§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Mr. J. Enoch-Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have on the Order Paper today, following this order, the Bangladesh Bill. I do not suggest that it should be permissible to refer in detail to that Bill, Mr. Speaker, but I hope that you will think it right and for the convenience of the House that it is appropriate to refer in general terms to the change of status of Bangladesh as well as Pakistan, as it is very difficult to keep the two subjects distinct or to discuss the matter intelligibly if reference can be made only to Pakistan.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is, I think, the rule of the House that a Second Reading debate should be very wide. Although, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said, it would be wrong to go into the other measure in detail, I think that references to it will certainly be in order.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
On 30th January 1972 the Government of Pakistan announced that, having learnt that Britain, Australia and New Zealand intended to recognise Bangladesh, Pakistan had decided to leave the Commonwealth with immediate effect. President Bhutto of Pakistan told a subsequent Press conference that Pakistan's withdrawal was final and irrevocable. We were sorry about that decision, because for many years we had enjoyed the intimate association with Pakistan and its leaders that is provided by the Commonwealth association.
But the Commonwealth is a free association of sovereign States, and any member is at liberty, at any time, to leave it if that country so chooses. It was a decision that Pakistan was entitled to take.
284 I am happy to say that our relations with Pakistan remain good, and we shall do our best to see that they continue to be so in the future. Nevertheless, our relations with a foreign country, however close, are different in a number of respects from those with a member of the Commonwealth, and our relations with Pakistan have inevitably changed.
Some of the effects of Pakistan's decision became apparent almost at once. Pakistan ceased to participate in Commonwealth consultations and ceased to benefit from organisations or funds such as Commonwealth scholarships, which were specifically intended for members of the Commonwealth. Pakistan missions in Commonwealth capitals changed their titles from high commissions to embassies.
In the case of Britain's relations with Pakistan, some of the necessary changes could be made by administrative act. But in some cases our treatment of Pakistan as a Commonwealth country is embodied in British law, and until the law is changed Pakistan, and Pakistanis in this country, continue to enjoy, in some respects, the privileges of Commonwealth membership, even though Pakistan has left the Commonwealth. The Bill now before the House is, therefore, designed to make the necessary changes to British law to bring it into line with the new situation.
We have taken time to introduce this legislation—for a very humane reason. As the House knows, a considerable number of Pakistanis have settled in this country and we felt it right to avoid giving them the impression that we were taking precipitate action against them. Also, as the House will see as I proceed, there are many complexities in this legislation at present, which I think can account for the time we have taken to prepare this Bill.
In preparing the Bill we were guided by two principles—first, that the value of the Commonwealth should not be diluted by allowing a country which had left the Commonwealth, or its citizens, indefinitely to enjoy those privileges which derive solely from Commonwealth membership and, secondly, that we should be fair and humane to those Pakistanis who came to Britain before Pakistan left the Commonwealth in the 285 firm belief and calculation that they would be entitled to certain benefits and conditions of life.
The most important provisions of the Bill are those relating to nationality and citizenship, so I will deal with them first. They are contained in Clause 1 and Schedules 1 and 2. The change in Pakistan's status is symbolised by the deletion of Pakistan from Section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act 1948. This is done by Clause 1(1). It means that from Royal Assent to the Bill Pakistan's citizens will become aliens. But we have to bear in mind the Pakistanis who had already come to live in this country before Pakistan left the Commonwealth, and the need not to cause hardship by depriving them suddenly of the privileges of Commonwealth citizenship which they had hitherto enjoyed.
We have made provision for three types of resident Pakistanis. Included in Schedule 2(2) is a provision whereby Pakistani citizens who will have completed five years' residence in this country when the Bill becomes law will have a grace period of six months in which to register as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. We believe that this period, following what will have been five years of residence already, is sufficient for them to make up their minds.
Then there are a number of Pakistanis who took up residence in this country before 30th January 1972 but will not have completed five years' residence in this country by the time this Bill becomes law. They also will become aliens, but, under Schedule 2(2), when they have completed their five years' residence they also will have a grace period of six months in which to register as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies if they so wish. I should emphasise, however, that these provisions will apply to those who were Pakistani citizens and were resident in this country on 30th January 1972.
Lastly, those Pakistanis who came here after the date when Pakistan left the Commonwealth do not benefit from the special provisions of the Bill in regard to registration. The same applies to those who acquired Pakistani citizenship after that date. It will, of course, be open to any Pakistani citizen not covered by the transitional provisions, or who does not 286 make use of them, to apply for naturalisation after five years' residence.
I hope that whatever emotion may be stirred up by general immigration policies these provisions will broadly be judged to be just in relation to Pakistan.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an explanation of the Government's thinking and justification for excluding the Azad Kashmiris from the benefits of registration?
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
Were any of those in the last category mentioned by my right hon. Friend—those who entered the United Kingdom after Pakistain had seceded—in any way led to believe when they immigrated into the United Kingdom that their status would be in any way different from that of their immigrant predecessors?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Yes. They knew that their country had left the Commonwealth and they had no reason to believe that they would be treated as other Pakistanis who had been here before Pakistan left the Commonwealth. It is a reasonable distinction.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman take the view that it was reasonable for these people to assume that they might be treated in the same way as the citizens of South Africa were treated when it was expelled from the Commonwealth?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The hon. Gentleman will recall that South Africa became a republic and left the Commonweath at the same time. The legislation was, first, a provisional Bill to deal with the republic aspect and then, a year later, another Bill to deal with the issues of substance. All those who have come to this country since Pakistan left the Commonwealth had no doubt that they would not be treated in the same way as those who had been here a good many years before.
We do not wish abruptly to take away from Pakistanis privileges which they enjoyed in this country when Pakistan left the Commonwealth, but we believe that 287 it would be illogical and against the principles that I mentioned earlier to give people new benefits which they did not have in this country on 30th January 1972.
The House will wish to have some idea of the numbers involved. There are four main categories. First, there are about 45,000 people from the former undivided Pakistan who have been here for over five years and have already been registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. I emphasise that these are people in total, and not just heads of families.
Secondly, there are between 60,000 and 80,000 people—I cannot be more accurate on present knowledge—who came from West Pakistan, who were in this country on 30th January 1972, and who have not yet been registered as United Kingdom citizens. Included in this group are between 20,000 and 30,000 people who carry Pakistani passports describing them as natives of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir. I shall come to that aspect later.
The majority of the rest will have lived here for over five years and will qualify for the six months' grace period. But some came here before 30th January 1972 but will not yet have been here for five years and are not, therefore, yet qualified for registration. This group will also be entitled to a six months' grace period in which to apply for registration, after they have completed their five years' residence. In addition to these figures there will be a number of dependents who have not yet come to Britain but are at present entitled to do so if they wish.
Although not covered by this Bill—I now come to the point of order raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—there are also between 40,000 and 50,000 people originally from Bangladesh who have not yet registered. Under the Bangladesh Bill, which we are also debating today, Bangladesh citizens in this country will acquire the status of Commonwealth citizens. Because they were Pakistani citizens before, there will be no practical change in their situation.
288 Finally, there are those who will not qualify for registration. As I have said, there are in this country between 20,000 and 30,000 people who came here with Pakistani passports describing them as natives of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir. When Pakistan left the Commonwealth, people in this category, who were not treated by the Government of Pakistan as Pakistan citizens, did not enjoy the benefits of Commonwealth citizenship. The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) will remember that in the time of the Labour Government they were also treated differently from Pakistan citizens. They were not eligible to register as United Kingdom citizens after five years' residence, but had to apply for naturalisation. Neither were they eligible to hold certain offices and employments. such as employment in the Civil Service, or vote or stand for office in national and local elections.
In February 1973, however, a year after leaving the Commonwealth the Government of Pakistan published a decree admitting them to Pakistan citizenship. If we allowed these people now to benefit from the arrangements for registration under this Bill, it would mean that we were granting them privileges which they did not enjoy at the time when Pakistan left the Commonwealth and which they have never enjoyed since they had a relationship with the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Does my right hon. Friend agree that Indian residents in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir have enjoyed Indian citizenship and that Pakistan, by adhering to successive United Nations Security Council resolutions is being penalised through the status of her overseas residents in the United Kingdom for registration purposes?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
My hon. Friend is right. The status of these people was in dispute for a long time. There is no question of any of these people becoming stateless. They are Pakistani citizens by a recent decree of the Pakistani Government.
§ Mr. Richard
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the status of these people? He will be aware that in Section 32(1) of the British Nationality Act 1948 there is a definition of a British 289 protected person. The definition says that it means:a person who is a member of a class of persons declared by Order in Council made in relation to any protectorate, protected state, mandated territory or trust territory to be for the purposes of this Act British protected persons by virtue of their connection with that protectorate, state or territory;Were these people at one stage British protected persons? If they were they were exempt from the provisions of the various Aliens Acts and orders. If they have lost the status of British protected persons under the 1948 Act they will have lost something as a result of the passage of this Bill.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, I would like my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to give him a complete answer later. It is immensely complicated. I understand that these people were not treated in the same way as other British protected persons. By a recent decree of the Pakistani Government they are Pakistani citizens, so there is no danger, as was suggested in one newspaper this morning, that they will become stateless persons. What used to happen was that they came with Pakistani passports but with a notice on them saying that they were citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. The citizenship of such people was indeterminate because of the dispute about the territory. Now their citizenship has been legalised by an act of the Pakistani Government.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith
Would the right hon. Gentleman care to say what will be the position if the Pakistan Government were to introduce the sort of retrospective legislation which is proposed in this Bill?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I cannot say what the position would be. As the Pakistani Government have just passed legislation to make these people citizens I would have thought it extremely unlikely that this would be done.
There are about 500 Pakistan heads of families who arrived here after Pakistan left the Commonwealth who will also not benefit from the provisions of this Bill for registration and neither will their dependants.
The net result of all this is that unless they already possess citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, or unless 290 and until they acquire such citizenship by registration or naturalisation, Pakistani citizens will be aliens under United Kingdom law and will be treated as such.
This has a number of consequences for Pakistanis in this country since aliens are disqualified from holding certain offices and employments. These include Government service. Aliens are also barred from voting and from serving on local authorities.
Here again, however, we believed that it was only fair to allow some time so that the change could be made as smoothly as possible and with as little inconvenience as possible to individuals.
We have provided, in Clause 3(1) and (2) for Pakistanis holding appointments from which, as aliens, they would be debarred, to continue to hold their appointments for six months from the time this Bill becomes law.
This will give them time either to register as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, if they are qualified, or to seek other employment. Steps are being taken to ensure that this provision is brought to the attention of those likely to be affected.
Similarly, Pakistani citizens who are at present entitled to vote will continue under Clause 3(3) to be so entitled until 16th February 1974, when the new electoral register comes into force. This is because it would be administratively impossible to identify and delete the names of all Pakistani citizens from the existing register.
Also in Clause 3(3) is a provision stating that a Pakistani citizen who is a member of a local authority will be allowed to continue to serve until his membership ceases on some other ground, for example until his term of office expires. These people have been elected for a certain term and we thought it wrong that they should not be allowed to serve out their term.
As regards immigration, once this Bill comes into force, Pakistanis wishing to come to this country will be treated exactly the same as any other aliens under the provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act and the immigration rules. Similarly, the entry into this country of dependants of Pakistanis already here who are not citizens of the United Kingdom and 291 Colonies, will be governed by the normal provisions for the dependants of aliens.
We have, however, made some transitional provisions regarding deportation. Section 7 of the 1971 Act restricts the liability to deportation of a Commonwealth citizen who was resident in this country when the Act came into force on 1st January 1973. This exemption must eventually cease to apply to Pakistani citizens in this country since they will no longer be Commonwealth citizens, but Schedule 3 (1) provides that Pakistani citizens shall continue for six months to enjoy these exemptions, as if they were still Commonwealth citizens.
If, when the six months' period expires, a Pakistani citizen in this country has applied for registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies but his application has not, at that time, been determined, he will continue to be treated as a Commonwealth citizen, in respect of deportation, until his application has been determined.
Clause 2 deals with Pakistan's position in the Commonwealth Preference area. Under the Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community the duties which the United Kingdom levies on goods from Pakistan from 1st January 1974 must be based on the duty we applied on 1st January 1972.
In the intervening months Pakistan will, whether or not she remains in the Commonwealth Preference area, continue to enjoy a large measure of duty-free access to the United Kingdom market as a beneficiary of the generalised preference scheme. As a result of this the only products of any consequence on which duties would be raised if Pakistan left the Commonwealth Preference area would be cotton textiles and footwear, the volume of which would be unlikely to be affected.
We have therefore decided that it would be sensible to allow Pakistan to remain in the Commonwealth Preference area, as did South Africa.
The other provisions of the Bill are more technical. Clause 4(2) provides for the repeal of certain statutory provisions which are no longer appropriate to Pakistan as a foreign country outside the Commonwealth. 292 Clause 4(3) provides for the removal of Pakistan from the governing body of the Imperial War Museum, and subsection (4) deletes the mention of Pakistan from various orders which relate to Commonwealth countries.
Subsection (5) provides that Pakistan's withdrawal from the Commonwealth shall not affect the validity of divorces made under the Indian and Colonial Jurisdiction Acts 1926 and 1940. It also provides for the maintenance in force of the order relating to the reciprocal enforcement of judgments between this country and Pakistan. The Bill applies to Northern Ireland and Clause 5 makes provision accordingly.
In Schedule 3 there are three other provisions which I should explain. Paragraph (2) provides for the registration of births and deaths of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies which took place in Pakistan whilst it remained a Commonwealth country in our law to be undertaken by Her Majesty's Consular Officers who normally exercise such powers only in foreign countries.
Paragraph (3) provides that companies registered in this country but keeping a branch register in Pakistan should close that register after a six-month grace period from the date when the Bill becomes law. Paragraph (4) provides that doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons qualified in Pakistan who are now registered as Commonwealth practitioners or are on Commonwealth lists, shall be allowed to retain that status. That seems a sensible provision.
This is as brief a summary as I can make of the contents of what inevitably is a complicated Bill which covers a wide variety of fields and illustrates the manifold nature of the Commonwealth connection. Pakistan's decision to leave the Commonwealth was one which we all regret, but one which we accept. In drafting this Bill we have tried to ensure that Pakistan and her citizens do not retain privileges which derive entirely from Commonwealth membership—that would be wrong—but we have also tried to be fair to Pakistani citizens who had already come to this country when Pakistan's decision to leave the Commonwealth was taken. In short, we have tried to be just and humane. I hope that on the whole we have succeeded.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
Listening to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs opening this debate, I was reminded of a story which I believe was told about the late Sir Thomas Beecham. He was once asked what he did when he lost his place in the score of a new production which he did not like, did not know very well and did not understand. He replied, "Heads down, wave, and hope they will keep up with me." This afternoon we had a good example from the Foreign Secretary of heads down, stick to the brief and avoid difficult questions, which should be left to the Minister who is to conclude the debate.
I am sorry to have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that there are one or two aspects of the Bill which we shall have to examine—I hope in non-too-great detail. Questions about immigration and citizenship I shall leave to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) because he is far more qualified to deal with those matters than I am.
§ Mr. Richard
No. On the contrary, the quality of a piece of music of these things is usually judged after the performance, not before.
I say this about the Bill: this is a singularly unhappy occasion, particularly when one remembers the high hopes with which Pakistan became independent in 1947, joined the Commonwealth and participated in all the benefits of Commonwealth membership which the Foreign Secretary has spelled out today. Perhaps the unitary nation then created out of East and West Pakistan, by its very nature, could not survive. It may be that the strain of trying to produce one unit out of those two disparate parts of the sub-continent was an endeavour doomed to failure from the outset, but I think it was probably right to make the attempt. I think it is equally right, however, now that we have come to recognise and accept the twin realities of Pakistan and Bangladesh both independent, both self-governing and both in the same sub-continent.
I agree, too, with what the Foreign Secretary said when he described the objective of the Bill as trying to deal 294 with the consequential effects of Pakistan's having left the Commonwealth and attempting to be fair to those citizens of Pakistan who, over the last quarter of a century, have come to this country, many of whom have made their permanent home here. I take no objection whatever to the Government's having taken time to produce this piece of legislation. My only qualification is not that they have brought the Bill forward too late but whether they have brought it forward rather sooner than need be. After all, crucial to this Bill and crucial to the whole consideration of the consequential effects of Pakistan's leaving the Commonwealth, is the fact that the Government are satisfied that there is no real possibility of Pakistan's changing its mind and re-opting for membership of the Commonwealth.
If the situation arose in which Pakistan decided, in the relatively near future, that she wished again to have the benefits of Commonwealth membership, I suppose that we would go through the exercise of repealing this measure so that we could reconfer on Pakistan the benefit of Commonwealth membership which we are now taking from that country and its citizens. Therefore, if the Government are satisfied that there is no real possibility of Pakistan changing its mind, this Bill is necessary. If there is any doubt about it, I would have hoped that the Government would have taken a little more time before bringing the Bill before the House.
Looking at some of the fine print in the Bill before coming to the three main points I wish to make, I suggest that we shall have some extraordinarily delicate idiocies concerning the voting provisions. I do not know what the poor electoral registration officer is to do if Mr. Singh or Mr. Kahn comes to the polling station and says that he wishes to be a voter in that district. If Mr. Singh or Mr. Kahn comes from what used to be West Pakistan but is not yet registered as a United Kingdom and Colonies citizen, under the provisions of the Bill he would not be entitled to have his name on the voting register. If he comes from what used to be East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh, presumably he would be entitled to have his name on the register. If he comes from Kashmir, although in the past he was on the register—
§ Mr. Richard
The Foreign Secretary shakes his head, but I have received a letter about this. If Mr. Singh used to be on the register he will not now be entitled to be on the register and not entitled to vote. I suspect that what will happen as a result of that part of the Bill dealing with registration will not be that the registration officer in each district will go through the list making extremely fine geographical and political divisions among respective voters. I suspect that all the Mr. Singhs will go down on the register. In reality it will be a nightmare for electoral officers to have to operate the Act.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Does the hon. Member agree that the Singhs would not be the difficulty because as East Punjabis their status is clear? The difficulty would be that the registration officer would have to demand their passports or some other identification to do his job, which is a totally new departure.
§ Mr. Richard
I think the hon. Member is quite right. Then the matter will become extremely complicated. It will depend, not only on what passport Mr. Singh holds, but, I understand, on the date at which the passport was issued, because as from February this year a person who used to be a Kashmir citizen is now a Pakistan citizen and he would, therefore, be subject to the Pakistani procedure. How the registration officer is to sort all this out in a meaningful way, I have no idea.
There are however three main points in the Bill which cause some of us—I think most of us in the Opposition—difficulty. The first is the problem of retrospection. There is an element of retrospection in this Bill. It arises from the provisions of Schedule 2, particularly from the provisions of Schedule 2(1), and the use of the word "before" in line 8 of subparagraph (a). I believe that those Pakistanis who at the time of the presentation of this Bill are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom without being subject to any law relating to immigration or restriction on the period for which they might remain should be treated as being eligible for registration 296 as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
Pakistanis who arrived in this country between 30th January 1972, the date on which Pakistan left the Commonwealth, and 14th May 1973, the date of the presentation of the Bill, entered this country not under Pakistani laws but under United Kingdom laws. At that time they were admitted in exactly the same way as people who had been admitted before 30th January 1972. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) smiles. I fear that I may be giving him some comfort in part of the arguments which he used to advance. The fact of the matter is, however, that whether a particular Pakistani citizen came to this country before or after 30th January 1972, he came under the provisions of British law, which means that until this Act is passed he is still a "Pakistani" and a "Commonwealth" citizen. Although Pakistan has left the Commonwealth, nevertheless he will technically and legally in British law, until we pass this Act, be a Commonwealth citizen.
Since there is no legal distinction in British law whatever between the gentleman who arrives on 29th January and the gentleman who arrives on 31st January 1972, I cannot for the life of me see why we are now creating a legal distinction in May 1973 which did not exist in British law in January 1972. This is why I see in the Bill an element of retrospection which, both as a lawyer and, I hope, as an ordinary layman, I do not like. Retrospective legislation is anathema to lawyers. Occasionally one has to have such legislation, but the grounds on which it is sought by a Government are usually inadequate and must be proved up to the hilt. The Government have not advanced any case for saying that if a person arrives on 29th January he is to be allowed in and to remain in, and register but that if on the other hand a person arrives on 31st January he will not be entitled to the benefits of registration which the Act confers on the pre-30th January 1972 entrants. The way in which the situation could be cured is obviously by altering the qualifying date of registration for Pakistani citizens who are in this country and to make the date, not 30th January 297 1972, but the date of presentation of the Bill—namely, 14th May 1973.
Secondly, I am worried about the provisions in relation to Kashmiri citizens, particularly citizens or nationals of Azad Kashmir. I wish to draw the Foreign Secretary's attention to a Question which was asked in the other place on 17th February 1972. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, speaking on behalf of the Government, was asked the following Question by the noble Lady, Baroness Summerskill:My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether, if there were a change in the position of Pakistanis in this country, he can tell me how many doctors would be affected?Lord Windlesham chose not to confine his answer to doctors but said:My Lords, we need to be clear about this.I think that is an injunction of which we in this House as well as those in another place can echo. Lord Windlesham went on:Even if citizens of Pakistan were to be treated as foreign nationals after legislative changes had been made, the continued stay of those who had been admitted for settlement would not be endangered in any way at all.I shall read those words again because, as I read them, they contain a clear, unmistakable and unequivocal pledge which covers those who were admitted in the period between 30th January 1972 and 14th May 1973. I read the words again because they are an ex cathedra statement by a Government Minister speaking in another place—and more ex cathedra than that it is difficult to imagine. The noble Lord said:My Lords, we need to be clear about this. Even if citizens of Pakistan were to be treated as foreign nationals after legislative changes had been madeI pause there. They have not yet been treated as foreign nationals because the legislative changes have not yet been made but are proposed to be made in the Bill. He continued,the continued stay of those who had been admitted for settlement"—that is, prior to the legislative changes having been made—would not be endangered in any way at all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 17th February 1972; Vol. 328 c. 309.]Since that was the pledge given in another place on 17th February 1972, I 298 do not see how it is possible to argue that we should remove from the people who came in between January 1972 and May 1973 the right to apply for registration under the Act and therefore to treat them as aliens and to deny them the very option which we are giving to the pre-30th January 1972 entrants. How is it possible to say that that would not be endangering "the continued stay of those admitted for settlement?". Clearly it would endanger their stay. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department shakes his head, but he cannot be applying his mind to the problem. These provisions are now converting an individual with an option to become a British citizen in the full sense of the word into an individual who is denied that option and who under British law will become an alien. It is impossible to argue that that is not endangering his continued stay in the United Kingdom. Once he becomes an alien, all his rights to stay in the United Kingdom are radically altered. I hope that the Government will look at this specific pledge given in another place on 17th February 1972 because I do not see how it is possible honestly and honourably—one may be able to devise weasel words to do so, but I do not think that is what the Government want to do in this matter—to defend a situation in which that pledge can be given in February 1972 and then enact this Bill so that its provisions will then retrospectively deprive people of a right which they otherwise would have had.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Lane)
I should like to make the situation clear to avoid further misunderstanding. We can discuss this matter later, but I must point out that the rights of the people mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman—those who are securely settled here because they were admitted here—are not affected by the Bill.
§ Mr. Richard
Then why is it thought necessary to legislate for all those who were in the same position prior to 30th January 1972 so as to give them the option of registration to become British citizens? The Minister cannot say that their position would not be altered without the option merely because they have been admitted here and are stable here. If what the hon. Gentleman says is right, 299 then why is it necessary to legislate to give the pre-January 1972 people a right of registration which, according to him, the post-January 1972 people do not need.
§ Mr. Lane
The hon. and learned Gentleman is confusing the rights of registration with security of settlement. He was implying that the rights of secure settlement in this country were being endangered. I am saying, on the point with which my noble Friend was dealing in the other place, that that is not the intention in this Bill. I hope that we can make the situation thoroughly clear later in debate.
§ Mr. Richard
I still do not follow what the hon. Gentleman says. With great respect, I think that he is seeking to devise a form of weasel words. He is now saying that the clear pledge given by Lord Windlesham in another place had nothing to do with the status or position of Pakistanis in this country. He is saying that all that statement was designed to do was to deal with their security of tenure in the United Kingdom. If he is saying that that was the intention behind that Answer given on 17th February 1972, I merely invite him to look again at the Question and Answer to which I have referred:…may I ask the noble Lord whether, if there were a change in the position of Pakistanis in this country.…That is what he was asked, and his answer was,Even if citizens of Pakistan were to be treated as foreign nationals after legislative changes had been made, the continued stay of those who had been admitted for settlement would not be endangered in any way at all."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 17 February 1972; Vol. 328, c. 309.]I come back to the point, I do not see how it is possible to argue that the continued stay of an individual in this country is not endangered if one insists thereafter in treating him as an alien and denying him the option of becoming a British subject. I would have thought that it was plain beyond peradventure that if he were treated in that way, in the second case one is clearly "endangering" his continued stay in this country. I am not saying that it is being denied, I am saying that it is being endangered. The word used was 300 "endangering", not that it was being wholly taken away.
I hope that the Government will look at that specific pledge. Repetition by me will not make the point any better although it may emphasise it a little more, but I do not see how it is now possible to reconcile that pledge with the provisions in the Bill.
May I turn to the second point where I have some reservations about this Bill, and that is the way in which the citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir are being treated. If one goes back to the history of Kashmir—I should hesitate to do so, firstly because I do not think it will assist the House in considering this Bill, and secondly because it is precisely the confusion about Kashmir and the fact that Kashmir is still a disputed territory that has given rise to the legal and other difficulties with which we are now faced in this Bill—one finds that the Azad Kashmiri citizens were British subjects by birth before 1947, and after independence in 1947 their status was subject to determination by the United Nations under various United Nations resolutions. Those citizens were given protection by the Government of Pakistan. They were issued with Pakistani passports, apart from affording them other facilities at diplomatic and political levels. I accept, however, that their precise status was left technically undetermined because of the confusion about the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, in the Indian Constitution people living in that part of Kashmir occupied by India have always enjoyed the status of citizens of India.
The result was that the people of Azad Kashmir who came to this country on Pakistani passports were designated as being citizens of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir. The British Government always appreciated this situation and treated those nationals of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir as citizens of Pakistan for all intents and purposes, except for the purposes of registration.
I today saw some of the representatives of the Azad Kashmir Welfare Association in Birmingham, one of whom has been in this country since 1952. He is on the voting register, as I understand it, has voted and has participated to the 301 full in municipal activities in the city where he lives, and I think may even at one time have been a local councillor. If the Government are now right, all this he has done illegally, and unlawfully, and therefore presumably he is open to be punished for it.
On 7th February 1972 that welfare association wrote to the Home Office. They marked it, somewhat optimistically, for the personal attention of the right hon. Reginald Maudling. They asked the Home Office this point:We shall be grateful to your honours if you could kindly pay your personal attention to our case and confirm to us for the information of our members that withdrawal of Pakistan from British Commonwealth would not affect our rights and that Her Majesty's Government would continue to treat Azad Kashmir Nationals as Commonwealth Citizens as long as the status of the former States of Jammu and Kashmir is not finally settled.They received a reply, dated 12th April 1972, from a Mr. Parkinson of the Home Office, who apologised for not sending them an earlier reply to their letter of 7th February addressed to the Home Secretary. There then follows what is, I am bound to say, even in this branch of the law, which is, to say the least, obscure, one of the most obscurantist and difficult letters to understand that even legally I have read for many years. It says this:The position as regards the acquisition of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by natives of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir who are at present residing in the United Kingdom, is as follows: In general, a person can possess the status of Commonwealth citizen for the purposes of the British Nationality Act 1948 only if he is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, a citizen of one of the other independent Commonwealth countries, or a British subject without citizenship.Later he goes on to say:It is clear that persons born in Jammu and and Kashmir who are neither citizens of Pakistan nor citizens of India do not fall within any of these categories (they are not British subjects without citizenship because the territory of Jammu and Kashmir did not form part of British India immediately before the 1948 Act came into force).I am not sure why that is so, but apparently that is what one hears from the authority of Mr. Parkinson in Tolworth Tower.They are therefore aliens in United Kingdom nationality law and are not eligible for registration as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies under Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1948; but as aliens they can apply for naturalization.302 That apparently is one way out: they can always apply to be naturalised. If the Government go on their present course they will have 20,000–30,000 applications by Azad Kashmiris who have lived in this country for a considerable period of time for naturalisation. The Under-Secretary nods his head in approval. If he thinks that is a sensible way of dealing with the problem, I do not agree.
He goes on to say:For the purposes of the Commonwealth Immigrant Acts, however, people from Jammu and Kashmir who hold passports issued by the Government of Pakistan describing their status as 'Native of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir' are treated as though they were British Protected Persons (which was their status in our law up until 1949).That is a most interesting admission by the Home Office. May I read the sentence again to the House:For the purposes of the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts, however, people from Jammu and Kashmir who hold passports issued by the Government of Pakistan describing their status as 'Native of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir' are treated as though they were British Protected Persons (which was their status in our law up until 1949).Therefore, it follows that up until 1949 they were not aliens and are exempt from the Aliens Act provisions and regulations.
Then it goes on to say this:The effect of this is that, while they do not have the civic privileges or obligations of Commonwealth citizens"—I do not know what that means—and can acquire British nationality only by naturalisation, they are for immigration purposes treated as if they were Commonwealth citizens.The Treasury bench shakes its head. This is Gilbertian. It would take the pen of W. S. Gilbert and the musical genius of Sir Arthur Sullivan to produce a more delicately ridiculous situation.
If right hon. Gentlemen opposite are supposed to have been wielding their new brooms with this branch of the law, as they are supposed to have been doing, since 1970, they have produced a hotchpotch, a mess which I describe as Gilbertian and idiotic.
We are told in relation to these citizens that at one time they were British protected people, but have ceased to be so; secondly, that they have been treated as if they were Commonwealth citizens for immigration purposes. Therefore an 303 individual will have been admitted to this country as if he were a citizen of Pakistan as opposed to being merely an individual who is not a citizen of Pakistan but happens to hold a Pakistan passport which is stamped "Born in Jammu and Kashmir". When he gets to this country he has for all practical purposes, and in reality, been treated in exactly the same way as any other Commonwealth citizen. He has not had any additional obligations of reporting imposed upon him. He has had no additional obligations of registration imposed upon him. He has had no obligations under the Aliens Act imposed on him. A great number of these people have been in the country for a long time, and the Government now turn round and say that because of this gap in the law —which as I see it, has arisen merely because of the fact that in international law the State of Kashmir and Jammu is still a disputed territory—they are aliens. With respect to the Government, I think they ought to think about this one again.
The answer to it is, as I have said, relatively simple. The basic principle which I make in relation to the Bill and which I have no doubt we will discuss in Committee at length is that for the purpose of giving rights of registration to existing Pakistanis—and I include among them citizens of Jammu and Kashmir holding Pakistani passports who have been treated by the British Government and by British law as if they were Commonwealth citizens and who were British protected persons until 1949 when that status was removed from them, and I include Pakistanis settled in this country since 30th January 1972—the date on which the Bill should become effective should be the date on which the Bill was presented, namely 14th May 1973, and not the date on which Pakistan left the Commonwealth, namely 30th January 1972.
There are other provisions in the Bill which I do not like. I do not approve of the six months provision for registration. I do not see why Pakistanis should be given six months to register when, under the South Africa Act, South African citizens were given, I believe, two years in which to elect to register and a further lengthy period in which to take up the election if they so wished.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
It is important not to let this go by without correcting the error which my hon. and learned Friend inadvertently has committed. It was three years and seven months from the enactment of the South Africa Act. It was four years and seven months from the date that South Africa left the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Richard
I am obliged to my hon. Frienud. He has done his homework better than I have.
If it is right in relation to the South Africa Act that a white South African citizen who had been admitted to the United Kingdom was given up to eight years in which to take up an election to become a British subject, but that a coloured Pakistani citizen who has been admitted to this country under precisely the same legislation is to be given only six months, that is a result which with the best will in the world is unfair, unjust and discriminatory, and the Government should take it away and look at it again.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that this is not the main question? The question is that South Africa was asked to leave the Commonwealth as a consequence of her internal policies whereas Pakistan as an independent Government voluntarily opted to secede from it.
§ Mr. Richard
That is a distinction, but it does not invalidate my point. My point is a simple one—that when Britain faced a similar situation in relation to the status of white South Africans, Her Majesty's Government took one course and gave them up to eight years for the purpose of final registration. When we face the same problem in relation to coloured Pakistanis who are now living in this country, apparently that time is to be whittled down to six months. That is not right. It is unfair. I hope that the Government will look at it again.
Despite all that I have said, however, I do not advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House on the Second Reading of this Bill. The principles behind it seem to be inevitable concomitants of the fact that, regrettably, Pakistan has opted to leave the Commonwealth. However, I am concerned to point out that there are aspects of the Bill which in the view of the Opposition 305 —and, I think, of a large number of people outside this House, not necessarily confined to one political party—are basically unfair, unjust, ought to be amended, and can be presented as discriminatory.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary had little difficulty in establishing that this is not the sort of Bill which it would have been wise or indeed possible to bring in at short notice. Therefore it is all the more unfortunate that in this case we have not followed the one existing precedent for a country leaving the Commonwealth, namely, the case of South Africa in 1961.
Most right hon. and hon. Members will know that when that event took place in 1961 this House froze the situation as it then was for 12 months by the Temporary Provisions Act of 1961 until the final legislation regularising the consequences of South Africa's departure could be passed a year later.
The fact that we have not proceeded in that way but have left the matter at large for 15 months has had the result that during those 15 months we have been living not on one but on two fictions, which is a state of affairs that is extremely undesirable in citizenship law. The Home Office has relied upon the contention that in Section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act 1948 the word "Pakistan", the name of the country concerned in this case, means whatever it wants it to mean at the time. It has contended that until this moment "Pakistan" in Section 1(3) of that Act has not meant what anyone else calls Pakistan but has meant what was Pakistan, and the peoples and territories included in what was Pakistan, in 1956, when Pakistan became a republic, and in 1948, the date of the British Nationality Act. This is a fiction which conflicts not only with common sense but with the course of our legislation hitherto.
Right hon. and hon. Members who follow these matters will be aware that whenever a Commonwealth country has ceased to be a monarchy and has become a republic it has been held to be necessary, in order to maintain its status within 306 the Commonwealth and the status of its citizens as British subjects under our law, for a consequential provisions Bill to be passed and that, if that Bill had not been passed at the time, its citizens would have ceased to be British subjects.
As recently as July of last year on the occasion of the passing of the Sri Lanka Republic Bill, the spokesman for the Foreign Office confirmed that the Bill was necessary not merely because of the change of name of Ceylon into Sri Lanka but also because of the change of status from a monarchy to a republic, and that Section 1 (3) of the British Nationality Act 1948 was one of the provisions of our law for the sake of which the Bill of the last Session was necessary.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South-West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the basis upon which he says that these consequential provisions Acts which are used when a Commonwealth country ceases to be a dominion in our law and becomes a republic are necessary to effect the citizenship rights of the people in question? That view has never been advanced in the past.
§ Mr. Powell
If the hon. Gentleman looks up the debate of last July, he will find that that section was specifically mentioned amongst the enactments for the sake of which the consequential legislation was necessary.
§ Mr. Powell
No. Because of the change of status. That is the reason why at every stage, as in the case of Pakistan in 1956, when monarchy has been replaced by republican status, it has been necessary to affirm that, although the country listed in Section 1 (3) of the 1948 Act is now not what it was at the time of the 1948 Act but is a republic, nevertheless it shall be treated as if that change had not taken place.
The Foreign Office has never been in any doubt or dispute over this matter. That was illustrated when, following Pakistan's departure from the Commonwealth, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services informed me in a letter of 11th April this year, the Foreign and Commonwealth 307 Office advised the Department of Health and Social Securitythat when Pakistan left the Commonwealth, the effect of that departure was that the 1892 Order"—that is an order which, by dint of subsequent amendments, specified by name "India" and "Pakistan"—ceased to apply to Pakistan.In other words, Pakistan, a republic in the Commonwealth, to which it had hitherto applied, was not the same as Pakistan, a country no longer part of the Commonwealth.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in the debate on the Immigration Rules on 22nd November last year, took precisely this point. I will trouble the House with a couple of sentences. At c. 1452 I asked him:Is my right hon. Friend confirming that there will be a difference of treatment between Pakistanis in this country according to whether they entered before or after the date of independence?That is exactly the matter with which the Bill is dealing.
My right hon. Friend replied:I confirm that. There may have to be a provisional period "—
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Balniel)
When my right hon. Friend said "date of independence", what date did he mean?
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Perhaps I may help my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not mean independence 1947. He meant the date of secession from the Commonwealth. He made a slip of the tongue on that occasion which I well remember.
§ Mr. Powell
I understand that. Indeed, I was taking my right hon. Friend's word "independence" in the sense of secession. Of course, Pakistan has been independent since 1947. The correct term would be "secession" and the date, therefore, would be 30th January 1972, as it stands in the Bill. I am obliged to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) for making that clear.
308 My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, if I may revert, replied:There may have to be a provisonal period, but they will have to change their status".—that is, in order to retain their privileges in this country those who came before secession will have to change their status—because they are now foreigners. This is a fact of life".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November 1972; Vol. 846, c. 1452.]Clearly in that context my right hon. Friend was not referring to a fact of international law. He was referring to the natural effect of a country leaving the Commonwealth upon the law of this country. Indeed, it would be ludicrous to assert that whereas, whenever a country remaining in the Commonwealth ceases to be a monarchy and becomes a republic, it is necessary to specify that it is still the same country as that which we have been so naming all along, yet when that country is torn in two and, moreover, leaves the Commonwealth, it is still, for purposes of United Kingdom law, the same country as it was in 1948 and 1956. That is the one fiction under which we have been living for the last 15 months.
§ Mr. Richard
If that is right, why was it necessary to legislate in the case of South Africa on this precise point?
§ Mr. Powell
In the case of South Africa we legislated immediately, as I reminded the House—indeed, we legislated before South Africa actually left the Commonwealth—in order to hold the position until the Bill corresponding to this one was brought in.
§ Mr. Richard
With respect, I understand that the short Bill was a temporary holding Bill. Nevertheless, it was still necessary to legislate when South Africa left the Commonwealth. That is the whole point.
§ Mr. Powell
I am not disagreeing with the hon. and learned Gentleman. He seems to think that I am arguing that this Bill is unnecessary. I am not arguing that at all. I am merely arguing that we have involved ourselves in difficulties because we did not follow the precedent of 1961 and 1962 and precede this Bill by a temporary provisions Bill taking effect as soon as possible after Pakistan left the Commonwealth 309 and freezing the position for the intervening period.
§ Mr. Richard
I am not making myself clear. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to be arguing that, because Pakistan left the Commonwealth, it ceased to have the meaning that was ascribed to it in the 1948 Act. I am merely asking: if that is so, why was it necessary to legislate on that specific point when South Africa left the Commonwealth? If it did not need the legislation, why did we legislate?
§ Mr. Powell
It was necessary to legislate to prevent all the consequences of South Africa leaving the Commonwealth from taking effect immediately. It was to provide the time during which the final legislation which corresponds to this Bill—
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. and learned Gentleman really must listen. I have at no stage argued, nor am I seeking to argue, that this Bill is unnecessary. Of course, it is necessary. Of course, a final Act to tidy up the consequences of Pakistan leaving the Commonwealth is necessary. I am saying that we should preferably have had a holding Bill at first to freeze the position as it was before Pakistan left the Commonwealth, as we did in the case of South Africa. So, as a result, we have had to live under the fiction of pretending that Pakistan, as it has been since 30th January, is, according to the law of this country, the Pakistan mentioned in the 1948 Act as amended in 1956.
§ Mr. Powell
I am willing to give way, but I have made my point and am fearful of wearying the House by continuing to repeat it.
§ Mr. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman will recall this point because he was a member of the Cabinet at the time. Will he tell the House why it was not until the 1962 South African Bill that the removal of the reference to South Africa in Section 1(3) of the British Nationality Act 1948 took place? Why was it not done in the first Act? Why was it left until the second Act?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Before the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) replies, I should tell the House that a large number of hon. Members wish to speak in this debate. Therefore, I should appreciate it if interjections were rationed rather strictly.
§ Mr. Powell
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I have allowed myself to be tempted too far.
The whole purpose of the temporary provisions Act was to make legislation unnecessary until final legislation corresponding to this Bill could be considered and brought in. Therefore, it was not necessary in 1961 to have the provisions which were in due course to be made in 1962.
That, then, is the one fiction under which we have been living, regarding Pakistan. But we have been living under an even more grotesque fiction in regard to Bangladesh. From 4th February 1972, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State informed me in a Written Answer on 11th December last, we have recognised Bangladesh as an independent country. It has not regarded its citizens as citizens of Pakistan—that is the last thing they have thought they were. Certainly Pakistan has not regarded the citizens of an independent Bangladesh as its citizens. Nevertheless, throughout this period we have continued the pretence that the Bangladeshis are all still citizens of Pakistan and that, therefore, the 1948 Act, as amended, applies to them.
This Bill will at last terminate this twofold process of illusion with which we have lived for the last 15 months. However, I want to put to my right hon. Friends the suggestion that we should regularise the position beyond all possible doubt by including in the Bill a provision which explicitly legalises anything which has been done in the last 15 months under the cover of the two fictions that I have mentioned. Whatever view any hon. Member takes, it is clearly undesirable that there should be any doubt—and doubt there is—about the legality of certain actions done, either by Pakistanis or otherwise, during the last 15 months. If we are now legislating finally, we should clear out of the way any question whatsover about the situation during the last 15 months. This could be done, I 311 imagine, by a relatively simple provision; and whatever view individuals may take, I should have thought there could be no possible disadvantage in that being considered.
I turn now to the effects of this Bill for the future and particularly to the major effect—namely, the manner in which those who would otherwise be aliens are to acquire, or to have the opportunity to acquire, the status of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. The purely transitional provisions are in themselves clearly necessary. It would clearly be wrong that persons occupying offices should find their right to occupy them suddenly brought to a termination. But the substantial question that we have to consider concerns the terms on which access to citizenship of the United Kingdom is provided by the Bill to those who would otherwise remain or become aliens as a result of the Bill.
There are now three separate codes under which the status of citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies is attained. The first is, since the Immigration Act of 1971, available only to those who are patrial and, transitionally to a certain defined class of Commonwealth citizens. That is the old, unlimited, automatic right of a Commonweath citizen to be registered upon application after five years residence.
Parliament in 1971 decided that that right should, apart from transitional provisions, be limited to those who are patrial, and it substituted, as the principal code for Commonwealth citizens, the new procedures which is to be found in, I think, the First Schedule to the 1971 Act, which makes it a discretionary act of the Secretary of State to register the applicant and requires him to be satisfied, among other matters, of the good character of the applicant and of his sufficient knowledge of the English language. It was the opinion on both sides of the House—I believe there was no division of opinion about this—that it was time for access to citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies no longer to be automatic but to be subject to certain reasonable safeguards and requirements, and to be in that sense discretionary.
The third code, of course, which has been referred to several times already, 312 is the aliens code, the process of naturalisation.
If I have understood the Bill correctly, it provides the automatic right of registration under the first of those three codes for all those Pakistanis to whom it will be available at all. The question which I wish to raise with my right hon. Friends and to put to the House is whether this is right, whether it accords with the circumstances of the case and with the intentions of Parliament in passing the 1971 Act.
It appears to me that, given the nature of this immigration, the large numbers involved and the fact that it took place in the manner that it did and in the volume that it did simply because of the privileges of membership of the Commonwealth, it would be appropriate that access to United Kingdom citizenship should be provided under either the second or the third of the codes—that is to say, that it should be not automatic but discretionary.
Since Pakistan has, of her own volition, left the Commonwealth, with the consequences for her own citizens which naturally follow in all parts of the world, I must place it on record that it appears to me right that the process of naturalisation should be the one that is applicable for those who have the appropriate residential status in this country to obtain, if they wish it, the citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies.
That leaves me finally, if I might include it for convenience in this debate, with the case of Bangladesh. This is the first instance, I think, in which a country, having been independent and outside the Commonwealth by virtue of secession from a country which had already left the Commonwealth, has been admitted, as it were, newly to the Commonwealth.
I am far from suggesting that, in the ambit of this Bill, we can or should, having accepted Bangladesh, treat her citizens differently from those of any other Commonwealth country. Nevertheless, the question which constantly rises in urgency is once more pointed up by the case of Bangladesh. That is, how much longer can we continue to base the main privileges of citizenship in this country not upon our own citizenship, a citizenship of the United Kingdom, but upon 313 the character of Commonwealth citizen or British subject?
Sooner or later, we shall have to unify all the aspects of citizenship—franchise, office and the rest—and make them no longer the consequences of a larger and more comprehensive category, which means different things in different parts of the Commonwealth and nowhere means so much as it means in the United Kingdom, but attach them instead to the status of United Kingdom citizens.
We cannot move to that in the context of the operation which is taking place; but the very fact of Bangladeshis being admitted, with all the consequences attached, to the status of Commonwealth citizens is another reminder of the urgency for this country at long last to provide itself with a proper, logical and complete law of citizenship.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)
It is impossible for us to give a Second Reading to either this or the Bangladesh Bill—each of which regularises the position, as far as United Kingdom law is concerned, of Pakistan outside the Commonwealth and Bangladesh inside—without reminding ourselves how all this came about and without looking to the future.
The birth of a new nation is always a mighty thing and it is something that seldom comes about without a good deal of suffering. So it was in the case of Bangladesh. Those who may be tempted to think that India and Bangladesh are being unreasonable at present over the question of the prisoners of war and the war crimes trials should cast their minds back to the events of 1971 and should also remember our own attitude to this kind of question after the 1939–45 war.
The sad fact is that Pakistan is now outside the Commonwealth because, in 1971, she launched against East Bengal the greatest wave of racial violence that the world has seen in recent years. The present regime, of course, was not responsible for that. It is to be hoped that under President Bhutto Pakistan will live peaceably with her neighbours in the Indian sub-continent and even that, one day, Pakistan, perhaps under President Bhutto, will be led back into the Commonwealth.
314 I am not sure that I can agree with the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) that these Bills should wait until we see whether that is likely to happen. We cannot do that, because there is no possibility of its happening for some years. But I hope that it will happen before many years go by.
Despite what some hon. Members may feel, we must concern ourselves with the present circumstances which follow from the exit of Pakistan from the Commonwealth and the entry of Bangladesh. The joint declaration issued by India and Bangladesh on 17th April was a very moderate response to the difficult situation that exists at present. The most important thing concerning those negotiations is that the prisoners of war now held in India should be returned to their families at the earliest possible opportunity but we should also remember the Bangalese who are in Pakistan and who wish to return to Bangladesh, and those Biharis in Bangladesh who have opted for repatriation to Pakistan. There is a three-way problem of considerable dimensions.
The Governments of India and Bangladesh could not have been more conciliatory over this matter than they have been, in leaving aside for the moment the recognition of Bangladesh by Pakistan and in proposing talks in which, in the first instance, Bangladesh would not take part directly. Pakistan's response has been to institute proceedings at the International Court of Justice to prevent India's extraditing prisoners of war and civilian prisoners to Bangladesh for trial. I do not wish to dwell upon the events of 1971, but they were of such enormity that it is too much for Pakistan to expect to be allowed to put offenders on trial herself.
§ Mr. Barnes
These matters are very much in our minds at present, following the exit of Pakistan from the Commonwealth and the entry of Bangladesh.
I used to be rather despondent about the future of the Commonwealth and its value in the modern world, but the example of Bangladesh has made me much more optimistic about the Commonwealth. It is a thoroughly good thing that 315 a country whose foreign policy is based on non-alignment and who numbers Russia among her two main allies should set such store, as Bangladesh has done, on Commonwealth membership and friendship with Britain.
The birth of Bangladesh is an inspiration to people all over the world who still live under repressive régimes. The significance of the two Bills we are debating tonight goes far wider than the tidy changes that we are making in our law.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Much as I admire the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes), I feel that his speech constituted a blatantly biased assertion of the events which took place in Pakistan. There are strong views about this matter on both sides of the House. Perhaps some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues and some of my hon. Friends are biased. But in a very complex situation it does not help to put forward what seemed to be just an apology for that country—which I hope will do well in the future—in a situation in which the least that can be said is that there was fault on both sides. It is impossible to paint one side all white and one side all black, from a moral point of view.
There are five points about the Bill that I should like to put to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), in a masterly speech, put a very fine point, that is, that there has been delay in introducing the Bill. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether this is the appropriate time, bearing in mind that there has been a very long delay.
In his opening words my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that Pakistan had withdrawn from the Commonwealth and that President Bhutto at the time had said that the withdrawal was final and irrevocable. If my right hon. Friend were to inquire about the present situation, or the situation after the secret talks which are taking place about the future of the prisoners of war, he would find, perhaps, that the answer given by representatives of the Government of Pakistan would be considerably different. At the time of the statement, 316 they were outraged, rightly or wrongly, by the recognition of Bangladesh. They were outraged, rightly or wrongly, about the situation of the prisoners of war. They were outraged, rightly or wrongly, about what appeared to be a flouting of a United Nations resolution. The statement which Mr. Bhutto made at the time, that the withdrawal was final and irrevocable, was made at a time of stress. I suggest that it is probably not the kind of balanced judgment that would be made today.
Bearing in mind that we have delayed a long time in bringing forward this Bill, perhaps it would have been preferable to wait until such time as there appeared to be a clarity about the future of the prisoners of war, on which discussions appear to be taking place secretly. India has made a gesture which many of us appreciate a great deal. India has moved to a certain extent. It is hoped that the Pakistanis will move a little, so that the prisoners of war can be released and all the problems of the detainees in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can be resolved.
If there ever were an appropriate time not to bring in a Bill, it is when we have had the first sign of movement, perhaps, on the part of one of the major contenders in this matter. To that extent it might have been helpful to wait for even two or three months, by which time it will be quite clear whether there is progress on the prisoners of war and detainees or whether this will be a very long haul.
The second point that concerns me is the question of the date, the date fixed being the date when Pakistan withdrew from the Commonwealth and not the date of introduction of the Bill. I should have had no objection to the provision of two standards for those who came into Britain before the end of January and those who came in after the end of January if that had been made clear at the time. If at the end of January 1972 there had been a statement or a temporary provisions Bill, or even a White Paper—although we do not like legislation by White Paper—or if there had been even a sign above the door at London Airport under which people walked saying that all those who entered after 31st January should be fully aware of the consequences and that their position was totally different from that 317 of those who had come in previously, we would not have objected to the Bill and an element of retrospection.
But we know that those who came in after that date, despite our stringent regulations, were certainly not aware that they would be treated differently. Certainly they might not have judged that the withdrawal of Pakistan from the Commonwealth created a different international situation. Unless one was a Pakistani who was also a reader of The Times, The Guardian, The Observer and various magazines, and a reader of HANSARD every day, on entering this country from Pakistan after 31st January one would not be fully aware that one would be treated differently. The average Pakistani would not know that.
I am not aware that even my home-born Scottish citizens in Cathcart read HANSARD every day; far less do those who have entered this country from Pakistan over the last 18 months. So far as I am aware, there is no northern edition of HANSARD.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made a brilliant speech, as always. In these circumstances the sensible thing to do, irrespective of what we think about this situation, is to forget what has happened over the last 18 months, because no indication was given at the time. If the meat of the Bill goes through the Committee stage, I hope that we shall not have a separate situation for those who entered the country before the end of January and those who entered it afterwards. If we are to make a distinction, let it be from the day we published our intention and when we introduced the Bill.
That will make a difference to these people, bat the position of the Kashmiris creates a different situation.
Rightly or wrongly, we have allowed many people to enter this country from Pakistan. Conflicting views have been expressed on previous occasions, but it would be an intolerable situation if people who entered this country more than 20 years ago, who have played a full part in our community life, should suddenly be told that legally they are in the position of being aliens because of the special situation of Kashmir and that they must apply for naturalisation.
318 Until the time when their application succeeded, or in the event of its not succeeding, such people would have to start calling regularly at police stations.
That kind of situation could create a feeling of insecurity throughout the Pakistani community which would not be good for race relations. My right hon. Friend knows that I feel that there has been too much immigration into this country. It is a fact of life that a substantial number of immigrants are living in Great Britain. However, anything which we do to undermine their feeling of security, particularly of those resident in Britain for 15 or 20 years, will make race relations more difficult.
My fourth point is that if we are to have a six-month transitional period during which those who are in a difficult position will have to apply to become United Kingdom citizens, are we sure that appropriate advice during that period will be available? The experience of Pakistanis living in this country of dealing with the British Government is not good.
Many of them are trying to get their wives over from Pakistan. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is always sympathetic in such cases, knows what happens. Often their wives in Pakistan ask for an interview. They are told that they can get an interview in about six months. They are told to bring certain papers and in some cases, which I have brought to the attention of my hon. Friend and of which he is fully aware, they are told, "We need more papers. We need your husband's tax returns for the past three years." They have to supply that information. They have to write to Britain and the documents have to be sent back. There may or may not be a sound basis for that long delay. We probably know the reasons, but whether they are justified is another matter.
It must be appreciated that many Pakistanis face an acute problem in getting their wives to this country. They must wait for six months for an interview. They are then asked for old papers and they have to send air letters backwards and forwards to Pakistan. That is not the kind of thing which gives them the greatest confidence in British administration.
319 Are we sure that during the six months there will be sufficient advice available to them to tell them what to do and what their rights are? The kind of situation could develop when people who want to stir up trouble could cause an awful lot of trouble. If we are to have a six-month period instead of four-year or eight-year period which we have had in another instance, we must ensure that in centres of the population where many Pakistanis live there are provided advice centres, which will be opened smartly, to which people can go with all their problems and troubles. At those centres they can be told what their rights are and what they must do. There should be people available to help them fill up the appropriate forms. It is my experience, when dealing with the procedure of rents and rebates, that many people do not know how to fill tin a form containing 30 questions. I suggest that nationality is probably a much more complex matter.
If we are to have a period of only six months, the Government must ensure that all those who are entitled to take advantage of the provisions that apply with citizenship will have the opportunity of having somewhere to go and somebody to speak to about what they should do. If such facilities are not provided, the vacuum may well be filled by people who might want to cause trouble.
Fifthly, what is the position of those who have applied for their wives to enter this country? If, in the case of those from Kashmir, they cease to become what are regarded as Pakistan citizens for the purpose of the Commonwealth Immigration Act, what is the position of their wives? What is the position of those who entered the country before 30th January and what is the position afterwards?
This is obviously a Bill which will need a great deal of discussion in Committee. I hope that it will be remembered that the Bill will affect directly or indirectly a substantial number of people who are Pakistan residents in this country. It is desperately important that it should be remembered that the only reports which will appear about our deliberations will be some complex reports in the heavy papers tomorrow. Many people who are Pakistan citizens of this country will 320 know that something is going on and they will feel insecure and uncertain. Therefore, I hope that every effort will be made, whether the Bill becomes law in this form or whether it is greatly improved in Committee, as I hope it will be, to ensure that the Government on this occasion, if on no other, will explain to people what is happening and how it affects them. I hope that we shall explain what they should do to protect their own interests.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Kensington, North)
I am pleased to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor). It is an unusual experience for me to find that I am able to agree with practically every word that he said. The only disadvantage of that is that almost everything I intended to say has already been said by him.
The hon. Gentleman and I took different views about the situation in Bangladesh and Pakistan two years ago. I was active on behalf of those in what was then East Pakistan and the hon. Gentleman tended to see matters rather more clearly from the standpoint of West Pakistan. It is encouraging that today we find ourselves on exactly the same side. Therefore, I can keep my speech very short.
First, I associate myself with what the hon. Gentleman said about the timing of the Bill. It is regrettable that we have the Bill at this time. One of the only two points made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) with which I agree is that it is perhaps a pity that we did not have a temporary provisions Act which would have enabled us to defer considering this measure at this stage. As the hon. Member for Cathcart said, it is regrettable because negotiations are going on which I trust will lead to the resolution of the problem of the sub-continent, and will enable prisoners of war in India to return to Pakistan, the Baharis who have elected to do so to go to Pakistan, and the Bengalis in Pakistan to return to Bangladesh. There are signs and sparks of hope in relation to the situation in Kashmir.
In all those situations the fact that Pakistan has somewhat tenuous associations as a former member of the 321 Commonwealth and that we do not yet have legislation to put into effect the changes resulting from her leaving the Commonwealth make it easier for benevolent help in the negotiations to be exercised. I fear that the implementation of this measure will make it less likely that when these immediate problems have been resolved, as I sincerely trust they will be, Pakistan will come back into the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding the statements of President Bhutto at the time of his declaration—and we must remember the circumstances of that declaration—there would be greater opportunity for second thoughts if this Bill did not become law.
However, if we are to legislate, the manner in which we do so must be considered. We must remember that the majority of the people whom we are now considering were brought here by British industrialists. Those industrialists sent out teams to recruit people in Pakistan for their benefit and for the benefit of British industry. For the most part it was not a case of people packing their bags and deciding that they wanted to emigrate to England, but of their being brought here because at that time British industry thought that it needed them. Views may well have changed since that time. I very much doubt whether it is desirable for a rich country to seek to resolve its labour problems by recruiting from another country, or for a poor country to alleviate its social problems by relying on remittances from those who have been recruited. Whatever view we take about what happened at the time, these people came to this country, and they came here mostly recruited by British employers. They came with the assurance and in the belief that they would be able to settle here and remain here permanently. That is an assurance we shall not go back on. With respect to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, I am surprised that he should take such a low view of the sovereignty of this House—a change by another country of its boundaries, its foreign policy or its laws should not by itself change the status conferred upon people by British law.
What has happened is that by the Immigration Act and by this measure people who have lived here for many years, believing that they had a right to remain 322 here, are being deprived of that right. I believe that the Foreign Secretary said that between 20,000 and 30,000 Kashmiris are affected—people who believed that they had the right to register as British citizens and who are to have that right removed. The remainder of the Pakistani citizens have had a time limitation imposed upon them of six months. The Foreign Secretary said that he wished to be fair and humane, but I cannot believe that the House will accept that such a time limitation can possibly be regarded as fair and humane.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Surely the hon. Member realises that they have had five years to think about this.
§ Mr. Douglas-Mann
Until this measure came before us they had thought that under the Immigration Act they could register after the five years' period was complete. The Bill will give them six months from the date on which they complete their five-year qualification.
The second point on which I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is that we should have followed the South Africa Act. In that Act the period laid down was from 30th May 1962 until the end of 1965—over 3½ years. Another significant difference in that Act was that under the provisions of the First Schedule application could be made by a person who was not at the time of the passing of the Act ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom. He could make application if at any time during the period until the end of 1965 he became ordinarily resident in Great Britain. Under the Bill we are proposing to operate retrospectively to 30th January 1972, to deprive people of the right to apply for registration even though they may have left Pakistan months before—for example, if they were travelling here by sea—and may not have arrived in Britain until 31st January. They would have set off with the expectation that they would arrive here as members of a Commonwealth country, with rights of which this Bill will retrospectively deprive them.
Whatever view may be taken by some hon. Members about the desirability or undesirability of immigration, that is no longer the issue. A substantial number of citizens of this country—people who 323 are citizens whether they have citizenship rights under the law as it is now or as we are proposing to make it—are citizens of this country and have their roots, their homes and their children here. By changing the law in the way proposed, particularly in the restricting niggling way proposed by the Bill, we shall exclude a substantial number of people whose roots are here. A substantial number of people will fail to register in time. There are great delays in the administrations, as I was told at Question Time the other day. It takes almost six months to get an appointment with the consul in Islamabad.
Given these administrative delays it is inevitable that a substantial number of people who would qualify as entitled to register will have to go through the procedure of discretionary registration under paragraph (2) of Appendix A to Schedule 1 of the Immigration Act 1971. From the experience we have had of the Home Office in recent months over registration and the enforcement of a very arguable interpretation the Immigration Act rules against people who have been living here for many years believing they were here legally, it is not encouraging for people to know that they are dependent on the exercise of the discretion of the Home Office. It is inevitable, therefore, both that people will be left out and that many more will be made to feel that they are only grudgingly accepted.
I urge the Government, when considering the Bill in Committee, to accept amendments which will enable the principles that the Foreign Secretary enunciated in presenting the Bill—principles of fairness and humanity—to be given effect. That certainly cannot be done with the Bill as it stands.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
In many respects this is an unhappy occasion. It is unhappy because it brings to our attention the fatuous anomalies of our laws of citizenship and nationality. It is unhappy because of the strong ties which have united what is now Pakistan and the United Kingdom in peace and in war. Of all the countries in the Commonwealth, Pakistan was the only one to see fit to ally itself explicity with the United Kingdom and is still in 324 an alliance agreement with Great Britain Hon Members will also recall that in 1942 when the Japanese were at the gates of India is was the Muslims of the sub-Continent who stayed loyal to the British Crown. It is therefore a supremely sad occasion.
However, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reminded us, President Bhutto has declared that Pakistan's secession from the Commonwealth is final and irrevocable. It is not appropriate for any of us in this House from our position here to conjecture as to the motives or the future courses of action of the Government of Pakistan. That is entirely for the Government of Pakistan to decide and I take President Bhutto's words at their face value. Indeed, in many ways I welcome them. They bring home to us the realities of our post-Imperial situation which we are reluctant to face, especially in regard to citizenship and nationality in the United Kingdom.
The concept of Commonwealth is in many ways out of date and in the Second Reading debate on the British Nationality Act which is very relevant to this legislation, the Lord Chancellor said in the House of Lords:Indeed, even St. Athanasius himself would have found this subject one which called for all his skill. But, though it is difficult to expound and explain, I believe it to be a noble institution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords,, 11th May, 1948; Vol. 155, c. 754.]He went on to suggest that the concept of nationality was founded on a sense of unity with a sense of individual freedom. That concept of individual freedom has not found magnficent exposition in many countries which continue to be part of the Commonwealth of nations. We have seen that most recently in Uganda and yet Uganda's status within the Commonwealth is not questioned. Ugandan citizens, if they reside here, presumably have the full rights of British subjects. Pakistanis who have been resident much longer in certain circumstances, particularly if they come from Mirpur, which is Bradford's twin town in Azad Kashmir, will not continue to enjoy these rights even though the overseas Pakistanis can in no way be held responsible for the actions of the Government of Pakistan back in Rawalpindi. It is ridiculous to suppose that they can because obviously they are incapable of exercising a 325 franchise in Pakistan or influencing decisions of the Government back home.
In the debate on the British Nationality Act in this House Sir David Maxwell Fyfe foresaw many of the anomalies of our situation today. He quoted an article from The Times which said:The local citizenship, being in law the primary nationality, will everywhere become the real determinant of practical status, and … the derivative British subjecthood, on which in the last resort the unity of the Commonwealth rests, will gradually lapse into an ornamental embellishment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July 1948; Vol. 454, c. 75–6.]I believe that quotation was exceptionally prophetic.
Then, if we look at the conclusion of his speech, we see three very interesting strands of argument. The first is that he hypothesises about what would occur upon the secession of a member from the Commonwealth. Then he goes on to describe the various types of special ad hoc legislation that would have to make appropriate its status in that case. Then he goes on to hypothesise about republican status to which quite rightly my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. J. Enoch Powell) referred, because that is very germane to this whole question. Lastly, at the conclusion of his speech, he said:… we are at the moment—again as a matter irrespective of party—looking for closer unity among the nations of Western Europe. That has to be squared with our Commonwealth responsibility and Commonwealth relations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July 1948; Vol. 454, c. 79.]I do not believe that so far as questions of immigration, citizenship and nationality are concerned we have faced even these consequences—the consequences of our membership of the EEC—fairly and squarely.
Lastly, if I may finish my period of quotation, the leading spokesman for the Opposition, at the conclusion of the Second Reading debate said:but let no one imagine that this Bill does not mark an end of the chapter and a leap in the dark as far as concerns one of the most important of the links of sentiment which has bound us to our Dominions overseas." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July 1948; Vol. 453, c. 494.]That might have been true of the British Nationality Act, 1948, but I do not believe it is quite true of this legislation 326 today. This does, however, whether we like it or not, mark the end of an epoch.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in answer to a question from myself not so very long ago, said that this Government were reviewing the whole question of citizenship and nationality in this country. I say to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on the Front Bench that now we must waste no time in reviewing this whole matter. So many people who have to legislate in this field do not come from cities where there are multi-cultural and multi-racial communities. They can have no comprehension of the situation as it exists on the ground.
Turning to the much-referred-to subsection of the British Nationality Act—Section 1(3)—I see in the list that there are in fact three down and six to go—three down, that is, if we include, with South Africa and Pakistan, Southern Rhodesia. I do not believe that we can imagine that it will necessarily be so very long before we have to make further legislative provision.
Hon. Members have referred to the case of South Africa, and quite rightly so, but in many respects the more appropriate analogy would be the Republic of Southern Ireland because the Republic of Southern Ireland first acquired republican status, like Pakistan, and then seceded from the Commonwealth of nations by its own choice. If we were to pursue the analogy of the Republic of Ireland it would not be so unreasonable because, unlike the case of South Africa, there are many Southern Irish living in big cities, just as Pakistanis do. In my city of Bradford some 30,000 Pakistanis reside.
If we take the Southern Irish, in Section 2 of the British Nationality Act there is provision which effectively gives them a special categorisation which affords them the privileges of British subjecthood. We are all aware that in many instances the residence of Southern Irishmen is more temporary than is that of Pakistanis in big cities. I have not been in Bradford so long, but I have been there five years and, as I say, we have a very sizeable concentration of Pakistanis. Yet I have only met two who would willingly be repatriated, as the popular phrase goes, to their own country. In other words, they see their position in the United Kingdom as being a continuing one in the economic 327 sense. They have their obligations to their families, perhaps back in Pakistan. This is the reality of the situation. So they are here and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) reminded us, we should not lose sight of that fact.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs went on to say that we should do our best to ensure that our relations with Pakistan remained close. He said that those relations would be different in that they were no longer members of the Commonwealth. I hope they will be different in the sense that there will be a much more natural relationship, between equals. If we get away from the notion of Commonwealth nostalgia, these are the sorts of relationships—relationships of mutual respect and understanding for respective points of view, respect for different interests—which we want to engender with the emerging countries whether they still form a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations or not.
So I would remind my right hon. Friend that this Bill has fairly significant implications for Anglo-Pakistan relations —as the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court so rightly told us—because of the element of retrospection that is engraved into this Bill. I do not believe that retrospection is ever a good legislative concept, and certainly not in this situation because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West told us, the very fact that no special provisions were introduced led Pakistanis —and Bangalees for that matter—to presume that their status and rights would continue to be unchanged: in other words, that they would continue as per the British Nationality Act.
So I would say to my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that they must look again at this matter not only because of the precedent of South Africa but more particularly because of the question of the Azad Kashmiris. This is especially important for Bradford. As I have said, in many instances Mirpur can be regarded as our twin city in the subcontinent. We had in 1966 a very relevant case concerning Bradford parliamentary representation. It went to an inquiry and at that inquiry the Labour 328 Party wanted to reduce our representation from four to three. We, as Conservatives, fought it on the basis of the fact that many of the Commonwealth citizens would not be on the electoral register because they could not speak the language and could not fill in the forms and would therefore have a lower take-up of registration. The inquiry was before Mr. Justice Curtis Bennett and on the first day of the proceedings we had evidence from the Chief Electoral Registration Assistant of Bradford Corporation, Mr. Jack Dickinson. In his evidence he said that he had been in the Department doing the work for no less than 15 years, and that he was in no sense inexpert. He was then asked a specific question about the take-up of registration among immigrants. The transcript continues:Q. In Bradford you have a much more comprehensive door-to-door visitation? A. Yes.Q. In doing that you must knock on Indian and Pakistani doors? A. Yes.Q. What happens when you knock on those doors? A. Very often information cannot be obtained.Q. Why is that? A. Because nobody speaks English. We have some little leaflets printed in Urdu and those are left with the forms. In a number of cases the forms come back filled in. In other cases they do not.Q. When they don't, do you go to them again? A. They get a second form, sent after the qualifying day and another little leaflet. We do not make a second visit.Q. At any rate initially you have this personal contact, which gives you higher returns? A. Yes.There was no further cross-examination on that point.
That evidence illustrates what I have clearly said, that to try to enforce the provision will be virtually impossible without demanding papers of some kind, whether passports or whatever. The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court showed his ignorance with his references to Khans and Singhs; he showed that he did not even know the difference between a Sikh and a Pathan or a Punjabi—a West Punjabi at any rate. Most English people cannot tell the difference between a Bengali and a Gujurati name. Therefore, the provision would be extremely hard to enforce, more particularly on the Azard Kashmiris. This is particularly germane.
329 The lecturer in politics at Bradford University, a Labour councillor, a certain Mr. Lelohe, was cross-examined by counsel. It was suggested that a large number of the Asians would be Miapolis. Mr. Lelohe referred to an article by Mr. Norman Bishop, an Urdu-speaking ex-Gurkha officer in the city who has worked as a solicitor among the immigrants for many years. Mr. Bishop said that about 60 per cent. of the Pakistanis in Bradford were Azad Kashmiris. Mr. Lelohe backed up that statement, and I have no reason to doubt those figures. I believe that there are about 30,000 Pakistanis in Bradford, and therefore about 18,000 would be Azad Kashmiris. That is the dimension of the situation.
A principle that the House has always embraced is that of "no taxation without representation". Immigrants, be they Mirpuris, Gujuratis, Bengalis or whatever, pay rates and taxes. If we are to ensure good community relations in our cities, we cannot have a substantial minority of the population—in some wards it could be almost a majority—who have no say in the election of their local or parliamentary representatives. It would be extremely dangerous.
I believe that community relations in our cities will be the most important domestic issue for the country over the next generation. It will be very dangerous and extremely unwise if, because retrospection is left in the Bill, those rights are denied to such a large proportion of our population.
§ Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)
Then will the hon. Gentleman tell us why he voted for the Immigration Act, which included in one of its Schedules the provision that any Asian had to satisfy the Home Secretary of his knowledge of English before he could vote? By voting for that provision, the hon. Gentleman has ensured that nearly every Pakistani arriving in this country after 1966 will not be accepted even if he applies for registration.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
The hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken. The Immigration Act had no language qualifications for voting. [Interruption.] Language qualification for voting does not come into that measure. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
I will not withdraw.
I will now proceed to the question of Bangladesh, because it is germane, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West has pointed out.
There are a large number of Bangladeshis in this country who would not wish to be anything other than Pakistan citizens. Bangladesh arose as the result of an Indian invasion following a civil war. I do not know how many Bangladeshis, but certainly it was a large number of them resident in this country, did not wish for the secession of their country from the unitary state of Pakistan. Therefore, to acquire British citizenship by registration some of them would have to go through the very painful and obnoxious process of acquiring Bangladesh nationality. That would be quite unacceptable to a significant number of them. I ask my hon. Friend to bear this very much in mind. To conclude, it is in many ways a sorry piece of legislation, but I feel it has immense lessons for us in the whole problem of citizenship and nationality.
I bring one final example to the attention of the House. I said that Bradford, like many big cities, is a multi-cultural, multi-racial place. In my city we have many thousands of Ukranians, Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Hungarians and others who came to this country for political reasons after World War II to escape from Communism and totalitarianism in their own countries. Like many other residents in Bradford, they choose to keep their own nationality, or at least the notion of it—perhaps like Commonwealth citizens—in the hope of returning there on some future occasion.
Yet, because we do not have citizenship of the United Kingdom or British nationality—call it what one will—based upon residence in Britain for a determined period of time, these people who, like Commonwealth citizens, pay rates and taxes, are denied the vote and all the rights of British citizens. There is the total illogicality, for example, that an Indian from an East Punjabi village can come in without any knowledge of the British language or customs and can vote, take part in various civil processes and can have civic rights whereas a Pole who may 331 have been here for a generation, possibly with a perfect command of English and suchlike, has no such rights. This is another very good example of why all our citizenship and nationality laws are cockeyed.
We must take this excellent opportunity of doing something about the matter most urgently. Ordinary English people living in an ordinary English street—or what was perhaps an ordinary English street—in an area of high immigrant concentration cannot tell the the difference between a West Pakistani, a Ugandan Asian, a Bangalees, or a Gujurati: they are all the same to them. Yet, because of some notional concept based on imperial nostalgia, we give rights to one category which in this Bill we seek to deny to another.
Although I must support the Bill because I have to make what sense I can of existing law, I hope that we shall not neglect this opportunity to put things right.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
For me, as for others in the House, this is a melancholy day, but it is an inevitable day. The Bill has been inevitable ever since Pakistan took the decision to leave the Commonwealth after the tragic civil war which tore her in two.
In bidding farewell to Pakistan as a member of the Commonwealth, temporarily though we hope that will be, it is right in a debate of this kind that we should pause to pay tribute to a country with which we have been associated for years and with which we have been Commonwealth partners for a quarter of a century. It is a country whose history is in large part our history, too, and with whom we shall continue, even though she remains outside the Commonwealth, to have close ties. These include such special ties as those contained in Clause 2 maintaining Pakistan as part of the Commonwealth Preference area and as a country in which we shall continue to have a special and friendly interest.
Whatever views hon. Members took about the civil war, I think in debating the Bill we would all agree that we look forward to the healing of the scars 332 caused by that civil war. For Pakistan, the scar which still causes most pain is the continued absence from the families of that country after 18 months of imprisonment of more than 90,000 of their loved ones. We very much hope that the United Kingdom, even though Pakistan has ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth, will continue to exercise all possible influence to secure the release of these prisoners in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the relevant United Nations resolution.
Our other principal task is to provide for those Pakistani nationals who live in this country, to provide for those who wish to obtain United Kingdom citizenship and to secure a transition as trouble-free as possible. On this, I hope that the Government will exercise a humane and compassionate flexibility as the Bill goes through the House, remembering that up to 80,000 human beings are involved. I trust that in Committee the Government will show themselves open-minded in view of some undoubted anomalies in the Bill.
First—and I hope that this will be explained because it was not explained as distinct from stated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary—we want to know more about the period of transition during which registration for citizenship will be permitted. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) was against any period of transition in which registration was permitted, but he was a member of the Cabinet in 1962 when the South Africa Act was passed and when precisely the same transitional facilities, although not the same period of transition, were permitted. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, who prides himself on consistency, is himself being inconsistent in having shared collective Cabinet responsibility for the South Africa Act in 1962 while rejecting it in 1973.
I said in an intervention in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) that the six months dispensation in the Bill must be compared with the three years seven months dispensation in the South Africa Act, on which this Bill is largely based. When I say that the Bill is largely based on the South Africa Act, I draw attention to Clause 3(1) and (2), which are identical with Section 1(3) and (4) of the South Africa Act. It is clear that 333 the parliamentary draftsmen drew extremely heavily for this Bill on the Act.
I had such a Bill as this very much in mind on 31st January 1972, when the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary answered a Private Notice Question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about Pakistan's withdrawal from the Commonwealth. I asked,Does the Foreign Secretary recall the legislation passed in 1961 and 1962—the Prime Minister certainly will, since he personally was involved in it—regularising the situation regarding the work and citizenship of South Africans in this country when the Union of South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth? Will he undertake to look at that legislation, as there is a parallel situation here, to see whether similar legislation can be introduced to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who have made their homes in this country and do not wish to be regarded as foreigners here?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January 1972; Vol. 830. c. 31.]I was wrong, of course, about the number involved. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to reply, "Yes, Sir." Of course, I did not then and do not now pretend to take this as a specific commitment that identical legislation to the South Africa Act would be introduced, but I certainly hoped for similar legislation. But this Bill indisputably is not similar as regards the period during which registration will be permitted.
When the South Africa Bill was being considered in Standing Committee on 8th March 1962, the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), who was then Minister of State, Home Office, was pressed by the Opposition to extend the period during which South African citizens could register for United Kingdom citizenship indefinitely. From his own side of the Committee he was pressed by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) to extend it by two years, that is from the end of 1965 to the end of 1967. That would have made it five years and seven months from the passing of the Act and six years and seven months from the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman declined to accept either of these proposals saying that the three year, seven month period of grace as he described 334 it—and the Foreign Secretary today referred to the six-month period as a grace period—representedwhat we consider to be a reasonable compromise between the interests of the individuals concerned and the logical consequence of South Africa's departure from the Commonwealth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 8th March 1962; col. 56.]The South Africa Bill was presented by the then Lord Privy Seal, now the Prime Minister. If in that Bill three years and seven months was regarded as a reasonable compromise for South Africans, why is six months now regarded as an acceptable period for Pakistanis? Even taking into account the period between the two countries leaving the Commonwealth and the presentation of the respective Bills, the South Africans had more than four and a half years compared with less than two years for the Pakistanis. On the basis of the South African Bill, which was regarded as "a reasonable compromise", the Pakistanis, if given the same reasonable compromise, would have until the end of August 1976 instead of the end of this year to register.
I am not suggesting this but what I am suggesting is that there should be a limited extension beyond the six-month period. I suggest this for a number of specific reasons. If the Government consider them dispassionately and flexibly, they will see the rationale. When South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth there were few South Africans in this country eligible to register. With Pakistan, on the estimate given by the Foreign Secretary today, there are likely to be 50,000 people to register. That was the estimate in the notice kindly sent to me by the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Department when the Bill was published last week.
If we think only of the six-month period and if there are more than 50,000 people wishing to register for citizenship, then registrations are likely to flow in at the rate of more than 2,000 a week. It would be impossible for the Home Office machinery to cope with such a rate of applications within a reasonable time. Applications coming in at that rate will inevitably take a considerable time to process.
There is a second reason. It may well be that in considering the Bill the anomaly which I am about to mention 335 has not been taken into account by the Government. It is a serious one. Clause 3(3) shows that the Government are concerned for Pakistanis to be registered as electors as well as citizens. They are right to have this concern since the exercise of the franchise is the supreme function of citizenship. Yet this Bill, unwittingly I am sure, but inevitably, may disfranchise thousands of United Kingdom citizens for a year. That is surely not the best introduction to citizenship.
Clause 3(3) allows Pakistanis to vote during the period of validity of the present electoral register and no further. The assumption, presumably, is that those who take citizenship will require qualification on the next register, that is the one which will come into force next February, with no interregnum. I put this to the Minister from the Home Office because it is his responsibility and something which I debated with him before he became a member of the Front Bench. The register is compiled in October. The register for the corning year on which Pakistanis will not attain citizenship and will not have the right to register, will he compiled this October, but the period for registration for citizenship under the Bill will have a duration six months beyond the commencement of the Act.
Presumably the Act will commence some time in June or July and the six-months' period would expire some time in December or January. Therefore people will have the right to register for citizenship up to December or January but will get on the electoral register only if they have registered by October. This means that those who, perfectly legally and within the Government's intention and period of grace, register within the last two or three months of the transitional period, will be excluded from the register. Many who register in the first four months—up to October—may also be excluded if the registration process is prolonged by the volume of applications which, according to the Government's figures, may be up to 500 a day on average.
In that case all those concerned will be penalised by being awarded citizenship but by losing the franchise from February 1974 to February 1975, a period 336 which could quite likely include the next General Election. They will be citizens but they will be deprived of the vote. I trust that the Minister will look at my suggestion carefully. I do not ask him to give an answer this evening, but I hope that he will consider it when we debate this matter in Committee. I suggest that the Bill should be amended in two ways to obviate what I am sure he will agree are disturbing anomalies.
First, in Clause 3(3) the period of what one might call the voting concession should be extended by a year, that is, not up to February 1974, but to 16th February 1975. This would enfranchise far fewer who do not intend to take citizenship than would be disfranchised under the proposed arrangements, especially bearing in mind the minority who do not intend to take citizenship. They are highly unlikely to want to vote.
In Clause 3(1), Schedule 2(2) and Schedule 3(1) and (3) I suggest that the transitional period should be extended from six months to one year or two years, whichever the Government regard as more acceptable. This would give those involved a little more time for the important decision they have to make. From the Minister's point of view I think he would agree that it would not overload the Home Office machinery so heavily as it is likely to be overloaded with 400 or 500 applications pouring in every day once the Bill becomes law as the Government now anticipate.
I hope that the Government will consider amendments on their merits remembering that when the South Africa Bill went through the House they considered amendments on their merits, and indeed made amendments. I hope that in Committee they will find my proposals acceptable both in the interests of the Pakistanis and in the interests of the Government's own machinery.
Whatever their decision—and I hope that their decision will be on the lines I have suggested—I ask the Minister in his reply to give us some information about what publicity arrangements will be made to let the Pakistanis know through their newspapers, through their special television programmes, and in other ways their rights to acquire citizenship under the Bill.
337 I have advised many Pakistani constituents about this matter ever since Pakistan withdrew from the Commonwealth, and I appreciate that the Bill inevitably involves a difficult and painful transition. It is obviously in the interests of all—the host community as well as those who have come here from Pakistan—that the transition should be as smooth and as trouble free as possible. We all look forward to a settled future for those who wish to assume the full rights and duties of British citizenship. We also wish god-speed to Pakistan as an independent republic making its own way in the world.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
I shall not follow the line of argument pursued by the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) except to say that I very much agree with his points and hope that the Government will find it possible to make the amendments to the Bill which he suggested. I, too, regret the necessity for this legislation, but equally I accept the reasons why it is being introduced. I do not quarrel with the spirit of the Bill but I question some of its details, and I regard those details as extremely important.
Unlike the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson), I do not have 30,000 immigrants in my constituency, but I have a considerable number, including 4,000 Kashmiris, as I found out over the weekend.
It was ridiculous for the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to suggest in broadcasts over the weekend that the people of Kashmir have in some way been treated differently from the citizens of Pakistan. Although that may be the law of the country, it is not the way the law has been interpreted. I can give him concrete examples of Kashmiri citizens who have applied to the Home Office in the last three months for naturalisation and have been told that they are being treated for this purpose as if they were citizens of Pakistan. I can also quote Kashmiris in my constituency who have stood for election in the local authority in the last two years. Indeed, one stood for election within the last two months. The Kashmiris in my local authority have been registered for voting purposes.
338 Although it has been suggested that all this is illegal, the fact is that it has gone on. Kashmiris in this country have been paid social security and have benefited under the National Health Service provisions. The fact is that, whatever the law says, it has not been carried out in relation to those Kashmiris and at this stage of the proceedings it is ridiculous to talk in terms of differentiating between them. That is the key to the feelings of discontent that have been voiced. There are other areas of discontent to which I shall refer a little later in my remarks.
Certainly the major item of discontent is the date on which a person has to be a member of the Pakistan community. A person who was a citizen of the State of Kashmir as and from 23rd February 1973 is now included by Pakistan for full Pakistani citizenship. By making the date on which a man must prove his citizenship 30th January 1972 we have excluded from the provisions of the Bill all the Kashmiris who are now resident in this country. Those people all become aliens. It is perfectly true that they can apply for registration, but whereas, under the Bill, citizens of Pakistan can have registration as of right as aliens, Kashmiris have registration only at the discretion of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
The hon. Member is being very interesting and extremely informative, but does he not agree that in many cities the Azad Kashmiris were the first to come from Pakistan, and the people from the Punjab and other areas of Kashmir came later? The Azad Kashmiris have been here longest.
§ Mr. Smith
I concede that. Some of them have been here over 20 years and have sons and daughters at school who have never known any other school or any other country. It is really quite inhuman for the Government to differentiate or discriminate in this way, as appears to be the situation.
I press the Minister to tell us specifically in his concluding speech why the Government chose to make this aspect retrospective. Many of the problems raised by the Bill could be removed if only the Government would agree that recognition of citizenship of Pakistan should be as and from when the Bill 339 receives the Royal Assent or approval from this House rather than from the date on which Pakistan seceded from the Commonwealth. I cannot understand why the Bill should be retrospective. I understand that it is not in common with normal practice, and I hope that the Minister will deal with that point.
I interrupted the Foreign Secretary to ask what would happen if Pakistan were to pass retrospective legislation. I can assure the Under-Secretary for the Home Department that that is not beyond the bounds of possibiliy. I assure him that I choose my words carefully. Let us suppose that Pakistan passed a Bill which provided that the people of Kashmir were citizens of Pakistan as and from 31st December 1971 instead of 23rd February 1973, which is not beyond the bounds of possibility. What effect would that have? Would the Government of this country refer it to the International Court? Would they argue that the Government of Pakistan had no right to pass retrospective legislation of this kind? What would be the effect on the citizens of Kashmir if Pakistan were to indulge in an act of retrospective legislation, as indeed this Government are doing under the Act now before us?
I am bound to say that in my view the Bill is lacking in a spirit of charity. I very much hope that the Minister will indicate that the Government are not inflexible on these matters, and that in Committee they will seriously consider the possibility of introducing amendments to take account of the strong views expressed in this House this evening. Unless I see some indication in the Minister's reply that the Government are prepared to consider the points that have been made and to adopt a more flexible attitude, whatever the official Opposition do I may find it necessary to divide the House on behalf of the Liberal Party.
The next major point has already been referred to by a number of hon. Members. It concerns the period of six months which is to be allowed for registration. I suggest that such a period is not only monstrous but costly. As the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out, on the most conservative estimate the number of applications likely to be received is about 2,000 a week. The Bill refers to a figure 340 of more than £600,000 as the cost of dealing with this legislation. I remind hon. Members that this is taking place in a week in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced proposals to reduce public expenditure. I suggest that an easy way of taking £500,000 out of public expenditure would be to spread the time over a longer period than six months.
The key issue, however—[Interruption.] I am not sure how many different meetings I am addressing at the moment. When an hon. Member who represents a constituency which has large numbers of immigrants is addressing the House it helps to be able to feel that right hon. and hon. Members on the Treasury Bench are listening—
§ Mr. Smith
There was a considerable amount of cross-talk going on round the right hon. Gentleman.
Whatever the justification for the six-months' period, the fact remains that in terms of good race relations this is about the most dangerous piece of legislation that could be introduced. It is dangerous because, whether it be right or wrong, human or inhuman, moral or immoral, it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between what the Government did for the white subjects of South Africa and what they are now doing for the black citizens of Pakistan. Charges of racial discrimination can be levelled, albeit possibly unfairly, at a situation in which South African citizens were allowed the minimum of three and half years in which to apply whereas Pakistanis are being allowed only six months.
I do not argue for three and a half years in the present case, but there is a vast difference between six months and three and a half years. I want to know why that difference has been made. Why did the Government give a longer period to the citizens of South Africa to apply for registration than they propose for the citizens of Pakistan? What is the difference, and why is it made?
When the South Africa Bill was introduced, one famous Member of this House, who was then Lord Privy Seal said:We have had many detailed discussions about citizenship and its different aspects. It is a very technical and complicated matter, 341 and on this, too, we had to strike a balance. Some would have liked the provisions to go on for much longer, while others thought that they should have ended sooner. The Government had to strike a balance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March 1962; Vol. 656, c. 1690]Today that gentleman is the Prime Minister.
I ask the Government to indicate that in Committee they were prepared, to use their Leader's words, to "strike a balance". The balance that has been struck in the Bill, as drawn, is very heavily tilted—almost by a weight of my magnitudeon one side of the scale. I accept that that may be striking a balance, but by no stretch of the imagination is it striking a fair balance.
In 1962 the Government presumably knew what they were doing when they allowed people three and a half years. Do they know what they are doing now? Whether they like it or not, that comparison will be and has already been drawn, and it cannot be expressed as being unfairly drawn when it is drawn
My third point is that there should be some safeguard for people ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom who are temporarily abroad on long holidays. For example, hon. Members on both sides of the House who have immigrants in their constituencies understand that it is not unusual, particularly at this time of the year, for a person to go abroad for two or three months, because he may go only once in four or five years. I ask that in those cases, where it can be proved that a person is and has been normally resident in this country, the six months' period should be extended. If, as a matter of principle, the period in the Bill were extended beyond six months, those persons would automatically be covered.
My fourth point, which I have mentioned many times in Questions in this House, relates to full registration for doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons. I have on more than one occasion put down Questions on this matter. Temporary registration for doctors prevents their practising as general practitioners in private practice, and often prevents promotion in the hospital service. I ask that full registration should be allowed for those professions up to the date of implementation of the legislation. After all, whatever one's 342 view on immigration or immigrants, few people in this country, however "coloured" their views on immigration may be, would not accept that we are right to welcome into this country people who can help to fill a void of professionalism that is naturally and normally present. That is the position relating to Pakistani doctors.
My fifth point concerns people who are awaiting visas in Pakistan. The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) mentioned this point. The Minister is aware of my deep concern about the scandalous delay that takes place in this area. The hon. Gentleman, or the Secretary of State for the Home Department, has agreed and admitted in Written Answers to me in the last three months that delays in the appeals section can take as long as 18 months. Again, the hon. Member for Bradford, West gave some illustrations. I could quote 30 cases of people in this situation. They may travel as much as 500 miles to present documentary evidence, only to be told when they get there that they are missing one piece of paper. They are then sent back the 500 miles to get that piece of paper. They are put back at the end of the queue, and the whole procedure takes months. Indeed, in my short time in this House I have applied to Mr. Speaker's office on at least one occasion for a debate on the Adjournment on this issue. It is scandalous that human beings, whatever the colour of their skin, should be dealt with in this inhuman fashion and that it should take up to three years before they get a final answer to their applications. I say "three years", bearing in mind a delay in the initial application and then a long delay in hearing the appeal. It is quite inhuman.
The Home Office can determine whether bona fide applications were made before the date of implementation of the Bill. I ask them seriously to consider the possibility of introducing in Committee some provision that, where the British Government are satisfied that an application for entry was registered before the introduction—not the passing—of the measure, and where it is subsequently held to be a valid application, those concerned shall be treated as though they had entered the country at the time that the Act was introduced.
343 My sixth point—
§ Lord Balniel
The hon. Member has made some critical remarks about the time taken to process applications. I understand that the period is lengthy, but, in fairness, he will appreciate that the staff overseas have a substantial and difficult job in checking the papers which are put before them and the information given to them. Just for his information—I am speaking off the cuff—I think that we have 46 staff in Islamabad alone dealing with these applications. That shows the tremendous effort that this country is putting into ensuring that applications are dealt with as promptly as possible. But the problem is very difficult for our staff.
§ Mr. Smith
I am indebted to the Minister for his intervention. I hope that nothing I have said will be taken as a reflection on the efficiency of the staff themselves, but I suspect that the length of delay shows that even 46 are not enough to deal with the problem. If that number is sufficient, and if the delay is due to having to get replies to letters and having to make searches, and so on, it means that the staff are under-employed for part of their time. I would not accept that, so presumably the delay is due to a shortage of staff, even with 46.
What I have said, I stand by. It is scandalous that people can wait for as long as three years before getting a final word. I am not now arguing for more immigrants to be allowed or refused entry to this country, but I am arguing that once an application has been made an applicant is entitled to a straight answer —"Yes" or "No"—within a reasonable period, and certainly within a much more resonable period than two or three years.
Sixthly, I ask the Minister to give some indication—I am sure that this will present no problem to him—that the businesses and properties of people in this country who, as a consequence of the Bill, become aliens, will be properly safeguarded by the Government and their agencies. People who have been here for two years and who therefore need to stay another two years before being able to apply for registration, even under the Act, will for three years be aliens. There is some worry about their businesses and properties during the period that they are 344 aliens waiting for full registration and I am sure that the Minister will be able to assure them on that point.
Seventhly, what is the position of dependants who come to this country to join the main breadwinner, having proved that they are his dependants—wife or children? Is it not possible, under the Bill, to say to those people, "When it is proved that you came here as dependants of a main breadwinner and in no other capacity, when the main breadwinner is granted registration, despite the period after his arrival that you arrived, we will grant you the same rights and privileges"? This is very important from my point of view, not only as a Liberal Member—the only one called in the debate but as a Member with many constituents involved in the question. Half the immigrants in my constituency are citizens of Kashmir.
To summarise, I hope, first, that the Government will agree that Pakistani citizenship and the recognition of it can be operative from the date of Royal Assent to the Bill, rather than retrospectively. Secondly, I hope that the six-months' period can be extended to a longer period, as was done in the case of South Africa. Thirdly, I hope that we can have safeguards for people ordinarily resident here but temporarily abroad. Fourthly, I hope that full registration will be granted for doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons. Fifthly, I hope that those awaiting visas for this country who had applied for them before the introduction of the Bill will be specially catered for. Sixthly, I hope that there will be undertakings about safeguards for aliens and properties and businesses. Finally, I hope that the position of dependants, particularly wives and children of main breadwinners, will in some way be taken care of in the Bill.
As the Bill stands, it is unfair. It is not entirely charitable in its attitude. Certainly the six-months' period is far too short for people to have the right of registration. I shall listen with great interest to the Minister's reply to the debate. Unless I am satisfied that flexibility will be shown by the Government at a later stage in our proceedings—I am not asking for specific promises about this or that matter—unless the Government show that they will not be too rigid, but will listen to the arguments and be 345 willing to make amendments, I shall certainly consider dividing the House tonight.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
I readily apologise for being a latecomer to the debate, although hon. Members on both sides of the House will concede that my interest in Pakistan affairs is not exactly a new one. I shall nevertheless take great care, within the limits of my powers, to make sure that I do not stand in the way of any other hon. Member who wishes to contribute to the debate.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cyril Smith) made a speech on seven points which was rather like the dance of the seven veils, but the latter veils were not as attractive as the first veils. He rather over-stated his case. Although I thought that he was completely convincing on the question of the Kashmiri, he was less convincing about his complaints about the time it takes for people to be processed in Rawalpindi and Islamabad at present. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for State said in his intervention, at present a very loyal and devoted staff are doing their very best to try to get this processing done as rapidly as possible. But it is not as easy as saying that instead of a staff of 46 we should have 56, because in Pakistan, as in many developing countries, the records of births and marriages, and so on, are not as easily available as they are in a country that is as highly developed as Britain. That is a fact of life. Even if the hon. Gentleman were there, his presence would not speed up the process very much because of the sheer lack of documentation in these cases.
I make no apology for the fact that I am not speaking of a constituency problem because there are only a very limited number of Pakistanis living in Torbay. But it would be a great pity if our interest in one of our largest and greatest Commonwealth neighbours were limited only to those who were speaking with a constituency interest. We ought to look at this picture in a wider context than has, perhaps, been dealt with in the debate. We ought to recall the fact that after very traumatic experiences—and wherever lies the blame for those experiences, it certainly does not apply and cannot be attributed to the people about whom we 346 are talking, or to the ordinary rank and file Pakistani at home—at present Pakistan is feeling, understandably, very sore. Emotions are, therefore, at a near fever pitch. Everyone is in a very sensitive state in that part of southern Asia at present.
I suggest therefore to my right hon. and hon. Friends that we should not ignore the fact that we are not dealing here with purely and strictly legal and factual matters. We must take into account that we are also seeing the rebirth of a country which has suffered a great deal, whether due to the faults of its leaders or not, during the past two years and which is now trying to build itself into a new nation. We are also witnessing at long last the emergence of a parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. It will not be easy for President Bhutto, or Prime Minister Bhutto as he will be shortly, to hold together a new parliamentary democracy in a part of the world where there is little experience of that form of Government, if, at the same time, he is not able to deliver the goods. What may appear to us to be comparatively small matters may be magnified in that country to a high emotional pitch.
I ask my right hon. Friends in particular to realise that having gone so far in encouraging the establishment of a Pakistan democracy, we must now nurture it to the maximum and not put additional obstacles in the way of the confidence which the present leadership of Pakistan can obtain from its own people.
Rightly or wrongly there is and has been a feeling in Pakistan that Britain has not been as friendly to Pakistan as it has been to India. It is not my job or my purpose to say whether that feeling is justified. Anyone who goes to Pakistan knows full well that that feeling exists at every level. Therefore, we have an additional responsibility not to lend any credence to a belief which, whether anybody here believes it is justified or not, is a belief which exists throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan. That must be known to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench.
I now address myself to the position of those people from Azad Kashmir. I recall the awful mess which the Government found themselves in recently when 347 they narrowly escaped a serious reverse on another immigration issue. If their attitude persists, Her Majesty's Government might face another reverse on an even narrower point in the near future.
What are we really talking about? I understand that there are about 50,000 people from Kashmir who are affected at present. I am also told that about 20,000 of those people have already applied for citizenship under the normal rules and have either been granted citizenship or are in the process of being granted citizenship. We are talking about 20,000 or 30,000 people. We know perfectly well that under no circumstances can they be compelled to leave these islands. Indeed, there is no suggestion that they should be. The Minister has made that clear. They will stay here. There are large numbers of them and inevitably, because of their age group, many have children who were born British and who will anyhow remain British.
What is the argument about? We are saying that we shall refuse to grant certain rights to 20,000 or 30,000 people even though their children are inalienable British subjects. Yet we have not the slightest intention of interfering with the jobs and the lives of these 20,000 or 30,000 people. We are talking about an area of extreme sensitivity. I cannot comprehend why under those circumstances Her Majesty's Government do not make a simple concession and say that they will reconsider the matter. What do they expect to lose? As I have already emphasised, there is nothing to be gained. The only thing which we will do is to make the Pakistan Government and the people of Pakistan feel even more sensitive than at present. We shall not solve the immigration problem in this way.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) might advance the argument, if it were relevant, that by this measure, if we can remove British nationality from 20,000 or 30,000 people, we shall in some way affect the number of immigrants in this country from the coloured part of the Commonwealth. But we shall not; because it has already been made perfectly clear that these people will stay here anyway. If we were saying that this was a contribution towards lessening the 348 excessive Commonwealth immigration undertaken since the last war, I might go along with it. I could at least understand it. But we are not arguing about that, because, whatever decision is taken tonight, in Committee or on Third Reading, we have already had a specific undertaking that those 20,000 or 30,000 will stay here with the same rights as they enjoy today. I therefore do not understand what all the fuss is about, and I hope that the Government will think again now rather than being forced to think again later.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Gorbals)
I find myself in the strange position tonight of agreeing with several Conservative Members, not least the Monday Club Member, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor). I find myself in almost complete agreement with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cyril Smith) and of course in substantial agreement with my hon. Friends. No doubt at this late stage of the debate most of the people present will agree that most of the vital points have been covered, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) for his knowledge of the situation in Pakistan. He came into the debate fleetingly at the last moment yet made a significant contribution, and he may be gratified by the fact that I thoroughly agree with all he said.
The Bill is not absolutely necessary and it will probably complicate the situation in Pakistan. As the Foreign Secretary said, it is a Bill of many complexities. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) spoke a great deal about fiction. But the fact is that the Bill will create a great deal of unnecessary hardship for the Pakistanis in my part of the world, and that no doubt applies to the rest of the country. It will cause a great deal of confusion for people who do not readily understand our language and, as the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) said about his constituency, many of these people find it most difficult to understand the English language at all.
All of us except for the lawyers will agree that the Bill will be a lawyer's paradise because in arguing a case for 349 registration and in dealing with the provisions relating to different groups, especially the groups from Kashmir, many people will have to resort to the legal process. A period of six months for registration is grossly inadequate, especially in view of the suggested figure of 60,000. If they are all to be registered in six months, the administrative burden on the Home Office will be excessive, particularly when we hear of the normal case of an immigrant taking two to three months to be answered. I accept the point by the Minister who said, I think, that there were 50 officials is Islamabad. He said that there was great difficulty over identification because of the lack of registration of births, deaths or marriages in that part of the world.
Nevertheless, the Bill could well have been put off for a considerable period in view of the negotiations now going oil between India and Pakistan about the prisoners of war, and on that point I agree with the hon. Member for Cathcart. The hon. Member for Rochdale suggested a period of two years. When one remembers that the South Africans were given three years and seven months it shows how grossly unfair is the six-month period given to the Pakistanis. That period will be seen by the many Pakistanis in this country as unfair. There is another important point concerning those Pakistanis who are either local government councillors or candidates or, as in the case of a friend of mine, a parliamentary candidate. There is another significant and important point that in Scotland we shall be choosing candidates very shortly for the new authorities in local government. I am referring to the new regional and district candidates who are to be chosen in the autumn.
One of the factors that determines the choice is that they are on a particular electoral register. If this Bil does not become law until June or July and these people for some reason or other do not register early enough within that six-month period, there may well be a situation in which present or proposed candidates for the new district or regional seats in Scotland can be debarred.
I think this is a situation peculiar to Scotland because our timing of the reorganisation of local government is dif- 350 ferent from that of England and Wales. We are a year behind them in this regard. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will think about this. I am not asking him to give an answer tonight, but I hope that he will give this matter early consideration and perhaps at the Committee stage consider an amendment to the Bill. If he does not, I am afraid that we on the Scottish side will be forced, in the name of justice and democracy, to put down amendments that would safeguard potential candidates—whether Labour, Conservative or Liberal—who might wish to stand in next year's reorganised local government elections.
Not only do we feel the deep concern which I think has been shown by every section of the House tonight, but we remember that in the main these immigrants did not come here of their own volition. I can speak for my own city of Glasgow and say that our general manager of the transport department went over to Pakistan with his officials and persuaded the Pakistanis to come over to make sure that our transport system in Glasgow could run. I am sure that that can be said of London, too, and perhaps of some other cities in England. These Pakistanis came over and they have settled in very well. Most of them are law-abiding members of the community. They certainly do not cause any trouble. I have quite a number of them in my own constituency and I think it a particular honour to represent them.
We should not forget, as has already been said, that the people of West Pakistan in particular were the first to come to our aid during the troubled times of the last war. These things must be taken into account, I should like to put three or four particular points to the Government tonight, because they will have to be answered if we are to get any satisfaction and justice for the Pakistani community.
I should like some more information about the 500 heads of families to whom the Foreign Secretary referred in his opening speech. Have Her Majesty's Government exhausted every avenue, every possibility, in an attempt to persuade Pakistan to come back into the Commonwealth? Before this Bill came forward we should have pursued every avenue, and I do not think we have. I think 351 that, after allowing time to elapse for the situation to settle, and once we had resolved the position of the prisoners of war, there should have been a possibility that President Bhutto would agree that Pakistan should come back into the Commonwealth. I do not think that that is an absurd idea. After speaking to many Pakistanis in my area, I think that it is a real possibility.
I would also ask the Government to consider seriously the idea of setting up advice centres in areas of the country where there are large concentrations of Pakistani immigrants—in Glasgow, Bradford, London and other places. That could be done without any great cost to the Government and it would be of real assistance to the Home Office.
It is also worth considering, since many of these Pakistanis find English difficult, whether any pamphlets or forms put out should include explanatory notes in their language. That would be only common justice and it would be of great assistance to the many officials who have to deal with these applications. These people form what is called a special case. They are here as citizens of considerable importance in our community. They have made a significant impact on our community. For myself, I welcome the contribution they have made in culture alone.
If, then, we must consider them, will the Minister tell us, with particular reference to those citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, how they stand? If they are denied the right of registration, will they have the right of appeal? I believe that in time the situation will arise in which those 20,000 to 30,000 Kashmiris who have been denied their right of registration may seek other forms of appeal. What course of action is open to the Kashmiris in particular if they are denied the right of registration? These are fundamental points affecting our good relations with the coloured communities in the United Kingdom. The community relations officers, in particular, are deeply concerned about the implications and workings of the centres. In order to continue the racial harmony we have enjoyed for so long in this country, I believe that it is up to the 352 Government to ensure that the Bill, if passed in its present form, is couched in such a way that we can lessen the hardship and cater for those cases in which people do not understand what is happening. I speak here in particular of the Kashmiris. The setting up of advice centres at short notice to give all the assistance required to these people with their individual difficulties would in itself go a long way towards creating a better understanding between the Pakistan immigrants and the people of this country.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, East)
I apologise for missing the opening speech of the Foreign Secretary and that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), but I had to hurry to the House from a speaking engagement in Bradford.
I fully agree that we are here tonight witnessing the dissolution of links which it is sad to see dissolved. Pakistan has now been a member of the Commonwealth for some time. One cannot help feeling that it is totally unnecessary that she should have felt obliged to depart.
One remembers that during the times of the troubles between Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, the Pakistan community in this country were dedicatedly loyal to the Pakistan Government at Islamabad. Throughout that time they ignored substantially the passage of the Immigration Act through the House and its effects on them. They did not notice how their rights were being eroded. All they noticed and all they concentrated on was the fate of their own homeland. At the end of that they were rewarded, regrettably, by the withdrawal of a distraught and upset Pakistan Government from the Commonwealth. One cannot help feeling that the Pakistan Government in their own distressed condition cannot have realised what they were doing to their citizens in this country. One hopes that, at some stage in the future, Pakistan may yet reapply to join the Commonwealth.
Until this Bill becomes law, Pakistanis had the same rights in this country as West Indians; Indians and other Commonwealth citizens. They can be, and have been, justices of the peace. They can vote, they can sit on juries unchallenged. They can work at jobs which 353 are forbidden to aliens, such as those in the Civil Service. All those privileges disappear with the change of status from Commonwealth citizen to alien.
More than that, the powers given by the transitional provisions of the Immigration Act 1971 with regard to deportation of Pakistanis who were here more than five years by the time the Act came into force are withdrawn for them, so that they can be deported if they commit a criminal offence after five years when, at the moment, they are safe. Even if they have been here for five years, they can be deported if the Government consider that their presence is not conducive to the public good, or if another member of their family has been ordered to be deported. These are some of the changes which come in the train of the change from Commonwealth citizenship to the status of alien.
One must feel uneasy about the provisions of the Bill. First, there is the status of the Azad Kashmiris. The Government have allowed them to vote—have treated them as Pakistanis for many years—and now are relying in effect on a technicality to say that they were really not Pakistanis on 30th January 1972 and therefore are not entitled to apply to register. I hope the Government will think again about these Kashmiris.
There has been a fallacy in most speeches in the debate. Everyone has talked of the right to register. But in the Bill the right to register exists only for those who were here five years before autumn 1971. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) referred to three methods of obtaining British citizenship—first, registration as of right; secondly, registration at the discretion of the Home Secretary; and thirdly, naturalisation. He said that the method chosen in the Bill was the first. I disagree with him. What he said was only partly true.
The real erosion of the rights of immigrants occurred in the Immigration Act when it was said that they would have to be here five years by the time the measure was enacted in order to be able to obtain citizenship as of right by registration. Indeed, every Pakistani and every other Commonwealth immigrant who has come here since autumn 1966 is 354 not, as I understand it, entitled to register as of right when he has been here five years. When he applies, he has to show, among other things, that he is of good character—which may be a fair provision—but in addition he has to satisfy the Home Secretary that his English or Welsh is of a satisfactory standard. The result of that is that nearly every immigrant who has arrived since autumn 1966 is not able to pass that test, so that, by the 1971 Act already, immigrants arriving since autumn 1966 were virtually disqualified from obtaining citizenship of the United Kingdom by registration.
The Bill is, therefore, saying not that Pakistanis will be entitled to British citizenship but that it will preserve their rights as they existed under present law, which includes Schedule 1 of the Immigration Act 1971, for six months after the enactment of the Bill.
§ Mr. Lane
The hon. Gentleman is on a false point and I would not like the misunderstanding to continue. The point he makes about the Immigration Act 1971 applies only to people arriving here after that Act came into force. Those arriving after that date will be able to register at the discretion of the Home Secretary, but that does not apply, contrary to what the hon. Gentleman is implying, to those who came here before the Act came into force.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has resumed his seat, and the Minister has not risen to reply. If everybody is sitting down, I shall put the Question.
§ Mr. Lane
May I clear up this point, as it is causing some difficulty? Anyone 355 who came here up to the end of 1972, when the Immigration Act came fully into force, is entitled to registration as of right when he has completed five years here.
§ Mr. Lyons
I am most grateful.
I turn to another point in what is clearly a difficult matter of law. We have heard that the South Africa Act passed in 1962 gave South Africans a longer period than is now being granted to Pakistanis to register as United Kingdom citizens. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West asked why the Government have not followed that example of all those years ago. The Minister has been invited tonight to follow that example in the Bill, and I hope that he will at any rate give some thought to extending the time allowed for registration.
The right is to extend for six months after the enactment of the Bill. We are not told when the Bill is likely to be enacted, and it would be helpful to learn the approximate expected date of enactment. If the enactment takes place in, say, September or October, it seems impossible, on the present wording, for any Pakistani to apply to be on the register compiled in October.
The rights of the Pakistanis under the Bill are preserved for the purposes of the register until next February, but presumably if the Bill has become law by October they will not be Commonwealth citizens for the purposes of the register to be compiled in October. If I am wrong, I should welcome correction, but that is how I understand the Bill. That would effectively mean that Pakistanis would be taken off the register in large numbers between February 356 Lest it be thought that I am making a constituency point, and that I have a large number of Pakistanis who will vote Labour, I should tell the Minister that the Pakistani vote in Bradford is responsible for the election of a Conservative candidate in the ward with the biggest Pakistani population in Bradford.
The position of East Europeans has been referred to. Clearly, once the Pakistanis become aliens, those who do not take up the option to register in the time available become like the East Europeans. I understand that whereas registration is cost-free, naturalisation costs £40 or £50. All Pakistanis coming to this country after the passage of this Bill will have to take the same language test as other aliens. It will cost £40 or £50 for the aliens and nothing for Commonwealth citizens.
Something should be done to reduce the cost of naturalisation. The reason why many East Europeans in Bradford do not attempt to be naturalised is the cost. The provisions of the Bill mean that in due course under the Common Market treaties, such persons will not be able as aliens to take advantage of the mobility of labour provisions unless they go through the more complicated and difficult process of naturalisation.
There has been a change in the attitude towards Pakistanis as a result of their political leverage. Their political position will be weakened to the extent that they are deprived of the vote. That would not matter very much if there were not people in this country exceedingly hostile to immigrants. Unfortunately there are such people, politically organised, and it would be regrettable if immigrants found themselves less well able to defend their position.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
This is largely a Home Office Bill rather than a Foreign Office Bill and it is surprising that the Home Office Minister is not here to answer the debate. I appreciate that the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Department is here and has intervened from time to time. I begin by picking up the subject of the exchange between the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. Edward Lyons) about the right to secure registration as a British subject as opposed to the possibility of applying for registration under the discretionary powers of the Home Secretary.
As I understand the situation, it is that under Schedule 1 of the Immigration Act 1971 a Commonwealth citizen who had been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom for five years prior to the coming into force of the 1971 Act—that is, prior to 1st January 1973—has the right to be registered as a United Kingdom citizen. If the five-year ordinary residence period in the United Kingdom expires after 1st January 1973 then the registration is discretionary.
§ Mr. Lane
The right to register runs on for anyone who had come here and was ordinarily resident at the end of 1972. If he had arrived in 1971, so that he had completed only one or two years' residence by the end of 1972, when in due course he reaches the five-year residence figure, the right is automatic.
§ Mr. Fraser
The wording is not terribly clear. We are all glad to have that point clarified.
With the exception of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who may harbour these sentiments but did not express them, everyone else who has spoken has been generous and concerned about the plight of those who are or have been Pakistani citizens and about the plight of those who came from Jammu or Kashmir. It is significant that there has been so much concern—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.