HC Deb 12 February 1976 vol 905 cc597-8
5. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he plans to introduce legislation which will give additional rights of residence to immigrant workers and their families.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

No, Sir. Families of holders of work permits are normally given leave to join them for the period during which the holder is authorised to stay in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the concern in the Labour movement and elsewhere about the distinction between patrial and non-patrial British citizenship, which often means that a non-patrial citizen is treated as a second-class citizen, will my right hon. Friend introduce legislation to end that unfair discrimination and ensure that full rights of residence and rights to work are extended to all British citizens resident here, irrespective of their colour or country of origin?

Mr. Jenkins

I may have misheard my hon. Friend, but I think that he is creating slight confusion between the right of people to come here and the rights of those who are resident here. The Government have been conducting a review of our nationality and citizenship laws. One difficulty we have suffered is that, unlike most other countries, the United Kingdom has no coherent definition of "citizenship" and "nationality". When that review has been completed. I hope that we shall be able to legislate on the subject. That will mark a substantial step forward in enabling us to determine, on a non-racial but adequately clear basis, who is entitled to be here.

Mr. Stokes

Is the Minister aware that the rights of the indigenous population of these islands are being steadily eroded by so-called anti-discriminatory legislation and that what the British people want from the Home Office is a fair deal for themselves?

Mr. Jenkins

That is what I am endeavouring to give the British people, from the Home Office, bearing in mind that the hon. Gentleman has not a unique right to speak for the British people, who themselves have a sense of fair play. They have a sense of their own rights, certainly, but they also have a reasonable sense of the rights of people who came here a little more recently.

Dr. Edmund Marshall

Has my right hon. Friend considered the possibility of extending the franchise in our local and national elections to all aliens who are resident in this country long enough to be on the electoral register?

Mr. Jenkins

I have not given consideration to that matter. I am not sure what the implications would be, but I shall examine the question.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is the Home Secretary aware that it is the British people's sense of fair play which is outraged by the flow of immigration that has continued under his stewardship and under the legislation referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to restrict the magnitude of this inward flow?

Mr. Jenkins

I have indicated my policy upon this issue. We should probably all get on better and produce a rather more rational climate on this subject if we did not make too many appeals to that abstract concept of the sense of fair play of the British people. [Interruption.] I was replying to the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), who raised it in the most personally possessive manner I have ever heard. My remarks were entirely by way of riposte. It is perhaps better to debate the issues on their merits without any of us assuming that we have the monopoly of fair play.