HC Deb 24 June 1976 vol 913 cc1785-8
1. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement about illegal immigration.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

Yes, Sir. Firm action is fully justified to prevent illegal immigration and to remove those who attempt to enter illegally. Such action has my full support. It is particularly important to ensure that those who seek to organise illegal entry are firmly dealt with. Heavy penalties are available to the courts. Equally, the powers and the machinery exist, and are used fairly but firmly, to deal with people who do not enter unlawfully but misrepresented their intentions in gaining entry and fail to leave by the end of their permitted stay.

I believe that the great majority of people in the country, including the immigrant communities themselves, support this: it is clearly in the best interests of good relations within the community that this should be, and be seen to be, our approach.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the Home Secretary aware that we welcome his words about firm action being used against an evil which causes dangerous disquiet, added to by the seemingly endless influx of dependants and passport holders? Is the Home Secretary satisfied that the police and others concerned have sufficient resources to deal with this? While welcoming what he said about the special interest of the immigrant community, may I ask whether he is satisfied that he is receiving full co-operation in dealing with something which can poison relations between different ethnic groups?

Mr. Jenkins

The immigration service has established special units which work in close collaboration together with the police. There is close co-operation between the police and other services, and there is also international co-operation. The police have the resources they require, and manpower in the service has increased very substantially in the past year or two. The police have the powers and, broadly speaking, the resources they require.

On the second point that the hon. Member raised, I have mentioned these matters in recent discussions with some of the leaders of the immigrant communities. I believe that while rightly attaching great importance to the protection of their own communities they recognise that they have a responsibility in this field as well and that their co-operation is very important indeed.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, while we all support him fully in his efforts on illegal immigration, there is a tendency in the country and in some parts of this House to lump together all immigration and to give the impression that all immigration is illegal? This tendency has led to a lot of the racialist outbreaks which have taken place recently.

Mr. Jenkins

One must draw a very sharp distinction between those who are entitled to come here—United Kingdom passport holders with no other citizenship, and dependants of those who are already legally settled here—and those who enter illegally. If I had one mild criticism of the question put by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), it was that he seemed to introduce an element of confusion between legal immigration and illegal immigration. They are in completely different categories and it is important that we should keep them so.

Mr. Whitelaw

Has the Home Secretary's attention been drawn to an article by Chapman Pincher in the Daily Express on 19th June? Does he appreciate that stories of immigration officers being ordered to ease entry run counter to the remarks he has made in the House today, and which I fully support? Will he make it perfectly clear that the statement, attributed to the Home Office, that these stories are without foundation has his personal support?

Mr. Jenkins

The article by Chapman Pincher in the Daily Express on 19th June contained an allegation of a circular instruction issued to immigration officers that immigrants were not to be rejected even if they had bogus papers. There is no truth whatever in this allegation. There is no such circular and no such instruction.

Mr. Bidwell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the editors of mass circulation newspapers seem to show an abysmal ignorance of the immigration rules as drawn up by the Opposition when they were in Government? Is it not a fact that the basic rules are determined by the 1971 Immigration Act, which still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of equality between blacks and whites? Does he agree that in the way they sensationalise these stories the newspaper editors show an abysmal ignorance and that it is about time they woke up?

Mr. Jenkins

The editorials vary between the mass circulation and the minority circulation newspapers. Certainly a great deal of comment does not seem to be based upon an understanding of the immigration rules, which are basically those set up by the 1971 Act. The only substantial change I have made, under pressure from both sides, related to the spouses of British women or women with a right to reside in this country.

Mr. Budgen

Will the Home Secretary tell the House whether he accepts that part of Mr. Hawley's report which says that there has been, and is, widespread illegal immigration from the Indian sub-continent?

Mr. Jenkins

There is another Question on the Order Paper which relates specifically to Mr. Hawley's report. I would prefer to deal with the matter there. I do not think that Mr. Hawley was specifically relating his comment to this issue. I do not mind reports being published. I believe in open government, but there are factors in having to comment on a particular piece of advice as opposed to other advice which would put civil servants and Ministers in considerable difficulty. I think that Mr. Hawley's remarks were mainly directed to the possible size of the pool in the Indian subcontinent and not to the current flow to this country.