HC Deb 26 June 1973 vol 858 cc1405-70

7.24 p.m.

Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)

I beg to move, That this House, while supporting stringent penalties against the inhuman trade in illegal immigrants, believes that the House of Lords' decision, confirming the retrospective effect of the Immigration Act 1971, has created profound uncertainty and fear of blackmail in the immigrant community; believes that retrospective penal legislation is contrary to democratic traditions; and urges the Government therefore not to expel immigrants guilty of no other offence who were settled here six months or more before the 1971 Act received the Royal Assent. There will be those who say that this is a debate about illegal immigration, and there will be some truth in that. The motion—and it is a motion which we recognise to be in some ways difficult to express, because it involves highly complicated matters—does not attempt in any way to condone illegal immigration. The Opposition recognise that illegal immigration can have a serious effect on the trust between the host community and the immigrant communities.

We would ask the immigrant communities not to protect those who engage in what is as inhumane a trade as the drug trade and one which has little concern for the future and for the status of those with whom it deals. We recognise the tragedy by which many people in India and Pakistan are persuaded to sell up all that they have to pay those who are engaged in this trade. They often find themselves later deported from this country—and, of course, they should be—and returned to their own country with no means of livelihood.

It is not the Opposition's case to condone that kind of operation, but it is part of our case to refer to the ways in which penalties have been made retrospective on those who came to this country between 1968 and the passage of the Immigration Act 1971, and the ways in which confidential information has been supplied by certain Government Departments. Further, if the effect on the relations between the police and the immigrant community is not cleared up and cleared up soon, the result will be so grave that it would be an abdication of the Opposition's responsibility if we were not to bring these matters before the House.

The offence is not to be condoned, but the treatment of the offender is a matter which the House must consider. The 1971 Act has been interpreted by another place as making retrospective penalties against illegal immigrants. It has abolished the status of irremovability, which existed under the Immigration Act 1968. That Act provided that if a person had nit been prosecuted within six months, he became irremovable and could not be prosecuted. That was borne out by the number of illegal immigrants who had been here for more than six months who were seen subsequently by the police and informed that they were not open to prosecution and could make their lives in this country.

I do not say that that was not an anomaly. I do not say that the House was necessarily wise to allow that anomaly to continue. But I do say that that was the position as understood by those who came to this country illegally between 1968 and 1971.

In some ways, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the imposition of retrospective penalties is not the effect on perhaps 1 per cent. of the immigrant community who arrived illegally. The highest estimate which I have seen is that about 10,000 persons arrived illegally. That is considerably less than 1 per cent. of the immigrant community legally settled in this country. It is the danger that the relationship of the host community with the 99 per cent. of the immigrant community who are legally here will deteriorate to a stage when the House will regret that it never properly debated the effects of retrospective penalties which is perhaps the most serious aspect.

It is our fear that already the sense of security of the immigrant community has been seriously undermined. In that context I shall quote from a letter which has been sent to me and, I think, to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department by the Dean of Liverpool. The Dean is also Chairman of the Liverpool Community Relations Council. The Dean says: Without entering here into a discussion on the merits or demerits of the Act itself, we are deeply concerned that the implementation of retrospective legislation against these immigrants …may have serious repercussions on the already delicately balanced state of race relations in this country. That is echoed by the Chairman of the Community Relations Commission established by the Government. He said: We are now seeing the consequences we feared. I said that the Bill's effect"— he is referring to the Immigration Act 1971must be to increase acutely the sense of insecurity already felt by minority groups living here and that it would do incalculable harm to community relations; and so it has. I shall refer to one example to show how complex these matters can be. They are perhaps more complex than a simple black and white statement about legality or illegality.

I have a constituent, Mr. Shah Mohammed, a British citizen who came here about seven years ago. Since he was entitled to do so, he applied for naturalisation. He came as a legal immigrant. In 1967 he applied for his family to join him—three daughters and a son. On 5th May 1967, I received a letter from the then Minister of State, Home Office, Mr. David Ennals, in which he said: I understand from correspondence we have had that Mr. Mohammed's 17½-year-old boy is in fact his stepson but he also will be admissible if he comes with Mr. Shah Mohammed's wife. The mills of the Home Office may grind surely but they grind exceedingly slow.

Many dozens of letters later, several interviews later and, indeed, three years later, Mr. Mohammed's dependants had still not joined him in Britain. His son was no longer within the age of dependency and we were told, therefore, that he could no longer join his family, despite the letter from which I have quoted indicating that he was entitled to do so.

The son, in desperation, arrived illegally at the end of 1970. He did not inform his father of his arrival and in 1971 he was picked up by the police. He had been here more than six months and was told by the police that he could stay. But his father, who is a law-abiding citizen, was extremely shocked by the manner of his son's arrival. He questioned him about how he had managed to arrive illegally and informed the police of those responsible. One of those responsible is today serving three years' imprisonment as a direct result of my constituent's information. I ask the House how likely it is that such a man would act in the way Mr. Mohammed did had he known what he now knows—that his son would on 15th February 1973 be taken into Pentonville without being allowed to contact his relatives and without legal representation. He has been there ever since.

I am not sure whether this was what Parliament intended. I have enough respect and trust in my colleagues to believe that Parliament could not have intended this kind of case. There are many other cases in Gravesend, Southall, Leyton, and elsewhere, and I am sure my hon. Friends from such areas will, if called, be able to give the House similar details. I mention only nine cases—I shall not say more about them—in all of which the police were informed and told the immigrants that they would not be pursued or prosecuted, but in which the immigrants have subsequently been arrested, some at their place of work and many without anybody further being informed. Again I am bound to ask whether this was what Parliament intended.

The Home Secretary replying to a Question on 12th June said that this was …what we believed the law to be and what we intended it to be."—[OFFIICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1973; Vol. 857, c. 1207.] I respect the right hon. Gentleman's loyalty to his predecessor, but I find it difficult completely to accept what he said.

If that was the intention of the Government, it was never either explained or debated during the long course of the passage of the Immigration Act through the House. Indeed, it is open to question whether the matter was ever made clear. The hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) has said that it was, but I quote two other people who have at least equal expertise. In the Lords' judgment, Lord Wilberforce said: The machinery which has been used in order to effect the detention of the appellants is set out in a complicated series of provisions in the Act of 1971. I regret that in a matter which affects directly so many individuals so labyrinthine a path requires to be followed. Lord Salmon said: I feel bound to express concern that the draftsmen of this Act should have chosen to achieve its retrospective effect through a labyrinth of verbiage which may well have been as perplexing to many of those who had to consider it in Parliament as it was to many of those it has deprived of their constitutional rights. One is bound to ask whether there was not a duty on Ministers where the liberty of individuals was concerned—and in this case the liberty of individuals was indeed concerned—to explain to Parliament exactly what the consequences of the Act would be.

It may be, of course, that Ministers themselves did not understand the Act. I think some might not have understood at least some parts of that extremely complicated legislation. What I am sure about is that, because the expression of retrospective penalties was so vague, many immigrants understood of the Act what they were told much more clearly—that it would not have retrospective effect. On 8th March 1971, the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said: …it is enormously important to reassure the immigrants already here as part of our community that they will have no loss or status under the Bill, that in this country there will be no first and second-class citizens." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March 1971; Vol. 813, c. 44.] Further questioned on 17th June 1971, on Third Reading, the right hon. Gentleman said: I said at an earlier stage that I did not intend in any way to prejudice the position of people already here."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June 1971; Vol. 819, c. 569.] Again, it is of course true that immigrants failed to understand that these words of the Home Secretary were subject to that complicated set of schedules which, taken together, indicated that illegal immigrants were not covered by this statement. But again one is bound to say that that was never made clear.

So the Act as we now know operates retrospectively in a way which has been described by the Committee of Justice in its annual report as follows: … with the result that those who entered illegally before the Act was passed are now condemned to live the rest of their lives in England under the fear of detection, harassment or even blackmail, however long they have resided here. It is a terrible phrase, "the rest of their lives", and again one wonders whether that was what Parliament intended. Was it really Parliament's intention to put these people—and, as I will come to show, many thousands more—in fear and under threat of blackmail for the rest of their lives?

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

Perhaps the right hon. Lady will include in her quotations an exchange which took place in another place on 19th July 1971 during the Committee stage of the measure. On an amendment moved by my noble Friend Lord Wade, the then Minister of State, given an opportunity to talk about the effect of the Bill on those already settled here, said: Some changes in the position of people already settled here are inevitable. It would he quite wrong to overstate them and we should have some thought of the dangers in breeding quite unnecessary insecurity in the minds of immigrants already established here." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 19th July, 1971; Vol. 322, c. 675.] That was the view of the Government on the possibilities of alteration of status.

Mrs. Williams

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, which underlines my point. The question is whether it was Parliament's intention to create what has unquestionably now been created—a most profound rift between the immigrant community and the host community. Already one important Asian body, the Indian Workers Association, one of the most representative bodies, has withdrawn from all Government bodies concerned with race relations. Others have threatened to do so.

There are particularly sensitive areas which the House must consider. One of these is the relations between the immigrants and the police. The relations between the police and in particular the Asian community have, by and large, been good. The police have said on more than one occasion that most of the Asian community are law-abiding and that the police do not find it difficult to work with them. But what has happened now of course is the development of a widespread fear that when anyone is picked up for a minor offence —I have already had reported to me many traffic offences involving immigrants, some of them even parking offences—inquiries are made and in some cases people are being taken to the police station for questioning about their status in this country. Only two days ago in my constituency two Asians were taken in for questioning on minor matters. Both were released because they were legally in this country. In one case, however, there was a detention of several hours. This is hardly the way to establish good relations in this highly sensitive area.

The first question I want to ask the Home Secretary is whether he can give us an assurance that the police will be guided not to ask for passports in minor cases when they have no suspicion whatever that the person involved may be guilty of an offence in this respect. This is exceedingly important, because we must not escalate strain between the police and the great majority of legal immigrants. Secondly, there is the whole area of social security. We know that over the past three years it has been possible for immigrants applying for social benefits or national insurance cards to be asked to show their passports. We further know that if the passport or the information given creates any suspicion in the minds of the social security officer, this information is handed on to the Home Office.

The Government would be most unwise to shake public confidence in the confidentiality of Government records of this kind in a desperate pursuit of a tiny minority of illegal immigrants. Indeed, I always understood that under the Civil Service code personal information was kept confidential and although I admit that the Secretary of State for Social Services, in an answer on 7th November 1970, said that in certain rare cases this might happen, I do not believe that the House realised until recently the extent to which this breach of confidentiality had gone. Indeed, it is now clear that the trade union most concerned, the Civil and Public Services Association, had not appreciated this position and it has now called upon its 55,000 members in social security officers not to co-operate with the Government in this regard.

Mr. Norman Fowler (Nottingham, South)

Would the hon. Lady not agree that it is slightly anomalous, if these immigrants, irrespective of how many there are, entered this country illegally, that there should be no check upon a national insurance card being given to them? If that is the case, it would be an incentive to illegal immigration. Once that incentive was taken away, perhaps some of the incentive which is responsible for illegal immigration would be lost.

Mrs. Williams

Under previous legislation, when the immigrant was already in this country and had not been prosecuted for six months he was entitled to a national insurance card. The position about which we are concerned, and one which I would still regard as being not wholly intended, relates to the retrospection issue. People who gained national insurance cards after six months with total legality are now to be questioned about that. I am not in any way suggesting that information should not be available about illegal immigrants following the passage of the 1971 Act. Even then my view is that any breach of confidentiality of a Government Department's records should be fully debated in the House and it should be set out precisely in what cases—and such cases should be laid down in Parliament—such breaches of confidentiality would be permitted.

The only answer to this question, and it is one to which the intervention by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) has pointed, is the declaration of an amnesty for those who have been here for more than six months and who were therefore not subject to prosecution between 1968 and the passage of the 1971 Immigration Act. In other words, Parliament should restore the position to what it was understood to be before the passage of the 1971 Act.

Again I can quote a powerful advocate of this view in the shape of the Chairman of the Race Relations Board, Sir Geoffrey Wilson. He said: The best way of restoring confidence would be for the House of Lords to pass Lord Avebury's Bill which would remove the threat of summary expulsion from those people who, until a recent court ruling, had every reason to assume that they were secure. It may be that the Home Secretary will say that he cannot concede an amnesty. I feel that the damage being done to race relations among the legal majority who are here is such that in time he will come to believe that this is the best thing to do.

If he feels unable to concede that, I would ask him at the least to put in as clear terms as possible the executive discretion that he has now taken upon himself. He has told the House that he will operate the removal process with compassion and firmness. That process is not subject to any appeal; it cannot be raised in the courts and, as we know, in many cases there has been no way in which the immigrant can put his case.

I ask the Home Secretary to consider the possibility of allowing those who are about to be removed, who have been apprehended by the police and who have been here for more than six months and are not therefore subject to prosecution, to be allowed to put their case, not to him, because I do not believe that this should be a matter of executive discretion, but to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.

I would also ask him to lay down as precisely as he can the criteria which in his view should be taken into account in deciding whether someone should be removed. This involves such things as their family responsibilities, because the right hon. Gentleman will know that it was quite legal for families to come in when they were dependants of those no longer able to be prosecuted. There is an almost desperate anomaly in the circumstances.

Civil liberties do not erode at the top: they erode at the bottom, among the most under-privileged, the most poor, the least popular. If the House cares—and I believe that it has always cared—about civil liberties, it must tonight take the not wholly popular but deeply important step of satisfying itself that the constitutional rights and civil rights of these people have been adequately protected by us.

7.48 p.m.

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

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof 'endorses Her Majesty's Government's determination to halt illegal immigration; declines to give priority for settlement to those who came here knowing their entry to be illegal; has confidence that individual cases will be dealt with with firmness tempered by com- passion; and believes that this policy is in the best interests of community relations and of those who entered legally or are waiting to do so.' Before beginning my argument may I say that I hope that the House will forgive me if this evening I do not give way as I am usually prepared to do? We have a short debate and, as the House knows, interruptions and explanations take up a lot of time. It is better that as many people as possible should be able to speak, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will do his best to reply to the points that have been raised.

This debate is essentially about good community relations. I will start with a few basic facts and principles of policy to set this important although relatively narrow subject in its proper perspective.

It is easy to concentrate all our remarks and all the publicity outside the House on the failures in good race relations and on examples of troubles and cases of discrimination, real or alleged. Of course there are failures and of course, unfortunately, there is prejudice and discrimination, and we have a very long way to travel before we can be satisfied. It may be right to draw attention to and take notice of our failures; indeed, I am sure that it is. It is natural that those who represent the immigrant communities particularly, and also those whose job it is to help to foster and maintain good race relations, should be sensitive about any difficulties or failures and make sure that they are noted.

But there is another duty which we all have, and that is to draw attention to the overall success of community relations in this country, because success rather than failure is the keynote of race relations in Britain. There can be few countries which would have so cheerfully and in such a short time received with overall friendliness so many people from other lands. There can be few countries which could have absorbed this great mixture of nationalities with so much tolerance and so little friction, and there can be few countries in which those who come here are treated as first-class citizens from the day they arrive.

It does no service to community relations to underplay the tremendous achievement of the British people in accepting so many people with so much tolerance and so little friction. It is the people of this country who will determine whether we have good community relations through the extent of their natural tolerance. Laws can help and support, institutions can help and support, but in the end what matters is the natural sense of tolerance of the British people.

The Government and Parliament have a duty to lead and support and therefore to try to increase the mood of tolerance, but I do not believe that the British people react well to being constantly lectured and sometimes hectored and criticised over some admitted failures when their record of tolerance and friendliness is basically so good. If our community relations in Britain are to remain remarkably good—still more if they are to be further improved, as it is our passionate hope that they shall be—my job and the Government's job, whatever party is in government, is to ensure that immigration is strictly controlled and that the rules are observed. That is the compact which we have with the British people and it is a compact which I intend to honour.

There are, therefore, four basic principles of policy to which the Government adhere. The first is that there should be no second-class citizens in Britain. Everyone who was born here or who has come here legally should be equal before the law and treated equally in the practices of daily life. We do not live up to that perfectly, but that is our commitment and that is what my colleagues and I will do our best to achieve.

Secondly, because we are a very heavily populated country with, in general, a labour force adequate to our needs, and because over the last 20 years we have absorbed an exceptionally large number of immigrants into our midst, our principle is that new permanent immigration should be reduced to an inescapable minimum.

The third basic principle of policy on which the Government base themselves is that our small capacity to accept new permanent immigrants must be almost wholly reserved for the two categories of people to whom we have special responsibilities as a country, namely, first, the close dependent relatives of heads of households already lawfully settled here; and, secondly, those people who, as a result of our imperial past, are citizens of this country and of no other.

The fourth principle is that, if we are to honour in practice and not just in words the first three principles, we must do all in our power to halt the evil trade of illegal immigration and not grant easily or automatically to those who have deliberately come here illegally the rights and privileges which attach to those who have been born our citizens or to those who have been properly and lawfully accepted for settlement.

It is mainly about the fourth principle that we are arguing tonight, but I do not believe that one can separate that principle from the other three.

Although I fully accept the intentions and spirit behind much of what the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) said, I genuinely believe that the Opposition are wholly wrong in seeking to break the fourth principle—wrong in their judgment of the effect of the proposals in their motion on race relations in the longer run in this country; wrong in their judgment of their duty towards immigrants already legally settled here and towards those who still have a proper right to come here and are awaiting their lawful turn to do so; and wrong in their judgment—and this is most important of all—of what will increase rather than decrease the prevailing mood of tolerance among the British people on which good relations must depend.

That, basically, is why I ask the House to reject the motion and to accept our amendment. That is why, the other week, I told the House that the House of Lords judgment had confirmed what we thought the law to be and what we intended it to be.

There is no excuse at this late stage for the Opposition, or, indeed, anyone else involved in this subject, to complain that the law is particularly, let alone deliberately, unclear or that the Government deliberately obscured their intentions during the passage of the Immigration Act 1971.

As to the clarity of the Act, no substantial Bill that comes before the House is exactly easy reading. Both the language and the structure proposed by the draftsman to meet the requirements of legal precision make understanding a matter of hard work for the layman, even experienced parliamentary laymen. But the Act does not fail in clarity, at least compared with most other Acts covering substantial subjects. Those who have sought to claim that they were unaware of the effect of the law, before the decision of the House of Lords earlier this month, have ignored the unambiguous definition of "illegal immigrant" contained in the Act and the care with which the Act was drafted so as to avoid giving protection to illegal immigrants.

Thus, in Section 33(1) of the Act an illegal entrant is defined as a person unlawfully entering or seeking to enter in breach of a deportation order or of the immigration laws, and includes also a person who has so entered. Paragraph 9 of Schedule 2 provides for the giving of directions for the removal of an illegal entrant so defined. Again, the provisions affording protection to those who have been accepted for settlement are in Section 1(2) of the Act and they state that indefinite leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom shall …be treated as having been given …to those here at its coming into force if they were then settled here. The word "settled" is of the greatest importance. Section 33 is a definition clause, so it is the place where anyone concerned with this matter should first look to see what we are talking about. Section 33(1) provides that it is to be construed in accordance with Section 2(3)(d) of the Act and that section provides that the references to a person being settled are references to his being ordinarily resident here without being subject under the immigration laws to any restriction on the period for which he may remain. Section 33 (2) provides quite specifically that a person is not to be treated as ordinarily resident here at a time when he is here in breach of the immigration laws. All right, that is complicated but, if we are honest, we all know that every one of our Acts of Parliament is complicated. Again and again hon. Members of all parties and none have asked why we cannot draw up our Bills in more easily readable language. That is something that I have said, and I have sympathy with that view. All I am saying is that this Act is no more labyrinthine or complicated than is any other Act.

Anyone experienced in dealing with the passage of Bills through Parliament should have been able to see for himself, without any prompting, what we were doing, namely, that in the terms of the Act we were fulfilling our undertaking to ensure that all those settled here on or before 1st January this year should have all their existing rights protected.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

Where was it spelled out?

Mr. Carr

My right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary—as did other Home Office Ministers at the time—repeatedly used the phrase "accepted for settlement", not just the plain words "settled here". My right hon. Friend did that much earlier, namely, on 17th June 1971, as will be seen from the report of the proceedings in HANSARD in column 771. So we used this phrase "accepted for settlement".

Mr. Davis

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carr

I said that I would not give way, and I explained why, and it was generally accepted by the House.

While we did that, we also made clear that we did not, and did not mean to, give this protection to those who came here before that date illegally and who were therefore not settled here as defined in the Act. As I say, I believe that any hon. Member should have been able to see for himself what we were doing without any prompting, but, in fact, this important matter was not left just to be understood by reading the Bill without prompting. It was raised in debate, and I say to the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) and her colleagues that some people have not done their homework.

Mr. Davis

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carr

No. Thus, in Committee on 13th May 1971, in column 769, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) raised the question of an amnesty for illegal immigrants. He realised the point and drew the Committee's attention to it in that speech.

Again, in Committee on 25th May the late Sir Richard Sharples who was then Minister of State at the Home Office, speaking on an amendment to Clause 35 dealing with liability to prosecution said that it does not of course mean to say that the removal of the person who has come here illegally cannot be ordered. There is a provision under Paragraph 9 of Schedule 2 for the removal of a person who has come here illegally, irrespective of time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 25th May 1971; c. 1460.]

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)

In the future.

Mr. Carr

No, irrespective of time.

Mr. Davis

It is out of context.

Mr. Carr

It is not out of context. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee were talking about the need for an amnesty. Why were they doing that if this was not realised? There was no need to talk about an amnesty if this was not meant—as we said it was meant—to operate as we intended.

If further evidence is wanted to show that the House was well aware that the Immigration Bill did not safeguard the position of illegal entrants, it is provided by the debate which took place on Report on the Floor of the House on the question whether there should be an amnesty. The reference is to columns 472–476 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 16th June 1971.

The matter arose on amendments moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), the then Home Secretary, with a view to clarifying the meaning of ordinary residence in the United Kingdom. In moving the amendments my right hon. Friend said that they made it clear that a person was not to be treated as ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom while he was here in breach of the immigration laws.

For the Opposition, the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) accepted the amendments without much comment.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

Does the Home Secretary agree that that amendment related to members of a family? It was the children who were in question on that occasion.

Mr. Carr

I am not putting words into the hon. and learned Gentleman's mouth. Will he listen to what happened next? As I said, the hon. and learned Gentleman accepted the amendments without much comment, but the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) put forward the argument that after a long period in this country those who had entered illegally ought to be allowed to stay. He asked what would be the Home Secretary's view in the case of a person who had been here illegally for 20 years.

For the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) raised the same point and asked what would be the position after the Bill became law of those who had in the past entered illegally. The House must admit that both those questions were absolutely specific and on the point. This is how my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary replied: This is a matter of discretion. If a man has been here for a very long time, it is within our discretion to say that he can stay." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June 1971; Vol. 819, c. 476.] That answer in reply to those specific questions coupled with what my late hon. Friend the then Minister of State said, which I quoted earlier, made absolutely clear what the Government intended as well as what they believed the Bill provided.

It may be argued whether what we were proposing was right or wrong, but it cannot be argued that we hid it or did not intend it. We believed that we were right then, and we believe that we are right now, although that of course must be a matter for judgment.

I can put the reasons no better than they were put by Lord Denning, the Master of the Rolls, in his judgment in the Court of Appeal—a judgment which was of course upheld by the House of Lords. These are Lord Denning's words and I should like the House to pay attention to them: These men, if once here by leave, will seek to bring their wives and children over. Two of them have already applied to do so. If the men are allowed to remain, it will be difficult to refuse the wives and children. If this were allowed, the number of immigrants would be increased so greatly that there would not be room for everybody. Again, if an amnesty were granted, it would be an encouragement to others to follow their example: and that simply cannot be permitted. By sending back illegal entrants, it will help to deter others from trying to do the same. In the circumstances Parliament, as I read the Act, has decided that illegal entrants can be sent back. It has entrusted this decision to the Home Secretary, and not to the courts. It has left it to his discretion. It is better left there because, after all, the matter is one of policy which the courts cannot handle. The Home Secretary can take into account all the circumstances. He has to weigh in the balance on the one hand the length of time the man has been here, and his conduct while here: and, on the other hand, the effect on our society if he and others like him are allowed to stay. This is not a justiciable matter for the courts. It is an administrative matter for the Secretary of State. It is very like his discretion to remove aliens, which has never been questioned in all our long history. Illegal entrants cannot be expected to be treated better than aliens. Even though they are Commonwealth citizens, they have come into this country in flagrant defiance of our laws. They cannot pray in aid those very laws to enable them to remain here. Those were the words of Lord Denning, the Master of the Rolls, in giving his judgment on these cases—a judgment which was upheld by the House of Lords. So the matter is as we meant it to be, and as we believe it should be, one for my discretion as Home Secretary.

In conclusion, I want to turn to what we shall do in what we recognise to be a most difficult human problem. I have no intention of asking the police to take any new special measures to seek out those who came to this country illegally before the beginning of this year, although I am certainly asking them to do everything in their power to bring to an end this loathsome trade in illegal immigrants—and that at least, I know, is common ground on all sides of the House.

The police will have to deal with cases involving pre-1973 illegal entrants which come to their notice. I was glad to hear that the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police Force had denied a report than an instruction had been issued to West Midlands policemen to check the passports of immigrants stopped for minor traffic offences. I gladly draw the attention of the House to that statement, and I am sure that I join with the whole House in applauding that view by the Chief Constable. I emphasise that the police will have to deal with cases that come to their notice, but in all cases where an illegal immigrant is immune from prosecution and came here after 9th March, 1968, the case will have to be reported to the Home Office.

I repeat what I said the other week, namely, that every such case will be considered not only by officials but also personally by a Minister. We shall consider carefully, and with understanding, all relevant factors. We shall take into account the length of time the man has been in this country. We shall take into account the strength of his connections here, together with his personal history, including employment record and the like. We shall also take account of his family circumstances and give full weight to them. Age and medical condition will also be considered as will any other compassionate circumstances. We shall also be ready to consider representations which may be made by the immigrant or on his behalf by hon. Members or by anyone else who may be in a position to make representations on his behalf—and that goes for the particular case mentioned by the hon. Member for Hitchin and the other nine cases to which she referred. I give the hon. Lady and the House that absolute assurance. We believe that this is the right way to deal with this difficult question, taking the sum total of factors into account, rather than laying down rigid rules which are a direct invitation to evasion and exploitation. We are not unaware of the difficulties and sometimes the suffering that lies behind these cases. We shall temper the firmness which we believe is necessary in the interests of our community as a whole with real compassion in individual cases.

I do not think that we shall be found wanting in sympathetic consideration, but I could not consistently with what I conceive to be my duty give a blanket assurance that everyone who came here illegally before a particular date should not be removed. This is not, in our view, the way to deal with the matter. It must remain the normal practice when somebody is found to be in this country illegally, to send him away.

Are the Opposition saying to the country that men who knew they were coming illegally, who paid money to be smuggled in, who are without wives and children here, should not only be allowed to stay but later to bring in their wives and children and thus gain a wholly unfair advantage over those who have a legal right to come and are properly awaiting their turn to come and to whom we have a real obligation? That is what the motion says, and that is why I ask the House to reject the motion and to support the amendment.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

This debate is about a number of specific individuals. It is about those who entered the United Kingdom without permission between 9th March 1968 and what my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) has called the passing of this Bill. We on this side accept that it is the passing of the Bill, when it reached the Statute Book and when everybody was in a position to know its contents and to know their position, which was in question, and not necessarily the date when it became activated.

The debate also relates to a small number of people who entered before 9th March 1968, having been specifically refused permission to land. It does not apply to any future entrants. There is no question of encouraging would-be entrants in the future to come here illegally. They know that if they enter illegally they are caught by this provision. It does not apply to anybody who has entered since the passing of the Bill or to anybody who at the date of the passing of the Bill had not been here for a period of six months. It relates to specific people who could be ascertained, although in view of the Home Secretary's attitude it is not likely that they will come forward and announce themselves. Furthermore, they are people who have been in this country for some time. They are people who at the date of the passing of the Bill had acquired a status. It may be pointless to enter into any semantic argument about whether it should be called a right. They appear to have been given to understand, quite reasonably, that they were here as members of the community and were in no danger of being removed.

The Home Secretary said that the British people are normally basically tolerant. I believe that they are normally basically fair and in this respect they are on the side of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin. How these illegal immigrants arrived is not something we seek to condone, but the facts are that now many of them have put down roots, have obtained steady work, and have established a position in the community, keeping a family and making a contribution. They face the possibility of losing all that and of being returned to a country where they may not be gladly received, and where they may have few economic prospects, and indeed they may possibly be reduced to a condition of statelessness.

This is a grave penalty to pay for their original offence, particularly when we remember that their offence may simply have been that they succumbed to a temptation to enter a land where they saw the promise of a new beginning. We do not condone what they did, but they are entitled to justice—and justice consists of tempering the penalty to the gravity of the offence. If a court were to consider the matter it might take a lenient view.

It may be that the right hon. Gentleman will weigh all the appropriate factors when he considers the matter. But he does not inspire a great deal of confidence in those concerned, because in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central, (Mr. Clinton Davis) on 12th June he said that the normal practice for anyone in this position would be to remove him. The normal practice would be to impose a penalty quite disproportionate in some cases to the nature of the offence.

It may be that this is the effect of the Act and that it was there in the Act for us all to spell out. If some of us were less than clear about the point, we were not entirely alone. May I, too, offer a quotation? In the course of the Report stage the then Home Secretary said: I said at an earlier stage that I did not intend in any way to prejudice the position of people already here."—[OFFIGAL REPORT, 16th June 1971; Vol. 819, c. 550.] There was no mention there of the word "settled". There was no suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman was using some technical formula. If there was a confusion, it was a confusion which the right hon. Gentleman himself shared.

The Home Secretary apparently does not agree. However, if one reads the whole passage one sees that the then Home Secretary began with a reference to "the particular question of people already resident here". There was no reservation in what he told the House.

Mr. R. Carr

I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman knows that there were many prior occasions when Home Office Ministers used the phrase "accepted for settlement". But the use of the word "here" ought not to be taken out of context.

Mr. Archer

That is my precise point. There were occasions when Ministers gave what appeared to be a sweeping promise in what later transpired to be guarded terms. They point out now that if we read the small print it can be interpreted differently. But occasionally they said it without reservation. So either they were deliberately misleading the House, which I do not believe, or they missed the point themselves.

If there are people who are liable to pay so heavy a penalty for that kind of offence there will be a large number of people at the mercy of every snooper who stumbles across their secret and of every blackmailer who picks up their skeleton. It cannot be healthy for any community to create a class of blackmail fodder.

The feeling of anxiety has been expressed by a large number of people who cannot be said to have any personal axe to grind. It was expressed in a letter to The Times on 12th June by a large number of people concerned with the Campaign for Racial Justice, including a number of members of the Church who on no showing can be said to have any specific axe to grind. It has been expressed by a number of trade unionists. It has been expressed by the Government's own authoritative advisers in the Community Relations Council and the Race Relations Board. It has been expressed by Justice, again an all-party organisation whose objectivity is not in question.

Those who break the law should obviously be brought to justice. But it is justice to which they are entitled. The penalty should be proportionate to the offence. Surely it is common sense to encourage any offender to believe that if he behaves honestly for a substantial period, works hard, seeks to pay his debt and purges his offence, there comes a time when the past is forgotten. That is the purpose of another piece of legislation going through Parliament at the moment. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Bill has already received its full passage in another place, although we are told that the Government do not propose to give sufficient time for it to be debated fully in this House. But the principle there is precisely the same.

It does not make sense to cause people to believe that however hard they work, whatever their record of honesty and whatever part they play in the community, their past will never be forgotten.

It is not just we on the Opposition side who say that. It was said in the course of Third Reading by the hon. Member who at that time was Minister of State at the Home Office. He said: The enemy of good community relations—and, after all, this is a Bill which to a large extent is about community relations—is fear." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June 1971; Vol. 819, c. 732.] That is what this motion is about, and I do not seek to improve upon the way it was expressed by the Minister of State.

8.25 p.m.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

This is a short debate, and I shall be as brief as the complexities of the subject matter allow.

The decision in the case of these illegal immigrants was reached by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, the supreme court of appeal in this country, having received careful consideration there following equally careful consideration in the courts below. At each stage the appellants' case was presented by eminent counsel. At each stage the human background to the legal problems was clearly and sympathetically in the minds of experienced judges. All this constitutes a situation of which we should be proud. We may well ask in how many countries we could envisage an equal care, a corresponding thoroughness and a parallel equity.

As a result, a conclusion has been reached that illegal immigrants arriving here before 1st January 1973 shall not have a legal and automatic right to remain. However, the conclusion does not involve a blanket or automatic expulsion. The appellants still have the right to apply for leave to remain. They still have the right for their individual cases to be considered on their merits, including the fact of illegal entry, but including also family, personal and compassionate circumstances, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on 12th June and confirmed today. This, again, is a situation of which we may well feel proud and an approach which might well be emulated in certain other countries.

It is not for us to seek to re-try the issues of law after these thorough judicial processes. Hon. Members can and should read the speeches of the Lords of Appeal for themselves. I content myself therefore with drawing attention to some significant points.

In this matter there were two issues to be decided: first, were the appellants illegal immigrants; and, secondly, if so, were they settled in the United Kingdom within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971—that is to say, without being in breach of the immigration laws, were they so settled as to obtain the right to remain here indefinitely?

On the first of those two questions there was unanimity that all three appellants were illegal immigrants. Few points of law are unarguable, and counsel very properly make the best use of what material they have; but in this case, as the attempt to show that the appellants were not illegal immigrants involved arguing that there was a distinction fundamental for this purpose between landing and entry into the United Kingdom, the House will see that it was, on the face of it, hardly a promising line of argument. In respect of one of the three appellants there was indeed unanimity on the second issue also—that he could not be considered to be settled in the United Kingdom because he was clearly in breach of the immigration laws and therefore excluded by the statutory definition.

If the other two appellants are to be regarded as not being in breach of the immigration laws and therefore entitled to be regarded as settled in the United Kingdom, a curious distinction arises from a technical difference between Section 4 of the 1962 Act and the later Section 4A added in 1968. Whereas Section 4 provided that entry after refusal should be a continuing offence, Section 4A did not make it a continuing offence to gain entry by evading examination by an immigration officer. It made it a summary offence subject to the ordinary six months' limit for prosecution.

So, in effect, looking at these cases, one appellant was clearly in breach of the immigration laws on any view, because he had originally been refused entry, whereas it could be argued that the other two were not in breach because they had never been refused entry. The reason that they had not been refused entry was that they had never asked for entry.

Looking at the merits of the matter, is it necessarily worse to give legal methods a chance and enter clandestinely only when refused entry than to disregard the law from the outset and to enter clandestinely without making any effort to comply with the legal requisites for entry? I do not think that many people would give an automatic or unhesitating affirmative to the proposition that it is.

But let us consider the dilemma in which Parliament and the Executive are placed if they are to take any course other than that recommended by my right hon. Friend. They must either give a wholesale, comprehensive amnesty, including those who have at all times been in continuing and incontestable breach of the immigration laws by having entered clandestinely after refusal, or discriminate against those who at least gave legal methods a try in favour of those who did not even do that.

It is said that the Act is not clear—at any rate, not as clear as it should be—having regard to its retroactive element. I accept that the draftsmanship of this, as of other statutes, may be subject to legitimate criticism. Indeed, it was criticised by Lords Wilberforce and Salmon in the terms quoted by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams). Unfortunately, it is far from unique in this. Perfect draftsmanship is not easy to achieve in the over-burdened state of our Statute Book.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir D. Walker Smith

No. This is a short debate, and it would not be right to give way.

I recall a case of my own in the House of Lords 20 years ago on the construction of a statute far older than this Act in which we succeeded by three Lords of Appeal to two, having had three judges of the Court of Appeal unanimously against us and before that three judges of the Divisional Court unanimously in our favour. That was a six to five head count 20 years ago, and still those provisions remain on the Statute Book unamended.

I do not accept that the drafting of the 1971 Act is imprecise. It may be difficult, but it is not imprecise. In a practical sense, the meaning and effect are not too difficult to arrive at. It is the contrary argument that requires a somewhat sophisticated approach.

Lord Wilberforce, giving his judgment in the House of Lords, put it in this way: To say, as the appellants must that a man may be an illegal entrant, because he entered the United Kingdom in breach of the immigration laws, and yet may not be there in breach of the immigration laws is too subtle an argument for me to accept. Those who know Lord Wilberforce know that he has as subtle and distinguished a mind as probably anybody in the country. Earlier he said: For myself, I would be prepared to go further and if there was real doubt to give the two appellants the benefit of it. … But, in my opinion, section 33(2) admits of no doubt. The House must consider this.

Our method of interpretation of the law in this country is to look at the words of a statute and to distil from them in their context their natural meaning. On that basis, by a four-to-one majority, the highest court in the land has found the meaning clear. But let us suppose that we adopt the alternative Continental approach, the approach of looking at les travaux préparatoires, that we allow evidence of what the statute was intended to mean.

What evidence is most material? Obviously, the evidence of those who drafted and formulated the law. Their evidence is clear. My right hon. Friend has said, clearly and unequivocally, that that is what the Act was intended to mean, and he has today supported his assertion by impressive citations from the passage of the Bill through Parliament which must have convinced every objective and receptive person.

I do not speak in any spirit of complacency about the immigration laws or about our nationality laws as such—I am on the record as to that. The pattern, at any rate until 1971, was piecemeal, inchoate, and unsatisfactory. The original Act left a conspicuous void in 1962, what is known as the Bhagwan gap from the case of the Queen against Bhagwan. The 1962 Act made everything—refusal of admission, directions for removal, all the work of the immigration officer—dependent on the taking of the first statutory step, that is, the examination by an immigration officer within 24 hours of landing. If that first step could be evaded, nothing could be done thereafter.

Of course, subsequent events make that statutory gap seem incredible, but that is the advantage of hindsight. The 1962 law was obviously devised to deal with an anticipated pattern of lawful entry through the ports of this country. What was not foreseen was the ingenuity with which the gap could be identified and the vigour with which it would be exploited. It was not until the 1971 Act that the gap was effectively closed, by which time many illegal immigrants had landed on deserted stretches of beach, avoiding the 24-hour examination on which slender base the whole structure of our immigration control rested.

We have to see the situation now against that background. Lord Diplock said in the Bhagwan case, quoted in 1962 Appeal Cases: The inference from this is that the method of control enacted was intended to be experimental. Parliament was to have an opportunity of seeing how it worked. We have seen how the control has worked. We have seen the respects in which it has not worked and we have seen the reasons why. It is against this background and in this context that my right hon. Friend, a humane as well as a wise and experienced Minister, has made his decision and asks us today to approve it.

I think that we should do so. Almost inevitably—this is supported by the great authority of Lord Denning, whose judgment my right hon. Friend cited—any reversal now would weaken the respect for the law of those determined to break it and make harder the task of those who have to enforce it.

The position is admirably stated in Lord Wilberforce's speech giving the majority decision in the House of Lords: It must not be overlooked what the character of this legislation is. It is concerned with the control of immigration into an overcrowded island; persons who have slipped in outside the controls may well make it more difficult for others to come in. So it is not unreasonable that persons who came in illegally in this way should be denied an automatic right to remain indefinitely and should have the opportunity of applying for leave to remain, and in the final resort should have to have their cases considered on a balance of merits and in relation to other cases by the Secretary of State. In the idiom of the courts, I concur and have nothing to add.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

I shall not follow the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) into the realms of the law on this matter; first, because I am not a lawyer, but, secondly, because I believe that the argument is about people and human relationships rather than about the law. The question whether these people are illegal immigrants has apparently been settled by the law. It seems, therefore, that the issue before the House is not whether the immigrants referred to are illegal immigrants but what should happen to them as a consequence of their being illegal.

In my short speech I shall simply appeal to the Home Secretary on behalf of my hon. Friends in the Liberal Party. We shall support the Opposition in the Lobby tonight in an appeal for compassion for the people involved.

Like many hon. Members, I have large numbers of immigrants in my constituency. A proportion of them—I hope a small proportion—are illegal immigrants. Like many hon. Members, I am concerned with the issue of good race relations in my constituency. Bodies such as the Community Relations Council have pleaded for a general amnesty in this situation. They have pleaded for a general level of compassion not on the basis of viewing cases on their merits and trusting to the Government's compassion but on the basis of a definite assurance to these people that if they come forward and are identified they are likely to be allowed to remain in Britain, provided that it can be clearly demonstrated by them that they have abided by the law and have established their roots in this country during the time that they have been here illegally.

I have already heard stories from my constituency of things such as blackmail having occurred during the last 14 days. I know of the great concern that this is causing to many immigrants in my constituency. Although we, as English people, are perhaps not given to blackmail as freely and as frequently as may be evident in some other races, blackmail is taking place among immigrants in this country as a consequence of the ruling of the House of Lords.

If the Home Secretary made a definite assertive statement encouraging people to come forward and admit that they came into this country illegally, couched in such a way that they would feel that as a consequence of doing that the odds were on their side rather than, in a sense, on the Home Secretary's side, the whole matter could be much more easily dealt with.

I shall go into the Lobby tonight with the Opposition, as will my hon. Friends. I hope that the Home Secretary will take that as an indication, albeit from the smallest party in the House, the third party, that we none the less feel as deeply, sincerely and anxiously about this matter as the official Opposition.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

Both the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cyril Smith) and the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) made one of their strongest points when they said that the debate was about people. That is so, but it is also about principle. In our compassion for the individual who may find himself in a situation of considerable personal difficulty and even of misery, and who may find himself liable to blackmail—that is obvious—we ought not to mitigate the principle. The compassion is for my right hon. Friend. He has promised that compassion, mercy and clemency which in his judgment is right in the individual cases brought before him. But if we were to mitigate the principle which is enshrined in the Act of 1971, we should be playing into the hands of future illegal immigrants and of those who batten upon them.

I shall explain why I say that, because I have made an assertion which I must justify. At the end of 1970, before the Act came into force, I was concerned.

as have been other hon. Members, in a case involving illegal immigration on a very large scale. During the course of that case I learned a great deal about the way in which it is conducted and about the way in which, by their blandishments, those who batten on the immigrants are able to assure them that when they come to this country they may get away with it.

We know only the tip of the iceberg. There is a vast international organisation bringing immigrants illegally into this country. It existed then and it still exists, and I join with my right hon. Friend in hoping that the police will not mitigate for one moment their own struggle against this illegal immigration, which is akin and even possibly related to that other form of smuggling which is so serious to our society today, the smuggling of drugs. The tourist officers—if such they may be called—of this organisation in India and Pakistan say to the would-be immigrants, "We will get you to Britain." They ferry them across Europe for large sums of money. They have centres in Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, Ostend. There they lie low till it is time for them to slip across the Channel or the North Sea in small boats. They are even, as in the case with which I was concerned, put on boards slung under buses brazenly transported on the Channel ferry.

Those responsible for this trade were able to say to those desiring to come here, "Lie low". Originally it was for 24 hours but subsequently it was for six months. "If you succeed in lying low when we get you into Britain, you will get away with it."

If we were to mitigate the principle enshrined in the Act of 1971 we should be playing into the hands of those people because they would then be able to say to would-be emigrants from the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere, "It is quite true that you are subject to deportation but you can see that the Government of Great Britain do not really mean what they say. They passed an Act to deal with those who went in illegally in the past and who may go in illegally in the future, but you can see that you have only to be there long enough and a soft-hearted legislature will let you get away with it."

This falls squarely within the fourth principle to which my right hon. Friend referred. We have got to be firm about the principle. If we are not firm on the principle we are failing in our duty to the community.

Frankly, I do not understand the point which was made by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) who spoke from her heart but overstated her case when she said—I am paraphrasing —this would ruin race relations in this country, race relations would be damaged, people would go in fear. The great bulk of immigrants into this country can go around holding their heads high; they are here legally and they are entitled to remain here. How can it affect relations with them if those who came here illegally, those who by their presence prejudice the future of legal immigrants into this country and prejudice those who came after them, are returned home? How can it affect relations with the whole immigrant community, unless the whole immigrant community identifies itself with those who are here illegally? I do not for one moment believe that they will do that. They are much too sensible.

I have made my point quickly and, I hope, precisely. For the reasons I have given I support wholeheartedly the stand which the Government are taking in this matter and the amendment which they have proposed to the motion before the House.

One final word. It has been said—again, it was said by the hon. Member for Hitchin—that the retroactivity in this Act of Parliament was not clear. It is quite true that the Act of Parliament is labyrinthine, in the word of Lord Wilberforce, but as to the clarity of the retroactive aspect of the Act, let me cite what Lord Wilberforce said: But it is necessary to be clear as to this at the outset. This is not one of those cases where the courts are able to refuse to attribute retroactive effect to legislation Parliament can, if it uses sufficiently clear words, give legislation retroactive effect and there is no doubt that it has done so here. The definition of 'illegal entrant' (Section 33(1)) is expressed to include a person who has entered the United Kingdom"— I emphasise, as my right hon. Friend emphasised, "has entered"— in breach of the immigration laws: and if there is any doubt whether the words 'has [so] entered' relate to entry before the coming into force of the Act (and not merely to entry before a question as to his entry arises), that is removed by the definition of 'immigration laws' which includes any law which 'has (before or after the passing of this Act) been in force'. So if the appellants are otherwise within the description 'illegal entrant' the Act must apply to them notwithstanding that they entered illegally before the Act of 1971 came into force) was not argued in this House and has not been held by any court. It is true that those who came here before the coming into force of this Act were led to believe by those who secured their passage here that if they lay low long enough they might be secure. But they knew full well that they were coming here to seek the hospitality of this country in breach of our laws. Though I hope that my right hon. Friend will exercise mercy and compassion where necessary, I am not abashed by the principle that those who came here illegally must, if necessary, be returned home.

8.51 p.m.

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

I shall not follow the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) into devious arguments of law. He is the third Queen's Counsel to take part in the debate. This debate is not about the law but about political morality.

The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) used Wilberforce to support his case. I remind him of the comments that he and others on that side of the House made when Wilberforce led an inquiry into the electricity industry. They then called Wilberforce "too bad to burn". They now call him in aid to substantiate their case because it suits the lawyers to do so.

The second Queen's Counsel from the other side advanced what I believe was a pseudo-legal argument when this is basically a question of political morality. Incidentally, I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman is one of the few privileged people in the House to be paid by the Government in addition to his salary as Member of Parliament. I believe that is unfair. It is wrong that he should support the Government in an argument of this kind when he is almost a Government employee. It was unfair of him to make some of the comments he did.

The hon. and learned Gentleman talked about the size of the problem. I support the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) and congratulate her on the case she presented, but I disagree on the question of numbers. I do not accept—nor will anyone else—that there are 10,000 people involved. No one has any knowledge of how many are involved, but I do not think that it can be 10,000. I cannot imagine hordes of people coming here in rowing boats in the dead of night in the period mentioned by the Home Secretary.

As there is doubt about numbers, doubt is cast on the Home Secretary's argument that he is concerned about dependants—wives and children—and not about the number to whom he would have to offer an amnesty.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Will my hon Friend accept from me that I merely gave the highest estimate published to indicate that even on the basis of the highest estimate we are talking about less than 1 per cent. of the total immigrant community?

Mr. Atkinson

I accept the point that my hon. Friend makes. I want to broaden the argument to deal with morality and to talk about the people in addition to those 10,000 that my hon. Friend mentioned because they form part of the case which the House must decide upon. The Home Secretary is, therefore, more concerned about dependants—the wives and children—than he is about an amnesty. However, we welcome his comments about compassion and a review—a different kind of review of cases from now on. That would be a new experience for myself and some of my hon. Friends but we welcome, and say so sincerely, that compassion is being given to those cases where men folk have been taken away from their families in this country.

On the question of the witch hunt we welcome the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, but all of us on the Opposition side, and certainly some Conservative Members, will have evidence of policemen making inquiries about passports in a casual conversation, evidence where they have knocked on doors about some matter or another and because a coloured face has appeared have immediately inquired about passports and their legality. I have evidence of this, as has the Home Secretary. He knows what has gone on. Some policemen will even inquire about passports when stopping someone about a possible driving offence. It is good to hear of one chief constable giving assurances to the immigrant population in the way that he has.

I support the motion and also the comments of Lord Salmon. I have one or two comments about the quirk in the law which has been presented to us and also about the fact mentioned in the debate of the difference between people who come in the night by illegal means and those who have come here legally but have overstayed the time allotted to them. There is a similarity between both these cases. By and large the immigrant groups in this country will not be able to distinguish between the fine points of these two categories and community relationships will therefore be worsened as a result of the judgment. People to whom the judgment is not directed—at least in the technical sense—will be afraid and relationships will be therefore weakened.

We are discussing a motion which asks for an amnesty for all people who came here before June 1971, or were alleged to have done so. That must also include, however, people who have come here illegally but have overstayed their permitted time. That is vital, because the Government cannot distinguish between the two. If they are to do as the Opposition wish and grant an amnesty to people who came here illegally they cannot differentiate between those who came here legally and overstayed their time and therefore became illegal residents and the others with whom we are concerned. If they are to offer an amnesty to one they must offer it to both.

The Government must also reconsider the position of the 600 Commonwealth folk who have been deported from this country over the last two years. They also have a right for their cases to be considered, even though some of them have returned to this country. Many are still outside and it is urgently necessary for the Home Office to reconsider their cases, particularly where they are separated from their families who are in this country. The whole process of deportation is most unfair. It does not work with equality anywhere. It depends whether the Home Office has taken the initiative, whether the police are insisting upon deportation or whether, as is quite correct, in the case of a criminal offence a person is automatically deported. That we accept.

But the unfairness of deportation applies where it is not to do with criminal acts—where a person has committed only a technical offence and has been deported as a result. That is the aspect about which the Opposition are deeply concerned. We have tried to impress upon the Home Secretary and his predecessors time and time again the dreadful cruelty that it inflicts upon decent people, people who have been accepted for some years as part of our community, who have paid their taxes, have paid for their insurance stamps, have done a good job and have contributed to the wealth of the country by working jolly hard. They have had a dreadful cruelty inflicted upon them because of a technical offence. That is the situation that we want the Home Secretary to reconsider.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland Stamford)


Mr. Atkinson

I will not give way. It is apparently the rule in this debate, set by one of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends, that we do not give way under any circumstances. I take a lead from my betters in the matter.

What is the background to the argument that it is not possible to make the concession that we seek, despite the dreadful unfairness that has been enacted? The numbers of vouchers are now discussed quite openly. We are concerned about the A vouchers. Last year, there was a negligible number—a total of 50 or 60 people at the most—from the West Indies and Cyprus, yet there were thousands from elsewhere in the world. In the first three months of this year no Cypriots were allowed in on A vouchers, and there were only eight from the West Indies.

Those numbers must be seen against the background of our being a free house to about 200 million people from the European Community. There is an open door for white people from Europe, but the door is closed to Commonwealth people applying for A vouchers.

I turn to the disgrace of the B vouchers. I shall not go into it in detail, but it is a blot on our record. It is an absolute disgrace when a country with the wealth of ours, a country of the sophistication of Britain, is enticing the best people from the Commonwealth countries to come here, people who have been trained at enormous cost in those countries. They come here on B vouchers which are given ad lib, without any restriction. Graduates are not restricted. Doctors and qualified people, including teachers, can come here from the Commonwealth if they wish.

It is a disgrace that we are draining such people away from those countries, which are suffering difficulties because of a shortage of skilled and qualified people. It is a disgrace that we tell such people that there is an open door to them, yet we are saying to other people who would be on A vouchers that they cannot come.

We are asking for an amnesty against the background of Britain's being an open house for 200 million people in Europe, while hardly any A vouchers are being issued. There is a complete stop to immigrants coming from the Commonwealth and an open door to every white nation in the world. In the first three months of this year over 13,000 people have been allowed in for permanent settlement, and last year the figure was 14,250. It is not a numbers game. It is not the case, as the Home Secretary and other members of the Government have suggested, that they cannot concede an amnesty because of the numbers involved. That cannot be so, because they have an open door to thousands upon thousands of people who are at liberty to come if they wish. It is not a question of numbers. The Home Secretary says that he wants to use the Act as a deterrent to people coming from various parts of the Commonwealth into this country.

The point remains that the case of my right hon. and hon. Friends is one of compassion. We are asking for mercy for those people who are suffering dreadful cruelties. They are people with families. There are those who married British girls and who have children. There are those who married in this country and who have been taken away by the Govern- ment. In North London there are 29 cases of fatherless families, of young girls and young kiddies, who are now being supported by social security, supplementary benefits and other payments because the Home Office has decided to take the breadwinners away.

The poor kiddies have no idea when their father will be able to return to them. Young men who have good and honourable records apart from some technical offence committed long ago, who have lived here years and married our girls or girls who have come from overseas and who have been here many years, have been taken away from their families. My God, has this country come to the stage when it is not big enough to be able to say to these young families that there is no necessity to take away their menfolk? Cannot we allow them to remain here and to keep their families decently? If we cannot do that, there is no end to it.

My God, we are breaking up families. Is there no objection in the Home Office to this sort of thing taking place? My God, if hon. Members could only see them and the way they exist. What stories have the kiddies to tell? If we talked to them many could tell us how their fathers had been taken away at the airport, perhaps never to come back again. My God, it breaks my heart!

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

There is feeling in the Home Office about the cases which the hon. Gentleman has described. However, the Home Office is normally acting on the recommendations of the courts. It is for that reason that in every case we provide the possibility for the wives and families to go back overseas with the husband who has been deported if they wish to do so. A number of them take advantage of that offer. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not distort the position in developing his argument.

Mr. Atkinson

I shall not distort the position. I think that the hon. Gentleman has made my case more ably than I could ever make it.

9.8 p.m.

Mr. William Deedes (Ashford)

I fully appreciate the feelings of the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson). However, if he is to talk about the cruelty which we inflict on these people, he should bear in mind the people who instigate the cruelty by organising the racket, which is basically what we are discussing tonight.

It seems that there are two separate arguments which have been blurred by two speeches by Opposition Members. The first is whether, knowingly or otherwise, the 1971 Act was made retroactive against immigrants who entered this country illegally since 1968 by extending in respect of one category the fixed period of immunity to an indefinite period.

The second issue is whether the illegal immigrant, with or without committing an offence, should be allowed to reach the haven of immunity and should not be sent back in six months, three years, or an indefinite period.

I am tempted to observe that there is a certain irony in the situation to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) referred. The 1962 Act turned out, partly because of the work of the Opposition at that time, to be less effective than we supposed it might be. Until the Labour Government produced the White Paper of August 1965, the 1962 Act had fallen far short of the results which we expected from it. That gave rise to a great deal of the trouble which we now have.

The charge being made against the 1971 Act, on the other hand, is that it is more effective than those who passed it supposed at the time. I have no doubt that those involved in the passage of that Act knew what they were doing. Further, I suspect from conversations which I have had with members of the immigrant community at the time that at least some of them knew what was happening.

My right hon. Friend has quoted from the context of the debate to illustrate the fact that at least those who took part in the Committee proceedings could not have been in ignorance of what was happening. That, as he said, was why I at one stage rehearsed the possibility of an amnesty. I am not persuaded that the charge of bad faith or inadvertence really lies.

Further, we did not create a new offence which made a penalty retro- active. The word "retrospective", which has been bandied about a great deal on this issue, is falsely used. What we altered was the period of immunity, for which a fixed period certainly of six months had always seemed, at least to some of us, totally absurd. If we have a reproach to make to ourselves, it is, in my view, for countenancing and accepting such an absurd condition. We have every cause to reproach ourselves for the transition from 24 hours to six months. One is saying in effect that it is illegal to evade control, but that if a person can manage to remain undetected for six months, he will be all right.

Thus, the agents—of whom there are many, arranging these things—must amend their terms of trade and devise ways of keeping the immigrant who enters in defiance of control under cover for a certain period. These things are arranged and they are paid for. Did we weigh the incalculable evil which springs from the situation—forgery, fraud, multiple occupation, a whole range of things some of us have had the opportunity to see?

I view with dismay, from the point of view of the immigrant community as well as of ourselves, the tendency to view the illegal immigrant as a competitor who has a right to enter the game under certain rules. Whether seen from this end or that—and some of us have seen it from both—the illegal immigrant is an unmitigated evil, not least to the community to which he belongs.

The situation is highly prejudicial to the community who are here and here lawfully. It is highly injurious to the illegal immigrant himself, probably the victim of an agent, and still more injurious to members of his family. It is an established industry on the sub-continent which causes as much anxiety to the Governments of India and Pakistan as it does to our own Government. Let us not suppose that they will be looking for soft options.

The situation also causes great confusion and hardship to those in our posts overseas already struggling with difficulties enough. I give one example. Dependent wives of those who have entered illegally here will often apply to join not the lawful husband, but another man who has entered here legally. In the confusion which follows, the separation of the family is prolonged and our own posts are enmeshed in complicated matters which prevent them from getting on with the work they have to do. The situation also adds enormously to the currency difficulties. The Indian Government could tell us a great deal about the black market dealing in currency by illegal immigrants. The Indian Government are deeply anxious about it.

All this is likely to get worse as our controls tighten under the 1971 Act. We are making the work of the agents more profitable. The evil we are talking about tonight is more widespread than we suppose. The idea that we are chasing only a few thousand people is a delusion. If we are honest about this, we must admit that the fault lies as much with our laxity of control as with anything else. I am not speaking of the present period but of the long period in which we took a great deal of time to come to the reality of the situation. So serious did I think the situation when the Act was going through the House that I said that I believed that the extent of illegal immigration ran into tens of thousands. For that reason I suggested that an amnesty ought to be considered.

I did not then and I hesitate now to give the total which I then got and which I still retain. I will only say that the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) was a long way out when she said that 10,000 was the highest figure brought to her notice. I will not say more than that. In Committee I said "tens of thousands" and I repeat that. That was why I advanced the idea of an amnesty. I admit at once that I have totally changed my mind.

In practice the idea that we can wipe the slate clean and then crack down does not work. In effect we change the nature of the offence. We cannot say to X thousands of people who are guilty of an offence, "Henceforth you are forgiven but henceforth we will be more ruthless". It sounds all right in theory, but in practice it does not work. Moreover, it would be misunderstood on the sub-continent and simply encourage arrangements for illegal immigration.

It would be resented by many immigrants here, and that is something of which hon. Members should take account. Many immigrants lawfully here deeply resent the actions and the reputation of the illegal immigrants. Equally, I do not believe that we can chase up anything like the number involved. In that respect, I was glad to hear what my right hon. Friend said tonight. Those who are returned will indeed be a small fraction of the whole. To that extent my right hon. Friend and those working for him are bound to be selective—whimsical, perhaps. There seems to be no alternative.

If my right hon. Friend is to exercise clemency, a relatively small number of people will be caught and returned. Our objective is not simply to intimidate those who are here—and there is no reason why lawful immigrants should be intimidated—but to discourage those on the sub-continent who make a big racket out of this wretched traffic. Only if we show that the risks here are not worth the candle shall we begin to have any effect on the way in which they work. Undoubtedly some will suffer. I accept what the hon. Member for Tottenham said about that. It seems that they must suffer so that others in future shall be saved from the temptation of falling victim to this racket which is the basis of the cruelty of which the hon. Member spoke.

9.18 p.m.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has told us that in his view—and he has great experience—the numbers of those who are at risk as a result of the decision in another place is probably tens of thousands rather than the 10,000 mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams). What I waited to hear from the Home Secretary in this debate and the debate on the Pakistan Bill was any justification or evidence that the rest of the community would benefit in any way by the measures being taken against this small group.

What has happened in this case is that a section of the Home Office which has racialist inclinations—I say this with some hesitation but nevertheless I believe it is true—has been responsible for the steps taken against certain individuals. The Home Secretary has probably been largely taken by surprise by the decisions of the courts resulting from the actions of his officials.

Now he certainly lacks the courage to say to the racialist section of his party that this is not what the Government intended and it should be repealed.

Mr. Lane

The hon. Member has mentioned a racialist section in the Home Office. Will he take it from me that that is totally untrue and unjustified? I hope he will have the grace to withdraw.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I accept that from the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I could make more clear what I mean. I know from my experience that there are many people who would resent the label "racialist" but who nevertheless feel that the race problem is much more acute than it is, and that there are far more of them in Bromley than in Brixton. Civil servants mostly do not live in racially mixed areas. There is a feeling in certain sections of government that the racial problem is acute. That feeling is stronger where there is least known about it.

There is evidence—we have had it in briefs read out by the Home Secretary, and we have had it from Home Office Ministers in the last few days—that sections of the Home Office regard it as being positively desirable in terms of race relations to exacerbate the situation in which a substantial number of black people in this country live. As a result of the House of Lords decision and the Pakistan Bill, in the cause of possibly reducing the number of black or coloured people entitled to remain in Britain, an entire community is placed in a situation of risk or of apprehension.

I believe that the effect of the House of Lords decision and of the very restrictive measures in the Pakistan Bill will be to make relations between the entire legal black community and the host community much more difficult.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford. West)

The hon. Gentleman will agree that it is wrong to mislead the House by suggesting that the Pakistan Bill has anything to do with immigration. It is a citizenship measure, and to suggest that Pakistan people will be subject to a new form of control is totally to mislead the House and to make discussion of that Bill in Committee more difficult.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I entirely agree that the Pakistan Bill is a citizenship measure. But what we are concerned with tonight is a measure concerning the rights of citizens in this country, people who have established rights to remain here. What the House of Lords has done is to take away an established immunity from prosecution.

I wish to deal not with legal issues but with social and community issues. As a result of the House of Lords decision and, I believe, of the Home Secretary's unwillingness to face up to the section of his party which is willing to upset race relations for a large number in order to reduce the number of immigrants living here by a very small proportion, we have exacerbated race relations for the entire community. The matter has been presented by hon. Members opposite as being one of principle. If it is a matter of such clear principle, they have failed to explain why Lord Justice Salmon should have found himself in such strong disagreement with their views. If it is a matter of law, it is one on which he entirely disagrees with the viewpoint presented by the Home Secretary.

We are debating whether, of the possibly 10,000 or perhaps tens of thousands of people who have come to this country, whether illegally across the beaches or by overstaying their leave, the 10 per cent., perhaps, who will be found shall be at risk of being deported. Ninety per cent. of the remainder who will not be found will be living in fear of this. The Home Secretary has indicated that he will treat with compassion those people who are caught. That is very welcome.

However, I urge the right hon. Gentleman to adopt what has been proposed, namely, that he should state tonight clear basic criteria so that those who have been living here, have been keeping within the law, have been honourably working and have been fulfilling their responsibilities as members of the community can approach the Home Office knowing that they fulfil those criteria and that they will be accepted.

I urge the Home Secretary, even now, to accept the motion. If he will not accept it, will he please, for the benefit not just of any section of illegal immigrants but of the entire community of black people who live in Britain and to free them from the risk of blackmail, the risk of harassment, and the risk of having to live the rest of their lives in fear, give them the opportunity of knowing they can approach the Home Office because they fulfil certain defined criteria which the Home Secretary has clearly spelt out? I hope he will do that, but it would be far better if he accepted the motion.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. John Stokes (Oldbury and Halesowen)

In the remaining few minutes I wish to refer principally to the effect of the motion upon the people of this country outside the Chamber. I consider the Opposition motion to be astounding in view of the state of public opinion about immigration. The motion speaks of— profound uncertainty … in the immigrant community. How can the Opposition ignore the profound uncertainty among our own English people about when legal immigration will end, let alone illegal immigration?

For the Opposition to demand, in effect, special terms for illegal immigrants is just adding insult to injury to ordinary English people. Surely, the prime duty of the Government is to uphold the laws of the country and to protect our own nation and people, particularly working-class people and those unable to speak for themselves who live in the areas which contain the greatest concentration of immigrants.

The motion speaks also of "democratic traditions," but when were English people asked to vote on the issue of immigration? It is nothing less than mockery to call in democratic traditions to support a policy which will lay further burdens on our own people.

I look upon the motion as sentimentality of the worst order. Paraphrasing Dr. Johnson's famous phrase, if England were fairly polled today on the Oppositiion motion, that motion would be overwhelmingly defeated. I am sure that a number of hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches who are in close touch with their constituients will share my views.

Illegal immigration must be halted. It is growing like a cancer in our society. No other nation in the world would put up with this state of affairs. Who drafted the motion? Was it drafted by hon. Members who represent immigrant areas, or by intellectuals of the Labour Party who are out of touch with the real feelings of the people? I am glad that the Government are taking this strong line and they have my complete support.

9.29 p.m.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

All the previous speakers have started by disclaiming any intention of giving way, and I must do the same, because I have much to say in a short time.

The subject of coloured immigration raises strong emotions on both sides of the argument. Although I feel strongly about it, I hope to contain my feelings, because I believe that there is here a case for giving an amnesty to illegal immigrants who entered the country between 1968 and 1971. The case rests not on emotion or compassion, but on their rights as citizens of the Commonwealth who have attained a legal status which we took away from them retrospectively without full discussion in the House. That is the case I want to advance.

As with all these other arguments about immigration, we must go back to the situation in 1962. In 1962, we all shared two types of citizenship. We were citizens both of the Commonwealth and of the independent countries in which we lived. We in this country were citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and because we shared that Commonwealth citizenship with other independent Commonwealth countries, it has tended to be devalued over the years, but, none the less it was a citizenship which had a status and which gave certain rights. One of those rights was unrestricted entry into this country and the right to settle here, to bring in families without let or hindrance, and to apply after five years' residence here for citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies and to have that request. honoured without any kind of hindrance. That was the mark of a Commonwealth citizen.

In 1962, we took away one facet of that status. We said that before anybody could come through the door, he had to have a key in the form of a job voucher or one of the other elements in the immigration control. But because this was a temporary measure introduced to staunch the flow of illegal immigrants at that stage, we did not go to the limit of saying that those who avoided control by not presenting themselves to immigration officers within 24 hours were guilty of a criminal offence. It was not any misadventure or any lapse by the House that led to that situation. It was precisely stated in paragraph 2 of the first schedule of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. That provision said: A person shall not be required to submit to examination under this paragraph after the expiration of the period of twenty-four hours from the time when he lands in the United Kingdom. … That point was made specifically because—and I submit that this was the case—we recognised that in altering the rights of citizens to come here we were taking a serious step and did not want to go to the point of saying that that should be a continuing offence that would go on after 24 hours. Therefore, we said, "If you come and remain here for 24 hours, you are then in the same position as if you had entered legally."

That was confirmed by the House of Lords in its recent judgment. Anybody who entered the country between 1962 and 1968 without presenting himself at immigration control or who was not committing any offence was in exactly the same position as anyone who entered legally. He could stay here as long as he liked; he could apply for citizenship of the United Kingdom after five years and could bring in his family without let or hindrance.

If all the arguments about people evading control being a cancer on our society are correct, why is it that at no stage during the course of the Immigration Bill 1971 did the Government suggest that we should retrospectively take away the rights of those who came in that period? It was for the simple reason that they had acquired a legal status, and to take away a legal status is a serious thing to do anyway—but to take away a legal status retrospectively is something which the House abhors.

The situation was worse, because in 1968 the then Government said that an offence would be committed if somebody came to this country and did not present himself to immigration control within 28 days. But the offence was a magistrates' court offence, a summary offence. There was no peculiar tenderness in terms of illegal immigrants, but people gained immunity if they were not prosecuted within six months of their appearance in the magistrates' court.

The same would apply to anyone who committed an act of careless driving on our roads. If he was not brought before a court within six months, it might be that he had committed an act of careless driving, but he would not have committed a criminal offence which was prosecutable, and he could then say honestly and without fear of a comeback on any application for insurance that he had not committed an offence which was punishable in the courts. Equally, he could not be subject to the totting up procedure allowing him to be disqualified if he committed three offences within two years.

No one can say that careless driving is not a serious matter. But we do not regard it as being so serious as to be indictable. Therefore, we say, as with all summary offences, that anyone who is not brought before a court within six months should not have his offence hanging over him. It should lapse. He should gain immunity. We say that because the gravity of the offence is not regarded as being so serious that, as in the case of an indictable offence, it should be prosecuted at any time.

In 1968, by a conscious decision, the House made the offence of not appearing before immigration control in 28 days a summary offence. It was not indictable. Therefore, after six months a person got that immunity. That immunity is no legal technicality. As Lord Salmon pointed out in his judgment, anyone who had gained that immunity could not be arrested. If he was arrested he could not be brought before a court. If he was brought before a court, he could apply for habeas corpus and be released.

But it was more. It was not simply an immunity from prosecution which was gained after six months. It was the right to remain here in the same way as anyone who had come in legally. A person in that position had the right to stay as long as he liked, the right to bring in his wife and children if he wanted to, and the right to apply after five years for citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies. In every respect a person in that position had a status.

I regard it and Lord Salmon regards it as a legal status. The other Law Lords regard it as a de facto status. I do not care which it is. For all practicable purposes, it is the same as if the person concerned had come here legally.

The Government claim that because illegal immigration is so detrimental to race relations in Britain it is necessary to put a stop to it. That is what we did in 1971. In relation to future illegal immigration, no one had any doubt about it. We knew what we were doing. What we did was to say not that this would become an indictable offence or a continuing offence prosecutable at any time and for which a person could be deported on conviction. We said that the period for prosecution would be extended from six months to three years, but that after that there would still be immunity from prosecution and that those who stayed here longer than three years, even in the future, would not be capable of being prosecuted and could not be deported.

In 1971 we said that anyone could be removed by the immigration official who dealt with a case when it came to his attention. This power to remove was totally new. We knew that that would happen. We knew that it would happen in relation to those who came in the future. Our argument was that we did no realise that it would happen to those who came between 1968 and 1971, and I do not believe that the Government realised that that was the effect of the legislation. My reason for saying that is that the Home Secretary went through five different sections of the Act today to spell out some of the powers. In order to assert this power, it is necessary to spell it out of seven different sections of the Act.

If we had intended to withdraw this immunity and to take away this status from these immigrants, we would have said so in clear language in a section of the Act. It could be said quite simply. All this guff that we have heard tonight about the difficulty of putting it in intelligible English in the statute does not apply in this case. It could and would have been put clearly if that had been intended.

The first time that anybody at any stage suggested that that was the effect of the Act was in the text book which came out in 1972 in which the learned editor submitted, because he had no authority from debates in the House to show, that it was right that this was the effect of it. I suspect that some people in the Home Department read the book and realised that they could make use of this power, and that the Home Secretary has had to come to the House and say, "Yes, that is what we intended all along."

I have looked through all the references to which the Home Secretary referred today. None of them unequivocally points to the past. I submit that they all point to what would happen in future. I refer only to one because I am running out of time. This one is crucial because in the end it was what defeated the three appellants who went to the House of Lords. Lord Wilberforce said that the issue before the Lords turned upon the last 13 words which were that they were here at a time when he is there in breach of the Immigration laws". That provision was put in on Report in this House. Introducing it the Home Secretary said: The amendments provide that a person is not to be treated as ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom while he is here in breach of the immigration laws. In other words, if he is here in breach he cannot claim that period as residence for the purpose of acquiring a right. So far so good. The next phrase is: For the future it is sufficient to say that it people want to claim a right by virtue of residence here they must be lawfully residing here."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June 1973; Vol. 819, cc. 473–4.] I submit that "For the future" was what the right hon. Gentleman intended and that that was the effect.

To take the other line which the Home Secretary is arguing—that they knew and always intended that that should be the case—indicates a turpitude on the part of the Government of which I should want to acquit them. They never at any stage, no matter what the Home Secretary said tonight, spelled it out clearly. They never got up on their hind legs and said, "We are intending to take away the status of those illegal immigrants who came in between 1968 and 1971 and we are going to do it retrospectively." Retrospection is the nub of the argument.

When the Labour Government retrospectively took away certain property rights from Burmah Oil there was an outcry from the then Opposition. That outcry was taken to the House of Lords where there was an attempt to defeat that retrospective action.

When, in the case of an American art dealer only a couple of years ago, the question of rigging an auction sale for an expensive painting arose and the painting was subsequently sold to the National Gallery for a colossal sum of money, the Government accepted that they had run out of time for prosecution in the magistrates' court and they then changed the law to make that offence indictable in future so that it could be taken before a Crown court after six months, but they did not suggest that the American art dealer should be prosecuted retrospectively. They did not suggest that he should lose in money the value of the property because he had acted illegally. No—that was property.

But these are people, human beings, men and women, who came to this country, who acted illegally when they came, but who gained an immunity which gave them status. On that immunity they were assured by the Home Office, by the police, by all the authorities, because that was the law, that they could stay as long as they liked. So, acting to their detriment, they brought their families across, they obtained work, and they worked and served this country well.

Now we have taken away that status from them retrospectively without adequate discussion in this House. If the House does not pass the Opposition motion tonight, it ought to be ashamed of itself. I think that it will be.

9.45 p.m.

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

I ask the House to vote decisively for our amendment and to reject the ill-judged motion from the Opposition. If I may start on a personal note, controlling people is a distasteful responsibility for anyone, but it has to be done. Nobody could sit at my desk for even a few days without realising, from the individual cases with which we have to deal, how strong are the pressures on would-be immigrants and how great, alas, is the degree of deception and the ingenuity of subterfuge to which some will resort in their efforts to enter Britain. So our control has to be firm and even tough, but I hope that it will never be arbitrary, rigid or heartless.

We have had a very wide debate in a short time, and obviously I cannot cover every individual point, but as we deal with the situation that flows from the Act and the House of Lords judgment, we shall keep in mind what has been said tonight on both sides of the House.

I followed the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), whose sincerity I do not question, through the history of the various Acts, but I do not share his conclusion. I am sorry that he should have exaggerated the situation and I totally reject his charge of turpitude against the Government. What I will try to do is pick out two or three of the main themes of the debate and then remind the House how we intend to proceed from here on.

Again, I reject immediately, as did my right hon. Friend, the charge that there was any deliberate mystery when the Bill was going through the House. Since my right hon. Friend's speech, it has been made perfectly clear that, in Committee, the then Minister of State mentioned specifically the provision under Schedule 2(9). It has also been made clear that, on Report, the then Home Secretary again dealt with the general position clearly when answering a debate about the position of people who had been here illegally for a long time.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) said: The right hon. Member for Ashford suggested that there might be some kind of amnesty for these people at the time that the Bill was going through Parliament. I should be interested to hear the Home Secretary's views. The then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) replied: This is a matter for discretion. If a man has been here for a very long time, it is within our discretion to say that he can stay. However, the Amendment is concerned with a different point—the acquisition of a legal right to stay or of a legal right against deportation. I want to finish this quotation, of which my right hon. Friend gave only part. The Home Secretary went on: We are saying that, as a matter of interpretation, the acquisition of a legal right to stay must be a period of legal residence. After that, if a man claims, 'I have no legal right, but it would be unfair to throw me out because I have been here for a very long time,' it would be a matter for the fair exercise of discretion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June 1971; Vol. 819, c. 476.] So, from this and other quotations that my right hon. Friend mentioned, I maintain that it is clear that this House was not then under the impression that the Bill that it was discussing involved an automatic amnesty. And all this was before the Bill moved on to further lengthy consideration in another place.

It has also been alleged—[An HON. MEMBER: "Misleading."] I am not misleading the House in any way. My right hon. Friend and I have been completely frank in reminding the House of specific things said on both sides of the House and of the clear implication from those debates, which is as I have just stated it to the House. I totally reject the charge—

Mr. Clinton Davis

The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary have quoted snippets here and there. Where was the challenging assertion, for which my hon. and learned Friend has asked, that retrospective legislation was being applied to these people?

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

Before my hon. Friend replies, will he indicate whether the mere discussion of the question whether there should be an amnesty would be totally meaningless unless the effect was retrospective, otherwise there could be no discussion of amnesty?

Mr. Lane

That is precisely the point that was made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in his opening speech for the Government, which hon. Members of the Opposition will not accept. I cannot put it more plainly than I have that that was the position.

We are dealing now with the situation as it is today. The Opposition have argued that we ought now, whatever may have been the intention of the House, to introduce a kind of amnesty. My right hon. Friend has explained why we do not believe that anything in the nature of a general amnesty is the right policy at present. It would not be consistent with our intentions of maintaining a firm control over immigration, particularly at a time when that control is threatened by determined efforts to evade it, if we were to declare an amnesty for an unspecified number of offenders.

We believe that it is far better to proceed in the way that my right hon. Friend has described, to which I shall return shortly.

It has also been said that this situation has caused a great deal of uncertainty and has opened the door to blackmail. I acknowledge that there has been and still is a great deal of uncertainty. I hope that what has been said in the debate, particularly from the Government Front Bench, will help to remove the uncertainty. I repeat that no one who has come here legally has anything to fear. The only people who may be affected by this power are people who entered illegally, that is, those who have come without leave since 9th March 1968 or those who entered before that date after they had been specifically refused permission by an immigration officer. There is no question whatever of any special action being directed at present against the immigrant community as a whole.

On the related matter of blackmail, which my right hon. Friend dealt with, blackmail and the fear of blackmail existed, alas, before the House of Lords decision. It is a risk that exists for anyone who may come in illegally at any time or, for that matter, people who may break the law in respects other than the respect which we are discussing.

I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend has said on an earlier occasion. The police will deal very firmly indeed with any case of blackmail that may come to their notice, because this is an evil practice which we are determined to do everything possible to stamp out.

I turn from the main points which have been made in the debate, and which underlay the Opposition motion, to remind the House of the amendment which we are commending. The Government's amendment is in four parts. First, we are asking the House to endorse the Government's determination to halt illegal immigration. This is a pathetic trade. It is also an evil trade. It must be tackled vigorously because it undermines the effectiveness of our whole immigration control, and on that a great deal else depends in the wider sense of community relations.

In the second part of the amendment we are asking the House to decline to give priority for settlement to those people who came here knowing that their entry was illegal. This surely is a matter of fairness. That is certainly how we see it. The people about whom we are talking, this limited category which I defined a few moments ago, are people who came here deliberately and illegally and have stayed here knowingly illegally, despite what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) about status.

Surely, if we were to do what the Opposition are urging us to do, it would mean not only allowing them a kind of blanket licence to stay here but opening the door, for all we know, to several thousands of their dependants. The Opposition seem to argue, if I have understood them aright, as the normal case that we should allow to stay here men who have been here on their own, who may then be able to bring in their wives and other dependants.

I ask the House to reflect on the makeup of the 13 people who have already been sent away in the exercise of this power in the early weeks of this year, and of the 36 who have now been detained and whose cases we shall soon be considering. In the majority of these cases, these are men who have always been here on their own and who, again in almost every case—there are some exceptions—have wives and families still overseas, and I ask the House to reflect that that may be the typical make up of the section of the people that we are talking about.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Lane

No. I have only a little time and I have one or two things I want to say, if the hon. Member will excuse me.

The third part of the amendment is to ask the House to have confidence that individual cases will be dealt with with firmness tempered with compassion. We shall do our best to do this case by case, and, as my right hon. Friend has said, all the decisions affecting this category of illegal entrants will be made by a Minister. We shall look, for example, at the length of time they have been here, at the strength of their connections here, at their domestic circumstances, and their health records; we shall look at any special compassionate features there may be; and we shall look particularly at any representations that may be received from Members of this House.

Of course, it must be the normal practice, when someone has been found here illegally, to send him away, but in deciding when, and what exceptions to make, we shall look thoroughly at all the circumstances. I repeat what was said about one or two individual cases which have been mentioned in the debate, that these are the kinds of circumstance which we will certainly look at.

The fourth and last part of our amendment is asking the House to accept that our policy is in the best interests of community relations and of those who entered legally or are waiting to do so. I put it to the House that this is basically a matter of fairness, a matter of fairness to those who have observed the rules in coming or applying to come.

I would particularly remind some of the hon. Members opposite that the question of community relations applies to the host community as much as to the immigrant community, and both are entitled tonight to reassurance. We assure the host comunity that our control of immigration is firm and effective and that we are doing our utmost to prevent those who have come to Britain illegally from establishing themselves here and getting an unfair advantage over people who have the legal right to come and are awaiting their turn.

We assure the immigrant community that the security of all those who are legally in Britain is absolutely safeguarded, that there will be no harassment, and that they have nothing to fear. They make an essential contribution to our national effort in such ways as manufacturing industry, in transport, in hospitals, and elsewhere, and we want them to take a full part in our civil life and particularly to continue serving where they are doing so on community relations councils and bodies of that sort. I hope very much that those threatening to walk out will think again. The Government will give their full support to constructive work for community relations to give equal rights and opportunities to everyone.

We shall maintain strict control over immigration because we believe that it is the essential precondition for the

development of good community relations, for the sake of the one nation to which we are dedicated. We shall temper firmness with compassion in dealing with individual cases but we keep in mind our obligations to the whole community.

This is a difficult task. We are determined to discharge it. We ask for the support of the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 251.

Division No. 176] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Adley, Robert Dalkeith, Earl of Higgins, Terence L.
Alison, Michael (Barkslon Ash) Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Hiley, Joseph
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Juian d'Avigdor-Goldsmid,Maj.-Gen. Jack Holland, Philip
Arrher, Jeffrey (Louth) Dean, Paul Holt, Miss Mary
Astor, John Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Hornby, Richard
Atkins, Humphrey Digby, Simon Wingfield Hornsby-Smith.Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia
Awdry, Daniel Dixon, Piers Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas Howell, David (Guildford)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Drayson, G. B. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Hunt, John
Barber Rt. Hn. Anthony Dykes, Hugh Hutchison, Michael Clark
Batsford, Brian Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Iremonger, T. L.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Bell, Ronald Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) James, David
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Emery, Peter Jessel, Toby
Benyon, W. Eyre, Reginald Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Farr, John Jones, Arthur (Northanta, S.)
Biffen, John Fell, Anthony Jopling, Michael
Biggs-Davison, John Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Blaker, Peter Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Kaberry, Sir Donald
Boardman, Tom (Leicester. S.W.) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
Body. Richard Flelcher-Cooke, Charles Kershaw, Anthony
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Fookes, Miss Janet Kimball, Marcus
Bossom, Sir Clive Fortescue, Tim King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Bowden, Andrew Foster, Sir John King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Braine, Sir Bernard Fowler, Norman Kitson, Timothy
Bray, Ronald Fox, Marcus Knight, Mrs. Jill
Brewis, John Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Knox, David
Brinton, Sir Tatton Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Lamont, Norman
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Gardner, Edward Lane, David
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gibson-Watt, David Langford-Holt, Sir John
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bryan, Sir Paul Glyn, Dr. Alan Lloyd, Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'field)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Bullus, Sir Eric Gorst, John Longden, Sir Gilbert
Burden, F. A. Gower, Raymond Loveridge, John
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Luce, R. N.
Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray & Nairn) Gray, Hamish McAdden, Sir Stephen
Carlisle, Mark Green, Alan MacArthur, Ian
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Grieve, Percy McCrindle, R. A.
Cary, Sir Robert Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) McLaren, Martin
Channon, Paul Grylis, Michael Maclean, Sir Fltzroy
Chapman, Sydney Gummer, J. Selwyn Macmillan.Rt.Hn.Maurice (Farnham)
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Gurden, Harold McNair-Wilson, Michael
Chichester-Clark, R. Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Churchill, W. S. Hall, John (Wycombe) Maddan, Martin
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Madel, David
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Cockeram, Eric Hannam, John (Exeter) Marten, Neil
Cooke, Robert Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mather, Carol
Coombs, Derek Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maude, Angus
Cooper, A. E. Haselhurst, Alan Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Cordle, John Hastings, Stephen Mawby, Ray
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Havers, Sir Michael Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Cormack, Patrick Hawkins, Paul Meyer, Sir Anthony
Costain, A. P. Hayhoe, Barney Miscampbell, Norman
Critchley, Julian Heseltine, Michael Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C. (Aberdeenshire,W)
Crouch, David Hicks, Robert Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Moate, Roger
Money, Ernie Rees, Peter (Dover) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Monks, Mrs. Connie Rees-Davies, W. R. Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Monro, Hector Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Montgomery, Fergus Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Tebbit, Norman
More, Jesper Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Ridsdale, Julian Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Morrison, Charles Roberts, Michael (Cardiff. N.) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Mudd, David Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Tilney, John
Murton, Oscar Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Trew, Peter
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tugendhat, Christopher
Neave, Airey Rost, Peter Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Royle, Anthony van Straubenzee, W. R.
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Russell, Sir Ronald Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Normanton, Tom St. John-Stevas, Norman Waddington, David
Nott, John Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Onslow, Cranley Scott, Nicholas Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Scott-Hopkins, James Wall, Patrick
Osborn, John Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Walters, Dennis
Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Shelton, William (Clapham) Ward, Dame Irene
Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Shersby, Michael Wells, John (Maidstone)
Parkinson, Cecil Simeons, Charles White, Roger (Gravesend)
Peel, Sir John Sinclair, Sir George Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Percival, Ian Skeet, T. H. H. Wiggin, Jerry
Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Wilkinson, John
Pike, Miss Mervyn Soref, Harold Winterton, Nicholas
Pink, R. Bonner Speed, Keith Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Pounder, Rafton Spence, John Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Sproat, Iain Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Price, David (Eastleigh) Stanbrook, Ivor Woodnutt, Mark
Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Worsley, Marcus
Proudfoot, Wilfred Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh W.) Younger, Hn. George
Quennell, Miss J. M. Stokes, John
Raison, Timothy Stuttaford, Dr. Tom TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Sutcliffe, John Mr. Walter Clegg and Mr. Bernard Weatherill
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Tapseil, Peter
Redmond, Robert
Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Abse, Leo Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Golding, John
Allen, Scholefield Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Cunningham, Dr. J. A (Whitehaven) Gourlay, Harry
Armstrong, Ernest Dalyell, Tam Grant, George (Morpeth)
Ashley, Jack Darling, Rt. Hn. George Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)
Ashton, Joe Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Atkinson, Norman Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Barnes, Michael Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Hamling, William
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Deakins, Eric Hardy, Peter
Baxter, William de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Delargy, Hugh Hattersley, Roy
Bidwell, Sydney Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Bishop, E. S. Dempsey, James Heffer, Eric S.
Blenkinsop, Arthur Doig, Peter Hilton, W. S.
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Dormand, J. D. Hooson, Emlyn
Booth, Albert Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Horam, John
Boothroyd, Miss B. (West Brom.) Douglas-Mann, Bruce Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Driberg, Tom Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Boyden, James(Bishop Auckland) Duffy, A. E. P. Huckfield, Leslie
Bradley, Tom Dunnett, Jack Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne,W.) Eadie, Alex Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Edelman, Maurice Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen. N.)
Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F'bury) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Buchan, Norman Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hunter, Adam
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Ellis, Tom Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) English, Michael Janner, Greville
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Evans, Fred Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Ewing, Harry Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Cant, R. B. Faulds, Andrew John, Brynmor
Carmichael, Neil Fisher, Mrs.Doris(B'ham,Ladywood) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Foot, Michael Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Ford, Ben Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)
Coleman, Donald Forrester, John Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)
Concannon, J. D. Fraser, John (Norwood) Judd, Frank
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Freeson, Reginald Kaufman, Gerald
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Galpern, Sir Myer Kelley, Richard
Crawshaw, Richard Garrett, W. E. Kerr, Russell
Cronin, John Gilbert, Dr. John Kinnock, Neil
Lambie, David O'Halloran, Michael Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Latham, Arthur O'Malley, Brian Spearing, Nigel
Lawson, George Oram, Bert Stallard, A. W.
Leadbitter, Ted Orme, Stanley Steel, David
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Oswald, Thomas Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Leonard, Dick Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Lestor, Miss Joan Padley, Walter Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Paget, R. T. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Lipton, Marcus Palmer, Arthur Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Lomas, Kenneth Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Swain, Thomas
Loughlin, Charles Parker, John (Dagenham) Taverne, Dick
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Pavitt, Laurie Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Perry, Ernest G. Tinn, James
McBrlde, Neil Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Tomney, Frank
McElhone, Frank Price, William (Rugby) Torney, Tom
Machin, George Probert, Arthur Tuck, Raphael
Mackenzie, Gregor Radice, Giles Urwin, T. W.
Mackie, John Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Varley, Eric G.
Mackintosh, John P. Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Wainwright, Edwin
Maclennan, Robert Rhodes, Geoffrey Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Richard, Ivor Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
McNamara, J. Kevin Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wallace, George
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield.E.) Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy (Caernarvon) Watkins, David
Marquand, David Robertson, John (Paisley) Weitzman, David
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor) Wellbeloved, James
Mayhew, Christopher Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Meacher, Michael Roper, John White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Rose, Paul B. Whitehead, Phillip
Mendelson, John Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Whitlock, William
Mikardo, Ian Rowlands, Ted Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Millan, Bruce Sandelson, Neville Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Miller, Dr. M. S. Sheldon, Robert (Ashlon-under-Lyne) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Milne, Edward Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchan) Short,Rt.Hn,Edward (N'cl'le-u-Tyne) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Molloy, William Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Woof, Robert
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Sillars, James
Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Silverman, Julius TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Moyle, Roland Skinner, Dennis Michael Cocks and Mr. Joseph Harper.
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Small, William
Murray, Ronald King Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Ogden, Eric

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

The Question is the original Question, as amended. As many as are of that opinion say "Aye"—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

To the contrary, "No"—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

To the contrary, "No". The Ayes—

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order. There were hon. Members on the Opposition benches who shouted "No" on each occasion when the Question was put. I would ask that the House divide.

Mr. Speaker

I did put the Question twice. I did wait. I did not hear a "No". But I will allow a Division.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is one of those matters which is in the discretion of the Chair. I put the Question twice. I did not detect any audible "Noes". But I do not think that it is in the interests of the House that hon. Members should feel that they have been taken by surprise and have not been allowed to vote. Clear the Lobby.

The House divided: Ayes 291, Noes, 251.

Division No. 177.] AYES [10.15 p.m.
Adley, Robert Batsford, Brian Boscawen, Hn. Robert
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Bossom, Sir Clive
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Bell, Ronald Bowden, Andrew
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Braine, Sir Bernard
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Bray, Ronald
Astor, John Benyon, W. Brawis, John
Atkins, Humphrey Berry, Hn. Anthony Brinton, Sir Tatton
Awdry, Daniel Biffen, John Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Biggs-Davison, John Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Blaker, Peter Bruce-Gardyne, J.
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Bryan, Sir Paul
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Body, Richard Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)
Bullus, Sir Eric Hicks, Robert Peel, John
Burden, F. A. Higgins, Terence L. Percival, Ian
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hiley, Joseph Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray & Nairn) Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Carlisle, Mark Holland, Philip Pink, R. Bonner
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Holt, Miss Mary Pounder, Rafton
Cary, Sir Robert Hornby, Richard Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Channon, Paul Hornsby-Smith.Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia Price, David (Eastleigh)
Chapman, Sydney Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Chataway, Rl. Hn. Chriatopher Howell, David (Guildford) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Chichester-Clark, R. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Churchill, W. S. Hunt, John Guennell, Miss J. M.
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hutchison, Michael Clark Raison, Timothy
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Iremonger, T. L. Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Cockeram, Eric Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Cooke, Robert James, David Redmond, Robert
Coombs, Derek Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Cooper, A. E. Jessel, Toby Rees, Peter (Dover)
Cordle, John Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Cormack, Patrick Jopling, Michael Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Costain, A. P. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Critchley, Julian Kaberry, Sir Donald Ridsdale, Julian
Crouch, David Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Dalkeith, Earl of Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, Michael (Cardiff. N.)
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knulsford) Kimball, Marcus Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid.Maj.-Gen. Jack King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Dean, Paul Kitson, Timothy Rost, Peter
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Knight, Mrs. Jill Royle, Anthony
Digby, Simon Wingfield Knox, David Russell, Sir Ronald
Dixon, Piers Lamont, Norman St. John-Stevas, Norman
Dodds-Parker Douglas Lane, David Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Drayson, G. B. Langford-Holt, Sir John Scott, Nicholas
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Scott-Hopkins, James
Dykes, Hugh Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Shelton, William (Clapham)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Longden, Sir Gilbert Shersby, Michael
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Loveridge, John Simeons, Charles
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Luce, R. N. Sinclair, Sir George
Emery, Peter McAddon, Sir Stephen Skeet, T. H. H.
Eyre, Reginald MacArthur, Ian Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Farr, John McCrindle, R. A. Soref, Harold
Fell, Anthony McLaren, Martin Speed, Keith
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Spence, John
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Macmillan.Rt.Hn.Maurice (Farnham) Sproat, Iain
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) McNair-Wilson, Michael Stainton, Keith
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McNair-Wilson,Patrick (New Forest) Stanbrook, Ivor
Fookes, Miss Janet Maddan, Martin Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Fortescue, Tim Madel, David Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Foster, Sir John Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh. W.)
Fowler, Norman Marther, Neil Stokes, John
Fox, Marcus Mather, Carol Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Maude, Angus Sutcliffe, John
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Tapsell, Peter
Gardner, Edward Mawby, Ray Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Gibson-Watt, David Maxwel-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow.Cathcart)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Glyn, Dr. Alan Miscampbell, Norman Tebbit, Norman
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C. (Aberdeenshire,W) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Gorst, John Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Gower, Raymond Moate, Roger Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Money, Ernie Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Gray, Hamish Monks, Mrs. Connie Tilney, John
Green, Alan Monro, Hector Trew, Peter
Grieve, Percy Montgomery, Fergus Tugendhat, Christopher
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) More, Jasper Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Grylls, Michael Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gummer, J. Selwyn Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Gurden, Harold Morrison, Charles Waddington, David
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Mudd, David Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Murton, Oscar Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Nabarro, Sir Gerald Wall, Patrick
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Neave, Airey Walters, Dennis
Hannam, John (Exeter) Nicholls, Sir Harmar Ward, Dame Irene
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Wells, John (Maidstone)
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Normanton, Tom White, Roger (Gravesend)
Haselhurst, Alan Nott, John Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Hastings, Stephen Onslow, Cranley Wiggin, Jerry
Havers, Michael Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Wilkinson, John
Hawkins, Paul Osborn, John Winterton, Nicholas
Hayhoe, Barney Owen, idris (Stockport, N.) Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Heseitine, Michael Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Parkinson, Cecil
Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Worsley, Marcus TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R. Mr. Walter Clegg and Mr. Bernard Weatherill
Woodnutt, Mark Younger, Hn. George
Abse, Leo Foot, Michael Meacher, Michael
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ford, Ben Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Allen, Scholefield Forrester, John Mendelson, John
Archer, Peier (Rowley Regis) Fraaer, John (Norwood) Mikardo, Ian
Armstrong, Ernest Freeson, Reginald Millan, Bruce
Ashley, Jack Galpern, Sir Myer Miller, Dr. M. S.
Ashton, Joe Garrett, W. E. Milne, Edward
Atkinson, Norman Gilbert, Dr. John Mitchell, R. C. (S'hamplon, Itchen)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Molloy, William
Barnes, Michael Golding, John Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Gourlay, Harry Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Baxter, William Grant, George (Morpeth) Moyle, Roland
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Bidwell, Sydney Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Murray, Ronald King
Bishop, E. S. Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Ogden, Eric
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hamilton, James (Bothwell) O'Halloran, Michael
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) O'Malley, Brian
Booth, Albert Hamling, William Oram, Bert
Boothroyd, Miss B. (West Brom.) Hardy, Peter Orme, Stanley
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Oswald, Thomas
Boyden, James(Bishop Auckland) Hattersley, Roy Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Bradley, Tom Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Padley, Walter
Brown, Robert C.(N'c'tle-u-Tyne,W.) Heffer, Eric S. Paget, R. T.
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hooson, Emlyn Palmer, Arthur
Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F'bury) Horam, John Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Buchan, Norman Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parker, John (Dagenham)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pavitt, Laurie
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Huckfield, Leslie Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Perry, Ernest G.
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Price, William (Rugby)
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Roy (Newport) Probert, Arthur
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Hunter, Adam Radice, Giles
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Janner, Greville Rees, Meriyn (Leeds, S.)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Rhodes, Geoffrey
Coleman, Donald Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Richard, Ivor
Concannon, J. D. John, Brynmor Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Crawshaw, Richard Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)
Cronin, John Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Roper, John
Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Rose, Paul B.
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Judd, Frank Ross, Rt.Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Cunningham, Dr J. A. (Whitehaven) Kaufman, Gerald Rowlands, Ted
Dalyell, Tam Kelley, Richard Sandelson, Neville
Darling, Ht. Hn. George Kerr, Russell Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Kinnock, Neil Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lambie, David Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Latham, Arthur Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lawson, George Silkln, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Leadbitter, Ted Sillars, James
Deakins, Eric Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Silverman, Julius
de Freitas, Rt Hn. Sir Geoffrey Leonard, Dick Skinner, Dennis
Delargy, Hugh Lestor, Miss Joan Small, William
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Dempsey, James Lipton, Marcus Smith, John (Lanarkshire N.)
Doig, Peter Lomas, Kenneth Spearing, Nigel
Dormand, J. D. Loughlin, Charles Stallard, A. W.
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Steel, David
Douglas-Mann Bruce Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Driberg, Tom Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Duffy, A. E. P. McBride, Neil Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Dunnett, Jack McCartney, Hugh Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Eadie, Alex McElhone, Frank Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Edelman, Maurice Machin, George Swain, Thomas
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mackenzie, Gregor Taverne, Dick
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackie, John Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)
Ellis, Tom Mackintosh, John P. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
English, Michael Maclennan, Robert Tinn, James
Evans, Fred McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Tomney, Frank
Ewing, Harry McNamara, J. Kevin Torney, Tom
Faulds, Andrew Mallalleu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield.E.) Tuck, Rephael
Fisher,Mrs. Doris (B'ham,Ladywood) Merquand, David Urwin, T. W.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Varley, Eric G.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mayhew, Christopher Wainwright, Edwin
Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints) Whitehead, Phillip Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Whitlock, William Wilson, William (Coventry S.)
Wallace, George Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick Woof, Robert
Watkins, David Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Weitzman, David Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Wellbeloved, James Williams, W. T. (Warrington) Mr. Michael Cocks and Mr. Joseph Harper.
Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House endorses Her Majesty's Government's determination to halt illegal immigration; declines to give priority for settlement to those who came here knowing their entry to be illegal; has confidence that individual cases will be dealt with with firmness tempered by compassion; and believes that this policy is in the best interests of community relations and of those who entered legally or are waiting to do so.