HC Deb 11 July 1973 vol 859 cc1702-42
Mr. Deputy Speaker

We come now to Amendment No. 19, with which No. 21 is to be discussed.

Mr. John Fraser


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Kaufman.

Mr. Kaufman

Would it be in order for my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser), on the Front Bench, to move his amendment first? That would be acceptable to me if it were acceptable to the House. Otherwise, of course, I will move mine.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

May we just check? I think that what is intended is that Amendment 21 should be called, and that it should be discussed with the following amendments: No. 19, in page 7, line 5, after 'shall' insert 'continue to'.

No. 20, in page 7, line 7, leave out from 'Act' to end of line 23.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Kaufman

I beg to move, Amendment No. 21, in page 7, line 7, leave out from 'Act' to end of line 26 and insert: '(2) A person who by virtue of section 1(1) of this Act ceases to be a Commonwealth citizen but who by virtue of any rule of law or enactment was not liable to removal from the United Kingdom under the powers in that behalf contained in Schedule 2 of the Immigration Act 1971 shall not cease to be immune from removal'. I am placed in a somewhat embarrassing position, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in that I am anticipating a much more authoritative speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser). Nevertheless, procedure has obliged me to speak first.

This is the single occasion in our proceedings this evening when some harsh words will have to be spoken. In Committee, on a large number of matters the Under-Secretary promised to be forthcoming and in every case except this one he has been forthcoming in a way which is appreciated by myself and by other hon. Members. But although I dislike being harsh with the hon. Gentleman, on this matter he has failed us.

When this matter was raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, the Minister responded immediately in a tone which we have come to expect from him and which we found most acceptable. With regard to the fears which have been raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) and my hon. Friends, the Minister said on 3rd July: I do not believe that these fears are justified, but we shall look into them carefully in the light of everything that hon. Members on both sides have said. If we feel that there is an unintended anomaly, or anything unfair or unsatisfactory about these provisions, particularly relating to liability or not for deportation, we shall bring forward an amendment on Report.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 3rd July, 1973; c. 361.] That being so, I cannot understand why the appropriate amendments have not been brought forward by the Government. The Minister said that they would look carefully into the case that had been made. If they have done so and if they do not believe that there is an unintended anomaly, the only alternative is that they believe that there is an intended anomaly, and that the consequences of the Bill as it stands are what the Government wish.

I cannot believe that that can be so. The best way in which I can attempt to bring home to the Government the fears held by some of my hon. Friends is by reading to the House a letter which I received from a Pakistani in Manchester who alerted me to this problem. He puts it far better and far more succinctly and dynamically than I could put it. He wrote to me as follows: I must draw your attention to a very important clause of the Pakistan Bill. Massive deportation of Pakistanis will follow the passing of the Bill in its present form. I depart from the letter to say that the Minister may well say that there are not to be massive deportations. Nevertheless, he must accept that this is the feeling among Pakistanis. The Government have done so much to assuage feelings of fear and panic, but it is necessary on this issue, too, for them to do that, and by writing something into the Bill and not simply giving us assurances. In returning to the letter I shall come to what is thought of assurances which have been given.

My correspondent went on to say I will try to explain how serious the situation is. Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971 lays down that Commonwealth citizens who have resided in this country for five years shall not be deported. Schedule 3 of the Pakistan Bill says that for the purposes of the above section Pakistanis will cease to be Commonwealth citizens six months after the Pakistan Bill becomes an Act. Of course, it is now 12 months after the commencement of the Act.

My correspondent went on: Therefore, they can then be deported even if they have remained here for five years. There are quite a few persons in this country who came here before Pakistan left Commonwealth and who will complete five years here before becoming aliens under the above mentioned Schedule 3. Between the date of completing five years and becoming alien they cannot be deported because of the Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971. But the moment they become alien then notwithstanding their previous immunity they will get their marching orders. People will make many protests but it will be far too late. One may ask at this stage"— I am still reading from the letter, because it puts the matter very well— doesn't the Pakistan Bill give all the Pakistanis 12 months to apply for UK citizenship and thus avoid deportation. The answer … is No. Pakistan Bill does not give anyone who does not qualify under the Immigration Act 1971 a right to apply for UK citizenship. Because of the strict criteria laid down by the Immigration Act 1971 (Schedule 1) not all the Pakistanis who are here can either now or in future apply for UK citizenship—for example, those who have limited leave to remain here cannot apply. In comparison, the Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971 is much more generous. It gives all Commonwealth citizens (which at the present moment includes Pakistanis as well) protection against deportation if they have lived here for five years. The only condition is that they should have entered the country properly. You can, therefore, imagine the position after the protection of the above Section 7 is lifted. The Home Office does certainly have a record of those who have a limited leave to remain here but who cannot be deported after residing here for five years. There will be no need to seek these people out. They will be there at their known addresses believing that they have become exempt from deportation not knowing that the Pakistan Bill has changed everything … I hope that you will agree that the Pakistan Bill should not be made a vehicle for deportation in large numbers of those who came to this country before Pakistan left Commonwealth and who complete five years of residence here before becoming aliens. Then my correspondent goes on to mention assurances. This is why I make it clear to the Government that for me assurances are not enough; because, as I have said in proceedings on previous Bills, assurances get buried away in bound volumes of Committee proceedings and of our proceedings in the House, but the courts can be guided only by enactments by Parliament.

My correspondent concluded: … is it true that the Government had assured earlier that those Pakistanis who were here at the time when Pakistan left Commonwealth will not be affected in any way. Pakistan Bill certainly does not follow this statement on the question of deportation. Secondly"— this is directly relevant to the Under-Secretary— if I am not wrong I heard Mr. David Lane say on a TV programme for Asian viewers that nobody will be deported because of Pakistan Bill. If so, the Bill itself should have said this. I do not believe that the Government intend that the Bill shall be made a vehicle for deportations of people who thought that they were safely here. I do not believe that the Government wish this to be so. But as night follows day the Bill, if it is passed in its present form, despite any good will by Ministers, will be made a vehicle, because the courts will be able to interpret it in no other way.

When the Government have been as forthcoming as they have on so many of the other points we put forward, and if they ask us to accept their good faith on this issue, I cannot understand why, if our amendments are not satisfactory, they have not brought forward more satisfactory amendments of their own as they have on other issues which we have passed without cavil this evening.

That being so, I greatly trust that the Under-Secretary, whose good faith we have very much come to accept during the proceeding on the Bill, will tell us that the Government will bring an amendment forward in another place. It has been made clear that the Government do not intend to accept my amendment or the more satisfactory amendment in the names of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench. That being so, I hope that the genuine, real and basic fears of Pakistanis who think that the Bill will be used to throw them out of this country will not be simply assuaged by soothing words by the hon. Gentleman but will be removed by the Government amending the Bill in a way which will be found acceptable.

Mr. John Fraser

As my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) said, this is the only really contentious point on the Report stage of this Bill. It is at the very end of the Bill, late at night, and yet I make no apology for raising this matter at this time.

One of the things which we learned from the Immigration Act 1971 was that in the labyrinthine verbiage which one finds in schedules there may be restrospective provisions. There may be provisions which take away rights which people believe they have. They may be matters which affect very severely the liberty of the subject, and it is the duty of every Committee and of this House to look at every line and part of a Bill to make sure that these things do not go through, at any rate, uncontested.

It is not that one condones illegal immigration or a breach of the immigration rules. Nor do I view with satisfaction what has been a feature of some past immigration Acts that they contain provisions which allow a kind of cat-and-mouse game to be played between those who come to this country and the authorities. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that certain immunities and amnesties were granted by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, by the 1968 Act and by Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971. The point at issue on the amendment is whether those immunities and amnesties are to be withdrawn or not.

The amendment falls into two parts. I will deal first with, as it were, the second part of the amendment—the printed words on the Amendment Paper. The purpose of those words is to protect those who are still immune from removal, as opposed to deprivation, because although they were totally illegal immigrants but had not been refused admission to this country, they had, if they came before the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, a common law right of entry to the United Kingdom as Commonwealth citizens. Even following the House of Lords decision in Director of Public Prosecutions v. Azam, those people are still immune from removal under Schedule 2 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1971.

The latter part of this amendment seeks to restate that immunity notwithstanding the passage of the Pakistan Bill as a result of which they will lose their British citizenship and as a result of which they may lose common law rights of entry to the United Kingdom which they had before 1968. That deals with one part of the amendment.

The other part is one of rather more substance. It relates to an amendment to Schedule 3 which, if carried, would have the effect of continuing the protection of Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971 to Pakistan citizens notwithstanding that they ceased to be British citizens upon this measure coming into force. Section 7 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1971 gave an amnesty to Commonwealth citizens who entered the United Kingdom perfectly lawfully at any time after 1962 but before 1st January 1973. It only protects people who came in lawfully and who came in before 1st January 1973 and who, when the Home Secretary decided to make an order to deport them, could fulfil the condition that they had been ordinarily resident here for five years.

12 midnight.

They may not entirely escape the provisions of the Immigration Act 1971, because in Section 7 "ordinarily resident" is defined as being resident in the United Kingdom and not subject to any restriction on the time a person may remain, but in section 7 there is a special exception where "ordinarily resident" means ordinarily resident while in breach of the immigration rules. There is a further exemption in the clause concerning deportation on grounds conducive to the public good, but I need not go into that.

The only ground on which the Home Secretary would seek to deport someone who entered lawfully but was in breach of the immigration restrictions, apart from conviction and apart from the ground of not being conducive to the public good, would be that he had remained here in breach of the conditions put upon his leave to enter the United Kingdom. Schedule 3 takes away the immunity and renders that person liable to be deported for being here in breach of the immigration laws when he becomes an alien, although by Section 7 of the 1971 Act so long as he remains a Commonwealth citizen he is immune.

There is a saving provision in Schedule 3. It says that if within one year of 1st September a Pakistani applies to register as a United Kingdom citizen and is subsequently granted registration the immunity accorded by Section 7 of the 1971 Act will continue. Once he becomes a United Kingdom citizen he cannot be reported in any case. But the saving provision is meaningless in most cases and there is a catch in it. Under Section 5(a) of the British Nationality Act 1948 a person is not qualified to register as a United Kingdom citizen if in breach of the immigration laws—that is in breach of the conditions of entry. The very reason for granting an amnesty under Section 7 is also the very reason why the saving provisions of Schedule 3 of this Bill cannot be used. Most people were given immunity because they had been here for five years in breach of conditions. But because they had been here for that time in those circumstances they could not apply to register for United Kingdom citizenship. The protection which seems to be afforded by Schedule 3 is entirely illusory.

We cannot again commit Parliament to changing the status and security of people who are ordinarily resident in this country so that they lose the immunity conferred upon them. It is not good enough for Parliament from one Act to another retrospectively to withdraw the amnesty affecting the status of those who are here and who believe themselves to be secure—and it could be someone who entered this country as long ago as 1963. It is wrong to deprive these people of the immunity and security which they believed they had, and I hope therefore that the House will support me in the amendment.

Mr. Wilkinson

I shall not detain the House for long but only to explain why I raised this matter in Committee. It seemed to me that a distinction could be drawn in the schedule between what in practice will happen to Indians, Bangladeshis, West Indians and other Commonwealth citizens, and what can happen to certain Pakistanis who are unable to become British citizens because they will be unable to qualify for registration.

I wondered whether it was appropriate that something of this kind should be introduced at the back of the Bill and not be applicable right across the board in some other piece of legislation. What we see in Schedule 3 is probably not nearly as punitive as hon. Gentlemen opposite imagine. So long as people are applying for registation, all is well. The trouble arises over those who cannot qualify.

We must ask ourselves whether it is the Government's wish that those who have overstayed and should not be here should enjoy the right to become British citizens. This is very much what is at issue.

The critical part of Schedule 3 is in paragraph 1(2): Nothing in this sub-paragraph shall prevent the said person's being recommended for deportation under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1971". Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act refers to the provisions for deportation of non-patrials, but, as I see it, only those convicted of an offence. So it is right for the Under-Secretary to claim, as he did on television, that no one will be deported under the provisions of the Bill. Certain people will not be able to become British subjects by registration because they are unable, according to the British Nationality Act, to qualify. But they could be subject to deportation if they commit an offence. If so, the provision is not nearly as punitive as hon. Gentlemen opposite make out. Perhaps my hon. Friend will clarify that point. None the less, I think that I was right, at the conclusion of the Committee stage, to raise this issue because it is important for the reasons that I have adduced.

Mr. John Fraser

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I draw his attention to Section 3(5)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971, which provides: A person who is not patrial shall be liable to deportation from the United Kingdom— (a) if, having only a limited leave to enter or remain, he does not observe a condition attached to the leave or remains beyond the time limited by the leave". Surely the point that I made is valid: that anybody who is in breach of his leave to enter is subject to deportation.

Mr. Wilkinson

This is a point on which I should like clarification by my hon. Friend. I notice that clearly it is Section 3(6) that is specified in the schedule, not Section 3(5)(a). If only Section 3(6) is specified, I presume it is for a purpose. I look to my hon. Friend to clarify this very point.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)

I sincerely hope that the interpretation that we have just heard suggested by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) is correct.

I shall not detain the House long, because we have had an excess of long speeches tonight.

It is perhaps appropriate that Amendment No. 21 should be debated after midnight as the relevant clause of the Immigration Bill was also debated after midnight. Schedule 3 of the Pakistan Bill takes away the effect of express assurances which were given in debates in Committee on the Immigration Bill by the then Home Secretary the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling). I have the report of the Standing Committee on the Immigration Bill of 18th May 1971 dealing with Clause 7. In the course of moving amendments to Clause 7 my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) said: The effect of the amendment I am moving on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself, would be to accomplish the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman suggested. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) had suggested that there should be an amnesty for those who had entered illegally previously. My hon. and learned Friend then said: It would mean that these people, provided that they were here in July, 1971, irrespective of whether they were in breach of immigration control—that is to say, whether they were here legally or illegally—would be free from the threat of deportation. A short while later my hon. and learned Friend said: It would be better to wipe the slate clean, as the right hon. Member for Ashford suggested earlier … In the course of the debate on Clause 7 the then Secretary of State for the Home Department said: I hope that I can help the hon. and learned Gentleman. This Clause deals with exemption for existing residents…. I made it clear earlier that I wanted to be able to say that there was no change in the position of those who are already here. There are some respects under the clause as drafted in which the position of those already here is altered. I am inclined to think that that was wrong, and I shall change it…. On subsection (1), the position is that at present Commonwealth citizens are liable to deportation under Clause 3(6), that is, on a criminal offence and a recommendation. They are exempt from deportation after five years' residence here. I shall not burden the House with reading long extracts, but the then Secretary of State for the Home Department said that he was prepared to recommend fur- ther amendments to the Immigration Bill to make it clear that with regard to deportation either on an offence and a recommendation by the courts under paragraph (b) on "non-conducive" grounds — … the position of those already resident here at the end of July, 1971, will not be worsened in any way by the Bill. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman. What applied to those whose presence was not conducive to the public good was naturally taken to apply, even more strongly, to those against whom there was no complaint but who were merely liable under paragraph (a) for having overstayed. So, later, on the same amendment, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) said: I should like to see in cold print the remarks made by the Home Secretary and study them, because I cannot see how subsection (2) will be changed. None the less, having received his assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 18th May, 1971, c. 961–73.] I have studied the Home Secretary's remarks in cold print and there is no doubt about the assurances which he had given to the Committee. What was intended by Section 7(2) of the Immigration Act was to give an immunity to those who were here. What is done by Schedule 3 of this Bill is to withdraw that immunity in complete defiance of the assurances given to the Committee in 1971.

I was one of a group of hon. Members who were most active in promoting and presenting the cause of Bangladesh at the time of the tragic events of 1971. But neither I nor my hon. Friends wished, in supporting the cause of Bangladesh, to indicate any hostility to the people of Pakistan. We did not wish Pakistan to leave the Commonwealth. Even less did we wish to express an antagonism to the people of Pakistan living in this country. By supporting the rights of self-determination of the people of Bangladesh we had no hostility to the people of Pakistan.

Mr. Wilkinson

The hon. Gentleman said that this provision was taking away the immunity of Section 7(2) of the Immigration Act 1971. I cannot see that that is so. It is not spelled out that that is so in the schedule. It is not the case that the elasticity period is a year after the enactment of the legislation. It is only "taking away" in the sense that these people will not be Commonwealth citizens unless they register as United Kingdom citizens. In that case that immunity would lapse anyway because Section 7 refers only to Commonwealth citizens and the people of the Republic of Ireland. I cannot see that the hon. Gentleman is making a valid point.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is right and that this immunity is not withdrawn. But Section 7 of the Immigration Act says: Notwithstanding anything in section 3(5) or (6) … but subject to the provisions of this section, a Commonwealth citizen … who was such a citizen at the coming into force of this Act and was then ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom— (a) shall not be liable to deportation …". in the circumstances then set-out.

I hope I am wrong, but my interpretation is that, in order to qualify for exemption under that provision, one has to have been a Commonwealth citizen both at the time the issue arises and at the time of the commencement of the Act. If I am right, it means that someone who may have entered the country legally in 1963, who has been living here a perfectly blameless life and who may have his family and his home here, will suddenly, as a result of actions over which he had no control—actions by the former President Yahya Khan and of the present President Bhutto of Pakistan—become liable, after 10 years or more in this country, to deportation.

Mr. Kaufman

It might be of assistance to my hon. Friend if I intervene now. I think he has put his finger on the nub of the matter, and it is important that the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) should accept this point too. As I understand it, Section 7 of the Immigration Act conferred an amnesty on Commonwealth citizens who had, as it were, outstayed their leave here. Schedule 3 of this Bill continues that amnesty up to, and only up to, the end of the period of grace—that is, 12 months plus any period of flexibility after the commencement of this Bill. The wish of the Government and all those hon. Members who voted for the Immigration Act was that all those covered by Section 7 of the Act should have an amnesty, but Pakistanis are now being retrospectively deprived of that amnesty solely because of the withdrawal of Pakistan from the Commonwealth and not because of any changes in the material circumstances of those affected.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I think my hon. Friend has expressed the situation excellently. This is something which has happened to people who have been resident in this country, who have made their homes here. It has happened because of things over which they had no control. I sincerely trust that it was not intended by the Government. Equally, I trust that the retroactive provisions of the Immigration Act were wished on the Government by the House of Lords rather than by the deliberate design of the Home Office. The Home Secretary has suggested that this is not, indeed, the case, but I give the Home Office credit for being rather less disingenuous than would be the case if it had given the assurances which it did give the House when the Immigration Act was before it while being aware at the time that the measure would have the effect that it has had.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) has said, as a consequence of Pakistan leaving the Commonwealth, under the Bill people who have been resident here, leading blameless lives, have suddenly become liable to deportation. It may be that an interpretation can be placed on the Bill that it does not have the effect that we fear, and I trust that the Government will be able to give us that assurance. If they cannot, although it may not be appropriate to press the matter to a vote tonight, I hope that our noble Friends in another place will ensure that the matter is reviewed.

The Government have not perhaps fully understood this point. It arose late in Committee. I hope that they will take an opportunity of ensuring that the Bill is humane in this respect as it is in others, now it has been amended. At present it cannot be regarded as humane if Schedule 3 has the effect we fear it may have.

Mr. Edward Lyons

I was a member of the Committees which considered the Immigration Bill and the Pakistan Bill. The Immigration Act is unusual in that it is said that certain classes of Commonwealth citizen could not apply for British citizenship because they had been allowed into the country for limited periods. At the same time, Section 7 laid down that they could not be deported. It is this group of persons with whom we are now concerned.

They were given immunity against deportation while being forbidden by Schedule 1(2) of the Immigration Act from applying for citizenship. By Schedule 3 of this Bill that immunity given to people who might loosely be called "over-stayers" is being withdrawn, to be effective 12 months after the implementation of this measure which will be 1st September 1974.

That means that every Pakistani "over-stayer" will be eligible for deportation after having had the immunity granted by Section 7 of the Immigration Act withdrawn. Whether that is right or wrong it removes existing rights of immunity expressly given by the 1971 Act. The result will be that a considerable number of Pakistanis who had immunity will be eligible for deportation after 1st September 1974. That can only cause a considerable amount of unease because it will be left to the discretion of the Home Office whether such persons are to be deported. The Government should consider this again because the principle of retrospective legislation seems to be developing far too quickly.

Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West)

I find it much against the grain to rise in this House after ten o'clock and I apologise not only to you, Mr. Speaker, but to myself. It is however, important that we should be clear about what we are doing here. I want to make it clear that I want to be clear about what is happening. I want to ensure fairness all round and I want to see that we do not water down the Immigration Act in any way that will cause trouble for community relations.

The reason I feel so strongly about this is as a result of the line I took in Committee. I was reported rather prominently in my local newspaper as having voted the same way as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). This brought me the sort of letters I normally get from people in Bolton when my right hon. Friend makes a speech on immigration, letters I do not like receiving. They are racialist letters and I think my right hon. Friend knows the people who write to me like this. Two days later I was asked to meet the members of the Pakistan Society in Bolton to discuss with it the problems of the Azad Kashmiris. Members of the Press were present, not at my wish but at theirs, and a photograph was taken of me with the Azad Kashmiris. People had written to me saying that I had done the right thing in voting as I had and then wrote vile letters associating me with the Azad Kashmiris. Because of the strength of feeling which has been stirred up, and because the Bill is regarded by many people as an immigration measure, we must be particularly careful in dealing with the schedule.

Pakistanis will have the right to take 12 months to make up their minds about whether they wish to register as United Kingdom citizens. If they decide not to do so, they will have decided that they do not want to be British subjects, for some reason which probably will be very good to them. Therefore, they will have decided that they wish to become aliens. They will have chosen not to be Commonwealth citizens by their own act and therefore will have taken themselves outside the provisions of the Immigration Act.

I wish my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, not to give assurances, but to define who is right—the Opposition or my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson).

Mr. Kaufman

I do not think that anybody in this Chamber or the Pakistani community would suggest that somebody who chose to be an lien in the way the hon. Gentleman is describing should be given immunity which was orginally extended to Commonwealth citizens. I would not suggest that. The problem is that immunity will be taken away from people not eligible to register for Commonwealth citizenship.

Mr. Redmond

I want a clear explanation, not assurances.

Mr. Lane

In the Government's view, it is not possible to continue indefinitely to treat citizens of Pakistan as if they still enjoy safeguards which were given to them because they held the status of Commonwealth citizens. I shall try to persuade the House that the effects of the amendments goes very much further than the relatively narrow point we have been mainly considering.

There has been a great deal of exaggeration and misunderstanding which I hope to clear up. I want to allay fears which mostly are unnecessary, but I shall tell the House as clearly and frankly as I can what the effect of the Bill will be and how it will be administered.

I deny that there is any vicious circle, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser). I deny the charges of bad faith made against the Government. I deny that there is any reason for undue alarm in the mind of the correspondent of the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), whose letter the hon. Member read out. I deny some of the wilder thinking reported in The Guardian this morning—for example, a statement said to have been made by the Chairman of the Pakistan Action Committee that the Government had secretly put in clauses which would make thousands of long-standing Pakistani residents in Britain liable to deportation. This is a serious step towards enforced repatriation. I absolutely deny that it is any such thing.

First, I clear up two small points raised by the amendments. As the hon. Member for Norwood said, taking the wider of the three amendments, namely, No. 21, which covers the same ground as Amendments Nos. 19 and 20, the words in it were intended to safeguard the position of illegal entrants—and I emphasise "illegal entrants"—in the sense in which we have been recently considering the position of illegal entrants affected by the recent House of Lords judgment about the effect of Schedule 2 of the Immigration Act 1971.

12.30 a.m.

I wish to make clear tonight, as I did in Committee, with reference to illegal entrants in that sense, that a Pakistani who is not now liable to removal as an illegal entrant will not become liable for removal on becoming an alien. I refer here, for example, to somebody who came here before 1968 without any contact with the immigration authorities. To put it another way, if he is not now a illegal immigrant liable to removal, nothing in the Bill will make him an illegal immigrant. I hope that that clears up the point about illegal entrants as distinct from overstayers, as it is overstayers that we are mainly considering here.

I should make one small reference to Amendment No. 21. I am puzzled as to why it seems to delete from the Bill paragraph 1(4) of Schedule 3, which extends Section 36 of the Immigration Act to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. I am sure that that is not something that we want to do, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman meant to do it. I certainly could not recommend the House to accept that part of the amendment. However, that is a point of detail.

The nub of the amendment lies in the removal of lines 7 to 9 on page 7. If we were to do that, we should, in effect, be giving a blanket and perpetual exemption from deportation to Pakistanis who at some point became aliens. I cannot recommend the House to accept that proposal.

Let us try to see the matter in perspective. The vast majority of Pakistanis now in this country will be able to register as United Kingdom citizens and will thus be able, without interruption, to gain continuing exemption from deportation, according to the provisions of Section 7 of the 1971 Act. The concern which has been expressed both here and outside the House is confined to a very small number of people, people who have overstayed, that is, people who have deliberately broken the law of this country. I stress that at the outset.

If I explain how the transitional provisions are to work, I may thereby clear up several of the questions which have been raised. The House should bear in mind that aliens may be deported, however long their residence in the United Kingdom, on a recommendation by a court following conviction of an imprisonable offence or for breach of conditions, or because the Secretary of State decides that their presence is not conducive to the public good.

Up to 1st January this year, Commonwealth citizens could be deported only on a recommendation by a court following conviction of an imprisonable offence or for breach of conditions; and in either case only if they had not then been ordinarily resident here for five years.

The effect of the 1971 Act was to bring Commonwealth citizens into line with aliens by providing that in future Commonwealth citizens should be liable to deportation on conducive grounds and that length of residence should cease to be a ground for exemption.

As the House knows, Section 7 of the 1971 Act provided safeguards for Commonwealth citizens who were ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom on 1st January 1973. Such people, if they remain ordinarily resident here, are not liable to deportation on conducive grounds and acquire exemption from deportation on all other grounds when they have completed five years' continuous ordinary residence.

For the purposes of Section 7, as one or two hon. Members have said, a person ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom does not cease to be ordinarily resident by reason only of his remaining in breach of the immigration laws, for example if he remains beyond his permitted stay in this context.

We are concerned mainly with the position of Pakistanis who have remained beyond their permitted stay and have been ordinarily resident here for five years. As matters stand they are immune from deportation under Section 7 of the 1971 Act. But they would become liable to deportation under Section 3(5(a) of the 1971 Act after 12 months from the commencement date of the Bill if it remains in its present form. It is also relevant to make clear that over-stayers in these circumstances would not be entitled to register as subjects of the United Kingdom and Colonies because they are subject to restrictions on their stay.

It has been argued that it is wrong to withdraw this immunity from deportation from Pakistani overstayers more or less on the same ground as it was argued that it was wrong to make illegal entrants liable to removal. But our view is that it would be wrong to allow subjects of Pakistan who have deliberately overstayed and eluded detection to preserve their immunity from deportation on becoming aliens. That was a concession in the 1971 Act for Commonwealth citizens as such, and citizens of Pakistan would lose it as a consequence of their country leaving the Commonwealth.

There is no case on merits for being indulgent to deliberate overstayers——

Mr. Kaufman

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that no one in this House suggests that such an immunity be conferred on aliens? What we are putting to him—and I fear that he is not sufficiently seized of the point—is that this immunity is not one which will be conferred but one which was conferred on Pakistanis as Commonwealth citizens, which they will remain until one year after the commencement of this Act. It was conferred upon them even before the introduction of this Bill, and the Government therefore are not saying that aliens shall not be provided with an immunity. They are saying that an immunity which was conferred on people who were Commonwealth citizens shall now be taken from them simply because, through no fault of their own, they have become aliens. I find this quite astonishing.

Mr. Lane

I am entirely seized of the point. But we are saying that we are not prepared to recommend the effect of these amendments which would be to extend this immunity in a blanket way indefinitely to people who, for example, in due course become aliens having previously been Commonwealth citizens of their own choice. But I do not shirk the argument on the narrower point of the overstayers whom we are discussing. The immunity was conferred on Pakistani citizens as Commonwealth citizens. We are arguing that we are not justified in continuing that immunity for Pakistanis who at some point may become aliens.

Mr. Wilkinson

My hon. Friend is saying in fact that I was wrong in supposing that they could, when they became aliens, only be deported if they committed a criminal offence, and that the wider interpretation under Section 3(5)(a) will apply to them. if that is the position, why was not it spelt out in the schedule? Why was it that only Section 3(6) was put into the schedule? This is slightly misleading.

Mr. Lane

My hon. Friend is right when he says that the liability is wider than he at first thought. It comes mainly under Section 3(5)(a). The reason why Section 3(6) is referred to in the Schedule is that that involves a recommendation by the court which Section 3(5)(a) does not. Section 3(5)(a) rests on the discretionary action of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Richard

The hon. Gentleman is making the point that if these amendments were accepted we should be extending the immunity, which in Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971 is confined to Commonwealth citizens, to cover aliens, and that that is a principle which the Government cannot recommend. Let me put the converse to the hon. Gentleman. The difficulty arises because people who have immunity under Section 7, and the people about whom we are talking, do not have the right to register because in another section of the 1971 Act the argument is that they are not ordinarily resident for the purposes of registration.

Would the Government be prepared to concede, in relation to Pakistanis who are in a unique position, that even though they cannot extend the blanket immunity of Section 7 to cover aliens, nevertheless they should make some provision to allow Pakistani overstayers, who if Pakistan had remained in the Commonwealth would have been covered by Section 7, the right to register? Cannot one deal with the point by looking at it from the other side?

Mr. Lane

We cannot do it as thoroughly as the hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting, but I shall come in a moment to explain how this would work out in practice, which goes some way towards meeting these anxieties.

I was saying that, on merit, there is no argument for being indulgent to people who have deliberately overstayed in this country, but there may be some cases in which my right hon. Friend would be willing to remove the restriction on their stay so that they might become registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and therefore regain or retain their immunity from deportation.

In considering such cases the whole of the overstayer's circumstances would be taken into account, and I remind the House that as a further safeguard there is the right of appeal which anyone can exercise against deportation for breach of conditions, which would be the case if ever deportation proceedings were set in train against people in this category.

Perhaps I may make clear a few things about how this will work out in practice if the Bill goes through to Royal Assent unamended. First, the overstayers about whom we are talking will retain their immunity until September 1974—that is the extra year after the Act comes into force—so there will be no immediaate change in their circumstances. That is important. Secondly, during this intervening period any of those who wish to do so will be at liberty to come forward and try to regularise their position by getting in touch with the Home Office and asking for all their circumstances to be considered. That is something that happens fairly regularly in the administration of our immigration control. This is an everyday occurrence in other contexts with other Commonwealth citizens who may be temporarily in breach of the law. It is not unknown for them to come out and explain why they are in this situation and ask for their circumstances to be considered.

If such cases arise during the next 12 months while their immunity lasts my right hon. Friend will consider them according to all the criteria that he has been mentioning recently in another context. That length of time that they have been in this country, their employment record and their family circumstances must be taken into account if anything so drastic as deportation is being considered. If, despite all that, my right hon. Friend eventually decides that he is bound to exercise his right to deport because they have been in breach of their conditions and they have lost their immunity, there will be a right of appeal to the courts against my right hon. Friend's decision.

Mr. Douglas-Mann


Mr. Edward Lyons


Mr. Lane

I have given way a lot, and I know that the House wants to finish with this.

This is a matter which, in the end, will rest on my right hon. Friend's discretion. We believe that this provision should remain in the Bill. There has been no mystery or misunderstanding about this. Taking into account the privileges of Commonwealth membership and the fact that these privileges are being taken away in some respects from Pakistani citizens by the actions of their own Government, we believe that this is a fair provision.

I stress that there is to be nothing arbitrary and nothing automatic about this. Those words have been used far too much. The Opposition go too far in the amendment. It would give blanket immunity far further than is necessary to cover this narrow point.

I trust that Opposition Members will regard as frank and clear the explanation I have tried to give of the reasoning behind the Bill and of the way it will work out in practice. I hope that they will not press their amendments. If, however, they do, I must recommend the House to vote against them.

12.45 a.m.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Will the hon. Gentleman consider laying down minimum criteria so that someone who satisfied them could know that almost certainly he would get exemption and immunity from the Home Secretary? What he has suggested is that somebody should come forward and cast himself on the mercy of the Home Secretary. If the Home Secretary were to say "Assuming that somebody satisfies conditions A, B, C and D, we will in the circumstances grant him immunity", that would substantially meet the problem. Admittedly we are asking for blanket immunity, but the power in the legislation is a blanket liability to deportation.

Mr. Lane

Yes, it is blanket liability, but it would be exercised with discretion and flexibility. We have given a lot of thought to this in the context of illegal entrants. Our view is that to try to lay down precise criteria would make the whole procedure over-rigid. It is much better from an individual's point of view that his case should be considered absolutely according to its merits and circumstances by my right hon. Friend with his advisers.

Mr. Richard

The Minister has indeed given a frank exposition of the Govern- ment's view, but the fact that it was frank does not make it any more satisfactory. We are grateful at least to know what is the Government's position, but the hon. Gentleman has not answered the powerful points that were made from this side of the House.

May I suggest a way out to the Minister? I hope that he will consider it between the passage of the Bill in this House and its arrival in another place. I put it to him in the spirit in which, as he would agree, the Committee stage was conducted, namely, that difficulties which were clearly seen to be difficulties were considered by the Committee and the hon. Gentleman said that he would consider the points which had been made. I think that anybody who served on the Committee would concede that on the whole he was very successful in meeting those difficulties.

The difficulty that arises here is that under Section 7 of the Immigration Act an immunity was granted to certain Commonwealth citizens who were covered by that section. Prima facie that would include the Pakistanis. It is perhaps not quite as stark, if that is not the wrong expression, as has been painted in some quarters, but there is an element of circularity in the argument because, at one and the same time, the hon. Gentleman is saying "We cannot grant the Section 7 immunity to aliens"—as a statement of principle that is something with which I have considerable sympathy—and, on the other hand, "I recognise that another section of the Immigration Act says that even if a Commonwealth citizen has been here for five years already, for the purposes of his application for registration as a United Kingdom citizen he is not deemed to be ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom." Thus the Pakistani overstayer, had Pakistan remained in the Commonwealth, would have had immunity under Section 7 but would not be eligible for registration under the other provisions of the Act.

I put this to the Minister, I hope, without rancour and certainly without malice. It seems to me that in these circumstances, where he is removing an immunity which people at present have—that clearly is the effect of what he is doing in the Bill—it is surely incumbent upon him to say that for those who have already been here for five years and are, therefore, covered by Section 7, although technically they would not be eligible for registration under the other provisions of the Immigration Act, nevertheless in the circumstances the Government consider that registration by them would be acceptable. In that way we could overcome the difficulty in which we now find ourselves. There may be other difficulties but it would provide a sensible and reasonable answer to the problem.

I think that the Minister said that applications for registration by these people, who would have had Section 7 immunity until the passage of the Bill, would nevertheless be considered by the Government, although, under the other provisions of the Bill, they did not prima facie qualify, and that they would be considered sympathetically.

Otherwise, we are not happy with the Government's explanation. There is an element of discrimination in the provisions. It seems hard that a Pakistani who has been in this country for a decade, having overstayed his original terms of entry, should suddenly, through no fault of his own, because a Government with whom he has had very little contact for perhaps a decade, from whom he has not been able to shed himself because under the provisions of the Immigration Act he has not been eligible for registration in this country and is still not eligible, because he is an overstayer, have nothing provided in place of the immunity which is being removed.

It is in a spirit of conciliation that I make this suggestion. The Government should have another look at this. When the Bill reaches another place, I hope that they will be much more forthcoming. I would not at this stage advise my hon. Friends to divide—[Laughter.] I hear the hollow laughter from hon. Members opposite and I do not know why. I do not believe that it is coming from those who were on the Committee. If they had been on the Committee, and had seen how, perhaps under compulsion, the Government had been prepared to change their position, they would realise that we on this side who were on the Committee do not regard them totally as sinners beyond repentance. I consider the principle of the amendment to be a good one, and I hope that, when the Bill reaches another place, the Government will come forward with something on these lines.

Mr. Lane

I cannot go as far as the hon. and learned Gentleman is asking, which I understand is to say that the Government should treat all the people about whom we are concerned—the deliberate overstayers, however long they have been here—as though they were fully entitled to register as United Kingdom citizens. I thought that I had gone a long way in giving reassurance and explanation, in saying that if that point arrives at which they want to try to regularise their position as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, they are entitled to apply. It then rests on my right hon. Friend's discretion under Section 5A of the 1948 Act, and I tried to explain that he would exercise his discretion, although firmly, also sympathetically.

Mr. Richard

I am grateful to the Minister for saying that, but merely saying that the Secretary of State would exercise his discretion firmly but sympathetically is asking a lot of the Pakistani overstayer, who would have to exercise a considerable act of faith in the way in which the Government will behave. That is not reasonable. What the Minister should do, if he is saying. "Rely on the Goverment's good faith," is spell out the criteria on which the Government will judge the case—[An HON. MEMBER: "He did."] He did not, with respect. He said. "We shall be humane and sympathetic." He may be humane and sympathetic, but it does not follow that he will occupy his present position for the whole lifetime of this Government.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Order. Is the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) making another speech? He should not do so.

Mr. Richard

I thought, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman interrupted me just before or as I sat down. I promise that I shall speak only for another two minutes.

If the Minister is asking people to reply upon the good faith of the Government, he must spell out in a little more detail the way in which the Government will approach these applications, the criteria upon which they will be judged and the circumstances in which the Government would be prepared to exercise discretion. Otherwise, the Minister is, in effect, asking for a blank cheque. One cannot expect Governments to be given blank cheques, particularly in these matters.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: No. 22, in page 7, line 20, leave out from beginning to end of line 23.—[Mr. Lane.]

Mr. Amery

I beg to move, Amendment No. 23, in page 7, line 38, leave out paragraph 3 and insert: 3.—(1) Sections 119 to 122 of the Companies Act 1948 (which make provision for the keeping of branch registers of companies in parts of Her Majesty's dominions outside Great Britain, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) and section 123 of that Act (branch registers of overseas companies kept in the United Kingdom) shall continue to have effect as if Pakistan had not withdrawn from the Commonwealth and the Pakistan (Consequential Provision) Act 1956 were not repealed by this Act. (2) Sections 116 to 118 of the Companies Act (Northern Ireland) 1960 (which make provision corresponding to sections 119 to 122 of the Companies Act 1948) shall also continue to have effect as if Pakistan had not withdrawn from the Commonwealth and the Pakistan (Consequential Provision) Act 1956 were not repealed by this Act. (3) At any time after 31st August 1974 the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument repeal sub-paragraph (1) or (2) above. (4) A branch register kept under section 119 of the Companies Act 1948 at any time before 1st September 1974 shall not be treated as improperly kept by reason that it includes members of the company resident in Bangladesh. (5) A branch register kept under section 116 of the Companies Act (Northern Ireland) 1960 at any time before 1st September 1974 shall not be treated as improperly kept by reason that it includes members of the company resident in Bangladesh. During Committee stage the Government spokesman indicated that consideration was being given to the question of branch registers kept in Pakistan by companies incorporated in Great Britain. This was in the light of representations received since the Bill was drafted.

The amendment will replace the previous provision whereby branch or "Dominion" registers kept in Pakistan by British companies had to be discontinued within six months of the Bill com- ing into force. British companies will now be able to retain their branch registers in Pakistan for at least a year after the Bill comes into force.

After the expiry of that period the Secretary of State will be able to abolish the privilege; but this will require a specific positive decision on his part. Needless to say, if the Secretary of State did decide to repeal the provision he would give the companies concerned adequate warning of his intentions by means of publicity in appropriate journals.

Our object in proposing this amendment is to preserve the existing situation in relation to branch registers kept in Pakistan while the future of what are called Dominion registers generally is being considered. This is being done in the context of the wider review of company law which the Government now have in hand.

The amendment also brings within the scope of the year's transitional period Section 123 of the Companies Act 1948.

This enables Her Majesty by Order in Council to make provision for the keeping in Great Britain of branch registers by companies incorporated in Commonwealth countries. No order under Section 123 has yet been made in relation to Pakistan but the amendment preserves the existing situation for at least a year, as it does with respect to branch registers kept in Pakistan by British companies.

Mr. Kaufman

As the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State is responding to an amendment of mine in Committee, which I withdrew on an assurance I ought to thank him for moving so comprehensive an amendment in reply to my extremely brief amendment.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his extremely speedy grasp of the complexities of this issue. In welcoming his highly ameliorative intervention at this late stage in the deliberations on the Bill, may I say that there are some of us who would have been equally grateful if he and not one of his right hon. Friends had made the visit abroad which interrupted the proceedings, because he would have been as ameliorative in the Middle East as he has been here this morning.

Amendment agreed to.

1.0 a.m.

Order for Third Reading read.

Mr. Amery

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is for many of us—perhaps for most of us—a rather sad occasion, not least for someone like myself whose personal and family relations with the subcontinent go back over some four generations. But it is the inevitable consequence of Pakistan's decision, announced on 30th January 1972, to leave the Commonwealth with immediate effect from that date.

We regretted the decision; but it was a decision that Pakistan was fully entitled to take.

Nothing that has happened in the 18 months since then has given us any reason to believe that the Pakistan Government intend to reverse their decision.

It follows that certain changes have now to be made in our laws to match Pakistan's decision to change over from being a Commonwealth country to becoming a foreign State.

In so doing we have sought to ensure as far as possible that the change of political relations between the two States—Pakistan and Britain—should not bear harshly on individual Pakistanis who have come to Britain or otherwise entered into special commitments here on the assumption that they could count on enjoying the advantages of being Commonwealth citizens.

Our Committee procedure is often criticised and I must freely admit that there were times, in the long vigils of the Committee stage of the Housing Finance Bill last year, when I could have been counted among the harshest critics.

It was not my privilege to take part in the Committee stage of the Bill now before us, but, having made some study of its proceedings, I would like to pay tribute to the contribution made by members of the Committee on both sides.

It was our intention from the first that the Bill should be just and humane, but I freely accept that the Bill which has emerged from Committee achieves our objectives in many ways better than the Bill which went into Committee.

Let me therefore mention briefly the main points on which our attention has focused, and the way in which the Bill has been amended to the general advantage.

It follows from Pakistan's decision to leave the Commonwealth that citizens of Pakistan must acquire the status of aliens in this country.

It is worth emphasising at once that this is not a Bill which affects the number of people who will be admitted from Pakistan in the future. What we are dealing with here are the citizenship and other entitlements of Pakistanis who are already here.

In the Bill as introduced we had proposed transitional arrangements whereby persons who were full Pakistan citizens before 30th January 1972, the date Pakistan left the Commonwealth, and who were resident in this country before that date, would still for a time be entitled to apply for registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies after five years' residence.

A number of hon. Members suggested, however, that we ought to extend the same privilege to two categories of persons—to persons bearing Pakistan passports describing them as natives of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir and also to Pakistan citizens who had arrived in this country after Pakistan left the Commonwealth.

When we first drew up the Bill we did not extend the privilege of registration to these categories of people, first because natives of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir were not Pakistani citizens until February this year and, secondly, because Pakistanis who came to Britain after 30th January 1972 came from what was already a self-declared foreign, as distinct from Commonwealth, country.

I think the House will agree that in strict logic the original Bill was not unreasonable. A number of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee felt, however, that it would be more generous to treat these people in the same way as Pakistan citizens who arrived in this country before Pakistan left the Commonwealth.

The Committee therefore passed an amendment having the effect of extending the registration privilege to all Pakistani citizens who arrived in this country before 14th May 1973, the date of introduction of this Bill.

Since persons in this country who originate from Azad Kashmir now have full Pakistan citizenship they are also covered by this amendment.

We think that the hon. Members concerned have made their point and we have therefore decided to accept these amendments.

The Government hope that the extension of transitional rights to people from Jammu and Kashmir will indeed, as has been urged in debate, make a contribution towards good community relations.

Another aspect of the Bill which calls for comment is the period of grace allowed after five years' residence in this country, to enable Pakistan citizens to apply for registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. The period originally proposed was six months.

It has been suggested, however, that this period should be extended, partly because of the longer period allowed in the South Africa Act and partly because it was thought that many Pakistanis would need more time to make up their minds. We have accepted these arguments and have, therefore, amended the Bill so as to increase the period of grace to one year. We do not believe that any further extension is necessary.

The South African precedent is not an exact one. South Africa does not allow dual nationality and, therefore, South Africans were faced with a difficult decision whether they should cut their ties with this country or with South Africa. Pakistan does allow dual nationality and, therefore, Pakistanis who register as citizens of the United Kingdom will not thereby lose their Pakistan citizenship. We are satisfied that one year will be enough.

We have also extended to one year the period of six months which appeared originally in the Bill in Clause 3(1) which for a specified period exempts a Pakistan citizen from statutory disabilities imposed on aliens regarding the holding of certain offices and employments, and in paragraph 1 of Schedule 3 relating to exemption from deportation. If a person has made an application for registration the period of exemption will continue until it has been determined.

Finally, about voting, in Standing Committee a good deal of importance was attached to this question. It is important to all of us here. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee emphasised the importance of finding some way of continuing the rights which Pakistanis enjoy at present as British subjects, and which most of them will enjoy again as citizens of this country. In particular it was represented that those who will have applied for citizenship by the time next year's register is made up should not be disfranchised for a year simply because the Home Office will be physically unable to process their applications as quickly as we should like. The amendments which we tabled on Report get over this difficulty and I think there is now a consensus of view in this House that the voting provisions in the Bill are fair and reasonable.

I should also like to repeat that this Bill is concerned with those persons of Pakistani origin who are already here. It is not an immigration Bill and it will have no significant effect one way or the other on the flow of immigrants to this country.

As I said at the beginning, Pakistan's decision to separate from the Commonwealth is a cause of sorrow to many of us. Our association with the Pakistani people, both in the long period of the Indian Empire and in the 25 or so years that Pakistan was an independent member of the Commonwealth, are facts of history and create links between our two countries which will long endure. Those links will be strengthened over the years by the presence in this country of the numerous communities of our Pakistani fellow citizens with whom all of us wish to live in harmony and friendship.

It is in the belief that this Bill makes the best possible provision for them to weather Pakistan's transition from Commonwealth to foreign status that I commend it to the House.

1.8 a.m.

Mr. Kaufman

It has been a treat to listen to the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). One wishes that one had greater opportunities to listen to him because he has brought a bland friendliness to our proceedings which I for one found highly agreeable, and, although we valued the presence of his right hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) in Committee, we would have liked him there, too. He would have enjoyed that Committee, unlike the Committee which considered the Housing Finance Bill.

Although this Bill emerges from this House not entirely in a form which meets my approval, because I am extremely unhappy about Schedule 3, nevertheless it is necessary to place on record my appreciation of the way in which the points which we made on Second Reading and in Committee have been met. Throughout our proceedings hon. Members on both sides and certainly myself have conducted ourselves on a non-party basis. We have tried to produce a Bill which is acceptable to the Pakistani community and to the other 55 million people who live in these islands. On Second Reading I appealed to the Government to exercise a humane, compassionate flexibility as the Bill goes through the House".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May 1973; Vol. 857, c. 332.] I asked them to show themselves open-minded in view of the undoubted anomalies in the Bill. I outlined a number of those anomalies and other hon. Members outlined others. All of them were met in some way or other in Committee, in one case in spite of the Government.

As a new Member I hope that I may say without arrogance that this is a tribute to the way in which this House works that a Bill of this kind which was unsatisfactory but necessary has now turned into a Bill which is still necessary but far more satisfactory. I have not served on many Standing Committees. I have regarded all of them until now as a waste of time and I regarded Standing Committee procedure as an abuse. But as a Member of the Committee I have seen how an objective approach can produce an improvement in a Bill and I trust that this is the way in which other Bills can be improved in future.

Just as in Standing Committee the Minister offered us tenuous assurances which were later translated into agreed amendments, so I hope that the extremely tenuous assurances that he has given on the matter which caused great misgivings on Report will be turned into something more concrete in amendments in another place. I say that because no one in this House approves of or condones illegal immigration into this country. No one could condone people who arrived under one guise and decided to stay under another. It is not our purpose in continuing to try to improve this Bill to attempt to condone those situations.

Nevertheless that situation has come about and people who thought they had an amnesty suddenly find themselves deprived of it. I trust that the Government will look at this again so that in another place they can have another go at getting it right in a way in which the citizens of this country white and coloured, will find acceptable.

I join the Minister in what he said about the loss of Pakistan to the Commonwealth. It will be widely appreciated both by the Pakistan Government and by the Pakistanis who are remaining in this country and who will take citizenship here. His words will be echoed on both sides of the House, and on that basis I wish Pakistan well and I trust that the Bill will have the best possible effects on community relations in this country.

1.14 a.m.

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

I would not wish that this Bill should finally leave this House before it was once again put on the record that at least one right hon. Member believes that it contains a major error of policy. I drew attention to it on Second Reading. I went on record in a minority of one in Committee and I wish briefly to go on record again before the Bill leaves us.

The Bill has recognised that Pakistanis, whether in this country or elsewhere, who have no other citizenship, are aliens. It is an old controversy, which is now entirely obsolete, whether they should have been so regarded at an earlier stage and whether legislative provision should have been made to deal with them sooner. At any rate, as from the coming into force of the Act, that is an undisputed fact.

As aliens, if resident in this country and fulfilling the necessary conditions, they have the opportunity to apply to become citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies by the process of naturalisation. For that purpose, like other aliens, they would require to show, as is right and proper, that they have a proper command of the English, or possibly Welsh, language and that they are of good character as well as fulfilling the other conditions.

However, the Bill makes it possible for those who were in this country by 30th January 1972 to secure, when eventually the residence qualification, if they do not have it already, is fulfilled, automatic access for themselves and for their families to the status of citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies.

I consider it to be a manifest abuse and absurdity that at this day large numbers of persons who have no knowledge of the English language are, under our law, electors in this country and exercise the franchise. The franchise—I believe there is agreement between the two Front Benches on the necessity for an early change in our citizenship law—like most other privileges of a citizen in this country, still attaches to the status of British subject or Commonwealth citizen and not, as it would in any other country, to citizenship in the narrower and proper sense.

That is not something that we could deal with under the Bill or in connection with the departure of Pakistan from the Commonwealth. What we have chosen to do in the Bill is quite avoidably, voluntarily and unnecessarily to secure that privilege, which I have described as a manifest abuse and absurdity, to those who, by the free decision of their own Government, have become aliens.

I have no wish to deny to any alien of any origin the right to apply for the citizenship of this country and to submit himself to consideration for achieving that privilege on a par with any other. But I believe it is wrong to give that privilege automatically and freely when there is no necessity to do so, thereby not merely preserving, but enlarging, the scope of the misuse of the franchise of this country which exists at the moment. Our franchise, like the other aspects of citizenship, is, or ought to be, precious. Indeed, the conditions of naturalisation are an indication of what are regarded as the proper conditions for the exercise of it.

It goes without saying that no stricture upon the Bill which I have expressed in this context applies to the persons who will be affected by it. If there are faults, they are the faults of our legislation. If there are abuses, they are the results of the failures of our policy. It is our policy and legislation, not the persons affected, that I criticise.

1.20 a.m.

Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

I apologise for delaying the House at what I consider is a ridiculous hour to be discussing a Bill. The stupidity of the system by which we work leaves us with no alternative but to do so. This is a stupid and silly hour at which to be discussing a measure which will affect scores of thousands of people in this country.

I shall not take up the points made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), except to say that sections of his argument tended to overlook the contribution which the people who we are discussing make, despite their language difficulties, to the general economy of the country. That might be a point worth making in their favour.

I spoke at length on Second Reading. I applied in the proper way through my Whips office to sit on the Committee. I was refused that right because of my party's representation in the House and despite the fact that my constituency contains many people who will be affected by this measure. None the less, I pay tribute to the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Balniel—who is not now present—for the courtesy which he showed to me personally and to some of my constituents who formed a deputation to discuss the implications of the Bill.

I am delighted by the amendments made to the Bill in Committee. I am grateful to those hon. Members who were able to effect amendments relating to the citizens of Kashmir and to the period of grace allowed for registration. I and many other hon. Members referred to both matters on Second Reading.

My next point has not been mentioned during the debate but it is a matter which I raised on Second Reading and which I must raise again, despite the hour of the day. The Bill refers to the right of Pakistani doctors to register. I ask the Ministers present to take such action as they can, with other Departments, to urge that the registration given to Pakistani doctors who are eligible for registration shall be full registration by the General Medical Council and not temporary registration such as has been granted to them since 30th January 1972. I refer to doctors who entered this country before Pakistan left the Commonwealth and who did not know that Pakistan intended to leave the Commonwealth. Such doctors are still being granted temporary registration by the General Medical Council as opposed to full registration. Temporary registration affects considerably their opportunities for promotion in the hospital service.

I hope that the Ministers present will draw the matter to the attention of the Secretary of State for Social Services and possibly to the Privy Council. There is a need for the General Medical Council to consider the case of the Pakistani doctors who entered the county prior to Pakistan leaving the Commonwealth who, as a consequence of Pakistan's action, are being granted temporary registration by the council rather than full registration.

I, with other hon. Members, regret the need to introduce the Bill in the sense that we regret Pakistan's decision to leave the Commonwealth. None the less, I very much welcome the amendments made to the Bill in Committee. I thank the hon. Members who were in a position to make them.

1.24 a.m.

Mr. Wilkinson

I must take this opportunity to thank my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench for the way in which they conducted our proceedings in Committee.

There were three issues of great importance. First, there was the position of the Kashmiris. That was a matter on which my hon. Friends and I were prepared to vote against our Front Bench so as to achieve what we believed to be just. Secondly, there was the issue of voting, on which I withheld my judgment pending the production by the Government of an amendment which was watertight. Thirdly, there was the period of grace which would enable Pakistan citizens to exercise their right to register and to ensure that they had the full time to take up that right. I thank my right hon. and hon. Friends for the constructive and helpful way in which they conducted the proceedings.

I hope that this is the last such Bill, but it will be the last only if we have a new and comprehensive law of citizenship. On Second Reading, I said that of the countries listed in the British Nationality Act three were down and six were to go. Unless we change our laws of citizenship, I shall not be surprised if we find ourselves faced again with similar legislation. We have spent much time in deputations, representations, arguments and so on with this Bill. If the process has to be repeated for Indians, for example, or Bangalese or West Indians or other Commonwealth citizens who happen to be settled in this country, we shall be placing on ourselves quite unnecessary difficulties which we can obviate if we take the necessary action, and take it soon.

On this point, I must differ to some degree from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I believe that from this Bill we should have learned that those who are settled here are in all senses our fellow citizens. That is the message of the Bill and it is with this in mind that we should go forward.

There were those who were apprehensive when the Bill was introduced. They remembered perhaps the sacrifices made by Moslem soldiers of the Indian Army alongside the British in many theatres of war on many continents. They may have remembered the arrival of the Indian Corps at the first battle of Ypres which probably saved the Western Front at the end of 1914. Many such things will have been remembered.

It was because of this that many Pakistani people felt that perhaps we were being vindictive and being too nostalgic about the Commonwealth, that we were feeling that because Pakistan had left the Commonwealth we should be a little punitive. I am glad that we have shown that we are not punitive but magnanimous—that, in contradiction to what my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) felt, we have shown that we are able, by constructive and reasoned dialogue in Committee, to meet the needs of all our citizens in this country.

We may have lingering doubts about the tail of the Bill but I say that the heart of the Bill is right, and I am sure that the Government can take credit for it.

1.24 a.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons

The final shape of the Bill is much more to the satisfaction of most hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee than was the case when it was first presented to Parliament. I regret that the improvements were not made more willingly at the outset instead of being the result of a steady attack on the Government in Committee until, in the end, they are claiming that the improvements show great common sense. Without being churlish, I must say that it is a pity that common sense on the part of the Government did not appear very clearly at the outset.

The Bill is very much improved, particularly in relation to the Kashmiris, on which the Government had to be defeated, in relation to voting, although the Opposition had no support from hon. Members opposite originally on the issue, and in relation to the time for application, the time having been increased now from six to twelve months. We are grateful for these signs of light, however belatedly they appeared.

We now look to the future. Most Pakistanis will apply to be registered and will become British citizens. The Home Office is left with considerable residual powers in administrative terms in relation to this Bill and to the future. We shall watch to see how it interprets the phrase "five years ordinary residence." We shall watch to see whether it is interpreted generously or restrictively. We shall also want to see how the supply of forms proceeds and whether they are readily available. In particular we shall wait to see how the Home Secreary's discretion will be exercised in relation to those who are now caught by the withdrawal of the protection of Section 7 of the Immigration Act 1971.

In September 1974 the Pakistani community will be different from Commonwealth communities in this country. Some Pakistanis will have the superior status of British citizens and will be entitled to travel and work in Europe in the same way as any other citizens of a Common Market country. Others will be aliens and will have fewer privileges in comparison. Pakistan has decided to leave the Commonwealth. That seems irrevocable. We wish well to its citizens who are now to be ours.

1.32 a.m.

Mr. Richard

On Second Reading I expressed the view that it was perhaps unfortunate that the Government had felt it necessary to introduce the Bill at this time since it seemed possible then that there was a chance, at any rate, that Pakistan would reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth. I still take that view. There would have been no great evil done had the position been left broadly as it was, although it may have been necessary to have some kind of temporary provision.

It is right, as the Minister said, that this Bill is about how we can buttress the change of political relationship between the two countries, and how we can buttress the effect of that on individual Pakistanis in this country.

There were four main criticisms of the Bill advanced on Second Reading. The first was the Azad Kashmiri point, the second dealt with the retrospection, the third was the shortness, as we felt it to be, of the time given to people to decide whether they wished to register, and the fourth was the fact that large numbers of people could be disfranchised merely because the Home Office procedures might not be speedy enough.

It is unique in my experience, and probably in the experience of many other hon. Members, for us to have reached this stage of a Bill's passage through the House and for the four major points of criticism made on Second Reading to have been met, either in Committee or finally this evening. It was a unique Committee. The Government position at one stage on a crucial vote was that they had what might loosely be called the payroll vote, two Ministers, two Parliamentary Private Secretaries and the Whip.

The remainder of the Committee—the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson), the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), for whose support we were grateful, if on occasions slightly surprised to receive it, and the other three Conservative members of the Committee, voted with us in an effort, as we thought, in a non-partisan if slightly painful process, to make the Government improve the Bill. We are grateful that the Bill has emerged in this way.

There is a point of criticism left which has been aired tonight. I hope that the Government will take serious note of the points made on the Third Schedule and will look at the matter again before introducing it into another place. What is essential is that the procedures which will be necessary under the Bill should work and that they should be seen to work. They should be explained in simple terms to those who will be affected by them. It is essential, too, that the registration and voting provisions, which in many ways are the most crucial provisions in terms of the personal participation in society of these people, should be explained and should work.

I give the Government fair warning. If we on this side hear of any failures in the mechanism, if we discover that forms are not available in Bradford, Rochdale or Birmingham, or in other areas where they are most needed, then, if I have anything to do with it, we shall badger them unmercifully so as to ensure that the procedures set up under the Bill work in practice, that the Pakistanis who desire to register get their registrations in in proper time and that those who go on the voting register for next year do so in the proper way.

We wish Pakistan well in the course which she has chosen. The next thing we should do perhaps is to welcome all those people who were Pakistanis but who under the Bill will become United Kingdom citizens in the full sense of the word. It will mean the accretion to the United Kingdom citizenry of a considerable number of people. In my view, it will in the long run benefit rather than harm the rest of us.

1.37 a.m.

Mr. Lane

The hon. Members for Manchester. Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) and Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) particularly returned to the question of deportation. I underline more strongly than I did earlier that in the event of the Home Secretary deciding to use his power of deportation against an individual who is at present immune the matter will in every case be subject to appeal.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South- West (Mr. Powell) persists in his view that we have committed a major error of judgment in the registration provisions in the Bill. He called them rather fiercely an abuse and absurdity in this context. As I said in Committee, to have done otherwise would have been totally inconsistent with the pledges we gave, mainly through by right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, to the Pakistanis in this country when Pakistan left the Commonwealth.

The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cyril Smith) asked particularly about the medical profession. I hope that I can reassure him. If and when it is printed, perhaps he will read the report of the fairly long discussion which we had on this point during the debate of one of the schedules when I tried to explain the position about the registration of the doctors about whom he is concerned. I will write to him briefly summarising the position, which I hope will satisfy him.

I appreciate what my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) said. He has been much involved with this problem. He said that he hoped that this was the last of such Bills. I echo his hope, not so much for the reason he gave, although I do not disagree with it, but because I hope that we shall not have another case of a country leaving the Commonwealth.

I take the point of the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) about the procedures. We are equally anxious to make the procedures work, and we shall accept prodding and badgering with good grace, from where-ever it may come. I hope that together we can make them work well.

There was much virtue in the Bill when it started on its course. There is still more in, it now. We are grateful for the help which we have had in improving it. I echo what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said in the hope that the Bill will contribute to what we all want to see—better community relations in this country.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

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