HC Deb 23 December 1976 vol 923 cc899-901
20. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his latest estimate of the number of immigrants from the new Commonwealth who will be admitted for settlement in 1976.

Dr. Summerskill

I estimate the number of citizens of New Commonwealth countries who will be accepted for settlement on arrival in 1976 to be about 29,000.

Mr. Gow

Since that figure is higher than the figure for 1975, will the hon. Lady tell us whether her policies are going to lead to a prospective reduction or a prospective increase in the number admitted?

Dr. Summerskill

The estimated increase over the figure for 1975 is about 1,000. The bulk of the increase so far this year, as compared with last year, results from the steps that the Government have taken to speed up the rate of entry clearances for entitled dependants from the Indian sub-continent. It represents not an easing of the control but a slight improvement in the rate at which dependants are entitled to come here—an improvement which I am sure hon. Members opposite would support.

Mr. Alison

Does the hon. Lady consider that the annual figure for 1976, of about 58,000 a year, is an acceptable level of immigration, or would she wish to see it reduced?

Dr. Summerskill

The only way to reduce it is to make radical changes in present commitments—commitments which I understand hon. Members support—contained in our pledges to United Kingdom passport holders, wives and children of those already here, and people who were admitted in a temporary capacity, were resident here before the Act came into operation, have been here for five years, and are now immune from removal.

Mr. Goodhart

What action are the Government taking to implement the resolution which the Labour Party conference carried, calling for a dramatic relaxation in the immigration rules?

Dr. Summerskill

I think that there has been some misunderstanding of the exact nature and meaning behind that resolution, but I am confident that the immigration policy which the Government are now carrying out has the full support of most people in the country.

Mr. George Rodgers

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is practically open-ended immigration from other member States of the Common Market?

Dr. Summerskill

That may be the theory, but it is not the practice.