§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Tinn.]
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)
During the debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) on 24th May, I gave an undertaking that the Opposition would use one of their Supply Days for a further discussion on immigration problems. Events since then have underlined the need for another debate and a frank consideration of the major problems involved which are of such concern to all our constituents.
Over the years Britain has been an absorbent society, welcoming all corners, and in due course assimilating them into our way of life. We have never made any distinctions of colour or culture. Everyone who has come here has been free to practice his or her own customs and religions. We have guarded these freedoms jealously for centuries, and we are justly proud of them.
In these circumstances, it is important to discuss any restrictions on immigration which modern circumstances have made essential against the background of a conviction which I hope is shared throughout the House. Everyone in our country is an equal British citizen before the law whatever his race, colour or creed. All acts of racial discrimination, incitement to racial violence, and, worst of all, violence itself are wholly abhorrent to our British way of life and must be unequivocally condemned.
However, we all know today that these principles of the fair and tolerant society which we seek to uphold will be undermined if individual fears and resentments are allowed to grow. Indeed, I accept that they are seriously threatened already, and it is for that reason that, since the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, we have sought to operate a system of immigration control in addition to the normal aliens' legislation.
965 It is strange now to look back at the atmosphere of the time of the debates on that Act. Not only were the Labour and Liberal parties violently opposed to it, but, as a Government Whip at the time, I remember the grave doubts on the Conservative Back Benches. We have all had many critical letters from our constituents who now blame us all as politicians for the difficulties we face today. It is easy to look back and appreciate that the end of the British Empire and the emergence of the new independent Commonwealth, with all the consequential changes, made a Commonwealth immigration Act inevitable. But as, in subsequent years, those who opposed the Act then have found it necessary to strengthen some of its measures, we are surely right to review our position today calmly and frankly.
Our objective must surely be to ensure that our immigration control procedures are strict and effective while at the same time administered with humanity and fairness. If they are to allay many unjustified fears, they have to introduce some certainty into a situation which, alas, today is shrouded in far too much mystery. I do not underestimate the difficulty of meeting these requirements over arrangements which are inevitably somewhat complicated, but we must put an end to the rumours about large numbers of United Kingdom passport holders or dependants from the India sub-continent waiting, as is too often described in headlines—quite wrongly in my judgment—to flood into this country.
There is no doubt that the British people want to know that there is in prospect an end to those entitled to come here. Indeed, many of them have to be convinced that we cannot simply say "No more now from anywhere". The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon)—who I trust is recovering from his illness and will shortly be restored to complete health —gave as his reason for temporarily increasing the numbers coming in that an end was clearly in sight. Frankly, under the present arrangements, I do not see how he can claim that.
But I have no doubt that in the interests of good race relations, certainly in the interests of the ethnic minority groups already in our country, we should seek to provide finality and certainty, and it is in the search for that position that I want to put forward certain proposals 966 to the Home Secretary which I hope he and the Government will most carefully consider. It is always wrong in Opposition to produce exact administrative blueprints without the necessary resources, but I hope that the detailed application of my general suggestions will be studied.
First, there is an urgent need for simple, easily understood and accurate statistics. I know very well that the Home Secretary wants to be as straightforward and open on the figures as possible but, alas, due to past mistakes, for which he bears no responsibility, he will know that we are all—or nearly all, I believe—totally unjustly accused of evasions and cover-ups. Therefore, I renew my request for a small independent body to review the method of compiling the statistics and to recommend the most simple and easily understool system possible.
Secondly, there are still far too many stories of illegal immigration and overstaying which are widely believed. I do not accept all of them, but the old saying "No smoke without fire" is usually true, and so I conclude that there are some illegal immigrant rackets which need to be uncovered and smashed immediately. I also believe that too many people are coming in as visitors or on limited permits and then simply disappearing. It cannot be stated too often that illegal entry is very unfair on those in the same ethnic groups who have come in legally, and indeed it is widely resented by them. I hope, therefore, that the Home Secretary will take the opportunity of reinforcing the view that there is need for ruthless police action and of confirming that he has not in mind any further amnesties for illegal immigrants.
I turn now to the main categories where we have plain commitments. These are the United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa and the close dependants of those already here. The anxieties about the numbers in the latter category are mainly centred at present on the Indian sub-continent, as reflected in the Hawley Report, but the problem is much wider than that.
On the question of the United Kingdom passport holders, I hope, first, that the Home Secretary will be able to assure us that he will shortly be publishing the Government's proposals for amendment of the British nationality law. Clear 967 definitions here would surely stop many of the wild and, as I believe, unjustified rumours of people in many parts of the world with rights of entry to this country. Work on this admittedly complicated measure was already in hand under the last Conservative Government, and surely proposals should be ready by now.
Recently, there have been encouraging signs that the Governments of India and Pakistan are willing to co-operate with us over some of these problems, particularly in the case of refugees. I share wholly the view of my noble Friend, Lord Carr, as I quoted in the last debate, that we simply could not again accept a burden such as that of the Ugandan Asians suddenly imposed on us.
I trust, therefore, that the Home Secretary will take full advantage of the discussions with the Governments of the Indian sub-continent and others closely concerned. I hope, too, that such discussions will not only deal with the problems of United Kingdom passport-holders but will range over the whole subject. In our last debate the Home Secretary stated:I understand from my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary that the number of United Kingdom passport holders and their dependants in Africa has been reduced to about 40,000.But later, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and Crawley (Mr. Hordern), he went on:There is some confusion—shared by the right hon. Member for Down, South—about whether dependants are passport holders. In many cases they are. When we talk about vouchers, we are referring to the heads of households. Passport holders include dependants, and in East Africa they total about 40,000."—[Official Report, 24th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 100–1.]I do not think that I am being unfair to the Home Secretary if I say that I think that that statement requires clarification with precision this afternoon, because from what he has said it would seem that there are some dependants who are not passport holders. The immigration figures would seem to confirm that. So the question must be, what is the total of all those likely to come in under the voucher system—that is to say, heads of households and dependants together? It is very important that the Home Secretary should give those figures and clearly, because his case for the continua- 968 tion of 5,000 vouchers a year rests on the need to fulfil a comparatively small and final commitment at an early date.
If the right hon. Gentleman can confirm a total of about 40,000 as definite and final, of course he has a strong case and I admit it. But if it is much higher or indefinite, I must tell him that I hold to my view that, in the current situation, we should substantially reduce the number of vouchers below the 5,000, particularly when we remember that the 1968 Act, introduced by the Prime Minister when he was Home Secretary, put the figure at 1,500.
I turn to the dependants of those who are already here. A great many people who press to stop all further immigration would, I believe, still consider that a man who came here some time ago believing that one day he could be joined by his wife and children should not be denied that expectation. In any case, I do not see how it could be justified as either humane or fair to deny some husbands a right which had been granted to others in similar circumstances.
Unfortunately, the publication of the Hawley Report has aroused fears of widespread abuse and of large numbers being able to claim entrance. Once again, therefore, action is needed if certainty and finality are to be achieved.
It is for this reason that I believe that it would help to have a register of dependants compiled in this country. Heads of households who came here before 1st January 1973 should have the right to register their dependants. A date would be set for the closing of the register. Those who came in on work permits in the future—I trust in small numbers—or those accepted for settlement—also, I hope, a sharply diminishing number—would have to understand that they came in without any automatic right for their dependants. I realise that there may be snags in such a register, but it offers a means of obtaining a clear guide as to the exact size of the commitment, and I ask the Home Secretary to have the administrative details carefully studied.
We then have to consider the categories of dependants who should be entitled to be put on the register. It would surely be accepted in the main that humane considerations and our commitment are confined to a wife and children. 969 As a start, therefore, each head of household should be entitled to enter one wife. We are a basically monogamous society and should operate on that basis.
There are two other categories who are sometimes admitted at present, certainly under stringent conditions, but who do not seem to me to qualify for the register. They are children over 18 and under 21 and parents and grandparents over 65. I accept at once that these are not large categories and that there may be compassionate circumstances when they should be admitted, but they would be more appropriately dealt with by a separate application, with admittance made subject to the Home Secretary's discretion.
There is then the question of the age below which children should be admitted. Both in the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration and in some educational circles opinions have been expressed to the effect that the age should be reduced to below 18. A judgment on this difficult question can best be made once the register has disclosed the numbers involved. I suggest that it should be permissible to register children under 18 in accordance with present rules, but such an approach underlines the importance of making clear from the start that inclusion on the register does not convey an automatic right to an entry certificate, particularly not to entry at a given moment on time.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
The right hon. Gentleman is not correctly conveying the view of the Select Committee when he says that it took a positive view. It observed that the age limit for children of people coming here for settlement from the new Commonwealth was 16 and that it was put up to 18 by the previous Conservative Government, which brought it into line with Common Market family rights.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I think that the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) will give me the credit for being careful in the words which I used. What I said was that both in the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration and in some educational circles opinions have been expressed to the effect that it should be reduced. I do not think the hon. Gentleman, or anyone else in the House, would deny that proposition. We 970 must discover the total numbers involved in this category and consider the serious position of schools in many areas. I believe that judgment should be deferred until the register has disclosed the number involved.
My reason for believing that inclusion on the register should not confer an automatic right to an entry certificate is the inherent difficulty of estimating the numbers likely to be on the register, and people's views vary widely.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the child of an immigrant, the child being already here, should not have the right to bring in his or her spouse if he or she marries a spouse from outside this country?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Perhap the hon. Gentleman will wait until the later part of my speech. I think that he would be the first to agree with me that fiancés—to which he is referring in the main—by their nature would not come within the register of dependants who would be put down in advance. I shall come to the fiancé a little later.
Some people think that the figures on the register would be low. If they were as low as is occasionally suggested, we should have comparatively easy decisions to take. But if, as many fear, the figures were very high, we might have to institute a quota system of entry for those who were accepted to enable us to absorb them satisfactorily.
There is one last category who are presently admitted but who by their nature could not be dealt with in a register of dependants. I refer to male and female fiancés. The figures of those accepted for settlement, particularly since the Home Secretary gave the concession for male fiancés, show a considerable increase. In 1973, for some reason which escapes me as there was no concession for male fiancés at that time, 137 arrived. The right hon. Gentleman gave the concession in June 1974, and in that year the number rose to 1,777. In 1975 the number rose to 3,685—a very significant increase. The figures for female fiancées were 2,708 in 1973, 3,864 in 1974 and 4,402 in 1975.
There is no doubt that if these increases were to continue they would have widespread repercussions in future. In his 971 instructions to immigration officers drawn up in 1968 the Prime Minister felt obliged to withdraw the concession to male fiancés. In these days of sex equality, such discrimination becomes more difficult but if, as is widely suggested, there are abuses, I hope that the Home Secretary will ensure that they are investigated and, if they are proved, that those concerned are sent back to their country of origin. I fear that if it were proved that concessions for fiancés were becoming a widely exploited loophole they would have to be revoked.
I ask the Home Secretary to give his views on how the provisions for fiancés are working and on their future impact. I emphasise that they could have considerable repercussions, although I appreciate that if there were no fiancé arrangement it would still be possible for those settled here to go back to their countries of origin and to bring in a spouse. Whatever may be the merits of that arrangement, there is less opportunity for abuse and much less likelihood of it.
As we face all these difficult and detailed problems. I hope that the Government will actively seek the co-operation of the representatives of the various ethnic minority groups in this country. I have found on talking to them a clear understanding of the extent to which the future happiness and security of those in their communities here depend on the traditional tolerance of the British society. They know, too, that it is essential not to stretch this too far. Although they will naturally have their own points of view, I hope and believe that they would be ready to help.
In conclusion, I must state my firm conviction that we in this House should discuss problems in the closely-related subjects of immigration and race relations frequently and objectively. I pray that we shall be able to do so calmly and without emotion, bitterness or party bickering, since we owe that to many anxious and troubled people in all the communities in this country. Only in this way can we hope to convince our critics that we are not seeking to run away from the difficulties in some carefully-contrived cover up operation.
Many genuine people, entirely free from any racial prejudice, want reassurance. At a time when they see over- 972 crowding, stress and strain in their own areas, they are upset by rumours and statements from those who play on fears for their own ends. They need to have their confidence restored. They must be told the whole truth about the situation and be convinced that they have been given all the facts. That is the task facing the Government and all of us in this House.
We shall succeed only if we can give to all our people the prospect of an end to immigration and a clear sense of finality and certainty in our plans. The Home Secretary has the major responsibility. I trust that today he will give a clear lead in meeting this challenge.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)
I welcome the tone of the speech by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) and I also particularly welcome his forthright declarations about racial equality, our intractable opposition to intolerance and the complete equality before the law of all people legally in this country, whatever their colour. I also welcome the fact that he rightly raised some important and difficult questions about immigration and did so with a recognition of the fact that there are complications, difficulties and balances to be struck in this matter.
In the course of my speech in its natural and, I hope, reasonably logical, order, I shall be able to deal with nearly all the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman.
I am glad that this debate is taking place. The view is sometimes expressed in this House—though not universally—that some topics, of which immigration may be one, are so sensitive that they are better not debated at all or not debated too frequently. I do not share that view and nor, clearly, does the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border.
When a matter is difficult and delicate it does no good simply to ignore it, though it is also crucial, as I believe the great majority of hon. Members recognise, that we should approach our speeches in such a debate, particularly in present circumstances, with a new sense of responibility. At the preent time, considerable importance attaches to what is 973 said in this debate. Public concern about immigration policy has undoubtedly been increased in the past few weeks by a series of events, beginning with, but not only associated with, the so-called four-star hotel incident.
There has also been a deterioration—I hope short term—in race relations. It would be foolish not to recognise that fact. There are fears and anxieties in both the majority and the immigrant communities. We can all see how these fears and anxieties spring, to a large degree, from uncertainty about the future. For the white majority there is anxiety about the effectiveness of immigration policy and control and about future immigration. In the immigrant community, there are fears about the security of their place here and their rights of equal treatment and opportunity and the full protection of the law.
These anxieties and fears, quite as much as objective facts about housing, jobs, schools, health and welfare services, breed tensions inimical to good community relations—which is a rather worn and threadbare term for the wellbeing of our society and therefore of us all.
I share wholeheartedly the view expressed so clearly by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border in our briefer debate six weeks ago and again today that the restoration and maintenance of public confidence depends on the removal of uncertainty, as far as this is possible. He called for the utmost frankness in dealing with these matters. By its nature, this is primarily a task for the Government, but it is also one for the House as a whole and I hope that we shall all consider carefully what we say on this question.
I propose to examine the basic elements of our immigration policy, its present effects and the way it is working, to examine the scope for changing the system and, finally, to look a little ahead.
Any policy towards immigration and race relations must start from where we are today and not from some different position to which some people in the House and country think or wish we could go back. First, we have a community made up of a preponderant indigenous majority and a small, but nevertheless substantial, minority of different ethnic origins with family ties in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. This part of our 974 community is now developing into a second generation.
Secondly, the British people occupy a largely urban, densely populated, industrialised island of limited size, possessed still of great natural and human resources but also with real economic and social problems and limitations. Our imperial history, combined with the maldistribution of wealth and prosperity in the world, has traditionally produced strong pressures to migrate to this country.
These are basic facts. They necessitate both a strict limit on the amount and rate of inward immigration for settlement and an acceptance of certain well-defined obligations to those we have already accepted here and who are settled.
Where is the right balance to be struck between the need for limitation and obligations both in law and moral commitment? The crux of the issue is whether the two can be combined. Some people think that they cannot. I believe that they can, though I do not believe that it is an easy problem.
Our obligations are fairly well known to the House and I do not intend to give a lengthy exposition of them. We have two main obligations. First, we have the special voucher scheme for United Kingdom passport holders who are heads of households. This is currently limited to 5,000 a year. I shall come in a moment to the proposition that this number might be reduced. Secondly, there are the dependents, essentially the wives and children of those already settled here. By that, I do not mean the dependants of the heads of household who are United Kingdom passport holders. I mean the dependants of those mainly, but not exclusively, from the Indian sub-continent who are legally settled here at present.
Voucher holders with their families and the separate category of other dependants of those already here together accounted for about 95 per cent. of the 34,000 admitted to this country for settlement last year from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan. The remaining 5 per cent. were mostly husbands of women already here settled.
There are, additionally, those already here in a temporary capacity, who are accepted for settlement with the removal of their previous conditions of stay. The number of New Commonwealth and 975 Pakistan citizens already here, and so accepted last year, was 19,000. Nearly 8,000 of them were people who were resident here before the Immigration Act 1971 came into force and who also have at least five years' residence. As such they are, under the terms of the 1971 Act, immune from removal. This follows directly from the Act of our predecessors. Freeing them from conditions does not in itself increase the numbers here. No one arriving after the end of 1972, or 1st January 1973, which was when the Act came into operation, automatically acquires that immunity, so after the end of 1977 that particular avenue of automatic settlement will in effect be closed.
Of the remaining 11,000, that is, out of the 19,000 for whom conditions were removed, 8,000 were men and women already in this country who married someone with a right of residence here. They did not come to marry; they were already here, but without permanent right of residence, and they married someone with a permanent right of residence and thereby acquired it themselves. Rather more than half of that 8,000 were women.
The remaining 3,000 of the 19,000 were people such as, for example, dependants of work permit holders who were already here temporarily and for whom the grounds for allowing them to stay were individually clear cut and persuasive —in other words, where individual discretion was applied, as the right hon. Gentleman urged it should be applied more widely, but not too generously, in relation to other categories. I shall come to that matter shortly.
This is the basis and those are the elements of immigration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
In respect of these obligations, does my right hon. Friend agree that in practice very often they are actually borne by people who are already under some disadvantage? East London, for example, has always been a very tolerant place, but feeling there at present is quite strong. If the Government have an international obligation, which many of us support, do they not have some obligation to divert resources from the rest of South-East England into the London dockland area in particular, and to do it quite soon?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I understand my hon. Friend's wish, from a constituency point of view and a wider point of view, to get that point in. I think that he would agree that perhaps it was not directly bearing upon the rather close arguments about numbers that I was endeavouring to deploy. However, of course there is force in his point, and some of the areas in which immigrants are congregated are areas that would be difficult areas even if immigrants were not there. This is something that any Government must bear closely in mind in their allocation of resources. This is not the first time that I have become aware of this issue, but I thank my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to the matter again.
I want to deal with a point that arose early in the right hon. Gentleman's speech and to which he devoted considerable attention—the United Kingdom passport holders who are heads of household, who have no other citizenship and who wish to come here with their families. The special voucher scheme has one purpose, and one only—to regulate the arrival of these people in a controlled and orderly way. The right hon. Gentleman half suggested—though conditionally, on a point to which I shall come shortly—that one ought to consider whether it was right to maintain the figure of 5.000, and he said that he might prefer it to be reduced to some lower level, say, 3,500, at which it was previously. I think that this would be a mistake on any assumption other than that of repudiating our obligation to these United Kingdom passport holders, and I know that that is not the right hon. Gentleman's assumption. I shall explain why it would be a mistake.
First, let me say, however—it is necessary—that I foresee no case, and have no plans, for any increase in the number of vouchers. I equally believe, on balance, that any notional benefit from a reduction would be illusory. There are at present no queues for special vouchers in East Africa, except to a small extent in Malawi, so people are coming at a controlled rate and without the tensions or strains and, in particular, in the overwhelming majority of cases, without the loss of means and possessions which delay following loss of livelihood has brought about in the past.
977 Opinion is sensitive, and understandably so, to the very small number who arrive here without means and have at the start to be publicly supported. My policy is designed to keep that number to the absolute minimum, although I cannot and should not say that where a United Kingdom passport holder with no other nationality has been rendered destitute by arbitrary action abroad he should, as an additional penalty, be denied right of refuge as well. However, were we to reduce the number of vouchers we would inevitably, over a period, be running the risk of almost certainly increasing the number who arrive without means, because we would be creating queues, where there are very few at present, of those who are deprived of their livelihood, who would use up their resources and would arrive here without means and, therefore, create exactly the situation which now occurs very rarely but which, understandably, occasions great concern. We would be making that more frequent and more likely.
The right hon. Gentleman said, however—I welcome this—that he would be prepared to accept the 5,000 limit and not press for a reduction if I were to reaffirm that the figure I gave in the previous debate is believed to be sound and right as a maximum from Africa of United Kingdom passport holders. I can and do. Indeed, I would stress the view that it is a maximum figure and that the actual number could now well be significantly less. Thus we can foresee the end of the United Kingdom passport holder Asian-African commitment. Nearly all those who wish to come will have done so, at the present rate, within the next 18 months to two years. This commitment is, therefore, in the fullest sense, finite.
On this specific point, the right hon. on the previous occasion that the number that I was inadvertently less than clear on the previous occasion that the number that I am talking about, as opposed to the number of vouchers, is 40,000. The figure of approximately 40,000 includes the United Kingdom passport holder heads of households and their dependants of any nationality in East Africa who are eligible to come here. Therefore, whether or not they are the dependants of United Kingdom passport holders does not affect the numbers about which I am talking.
§ Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham and Crawley)
As the right hon. Gentleman will know, I tabled a Question to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs about the number of United Kingdom passport holders who were eligible to come to this country. The Home Secretary has rightly dealt with the number of these United Kingdom passport holders who live in East Africa. However, what is the position in regard to those, some Asians, who were formerly in East Africa and who now live in India, of which there are 25,000? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is just as deep an obligation to those 25,000 as there is to the other 40,000 he has just mentioned?
§ Mr. Jenkins
We have had this argument before. I think it is generally recognised in the House that those who are United Kingdom passport holders and have no other citizenship have a claim which most of us would recognise as legal. I refer to their legal claim, as opposed to their moral one.
The right hon. Gentleman urged me, as others have done, to try to get the Governments of the sub-continent, and in particular the Indian Government, to take more of their nationals who are dispossessed and turned out of East Africa. I hope that to some extent that has been possible, and that it will continue to be possible, but where we are dealing with United Kingdom passport holders in India the ethnic position is not that which prevails in Africa, and therefore there is a different point of view. I have not included United Kingdom passport holders in India in the 40,000 figure. The figure that the right hon. Gentleman gave was approximately right, but I hope and believe that a similar situation will not arise in relation to them because of the difference of their ethnic relationship to the majority of the population.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
So that we are clear on the factual position, may we take it that when my right hon. Friend refers lo people in East Africa that includes Zambia and Malawi?
§ Mr. Jenkins
The figures that I gave are for those in what is normally referred to as East Africa, and therefore there is a little geographical confusion. The figures include those in Kenya. Tanzania, 979 Malawi, Zambia and Zaire. They therefore include all the African countries—whether East African or not—in which there are United Kingdom passport holders.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
Will the right hon. Gentleman please deal with the thousands of others—
§ Mr. Jenkins
I have given the House as much information as I can. I have given way a number of times, and I should now be allowed to proceed with my speech.
There is a second and separate category, the entitled close dependants of those already settled here.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the British nationality law. Surely the importance of dealing with the law at an early date is that it would, or should, answer some of the points which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook).
§ Mr. Jenkins
A great deal of work has been done on that. I know that the right hon. Gentleman would like to see results more quickly, and we are near to being able to put something before the House, but the mere fact of putting something before the House on this extremely tangled subject will not automatically solve the problem to which the House will have to address itself. But we are fairly far advanced with this, and I hope that it will be possible to put something before the House reasonably soon.
As I was saying, there is the second and separate category, the entitled close dependants of those already settled here. This has nothing to do with United Kingdom passport holders. The essential rôles governing admission are clear and tightly drawn. Apart from wives, it provides for the admission of children under 18, the age of majority, with a little room for flexibility towards, for example, unmarried daughters under 21 who have remained part of their family unit.
As to dependants more generally, the terms of the Immigration Rules as they apply to such cases are equally clearly drawn. We are here dealing with old age 980 and bereavement, isolation, dependency on grown up-children and distress, and it is better—I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman here—to set out openly and clearly in the rules what the practice is in such cases than to operate on the basis of an informal unpublished concession with the same results. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would want to have too much discretion were he to occupy my office. There must be some discretion certainly, but not on a wide range of cases. It would not help to have too much ministerial discretion operating outside the rules.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
If I may put the last of my thoughts to the right hon. Gentleman, I was referring to the limited category that I thought would be better dealt with in that way than by a register such as I was proposing.
§ Mr. Jenkins
The right hon. Gentleman specifically mentioned old age. I am about to come to that. The age limit of 65 for entry as an elderly dependent relative, except for widowed mothers, corresponds to the normal age of retirement in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that it would be defensible—and the right hon. Gentleman did not suggest it—to discriminate by raising the age still further for the dependants of those settled here. Moreover —and I stress this—there has to be clear evidence of dependency and of the means of support available here before the aged parent or other distressed relative can be admitted. There has to be clear evidence that the children settled here are able, willing and anxious to support out of their own resources the person concerned.
The operation of these rules must be kept under review, and that is done on a continuing basis. Equally, it must, I think, be clear to hon. Members that occasional apparently harsh decisions in particular cases are inevitable and necessary if the general acceptance of the need for control is not to be frustrated. Given the disparity between the standards of living here and in the sub-continent it is not surprising that contrived or false relationships, or false intentions or false statements about family circumstances, may be claimed in particular cases. But it is not, in my view, in the public interest for either Ministers or hon. Members dealing with cases to let such cases through without the most careful examination because of 981 natural pressure from individuals in their constituencies.
I turn now to the concession that I introduced in June 1974 after pressure from both sides of the House and much opinion outside, in putting the admissibility of husbands and male fiancés on a basis comparable with that of wives and fiancées. I do not think that the fiancé point is, in general, the significant one. The significant point is whether to allow women—whether they be indigenous British, people with the right of settlement, or those who have acquired British nationality—to bring in and live with their husbands here. The question whether one adds fiancés broadly, subject to what I shall say later, merely determines the place of marriage and the profits of airline companies: it does not bear directly on the core of the argument about the concession. This is a clear issue, and it is the only significant alteration that I have made to the Immigration Rules since I returned to the Home Office.
Let me deal first with numbers. Last year, about 3,600 women already here with a right of residence, married men who were thereupon accepted for settlement on marriage—after being admitted temporarily as fiancés or in some other capacity—and another 1,500 already settled and married, brought their husbands to join them. That was substantially fewer than the number of men already settled here bringing in wives.
This year I would expect the number of husbands or male fiancés to be greater, but not dramatically so. The number so far has fallen somewhat short of what I expected when the concession was introduced, but of course the long-term immigration effect will turn upon the extent to which young women—and their parents—in this country will look abroad for husbands. The answer to that question cannot possibly yet be given, since the concession is still so new.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)
The indications from overseas posts are that the right hon. Gentleman is rather optimistic. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the queue of applicants in New Delhi alone is 55 per cent. comprised of male financeés? There are already dramatic signs of an increased growth in this sector.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am not being optimistic or pessimistic. I am trying to outline what I believe to be the facts. To some extent there are necessary uncertainties here. It is true that the queue in New Delhi is to some significant extent composed of the category that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. This was not the case in other countries in the sub-continent, and it was due partly to the fact that the queue of other dependants in New Delhi had shrunk and had gone very near towards disappearing.
Let me deal with one misunderstanding. A husband admitted or accepted for settlement does not carry with him any general right of entry for other members of his family, as is sometimes supposed. Apart from the children of a widower by his first marriage, who marries again, it is essentially only the very narrow category of elderly dependent parents and grandparents with private support available here, and not elsewhere, who may eventually qualify as a result of a husband being settled by way of marriage.
The basic issue here is not simply one of numbers. We cannot avoid this addition to numbers unless we either keep out all husbands—which would be across-the-board sex discrimination—which would affect the right of English-born wives to bring in an American or Australian husband, or by keeping out those from the sub-continent, which would be straightforward racial discrimination. I could not, and would not, defend either of these two forms of blatent discrimination.
I believe that facts about the long-term effect of this concession rely on some exaggeration of the likely continuation of arranged marriages. The propensity to go on with arranged marriages, and, hence potentially marriages to men from overseas, in inherently unlikely to stay at the level of the parent culture. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I think there is substantial evidence. I am not saying that they will disappear completely. I am saying that as one moves into the second generation it is inherently unlikely that exactly—
§ Mr. Jenkins
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me I will not give 983 way. It is inherently unlikely that exactly the same pattern will persist—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am not saying that it will disappear completely in any sense. No one can be certain about that. I can only express an opinion and other hon. Members can only express an opinion.
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
Is the Home Secretary aware that in my experience it is very much the second generation of youngsters who are returning to their country in order to participate in arranged marriages? I can see no evidence at all, from my own experience in my own constituency, that there is any diminution of this practice.
§ Mr. Jenkins
We cannot be certain what will happen. I am not sure how the hon. Gentleman compares that with the first generation because the first generation were mostly married when they came here. It is a judgment which none of us can be certain about. I do not wish to press the point too far.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
The right hon. Gentleman resisted this for a long time. He was under no great pressure to allow male fiancées and husbands and he said that he would not allow it because of abuses. I wonder whether he could tell us why he has changed his judgment about that.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I did not say that I would not allow it because of abuses. I did not resist it for a long time. I became Home Secretary for the second time at the beginning of March 1974 and when it was first put to me I did not immediately make the alteration. I made it in June, and I would not describe March to June as a very long time. I was hesitant about it not necessarily because of abuses but because, while I thought that there would not be very large numbers, I thought that there would be substantial numbers involved. I had to weigh up that consideration. I hope that I am not insensitive about the question of numbers. I decided that the arguments of treating men and women on the basis of equality in this respect were stronger. Those arguments were taken strongly in this House, and outside, and I believe it right to accept them.
None the less, while the reason I paused was not abuse, I acknowledge 984 that the concession then left some room for abuse by way of marriages of convenience aimed solely at achieving entry or avoiding removal. I am not talking about arranged marriages, which under Asian culture can be just as real and lasting as any other marriages. I am talking about essentially bogus or artificially contracted marriages. There is sufficient evidence to justify counter measures. I am not yet satisfied that a change in the rules themselves, while maintaining the concession generally is called for, or whether we can control abuses within the present framework, but I am examining urgently possible proposals to deal, in particular, with cases involving a bogus marriage designed to avoid removal for breach of conditions or illegal entry.
It should be said that action which follows will bite on bogus marriages generally whether the skin colour is white, brown or black. Such contrivances to defeat the controls are not confined to those wishing to immigrate from, or avoid removal to, the sub-continent.
Then there is the particular question of illegal entry: the numbers detected and detained are small—fewer than 200 last year. That is despite a great increase in the intelligence and detection effort including close operational cooperation with the authorities in neighbouring countries. I think that is important to emphasise.
As I made clear to the House ten days ago at Question Time, I am totally opposed to illegal entry. I regard it as a potential threat to sound immigration policies and to good community relations. Leaders of the immigrant communities have assured me in the past few weeks that they agree and share my determination to see it dealt with firmly and effectively. Those illegal immigrants who are caught are, save for exceptional or compelling reasons, removed and those who organise it can expect to get no mercy from the courts.
Overstaying by those who enter lawfully for some temporary purpose, as opposed to illegal entry as such, is a more substantial problem for the system of control. The amount of illegal entry as such is generally exaggerated. I think that overstaying is a more substantial problem. The 1971 Act limited the 985 effects by removing the right of settlement from someone completing five years' residence even where that residence was the fruit of over-staying. But the abuse remains. Dealing with it, as with other kinds of attempts to defeat the control, is a task requiring firm, fair and properly judged action by the Home Office and the police. They have my full support in that task, and I can assure the House that there is great and detailed knowledge and experience of the many ploys in the game.
I raised these issues, both of illegal entry as such and of overstaying, with the Ambassador for Pakistan and the High Commissioners for India and Bangladesh when they came to see me last week. They assured me that neither they nor their Governments had any sympathy with that practice and they assured me of their co-operation in dealing with it. This is a valuable offer which I am certainly pursuing.
I acknowledge the doubts and fears about future migration which are felt by many of the majority community. One suggestion, which has attracted general interest on the other side of the House, and on this side of the House to some extent, and among some leaders of the immigrant community and the Heads of Missions, is that of a register for dependants to which the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border applied himself. I see its attractions but I also see its difficulties. Should there, for example, be sanctions for failure to register? How would the results be applied? How much would the register cost?
Such a register was introduced in 1965 but a year's experience of its operation at that time led to the decision to wind it up as serving no useful purpose.
I, none the less, do not believe it would be right at the present time to reject the idea out of hand because of some obvious but, as yet unmeasured, stumbling blocks. Nor would it be right for me to sweep aside for presentational reasons the real arguments of difficulty put to me by those who would have to do the work concerned with the register. I am anxious to carry the House, and outside opinion, with me on this matter. I wish the discussion to be an open and in no way a hidden one.
I therefore propose the appointment of a parliamentary group of no more 986 than three Members, one from each side and perhaps an independent chairman from the other place, to look into the feasibility and usefulness of such a scheme with all the problems and evidence available to them from official resources. I will willingly enter into immediate discussions with the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border about the membership of such a group.
I would propose that its remit be fairly narrowly defined in this way, both because I have taken note of the expressed view of the Select Committee that it intends to look into the wider assumptions about our future commitments, and because I wish the group to report as soon as possible. Indeed, after discussion with the chairman, I will ask the members of the group to carry out their work within a specified time limit. The report of this group will of course be published, for it is right that the issues that it raises should be fully open to public discussion and that no suggestion be made that the Government are themselves feeding uncertainty by coming to public conclusions without public debate.
I began by saying that uncertainty is the root of fear and anxiety. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have repeatedly made and taken opportunities in recent weeks to reiterate the Government's wholehearted commitment to the basic commitments—to the special voucher holders and the dependants of those already settled. I have stated our position in greater detail today. I hope once again that the minority community will not be misled into unnecessary fear and anxiety on that score. Our determination to ensure good community relations is unswerving. There is no room for racial hatred in our crowded island. We cannot afford not to make a success of a multi-racial society.
A moving speech was made the other day in the other place by Lord Pitt, himself a distinguished citizen of London of West Indian origin. In that speech, he looked forward hopefully to a harmonious multiracial Britain setting an example to the world. He spoke on a high level of moral seriousness, but reminded us too that our self-interest is also served by racial harmony and tolerance.
I agree with that view, and would share Lord Pitt's hope, but I do not see it as 987 an easy or even a certain outcome, at any rate in this generation. Its accomplishment will depend on the minority community accepting that this country will not take, in Lord Pitt's own words, a "large and unending stream" of dependants, and on the majority community accepting that tolerance is one of the greatest and most traditional of British virtues and that if that tradition is broken we shall all of us suffer deeply, both minority and majority, and suffer for many years to come.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Mr. Speaker desires me to say that pressure to participate in this debate is very severe indeed. With all the good will in the world, it will be a sheer impossibility to call every hon. Member who wishes to speak. Nevertheless, if right hon. and hon. Members will limit their speeches to the minimum necessary to make their points, it will be possible to get more hon. Members into the debate. Mr. Speaker therefore appeals to the House to help the Chair in this matter by limiting speeches as much as possible. I call Mr. Bidwell.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
In response to your appeal, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would say that there seemed just now to be more pressures to participate from the other side of the House than from this—
§ Mr. Whitelaw
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it reasonable to call two hon. Members running from the same side of the House. It is somewhat unusual. You may have a good reason, Sir, but it is unusual.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I regret that it was due to an error by the Chair. I shall put it right in the course of the debate.
§ Mr. Bidwell
I was saying that the pressures to participate in this debate did not seem so great on this side of the House as on the other side of the House. Since we shall therefore probably hear more voices from that side, I shall try to be brief, especially since I believe that shorter speeches are more effective.
988 I did not take part in the debate in May initiated by the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) and I was not free to listen attentively to it, but it made a considerable amount of national news. I am therefore returning now to the immigration debate. Only once in my parliamentary career, which began in 1966, have I failed to take part in any debate on immigration. I was therefore somewhat taken aback by the remarks of the hon. Member for Thanet, East and those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish)—for whom, apparently, enough is enough, since he is not here today.
I do not believe that the ethnic minorities will thank the hon. Member for Thanet, East for the broad terms in which he initiated that debate, although he made an accomplished speech, obviously based on a great deal of painstaking research. It is not enough to confine any consideration of immigration to the narrow assessment of the effects of New Commonwealth immigration without taking into account the continuous and considerable immigration from other countries—even if it is not as great as it would be if the British economy were thriving. There is also immigration, connected with family obligations, of aliens and those from the Iberian Peninsula.
Ironically, if Greece joins the Common Market, her citizens will have a much freer right of entry into this country under the rules of free movement of capital and labour than the Greek and other citizens of Cyprus and the rest of the New Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Aitken
Reverting to what the hon. Member said about the debate which I initiated on a Private Member's motion, will he accept that strict immigration control is the friend rather than the enemy of good race relations? Secondly, will he not accept that it must be beneficial to both the immigrant community and the host community that this House has now debated strict immigration control twice in seven weeks instead of once in seven years?
§ Mr. Bidwell
It was the hon. Gentleman's own Government's measures of 1971 which put an end to the annual discussion of immigration on the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. The common feeling in the House at the time was that 989 we needed law which would be seen to be fair and that immigration would then no longer be a constant preoccupation of the House. It is because the rules in the 1971 Act are not fair that this subject continues to come before the House and to baffle the public.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) made a proposal today which is worthy of examination, as is any proposal on this subject, but it could well confuse an already confused situation. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred to a "tangled" situation. I would agree with that description, and our last debate did little to untangle it.
The immigration rules have come before the House twice. In Committee on the 1971 Act, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who was then the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, moved an amendment, with the support of the hon. Member for Rox-burgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), the emerging leader of the Liberal Party, and of the present Prime Minister, myself and others, to remove the concept of patriality. Some hon. Members seem to want to apply strict controls. The question is, strict control of what? Do they mean strict control of all human beings—white and black—entering Britain? Do they mean strict control of people having family rights and coming here to live and work here?
Tory Members in particular seem to be worried about the potentialities of immigration from Hong Kong and elsewhere. We have been an Imperial power with worldwide connections. Let them consider the concept of patriality in connection with Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and recognise the potential there and the possibilities of people coming here from those countries. A certain nonsense emerges if one is thinking genuinely in terms of immigration as a whole—white and black, brown, and black and white.
That is why the rules have emerged in the Common Market that once the worker establishes his right to work, which he can do after six months if he gets employment, he has family rights. That is how we got the 18-year-old movement. The 1971 Act was kept in abeyance until our membership of the Common Market was sewn up. Workers 990 from the New Commonwealth were pretty well eclipsed under such arrangements. There have been very few new workers—that is, bread winners—coming in from the New Commonwealth.
I accept the Home Secretary's viewpoint that this is a very tangled situation and that one cannot apply a blanket view to all the world. The movement is likely to be from those parts of the Commonwealth whose people would find it an advantage to come to Britain to work, whereas people in Common Market countries do not see it as much of an advantage to come to Britain to work.
Illegal immigration into Britain is not confined to New Commonwealth citizens. There is almost a total eclipse of illegal immigration from the West Indies. As my right hon. Friend said, far more of it derives as regards the sub-continent from people overstaying initial visits and all sorts of attendant factors. There can be no ultimatum here. Although I agree with what the Home Secretary said about having the rules drawn as tight as they can be made, the Home Secretary will always have to have a considerable area of discretion where human movement is concerned. That is, it always has been, and it always will be, one of the principal aspects of his job.
Suddenly someone overseas is widowed or is left in some other capacity on her own but not wholly dependent upon a breadwinner here. She is left in misery. Such cases must be considered and reconsidered by my right hon. Friend or by Minister charged with responsibility for immigration matters.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
On the question of overstaying, we are talking not about people who ask for special consideration and to be allowed in at the Home Secretary's discretion but about those who come here as tourists or as students and who simply stay on and get lost. No question of attendant circumstances arises there.
§ Mr. Bidwell
We do not know what the factors are. During the amnesty arising from my right hon. Friend's measures in fulfilment of the promises made by the Labour Party at the General Election very few such people came forward.
Then there is the question of marriage. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border would encounter considerable 991 opposition on both sides of the House if he sought to step back now from the obligation to accord equality to the spouses. When he spoke in the last debate I made a short intervention on that point, although I did not actually make a speech, and suggested to him that the arranged marriage is becoming a thing of the past. I have writen a book on this subject, but I had better not advertise it fully. I deal with this subject in the book.
I used to take the same view as some hon. Members seem inclined to take, that arranged marriages will continue ad infinitum. If any parent here believes that, however, he must believe that he has far greater control over his children than parents of Asian origin. Arranged marriages are fading, and my guess is that they are fading fast. Very often the party in this country wants to see the "found" partner abroad before committing himself to marriage. It is only one step from that to saying "On no account will I accept the suggested partner as a bride."
When my right hon. Friend was speaking along these lines I heard voices opposite suggesting that such would not be the case. Hon. Members opposite do not know what goes on under the bushes in Southall Park. They should not think that they will hold back young Asian people from what we call "natural selection". Some very fine marriages have resulted from the old Asian culture, but necessarily this culture will be modified and affected by the experience of living in this country.
One of the fears of elders of the Asian community in Southall is that they are tending to lose their grip over the young people. My prediction is that the substance of the unity of family life in Asian families will be retained and the mutual regard between the older and younger generations will continue.
According to my right hon. Friend, it was under the patriality rule that the Malawi Asian family entered this country. That sparked off a whole chain reaction. Very few members of British society understand the concept of patriality. Periodically Members of the House reveal an inability to understand this concept in the Questions they put to Home Office Ministers. New members of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigrations when traveling abroad 992 astonish me by their failure to understand the rules that they put through the House and which apply under the 1971 Act.
Coloured people probably overrate the Act, because of that, as a racial Act. Recently produced figures show the short-term movement of people coming here and the longer-term and typical patterns. There never has been a mystery about these matters. Such mystery as there is has been conjured up in the fertile imagination of the hon. Member who initiated the debate a week or so ago. I have lived with the problem for many years, as Member of Parliament for Ealing, Southall. In fact, it sometimes seems that I have discussed little else since I have been in this House.
I will make one observation on the latest proposal of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border. Select Committees which have gone abroad have found that the bar to emigration is going up, because although in some countries there has been a surfeit of people to export, in the sub-continent concern is being expressed about the exodus of medical people—the kind of medical people whom the right hon. Member for Down, South was busily recruiting when he was Minister of Health in 1960–63. If one can accept the report in The Times in April 1971, according to the right hon. and learned Member for Hexam (Mr. Rippon), the right hon. Member for Down, South told him that there was no need to increase the nurses' pay because he could recruit on the open market overseas.
The right hon. Member for Down, South has had much to say on this subject and he has created considerable mischief outside the House—not inside the House because his views are not taken so seriously here as they are outside. He fans the blazes of racialism outside. He encourages the psychopathic racism which is assailing us. I am glad that there has been a total absence of that sort of thing in this debate.
Pressures could arise in this country in five to 10 years time if Pakistani bread winners decided to call their families here. That is exactly what happened when the first restrictions were imposed in 1962. During the different phases of the restrictions this is invariably 993 what has happened. Indeed, it has happened in other countries as well as in this country. We in this country have an obligation to manage our economic affairs properly and to secure a return to full employment. Inevitably people overseas will wish to come and work here, and as a civilised society we are bound to ensure that family rights are acknowledged. This has happened in Germany and in France. People have gone to those countries from Algeria and Turkey, and likewise there has been an exodus from Southern Italy to Northern Italy. New Commonwealth citizens have been recruited by British employers overseas and they have come to this country. It has all happened in roughly the same period of time.
We must accept the basic principle of the right of family unity, and the continual exercise of discretion by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the observance of British principles. To be racist and to stir up racial hatred in Britain is to be anti-British, and the quicker we snap out of it the better.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Taylor (Croydon, North-West)
The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) opened his speech by saying that he believed short speeches were best, and he then spoke for 20 minutes. I shall not prolong my remarks by replying to many of his points.
I represent part of the London borough of Croydon, which has a substantial immigrant population. It is correct to say that relations between the different groups in the borough have been excellent for many years, and I am sure that they will continue to be so for many years to come.
It is also true to say that during the six years that I have been a Member I have regularly received letters from constituents protesting at the change in the character of the locality in which they live. Those letters have been couched in reasonable terms, but recently I have detected a change in their note. The volume of protest letters has substantially increased, and instead of reasonably questioning why the neighbourhood is changing the mood has now changed to an absolute demand to halt the process.
The area which I represent does not wish to be like Southall, which is 994 synonymous with the Asian community. We wish to maintain our individuality, and we hope that the situation which exists in Southall will not be reached in North-West Croydon. Within the last fortnight I have received a petition on the subject signed by 1,300 Croydon citizens, and all the signatures were collected in the course of one morning by two ladies.
As a contrast to the attitude in the borough, when I hold my regular meetings with constituents the majority who come to see me are immigrant families and they all have one thing in common. They wish to be reunited with members of their families, and the reunions, of course, must always take place over here. I regret to say that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of these applications ever since the Home Secretary introduced his relaxation in June 1974 for the fiancés of young girls, which has been referred to in the speeches from both Front Benches.
Recently a father from the Indian subcontinent came to see me on behalf of his three daughters, each of whom was under 20 years of age and for each of whom he had arranged a marriage with a fiancé in India. Those girls have had marriages arranged for them on the briefest of acquaintanceships.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
Can my hon. Friend tell the House whether any financial arrangements attend these arranged marriages?
§ Mr. Taylor
I have no reason to believe that that is so, but in any case, in my opinion, that is quite irrelevant to the point. These girls do not know the fianceés with whom their marriages have been arranged, and this practice is likely to continue for a reason which I shall make clear when I give my next example.
My next example relates to an occasion when the fiancé of a constituent was detained at Heathrow because he had arrived without the necessary certificate and entrance clearance papers. I did not support his efforts to jump the queue. I supported the action of the immigration officials at Heathrow, and he went back to India. I then had a meeting with the family who were to be his in-laws, and I asked "Why was it necessary to arrange this marriage to a man whom your daughter has not seen 995 and who lives thousands of miles away?" I was told that no sensible Indian family would wish their daughter to marry an Indian already in this country, because such a man would have been Westernised.
I do not know what they mean by that expression. Perhaps they feel that an Indian who has been Westernised will take the marriage vows less seriously and that there will be a greater chance of the marriage breaking up. The family was insistent that the daughter should marry an Indian from the Indian subcontinent. That is more racialist than any other action one could think of, because it is a rejection of other races and customs and a rejection of our society's customs.
It is right that Mr. Hawley in his report, which I have not seen—
§ Mr. Taylor
I shall read the report later. The report is correct if it concludes that the problem of marriage to Indians from the Indian sub-continent is infinite. My experience bears that out, although it is refuted by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) and the Home Secretary. Those in daily contact with the Indian community will take my view.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
The only way in which the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Taylor) can solve what he considers to be the fiancé problem is by ensuring that no woman in Britain who marries a foreigner has a right to bring her husband to this country. Does he agree with that?
§ Mr. Taylor
Yes, I do. I would not discriminate between the sexes, because it applies equally to men and women. I would put the discretion in the hands of the Home Secretary. It is not right that anyone who is engaged to marry someone abroad has the automatic right to bring that person to this country.
§ Miss Joan Lestor
Is the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West disagreeing with arranged marriages or with marriages to anyone who lives abroad?
§ Mr. Taylor
I disagree with arranged marriages, but it would be difficult to legislate in a definitive way. I would 996 therefore take away the automatic right of a person to bring her fiancé to this country.
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Lady will have plenty of time to make her anti-loyalist points later.
The Home Secretary said that he totally disapproved of people coming to this country for short stays and that only in exceptional circumstances would he allow them to do so. He mentioned the London Airport problem, which, he said, created racialist feeling in the country. But a case in my constituency has created even greater passion than that at London Airport. It concerned a lady from Sierra Leone who arrived in Croydon in 1969 to join her student husband. They were permitted to stay until August 1970, but in January 1970 the student husband embarked for Sweden to study psychology and has not been seen since. When the case first came to my notice in November 1971, the lady had just produced a fourth child and professed herself dissatisfied with the accommodation provided for her by the taxpayer.
The Home Secretary agreed with me that the most sensible action would be to return the family to their natural environment in Sierra Leone, the Government of which gave them a new passport in 1972 for that purpose. They had never held a United Kingdom passport of any kind. On 21st March 1973 the Home Office formally refused them permission to stay here. In a parliamentary answer on 15th June that year I was told that the lady had been advised to give notice of appeal. By that time, I calculate that she had received in cash supplementary benefits of £1,600 together with other benefits in kind, such as a subsidised council flat and education for her older children.
On 20th August 1973 the appeal was heard and was dismissed by the adjudicator. The lady then asked leave to appeal against the decision of the adjudicator, and that was refused on 22nd November 1973. The Home Office served notice to deport her under Section 3(5)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971 but told her that she could appeal against the deportation notice and against the place of destination.
997 There was a change of Government in February 1974, and on 18th April 1974 her appeal against deportation was dismissed. In June 1974 she was refused leave to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal. On 20th September 1974 the hon. Member for York, who was then Minister of State, Home Office, told me in a letter:The Home Secretary and I have now given the case very careful consideration and have decided that in view of the strong compassionate features of the case and especially the children's association with this country it would not be right to return the lady and her family to Sierra Leone. Her stay in this country will now be regularised.The latest chapter in the case is that the lady and her family, still on social security, called at the offices of the Croydon Advertiser on 29th March to complain that their council flat was inadequate. The history of the case is directly contrary to what the Home Secretary had said about his determination to return illegal immigrants. That lady had no right to be in this country or have a British passport.
I could give more examples because I hear of such cases frequently. A Tanzanian family—a mother and three children—arrived for a temporary stay of six months in 1972. They did not have a United Kingdom passport and on 31st August 1973 a deportation order was made against them. That lady is still here today and her children are being educated in this country.
All hon. Members with immigrants in their constituencies will know of cases of that nature which do so much harm to race relations. They do more harm than the London Airport incident, which was only of a temporary nature, because they fester sores in the community where such people live. I hope that in the future the Home Secretary will stick to the words he used today and be more firm than he has been in the past.
I support the idea of a register of dependants as proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw). That would be a method of making the matter finite provided that no new impetus of immigrants was created by the fiancés of young Indians born in this country becoming engaged, through their parents, to men whom they have never seen and who live many thousands of miles away.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North-West (Mr. Taylor) I have to declare a constituency interest, because there are more than 10,000 coloured immigrants in my constituency out of a population of 120,000, that is, about one third of the estimated coloured population of Lancashire. They come from the West Indies, the Indian sub-continent, West Africa, Malaya, Cyprus, Malta, and many other places.
It is a grave mistake to imagine that the problem applies only to coloured immigrants. In my constituency we have rather more immigrants from the Irish Republic than from the New Commonwealth countries. In addition, there are the refugees of an earlier generation—Poles, Hungarians and Ukranians, the victims of Nazism and Communism—who have come here to make their home. I only regret that, despite more than 30 years' residence in many cases, they have not been afforded the right to vote.
It is very important that in this debate we should draw attention to the good relations that exist between these communities and the majority community. Above all, we should pay tribute to the way in which British people, with enormous tolerance and friendship in the overwhelming majority of cases, have accepted into their midst a large number of people of an alien race, culture and religion.
It would be very dangerous to trespass too far on that tolerance and generosity, but I fear that we are in danger of doing that. It would be equally foolish to pretend that, even with the difficulties we have on our plate today, they do not present a grave problem: they do, indeed.
First, we cannot fail to recognise the deep bitterness that exists among ordinary people who one day were living in Lancashire and woke up the next day in New Delhi, Calcutta, or Kingston, Jamaica. Above all, this affects the poorest section of the community. When an area starts to decline, a large immigrant population moves in. Those who are best equipped financially can buy themselves new homes elsewhere.
I am sure that it is the experience of all hon. Members on both sides of the House who have this problem in their constituencies that small groups of 999 English people, many of them very elderly, who suddenly find themselves in Asia or the Caribbean do not like it. We must accept that it is a genuine feeling. That is why I say that it would be wrong to trespass too far on the good nature and tolerance shown by the overwhelming majority of our people.
Secondly, we must recognise the pressures on schooling and housing.
Thirdly—and perhaps most worrying of all—we must face up to the problem that a new generation of Britons is coming of age. Their parents, who came from areas that did not have such liberal Governments and where there were not such high living standards, were prepared to accept slights and rejections, and most of them were prepared to do the dirty jobs. The new generation, rightly, will not accept any such status. All too often we find that at the age of 15 or 16, because of animosities within their family circles, they move out and become the rootless society in our big cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and London. Unless they succeed in finding employment at an early stage, they can become bitter and turn to crime, and there is the potential of violence. We must be careful about such a situation.
I do not wish to go into the rights or wrongs of the policies of previous Governments of both parties which brought about this situation. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was a prominent member of a Government which embarked on those policies. I do not wish to go into whether they were right, wise or politic. I am inclined to think that they were not.
The fact is that for better or worse we have made this country a multi-racial society, and there can be no going back on that. Although I believe that generous arrangements should be available to anyone who wishes to return to the country that he regards as his homeland, it is unrealistic to imagine that anything other than a relatively small minority will wish to go back. We must recognise that the majority have put down their roots in this country. They are British and wish to remain British.
I yield to no one in upholding the rights of such immigrants and of the immigrant community as a whole in our society. Therefore, I have involved my- 1000 self in such matters. Indeed, I believe that I was the first Member to launch the campaign to allow Sikhs to be exempted from the crash helmet legislation. We owe it to the different minorities in our community to recognise their particular problems, especially when they concern religion. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) on his having overcome the difficulties. He is now within striking distance of putting the measure to exempt Sikhs on the statute book.
I am sure that all hon. Members would agree that there can be no second-class citizens in our country. No one who is proud to be British should tolerate any discrimination on grounds of colour or race. We have set ourselves a very difficult task, but I believe that at its present level it is within our capacity to deal with. I believe that the nation can rise to the challenge.
The only threat hanging over the achievement of racial harmony is not the question of Mr. Relf putting up signs in his garden, or of the lunatic Right of the National Front or the lunatic Left of the Communist Party and the International Socialists who hold their rival maches. The threat above all comes from the continuing volume of immigration. That is the basis of increasing tension recently.
The House must face up to two important realities. First, in this tiny island we cannot begin to solve the problems of Africa and Asia by a policy of continuing immigration. Moreover, we can add enormously to our own by such a policy.
Secondly, we must recognise—indeed, we must proclaim it to those who seek to come here—that we have not enough schools, hospitals or houses for our own people, especially our own coloured people, who, as recent statistics have shown, have been the worst sufferers from the recent increases in unemployment.
There are some schools in my constituency where the immigrant communities form 75 per cent. of the school population. I even had a West Indian tell me at one of my recent advice bureaux "I am very sorry, but I am having to take my little daughter away from that primary school. I do not believe that she has the chance of a proper English education there." That man was 1001 as black as your coat, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Apart from the shortage of adequate education facilities, in my constituency and the two neighbouring constituencies in the district of Trafford in Manchester there are more than 4,500 families on the housing waiting list. Some of them have been waiting for a house for 10 years. It is inexplicable to them that we should be continuing a policy of letting in people whose links with this country are tenuous in the extreme. Although the British people have every sympathy with the victims of black racialism in Africa, particularly in Uganda, and although a great many of them accept that we have certain responsibilities as the former Imperial Power that encouraged them to go from their native lands to East Africa, they feel that there are other Governments that have a responsibility in the solving of the problem.
It is the feeling of my constituents—I am sure this is not uncommon elsewhere —that other Governments are not living up to responsibilities that are particularly theirs. I ask the Under-Secretary of State to consider further with her colleagues a new approach to the Government of the Indian sub-continent to see whether they are not prepared to share in greater measure in this responsibility, one that I believe is every bit as much theirs as it is ours. We could help with the financing while they could help by providing homes and a new future for the unfortunate victims of racialism.
I do not believe we can any longer continue our policy of immigration to this country. There must be a halt. We do not have the ability or resources to cope with the ongoing stream. As regards immigration direct from the Indian subcontinent, it is grossly immoral that an advanced technological State such as ours should seek to cream off—indeed, steal would not be too strong a word—the most highly qualified medical personnel from Indian and Pakistan. The ratio of doctors to patients in those countries is many times less favourable than in this country. Their need for such care is many times greater than ours, but we seek their medical personnel purely because we are not prepared to pay our doctors and nurses the going rate for the job.
Let us content ourselves with a successful solution to the problem that we 1002 already have on our plate. Do not let us add to the problem in a way that could make its solution impossible.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Although I found myself in disagreement with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), it is pleasant to find that there are points in common across the Chamber. I hope that we shall find a measure of agreement on this subject that has escaped us so far.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has talked about racial equality. I think we all agree about the importance that he attaches to it. However, some of the Asian, West Indian and African communities living in this country would say that that is a doctrine or theory that is perhaps honoured more in the breach than in the observance. The hon. Member for Stretford touched on that when he referred to the education problem. There is a family in my constituency that has been harassed, insulted and assaulted and had its windows broken over a period. It is impossible for me to tell that family that is accorded the same degree of protection under the law as is afforded to its neighbours in the same street. As well as talking about racial equality, we must try to give effect to it.
Immigration is not so much a general problem as one that creates special problems in certain areas. Those areas include the borough of Wandsworth. Last week the leaders of the immigrant communities in Wandsworth came to see the four Labour Members who represent the four constituencies in the borough, together with Mr. Lionel Davies of the Wandsworth Council for Community Relations. The other three Members of Parliament were my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and my hon. Friends the Members for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry) and Tooting (Mr. Cox). Later in the week the four of us had discussions at the town hall with the leader of the Wandsworth Borough Council. I hope that what I am about to say will represent the common view that is held by the four of us. It is a view that is widely shared by the borough council.
Before I say what that view is, I shall briefly outline the nature of the discussions that took place. The leaders of 1003 the new communities are mostly Asian and West Indian in origin. Many of them are British born. They complain of increasing violence against them by a small minority of young white youths. They say that they are small minority and are themselves deprived. In some cases I believe that they are probably mentally subnormal. That does not remove the feeling among the new communities that violence is condoned by the host community and perhaps ignored by the police. That feeling, irrespective of whether there is substance to it, is widespread among the immigrant communities. They say that retaliation will be unavoidable if it continues.
If unemployment among young people rises in Wandsworth at the rate that seems all too likely, as my grandmother used to say "Satan will find work for idle hands". I do not want to dwell on these possibilities, but in parenthesis I add that it seems that the Manpower Services Commission, which has accepted some Wandsworth projects, seems to be taking rather a narrow view about what is appropriate work for the young unemployed. The suggestion has been made that the job creation programme should include, for example, the refurbishing of some of our railway stations. However, some suggest that that work is demeaning.
I believe that it is widely accepted that nothing is so demeaning as being out of work. It is not work that is demeaning, but unemployment. We must not be too narrow in our concept of what can be done, especially when agreement has been secured among the trade unions that the work may be done. That is a considerable achievement of which we should take advantage.
A couple of weeks ago there was a council by-election in Wandsworth. It took place in the only ward in my constituency that houses a substantial Asian population. The National Front stood for the first time and came third after Conservative and Labour, with the Liberals a bad fourth. Elsewhere in London the results have been even more alarming. Our conversation with the leaders of the Wandsworth Borough Council took all these matters into consideration.
Wandsworth has a housing waiting list containing more than 7,000 names. Else- 1004 where in the country people consider it a hardship to wait two years before being housed, but in Wandsworth a person is lucky to be housed in 10 years. Most people on the list will never be housed. Given those circumstances, Wandsworth Borough Council cannot cope. The size of the burden is such that to economise is to betray the people whom it seeks to serve.
Last year, by a superhuman effort, the council managed to rehouse 1,000 families, but less than a quarter were off the waiting list. The remainder were homeless families whom the council was obliged to house irrespective of whether they had achieved residential qualification.
I shall now bring my remarks back into order, Mr. Speaker, in case you thought I was straying. I think that the point I was seeking to make will now become apparent. Homelessness sometimes arises through eviction. That still takes place for various reasons—sometimes quite legitimate reasons, such as overcrowding. Married children live with their parents, there are family quarrels and children are born. Eventually the thing bursts and they are thrown out on the street. But even if only 10 families from Malawi or elsewhere are known to have been housed by the Wandsworth Borough Council out of the 700 or so homeless families in the area, tension and resentment are created among the host community, especially among young people living with parents who feel, not without reason, that their overcrowding in the place of their birth is being placed second to the claims of immigrants.
Hence the growth of the National Front's vote. It is not so much a racialist vote, except among a small and violent minority, as a vote of frustration and bitterness arising from a sense of injustice that is not without foundation. These people are neither violent nor racialist, but their frustration and sense of injustice leads to the toleration of volence, to the encouragement of racialism and to a protest vote for nationalist candidates at by-elections. Who can be surprised? Should we not praise the steadiness and lack of hostility displayed by most of our people in circumstances in which xenophobia is much more rampant and dangerous than rabies?
1005 What can be done about the situation? On the subject of violence, each of the four Members of Parliament in the area can pinpoint the ward or wards in his constituency and in some cases the streets or spots and times when things are likely to happen. The answer is to avoid confrontation, to provide a police presence, and to avoid violent utterances by anybody—immigrant or host. There are those in this Chamber who might bear that thought in mind.
The problem is increased by exaggeration—and the offenders are not local papers, but some of the national populars. One of these, the Daily Express, feels that I was unfair to it recently. If so, I am sorry. But even BBC Radio 4 sometimes seems to stir up matters unnecessarily. On the other hand, the popular radio programmes, including the commercial ones, are often very good, and indeed on the subject of racial tolerance are on the side of the angels.
But even more important is the need to remove the sense of injustice by removing the cause. By that I do not mean removing the immigrants, as some Opposition Members suggest, because so-called immigrants are not immigrants at all. They are British people who are entitled, by residence or birth or by the consequences of Empire, to be treated fairly but not with privilege. That way lies anger, which we must avoid.
While we are on the subject of Empire, we might remember that no empire can ever be a one-way street. The consequence of spreading out over the globe must always be some return traffic when the heyday is past and over. But we can remove the sense of injustice by providing resources extra to local resources to cope with non-local homelessness.
I say this, I am sure, on behalf of the whole of Wandsworth Borough Council irrespective of political views. Furthermore, these steps must be seen to be taken. Responsibility for the non-local homeless should be placed on the Housing Corporation. The corporation should, if it wishes, use local authorities as its agents, but the authorities themselves should no longer have to provide for nonresidential homelessness out of the resources otherwise available to the rest of the local community.
1006 There is hardly anybody in the country who is not prepared to be friendly to the stranger in our midst, provided that he is not seen to be taking accommodation that we and our neighbours want for ourselves or our children or our families and friends. It is on these lines that we may overcome this problem in a typically British way. But if we do not, if we pretend that all is well and do nothing, we shall be in trouble—trouble of a very serious kind which, by taking action now, we have it in our power to cool, and perhaps even to avoid altogether.
The problem is urgent and, on behalf of the people of Wandsworth, and indeed on behalf of the whole community, I urge the Government to act before it is too late.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) underlined the wish of the Opposition to elicit information, to make a constructive contribution and to allay fears rather than to arouse them. The right hon. Gentleman sought to set the tone for this debate and other hon. Members have followed the same course. Therefore, it appears that some measure of common ground has begun to emerge.
I hope that the atmosphere in this debate will find its way into some of tomorrow's newspaper headlines, but experience does not encourage that view. I shall be surprised if some of our popular newspapers do not select for their headlines comments that have not been part of the general tone of this discussion. We remember the headline in the Daily Express, or The Sun, about the £600-a-week immigrant. Certainly headlines of that sort have done nothing to assist race relations.
The right hon. Gentleman obviously had in mind the objective of improving information, of getting at the facts, and of dispelling confusion and myth. Again, those objectives are not served by hysterical headlines in the Press or by some of the comments that have been made. They have helped to fan the flames, and indeed have led to the recent election results in Deptford which gave 44 per cent. of the votes to those parties adopting the most extreme views on these issues. It is a dangerous situation and we must not fool ourselves. We must 1007 not seek to put forward headline-grabbing inexactitudes. That certainly has not been the case so far in this debate, and I hope that that impression will be confirmed in tomorrow's Press.
This debate could be extremely useful in dispelling the myths and confusion. Not all the myths arise from baffling estimates that sometimes emerge from the Home Department. Some of the myths come from varying sources and they are equally able to be dispelled.
The impression is being given in some quarters that this country is being totally over-run by aliens and by people who are incapable of assimilation to such an extent that the indigenous population will shortly be outnumbered. We are given the impression that we have a quart of non-mixable material being squeezed into a pint pot. However, none of the figures bears out that impression.
The only period when we were making a profit out of the situation—in other words, when we were taking in more than we were sending out—was the period in which we were keenest to find drivers for our buses, crews for our underground trains and nurses for our hospitals. This happened in the period when the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was responsible for the health services. At that period we had a net inflow, but for a lengthy period of time we have experienced a net outflow.
The inflow is by no means on the lines suggested by some headlines. In the period 1964 to 1973 36 per cent. of those who came into this country were from the New Commonwealth, 21 per cent. from the Old Commonwealth, and 43 per cent. were aliens. People from the Irish Republic were not included in those figures at all.
Certain people coming into the country are not immigrants in the way that people normally understand that term. They are certainly not all coloured. As hon. Members have pointed out, that group of people does not embrace those who are legitimate British-born citizens and who are of a descent which makes them coloured. A great deal of confusion is spread by the impression that a vast number of immigrants from the New Commonwealth, of a particular racial descent, is rapidly outnumbering our own population. When we examine the New 1008 Commonwealth immigrants as a proportion of immigrants as a whole, or even of Commonwealth immigrants as a whole, that impression is to a considerable extent dispelled.
Another myth which is circulating and which needs to be dispelled is that the immigrants who come here do so with the object of leading a life of idle luxury, living on social security benefits or, that having come here, a large proportion of them succeed in doing that. The proportion of West Indian families sharing accommodation is six times that of other groups in the population. The housing conditions of immigrants, as those who represent immigrant areas know very well, are by no means ideal.
The curious shifting of ground which has taken place fascinates me. For some of the time we were told that we must be concerned about immigration because people were being packed into houses and overcrowding whole areas. Then we were told that that was not the case but that immigrants were jumping the queue and living in our best and newest council houses and flats.
Both of these statements cannot be true. A large proportion of those who come here from the West Indies live in grossly inadequate accommodation. A proportion of that group is fortunate enough to get to the top of the housing queue and to be housed. The areas in which they are successful are those areas in which there is already a great deal of frustration among the indigenous community. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) knows that full well.
It is curious the way we shift our arguments from one aspect to the other. A similar picture holds good with benefits. It is more striking when we look at the Asian community. Having advanced the argument that immigrants seek to live off our society and benefit from our social security system, some people point to the Asian community—who are remarkably industrious, self-reliant and manifestly anxious to live off their own resources—and say that such people are defeating our legislation concerning shop hours and are working far harder than the home population. It is said that such people are doing all sorts of things.
Those immigrants who say that they do not wish to live on charity, who want 1009 to support themselves and work all hours that God sends, putting in as much conceivable effort as they can, are criticised for doing what the capitalist system is supposed to invite us to do—to work hard, be self-reliant and provide a future for our families. The record of the Asian community does not justify the criticism that is levelled against it to the effect that it seeks to live off the social services.
We cannot allow fears to be fanned or apprehensions to be generated by misleading impressions of how the two communities behave. There are differences between them and differences in the circumstances in which the two communities I have broadly described find themselves. I speak particularly of West Indians and Asians. Not all of these stories can be remotely true. Clearly some are not.
Immigration policy has taxed this House over many years. We ought to be able to establish some things clearly. There is not much support in this House, although there is some, for the principle that discrimination should arise in immigration policy on the basis of race, colour, creed or sex. It would be impossible to meet some of the criticisms raised against our present immigration laws without further introducing into those laws elements of discrimination on a number of those counts—not simply on grounds of race, but of sex. That point has been raised in the discussions about arranged marriages. Nor can we dispense in our immigration law with provisions for those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who do not have citizenship in any other country. We want to prevent such situations from becoming explosive. We must use what diplomatic means we can to prevent situations developing in East Africa and elsewhere which could dispossess large numbers of people. We could not, however, hold our heads high in the world if we sought to evade our responsibilities towards such people.
Neither can we dispense with our responsibilities towards the immediate dependants of those settled in this country. I do not see how we could do so without putting other groups of British citizens who marry abroad or who have dependants abroad in a position of disadvantage which would bring them to their respective Members of Parliament 1010 with strong criticisms about the way in which they were being treated. Unless we introduce quite inappropriate discrimination, I do not see how, even if we wished to do so, we could avoid making provision for dependants of those who have already found a legal place in this country.
Nor do I think the laws and practices of this country should discourage or prevent groups whom we have rightfully allowed to settle here from maintaining their own traditions within a framework of equal rights for the population of the country as a whole. It has been a misguided approach to race relations which has suggested that there is some kind of total and wholesale integration, some total and wholesale dispersal of all traditions and customs producing one complete mixture. We should not seek such a situation and I do not think it is likely to happen.
What is more likely to happen is that some of the traditions and cultures, including those which are the basis of the arranged marriages, will disperse somewhat over the years. Just as any Scot living in England or any Welshman attending a Welsh chapel in London hopes that some of the traditions of the community from which he comes will survive through many generations so that his grandchildren will share something of his feelings for his country of origin, so too these feelings will be shared by those who come from outside the United Kingdom.
It is curious that the free movement of people inside and outside the United Kingdom should cause so much concern among those who would otherwise believe in a free market. A totally free market in people is something over which we have to exercise some safeguards. The notion that it is the job of Government totally and permanently to prevent the movement of people between different parts of the world is a curious one to come from any quarter but particularly from those quarters in which the free movement of other aspects of the economy is thought to be desirable. The free movement of labour cannot be thought to be totally undesirable.
This is why immigrants initially came to this country in large numbers—because there were jobs to be done and no one in 1011 this country was prepared to do them. There are other differences—in living standards and welfare provision—which may distort the free market. We may need to act to counteract those effects, but let us not suppose that it is the responsibility of Government altogether to prevent the movement of populations between nations.
Some common ground has emerged in the debate and I can endorse much of what was said by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border. I am with him on the need for our nationality law to be brought up to date. As the Home Secretary pointed out, our problems will not be solved when the Bill is brought before us. They are only beginning then. Until we have sorted out that issue, we cannot make effective progress.
I am also with the right hon. Gentleman on the need to provide complete information, the whole truth, as he said. I should not be adverse to some independent assessment of the statistics we have to use if I were as sure that it would help.
Nor am I averse in principle to a register, although I think that there is some confusion about how we could run a register and what it would mean. Is it a census, a means of trying to establish what the ultimate responsibility is, or is it a list which at some point is closed and which, having been closed, permits no further names to be entered? That is a frightening prospect because it means that those who for one reason or another did not or were not able to supply the necessary information in time are to be excluded from a right which would otherwise be conferred on them.
Any Member of Parliament knows how often he has brought to his notice occasions when people have been left out of a certain category through no fault of their own when the net was closed. There would be bound to be some among those unfamiliar with the procedures and complications involved in setting up a register who did not have the necessary information at the right time. It is not possible to have a totally closed register. Therefore, some of the claims made about its value are in doubt.
My right hon. and hon. Friends and myself have no common ground with those who would wish to place restrictions on people properly resident in this country which would mark them off from 1012 the rest of the community, or with those who suggest that, having brought people here because we needed them, our responsibility to them has ceased and they should be sent away or, if necessary, retained in a secondary capacity. There can be no common ground with views which have no basis in our traditions.
It is not fair to members of the public who are genuinely and deeply concerned about these matters to suggest that there is a clear end to immigration—a phrase used by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border. We must define immigration very carefully if we think that it can be stopped altogether. Dependants, fiancés and British citizens who marry abroad all give rise to a claim to come here.
There is no iron curtain which can be put round our shores and no set of doors marked "Exit only" which can dispense with all these claims and various requirements. To suggest to the public that no categories of people, now or in future, should have the opportunity to come here would be totaly to deceive them and wrongly to delude them. This House should not do that.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. George Rodgers (Chorley)
It is a pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). He put his case sensibly and lucidly and, if I may say so, bravely, because we are sometimes advised that we should keep away from these sensitive areas.
I warmly welcome the opportunity to discuss the subject of immigration. I realise that the topic was discussed six or seven weeks ago and that the remaining stages of the Race Relations Bill will be before us later in the week. None the less, we should examine and review the issue at every possible opportunity.
It may be suggested that by continually proding and poking at this issue there is a danger of inflaming the problems associated with immigration and of encouraging those who wish to exploit the difficulties. I do not share that view. It is important that there should be open discussion and that the position should be frequently reviewed so that we may dispel some of the myths, legends and absurdities which surround the immigrant population. A great deal depends on the 1013 motives of those participating in the debate. If the purpose of some hon. Members is simply to rake over the difficulties, if they simply wish to poke round and to expose various problems, this forum is futile and possibly dangerous.
We have a substantial but not an overwhelming number of coloured immigrants in this country. We must be prepared to face the truth of that situation. We must acknowledge this considerable group of people in our community who are of a different colour and have different customs from the majority. If the old order has changed, we must address ourselves to meeting the problems which emerge. We must provide the remedies. It is not sufficient for hon. Members to make token and casual comments declaring that they have no racial intent and then generate all sorts of comment which create further difficulties for those who are trying to bring harmony and good will among the different groups in the country.
The title of this debate is somewhat misleading because we are talking not about immigration as such but about coloured immigration. During the past three years over 30,000 people from the Common Market nations have entered this country and have been absorbed into the community without any great problem, as they blend with the rest of us because they have no colour which distinguishes them. The difficulties revolve around the colour of people's skins. We should bear that in mind and recognise the problem, not avoid it.
I do not wish to pursue that aspect of the matter. I want to concentrate on other areas. I have no desire to allocate blame or responsibility for the course of events which brought about the influx of the immigrant population. We are all aware that the Conservative Party was in office when British passports were made available to many thousands of African Asians. The Conservative Party was in office when there was a recruitment drive to attract personnel to operate our hospital and transport services.
I recognise that those actions were in response to circumstances, and the response was understandable and justified. They were not opposed by the Labour Opposition. However, I find it 1014 extremely difficult to understand why members of the present Opposition try to evade the inevitable consequences of those actions. Some hon. Members opposite appear to suffer from a guilt complex. They seem to have a morbid desire to return to the scene of the crime by continually analysing the situation as it was some years ago.
I do not accept that any crime was committed. What has happened as a result of decisions taken some years ago is that changes have taken place in the structure of our society. The event of a flow of people who are plainly different in colour and customs has bewildered and confused a good number of our people, especially the elderly, who find it difficult in their declining years to accommodate drastic change. People have been suspicious of change because each time there is a drastic change—whether it be our entry into Europe, or changes in local government boundaries or in our currency system—it always appears to be to the disadvantage of ordinary people. There is naturally concern over such a major change.
§ Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
The hon. Gentleman has spent a great deal of time castigating the Opposition. Will he explain why his party voted against the 1962 Act, which was the first measure introduced by any Government to control immigration?
§ Mr. Rodgers
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I suggested that the Government of the time responded to circumstances, and, in my opinion, quite correctly. I do not resent that. The Labour Opposition at that time were in accord with the policy. We now have to face the consequences of events which occurred then. It is no use rehashing the situation. Let us face the situation as it is.
Anxiety over immigration is not the same as racism, but there is strong evidence that certain extremist Right-wing political groups are using this natural concern among people to promote conflict and difficulty between the groups in this country. Race prejudice is the result of lack of information, of understanding and of knowledge, and it is the duty of hon. Members to put the record straight by decisively dissociating themselves from the lies and distortions 1015 which are being maliciously spread by those who desire to facilitate mistrust and violence.
We have all listened to the strange tales which are told and retold to incite racial hatred. Sometimes concoctions which plainly are not founded on truth are published in the letter columns of newspapers. Newspaper editors should check the authenticity of some of the stories that they publish.
We all know that according to gossip and rumour a coloured person has only to show his face at a Department of Health and Social Security office to be instantly showered with untold wealth which he invests in several colour television sets and a variety of motor cars. Many of the tales are so ludicrous that they would be laughable, except that they have become so widely accepted. They are not sufficiently challenged. Again, we here have a duty to expose such nonsense.
The theory that crime and violence have increased because of the presences of coloured people is in contradiction to all the available evidence. The Asian community especially is exceptionally tranquil, sober and hard-working. The people of that community have established a multitude of small enterprises. I observe with electoral distress that among the immigrant population few share my desire for a Socialist society—I dare say that the chief beneficiary will be the Federation of Self-Employed. I do not mind disagreeing with them on political matters, but it is absurd if we are to detest a person because his nose is longer, his eyes are a different colour, or his skin is a different shade. That would be nonsense.
III-feeling founded on such trivia is unnaturally and artifically introduced. It does not occur with children. During the parliamentary week, I reside at Clapham, in Wandsworth. There is a school close to my digs, and I suppose that the racial balance must be about 50–50. The children go to school hand in hand, and argue and laugh together. They certainly do not hate each other. Such hatred in some areas is artifically imposed after the children leave school.
I know that the wave of immigration has presented problems. I think that some of my hon. Friends have the extreme 1016 notion that because a person is coloured, he is automatically virtuous. That is equal nonsense. There are villainous coloured people as well as villainous white people. Some of the problems which have emerged, certainly the financial ones, may need attention at national level, because the local communities cannot cope with the limited resources they have available. In rundown areas like my own part of Lancashire, where coloured people have bought up properties in a desperate attempt to find places to live, some elderly white people are left stranded, and we must recognise that they are bewildered and confused, and we must provide amenities and facilities to meet the situation.
Equally, the coloured community must be prepared to accept that it lives in a society which has its own rules. I resent coloured immigrants who are not prepared to accept a co-educational system for their own children in this country. I am not prepared to accept, although I am sure that it is virtuously intended, the Bill to exempt Sikhs from wearing crash helmets when riding motor cycles. Making exceptions to the law is dangerous and provides a tinder box. As long as no Sikh is compelled to ride a motor cycle, there should be no exception from the requirement to wear a crash helmet.
If we are prepared to meet the problem by using the weapons of decency and common sense, we shall defeat it. If we want to achieve racial harmony and understanding, we must avoid like the plague the temptation to extract electoral advantage from the situation. We must prevent the dreadful possibility of a confrontation such as that which exists in Northern Ireland, because our responsibilities here reach beyond the immediate situation. They reach towards and touch our children and our children's children. Whatever their disagreements in other areas, I believe that hon. Members must unite in opposition to any advance by those who advocate the evils of racism.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
I make clear my support for the declaration by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) of his belief in the equality of all citizens in this country. That is basic to our democratic beliefs.
1017 The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers) was well intentioned in many respects, but I found his speech confusing. Like the Home Secretary, he got his emphasis wrong when he implied that the problem was less because there was a large indigenous population and a relative small but substantial immigrant population. It is the density of the concentrations of the immigrant population that gives rise to very serious problems.
In our debate on 24th May, the Home Secretary spelt out the meaning of his policy more clearly than he did today. He gave figures on 24th May broadly including the number of immigrants from the Old Commonwealth who may be expected to arrive here in the next few years. He stated, and he confirmed today, that about 40,000 passport holders and dependants could be expected from East Africa. He said that up to about 240,000 dependants of immigrants already here, mainly from India and Pakistan, were entitled to entry. On his figures, it is clear that about 60,000 immigrants—no less—will be arriving this year and that about the same number will be entitled to entry in each of the following two and probably three years. That is the equivalent of receiving into this country the population of a city of about the size of Worcester each year.
The important practical point I want to emphasise is that nearly all those immigrants will settle permanently in the already established and crowded immigrant reception areas of the country. This is where the Home Secretary was rather misleading when referring to our large indigenous population and the small but substantial immigrant population, because the reception areas are not great in number. It is in such areas that the fear of overwhelming numbers of immigrants is growing, and that fear must be taken into account in the House.
A limited number of London metropolitan boroughs have substantial immigrant populations, but almost the whole of the remainder of the post-1950 immigrant population is now settled in parts of the West Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire and parts of the East Midlands. Immigrant settlements of over 20,000 people, or more than 10 per cent. of the total population of the local government area in which they live, are to be found in Birmingham, Leicester, Bradford, Man- 1018 chester, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Leeds, Nottingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Huddersfield, Luton, Sheffield, Derby and Bolton.
It is well known that these immigrant populations are settled mainly in the inner, heavily-crowded areas of those industrial towns and cities, and many recent reports, including those prepared by the expert study teams engaged by the Department of the Environment, have illustrated the appalling difficulty of the problems affecting these run-down inner areas, including particularly the problems of education, housing, social stress and unemployment.
I want to emphasise that anyone who knows anything of the problems of social and environmental decay in the inner areas of scores of our industrial towns and cities would say that we face enormous difficulties in coping with them on behalf of all the people of all origins living in such areas. Especially have the local authorities responsible for these run-down areas in the Midlands and the North had bestowed upon them the additional responsibility of caring for massive, newly-created multi-racial communities. The views expressed by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) on 24th May took no account whatever of the enormous responsibilities placed on them as a result of these conditions. In advocating accelerated arrivals, the hon. Member for York did not understand the burden thrown upon the kindness and tolerance of the ordinary people who live in those areas and whose daily lives are seriously affected by these problems.
As an example of the problems which arise in these areas, I give the figures of the number of immigrant schoolchildren arriving in Birmingham. They merit serious study. From 1st November 1975 to 30th April 1976, the number of new pupils entering primary schools was 426 and secondary schools 296. The total number of new pupils from the Commonwealth presenting themselves to those schools was 722 in six months.
To illustrate the problem over a longer period, in the 12 months ended November 1975—the 12 months immediately preceding the period I have just taken—the number of new immigrant schoolchildren arriving in Birmingham's primary schools was 698 and in secondary schools 585, making a total of 1,283. It can be seen that the number of pupils arriving 1019 during the six months to 30th April 1976 was rising. They arrived at the rate of about 25 a week to be taken in and looked after in primary schools. That is an educational function which is essential to the future if those children are to have any chance of taking a normal place in British society. In looking ahead, the local authority has no idea of the number of children to be expected, because the Home Office, which is responsible for the issue of vouchers and the eventual control of the number of arrivals, gives no information direct to local authorities in this respect. In 1971 a Select Committee of the House recommended that such information should be given, but no way has been found to meet that recommendation.
The practical point I want to emphasise is that this rate of arrivals means that in a rapidly increasing number of schools in the inner areas of Birmingham over 60 per cent. of the school population comes from non-indigenous families. Increasingly, that puts extra responsibilities upon the teachers, who have to provide remedial courses in English and other subjects so that the standards for all the pupils shall not be too seriously affected. Numbers and proportions are of great consequence to those who seek to set reasonable standards in primary schools.
I am specifying these problems in Birmingham because I believe that they can be reproduced in several of the other immigrant areas which I named earlier. The nursery services which Birmingham has to provide are in a proportion far greater than that recommended in the national guidelines, and in general child care work the strain is so great that it is undertaken only at the point of crisis. The continued arrival of families who need assistance adds to the burden and responsibilities of those who do that work. In the difficult and specialised sector of the adoption and fostering of children—where there is much work and many practical difficulties affecting immigrant children—there is known and acknoledged to be a lack of resources.
Turning to the problem of unemployment, on 13th May 1976 the number of young Birmingham people unemployed was 1,845. Of those, the young immigrant unemployed totalled 433. That represents 23.5 per cent., not much above 1020 the immigrant percentage of the school population, which is about 23 per cent. Young immigrants were not grossly overrepresented in May 1976 in the unemployment list. It must be understood, however, that the rising figures of unemployed school leavers cause great concern. By August it is expected that about 7,000 school leavers will be without jobs, and the difficulties for all will increase greatly.
The latest figure for the unemployed of all ages in the Birmingham metropolitan area is 39,718. Of that total the immigrant unemployed number 6,664. I emphasise that young, middle-aged and older immigrants arriving in the city face special difficulties in employment, which are already causing great anxiety and affect the minds of most of the Birmingham working people.
The housing situation has been worsened by the Government's cuts in local authority mortgages and in grants payable for the renovation of small older houses in private ownership. A high proportion of immigrants move to ownership of small houses of that kind, and cuts in the number of improvement grants mean that housing standards are kept low, sometimes dangerously low, in the densely-populated areas.
Whatever may be said about the present difficulties—and in all these respects Birmingham cannot be alone—local authorities must be looking ahead to the ways in which they can cope with the extra population who arrive in their areas under the Government's policy as described by the Home Secretary, which is 60,000 extra immigrants every year for certainly three and probably four years ahead. The Home Secretary said that those numbers can be successfully accepted given sensible planning.
Having raised all these matters of conditions and resources with the Prime Minister by letter on 11th June, and having so far received no reply, it seems to me that we cannot describe the present situation as anything like the beginning of sensible planning.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
If a petition is put forward to the Home Office, it takes six to eight weeks to get a reply. If an Asian leader or an immigrant leader wants to see 1021 the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary, he will be seen in two days.
§ Mr. Eyre
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point.
There cannot be an answer to the question I am posing about resources by reference to the urban aid programme. In the year 1974–75 the sum spent on that programme was £16.5 million. But that figure is of public expenditure and includes local authority expenditure financed from the rates as well as central Government expenditure. No great resources were provided from central Government. If we concentrate on items for the special needs of immigrants, we see that projects relating to those special needs account for about 10 per cent. of the total expenditure approved to date under the urban aid programme. Not more than about £2 million in 1974–75 came from central Government resources. That cannot be described as the beginning of sensible planning.
As to other grants to local authorities with a concentration of Commonwealth immigrants, in addition to the urban programme there were grants totalling £14.1 million in 1975–76. That sum was shared by certainly 18 local authorities outside London and probably at least 12 within London, making 30 local authorities in all which must be receiving a total of £14 million. That cannot work out at much more than about £500,000 each. That is not sensible planning of the allocation of national resources to carry out a national policy which involves the creation of such large responsibilities and problems in the areas of the local authorities which have to receive these immigrant populations and cope with the problems.
Already this year, the tightening effect of cash limits is lessening the resources available to local authorities, including those with the problems to which I have referred. However, it is also clear to everyone that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is preparing Government spending cuts for 1977 and 1978 and, according to many accounts, through to 1980.
Local authorities will have to receive and deal with extra populations in already densely-populated and over- 1022 crowded areas with a great mass of problems. I cannot believe that any responsible Government could continue a policy which creates massive extra potential slum areas in our industrial towns and cities. Good race relations in the immigrant reception areas require confidence on the part of all people there that decent conditions will be established and maintained. This will need a lot of work and money. Fears about growing unemployment, especially among young people, must be sensitively taken into account in these areas.
Against that background, and remembering recent disturbing events in reception areas and the uncertainty arising from the Hawley Report, my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border was absolutely right to press strongly for a complete review of the Government's immigration policy.
Confidence in the future and in the country's ability to succeed in overcoming the problems in reception areas is being severely questioned and is one of the causes of present tensions. The Government cannot stand aside from these anxieties, which are shared by responsible elements in all families living in these crowded areas. Birmingham people know that a happy and successful solution to all these problems must be found. They should not fairly be afflicted by fears of worsening conditions.
For these reasons, I ask the Government to begin at once urgent consultation with local authorities in the major immigrant reception areas to identify the range of stresses in housing, education and other essential services.
Local people in these areas, including the immigrant communities, should be consulted about the problems and the resources required successfully to cope with them. The interests of every family living in these areas demand that the Government should be aware of the good conditions which are necessary for good race relations.
The Government's silence on the question of resources is ominous. If adequate resources are not to be forthcoming—and if that is so the Government should state the facts honestly—the Home Secretary should take urgent and serious account of the demands for a review in 1023 addition to an urgent study of the possibility of introducing a register of dependants.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
If, as my hon. Friend has indicated, funds are not yet available, is not the only responsible action the Government can take to terminate all further immigration, from all sources, immediately?
§ Mr. Eyre
I understand the strength with which my hon. Friend makes that plea. I am saying to the Home Secretary that, on the basis of the figures he has declared for immigration and the conditions already existing in reception areas, unless the Government are able to meet their obligation in regard to resources the policy upon which they have embarked is not workable and is not fair or acceptable to the people in the immigrant reception areas.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) read out a list of urban areas where there are large concentrations of immigrants or recent immigrants. It included the town which I have the honour to represent, but not, in particular, my constituency.
From my experience in Derby and from the resume of the situation given by the hon. Member for Hall Green, the lesson I draw is that, in terms of both the economic situation in this country and the facts and figures of the urban aid programme and so on which he was developing, it seems that the policy of benign neglect enunciated in the USA by Daniel Moynihan to solve the problem of Negro ghettos was the wrong policy for the United States and would certainly be the wrong policy here. It would cause the situation in this country to deteriorate.
We need effective action of the kind which has already been called for by some speakers in this debate. This concern is not the prerogative of one side of the House. I was interested in a recent article by the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) in which he put forward some very good proposals for tackling these problems in our urban areas.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. 1024 Whitelaw) and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the tone they set for the debate. So far no speaker has departed from it, although one or two interventions have to some degree lowered the tone.
We have to ask ourselves what are the public misapprehensions about immigration. They centre upon the worries which concern us within the community generally. I have taken a letter at random from my mailbag today. Of course we get many hundreds of letters on this subject. This woman constituent says:You appear to be in favour of unlimited immigrants entering this country. I am not anti-black, but I am anti-over-population and hordes of people streaming into England.She goes on to develop her point quite clearly. This is not a letter stating the demented racist views that we receive in some correspondence.
The views of people like my constituent have to be answered point by point and seriously. First, we have to say that no one in this House, whatever may have been the views in 1962 and 1969, is in favour of unlimited immigration or, for instance, the unlimited use of water resources at this moment. How could we be? We are an island of finite space, financial resources, housing and so on.
The so-called argument about immigration is not really an argument about immigration or even about alleged hordes of people coming to this country. It is an argument about immigrants, past and present, and about coloured people within that section of immigrants. First and foremost, it is about the 3½ million in this country who are not of British origin or birth—only about one-third of whom happen to be black and brown.
It is an argument about that group within our community and their children—and, presumably, their children's children since, because of that verbal sleight of hand by which at least one right hon. Member distinguishes himself, the children of immigrants and their children are described in the statistics used in these debates as immigrants themselves. It is as if there can be no point in the future at which they can assimilate or their loyalties, habits, patterns of culture and lives become those of the host community into which their parents and grandparents settled. It is this kind of pernicious projection of the understandable worries and problems which casts a 1025 dark shadow on all our debates about, in theory, immigration though in practice about one section of the immigrant community.
Looking at the existing strains on housing, hospitals and schools, we see not merely difficulties of absorption but also the degree to which some within the community make sections of our community—immigrants or people of immigrant descent—scapegoats for all that is wrong.
In my constituency, the area with the worst housing has very few people of immigrant descent. Not many are black or brown. The housing is rotten and has been terrible for 30 or 40 years. It predates in its horror the entry of immigrants in the 'fifties and 'sixties in response to economic needs and market forces in this country. These two things tend to be coupled together—the difficulties that this country is experiencing, and the anxieties within this community about a certain sort of immigrant community.
Let us not forget—I shall return to this point—that those who attack one group of immigrants today have frequently in the past attacked or would like to attack in the future other groups of immigrants. There is a public worry about illegal immigration, about the degree to which the new minority communities can integrate and can be assimilated and about tensions between the races. All of these three things must be looked at. It follows that we have a special responsibility in this House.
This is not an arid statistical debate that we are engaged in today, important though the statistics, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Hall Green, are. This is also a matter—I do not think I exaggerate—of life and death to some of our fellow citizens. One has only to look at the aftermath of the previous debate on immigration in this House and the violent deaths that have occurred, and to look not only at the treatment by certain sections of the media of that debate but the way in which it was exploited by certain sections outside, to appreciate that we are dealing with matters of life and death in this country today.
That is, I hope, one of the reasons why every speaker in the debate today, of all three parties thus far represented, has moderated his tone and dealt with the debate in a constructive manner.
1026 I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said about stamping on illegal immigration. The people who, more than anyone else, have a stake in seeing a drop in illegal immigration are immigrants and those of immigrant descent who are already here within this community. The last thing they want to see is a route established into this country, because it stigmatises them as a group, within the host majority community, of persistent law-breakers. There is no evidence that the immigrant community or certain sections of it are themselves persistent law-breakers in this kind of way; nor will they be unless despair and fear work together upon them to make them so.
We should look very carefully at the facts concerning immigration from the Asian sub-continent, not in the somewhat fevered language used by some right hon. and hon. Members in the previous debate on the Hawley Report nor, indeed, in terms of a wholly critical and dismissive response to that, but in terms of what is taking place on the Asian sub-continent.
I have in my hand a letter from a friend who has recently returned from Bangladesh. I have given a copy of it to the Home Secretary. It indicates the nature of the problem. The nature of the problem is that many of those who might well be genuine dependants on the Asian sub-continent do not have, as of right and practice, the kind of documentation that we naturally have in this country and, in our culture, carry around with us, such as birth certificates, letters of identity and so on. Because of that, they tend to go to certain people and buy those documents. Sometimes they buy the right documents and sometimes they buy forged ones. Sometimes they get into the hands of criminal elements which exploit them, just as other criminal elements have exploited a section of the community in this country who have attempted to come into the country illegally by smuggling themselves in.
The letter states:The problem of course, is to distinguish between genuine dependants buying documents they should have had in the first place, and people who are bogus. It seems to me that Mr. Hawley and Mr. Lyon have taken up opposite extreme viewpoints.My main point in writing to you is to say that, in my opinion, there is no possible way 1027 that either can know how many fall into each category unless they are fluent in Bengali, they have really good contacts in Bangladesh, especially in the villages, where most people live, and they are highly trusted by these contacts, whose jobs will often depend on not upsetting certain vested interests.I do not claim these virtues, and I suspect that the same applies to Mr. Hawley and Mr. Lyon. They have merely seen what they wished to see. I felt at the time, and still do, that the answer lies somewhere in between,On these matters we ought to know the actual truth.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether, broadly, he accepts Mr. Hawley's conclusions? He has quoted a constituent of his as being doubtful. Will he also recognise that, whatever he may say of Mr. Hawley, Mr. Hawley has had a very distinguished career in the Diplomatic Service and is not a man who is lightly taken in?
§ Mr. Whitehead
I have not engaged in any character assassination of Mr. Hawley. I have merely said, in very moderate tones, that I think the truth lies somewhere between the two views expressed about the Hawley Report in the debate on the last occasion on which immigration matters were discussed. As a good deal of Mr. Hawley's information appears to have come from immigration officers, staffs in our consulates and diplomatic representatives in countries on the Asian subcontinent, I believe that we ought to know what is the truth of the racket—if it is a racket—in bogus documents, and the truth, if it can be established, as to the number of genuine dependants who are exploited, as well as non-genuine, bogus dependants who are exploiting the system to gain entry into this country.
I should like that matter to be discussed rationally and reasonably and with full knowledge of the facts and not in the kind of heated language that was used in the debate the other day. It is that sort of language which is picked up by the Press and which then translates itself into, if I may quote from some newspapers,Secret Whitehall dossier on immigrant racket",Immigrant racket leak",How Britain is deceived",and so on. Those overtones of scandal, deceit and so on that follow from the way in which the debate was reported 1028 on the last occasion are not justified when we do not have access to all the facts.
I happen not to agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon)—whom we all hope to see back in the House shortly. I do not think that there is a totally identifiable finite pool of dependants who can be picked out like that and so described, but there may well be many genuine dependants who have terms of reference that are set out in the manifestos of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, who have a right to come into this country but who are defrauded, swindled and frustrated, like so many of the wretched people who get caught up in the chain whereby immigrants are smuggled in illegally. We need more facts on this matter. I do not wish to develop my speech too far into that because I have two other observations to make.
The first observation is that on the question of assimilation many hon. Members have quoted in the debate the experience of constituents who have come to them and said that they wished to bring in dependants and to make arranged marriages and so on. I believe that there has been a failure to distinguish here between the established practice within Asian cultures of making an arranged marriage for children, and a marriage which, by the records, is as sustained and has as good a chance of happiness and success within those cultural patterns as do marriages made within our very different cultural patterns, and the quite bogus marriages which are marriages of convenience, as we would understand them in our society, which are made purely and solely so that someone should be brought into this community and can then slip away, having established a right, not seeing any more of the fiancé, male or female, at whose behest they were brought here.
Even with second-generation immigrants there will be some pressure from parents on the young immigrant, male or female, who has come to this country and grown up here, to say "You must make an arranged marriage. It will be very good for us. Perhaps we may make something out of it if you bring in someone from the village back home." However, they will not put up with that precisely because they are open to all the 1029 pressures and cultural tug of the host community. Anyone who sees his children growing up and attending schools, as mine are, with Indian and Pakistani children alongside them, sees this. It causes great agony to parents, deeply religious as they often are.
We must realise the strength of the cultural tug away which the home community exerts. For people to say that over the next two to four generations the arranged marriage pattern will continue seems to me to ignore what has happened with other groups who have come to this country and who have found that the pressure to stay within the clan or the tribe and within one settled area breaks down inexorably once the host community's influence is felt.
A lady of my acquaintance who is Jewish told me the other day that she was cut off totally by her family—the grandfather, the rabbi, uncles and all her kin—when she married a non-Jew. Her old grandfather said "You may think you have escaped us now, but when the pogroms start you will be back." That is the final sanction that the older generation can try to bring to bear upon these young people. It is not working in the Jewish community, which, in my view, is wholly assimilated, and so are many other immigrant groups within the 3½ million people about whom we are talking today. We are not talking about black and brown immigrants as for ever set apart. I do not believe that the Asian immigrants will be able to resist these cross currents in the future, and hon. Members should bear that in mind.
Lastly, there is the fear of racial tension which, I know, is as strong among many people, and which I regret has been encouraged in some quarters, including in this House. In the previous debate the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) made a speech which I thought was astonishing in its intemperance. I refrain from analysing it in detail, partly because the right hon. Gentleman is not present in the Chamber and partly because of a shortage of time. I have a certain perverse admiration for the right hon. Gentleman, and I would like to assume that when he passes from among us—because he has been a great parliamentarian—he might be called a good House of Commons man, as was said in an obituary sense of another great Mid- 1030 lands Member of Parliament, Austen Chamberlain, when he departed this life.
However, a great parliamentarian recognises his responsibilities and does not overheat his language. He does not attempt to dramatise the self-fulfilling prophecy of racial conflict and war—in a situation about which all of us need to be delicate. There is a danger that this kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of racial tension will be taken up by the media and by people who for one reason or another, populists with racist overtones, wish to foment the kind of racial conflict that most of us should wish to prevent.
We have a duty to say in this House, and to see that the mass media report, the facts as they are, soberly and objectively. We have a duty to say to the newspapers that they should not overheat this debate in their headlines in the way that they report the occasional scandal and the statistical arguments that go on in the House of Commons, because if they do so overheat the debate and raise the tension in this country they will drive back those sections of the immigrant community, the black and brown British citizens, and the descendants of the black and the brown immigrants of the 1950s and the 1960s, into the ghettos. They will create ghettos in the mind that are as serious as ghettoes in the town centres. They will create ghettos of hate and fear that will lead us into a situation of racial tension that we should all abhor.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I appeal to hon. Members to try to make shorter speeches so that others can get into the debate.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham and Crawley)
The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) referred, as have others during the debate, to the importance of tolerance and harmony in race relations. The hon. Gentleman said that he was against the idea of unlimited immigration. He believes that it is right to limit the amount of immigration.
I think that reference has been made in every speech today to the work of the community relations committees in many towns, and certainly in my constituency the committee has been extremely good. My hon. Friend the Member for 1031 Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) bore witness to the amount of effort and resources being expended on education and on housing to help the immigrants in these communities, and that is plainly the case.
Rather like the Home Secretary, the hon. Member for Derby, North was careful not to define what he meant by "no unlimited immigration". The Home Secretary said that he thought it was right to be specific about the categories of immigrants that are coming to this country. What he did not say was what idea he had about the size of each of those categories, about the total number of immigrants that he foresaw coming here. I must tell the hon. Member for Derby, North that in my view all the work of the community relations people and the Race Relations Act will be put in peril unless we know roughly the numbers of immigrants that we can expect. I believe that that knowledge will do more to help race relations and the work of the community welfare people than any other single fact, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) was right to say that it was that information above all that the people of this country had to be given.
In a characteristically admirable speech, my right hon. Friend wound up with the recommendation that we ought to consider an end to immigration. I find myself in entire agreement with that policy. I say that because, as the House knows, I have in my constituency the Airport Hotel, and it was in that hotel that a number of Malawi families were placed by the West Sussex County Council when they were flown in. I do not wish to detain the House by recounting what happened, but I received petitions containing thousands of signatures about what my constituents and many others felt was an intolerable position, namely, that people could come to this country, for whatever reason, and claim the benefits and social security services to which they had not contributed a penny. This is a matter about which people feel very strongly indeed. I do not think anyone would deny that, because I should be surprised if there was any hon. Member who had not received letters in a similar vein.
1032 Coupled with the need for knowledge of the total number of immigrants coming to this country is the belief that people here will not put up with similar actions again. Whatever the difficulties, we have to make it clear that no such event will ever occur again and that if arrangements are to be made by a local authority for the reception of immigrants to come here at short notice it cannot be expected to do it on its own. Further, if this is likely to be a problem—and it may be in time to come—it ought to be met by a voluntary effort in much the same way as was done for the victims of the war in Vietnam. I mention that incident but I shall not refer to it again because that is not the matter that I wish to discuss this evening.
I believe that the immigration problem was, to a large degree, exacerbated by the fact that the Government increased the number of entry vouchers from 3,500 to 5,000 a year. That was bound to cause strain and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green said, it has done so. The fact that those vouchers were given to heads of families, together with their dependants, means about 20,000 immigrants a year coming here for that reason alone.
The Home Secretary said that by allowing in those 20,000 a year the problem of the quota of voucher holders would be overcome during the course of this Parliament—a matter of two or two and a half years. I think that if that were so hon. Members on both sides of the House would very much welcome it and take a considered view on whether that was the right policy. As the right hon. Gentleman will recognise, however, during his speech I asked about the 25,000 Asians who have moved from East Africa to India and who have every bit the same entitlement as those Asians who now live in East Africa to enter this country. They, too, have United Kingdom passports.
I do not know what hon. Members thought of the Home Secretary's response to that situation, but my view was that his explanation was that we had an absolute obligation to those Asians in East Africa but a somewhat lesser responsibility for those East African Asians who happen to be in India. I think that was what the Home Secretary said and I think that was what he meant to say. 1033 Those people have not suddenly arrived in India but have arrived there as a result of a settlement policy. That is to say, they have been encouraged by this Government, and by the Conservative Government, to move to India. I believe that that policy is absolutely right. I see no reason why it should not be further extended to those Asians who live in East Africa. I believe that that is what should be done.
We ought to recollect the reasons why those Asians in East Africa were given United Kingdom passports in the first place. They were given United Kingdom passports as a protection under the new constitutions of the newly liberated—if that is the right word—countries in Africa. In the case of every single one of those emerging countries, specific undertakings were written into the constitutions about safeguards to minorities. The position is absolutely clear—that in every single one of those countries those rights, entrenched as they were in the constitution, have been broken to a greater or lesser degree, and in the case of Malawi disgracefully so.
I quote from Keesing's "Contemporary Archives" what the position was in Malawi:On the question of the minority communities in Nyasaland, Mr. Butler said that while in the proposed Constitution the substance of political power would be transferred to the Africa people, as was "right and proper", it was necessary to allay the apprehensions of individuals among the minority communities, and that this would be done by the proposed Bill of Rights.Dr. Banda gave assurances that the minorities had nothing to fear; he agreed to the inclusion of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution,The same is true of the constitutions in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. In every single one of those countries it has been broken. That places us in a very different position from the one we were in when we signed the constitution at that time. I believe that we ourselves cannot be expected to take on the sole responsibility of receiving refugees from these régimes, not at any rate into this country.
However, I believe that we have a responsibility to those people and I think we should use over overseas aid funds in order to assist them to return to the country from which they originally 1034 came—India. In all the circumstances, that would be the best course to adopt. I know that there is considerable controversy about the responsibility for events at that time. Lord DuncanSandys said that no undertaking was given but the late Iain Macleod said that there was, and that was repeated by other Colonial Secretaries at the time. What I am quite sure of is that each and every one acted in good faith in the sense that they felt that those newly emerging countries would carry through their constitutions.
I do not believe that any of those Colonial Secretaries would have taken on an undertaking and commitment by this country without telling the British people the nature of that commitment. The British people have never been told what that commitment was. Nor do I believe it right to have that commitment, made in the case of Kenya in 1962, visited upon future generations for many years to come. I simply do not think that is right.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Is my hon. Friend in fact saying he believes that the possession of a United Kingdom passport by certain people in East Africa should no longer give them an automatic legal entitlement to come to this country, and that if there are problems in East Africa it is now an international situation and should be dealt with on an international basis?
§ Mr. Hordern
I believe that the action of those countries, which in every single case has been a racialist action to a greater or lesser degree, cannot be met by our country alone morally or legally. But I believe that we have a special responsibility for those people, and in my view we ought to determine funds so that they can, if they are driven out of those countries, return to India, as, indeed, has been the policy of this Government and, I would think, of the previous Conservative Government as well.
The most difficult problem of all is the numbers involved. Every hon. Member has so far avoided the position about the total numbers of dependants coming into this country. In 1975 the number of new permanent settlers in the United Kingdom was 82,405. In the previous year it was 68,878. There was an increase of 19 per cent. in one year. The 1035 largest increases in numbers were from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that in 1974 there were 24,000 applications from the Indian sub-continent from people wanting to come here. There were 33,000 in 1975 and 10,000 in the first three months of 1976. The increase from the sub-continent of India alone, therefore, has been of the order of 10,000 a year. It is that sort of figure that must disturb any outside observer of the immigration figures. Where is the end of it? Every hon. Member who has spoken, without exception, has been concerned about the effects of immigration upon the ability of Government Departments to provide the necessary resources of health and education and so on, yet nobody is prepared to give a figure for the finite number of people coming into this country. That is the one figure which the Government must give either in this debate or very soon.
The Home Secretary's idea of a small committee of hon. Members of this House considering whether or not there should be a register does not begin to deal with the problem. It does not state what the numbers of people are who should be allowed to come into this country. No one would dream of conducting a survey of public expenditure, which goes for five years ahead to the last decimal point, without knowing what the manpower effects would be. How can we possibly have a policy of immigration when no one has any idea of the number of people coming into this country? Unless the people of this country have a very good idea about the size of the problem and the number of people this country expects to take in during the next few years, our problem will get worse and not better.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Hatton (Manchester, Moss Side)
I represent a constituency which has within it a substantial community of immigrants which, in very many instances, has made a welcome contribution to the life of Manchester. I am sorry that my neighbour, the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) is not at present 1036 in the Chamber because I should like to say how much there was in his speech with which I agreed. It was a positive opposition to racialism and I welcomed it greatly.
I have within my constituency many people who have come from the West Indies, the African continent, India and Pakistan and the Sikh community. These people have made their own unique contribution to the economic and community life of the city of Manchester. They have also contributed to the wider community of Greater Manchester.
Throughout the years in which the immigrant community has grown in Manchester there has been racial harmony. I pay tribute to it because it shows the fundamental tolerance in the hearts of the British people. Many immigrants made their homes in the most depressed areas of the city in the 1960s, when housing was extremely poor, when the Victorian schools were urgently in need of replacement and when the social services of a major city were most hard-pressed.
At that time, many coloured immigrants in my constituency were to be found doing some of the most valuable jobs. In any one of the United Manchester Hospitals in my constituency one could find members of the immigrant community doing the most necessary tasks. This is the sort of contribution that they were making not only to the city of Manchester, but to the Greater Manchester community.
There is also in my constituency the University of Manchester, where some of the most menial tasks were performed by constituents of mine from the immigrant community, thus allowing many young people from more advantaged classes of society to receive their education. These people help to keep public transport from a total breakdown, and they have done many of the most important industrial labouring jobs vital to the country's economic life.
It is important to remember that many of these people were brought to this country by recruiting teams sent out by industries, hospitals and local authorities. The problems which are now upon us because of the changing economic climate were not foreseen four or five years ago. Only recently, the maximum load one weekend on the electricity supply industry 1037 was about 19,000 megawatts. Equipment to produce a further 15,000 megawatts is now under construction. No one would have dreamed of such a thing four or five years ago. We are now dealing with some of the problems caused by our failure to understand the fundamental problems of pay and productivity, a contributory factor in which was the sending out of recruiting teams to the West Indies and other parts of the world. As a result, we now face problems in the immigrant communities.
In the last decade unfit houses and Victorian schools in my constituency have been largely swept away. There are new homes and new schools for families who came to Manchester from overseas. Most of the parents had jobs, even if the wages that they received were below the national average. Much positive discrimination was practised in education to help children with language difficulties. Those children moved into secondary schools. In some schools in my constituency the majority of children are coloured and were born in this country. Many of them have gone on to university and other types of higher education.
I am anxious about the lack of opportunity for employment for many young people and the effect on racial harmony of a large number of coloured young people born in this country who have no prospect of employment. It is in such situations that racial intolerance is bred and exploited. School leavers, black or white, without a job are a matter of concern to all of us. Many of the young black unemployed in my constituency were born in Manchester. Job creation schemes are welcome but they are no substitute for regular employment with good training facilities. The job is beyond voluntary groups: it is an area for urgent Government action.
Housing is another area of stress which the unprincipled are prepared to exploit to create racial bitterness. The city of Manchester has an unrivalled record in clearing away bad housing, but we have a long waiting list and many families in unsatisfactory flats wish to transfer to houses. All these factors make for some racial prejudice. In one housing estate in my constituency, completed only in the last decade, about 800 families live in deck access accommodation. Many are 1038 immigrant families from nearby clearance areas, some in considerable poverty. It has been estimated that a quarter of the households are receiving some form of supplementary benefit. There are many single-parent families.
But despite all this, many of them wish to live in this area which is near the city centre and as a result has distinct advantages. This development has all the ingredients for racial disharmony. What is required is not major cuts in Government spending on social services but massive doses of positive discrimination in favour of the disadvantaged, whether black or white. Otherwise, the advocates of policies based on racism will move in and exploit the situation.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
I agree with much of what has been said by the hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Hatton). I hope that by the end of the day this debate will have shown a good deal of common ground in the House.
The setback to race relations in Britain this summer is the result of an upsurge of anxiety about immigration. If we are to resume the improvement of race relations which on the whole we have been achieving in recent years, it is essential to allay that anxiety. I want to suggest a number of practical steps, several of which have already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) in his excellent speech. May I first say something about the background?
Whenever I take part in a radio interview on this subject I receive a batch of more or less angry letters from varying points of view. The theme of many of them is "You MPs take care not to live in immigrant areas. You do not realise how those areas have been transformed. You do not understand the problems." It is true that my constituency has no racial problems at present. However, my London home is close to Notting Hill, I have been a parliamentary candidate for part of Lambeth, and I have myself visited most of the areas of immigrant settlement in Britain, either when I had responsibility for race relations and immigration in the last Conservative Government or, latterly, as a member of the Select Committee.
1039 During the past few weeks, as we all know from our postbags, there has been a spread of fear and anxiety among the white majority, which has led to resentment of coloured people, which in turn has brought insecurity to racial minorities. About the sequence of events that has caused this tension I will make only the general comment that it illustrates how delicate still is the state of race relations in Britain.
About race relations there is much that I should like to say, particularly on the problems and prospects of young West Indians, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) recently wrote to the Prime Minister and which the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration is studying this Session. I hope that there will be another occasion for that. Today I will just say that this summer's events have underlined what my party's spokesmen have declared year after year, in and out of Government—that is, that good race relations can be maintained only if the control of immigration is seen to be firm, fair and effective.
So, as I see it, the first essential now is for the Government to restore confidence in the immigration control. I believe that we in Britain can set an example to the world in race relations, but this will depend more than anything else on reassuring the white majority that immigration is being strictly controlled at a manageably low level by a determined Government.
My criticism of the Government is that they are failing to give this reassurance and are not paying sufficient attention to the real worries of the white majority, whose tolerance and good will cannot be taken for granted. I hope that there are signs today that the Home Secretary is beginning to get this message.
It is surely time for stronger leadership by the Government. By this I mean frank talk and firm action—frank talk, for example, about immigration numbers and about the strains in race relations, and firm, determined action to control immigration and to get rid of racial discrimination and racial disadvantage. Without strong leadership by the Government and by others in positions of responsibility, too much room will be left to those who generate more heat than light, 1040 such as the National Front and the International Socialists, the Black Power activists and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), to whom I have given notice that I would refer to him in passing. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is as entitled as anyone to air his views on immigration policy. What I deplore is the fanatical prejudice and the inflammatory language with which he expresses them.
In shaping immigration policy it is necessary to keep a sense of proportion and to strike a fair balance, which is not easy, between the interests of the majority and the minority communities. It is necessary, too, to have more regular consultation with Commonwealth Governments and with community leaders in this country.
I want to look very rapidly round the immigration scene and offer my list of 12 suggestions for Government policy during the period immediately ahead. Today, we are considering problems arising from immigration, but we should remind the country, too, of the valuable contribution to British life which has been made by immigrants and increasingly by their children, not only at work but in the cultural and sporting fields—for example, by nurses from the Caribbean and by the West Indian cricketers who are brightening the summer for millions of us, and it was the Evening Standard which said in an article the other day:Britain should make it clear that its Asian immigrants are welcome assets to its national life.'Looking at the trends, it was in 1973—the last complete year of Conservative government—that total Commonwealth immigration had been reduced to little over 30,000. Last year it was more 50,000; and as an annual rate I believe that that is too high. The public are anxious not only about this rising trend but about the controversy over statistics.
The first point that I urge on the Government is that a clearer and more convincing presentation of the statistics must be devised. Numbers and the explanation of numbers are important; but numbers of course are men, women and children, and so the control must be humane as well as strict.
Turning next to the United Kingdom passport holders who are at risk in East 1041 Africa and who now number about 40,000, I accept that we have an ultimate commitment, legal and moral, to receive them into this country if they are forced by oppressive policies to leave their present countries of residence. However, the Government must use every possible persuasion on African Governments to prevent the persecution of our passport holders and to ensure that their movement to this country remains orderly and phased at an acceptable level. Further, as others have suggested, the Government should discuss again with the Indian Government the possibility of an Indian option for those who would rather seek refuge in the Indian sub-continent than in Britain. These are my second and third suggestions.
The other significant category of immigration is dependants, now coming mostly from the Indian sub-continent. Here again, I believe that we have a responsibility to continue admitting to Britain the wives and children of men lawfully settled here. But it is vital now to make and to publish an estimate of the number likely to want to come.
If I read aright a recent parliamentary Answer, the queue in the Indian sub-continent amounted to about 33,000 in May. The eventual number may well be about or even above 100,000. When I returned from the trip I made as a junior Minister round the sub-continent in January 1974, I recommended that there should be a reassessment of the potential queue. I should like to know what the Government have been doing about this, and if the hon. Lady could say something at the end of the debate about the Hawley Report, that would be helpful.
In any case, the aim must be to absorb these dependants at a pace that avoids excessive strain on the social fabric in this country. I am thinking particularly of schools and of cities such as Birmingham, Leicester and London whose problems were well illustrated by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre).
My fourth, fifth and sixth suggestions are about dependants. The Government should alter the present procedure so that in future the initial application for an entry certificate is made by the sponsor in Britain and not by the dependant overseas. The Government should now 1042 institute a register of dependants of men settled here so that we can get a clearer picture of the numbers who may want to come; the Home Secretary moved an inch or two in this direction today, and I welcome that. The Government must find ways of preventing abuse of the immigration system that seems to be developing again in the area of spouses and fiancés. Again I welcome what the Home Secretary said about that.
Another problem causing very wide public concern is overstaying by people who first come here temporarily and then try by subterfuge to remain permanently. I have two further suggestions here. One is that there should be a more intensive follow-up of the landing card system introduced last year, coupled with comuterisation of the Home Office records. The second is that the Government should consider requiring anyone who wants to prolong his stay in Britain for a different reason to return overseas and make a fresh application from there.
My ninth and tenth points have to do with illegal immigration. It is time for the Government to strengthen further the special intelligence unit which was set up a few years ago. It is time also for them to develop still closer co-operation with the authorities in the Continental countries used as jumping-off points and in the countries of origin in the Indian subcontinent which was set in train at the time of my visit two and a half years ago.
On nationality, we know that the Government are carrying through the review that the previous Government began. The law certainly needs to be brought up to date and clarified, but not in a way that would leave any individual Stateless. I urge the Government to aim at agreement within the Commonwealth at latest by the time of the Prime Ministers' Conference next year, so that legislation may then follow.
My twelfth and last suggestion concerns the Standing Advisory Council which the Home Secretary has already announced that he will set up in the field of race relations. I believe that its scope could usefully be widened to cover immigration as well. This would make possible a periodic review of trends in immigration, in which representatives of minority communities could be involved among other members of the new council.
1043 In conclusion, it is essential that the Government should adopt, and be seen to adopt, a broad series of measures on the lines of those that I and others have suggested for more effective control of immigration. This would restore public confidence and make it easier for us to succeed in our overriding objective, the improvement of race relations in Britain.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
The hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) and said that strict immigration control was surely the friend and not the enemy of good race relations. He left something out. He should have said "fair immigration control and immigration control that is seen to be fair." My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Hatton) referred to the fact that during the 1950s and 1960s many people from the New Commonwealth were recruited to this country to go into hospitals, public transport and many other areas of industry because they were desperately needed at that time.
It is necessary to distinguish between the categories of immigrants—dependants, those who come here to work, those who come here for a limited period, those who come for permanent settlement and those who have a right to come here because they have British passports. I want to connect something my hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side said about the recruitment of immigrants to this country with what is happening today. It is peculiar that many people who are calling for strict immigration control openly see only reports—leaked or not—and answers to Questions which they wish to see.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment recently announced that people coming to this country to work in the hotel and catering industries would be cut from 8,500 a year to 6,000 a year. Those are workers who would be given permission to come to this country to work. I am not objecting to that at all. What I am saying is that when hon. Members talk about unemployment in this country and relate it to immigration, they must be honest and face the fact that, particularly in the hotel and catering trade, we still allow people to come to this country to work. As I have said, I 1044 am not objecting to that, but I wish that people would say clearly what they mean when they talk about immigration and its relationship to unemployment. I wonder—perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will tell me—whether British passport holders or people from the New Commonwealth who apply for catering work will be allowed in. I believe that the answer is "No" because of our immigration policy.
I should also like to know about immigration from EEC countries. This has always interested me because many hon. Members who have been most restrictive in their attitudes to immigration from the New Commonwealth have been very much in favour of our going into Europe. Personally, I was not in favour of going into Europe, but this question of foreign workers has nothing to do with my argument. Nevertheless, those who were often opposed to Commonwealth immigrants coming to this country were very keen on our going into Europe.
§ Mr. Montgomery
The hon. Lady is missing the point. One of the points about entering Europe was that foreign workers could come here if there were jobs for them. There was no such proviso for Commonwealth immigrants.
§ Miss Lestor
I am glad the hon. Gentleman mentioned that. I shall deal with that point in a moment. When somebody calls upon the Home Secretary to give a detailed account of future immigration policy into this country, it is difficult for my right hon. Friend to do that because EEC regulations do not allow us to know in precise detail the reason why nationals of EEC countries take up residence in this country. That answer was given to me in reply to a Question that I asked on 16th June.
A large number of young ladies from the Philippines and many parts of Europe come here to work as au pair girls and domestic servants. I often wonder how many hon. Members who complain so loudly about foreign labour are employing some of these young ladies in their homes. I do not object to that. In fact, it is a very good thing for people to move from one country to another. All I say is that we should be precise in what we mean when we talk about foreign labour and unemployment.
1045 The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) said that the difference is that foreign workers who came to this country had a job to come to. But this is where I find it difficult to follow the argument in many speeches today and in the earlier debate. The immigration figures which have been quoted by many hon. Members apply to dependants of people who have come from the New Commonwealth. They are not people who have come here to work. The argument against immigration has shifted from restricting people coming here to work to restricting the number of dependants coming in. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is giving me my point. The New Commonwealth people who come to this country by and large do not come here as workers; they come as dependants. I do not think anybody in the debate so far has said "Let us stop all dependants coming in." At least, I believe that the only person who said that did so in an intervention.
Let us be clear. Are we saying "Stop the dependants coming in", which would reduce the figures which have been read out by many hon. Members? If people wish to curtail Commonwealth immigration, that is what they have to say. I do not believe that most hon. Members who know anything at all about the importance of a settled society or about family life in the countries from which these people come would say "Let us stop the dependants of those people coming in." In any case we cannot do that by law, and I do not believe that people would be so heartless as to say such a thing when many of them were very keen to recruit workers from other countries when it suited them to do so.
§ Mr. Stokes
The difference is that the country at large does not always feel the same way as hon. Members feel. Most people want the entry of all dependants stopped, and they want the families reunited in their own homelands.
§ Miss Lestor
People were keen on immigration to this country when there were complaints about the lack of workers in our transport system and in our hospitals. But now, because of certain difficulties in this country, people say "Let us all be humane and send them back to the country from whence they came". The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) has 1046 given the game away. He says that, if families are prevented from coming in, the people already here should be sent back; that is what repatriation is all about. I find the hon. Gentleman's argument totally and absolutely obscene. I am concerned with seeing that any immigration policy in this country is not racialist and is not directed against people of a different colour.
When I saw the statement about catering workers coming into this country, when the emphasis was on skilled workers rather than on unskilled workers, I felt that we were back where we began in the 1960s. When we talk about strict immigration control being good for race relations, one sometimes has to put oneself in the position of the people who are affected by such statements. It is bad for race relations to find that some of our constituents who have lived in this country for 15 or 20 years are stopped at the airports when they come back from a continental holiday because it is suspected that they do not have the right to come here.
It is not good for race relations when one receives a telephone call and one is told that somebody who is a genuine visitor to this country is to be sent back on the next aircraft because somebody doubts his credentials, only to find when one intervenes that that person is allowed in for six months' holiday, which was the intention in the first place. It is no wonder that fears and suspicions are aroused among such people at ports of entry. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will comment on this matter.
Some years ago there was a great argument in this House about the wisdom of having entry certificates. Some people opposed the idea and others were in favour of it. I thought that on balance it was a good idea. I was assured that if one had an entry certificate when one arrived at the airport, there would be no difficulty about entry. We now know that an entry certificate is of little value to anyone who has a legitimate right to come into this country. A register of dependants is not a bad idea. How it is regarded and the use to which it will be put is the issue which is important.
We have also heard the argument about dependants and fiancés and how one should stop a person who pretends 1047 to be somebody's fiancé from coming into the country. One or two hon. Members have said that they would stop fiancés coming in altogether. But many people in the indigenous population might want to marry somebody from another country, because young people travel a great deal these days. When I was at the Foreign Office I noticed that many young members of the staff wanted to marry foreigners. The Queen married somebody who was not born and bred in this country. We may run into difficulties by trying to close the door which might, in some instances, allow people to come here illegally. But we should accept the situation that arranged marriages are still part of the traditions of some of the people who come here. Sadly, that custom among some of the Asian population in this country is dying out, and perhaps it will not be so much of a problem for the next generation.
Some people say that strict immigration control is good for race relations, but the time that dependants have to wait to come here causes its own problems. The legitimate waiting time is 16 months from India, 22 months from Pakistan and 18 months from Bangladesh. That is only for the interview, and it does not help to stabilise the community or improve race relations.
Documentation creates a vicious circle for some immigrants. They cannot bring in their dependants unless they can provide documentation. But many do not have documentation, so they have documents forged. They are then not allowed in, not because they are not genuine applicants but because they are in possession of forged documents.
Several hon. Members on both sides have talked of the problems of overcrowding in schools and houses that exists in some areas. Hardly anyone has mentioned that immigrants who have been recruited to come here have often made their own contributions in areas where there are the greatest difficulties and shortages. In many areas where immigrants settle, the problems of poor housing, bad schools and general deprivation existed long before they arrived. Glasgow, for example, experienced bad housing, unemployment and poor schools when there was hardly a coloured immigrant there. One must therefore be care- 1048 ful about relating deprivation to the number of immigrants in an area. Immigrants have settled in some of those areas, and they share the deprivation with the indigenous community.
People are fed up with the situation, and it is natural and understandable that they should look for a scapegoat and blame the stranger for their misfortunes. That is something we understand. Our job is to prevent the situation in which people can become scapegoats, and on that I share the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Moss Side and other hon. Members.
If we do not look at the areas of social deprivation and the problems that exist there for all the people, we shall feed prejudice and fan the flames that we say we want to quell. By cutting back public expenditure on housing subsidies, schools, teachers, nurses and so on we cut back on the services that are needed most by those living in the deprived and poor areas of our country. We hit the poorer, low-income people, whatever their colour or background. Rather than harping on how we can stop people coming into the country—which we do only in a limited way—it would be better to recognise the problems of the people in our deprived areas, some of which have an immigrant population and some of which do not. We should ensure that resources are used in a way which will prevent the effect of the propaganda of those who wish to find a scapegoat.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
Many hon. Members' speeches will be seen by the British public as a whole to be complacent and platitudinous in the face of their belief in a policy of bringing coloured immigration to an early end. The biggest problem is the tendency of Ministers—not only those in this Government but in previous Governments—to ignore the basic facts and to disregard the wishes of the population. Too many hon. Members who speak about not inflaming prejudices out of respect for the feelings of the minority immigrant population forget the feelings of the majority indigenous population.
Hon. Members speak of a moral commitment but ignore completely the moral commitment to the majority of the British 1049 people settled in this country. It is no good talking about obligations and commitments if one forgets the overriding commitment to the interests of the British people. But that is disregarded and scorned by Ministers. The Home Secretary appeared to disregard one of the fundamental objections to the way in which his Department deals with United Kingdom passport holders. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are entitled to British passports—there may be 40,000 in East Africa, but there are also 110,000 in Malaysia, 30,000 in Singapore and 400,000 in Sri Lanka. We have had no word from the Minister about what will be done about them. When I tried earlier to intervene to ask the Home Secretary about the possible future deluge from these areas I got no response and he refused to give way.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
Did my hon. Friend notice that just as he was getting to that point the Home Secretary scuttled out of the Chamber?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I, too, noticed that, but I did not want to draw the obvious conclusion.
We must be honest—the difficulty arises from coloured immigration. Let there be no beating about the bush. The average coloured immigrant has a different culture, a different religion and a different language. That is what creates the problem. It is not just because of race. The people in our cities feel strongly about immigrants. I believe that a preference for one's own race is as natural as a preference for one's own family. Therefore it is not racialism, if by that one means, as I do, an active hostility to another race. It is simply human nature. This is a problem with which we must deal.
Inevitably, the numbers of coloured immigrants still coming into this country give legitimate cause for concern among the settled population. The majority of people are therefore entitled, on sheer democratic principles, to say that there should be no more. We should adopt an honourable position on our commitments, so called, but we should see an end to continuing coloured immigration as quickly as possible.
I should like to suggest a few ways in which that position can be achieved. I take first the problem of the United 1050 Kingdom passport holders. We have been told by certain hon. Members in speech after speech that the commitment must be honoured. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), who was responsible for the policy, repeated that today. Yet why must there be such a commitment for the 40,000, 400,000, or whatever the figure may be? Why do we automatically accept that all those people must come to this country so that Ministers can say "The problem will be solved. Just be patient for 18 months and that 40,000 will be in, and then we shall have no more problem with the United Kingdom passport holders from Africa."? That is to say nothing of Ceylon, Singapore, Hong Kong and so on. That is the false position into which Ministers are getting us, the dilemma that faces us all.
There is no need for those people who are now in Africa and who are entitled to United Kingdom passports to come to this country. There is no barrier to their going back to the country of origin—India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are no immigration restrictions on them. They do not receive citizenship automatically, it is true, but they would have it after five years' continuous residence there. Why can they not all go back there? It is up to the British Government to enter into serious, purposeful negotiations with the Governments of the subcontinent to ensure that all the United Kingdom passport holders around the world go back to the countries of origin, where they would be more settled and where there would be no racial difficulties and tensions, no extra pressure on the social services, bearing in mind the relative numbers.
§ Mr. Whitehead
Surely the hon. Gentleman can accept that within the category about which he is talking there are people with no homeland to go to. What about the Malawi Goans, who cannot go back to Goa because it no longer exists? They are Christians who could not assimilate themselves in the Asian subcontinent.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
That is typical of the sort of red herring that is introduced into our debates by hon. Members such as the hon. Gentleman. The so-called Goans presumably have their origins in the Indian sub-continent. Goa is now 1051 part of the Republic of India, which would take them back if they wished. There is no doubt that after negotiations the so-called Goans now living in Africa could go back to Goa or some other part of India. Why must they come to Britain when they have no ancestral, cultural, language or other connection with this country—why, but for a foolish mistake made by a British Government, to a great extent under pressure from liberal forces in this country, in making a fiction of nationality and the right to obtain a passport based on the nationality conferred by an independence agreement? We must now say that that was a mistake. It has led to consequences which have caused us all considerable trouble and increasing racial tension. Therefore, it follows that that commitment, so called, must be disposed of completely.
That brings me to the question of the dependants. One of the difficulties about dealing with the subject is that we need to know the precise figures for categories of dependants. There are no separate figures, other than those for men, women and children. Therefore, when we ask the Government from time to time how many parents and children between the ages of 18 and 21—who cannot be true dependants—have come in. they do not know. Those figures have been aggregated with the total.
But when we look at the figures for the admission over the past three years of dependants of New Commonwealth citizens, United Kingdom passport holders and Pakistan citizens in this country, we discover that adult men dependants from the New Commonwealth were 1,143 and 926 and 1,170, respectively. For United Kingdom passport holders the figures were 1,621 and 1,232 and 1,280, and for Pakistan, which is no longer a member of the Commonwealth, they were 176 and 185 and 250. Those figures are for adult men—not women or children—who are dependants. When we define dependants we always think of wives and young children. How is it, therefore, that thousands of adult men are coming in as dependants? We do not know exactly why, because all we have are the immigration rules, and there are no separate figures for the categories of dependants who are being admitted under the rules.
1052 We should abolish all categories other than wives and young children. The age limit for children should be well down, perhaps 14, because there is no point in the admission of a child who will not be educated in this country, especially if his language is foreign. We should admit no other dependants, save on extreme compassionate grounds.
My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) suggested the register as one method of tackling the problem. I enthusiastically support that idea, with one reservation: there is no point in introducing a register unless we suspend the issue of entry clearance certificates pending its compilation. That decision must be taken, because if the idea is taken up seriously and the Government announce that every immigrant who claims the right to be joined here by his dependants must register, there will obviously be from that moment on an even greater rush to the entry clearance offices in the sub-continent by people who want to get here before the register is compiled. If we are to achieve the objective which my right hon. Friend suggested—to know the size of the problem—and if we are to apply quotas which would be proper, the issue of entry clearance certificates should be suspended pending the compilation of the register.
That brings me to the question of husbands and fiancés. It was a concession made by the Home Secretary in 1974, perhaps in deference to the women's lobby in International Women's Year, that a wife should confer on her husband the same citizenship and immigration rights as a husband can confer on his wife. It was a grave mistake, because it has unnecessarily inflated the numbers of immigrants and it is contrary to the way of life of the people concerned.
It is part of the British way of life for the father to provide a home for the family, and it is the some in India. The husband is expected to provide the home for his wife. There is no rational argument in favour of saying that a wife in another country should be in a position to provide a home for her husband and children. It is contrary to all common sense, human nature and the way of life of both Britain and the sub-continent. It is time that experiment was declared a failure and abolished.
1053 In deference to the need for other of my hon. Friends to contribute to the debate, I shall conclude my remarks very shortly. Before I do so, I must mention a matter that has not been raised previously at any length, namely citizenship and the need to revise nationality law. We are now in a most anomalous citizenship situation. That also applies to voting rights. We have the nebulous concept of British nationality extending to all Commonwealth citizens. However, as regards Pakistan, it is possible for a Pakistan citizen at the same time to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, to possess two passports and to be entitled to travel on both of them. One can easily recognise the prospects of abuse that arise.
The original notion of citizenship or nationality was that of allegiance to the Crown, to the Sovereign. That is the basis upon which all our citizenship law was originally founded. With the transformation of the Commonwealth into an association of republics, and with Pakistan leaving it, a citizen of Pakistan owes allegiance to the President of Pakistan and to Her Majesty the Queen. How can that situation possibly be defended? I suggest that in the review of citizenship, which I hope will be undertaken quickly, dual citizenship be outlawed and that those who want to remain Pakistan citizens are told that they must lose their British citizenship as a consequence.
The same goes for voting rights. Generally speaking, United Kingdom citizens are not entitled to vote in Commonwealth countries. They are not even entitled to vote in the Republic of Ireland. But it does not work the other way round. The majority of Commonwealth citizens come to this country—this applies to all the 750,000 Irish citizens in this country—and vote in our elections. They have quite an important influence upon voting patterns and results in our General Elections. Why should this be so?
Only in the Old Commonwealth is there any reciprocity. Generally speaking, the New Commonwealth does not extend the rights in those countries to which those nationals and citizens are entitled when they come here. We are the mugs, and it is time we stopped being mugs.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
I have several reasons for wishing to participate briefly in this debate. First, I have a keen interest in the general subject of immigration and I wish to deploy one or two of the arguments that have been constantly advanced by my constituents over the past few weeks. Secondly, in representing Hillingdon-Uxbridge I have an interest in the problems posed by a borough that contains London Airport through which so many thousands of immigrants pass when they arrive in Britain every year.
I can best illustrate the special concern of the borough of Hillingdon by telling the House that since April 1975 the council has accommodated 91 families who arrived at Heathrow homeless and jobless. At present 47 per cent. of the borough's short-life accommodation is occupied by immigrant families. Of the 269 homeless families admitted to temporary accommodation during the year ended 31st March 1976, 61 or 23 per cent. were immigrant families.
That is a situation that cannot continue, if for no other reason than that the availability of short-life accommodation is shrinking fast. I have mentioned the figures to illustrate that local authorities with a major air or sea terminal within their area have a special problem and need special help from the Home Office.
Only a week or two ago I went to see the Home Secretary about this difficult problem as a member of an all-party delegation, including the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson). The right hon. Gentleman was sympathetic and understanding. However, he told us that he had no money and no powers to help us, and that the main burden must continue to rest with the boroughs although he would look into all the suggestions that we had made.
This reaction by the Home Office, well-intentioned and well-meaning though it may be, is not good enough. Hillingdon and many other boroughs that are similarly placed cannot accept the responsibility for ensuring that immigrants permitted to enter Britain are properly housed, educated and employed in their areas.
1055 The majority of immigrants with which Hillingdon has had to deal and who arrived during the past year came from Malawi. The borough has had to accommodate 60 families, or two-thirds of the total. As the acceleration of immigrants from East Africa continues, it becomes an increasingly worrying problem for the local authority. We look to the Home Office, which is responsible for immigration policy nationally, to do something about the problem on a regional basis, not to shrug it off by saying "I am sorry, but local authorities are the proper instruments for housing, educating and providing all the other services that those coming to Britain obtain instantly on arrival."
If we are to tackle the problem which is facing us, it is imperative to suspend the quota, of immigrants coming from East Africa. As my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) has so rightly said, we must open negotiations with the countries of origin of those who are unfortunate enough to be hounded in Malawi by the Government of that country so that they can return to their own homelands. The way to handle the problem would be to confine the issue of vouchers to non-patrials who have no country willing to take them and who are being expelled. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us of the negotiations that have been taking place with the countries of origin, especially on behalf of those in Malawi who have been treated so scandalously by the Government of that country.
I strongly support the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) for the introduction of a register of eligible dependants, with a definite time limit placed upon it. That would enable us to know the real size of the problem. It would reduce tension and improve race relations. It is the fear of the unknown that is the real threat to good race relations.
I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), who said that there has been an upsurge of anxiety. I could not agree with him more. Only if we create a better climate for better race relations by knowing the scope and extent of the problem with which we are faced can we overcome the 1056 difficulties which have been referred to so frequently during the debate.
I am unhappy about the proposed constitution of the small parliamentary group to which the Home Secretary referred earlier. What does he mean by a "small parliamentary group"? How does that fit in with the Standing Committees, Select Committees and other established mechanisms of the House for considering such matters? Are we to have a couple of Members from this place with a peer as an independent chairman? Is that the way to deal with such an important proposal? I do not think it is, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the proposal carefully.
I also echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpinton about the problems of husbands and fiancés. The current practive is leading to the operation of a sort of multiplier in the whole immigration process—namely, fresh wives, children and other relatives. The Government should consider the position of fiancés and husbands to prevent attracting fresh male immigrants to Britain.
I should be the last person in this House to suggest that the course of true love should not run smoothly, but it is only right, when we are looking at the subject of fiancés, also to look at the position of fiancées who participate in an arranged marriage with a member of their own caste or sub-caste and who therefore come to this country for the purposes of matrimony. This is a difficult problem and brings into question the subject of women's rights and equality. It needs to be examined in conjunction with the question of male fiancés.
I should like to see the Government forthwith end the amnesty for illegal immigrants. It must be ended at some time. Now that there has been a reasonable interval since the amnesty was announced, surely the public have a right for it to be ended. The Government should also make clear that they will deport all future illegal immigrants, irrespective of the date of their entry. They must impose much more severe penalties on those enagaged in or aiding and abetting illegal immigration. I should like the Minister tonight to say whether this is a criminal offence and, if so, whether it is extraditable. If that is not the case, I believe that it should be.
1057 Another problem that faces the nation in dealing with the problem of immigration is the matter of the issue of national insurance and tax cards to illegal immigrants. Surely there must be a way of stopping this practice. If it were stopped and the Government were to adopt a tough line, making it clear that it was not possible to obtain these documents, they would do much to reassure the population.
Another suggestion for consideration is that the Government should review the obligation, or the suggestion of an obligation, contained in the National Assistance Act 1948 for local authorities to house homeless immigrants when they arrive in the United Kingdom. I wish to make this point because in my borough there are no fewer than 7,000 people on the housing waiting list. The law relating to the obligation to house the homeless is far from clear, and the situation needs to be cleared up straight away.
One of the worries among many people is that there is a mechanism by which people are able to jump the housing waiting list. It would be simple for the Government to clear up this anxiety and thereby make an important contribution to better race relations.
I wish to make another suggestion to the Minister. The Home Secretary should arrange for the immediate revision of a document which I now have in my hand and which is entitled "Introduction to Britain: A Guide for Commonwealth Immigrants." That document begins with these words:This leaflet welcomes you to Britain, and tells you some of the things about life in this country which might not be familiar to you".The leaflet then suggests that those who come to this country should apply to their local authority for almost every service they require—housing, health, social security, education and so on.
However, the document says nothing much about the chronic unemployment situation that now faces this country. It says nothing about inflation—although I suppose that is not surprising. I do not make this point in any partisan spirit. I merely wish to point out that the booklet is several years out of date. I believe that it should be updated so that those who come to this country have a proper and clear understanding of the difficulties with which they will be faced.
1058 I have taken longer than I had intended to make my contribution. However, I believe I have made some positive suggestions for dealing with a very difficult situation.
In conclusion, I wish to make two small points. I believe that the Government must, without any further delay, deal with the problem of Commonwealth citizens who stay on in this country once the time limit has expired. The number of such people amounted to 18,959 in 1974, and the estimate for 1975 was given as 19,990 in reply to a Written Answer to a Question tabled by me on 3rd March. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge that they should be obliged to return to their country of origin and then to re-apply, so that they can be subject to the proper controls.
Finally, I wish to ask the Minister whether she will reduce the large number of foreign nationals who are admitted to this country subject to a time limit and who subsequently are allowed to stay. Figures on this matter were published in Hansard on 3rd March, at c. 655. In 1975 the estimated figure was 22,040. To take a few examples, 460 came from Egypt, 550 from Greece, 510 from Iran, 410 from Japan, 1,540 from Pakistan, 1,600 from Portugal and 1,520 from Turkey. Surely that large total of foreign nationals could be substantially reduced since that would assist in dealing with the problem of immigration.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
It is not without significance that Labour Members appear to have dried up in their contributions to this debate.
§ Mr. Montgomery
I echo the words of my hon. Friend—"Where are they?" Surely this is a vitally important subject in the minds of many millions of people, including the constituents of those Labour Members who are now absent from this debate.
The Home Secretary said that he welcomed a debate on immigration. I find that statement somewhat strange. I have the feeling that the Labour Government want this subject to be shrouded in secrecy. They have now been in office 1059 for just over two years, and during that time we have had only two debates on immigration. We had a debate on 24th May 1976 initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken), who happened to be lucky in the Ballot. The second debate on immigration, which we are now conducting, has been taken in Opposition time as an Opposition Supply Day because my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) promised this during the short debate on 24th May. Therefore, in a period of almost two and a half years of Labour Government not once have we had a debate on immigration initiated by the Government. I do not know how the Home Secretary had the gall to say that he welcomed more discussion of this vitally important subject.
The Government must realise that by adopting a complacent attitude and by putting up a wall of silence they have aroused fears and anxieties among many people. In the debate on 24th May the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) produced a copy of the Hawley Report, which showed the never-ending number of people on the Indian subcontinent who want to come to this country. The right hon. Gentleman was attacked by Labour Members, who said that he had no right to mention that report. I see that the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) dissents, but if he bothers to read that debate he will find that many attacks were made on the right hon. Gentleman on the basis that he should not have had that report and that he had no right to divulge its contents.
§ Mr. Montgomery
I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman because of the time factor. I shall discuss the matter with him later. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was absolutely right in what he did. Had he not divulged the fact that that report was in existence, we would never have known about it. The Government's intention was to keep that report confidential.
§ Mr. Whitehead
We were criticising not the revelations in the Hawley Report or discussion of it but the inflammatory 1060 language used by the right hon. Memfor Down, South (Mr. Powell).
§ Mr. Montgomery
I should not have given way to the hon. Gentleman because he has already spoken in the debate. I am not greatly concerned with the point he made, but he cannot deny that attacks were made on the right hon. Gentleman. All I am saying is that, if the right hon. Gentleman had not divulged that that report was in existence, none of us would have known anything about it. It was kept confidential by the Home Office and the Foreign Office. So much for the open government about which the Labour Party talked so loudly in 1974. It does not talk about it much now.
§ Mr. Montgomery
I am sure that the PPS to the Under-Secretary is right to ask that I should keep to the subject of the debate. Open government is not a subject—
§ Mr. Montgomery
The problem concerns numbers. This is where I disagree with the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), who is not present at the moment. I am sure she will not be surprised to know that I disagree with just about every word she uttered in her speech. Her feeling was that numbers were unimportant. It is the number of immigrants who are still coming to this country that is causing so much concern among so many people. Over the years, this country has shown great compassion and concern. We have given shelter to many victims of persecution. The people who came to this country years ago as refugees were easily assimilated and integrated and have made a valuable contribution to their adopted homeland. They were easily assimilated because their numbers were of a manageable size.
The same cannot be said about the immigration problem which faces us now. Before 1950, Commonwealth immigration was no problem. It amounted to a few hundred a year. During the 1950s, as the numbers increased so, too, did public concern. That is why the then Conservative Government introduced the 1962 Act. I was a Member of the House at that time. I do not think that any Labour 1061 Member who is present was a Member at that time. Perhaps it is just as well for them.
In 1962, when Lord Butler, the then R. A. Butler, was piloting that legislation through the House, we were kept here night after night listening to the bawls and yells of Members of the Labour and Liberal Parties who are now conspicuous by their absence. We were told that we were racists and that what we were doing was a terrible thing. A pledge was given that the Labour Party, when it formed the next Government, would repeal that iniquitous Act. Thank goodness it did not carry out its pledge. But the breaking of pledges is nothing new for this Government. I can remember the attitude adopted by the Labour Party. I ask any hon. Member, either on the Government or on the Liberal Benches, whether now, all these years afterwards, he believes that it was wrong to propose any control on immigration. Did they really believe that we could have allowed immigration to go on uncontrolled?
It is not just a question of numbers. It is a question of the way in which the immigrants concentrate in certain areas of the country. I do not blame them. It is perfectly natural on their part to move to where they have friends and relatives. We were wrong to allow this concentration in certain areas instead of trying to practise a policy of dispersal. Does anyone in his right mind believe that we can take in more and more immigrants? To do so will only make things much more difficult for those who are already here.
The excessive concentration of immigrants in certain urban areas creates insoluble problems for the local authorities concerned. What can be said in favour of allowing more and more people to come into an already overcrowded country which has economic difficulties and where there are already 1,300,000 unemployed? Do all of the do-gooders who say "Let more come in" want the immigrants to swell the unemployment queues? Is it right to allow more immigrants to exacerbate the housing difficulties? Those of us who represent urban constituencies know all too well the heartbreaking stories we get whenever we have advice bureaux. We hear of people who have lived in this country all their lives and who are living in appalling housing conditions.
1062 We ignore at our peril the situation which might develop if the housing situation continues to get worse and if we give immigrant families—no matter how difficult their problems—preference over indigenous families who have waited patiently on the housing list over the years. There will be the sort of trouble which makes me shudder when I think of it.
The same thing applies in education. Concern is expressed by parents who feel that their children are being held back because of the slow-moving nature of classes with immigrant childuren whose grasp of the English language is not very good. British families feel that their children are being held back. Are these people not to feel any resentment? It is worth pointing out that the do-gooders—we seem to have plenty of them in this country—are all too often financially secure. All too often they live in good residential areas, miles away from any of the problem areas.
It is about time that it was pointed out that prejudice is fanned by fear. My sympathies lie with those in areas of high immigration, in the terraced houses of Wolverhampton, Bradford and Southall, who suddenly found the whole area in which they live completely changed. They now find that because they have not enough money they cannot get out and start a new life elsewhere. They have to go on living in an area which they find more and more difficult.
For years, successive Governments have been tinkering with this problem. It is time we faced up to the realities of the situation. The longer we delay, the more difficult it will be to solve the problem. In the debate on 24th May the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who until recently had been the Government Chief Whip, said "Enough is enough". Those three words were reiterated by millions of people throughout the country. There are millions who feel, as my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) said, that Parliament is totally out of touch with public opinion, not only on this issue but on many other issues. On this issue people feel that we do not represent their views.
Today there has been a change in attitude by some Labour Members. I can 1063 remember the time when speeches made by Conservative Members on this subject would have been met with cries of "Racist" from the Labour Benches. They are quiet today. No doubt Labour Members are getting the same kind of letters as we receive, from people who are not racists but who are decent, British people who feel that their tolerance has reached breaking point. It is necessary for a strong line to be taken. I hope, and I put it no higher than that, that when the Minister replies we will have a reiteration of the words of her right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey. I hope that in the interests of those who are presently living in this country no further immigration will be allowed.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
I want to take up what my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) has just said about the people of this country beginning to feel that their views are not effectively represented in this House. I wish to deal with two subjects—first the law, and secondly the number of immigrants who might be allowed into the country in future.
The time has come when we have to contemplate—I hope that the Home Secretary is now looking at this—the possibility of a root-and-branch reform of the law relating to British nationality. The present law is hopelessly and, some would say, possibly rightly, dangerously out of date. The British Nationality Act 1948 is clearly out of touch with the needs and circumstances of today. Our Empire and the Imperial responsibilities which went with it have vanished. We need a new law, because a number of outmoded categories have been based on the 1948 Act and it has founded the complexity of our immigration laws. Until we reform the British nationality law, I doubt whether we shall have much chance of solving effectively and successfully the problem of immigration.
I should like to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary, who is not in his place for, no doubt, good reasons, the fact that the Society of Conservative Lawyers recently set up a committee to consider the problem of the law on British nationality. It produced a report which I hope will assist the Government in making up their mind about what they 1064 should do on the law of British nationality. The recommendations of the committee are not likely to be perfect in their entirety—it is difficult to suggest a perfect solution—but the committee was under the chairmanship of a distinguished Queen's Counsel, Mr. David Hirst, and I hope that the Home Secretary will find its conclusions to be of value.
I was interested to hear the Home Secretary say this afternoon that he was not insensitive to the problem of numbers. At least, that was of some comfort to us all. I find the extremes of the argument about immigration equally unattractive and insensible of the realities. I find those who say "Let them all in" as repugnant as those who say "Send them all home".
I was engrossed this afternoon to hear the comments of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"]—he is not in his place, but perhaps he will read Hansard to see what is being said in his absence—about immigration, because yesterday afternoon, near Marble Arch, I saw a procession of immigrants from Southall, with banners raised, charging a right hon. Member with being a murderer and recommending that all immigrants should be allowed into this country without any control. Supporting the procession were the inevitable Communists and walking with them and behind them were representatives of the Liberal Party. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed was aware—often members of his party are unaware—of what his colleagues were apparently up to and were supporting. The people of this country find mindless propaganda of that kind as dangerous and provocative as anything to be found at the other end of the political spectrum.
Do not those people see or understand the nature of the problem? Do they not see that it is caused by the presence of people in this country who have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said so plainly, a culture, background, religion and way of life that is as alien to us as ours is to them? The difficulties are on both sides. Whether or not we solve this problem, as I pray we shall, depends on its dimensions. I think that in its present form and size it is capable of solution, but if the numbers are to increase we can all see the time 1065 when the hope of solving the problem will begin to fade and perhaps altogether vanish. If that happens, we do not know what the consequences will be.
The strength of any nation, of any people, lies in its unity, and unless a Government—this Government—are prepared to deal with the problem of numbers, unless they are prepared to make finite and known what is at present infinite and unknown, I believe that the hopes of all of us of creating a homogeneous nation composed of both the immigrant and the indigenous parts of our nation will and inevitably must begin to go.
This is a formidable problem. I was comforted to hear what the Home Secretary said about being sensitive to the problem of numbers, because unless he is sensitive to it we shall despair, and unless he acts upon that sensitivity we shall be in the gravest trouble.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
Immigration into this country has continued on a vast scale for about 20 years, and it is, I believe, the considered view of most hon. Members in their heart of hearts, and certainly of most people in the country that unless the numbers entering are drastically reduced immediately, the whole character of this great and ancient nation will be utterly changed. People see no hope of immigration ever ending unless we take action in this House now.
I came here only six years ago. I came to help my own country. I have seen my task as that of trying to keep all that is best in England and to be able to hand on to my children, as my father handed on to me, a country to be proud of, a homogeneous nation, sharing the same faith, history and background. I must make it clear that I do not blame the immigrants for coming here—they come largely for the money—but I blame those who encouraged and still encourage them.
There is a vast gap between the very few people in what I call the pro-immigrant camp, vulgarly called the "race relations lobby"—the intellectuals, the media and the do-gooders—and the ordinary people who look to us in the House of Commons for protection. The ordinary people of England were never 1066 asked to vote on this question. They did not want a multi-racial society. They do not believe that integration will work.
Incidentally, neither they nor the immigrants truly want integration. They never imagined 25 years ago that their lives would be turned upside down and their neighbourhoods utterly changed almost beyond recognition. If anyone had said a generation ago that one-third of the population of some of the big British cities would be black by the end of the century, he would have been considered a lunatic, but that is the prospect that faces us.
I find it infinitely moving and pathetic—I am sure nearly all hon. Members must share my experience—when I get letters from working-class people, particularly older people not used to writing to Members of Parliament, who write slowly and carefully on lined paper to speak of the hard times they knew when there were few social benefits and to protest at the immediate cash handouts to these new peoples. I also hear from older people who served in the last war and who never realised that we in Great Britain had won that war only to hand over parts of our territory to alien races. I have also heard recently from those who served in the great Indian Army, which I have always admired, who never imagined that their Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi soldiers would claim the right to come here in large numbers and bring in countless dependants.
We in the Commons, above all Members of the Tory Party, are the trustees for the people of England, particularly for the working class, who have almost no one else to protect them and yet have to bear the main burden of this huge immigrant invasion. I blame the Home Office. Observing the normal courtesies of the House, I have told the Home Secretary in a letter—I am sorry he has been absent for the last one-and-a-half hours, no doubt on important business—that I held him personally largely responsible over the past two years for being so exceptionally slack in immigration control and for presiding over a collection of statistics which I can only call a sorry farce.
I do not know how the Home Secretary, with his many cares and with the prospect of a brilliant future in Europe 1067 before him, finds time to visit his constituency to talk to ordinary English men and women in their pubs, clubs, shops and factories, in their homes and in the streets. Perhaps later in the debate we shall hear from the Minister how he and the Home Secretary and his colleagues meet ordinary people, not people in West-minister, Whitehall and West End clubs, not intellectuals, writers or historians, but ordinary, plain English people who have just as many feelings as the clever people and the immigrants, and whose voice until recently has been too seldom heard here.
As I said in an earlier intervention, what English people find particularly infuriating, and what hundreds of people who work in factories in my constituency find maddening, is that when they write to the Home Office through me or send a petition, they have to wait eight weeks for a reply, whereas an Asian leader is able to see the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister within two days. I repeat, who speaks for English people if we fail in our duty? I ask again, do the Government intend to speak up for those whom they claim to represent?
The vast majority of the people of this nation never imagined a generation ago that in certain areas there would be this takeover of our country, this island, by alien peoples. I regard the violation of the rights of those English people, the taking away of their homes, the profound alteration to their cities, towns and districts, the new mosques that are being built, the new restaurants, cinemas and other establishments as nothing less than a rape of the English race, worse even than the Enclosure Acts of years ago when people were no longer allowed grazing rights on common land and lost their independence to become hired hands. Hon. Members opposite may laugh. They would not dare to laugh in front of their constituents.
§ Mr. Stokes
If the hon. Member wishes to intervene, I shall give way. I thought not. He dare not speak.
What sticks in my gullet above all is the apparent humbug of those high and mighty ones in the Home Office and, I regret to say, the Churches and other race 1068 relations and so-called anti-discrimination bodies who seldom live in immigrant areas, but presume to tell the working class like children "You will like immigration and you will have it shoved down your throat whether you like it or not". When the history of these times is written, say by the end of the century, our failure to deal with mass immigration will be counted against us as one the greatest blots on our history.
Nothing I have said means that the immigrants already here should not be treated with Christian courtesy and charity. The English are an extraordinarily kind race and are gentle and tolerant. Of course we must treat everyone properly in this old and highly civilised society—as we normally do. But fair is fair and the balance of unfairness is dreadfuly weighted against our own people.
I realise the practical difficulties of bringing immigration to a halt and the hardship that would be caused to some immigrant families, but a date must soon be fixed beyond which no further immigration can be allowed. The young immigrants who have just come here will have to return to their homelands and their families. We must stop the absurdity of those given British passports years ago thinking that they have an automatic right of entry into this country. These claims have been misinterpreted for years and the loophole must be stopped up. Asians from East Africa must go back to their countries of origin and not come here.
Unless we in this House—and we alone in the United Kigdom have the power—get the annual number of immigrants down from something like 75,000 to about 5,000 in the next few years and down to nil in five years, there will be an explosion of wrath from ordinary English people such as we have never known in our long history. The growing support for the National Front and similar bodies shows what may happen. I appeal even to the empty Benches opposite and of course to my own party not to let down our own people, but to take immediate and drastic action to bring immigration to a halt.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
There could well be an explosion in our 1069 inner cities in the future. That possibility will be very much enhanced by the sort of sentiments we have just heard.
§ Mr. Anderson
It was an exercise in Tory populism of the worst sort and will be thoroughly unhelpful in race relations because, unlike the last speaker, I think that we cannot look back to a more glorious age of an imperial England of the past.
§ Mr. Anderson
We have to deal with the problems of a multi-racial society in England today. Even if we wanted to, we could not turn the clock back to some golden era of the Indian Army when Indians knew their place. We are dealing with the real problems of everyday people—the hon. Gentleman's constituents and my constituents—in our multiracial society today. The ordinary British people to whom we want to talk will have black faces as well as white faces.
When Opposition Members talk about the tidying-up of the nationality laws—which, as a lawyer, I accept is long overdue—they must accept also that within those nationality laws there will be black British people, black people with feelings which can be played upon by the sort of extremists mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardiner). They can, on the other hand, be integrated, brought fully into our own community in the education and jobs spheres. One can do that or one can, by design or thought, seek to build up that very nightmare view of the future which some hon. Members and others now portray.
My own constituency has little, if any, immigration problem, but my experience of immigration comes from an area of London where I was a councillor for five years—North Kensington, an area of multi-deprivation. I know from personal experience just what a profound effect immigration can have on race relations within our inner cities.
In North Kensington for a time we had an influx of Moroccans, non-English speaking and with their own customs, adding to an already overburdened multi-deprived community with problems in education and housing. There 1070 I recall being in the household of an Englishman who was on the housing waiting list. We know that housing waiting lists have little relevance in inner London boroughs today. He saw this Moroccan community becoming homeless and, as he thought, taking over some of the houses. In that sort of situation lies the root of the racial problem.
One can well understand the legitimate feelings of the indigenous population. When I say "indigenous population", I mean a black and a white population. In times of economic distress, when unemployment is rising, and when one sees some of the highest unemployment figures in London in areas of high immigration—Poplar, Brixton and so on—one can well appreciate the search for scapegoats, as indeed the Irish were thought of as scapegoats in the 1930s. Faced with this, one can either allow the problem to drift or one can seek positive remedies. In my view common sense and morality combine to make us face the fact of our multi-racial community today.
If there are to be—and I think that there could be—reforms in immigration, they must be on a wholly non-racial basis. I fully accept the fears put forward by some of the Asian community. The hon, Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) may or may not accept them. However, if there were a conflagration in Rhodesia and our own kith and kin were suddenly menaced, would he, with his immediate ban on immigration, seek to find an exception for the Rhodesian community that happened to have white faces? Perhaps he would answer that.
§ Mr. Anderson
The hon. Gentleman having risen to that one, therein lies the racist basis of his speech.
§ Mr. Anderson
They are patrials, but there is a distinction btween a white face and a black face, and there is an unwillingness to face the multi-racial nature of our community in Britain today. That is bound to stoke up the fears within our immigrant-community.
I believe that there must be massive national aid to areas of high immigration. The point has often been made that one 1071 cannot leave it to the local authorities. There must be—as there has been to some extent—a massive publicity campaign to show the contribution of our immigrants in many fields. Certainly—this is the numbers game that has been mentioned—we must take into our confidence the whole country about the way in which we see the numbers developing. There cannot be a finite register, a complete indication of just what will be the total numbers over the years. There is no finite figure, for obvious reasons, but there must be some indication of the numbers.
Also, there must be an attack on the obvious loopholes in the present immigration legislation. I shall detail one or two examples. An undertaking has been given about fiancés, but in addition there is the long time that can be spun out on appeals whilst awaiting the five-year period of settled entry. There must be a close look at some of the bogus colleges of education, or colleges that exist for people to come here under the guise of various educational facilities. The bogus colleges are well known to the Home Office.
Most of all, there must be a greater openness than there has been. There must be a greater understanding of the way in which the traditional tolerance of this country has been strained over the years. There must be a willingness to integrate our immigration and race relations programmes, and we must ensure that the vision of the future as outlined by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge is not fulfilled.
We must do this by a recognition in every sphere of education, housing and social work and that we are now a multiracial community. The point made about potential Rhodesian immigration will do nothing to help the situation, but will do everything to inflame those in the immigration community who feel that the present immigration laws are racially biased.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
The Home Secretary may have said that he was conscious of numbers, but I was very disappointed with his speech, and I have no doubt that what he said will give rise to great disappointment in the city of Birmingham, part of which he represents and part of 1072 which I represent. There was no word that there was to be any reduction or halt in the issuing of vouchers. There was no hint that there should be any stoppage of any category of dependants. There was no question of there being any registration.
It is wrong that people who speak against further immigration into Britain should be branded as Fascist or racist. They are, in the main, people who are gravely worried about the condition of this country. We have reached the point where we have not nearly enough houses, hospital beds, school places, jobs or anything else for ourselves. It is sheer lunacy in those circumstances to go on letting people come into this country.
We have reached the point where if we pursue this policy the immigrants themselves will suffer. That is why recently there were two letters in The Times on this subject. One was from Professor Harmindar Singh of the Punjabee Society of the British Isles, in which he said absolutely clearly that further immigration should be stopped altogether. That letter was followed by one from another immigrant, Dr. Malaiperuman, who strongly supported what the professor had said and begged that further immigration into Britain be stopped. This is not a racist plea. These people have common sense, and I am bound to say that the British people feel bitterly that their own Government have grossly failed in their duty towards them.
There is no other Government in the world who so ignore the interests and wishes of their own people as do this Government. There is no other Government in the world who let people enter their country destitute and immediately provide them with the benefits which the indigenous people are not able to afford for themselves. It is no wonder that people abroad look at us and imagine that we must be absolutely crazy.
I am sorry, too, that the reputation of the Home Office has never been lower than it is today. People do not trust Home Office statistics. They believe them to be fraudulent. Would the Hawley Report ever have come to light at all if it had not been leaked? Of course it would not. The Home Office often states that it cannot give figures for immigrant needs in areas such as housing, schools 1073 and so on yet the Department of Employment is quite capable of saying how many immigrants are employed. It did so in a report in The Sunday Times only yesterday.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) is right. The first priority is to identify the size of the problem. Of course we must have a register, not one which gives an automatic right to all on it to enter subsequently, but one which states clearly and for the first time how many dependants each immigrant seeks to bring in.
The Home Secretary spoke of the difficulties but, surely, this is already done in Dacca and Islamabad and other immigrant offices on the Indian sub-continent, and it would be done a great deal better by people who are here and who can state clearly, in English, who their dependants may be. We ought to limit the dependants allowed in to one wife and children under 14. I believe that because while I was a member of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration we heard time and again of the difficulties of children coming in too late to get any formal education and who were thrown on the labour market largely uneducated and almost unemployable. That is a terrible thing to happen to young immigrants and could well be a flashpoint in future.
Many immigrants belong to the Muslim religion which allows up to four wives. I do not think that we ought to allow that here. If people wish to come and live in this land, let them abide by the laws of this land. It is perfectly true that no pension is paid to four widows of one man. It is perfectly true that allowances for income tax are not granted in respect of more than one dependent wife, but the dependent wives can get a dependent relative's allowance. Maternity allowances and child allowances are paid as well. I am worried about the implications of the polygamy problem in Britain today.
When we were speaking of fiancés my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said that this problem was leading to inflated numbers in the future and was contrary to our way of life. I would make another criticism—it is a totally open-ended commitment. It is already known that there are immigrants who are the proud possessors of young daughters who are able to make a cash 1074 arrangement with people abroad for an arranged marriage with their daughters. The truth of the matter is it is a very good thing for a father to have several daughters, because those daughters are now worth actual money in the arranging of a marriage. That is not what this House meant to do when it said that fiancés should be allowed into this country.
Since overstaying seems to be such a great problem—and the Home Secretary himself touched on this point—why on earth do we go on allowing people in this category to come in so that they can and are enabled to disappear at the end of their permitted stay? I should like many foreign students to take advantage of an education in this country and to go back and use that education in their own countries, but I do not think it right that the present situation should be allowed to continue.
§ 9.04 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Immigration is one of a number of subjects that few politicians are prepared to talk about openly. I believe that is because we all know it is a highly controversial subject. Very seldom, as we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery), has it ever been brought forward in this Chamber for open discussion.
I would like to hear this House and, particularly, leading members of the present Government apologise to my right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) for their violent criticism of the service he did for the nation in the late 1960s by drawing this subject to the forefront for discussion. It was a subject which was festering below the surface. If my right hon. Friend had not done what he did, I believe it would have burst forth like a volcano and that some of the incidents we see happening in certain areas of this country would have happened to a far greater degree back in the late 1960s.
Hon. Members frequently talk about the economy, education, overseas aid, industry, strikes and unions. All these are subjects upon which politicians voluntarily and volubly proffer their advice, but immigration has been held to be a problem that will go away provided we never discuss it.
The few of us who have raised the subject outside the House have always been derided and dubbed with names 1075 which are highly uncomplimentary. Meanwhile, as the majority of politicians have vacillated and put off the evil day when they would be required to respond to the public conscience, the problem has grown steadily and dramatically worse. In Leicester, Bradford, Birmingham, parts of London and elsewhere, the price is now being paid for the blatant disaster of wholesale and virtually unrestricted immigration.
The last 10 years have brought home the problems of immigration in employment, education, housing, social services and many other sectors. People who have had to live in certain areas of large cities have seen their local surroundings—how right my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) was to point this out—change dramatically, in their view undesirably, transformed by the infusion of mass immigration.
Politicians and others meanwhile have either ignored the stresses which would inevitably build up or have meekly mumbled about integration from the safety of their Whitehall offices or the offices of the Race Relations Board, a body that I would scrap tomorrow, costing as it does over £700,000 a year of taxpayers' money.
The United Kingdom can no longer assimilate aliens from faraway countries who, by accident of living under Fascist black dictatorships in Africa or the Indian sub-continent, have taken the opportunity to come here. Nor have many of these aliens any desire to be assimilated into our community. We can see the disastrous results of the creation of these alien communities by taking the example of the Sikhs. These worthy people desire to preserve their own customs and resist the English way of life to the extent that they consider themselves to be above the laws of this land. If an alien community can so exempt itself from our legal and parliamentary system, we are endangering the whole basis of our civilisation.
The Government's attempt to hide the facts and the blatant consequences of immigration has understandably spread grave suspicion among our people. The Government have tried to suppress 1076 statistics, but they cannot suppress the evidence that people can see with their own eyes. They cannot prevent people from seeing what is happening in their areas, on their own streets, sometimes on their own doorsteps, in many large cities.
Both history and experience in other countries teach us that the divide gets wider and is invariably never bridged. What white Englishman will be prepared to integrate with an Asian Muslim? Very few. He may work with him and treat him with due regard and respect, abiding by the letter of the race relations legislation, but that is not my definition of integration. We can never pretend that an Asian Muslim is exactly the same as an Anglo-Saxon. That is a total impossibility. The parallel of the impossibility of Arab and Jew integrating should teach us a lesson.
The problem of immigrants who are already here is horrendous. We must not exacerbate the situation by contemplating any further immigration. I urge the Government to halt all further immigration now of any new heads of family and to allow into this country only the dependants of those people already settled here with a house to live in and a job to go to—in short, one wife and children of school age, of 14 or below. Even then, such dependants should not be a cost to the taxpayer in Britain for a period of six months.
I praise the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw). He has made great moves in this matter which will be welcomed by the nation. If the Government do not act, they will be indicted for acting against the interests of Britain.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
I thought that this afternoon the Home Secretary was even more blasé and complacent than usual. His treatment of the House, by leaving during the speech immediately after his own and then just re-entering for one moment thereafter before going out to cocktails, was a disgraceful performance in an important debate like this. He has swept so much under the carpet in his office that I should think it is jolly lumpy and his office must be a very dangerous place in which to work.
1077 Every speech made today, except those by the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) and by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), who was just swept up or dredged up by the Whips to come in and make a further Labour speech from the Back Benches, has pointed to the fact that immigration from the Commonwealth should come to a stop. I am not as sad as I would have been in other circumstances at having only the last two minutes, because the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said everything that I should have liked to say, but much better, much more factually and much more eloquently.
We must have either a total ban or a five-year suspension on all immigration from the New Commonwealth. I should like to see the rules changed as regards the Southern Irish. This includes so-called United Kingdom passport holders, about whom a great mythology seems to have been built up. I quote from an answer given by Sir Alec Douglas-Home when he was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in 1972:The grant of a United Kingdom passport does not in itself confer a citizenship or other status on the holder. It recognises the status which he already has and is accepted internationally for travel purposes."—[Official Report, 23rd October 1972; Vol. 845, c. 172.]That is what it is all about. I fail to understand how the natural home for an ex-Malawi Goan can be Harrow, West. I should have thought that the Indian subcontinent was a much more appropriate place.
Next, Commonwealth citizens and those aliens who come on temporary work permits or for student purposes should not ordinarily be granted British nationality after a five-year residence here. This should be the exception not the rule, because this is why the coloured immigrant takes much of the blame from the local population. The local population think that because he is coloured he is different from themselves. They do not want the Greeks. They do not want the Turks. They do not want the Cypriots. The great blocks of flats in the Royal Borough of Kensington are filled with people whose names it is almost impossible for a postman to read and pronounce if he is English.
1078 Finally, there must be an all-out attack on illegal immigration and fraudulent tax claims. It is only if we turn off the immigration tap that there will be any chance of race relations in Britain improving. People will simply not try to get to grips with the great difficulties that we are facing if they feel that more and more immigrants are pouring in. As was so rightly said, enough is enough.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page), in the concluding words he uttered, repeated what is becoming a truism now for right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House, namely, that the philosophy to which we all subscribe is a fair deal for the immigrants settled here and strict control on those who have yet to come.
To put the matter clearly on the record, I should like to give two quotations in support of that. One is from the speech of the Minister of State, Home Office—Lord Harris—in another place during the debate in June:There is clearly a strict limit to the amount of immigration which a country such as ours can sustain. The limitation is fully accepted not only by the Government but I think also by many of the responsible leaders of the immigrant communities now settled here.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 24th June 1976; Vol. 372, c. 555.]The Opposition fully subscribe to that view, including the view that the immigrant leaders themselves think that there should be a strict control.
The Home Secretary himself said on 30th January last in a BBC broadcast:I think there is every reason for a very tight control on immigration. That indeed is the policy I apply.The burning question which everybody has asked, but to which we have not received an answer, is whether the strict limit referred to by the Secretary of State is strict enough to reassure the public and to allay their widespread misgivings, and to give those now living in, these crowded islands, of whatever origin, a chance to settle down and stabilise their environment psychologically and physically without the fear of yet further changes and upheavals.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) gave eloquent expression to the mounting anxiety of those 1079 in this country who feel that the numbers are not being strictly enough controlled. The same feelings were expressed by other hon. Members, notably by my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Taylor) and for Stretford (Mr. Churchill). The anxiety in all parts of the House is easy to understand in the light, first, of what we have been able to read in the Hawley Report and, secondly, of the rather disturbing implications of the difference of view between the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) about where the pool is really going to end. It is an anxiety also in the light of the violence with racial overtones which has occurred in some of our cities and in the light of the boldness and success of the National Front.
In those circumstances, it would be irresponsible of the Opposition not to raise the question whether the Government's definition of a strict limit is strict enough. The predominant view expressed in today's speeches is that it is not. This was the Opposition's official view. It has been emphasised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) and particularly by my hon. Friends the Members for Horsham and Crawley (Mr. Hordern), for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) and for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), as well as others.
The indications suggest that, in spite of the Home Secretary's non-committal attitude towards actual numbers, the Government cannot in logic be confident that they have got the limitation strict enough. It is possible to construct a sort of range of acceptable immigration levels from what the present Home Secretary and the present Prime Minister have said or done in the past. I take as the lower end of the bracket, if I may so call it—the figure at and below which the Government feel that no further action is needed to restrict immigration—to be a total of 30,000 immigrants a year. This is not my lower limit. It is not the official Opposition's lower limit. It is the Government's lower limit.
During the Second Reading debate on the Immigration Act 1971, the present Home Secretary, winding up for the Opposition, said:The numbers are now in my view not of a size to make any further control or restriction 1080 in any way desirable. Last year the numbers, including dependants, were just about 30,000.I might add that the Home Secretary went on to say:It would he almost impossible for that number to increase. On the contrary, it is almost certain that it will decrease because it is related very directly to the families and dependants of those who came here earlier to work…."—[Official Report, 8th March 1971; Vol. 813, c. 146.]The Home Secretary's powers of prophecy have been confounded, but I make no complaint of that. We are all fallible.
Since, however, the numbers have sharply increased, let us compute from past deeds and words what the Home Secretary and his colleagues consider to be a tolerable maximum figure, the upper end of the bracket up to and above which new and restrictive measures ought to be taken. We can obtain some sort of idea of what the Government regard as an acceptable upper limit from the way in which the present Prime Minister handled these matters in 1968–69. He inherited as Home Secretary a situation in which, as a result of the Conservative Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962—for which we were much abused at the time—Commonwealth citizens were subject to immigration control under a quota system. Immigrants were coming in at a rate of 60,000 a year in 1967 and 1968, and it is clear that that was way above the level which the then Labour Government and the present Prime Minister regarded as tolerable.
Accordingly, the 1968 Act was introduced in February of that year, extending control to manycitizens of the United Kingdom and colonies",including the famous passport holders. The effect of that restriction was dramatic. Total immigration fell sharply from 60,000 in 1968 to 44,000 in 1969. But even that upper limit was regarded by the present Prime Minister as too high. In 1969 he announced the cancelling of the concessionary admission of male Commonwealth citizens for marriage to women resident here. As a result, the total figure for 1970 dropped even lower to about 37,000.
The account that I have just given broadly proves what the present Government conceived, and presumably still conceives, to be an acceptable bracket for the 1081 total annual New Commonwealth immigration: something over 30,000 and less than 40,000—provided it is on a downward trend—which was the figure reached in 1970 under the present Prime Minister's regime. That shows only too clearly that the present situation has become seriously out of control. The total which the Prime Minister got down to 37,000 by a double act of restriction in 1970 has, for the second year in succession, shot up and in 1975 stood at 53,000. All the evidence is that that trend is sharply upward. Past evidence surely suggests that the trend and total must be unacceptable to the Government. I wish that they would come clean and say so. We could then debate in the House and outside specific practical steps for reversing the trend and reducing the numbers.
We are not helped by generalised affirmations about immigration which the Home Secretary made in our last debate. The right hon. Gentleman said:I am determined, and I shall be for as long as I am in my present office, to apply strict immigration control fairly, to uphold the rules, to root out illegal immigration and to deal with overstaying."—[Official Report, 24th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 97.]That is an affirmation and a declaration of intent, but there is no solid policy for reducing immigration to levels to which the Prime Minister successfully reduced them. We must have firm proposals to bring the figures positively and effectively downwards.
I reiterate some of the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border. First, for the sake of fairness and peace of mind and as a basis for calming fears and improving confidence, let the Home Secretary give a considered and specific estimate of how much further immigration we are committed to and when it will terminate.
He has virtually done this for the United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa. Let the exercise be extended across the whole field. For it is the prospect of the unending flood, the unseen cohorts below the horizon, which stirs up tension and bitterness in the indigenous population and leads potentially to hostility and antagonism between races here. My hon. Friends the Members for Cambridge and for Stretford particularly stressed that. Uncertainty is at the base of much of the current unrest.
1082 The forecast for which I have called may uncover some stark and unpalatable realities. For example, those who have United Kingdom passports or citizenship in Asia or in other countries outside Africa number 560,000 without dependants. It may at present seems a remote likelihood that any large-scale migration of these citizens will get under way. I believe that the Government are acutely conscious of this overhang problem, which is perhaps a little theoretical.
The whole House will have noted with interest and welcome the significance of the Home Secretary's apparent application of a dual standard as between United Kingdom passport holders still in East Africa and those who have already found their way to India as an alternative option. The fact is, however, that each citizen from the wider range of countries where United Kingdom citizenship still exists is potentially a patrial. Once admitted here and registered as a patrial, he can bring in a wife as of right and establish a more or less permanent, self-generating flow of immigration from that quarter of the globe.
The Home Secretary should make clear to the population at large not only that this concept of patriality has further, more immediate implications, but also what these are. For example, every New Commonwealth citizen and every citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, whether settled here before or since 1973 Or whether still to be allowed in, is potentially a patrial after five years' residence.
Patriality, which denotes the right of abode, extends automatically to the wife of a patrial, and children of patrials enjoy that status from birth. The significance of that should not be overlooked. It means, for example, that there is an open-ended commitment to allow every male and—I think—female, admitted here for settlement as a single person, ultimately—once he or she has acquired patriality by registration after five years' residence here—to return to his or her country of origin for a wife or perhaps a husband. To that extent, the single males among the United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa may all look to East Africa or Asia for wives when they become patrials, as may their patrial male children in due course.
The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West 1083 about the unacceptability of Westernised spouses for many immigrants, and their tendency to look to the sub-continent or elsewhere for their spouses, is an important factor here. Hawley gave a figure of 80,000 single Bangalee males here. When they automatically become patrial—and if they stay here for their five years they will all become patrials—they may all look to Bangladesh for wives.
It may be argued that increasingly New Commonwealth patrials will tend to marry women already settled here. But we cannot overlook the existing sharp imbalance between men and women here. Whereas in Britain as a whole there are no more men than women in the marriageable age range of 19 to 49, the 1971 census shows that for the 441,000 males of New Commonwealth ethnic origin there are 100,000 fewer women. Therefore, does anybody doubt that for a long time to come, perhaps indefinitely, the patriality factor will generate a steady flow of patrial wives admitted as of entitlement from the New Commonwealth?
The concept of patriality may have to be looked at afresh, perhaps in the context of a new law on citizenship, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) suggested. In the light of patriality, that look at the nationality law may become crucial. Meanwhile, if the Government are effectively to control immigration we must concentrate all the more rigorously on immigrant categories that do not at present enjoy statutory entitlement and will not enjoy it under the patrial provisions of the 1971 Act.
As I understand it, United Kingdom passport holders enjoy a statutory entitlement to come here, albeit under quota, though that may be arguable. I take the Home Secretary's point that the East African component of this cohort is a more or less identifiable and manageable number. I would not wish to slow down the rate of admission, not least because I believe that the good will we have established in India as a result of the flexibility we have shown in this direction is valuable to us and that any sharp reversal of that flexibility and generous attitude might itself be reciprocated by a silimar and unprofitable response from the Indian Government.
I say that subject to only one proviso—namely, that I do not think we know the 1084 full facts and the implications behind the United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa and the cohort which remain to come in before 1979. The Home Secretary, in the speech he delivered to the House at the end of May, said that there are 40,000, but in another place on 24th June the Minister of State gave a useful breakdown. At column 556 of Hansard of 24th June, he said that, of the 35,000 New Commonwealth and Pakistan immigrants for settlement in 1975, only 4,000 were holders of special vouchers under the scheme for United Kingdom passport holders. That means that the other 30,000-odd may or may not have been connected with those United Kingdom passport holders. I cannot work out whether the dependent wives, husbands and children who made up the balance between the 4,000 voucher holders and the 31,000 dependans were themselves connected with the passport holders as dependants, but if they were not it means that the 4,000 voucher holders from the East African quota leaves behind about 40,000 to come in between now and 1979. That works out by a simple calculation at 10,000 a year.
If 10,000 a year of United Kingdom voucher holders and dependants clears up the 40,000 blacklog within the next four years, and is to be added to the 30,000-odd dependants who came in this year and who may not have been connected with the passport holders, far from having an immigrant figure of 55,000 for 1975 the next four years entail getting in the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's cohort of 40,000 plus many other non-United Kingdom passport-holder dependants. We shall see the figure increasing to 60,000 or 70,000. If that is so, I believe it is an unacceptable total.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
The hon. Gentleman is confused about these figures. He is assuming that no voucher holder brings in any dependants.
§ Mr. Alison
That is exactly the point I was raising by way of query. We can give the Under-Secretary of State an opportunity in the few minutes remaining to me to send a quick message to establish what proportion of the 35,000 admitted for settlement this year, which included 4,000 voucher holders—that is, the balance of 35,000 minus 4,000—were dependants of passport holders. We cannot make any sort of computation otherwise. We must 1085 know how many of the 30,000 were dependants of the 4,000 passport holders and how many were dependants of other categories taken in during earlier periods.
We must expect 10,000 a year—on average—United Kingdom passport holders and dependants in the next four years, but we must know what other number of non-United Kingdom passport-holder dependants from other categories can be expected. All the evidence suggests that the trend will be sharply upwards from the present figure of 55,000.
I believe that it is among the non-entitled dependants that the Government should now begin to be much more restrictive. It is sometimes overlooked that entitled dependants are represented only by the wives and children of those settled before 1973. All other dependants—grandparents, cousins, aunts, sisters and so on, whether of pre- or post-1973 vintage—are not strictly entitled to be received here as immigrants, nor are spouses of those who settled here after 1973.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be totally unrealistic from the point of view of Britain's economic problems not to imagine that those United Kingdom passport holders will be people of a high educational level, who in many instances will bring capital with them and who, like their forerunners, will make a contribution to Britain's economy? Therefore, is it not totally unrealistic not to bear in mind the totality of the immigrant intake as a whole?
§ Mr. Alison
I do not want to cast any aspersions on United Kingdom passport holders or on their dependants who may have an entitlement to come here. I believe that in future we must concentrate on non-entitled dependants. We must adopt a humane and constructive attitude by bearing in mind the situation in the schools mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green, because in certain schools in that area there is a 60 per cent. immigrant quota. That means that learning is made a great deal slower for the remaining 40 per cent. of local 1086 children. That is where the humane considerations must be brought to bear.
The Home Secretary will know that, strictly speaking, the only entitled dependants are the wives and children of those admitted before 1973. Even the wider range—cousins, sisters, grandparents and so on—of those admitted before 1973 are not, strictly speaking, entitled dependants. Likewise, spouses, cousins, sisters and parents of all those who have settled since 1973 have no entitlement. I believe that it is in this area that the Home Secretary should get his figures right.
§ Mr. Alison
Let us hope that he will get them right. We must concentrate on this category of non-entitled dependants. I hope that the Home Secretary will take these steps before he hands over responsibility to somebody else.
In order to leave behind a constructive attitude and policy, the right hon. Gentleman needs first, unequivocally, to establish a register. Indeed, I believe that he should go much further than merely setting up a little consultative committee. He should set up the register and it should be filled with names nominated by sponsors who are already here.
Secondly, having set up the register, there should be at least three categories listed: those entitled to come here—namely wives and children of pre-1973 vintage; secondly, the non-entitled dependants of pre-1973 vintage; and finally, the non-entitled dependants of post-1973 vintage. That gives the right hon. Gentleman a three-fold priority category among which he can begin to restrict immigration in the interests of getting the numbers down and in giving priority to areas, such as the right hon. Gentleman's own constituency, where the impact of such people arriving in large numbers is devastating.
Above all, in thinking of the third category of post-1973 non-entitled dependants, the right hon. Gentleman must seriously consider doing what the Prime Minister did in his day—namely, to withdraw the concession in regard to fiancés. Since they are males, each entails a potential application for a whole range of dependants. Once admitted for marriage and settlement as males, they automatically produce a multiplier effect as 1087 Hawley suggests. The figure that Hawley gave for the increase in appointments in India with entry clearance officers, between June and December 1974, was from 2,600-odd to 6,200. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) referred to this. It is a staggering increase. The Home Secretary should now withdraw this concession.
We do not think that the Home Office has been strict enough. The figures are getting out of control. We do not believe that the Home Office knows what is the potential overhang arising from patriality and the existing dependency. We insist that the Under-Secretary gives us some prospect of a definitive cut-back to the sort of figure that the Prime Minister considered acceptable in 1969–70.
§ 9.41 p.m.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summer-skill)
Every speaker in this debate has recognised that immigration is closely bound up with good community relations and that these are dependent not simply on people's attitudes and feelings, crucial as these are, but with practical matters such as conditions of housing, schools and jobs. This has rightly directed our attention not just to the great concern felt by many about the level of immigration, but to constructive measures.
We are right to debate serious suggestions aimed at securing and improving, either through our immigration policy or any other means, good race relations and justice and equality for everyone. As the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend have emphasised on several occasions recently, the Government are determined in the interests of all and because it is right to do everything possible to ensure equality of treatment for all members of our society, regardless of race or colour. We are wholly committed to this policy.
The Race Relations Bill now before the House is evidence of this commitment. The Bill will help to create a better framework within which different races can live and work together in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance. Let us not lose sight of the fact that today in Britain about two out of every five of the coloured population were born here and not immigrants. The vast majority of 1088 the coloured population will remain permanently in this country.
Concern was expressed by the hon. Members for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre), Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) and my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Jenkins) and others about the availability of resources in their constituencies and elsewhere where there are large numbers of immigrants. In the White Paper on racial discrimination published last December the Government stated their commitment to a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the problems of racial disadvantage. In so far as racial disadvantage most often occurs in the context of generalised disadvantage, the Government's commitment to tackling urban deprivation is clearly relevant. The special needs of inner city areas are already recognised in the rate support grant settlement and in the main spending programmes. In addition, there are a number of special programmes, such as the urban programme, concerned exclusively with alleviating urban deprivation.
In the administration of these programmes and the development of the new strategy for tackling urban deprivation the Government regard it as of particular importance that special account should be taken of the problems of ethnic minorities. It is also open to local authorities, under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, to claim reimbursement of 75 per cent, of expenditure incurred in meeting the cost of additional staff. The total amount of local authority expenditure currently being grant-aided in this way is about £20 million. I hope that that does something to reassure hon. Members who rightly expressed concern about social conditions in their constituencies.
§ Dr. Summerskill
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are doing everything possible to stem any deterioration, and that is what I have tried to show in the figures I have given. We shall continue to keep up our urban aid policy.
1089 I detected no difference between the two Front Benches about the desire to adhere to our basic immigration commitments, but there certainly seemed to be a difference of view between the Opposition Front Bench and Opposition Back-Bench Members. The Government will honour, as previous Governments have honoured, commitments to the immediate families of those who have already been accepted for settlement and to those United Kingdom passport holders in East African countries who have citizenship of no other country and many of whom have found themselves under severe, sometimes intolerable, pressure from the situation in those countries.
The Opposition were not clear about their official policy on withdrawing concessions for husbands. That applies to many other issues. Concern was expressed, criticisms were made, but no definite policy came from the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. Churchill
Are not the Government aware that the principal threat to the good relations between the different communities in this country comes, above all, from the Government's present policy of a high inflow of immigrants? Will they not re-assess the situation with the Indian, Bangladesh and Pakistan Governments to see whether they will accept a little more of the responsibility which is properly theirs for people who have never seen this country?
§ Dr. Summerskill
I repeat that it is the Government's basic policy to keep to our immigration commitments. The Opposition Front Bench have not disagreed with this policy. It is only Opposition Back-Bench Members who disagree with it. I have heard no word from either Opposition Front Bench spokesman to suggest that we should not honour the commitments to the immediate families of those who have already been accepted for settlement and to United Kingdom passport holders in East African countries who have citizenship of no other country.
§ Mr. Alison
The hon. Lady is being uncharacteristically provocative. The Opposition have been clear not only in calling for a register and much more rigorous control of non-entitled dependants but in singling out in the category of non-entitled dependants that of 1090 fiancés as one which the Home Secretary should reverse.
§ Dr. Summerskill
We have established that point from the Opposition.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) was rightly concerned about delays in the admission of dependants to this country. I assure her that there has been a reinforcement of the staff at Dacca and Islamabad—this was announced in 1974—and as a result of the vist of my hon. Friend the then Minister of State to the subcontinent in 1975 a number of changes were made in the processing there of applications for entry clearances. In particular, applications outstanding on 1st August 1975 by unaccompanied wives and mothers with children under the age of 10 were dealt with far more quickly under a simplified procedure, bringing their interviews forward, and this has had a beneficial effect on the whole queue. As a result of other measures and staff reinforcements, there has been a dramatic improvement in the rate of issue of entry clearance or settlement which in 1975, at 21,470, was nearly double the figure for 1974, which was 11,975.
I listened with careful interest to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), who made 12 specific suggestions, albeit in rapid succession. My right hon. Friend had dealt with many of them, as the hon. Gentleman conceded. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be preferable to have a clear statistical presentation of immigration, but, as many hon. Members have said, the phenomenon is of great complexity, and the clearest possible presentation could possibly over-simplify and possibly mislead. But we are looking at the need for a statistical survey of the question and some of the hon. Gentlemen's other suggestions are not without difficulty. I cannot go into all 12 at the moment, but we are considering each.
Several hon. Members mentioned ministerial discretion. I assure them that where I am concerned I deal with every case which comes before me with extreme care and consideration. There are few cases where discretion is used. The existence of discretion is well accepted, 1091 not only by Governments of both major parties, but by the High Court. But, as my right hon. Friend has stressed, it is not a suitable instrument for dealing in substantial numbers or classes of case, but is something to be used extremely sparingly.
In my view, such discretion serves two purposes. The first is to deal with a case or class of case by definition highly exceptional and simply not contemplated by the immigation rules one way or the other. The second is to mitigate the effect of the rules in a case where to stay with the rules would clearly be against common sense and compassion and where in terms of immigration policy discretion should be used.
This creates reactions from hon. Members in that sometimes the Minister is criticised for being too lenient and at other times for being too harsh. The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Taylor) cited a specific case where he felt the Minister has been too lenient. I cannot go into that case, but the Minister interviewed the lady concerned personally, which illustrates the careful consideration he gave to the case.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Would my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] May I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to help me with regard to the rude interruptions from Tory hooligans who do not know much about this problem? Would my hon. Friend say what is the policy of the Department about the detention of people in the centre at Harmondsworth? We are worried when people are kept there for perhaps weeks on end before there is a determination by the Home Office.
§ Dr. Summerskill
One of the reasons for some delay is that we are considering the case extremely carefully. It is only right that such cases should not be hurried and a too rapid decision made.
Several hon. Members mentioned the problem of over-staying, and I assure them that it concerns the Government very much. We are carrying out efficient and effective procedures for tracing and following up overstay cases and cases where there is deliberate evasion of the rules and an attempt to lie low and unnoticed in the hope of becoming settled.
The police are taking every possible action to see that overstayers are 1092 eventually detected. Both the immigration service and the Home Office have been putting considerable resources of manpower and finance into developing procedures for this purpose. We are determined to control this abuse and deal firmly with those who try to evade or exploit the system, not least in the interests of those who are law-abiding.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge asked about penalties. A person who knowingly fails to comply with the conditions attached to his leave to enter, either by overstaying the time limit or by failure to comply with the condition of his leave, commits an offence and on conviction may be recommended by the court for deportation.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
At the beginning of my speech I asked the Home Secretary to confirm that there was no question of amnesty for illegal immigrants. I understand that there is no amnesty, and I hope that I am correct in that.
§ Dr. Summerskill
Yes, that is correct.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) referred to the effect of the media upon race relations. I reinforce their view that good race relations are dependent upon informed and not uninformed or misinformed discussion. The media have it in their power to influence the climate of opinion, not to over-emphasise and exaggerate one side of a case or to highlight a particular incident to create the impression that that incident is the rule rather than the exception. I hope that in dealing with immigration and race relations journalists generally will be responsible in their treatment, because they can play a decisive role for good or ill in the subject we are debating today.
We all want to see social harmony and equality of treatment and opportunity among all who are settled here. In considering the issues involved it is essential to maintain a balance. On the one hand, we cannot ignore the effects of housing and educational disadvantage on 1093 race relations, but, on the other hand, nor should we exaggerate the scale of immigration or the threat of illegal entry.
We must not forget the efforts that are being made by many organisations to tackle housing and educational and other problems. In striking a broad balance, I conclude that immigration does not present us with insoluble problems but, nevertheless, we can and should maintain strict limits on immigration. I think every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate would agree with that. I believe that in this debate—
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ Question accordingly agreed to.1094
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. STODDART and Mr. SNAPE were appointed Tellers for the Noes but, no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Ayes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Noes had it.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.