigration Act, as declared in the Conservative Party's manifesto in 1970, has been maintained in that there have been substantial falls in the numbers of admissions since the introduction of that legislation.

In particular, over the past three years the number of admissions of heads of families has dropped by two-thirds. This is the most important category ; my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was quite right to make that clear. Also, over the past six years—I am afraid we cannot claim that the Immigration Act 1971 was responsible for this—the admission of dependants has dropped by just under two-thirds. In the number of total admissions over the past three years, there has been a reduction of about 30 per cent. Right across the board, therefore, there has been a curtailment of immigration, as the 1970 Conservative Party manifesto said would be the intention of the Immigration Act.

The Select Committee fulfils a particularly useful purpose. We are all very much aware, I think, of the family nature of immigrant settlement in the United Kingdom. If I were to take my right hon. and hon. Friends to my own city, I could show them clearly defined areas of settlement, areas which are particularly Bengali, others that are Gujerati, others which are Sikh, others that are Kashmiri and West Pakistani, and so on. In the United Kingdom the same pattern manifests itself nationwide. Certain areas are Sikh and some are West Indian, like Slough and other places.

It is only through the Select Committee that this House gets an overall national picture and can put into perspective the particularities of the local situation which individual Members may have learned from their own constituencies. It is especially important that the Select Committee should coninue to do its work, because it bridges the gulf which already exists in all too many people's minds between the legislators and the governed. The general public often believe that it is as if there are two nations in the State—those who live and work in the multicultural communities of our big industrial cities and those who plan and pass the laws which regulate their existence—with the soundest intentions no doubt but perhaps, in the eyes of the general public, with very little apparent practical first-hand experience of the situation.

The Select Committee lays that ghost as well, because it shows that the legislators not only understand their own patch but also go out into the country to get a nationwide impression of the scene. I am particularly pleased also that the Home Secretary made a particular point of coming to Bradford just after the Uganda Asian issue exploded on the political scene, and his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has recently been to my constituency.

I do not think that the basic issue of citizenship has yet been tackled. We have heard from the Home Office that a review is being conducted into this matter, but I do not know what has happened to it. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can tell us. This is important. Those who were involved in the passage of the Bangladesh and Pakistan Bills, particularly the latter, in the last Session, will realise how important this issue is. It has an implicit importance from the point of view of immigration control for United Kingdom and colonies passport holders ; it could, at least notionally, have one.

More importantly, the anomaly that exists most transparently was drawn to our attention by the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), who mentioned the fact that Commonwealth citizens can come here on work permits to work on a temporary basis yet, because they are Commonwealth citizens, and although they are here for only a temporary period, they enjoy the full rights of citizenship as British subjects in the exercise of the franchise.

I have always believed that it was wrong to draw distinctions in this way between Commonwealth citizens and other immigrants.

This error is highlighted further by the situation over Pakistan nationals. It was highlighted over many years by the situation of East European nationals who came in, perhaps, a generation or so ago and who still cannot enjoy the franchise, whereas Commonwealth citizens, many of whom now will be coming in for only a short time to work, will continue to be able to vote as they did previously. It is high time that the Home Office addressed itself to this problem.

On the matter of statistics, it always amazes me that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West claims that he is the only person who somehow saw the light on the 10-year rule and the application of Depart ment of Education and Science statistics to the immigrant child. There are many areas of the country—my own borough of Bradford is one—where we have a much more liberal definition of the immigrant child and as a result have been able to introduce much more positive policies for solving the language problem in particular.

In this regard, I have always welcomed the language reception centre scheme which we have operated in my part of Yorkshire for many years. It offers widespread advantages which could be copied by other local education authorities. It ensures that the special skills to which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough rightly referred can be brought to bear where they are most needed—that is, to make the immigrant child aware of the English scene, English culture, the English pattern of behaviour and life and, above all, the English language before he is thrown into the school system.

Without that or some similar system, there is a grave danger that not only will English schoolchildren suffer but the immigrant children will never catch up. So this is a very important scheme which we have operated in Bradford. It is a pity that the Select Committee could not visit the county borough—I understand why it could not—but I am glad that it will come this Session. This example could be followed more widely. The proposals of the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the White Paper "Framework for Expansion", the emphasis on nursery education in particular, will help, but more still needs to be done, particularly in relation to child-minding and so on.

I am also a believer in dispersal. This is a contentious issue which emphasises again the difference between different localities. In my locality it works well on the whole. There are stresses and strains, tensions and great difficulties ; I appreciate that. Not only do many immigrant parents resent the fact that their children cannot go to the neighbourhood school, but many English parents who have children in what would otherwise be all-white schools find immigrant children in their midst. None the less, on balance, to keep the proportions reasonable, I think that the system can be more widely followed than it is.

In the area of police-immigrant relations and community relations per se, I welcome the fact that more money is going to the deprived areas, especially an extra £6 million which was due to go to Uganda. This will be very glad tidings for those who were apprehensive about the reception of Ugandan refugees into this country. The funny thing is—I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will confirm this—that the money will go to the "red" areas which did not in the first instance look like getting so many Gujarati and other Ugandan Asians. That is how matters are turning out. The areas which need the money most will be getting it, which is good Conservative practice.

As regards dependants, I have tried to answer the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) about the Pakistani situation. If one looks at the Pakistani picture, one finds that there has been a very dramatic fall in the numbers of dependants. In 1969, the last full year under the previous administration for which we have statistics, the number of people coming in on work permits from Pakistan was 482, while in 1972 the figure was 75. So the number of heads of families who have been admitted is greatly reduced, and the number of dependants has dropped in the same period from 11,880 to 5,476.

I know that there are very long queues and there is immense pressure at our embassy in Pakistan but the total number of dependants coming from India presents a much more serious situation in the sense that there are more coming in and the percentage drop of dependants from India is far less substantial. But in my own area of Bradford the pressure of dependants is declining and, on current projections, should continue to do so.

I believe that when looking at police-immigrant relations it is right to bring the family background into the picture, and in many instances that is the great difference between the Asians and the West Indians. The West Indian situation is one of far less stable families, whereas families are right at the centre of Indian and Pakistani culture. So that when looking at dependants one must recognise that having a stable family background will make young people much less likely to be at odds with the police. This is a factor which should be brought out when people argue against the admission of any dependants. Part of the reason why relations between Asians and the police have been so good is that they are now establishing stable family relationships in the United Kingdom.

Funnily enough, the aims of the immigrant community are essentially bourgeois. They are the aims which my own party traditionally espouses—to buy a home, to save, to establish a business and, if possible, to send their children to a grammar school ; in other words, to make the most of their opportunities. It is important that those opportunities should be equal. That principle lies at the very heart of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

I was deeply shocked by the apocalyptic tone of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, particularly when he talked about the young people in our society and the under-25s, because on the whole I find them admirable people whether they come from the English community, the Pakistani community or whatever it is. Of course, there are exceptions and there are those who let their fellows down. I wish that my right hon. Friend had reminded the House of the television programme about the soldiers of the Royal Greenjackets serving in Ulster, which I believe was shown on Tuesday night, in which there was a young West Indian man sharing the dangers, the burdens and the responsibilities of his fellows in total equality. That reminded me of the visit I made to the Commonwealth cemetery in Singapore, to which I referred in the Standing Committee on the Pakistan Bill. Walking down the lines of graves, I felt as if I were out canvassing in my own constituency. There is much in our history that binds us to Commonwealth immigrants, but it is much more important that we tackle the problems of the future realistically, constructively and positively. That is my aim, and I know that it is the aim of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

8.33 p.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) as a fellow member of the Select Committee. In doing so I recall the close attention to detail which he has shown as a relatively new member of the Committee, as indeed I am myself.

I think the hon. Member will agree that this has been a valuable debate, and I would even include the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). It has been so valuable that it is perhaps a reflection on this House that, to my knowledge, it is the first debate we have had on reports of this Select Committee. But it is perhaps a pity that this is, as it were, an omnibus debate in which the Home Secretary has, quite properly, concentrated his attention on immigration matters and in which a whole range of subjects has been raised.

I want to concentrate my attention on the recent report on education, for two reasons : first, because that was the report which I followed right the way through as a member of the Select Committee ; and secondly, because before becoming a Member of the House I was primarily concerned with education in the work I was doing.

I want first to look at the politics of race relations. Some hon. Members in the debate have referred to this matter, but it is important that we establish the fact that up to date, or, to be more precise, up to the publication of the Select Committee's report, there were broadly two points of view taken by the great majority of people in politics and outside them on the subject of race relations. First there is the point of view that we heard from the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West which I will not attempt to summarise. The second, however, is the view which, to a greater or lesser degree, has been held by a great majority of people concerned with race relations. This view has been one in which we have attempted to play down the issues, to pretend sometimes that there were no problems, to be anxious about the facts of the situation and the statistics becoming too well known ; and to be pushed constantly by public opinion and by the warnings that came from the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West and others of the dangers of an increase in immigration into this country.

Ever since immigration into Britain began, the liberals have been on the defensive the whole time, being pushed gradually to greater and greater restriction of immigration, because of the arguments which came from the grass roots and the warnings which came from people like the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. This is an unsatisfactory situation and one which I deplore.

One of the reasons why I was glad to be a member of the Select Committee, glad to support its recommendations and glad that it came up honestly and clearly with what it saw the situation to be, was that I thought this might be the watershed, the beginning of recognition by all of us, whatever view we may take about race relations, that if we are to have a serious, sensible policy on race relations, whether it refers to housing, education or anything else, we must have the facts absolutely clear. The facts should not be in dispute, as so often they have been in the past. In a sense, therefore, I would say that if the result of the campaign of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest has been that at long last we are beginning to face the facts, perhaps that is a benefit which has come from his campaign though possibly his motives for that campaign differ largely from mine.

It seems very odd that those of us who are anxious to build a multiracial society in Britain and anxious for the resources which have been mentioned in the debate should have been so much on the defensive. If we were anxious to have more resources devoted to items such as language training in our schools and to the sort of problems that are faced by immigrant families, it seems that we should have welcomed the facts on immigration and the public knowledge that the Select Committee has put before the House. These are arguments for devoting larger resources to the problems which arise as a consequence of immigration. We should welcome them instead of attempting to play down the consequences and very largely, therefore, failing to obtain the resources that we need.

I have never believed since I have been in politics that anyone ever wins a political argument by attempting to neglect or to suppress such facts as exist. It is right that we bring out the facts, whatever the consequences may be. Only by doing that, by building a case on the information that we have, have we any hope of obtaining the resources that we need to do the job. One of the arguments, however, for not producing the facts, for playing them down, is that if we bring out the facts we only increase the amount of racialism and make the feeling of tension greater than it otherwise would be. Experience in this country does not bear that out.

We state in the report : To pretend that they do not exist can only serve the cause of those who wish to see race relations reach a state of explosion. That sentence comes in paragraph 20 of the report. As far as I know, it is the only place in the report where we use the word "explosion".

It is interesting to note some of the Press comments on the Select Committee's report. Many of the newspapers which commented on it seized on the word "explosion". For example, The Guardian stated : MPs foresee racial explosion". We did no such thing. What we stated was that we did not want to serve the cause of those who wished to see race relations reach a state of explosion, which is rather different. The Yorkshire Post stated : Britain warned about race explosion risk". Those were not the words of the report. They were a travesty of what we said.

Those examples illustrate the racially charged atmosphere in which the report was published. That atmosphere was in part due to the fact that for years we have attempted to play down the facts of the situation. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West mentioned statistics, as he frequently does. Another type of newspaper headline which we got after the report was : MPs say figures being faked". This is all an indication that, as a consequence of not placing the facts squarely before the country, we probably lose rather than gain.

Hon. Members have referred to Liverpool. I was one of the members of the Select Committee who visited Liverpool. I was depressed by what I saw there. It is a city in which there is racial tension. and the chairman of the education committee told the Committee that the situation was in danger of getting worse What previous speakers have not mentioned is the interesting contrast between Liverpool and Bolton. I was enormously encouraged by Bolton. The great contrast between the two cities is that immigration into Liverpool has been long term while in Bolton it is a recent phenomenon. In Liverpool little has been done, and little attempt appears to have been made over the years to tackle the problem. Because of the very suddenness and size of immigration into Bolton, action was taken immediately. I imagine that it was seen by the education committee as an emergency situation demanding emergency action.

We saw some exciting developments in Bolton. We saw, for instance, a reception centre for primary children with 12 well qualified teachers all doing a first-class job. We also saw English being taught in a comprehensive school. This was being done within the school and thus had its own advantages. The specialists in English language teaching were going into lessons on English, domestic science and other subjects, reminding the teachers of those subjects that they were also teachers of English. That was a particularly important benefit as a result of the language work being done in the school. The contrast between Liverpool and Bolton needs to be specially marked by the Department of Education and Science.

In travelling round the country, the Select Committee gained a general impression of enormous variation between one area and another in the kind of resources that were being put into the job and the success which was being achieved, as a result, from the work being done. Ultimately that reflects to a degree upon the Department of Education and Science.

It is little short of extraordinary that for years the Department has been collecting statistics which it appears to have recognised were useless. The Secretary of State told us when she gave evidence to the Committee, as we see at paragraph 1224 of the evidence, that My Department makes no use of them whatsoever except to publish them. They do not form the basis of any grant from my department. It is extraordinary that for all those years the statistics were collected and that when she was asked why the Department went on collecting them the right hon. Lady said that if it did not collect them the allegation might be made that we were trying to conceal something that had prevously been revealed". That illustrates the defensive attitude taken by so many people to the problems of race relations.

There are one or two things the Department must take seriously. First, we make a recommendation about the need for an immigrant advisory unit within the Department. We were amazed to discover that no such unit existed. It is little wonder that so little guidance and leadership have been given by the Department in that sphere.

There is one matter that does not appear in the report but must be mentioned because it is important. This country has an immense educational capital in the number of people who have worked on contracts overseas in developing countries or as volunteers teaching in schools. In doing that work they have had to learn how to teach English as a second language. How little have we capitalised on all that experience! It is extraordinary that for years the Overseas Development Administration, or the Overseas Development Ministry before it, has never made available the information it could have made available about the many contract teachers who have worked overseas and could have had an important rôle in our schools if they had been given the proper encouragement to go there. They possess skills that are vitally needed in this important subject of English language teaching to which the Select Committee has drawn attention.

I have criticised the Department of Education and Science. Thank goodness we were not entirely dependent on it. Thank goodness there are plenty of power centres running right the way through out education system. We have them in the local education authorities. Among those we saw, I found Leicester and Bolton outstanding in that respect. We have power centres also in the shape of our teachers.

I want to mention in particular one body that gave evidence to us, the Association for the Education of Pupils from Overseas, now renamed the National Association for Multi-Racial Education. It is not just a band of teachers who happen to have a cause. It is a group of teachers who, because they have had no assistance from anywhere else, to begin with at any rate, have banded together and worked out schemes of work to cope with a situation no one had told them how to cope with. They hold first-class conferences designed to assist teachers in the work they need to do in multi-racial schools. I spoke at one of their conferences at Edgehill College of Education.

It is a great shame that the Department of Education and Science has taken away the association's small grant of £500 a year. In view of the value of the work the association is doing, one of the first things the Department should do is to step up the assistance to it. The association's work is vital. The initiative of the teachers concerned and the expertise they already possess, which does not exist in many other parts of the country, should not be lightly thrown away or neglected.

Many hon. Members may have read in the Sunday Times of a project I know well at Harambee House, Islington which is run by Brother Herman. Some of these black projects, if that is how I may describe them, are doing first-class work, and anyone who reads that Sunday Times article will see the realities of the work which is being done.

There are many projects, a great number of them in London but some in other parts of the country as well. I hope that the Home Secretary will try to ensure that money from urban aid is channelled direct to such projects to give them encouragement. I know that this has already been suggested today. These projects, however, are doing something to try to restore the confidence and self-respect of the new immigrant communities that have settled here.

8.51 p.m.

Mr. Norman Fowler (Nottingham, South)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett). Perhaps I may use the first 10 seconds of my 10 minutes to say how sad it is that some hon. Members have spoken for 27 or 25 minutes which has had the effect of excluding from the debate my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair).

There are too many debates on this general subject in which we hear a great deal about immigration policy and not enough about race relations. Today's debate has been an exception to that. From the outset we should recognise the one simple fact that this country has to face serious questions of race relations. Whatever changes we make in future immigration policy, whatever kind of repatriation scheme we introduce, there will still be a substantial coloured population in Britain.

Many coloured people have lived in this country for many years and many were born here. I take a very restrictive view on immigration policy but it would be wrong and we would be deceiving ourselves to think that future immigration policy would solve the present problems. We must face up to the problems of the present and the future which are created by race relations.

There is one other fact to note. There is a very close connection—and here I disagree with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) who I regret is not here now after her long speech—between immigration policy and race relations. To put it at its most obvious there will be clear resentment in the home population if too many newcomers are allowed into the country.

What matters here is what the public feel on this question. I suggest that this is not something peculiar to this country. It is a fact of life in Europe as well—even in a country such as Holland. There are two areas I should like to deal with before I come to my general remarks about race relations. In these areas immigration policy and race relations are connected. The first of them, touched upon in the report, is illegal immigration. The very fact of illegal immigration damages immigration policy because it makes that policy seem absurd.

However, the even greater damage is that it help to poison relations by creating an atmosphere of suspicion which harms no one more than those who came to this country legally. It is sometimes claimed that illegal immigration is not a big problem. I say only that this is not the view of the police or immigration officers who have to combat it.

One of my abiding memories of visits to Asia—and the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) is a great expert on the subject—is the enormous pressure upon the immigration officers in those Asian countries. It is necessary only to look at the figures in the report we produced, particularly in connection with the office in Islamabad, to see the scale of the difficulty. The pressure caused by attempts at illegal immigration is enormous. I was sad to hear what the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) said about the Islamabad office and about the discourtesy shown there by the immigration officers. I do not think that that view would have been shared by any of the Members who went on the Select Committee's visit to Pakistan.

Some people claim that we would counter the difficulty by introducing identity cards of some kind. I do not agree. I have no fundamental objection, but I simply do not think that that would be an effective policy. Anyone who thinks that it would be has only to look at the situation in France where there is a system of identity cards but where illegal immigration still continues.

A much more hopeful and realistic approach to the problem is to tackle it at the source, at the point of work, and to make meaningful checks on national insurance cards. I was, therefore, very glad to hear the announcement my right hon. Friend the Secretary of Sate for Social Services made on this very question. What concerns me is that according to reports I am now receiving this scheme, although announced in the House, is either not in force or is only partly in force. My view is that such a scheme is both sensible and realistic, and I should very much like to know what the state of play with it now is.

I accept that the entire answer to the problem does not lie in this country. It is not unrealistic of us to expect that the countries of source also tackle this problem of illegal immigration into this country. I have a very clear recollection of going to the emigration office in one of these countries and looking out of the window of the crowded office where the emigration officers were under enormous pressure and seeing only a few hundred yards away the tents of people providing equipment and documents for illegal immigration into this country. It is not unrealistic, therefore, for us to ask for more co-operation to overcome what I am sure both sides of the House regard as a cruel, nasty and disgusting trade.

The second point I want to make, although I must do so very briefly, is that there is a relation between immigration policy and race relations and dependants. We should be in no doubt about what is happening at the moment. If young people come into this country and do not have a full-time education the result will be that we shall be condemning them to be the second-class citizens of the future ; they will become the equivalent of foreign labour in Europe.

Lastly, I would draw attention to the very valuable part of the report touching on race relations and the police, as did the right hon. Member for Stechford. We must recognise that the police are the obvious representatives of our society and in this matter of race relations they have a very heavy responsibility indeed. Let me say straight away that they discharge that responsibility very well. The responses from the coloured communities vary enormously. The response from the Asian community is far more friendly and helpful than the response from the West Indian community, particularly the young West Indians.

We face one difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman did not touch upon and that is, as became clear from our travels, that there are some people who are prepared to exploit the difficulties there are. It would be unrealistic for us not to face that. The police should not try to concentrate upon countering those people. By all means counter them in argument, but they are not likely to be won over. The police should concentrate on winning the middle ground in the immigrant communities, those among the coloured population who are not at the extremes. It is not an unrealistic goal in any sense.

The general relations between the police and the public in this country are certainly the envy of Europe, of the European police forces and, I suspect, of police forces all over the world. The police depend on public co-operation but this is a changing thing and not something which remains static or which can be taken for granted.

Obviously, new situations arise. One new situation is that of the coloured minority. The police must develop policies and techniques and, particularly, the new complaints system which is being introduced. Many people would accept that the police in this country are fair in their dealings with the public at large.

I have had perforce to be brief, but I have made various points and would appreciate an answer from the Under-Secretary of State, particularly about national insurance cards. But the Government's general approach on immigration and on race relations is the right one and it deserves support.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I hope that I shall not be regarded as churlish in saying that I am not entirely happy with the title accorded to the debate. Immigration has less and less relevance—I would not say no relevance—to the subject of race relations. Race relations is the matter of overwhelming importance.

I was disappointed that out of a speech of 48 minutes only 10 minutes was spent by the Home Secretary on talking about race relations and the other 38 minutes talking not about immigration but about immigration from the Commonwealth. A casual glance at the latest quarterly immigration figures shows that if immigration has any importance, it includes not just immigration from the Commonwealth but equally immigration of people who are aliens, people who, unlike the West Indians, speak no English.

The Home Secretary gave us figures of a reduction in a comparable nine-month period from 3,924 immigrants from the Commonwealth in 1970 to 1,055 in 1973. That seems to pale into insignificance when one examines the same figures of foreign immigration to this country during a period of only three months. During the three months ended September, 6,048 foreign nationals who do not speak English came here, 3,584 for more than 12 months, plus 2,886 EEC nationals. Other figures are available in the Library. One cannot talk of Commonwealth immigration in perspective without these figures. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will do just that.

The paramount issue is that of race relations. Racialism is a disease rather than an accurate weapon. Once it starts spreading, it affects not only the people the disease is aimed at—if one can aim a disease—but all inside our community.

Race relations concern 1½ million coloured people in the United Kingdom, their dignity, their rights and their duties as citizens, their hopes and expectations in what is a closely-knit and interdependent society. Just because we are an interdependent and a largely urban society, race relations are not about the needs of coloured people, but the degree of tolerance, harmony and understanding between all people—black, brown and white—in this nation. As one community relations officer put it to me, acidly but truly, race relations are about different races in the same community sharing the same kind of inequality. If there is no parity between identifiable segments of our community when they live and work with other segments in the community, it is all of us in the end who will suffer.

Anyone who doubts the proposition that race relations matter to the whole community has to look not at Southern Africa, or at the civil war in a Portuguese colony or at a sprawling American city, but across St. George's Channel to the situation in Northern Ireland, where we see the harm done to the whole community when discrimination becomes endemic over a number of years. Britain is an incontestably multiracial society, and what matters to all of us, black and while, is that it should be a harmonious society. Race relations are of crucial importance to the quality of life of all our inhabitants, no matter what their colour.

Perhaps there is a selfish reason for achieving good community relations. But if there were no reasons of self-interest I would still regard it as an unavoidable moral challenge to preserve equal treatment under the law, which largely we have, and equal treatment in practice, which largely we do not have. I think I speak for all my right hon. and hon. Friends and for very many people outside the House as well in supporting this proposition.

I get particularly gloomy when I listen to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Sometimes we all get gloomy about the prospects for race relations in this country, but when we do we should be heartened by the kind of contributions made in the debate today, by the work of the all-party Select Committee and by the very great good will of all the major political parties—there are exceptions among the smaller ones—by the Churches, by the voluntary organistions and by, not least, people whose attitude towards race relations becomes more and more dedicated the more they come into contact with immigrant communities.

In going round schools and other institutions I am increasingly struck by the fact that people who may have had some degree of prejudice before they started teaching and had contact with immigrant communities find themselves in that situation becoming more and more dedicated to achieving proper and good racial harmony throughout the country.

It is bad enough that we have a society already where children especially, in the words of "Born to Fail", suffer adversity after adversity heaped upon them even before birth. How much worse is it that children particularly should have another adversity, that of colour, placed upon them. It is bad enough that wealth and power and class both illustrate and reproduce too often in their own image inequality which Socialists and others find unacceptable. It is even worse when the adversity of discrimination is added to all these other inequalities.

I want to turn for a moment to immigration, which I believe is only one adjunct of race relations policies. Here I want to comment on the speech made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He, of course, carried his speech far beyond immigration. He used an euphemism about uniting families the other way round. I suppose he might also use the euphemism "Reverse migration".

I shall not argue numbers with the right hon. Gentleman. He did not spell out numbers clearly. He gave us one figure, his estimate of a 2 million coloured population. I point out to him that from 1961 to 1971, a period of fairly heavy immigration of all types, the total population of the country increased by only 1,670,000, although he put the coloured population as being 2 million at the end of that period.

Numbers, however, are not important. Many of our quarrels with the right hon. Gentleman are that his objection to immigration and his concern and worry are about race and about colour. That is the classic racialist. I do not use the word in the vituperative sense, but it is racialism, treating people because of their ethnic background and colour as being different and deserving of different treatment. To use the word "colour" without qualification stigmatises the kind of child mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), the kind of girl who comes from Battersea, who was born in Wolverhampton and who happens to be coloured. To treat that kind of person as being someone different is racialism.

The right hon. Gentleman is eloquent, intelligent and experienced. What I find so sad is that he has so little to say about achieving good race relations. He does so little and says so little to redress the effect of some of his words. The right hon. Gentleman and I and many others represent multiracial constituencies. We all regard it as being our duty to say and do things which will make relations inside our constituencies more harmonious. Many of us work on the reasonable assumption that a large coloured population, say 1,500,000 to 2 million, is a permanent feature. We recognise the reality of that and we try as constituency Members to achieve harmony.

Therefore, immigration is only an adjunct of race relations. Just as important, if not more so, are the kind of things that the Select Committee has been discussing—housing, education, civil liberties, employment and training. We have to stop talking about coloured people, about black people as being immigrants. As the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond) said, it is a misuse of the English language. The people who read about immigration know exactly what is intended : that it is a debate about black and coloured people, and it is about time we stopped talking about coloured people as being immigrants.

The word "immigrant" for many refers to an historical fact. For half a million coloured people in this country the word "immigrant" is totally inaccurate because they were born here and they are part of a new generation of black British. In my view it is not the regulation of entry into the country that matters and is objectionable ; it is whether the operation of control is done in a fair and unbiased manner so that it does not have a backlash effect inside the community here. There are one or two areas where the operation of immigration policy exacerbates poor race relations. When the Government introduced their last set of immigration rules and the concept of grand-patriality, they produced such an adverse effect.

If entry to this country is to be built upon links, I can tell the Minister that the links between Jamaica and this country are far longer established than any of those between this country and Australia and New Zealand. The family links in my constituency between the United Kingdom and Jamaica are far greater in number than those between Commonwealth countries and the United Kingdom. We ought not to discriminate as between one Commonwealth country and another. The grand-patriality clause had a backlash effect, as does the use of retrospective legislation.

I do not deny for one moment the necessity to stamp out illegal immigration That is absolutely right. Such immigration is bad for race relations. Equally, I believe that the introduction of retrospective legislation—to use the words of another place, achieved by "labyrinthian verbiage"—also has an adverse effect. So do police raids to find illegal immigrants and the demanding of passports from people long established in this country. I hope that, in framing legislation, law, rules and practice procedure, the Government will have some regard to the adverse effect which these can have upon well-established and sometimes British-born communities.

Mr. Wilkinson

Would the hon. Gentleman's party, if in Government, amend the 1971 Immigration Act to delete the retrospective provision, or would it draft a totally new Act?

Mr. Fraser

I will not be drawn into setting forth a draft of a new Immigration Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) and others of my right hon. and hon. Friends made clear in a motion dealing with illegal immigration and debated in the House what our position was. If the hon. Gentleman refers to that motion, he will see that the matter is set out formally. All that is necessary is to declare an amnesty for all those who came in before the Immigration Act 1971 received the Royal Assent—that is to say, before 31st December 1971. I will not be drawn further on that.

I turn to another way in which immigration affects race relations and about which concern has been expressed on both sides of the House. Concern was expressed by the Select Committee in the education report which makes clear that, the longer the entry of children to the United Kingdom is delayed, the greater the problems of learning English as a second language and the greater the problems of some West Indian children learning standard English. The problem of catching up is referred to in paragraphs 204 and 231 of the report on coloured school leavers, and I support what is said there.

That report did not distinguish between the late arrival child who comes with his parents and the late arrival child who comes long after the parents have settled here. A child who has spent some years in a Commonwealth country and who comes to join his parents who are established here is met with the shock of the language change, a change of environment and a change of culture. What is more, he suffers a fracture of emotional ties with his foster-parents or substitute parents in his own country and, in addition, the task of building new emotional bonds with his natural parents in this country. That transition can be an enormous task which makes great demands on a child's intelligence and emotional resources.

Parents must be encouraged to have their children join them as soon as possible in a child's life. Secondly, administrative delays in children coming to join their parents should be eliminated, and in the allocation of entry certificates preference should be given to families that come as a single unit and do not have to endure long periods of separation.

The Government have before them 152 recommendations from four Select Committee reports and a good deal of other advice. It is possible to be overwhelmed by advice on how to achieve good community relations. We should be guided by four factors. First, the central enemy is racialism. If there were no racialism, we should not have to consider all these reports. Racialism is a deeply engrained habit. Even in the writings of Rousseau there are passages in "Education and Emile" about the inferiority of coloured people. That is the first thing that must be attacked.

Secondly, we must remember that many coloured people share the problems of a deprived white community and that the presence of coloured minorities illustrates rather than creates problems which are attributed to immigration. Those problems are shared to a greater or lesser degree by black people and white people. They share the canker of poor housing, multiple accommodation and homelessness. They share the inadequacies in the education system, the need for nursery education, the problem of illegal child minding to which my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough referred and the lack of play space. We should not imagine for one moment that squalor and colour are necessarily linked together. They are not.

If all the statistics concerning coloured children in schools were published, one would see that many affluent private schools achieve a majority coloured intake. It is wrong always to equate colour and deprivation. Equally, deprivation is often shared by white counterparts. It is illustrated by immigration to this country.

Thirdly, we must stop treating ethnic minorities as homogeneous units. There are wide differences between Caribbean immigrants and Asian immigrants. They must be treated as individual units and the people themselves as individuals.

The fourth principle is that in so many debates, including this one, we talk about these matters in the absence of those who are most concerned—namely, the black people. For example, the Select Committee recommends that in some cases there should be dispersal. Whether that is right or wrong can only be settled ultimately when we begin to take the views of black and coloured people. We should be wary about coming to conclusions when the people most concerned cannot take part in the debate.

Equally, black people and coloured people have a considerable duty to assert leadership. They must not expect all the answers to come from us. We need leadership from the coloured community on black people joining the police. We need leadership concerning the duties of parents to their children in schools. Whilst we should not be arrogant, and whilst we should take proper account of their views, we must demand that they put forward their views.

I now turn to the recommendations of the Race Relations Board. It is important that the Government should amend the Race Relations Act 1968. First, it would be symbolic. The Conservative Opposition voted against the Race Relations Bill in 1968. It would be effective if the Government were now to demon-state their willingness to accept the advice of the Race Relations Board to amend the Act. That would have symbolic significance.

Mr. Bidwell

There was mixed feeling in the Conservative Party. I think my hon. Friend is wrong to suggest that the official position of the Opposition in 1968 was one of opposition.

Mr. Fraser

I think that the Second Reading of the 1968 Bill was voted against by the official Conservative Opposition.

Mr. Powell


Mr. Fraser

They did not vote against it on Third Reading but they did so on Second Reading.

The Race Relations Board has found that discrimination is not likely to be attacked or discovered on the basis of individual complaints. The board suggests—and I agree—that to complain is not a natural phenomenon. Secondly, it suggests that a complainant frequently experiences delay. Thirdly, the board suggests that a complainant receives no general monetary compensation. It may well be that he will be humiliated if his complaint is not upheld. In using the complaints procedure, we expect individuals to show a great deal of perception and courage.

We must recognise that discrimination and racialism are collective matters which far too often are passively accepted. They cannot be rooted out only by individuals putting forward their complaints. The board emphasised that in its 1971 report. It reiterated the point in its latest report. It recommends that it be given powers to investigate where no individual acts of discrimination are suspected. The board considers that it should have the power to investigate on its own initiative. It quotes as an example the Factories Acts, and suggests that prevention is a much better way of dealing with the matter than to wait for complaints from individuals.

The board believes that it should have the power to obtain information. Unless it has that power, it is impossible to monitor the degree of discrimination which may take place in private industry. Other proposed amendments have been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins).

Further, I believe that the Government could write in a fair employment clause. That suggestion was spelt out in the Select Committee's reports. It could be written into Government contracts that local authorities should be encouraged to write in fair employment clauses and to monitor the contracts and adopt a much more positive attitude towards ensuring that discrimination does not take place in employment.

We should also seek to ensure that there are proper promotion prospects for coloured people. It is not just the refusal of a job that hurts. It is the fact that coloured people are often stratified in one particular job on a night shift or in one section of a factory. It is very difficult for coloured people in a job who do not get promotion. I hope that there will be a fair employment census to go into these matters, and I urge the Government to ensure that there will be equal opportunities. I also urge my comrades in the trade union movement to monitor employment and promotion opportunities for coloured people.

In terms of both housing and education a great many coloured children, though not all, face social problems which are different in severity as between one part of the country and another. The coloured population is disproportionately involved in the crisis in our cities. The coloured population is not the only section of the population that is vulnerable in this way. The programme of urban renewal has been pursued without a proper appreciation of the problems which both coloured people and white people will face.

I was amazed at Question Time to hear the Home Secretary say that a Conservative Government had managed to build more prisons than a Labour Government had done. I only wish that the Secretary of State for the Environment would come to the House to say that more houses were being built in our city centres and that more money was being devoted to urban renewal. But if the Home Secretary followed the example of the Secretary of State for the Environment, he would be more likely to come to the House to ask for improvement grants for prisons.

I should like to pick up some recommendations which I believe should be implemented. I agree with the ending of the collection of immigrant statistics about schoolchildren, and the argument on this score has been well made out. But it is important that we should have some method of assessing deprivation in terms of children, whatever their colour. I believe that there should be an index, or some other method, to assess the need to teach English as a second language or to teach standard English to children who come from patois backgrounds. We must pursue a policy of positive discrimination in this respect to give people equal opportunities.

Proposals for special training of teachers with a special awareness of these problems should be pursued by the Department of Education and Science. I find it remarkable that the Department has no immigration advisory unit. We must provide curricula more relevant to children whose parents came from different backgrounds from our own. We also need to review thoroughly cultural and class bias in our curricula and literature. I hope that the Department of Education and Science will bring pressure on examining boards to bring in more examinations on the lines of Mode 3 CSE. Perhaps there could be a Mode 3 "O" level examination to enable teaching to be more meaningful and relevant in these circumstances.

I hope that there will also be an investigation into the situation involving West Indian children being placed in schools for the educationally subnormal. There should be an inquiry to identify the link in respect of poor language performance, behavioural problems and what is now described as educational subnormality. West Indian children are frequently stigmatised by being sent to schools for the subnormal. What we need to stigmatise is the method of teaching applied to these children. There is nothing wrong with the children. What is wrong is the education system itself.

I turn to the subject of urban aid. I agreed wholeheartedly when the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said that we were not matching the task we face with adequate resources. The increases mentioned by the Home Secretary are extremely welcome, but the provision of an extra £2 million or £3 million a year does not in the slightest match the problems of educational deprivation or of urban renewal—problems which face people whatever their colour. The resources have to be very much greater than they are at present. It is important that they should be applied now.

We have many young coloured children in our schools who face educational disadvantage—a greater proportion of black children than white children as a percentage of their respective populations. Unless we apply the resources now we shall find the cost of remedying inadequacies in our system very much more later.

This has been a wide-ranging debate. The most important feature to come out of it has been the expression of great good will and of good intentions to achieve better community relations. We ask the Government to do a great deal. I have mentioned only a fraction of what we should like them to do. But it is not enough simply to ask them to do more. It is not enough to ask their agencies and institutions to do more. There is a responsibility on us all individually to achieve better community relations in our speeches and in our work in our constituencies and in this House. There is also a great responsibility upon each political party to do this. By recruiting immigrants and members of ethnic minorities the political parties themselves display qualities of integration. They can set an example in getting people together and deciding their future jointly. No party can claim to be multiracial in its objectives if it is not multiracial in its membership and in the representatives whom it sends to local authorities and ultimately to this House.

In all these ways I believe that we can achieve better community relations and that the prospects for the future can be bright. If we do not achieve good community relations, I dread to think of the cost of failure.

9.32 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Lane)

This has been a very useful debate and, to adopt a word used by a number of hon. Members, a candid debate. On the whole, it has also been encouragingly constructive. Unlike some hon. Members, I am glad that we have had a debate on such a wide canvas covering both the problems of immigration and these great issues of race relations. The two are very closely inter-related.

We are all aware that it is not easy to reconcile tight immigration control with positive work for better race relations. No one going round the country talking to people working in the field can fail to see the difficulties. On the other hand, I repeat what my right hon. Friend underlined earlier. The strict control of immigration in the present situation is an indispensable prerequisite to good race relations which we shall not be able to develop unless we can encourage a reasonably relaxed attitude on the part of the majority white community.

In these two sides of what is one coin we believe that we are developing our policies broadly on the right lines. I am also encouraged by the general degree of support that we have had today, although there are some points of difference and some points of criticism on both sides. We are discussing controversial and difficult matters.

I want to try to touch on the main theme of the debate and deal with as many of the questions put to me as time permits. I was sorry to miss the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett) and part of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler). If I am not able to cover some of the detailed points, I assure hon. Members that we shall keep in mind all the views expressed today as we develop our policies in the time ahead.

I should like to welcome the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) back to the Home Affairs beat again. I will endeavour to reply to his points in what seems the logical order as I go along. Likewise, I hope to respond to the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) in the general tone in which he approached the debate and with which I am very much in sympathy.

It is difficult to be clear on some of these issues just where the Labour Party stands. I welcome the broad area of agreement across the House, but it is no use shutting our eyes to some significant differences. I will give one example from what the hon. Member for Norwood said about illegal immigration. I understood him to say that the policy of his party is to give a general amnesty. In saying that is he also giving the right to what would be many thousands of dependants to come to this country? These are questions that must be put to the Opposition, and the country must draw its own conclusions.

The country might also draw its own conclusions from the strange fact that no Liberal voice has been raised in this debate today. We look forward to hearing on another occasion the maiden speech by the Liberal spokesman on Home Affairs. I understand his difficulties today. But when the Liberals are getting up so often and criticising us, or even the previous Government, the least that we can ask is that one of them might come along and be given time in what is the only big occasion that we have in the next few months for a general debate on this vital subject. This fact also should not be lost on the country.

I want to talk about immigration before coming to race relations. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, the feature of 1973 so far has been a substantial reduction—about 30 per cent. if we leave out of account the Uganda expulsions—in Commonwealth permanent immigration for settlement compared with last year. This is due partly to the 1971 Act being fully in force. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond) pointed out, the Act is very much in operation now in a number of respects. My right hon. Friend underlined straight away the radical changes that the Act has made in our system.

In parallel with the Act being in force we are engaged in a general firming up of our system of control in various ways, as my right hon. Friend indicated—in particular relating to students, some of whom—fortunately a small minority, but still a significant number—have been trying to take advantage of our system.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South, referred to insurance cards, which form another clear loophole that we are anxious to close. Discussions with the Department of Health and Social Security are still proceeding regarding the details of the closer liaison that we are developing. I hope that that liaison will soon be in force. I am sure that that will also be beneficial in stopping up another undesirable loophole.

There are two main concerns in the House and the country about the general immigration scene. One centres on the Indian sub-continent, which has been mentioned in the debate. We all know of the continuing pressures there and of the unfortunate amount of deception and subterfuge that is employed in trying to evade our controls. These are facts of life that we must face.

I am particularly glad to have the chance of going to the sub-continent early next month to make the best assessment that I can of the whole situation there. I particularly wish to thank—I hope that I have the appreciation of the House with me in this—the work that our staff in the posts there are doing in difficult circumstances.

I shall be looking particularly at the situation of dependants underlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). I shall also be looking at the way in which the appeals system is working out there. I shall, of course, look at the problem of delays which has been mentioned by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It seems unavoidable at this time, when trying to operate a fair system and when so many methods are being used to get round it, that delays should occur. Our staff there, whatever their number—we have increased the staff in our posts in Delhi, Islamabad and Dacca in the last few years—must be very careful in checking details and eliminating bogus applicants, so that some delays are inevitable. But I note what has been said by a number of hon. Members and I will look out for that, too, when I am in the sub-continent. The other thing that I want to do there is to talk to the three Governments to see whether more can be done at the beginning of this wretched trade—the far end—in illegal immigration to stamp it out or at least greatly to diminish its scale.

When one reads the pathetic stories, as I have to do, of the men who are caught up in this, and whom we are steadily returning to their own countries when they have been found out here, it is worth trying any new measures at either end which might help to cut it down. That is in addition to the steps that my right hon. Friend mentioned to tighten our defences at this end, particularly in liaison with the authorities on the other side of the Channel.

The other main area of concern is the United Kingdom passport holders in East Africa. My right hon. Friend has clearly explained what we have been doing and what we shall be doing in continuing our policy. I should like to make something clear to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. He has misunderstood slightly the numerical situation. The overall ceiling, which includes India as well as East Africa, remains at 3,500 vouchers a year for heads of households. The substantial share of this, which was formerly devoted to Uganda, has been frozen in the last year or so. But now, a part of it will be brought into use again for Kenya, but, as my right hon. Friend said, this will remain within and under the global ceiling of 3,500 so it does not amount, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford surmised, to anything like a doubling of the number of vouchers for Kenya.

My right hon. Friend also asked about the Indian Government's part in this, which we acknowledge is very important. We are in fairly constant touch with the Indian Government, but it was not necessary to make any special approach to them at this time. The existing arrangements mean that India will admit without numerical limit United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa with what is known as the "Indian endorsement" which says that the United Kingdom will accept them for eventual settlement here if they do not settle in India. This will continue to apply, but in fact it is only a very small proportion of these United Kingdom passport holders who tend to come here from India.

Then there have been questions about what I would call the hard cases. The hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) mentioned the case in which, the other day, I had to decide to send back to Pakistan a 19-year-old wife because she had come here without waiting her turn and without an entry certificate. I assure him and the House that these are hateful decisions to have to take, but I am equally certain that, if we gave way in a situation such as that, in no time at all many other people would be trying to get around our system simply by jumping the queue—and that we will not have.

The right hon. Member for Stechford asked about husbands and wives—

Mr. Bidwell rose

Mr. Lane

I have many other points to answer. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to raise this matter on the Adjournment, when I should be happy to deal with it.

I want to deal with the point raised by the right hon. Member for Stechford about the different rule which applies to husbands and wives—in particular husbands trying to join women who are settled here. The reasons which led his right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary to change the rules in 1969 to avoid the evasion which was developing are just as strong today, and we do not contemplate changing back again at present. We do not believe that this would be consistent with the firm immigration control which we have to maintain.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked me about split families in the context of the Uganda expulsion. The House will remember that my right hon. Friend decided in February that, as part of the international operation begun by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we would admit to this country about 300 men who were expelled from Uganda and who were then in Europe and whose wives and children were here. However, it is the general international practice that families should live in the countries where the head of the household is, and we would not feel justified in making now another concession of the kind that we made in February. Of course, it is open to husbands whose wives are here to apply to the nearest British representative for an entry certificate, and any such applications will be carefully considered in the light of all the individual circumstances of the case.

As I am mentioning the Uganda refugees, may I also say that the number remaining in the last centre organised by the Uganda Resettlement Board is down this week to 250, and the board will be taking stock of the whole present situation at its meeting tomorrow. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the teachers from Uganda. My right hon. Friend and hon. Friends from the Department heard what he said. I know that they are doing their best to make it possible for these teachers to be further trained and then to play their part in our school system here.

The last point that I want to raise under the general heading of immigration is in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson), who asked us about the progress made in the review of the nationality law. As we told the House just over a year ago, when the Government put in hand a review of the nationality law, we were very well aware that this was a highly technical and complex subject and that rapid progress was unlikely. During the past year, these nationality studies have been proceeding and good progress in analysing the possible alternatives is being made. The review is not yet at a stage when we can announce conclusions, but I hope that it will soon be possible for us to say what the next steps will be.

If I may now turn to the race relations side of the debate, inter-related as these subjects inevitably are, it seems to me that this is, as much as it ever was, a time for moderates to stand up and to speak up. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in his speech at Nottingham, to which reference has been made, that there is a clash of strident voices from various points on the spectrum. I have experienced this myself during the past year. I have been shouted at by black militants at a meeting in Liverpool and I have been heckled by the National Front in Rugby, and this continues.

On the one hand, one sees and deplores a kind of reverse form of prejudice which is shown by white or coloured extremists, who allege that our whole British society and way of life is riddled with racism. They may think that they are helping their coloured fellow citizens. In fact, their exaggeration is simply inflammatory and counter-productive and they do the cause of race relations a grave disservice. On the other hand, there are still people who seem not to recognise that most of the newcomers are here to stay.

Here may I say that my quarrel with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is that in his approach to this great national issue of race relations he seems to be invariably negative. Tonight he was talking, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West put it, in an apocalyptic tone. He talked several times about candour, but it seems to me that it is my right hon. Friend himself who is lacking in candour when he does not give answers to the basic questions which his speech calls to our minds.

If he is assuming, for the sake of argument, that there are 1½ million coloured people in this country, or even as he believes 2 million, how many of them is he hoping to send overseas, by what means is he hoping to persuade them there, and at what cost? It is he who is living in a world of fantasy if he thinks that anything on this scale can be attempted without catastrophic damage to race relations in this country. I would appeal to him to come to terms himself with the realities of the present situation, to accept that there is, and will remain, a significant coloured minority in our population, and to exert his eloquence and his influence on the side of positive measures to build good race relations in Britain.

Mr. Powell

Will my hon. Friend include in his speech an acknowledgment not merely of the present facts but of a future certain prospect?

Mr. Lane

I am as well aware as my right hon. Friend of the future prospects. I am more concerned to do something positive, constructive and relevant about them. That is what the Government intend to do.

I turn now to the Select Committee reports. I join in the general tributes which have been paid today to those reports over a series of years. I deal first, briefly, with the police report. We have responded—I hope that the House will feel that we have responded positively—in our recent reply to that report of the Select Committee. I was glad to hear the tributes paid today to the police, not least by the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson). It has been my impression in the last year that around the country relationships on the whole between the police and the coloured community have been improving.

May I here answer the point raised about the recent police searches in London? The searches which were made by the police on 11th and 25th October were made on specific information relating to the addresses visited and where the police had reason to believe that illegal entrants were being harboured. No areas were cordoned off and no one was questioned indiscriminately in the streets. The police were carrying out their normal operational duties and they required no special Home Office authority to do so. Obviously this is a delicate operation and I know that some concern has been caused. My right hon. Friend heard what was said about it and in his periodical discussions with the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis he will be discussing with him whether any special lessons can be learned from this particular episode.

The last Select Committee report to be published, the report which we have been mainly considering today, was about education. The debate has been heard by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I am delighted to welcome my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, who has made his maiden utterance from the Government Front Bench today. All that has been said will be very carefully considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Edcation and Science and by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. I confirm what was said earlier, that the Government hope to make their reply to the Select Committee report before Easter.

The third report which has been mentioned is the housing report. Here again, my right hon. Friend has spoken to the Minister for Housing and Construction this afternoon. That reply, too, we hope to present to the House very shortly.

I want to mention two further matters briefly, before concluding my speech on race relations. First, the question of employment, in all of our minds, I think, is the main area of concern when looking ahead on the subject of race relations. I should like to answer another question about the Government's circular to the Civil Service. We fully accept what was said about the circular not covering monitoring, that is, any system of recording the numbers of coloured staff and the positions in which they are employed. The fact is that we have this subject very much in mind and we hope that it will be possible to devise a simple and workable system. We are also hoping to learn valuable lessons from the current reference of the Community Relations Commission into the problems of homelessness and joblessness among young coloured people. That too, I am assured by the Chairman, should be ready very shortly.

Lastly, on the subject of urban policy, I need not confirm to the House—although I want to do so in view of one or two things which were said—that my right hon. Friend is giving very high priority to the new rôle that he has taken on in Government over the whole area of urban policy. I was glad to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman) said on the importance of this matter and I go along very much with his remarks about balanced communities. I also echo what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. We have not yet in Britain sufficiently matched resources to the task before us. That applies particularly to the urban problems.

I was asked about the £6 million of extra support announced earlier today. I confirm that in the allocation of that sum over the next three years we shall bear in mind very much the needs of areas with particularly large numbers of immigrants and coloured people, following the guidelines we have developed over recent years in a number of programmes already in force. I do not think there has been sufficient acknowledgment of them during the debate When I go round to the cities I find that the urban programme, the moneys available under Section 11 and other such support are very much welcomed by the local authorities. The only cry we hear is, "We would like more." We are tying to respond to that cry in the way and to the extent that my right hon. Friend already explained.

I was also asked about the 1968 Act and the suggestions by the Race Relations Board that it should be enlarged and its powers extended. My right hon. Friend has already made clear in his speeches to the board that we are not convinced that the case has yet been made out. We need more time to assess the present working of the Act and to analyse rather more deeply the extent of discrimination and the form it takes in the 1970s, for which the new survey being carried out by PEP will be very helpful.

As my right hon. Friend said in his speech at Blackpool at our party conference, we are determined to pursue two basic aims which are not easy to reconcile but are essential to achieve. The first is to keep down new immigration to a minimum. The people of this country, many of them genuinely worried, must be reassured that we shall maintain firm control and see that the level of immigration declines further.

We shall make full use of the powers in the 1971 Act and shall look for ways of strengthening still more our defences against the pressures that bear upon us. But while we are strict and firm we try also to be fair and humane, and we shall administer the control to the best of our ability, in the words of the immigration rules, without regard to race, colour and religion. We shall try to avoid rigidity and insensitivity, and in our general application of the rules we shall give proper weight to compassionate circumstances in particular cases.

Our second basic aim is to improve race relations in this country and to tackle the various problems which threaten them. But, as in immigration policy, there must be fairness in our approach to race relations, remembering the interests of the white majority no less than the coloured minority. Yet the main responsibility is surely on us, the overwhelming white majority, to ensure equal rights for all and to remove discrimination wherever it is found.

The Government's ideal is a country where no citizens are made to feel second class and where the colour of a man's skin matters no more than the colour of his hair. Today we are still far short of that ideal, and progress will depend on tolerance, decency and mutual consideration. I stress "mutual" because it must be a two-way matter between different sections of the community.

The responsibility rests not only on Government but on local authorities, employers and trade unionists, and on millions of ordinary men and women up and down the country. Leadership means not just words but action, and the Government will play their full part.

Constructive work in race relations needs to be given a higher priority by us all if the hope of harmoney is to be made stronger than the fear of discord.

In home politics at this time there is no greater challenge than the building of a harmonious society for our children as well as for ourselves. It is a task in which we must succeed, because we dare not fail.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Humphrey Atkins)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.