HC Deb 21 October 1976 vol 917 cc1641-3
9. Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to implement the recommendations in the Hawley Report; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I keep immigration policy as a whole, including the matters discussed in Mr. Hawley's report, under continuing consideration. It would not be appropriate for me to single out for comment the contents of an internal report which forms only one element in the wide range of advice available to the Government.

Mr. Aitken

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, according to the report, in January 1975, there was a substantial relaxation of the administrative procedures in overseas posts for vetting visa applications for settlement, at the request of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), who was then Minister of State at the Home Office? Is he further aware that since that relaxation was introduced, well over 12,000 new immigrants have been admitted over and about the 1974 figure? Would it not be a good idea, in the interests of fairer and strict immigration control, to revert to the original procedures?

Mr. Rees

The hon. Gentleman is taking relaxation to mean that people who should not be here are coming here. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) was looking at the question of dependants who have the right to come here and was attempting to speed up the process. I think that he was right to do so.

Mrs. Millie Miller

Will my right hon. Friend consider whether the authors of reports such as the Hawley Report should be entitled to immunity? I understand that it has been the practice to extend to civil servants the right of protection by Ministers, but should we not be protected from those who issue reports in their own names?

Mr. Rees

I am not au fait with the precise circumstances of the making public of this document, but there is no question of its being issued under the name of the civil servant. However, I shall look at the matter raised by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Michael Latham

Does the right hon. Gentleman share my view that in this enormous problem there is nothing useful or sensible in trying to pretend that anything can be achieved by repatriation?

Mr. Rees

I firmly agree that repatriation, in the way it has been talked about recently, is wrong. I hope that none of the major parties will touch it with a barge-pole.

Mr. Bidwell

Is this question not jumping the gun, since the Franks Committee is studying this matter and will be reporting to my right hon. Friend fairly soon? Will he assure the House that whatever the outcome of that committee's considerations, or the Hawley Report, there will be no let up in the view of all parties in this House that the principle of family unity must be preserved, and that we shall not have hordes of guest workers in this country as some Tory racists would like to see?

Mr. Rees

I am awaiting the Franks Report with interest. I agree that family unity is an important factor in people settling down in this country.

Mr. Allison

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) touched a sensitive point when he asked whether it was Government policy to relax existing controls on immigration? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what Government policy really is, in the light of the Labour Party recommendation that the 1968 and 1971 Acts should be abolished?

Mr. Rees

The hon. Gentleman has that a bit wrong. What matters is doing away with the 1971 Act. I was a member of the Committee that considered the Act. In many parts it is incomprehensible. It is vital to put that right. I invite the hon. Gentleman to read the Act and to see whether he understands it. All that the conference was referring to was the need to make citizenship a basis of immigration. That was something that I believed in strongly when I was a junior Minister doing that job. I like to think that it was as result of something I did that the matter was put in the party manifesto in 1970.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

As the major recommendation that I made when I made my visit to the sub-continent—the recommendation about which Mr. Hawley complained—was that in future the standard of proof should be the civil standard of the balance of probabilities, as against the criminal standard; as that was decided to be the law by the Divisional Court in 1972; and as instructions had not been given to the entry certificate officers until I gave them in 1975, will my right hon. Friend continue to abide by the ruling of the Divisional Court and ensure that this standard of proof is applied in all future entry cases?

Mr. Rees

I certainly do not intend to change that.