HC Deb 14 November 1979 vol 973 cc1329-48
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about immigration.

I am today publishing a White Paper setting out the Government's proposals for revising the immigration rules. The Immigration Act 1971 requires the Home Secretary to lay before Parliament a statement of any changes in the immigration rules, and the statement may be disapproved by a resolution of either House. My purpose in publishing our proposals as a White Paper is to enable them to be debated before I lay that statement of the new rules.

The White Paper is the result of a comprehensive review. The new rules will be clearer, easier to operate and firmer in a number of critical areas.

We shall end the automatic right of entry of the husband or fiancé of a woman settled in this country, but it is not my intention to keep out the husband or fiancé of a woman who was born in the United Kingdom and whose marriage is not contracted for immigration purposes. The object of the new rules is to prevent the exploitation of marriage as an instrument of primary immigration. We cannot permit that to continue.

I have not overlooked the fact that some girls will have been born abroad because their parents happened to be out of the country—for example, in Crown service or business—at the time of their birth. It is my intention to consider such cases sympathetically for favourable treatment outside the rules.

We undertook to end the practice of allowing permanent settlement for those who come here for a temporary stay. The new rules provide that visitors and students will not be able to remain for another temporary purpose if that carries with it the prospect of eventual settlement. Visitors will be prohibited from taking employment. People who wish to set up in business or stay here as self-employed persons or as persons of independent means will have to meet stricter requirements and will need first to obtain entry clearance.

We undertook to limit the entry of parents, grandparents and children over 18 to a small number of urgent compassionate cases. Children aged 18 or over will qualify for settlement only where the circumstances are of the most strongly compassionate nature, although special consideration will be given to daughters under 21 who formed part of the family unit overseas and have no other relative to whom they can turn. Parents and grandparents aged 65 or over and widowed mothers already have to show that they are wholly or mainly dependent on children in this country who can support and accommodate them. In future they will also have to show that they are without other relatives in their own country to whom they can turn and that they have a standard of living substantially below that of their own country. Parents and grandparents under 65 will not qualify for entry save in the most exceptional circumstances.

We also said that we would severely restrict the issue of work permits. That is not a matter for the immigration rules, but my hon, and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment is answering a written question on the subject today.

The White Paper explains that the Government will consider, on the basis of the present rules, all applications made before today.

The other changes in the White Paper are the result of the comprehensive review that I have mentioned. Obscurities have been cleared up, anomalies have been removed, and the scope for abuse and evasion of the control has been reduced.

The Government believe that firm immigration control is essential in order to achieve good community relations. The new rules will not affect our commitment to certain United Kingdom passport holders being admitted under the special voucher scheme, or to men lawfully settled here who wish to be joined by their wives and young children. We shall continue to welcome the genuine visitor and the genuine student. What we are determined to do is to deal strictly with those who seek to evade or manipulate the control.

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since the whole racialist document—the White Paper—is clearly the work of the Prime Minister, surely the right hon. Lady should have made the statement.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member knows that that is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

In the White Paper the Government set out a comprehensive system of new immigration rules. Those rules cover all aspects of controlling immigration from all parts of the world. The Home Secretary said that as a result of the review obscurities have been cleared up, anomalies removed, and so forth.

We note that the Government will provide time to debate the proposals before the new rules are laid, but comprehensive new immigration rules need comprehensive consideration. I hope that the Government will consider it necessary to have longer than one and a half hours to debate the order. There are a great many issues involved, and in the to-ing and fro-ing today we shall deal only with the main ones.

A little over a year ago, in preparation for an election, the present Prime Minister talked of the country being swamped. That was not true. The statistics that the Home Office published clearly show that the country is not being swamped. Primary immigration is over, and has been for some time.

There were three proposals discussed at the time of the election, and Tory right hon, and hon. Members went to the country on those proposals. There was talk of a register. I congratulate the Home Secretary on dropping that proposal. It was nonsense before the election, and it is nonsense now. I also congratulate the Home Secretary on dropping the quota. The figures show that that, too, is unnecessary. There was also talk of a restriction on all husbands and fiancés, and that proposal has been limited and now effectively concerns only Asians.

The proposal on husbands and fiancés is designed specifically to deal with Asians. Many hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins), will be supporting a proposal that will act against a large number of their constituents.

When I was a junior Minister in 1969 I put something through the House which was not very different from what the Home Secretary is doing now. But I was wrong. It was altered in 1974 when my predecessor, Mr. Roy Jenkins—said—[Interruption]—It is no good hon. Members laughing. This is very important for those hon. Members with Asian constituents. Mr. Jenkins said: When I first considered this I believe that I put too high the likely immigration consequences and did not fully allow for the stark and unacceptable nature of the discrimination. On further consideration of all the issues involved in this difficult problem, I am persuaded that there are no sufficiently compelling reasons for denying the parties to a marriage the freedom of choice that I believe they should have."—[Official Report, 27 June 1974; Vol. 785, c. 875.] There are aspects of this document that must be looked at in detail. One realises the importance of this matter when one considers that an entry clearance officer on the Indian Sub-continent will not be able to give a clearance where the parties to the marriage have not yet met. That simply means that if there are swift visits to the sub-continent everything will be all right.

Mr. Ronald Bell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there any limit to the privilege accorded to Front Bench questions?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that we are not debating this matter today. We are dealing with questions after a statement.

Mr. Rees

This is a most important matter. Perhaps the Home Secretary could explain why the Government have left out two and a half of the three proposals that they originally put before the electorate and why the bits that they have kept are racist and reactionary?

Mr. Hill

This is ridiculous.

Mr. Rees

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) would do well to consider these matters—

Mr. Hill

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) is taking advantage of the House.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman was about to ask a question.

Mr. Rees

Yes, I am about to ask another question on top of the batch that I have already asked. The Home Office has facts and figures about overstaying. The inquiry into overstaying and abuse has not yet been completed, but when it is I hope that the facts will be put before the House.—[Hoyt. MEMBERS: "Ask a Question."]—I am asking a question. I want to know whether the facts will be put before the House. Obviously some hon. Members do not consider this matter important. There is some obscurity on the question when the rules, which have not yet been laid, will come into effect. Can they really take effect when the White Paper and the rules have not yet been debated? Is it a fact that hon. Members must go to their Asian constituents and tell them that the change has already been made? I agree that the immigration rules should be looked at—

Mr. Neubert

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the convention of the House that any Front Bench statements made in reply to a Minister's statement should be shorter than the original statement, or at least as long, but not longer by a ratio of two to one? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that when there is a great deal of emotion in the House hon. Members would be well advised to leave it to me to do what I can to ensure that our affairs are conducted propertly. Certainly we have a set procedure for asking a series of questions of a Minister.

Mr. Rees

As I was saying, the immigration rules need to be looked at from time to time. Does the Home Secretary agree that primary immigration is over, and that what he is doing today is pandering to those who think otherwise? In doing this he will do great harm to community relations with proposals that are sexist, racist and indefensible.

Mr. Whitelaw

I shall seek to answer the questions of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees). I agree that a comprehensive review of the immigration rules is very important and needs to be undertaken from time to time. I believe that it is right that it should be undertaken now.

I agree that it is important that there should be a debate and an opportunity for reflection. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has agreed that there should be a full day's debate on the White Paper. In publishing the White Paper at 11 am we gave hon. Members the opportunity of seeing it in good time before this afternoon's statement. In doing that, and in agreeing to a debate, we have behaved in a thoroughly proper manner.

I wish to make it clear that this is a statement about the immigration rules as such. Matters such as the register and quotas would require legislation. This is different from the rules. We have certainly not dropped those proposals at this stage.

The right hon. Member said that he was wrong in 1969. His right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and he acted then when the figures were very much smaller than they are today, but a little death-bed repentance is not much good. He quoted what Mr. Roy Jenkins said in 1974. I wonder whether he overlooked what Mr. Jenkins' Minister of State said at the same time, namely, that some 200 or 300 husbands or fiancés are admitted because of these kinds of considerations from the Commonwealth each year. … The danger is that if this matter were to be mishandled by the present Government or by their successors we could experience a substantial new wave of immigration."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 28 March 1974; Vol. 350, c. 794–5.] Just a few hundred were affected then, and now the figure is several thousand.

The right hon. Member asked me about the retrospective position. Those who are in the queue today will be processed. That is important. I have answered all his questions clearly, except on the aspect of overstaying. The overstaying report was quite properly commissioned by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South and we shall certainly be prepared to see that the House discusses it. I am bound to say that what has been revealed so far is not satisfactory. I do not believe that the arrangements that we have today for checking on overstaying are in any way satisfactory. Indeed, this is a most unsatisfactory position. The House and the country should recognise it, and we should seek steps to put it right.

Mr. David Steel

Does not the statement that the Home Secretary has just made run completely counter to his own oft-repeated statement that people once settled in this country should be treated equally before the law? Is it not true that the family life—of which the Prime Minister has often spoken—of certain people in this country is already disrupted by the present immigration rules, and that still more will be disrupted by these rules? Has the right hon. Gentleman considered what is happening to the nature of our society, that it pretends that it requires a set of squalid and mean-spirited proposals like these to check abuses by a few hundred people?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not accept for one moment that these are mean-minded proposals. I believe that we in this country are absolutely entitled to say that we are not prepared to allow marriage to be exploited for the purpose of gaining primary immigration into this country. That is what is happening, and it is not right.

Mr. Edward Gardner

I recognise and welcome the new rules proposed in the White Paper as necessary, comprehensive and realistic, but does my right hon. Friend agree that ultimately the only way to deal with immigration problems on a permanent basis is to scrap the obsolete and absurd nationality laws and replace them with a new nationality Act?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to my hon, and learned Friend, who has made a considerable study of that proposal. We have committed ourselves to introducing a nationality Act. The many other subjects of legislation coming before the House may mean that the Act will not get on to the statute book this Session, but I am considering publishing a White Paper setting out the Government's clear proposals on the matter.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

What estimate has the right hon. Gentleman made of the reduction that these changes will bring about in the number of persons from the new Commonwealth and Pakistan accepted for settlement, and in the projection of that population at the end of the century?

Mr. Whitelaw

I expect the effect of these rules in particular on the present numbers to be a reduction of between 3,000 and 4,000 a year.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Why, in all that he has said so far, has the Home Secretary avoided mention of the worst feature of this squalid document, namely, that he has introduced a new rule that will prevent a marriage where the parties have not met? That is not intended to hit a marriage of convenience, which is met by other rules; it is intended to hit the genuine arranged marriage of Asian girls, whether or not they were born in this country. In doing that, the right hon. Gentleman introduces a racialist difference between one British citizen and another. Has he not mentioned it because he is ashamed of it?

Mr. Whitelaw

Has not the hon. Gentleman, with his considerable experience of these matters, come to the view held by many hon. Members? I remember the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) telling me that in the future it will increasingly be the practice that Asian girls in this country will wish to marry Asian boys in this country. I should have thought that that was a position that we should encourage. I cannot understand why that should not proceed, nor can I see anything wrong in the way in which our country has worked over generations—that people who wish to get married should actually have met before they decide to do so.

Sir Paul Bryan

In spite of the Opposition's protests, am I not right in saying that my right hon. Friend's statement is in accord with the Conservative Party manifesto, which was endorsed by the electorate only six months ago?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is substantially correct.

Mr. Deakins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his disgraceful statement will be treated with dismay not merely in areas of high immigrant population but in all areas concerned with good community relations? Will he be a little more explicit about the position of fiancés in South Asia in the queue already awaiting entry clearance and an interview?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I do not believe that the vast majority of the Asian community in this country will think it unreasonable that we should make sensible arrangements, which these are.

The hon. Gentleman very properly asked about those in the queue. They will be processed, and therefore their position is safeguarded.

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the Opposition and all those who talk of racism and sexism in the proposed immigration rules that this country is governed in the interests of its inhabitants and not those of immigrants?

Mr. Whitelaw

I believe that this country is governed in the interests of all its citizens, and it is on that basis that I have put forward these proposals.

Miss Joan Lestor

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has now created several different categories of people who stand in different relationships to the law of this land? Will he bear in mind that the attempt to buy off those women born abroad of British parents who happen to be white—in that he will exercise his discretion as to whom we may or may not marry—will in no way mitigate our opposition to what he is doing to our Asian sisters?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not think that what the hon. Lady said is entirely correct. If a woman is born in this country, whether she is Asian or whatever, she will be allowed to bring in her husband or fiancé.

Miss Lestor

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to look him over before I bring him in?

Mr. Whitelaw

What I meant when I referred to a discretion was that I would treat sympathetically, outside the rules, those who may have been born of British parents who were on Crown service or business abroad. The others have the right.

Mr. George Gardiner

Will my right hon. Friend state whether it is correct that the Conservative manifesto proposals for a register and a quota have been dropped, or whether it is simply a matter of deferring such action until later in this Parliament?

Mr. Whitelaw

I made it clear that these matters would require substantive legislation. There may be no place for such substantive legislation this Session. What I have done is to make what I believe are sensible changes in the immigration rules, and those are what I have put before the House today.

Mr. Sever

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many thousands of families in the ethnic minority groups will be desperately disappointed by the sordid and squalid measure that is proposed today? How does he square what he has proposed in the White Paper with the statement of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 4 May about creating one united nation?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's statement. I believe that what we have done is to make a sensible, plain change in the rules—a change that I believe, in the long run will be in the interests of everyone in this country. May I refer once again to all the comments that it is racially discriminatory? I should have thought that it was perfectly clear that any woman born in this country, of whatever nationality, colour, race or creed, would be entitled to bring in her husband or fiancé.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while the new rules will be welcomed there will be widespread disappointment throughout the country that the actual effect of the rules will be to reduce the huge numbers coming in every year by only 3,000?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what my hon. Friend says. At the last election all parties accepted the commitment that the wives and children of heads of households who were here on 1 January 1973 should be allowed to come into the country to unite their families. We all accepted that United Kingdom passport holders would be entitled to come into the country in diminishing numbers and that there would be no question of anyone who is legally in the country being sent away for any purpose. Those important matters were set out at the time of the election by all parties. We should remember that that is the background against which the changes have been made.

Mr. Bidwell

Sad as they are, not only will these proposals affect Asian communities in Britain; there will also be an effect on British public opinion. As the debate proceeds, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the aspects of the White Paper that contain matters of gross sex discrimination? Western Europe is moving against such thought. The movement of free labour means that white people are under few restrictions. Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider carefully the human problems that will arise from the exclusion of an old lady in the Indian Sub-continent who cannot join most of her children in this country, albeit that she may have some land over there? I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a humane Tory.

Hon. Members

The right hon. Gentleman was humane.

Mr. Bidwell

I ask the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to pay attention to what was said by the all-Party Select Committee. Why has there been no agreement on the question of husband and male fiancés, and why are we to disturb the pattern of old people's entitlement to come here?

Mr. Whitelaw

I shall always respond to the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell). In his constituency he has a particular problem, with which the House is well acquainted. Over a period of time he has handled that problem with a great deal of skill in difficult circumstances. I certainly respond to him. We shall listen carefully to the points that he makes. I believe that what we are doing will not be received with the hysteria that I have heard from the Opposition Benches. We have tightened the rules on dependants, but many of those rules operated under the previous Government. I do not complain of those rules. However, we have sought to tighten them and I would have thought that to be reasonable. No doubt during the debate we shall come to the other matters that the hon. Gentleman raised.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that there is another statement to follow. The present statement will be subject to a full debate. I hope that those hon. Members whom I call will ask brief questions, in order that other hon. Members may have the opportunity to speak.

Mr. Scott

I have a specific and brief question. How will the rules affect an infant female child who is born overseas but adopted by an indigenous family in this country? When that child reaches marriageable age will she be treated in the same way as her natural brothers and sisters, or differently?

Mr. Whitelaw

I know that such a case offers many complications. Adop tion has sometimes been used as a means of evading the rules and it is important to remember that. However, I shall consider carefully what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the Minister aware that in Leicester, where there are thousands of Asians, his statement will be greeted by them not with hysteria but with grave anxiety and upset? Is he further aware that they will feel that the Government are not the right people to choose whom a girl should marry, and that it is a matter for the girl alone? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the applications that are now in the pipeline, whether for fiancés or for children over 18, will continue to be treated under the present rules?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon, and learned Gentleman says. Many Asian girls in this country would wish to make their own choice. Indeed, that may well happen after the change in the rules rather than at present.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services how another ground of abuse can be avoided by making sponsors of dependent relatives legally chargeable for their maintenance before the Supplementary Benefits Commission?

Mr. Whitelaw

That is a matter that I should have to consider with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Mellor

I note what my right hon. Friend says about discretion. However, is he aware that it will cause considerable dismay and confusion to British people who are working abroad that it will make a difference to their female child if she is born in Paris rather than in Putney?

Mr. Whitelaw

We believe that the birth is a clear and sensible point to take. However, I am aware of the feeling in all parts of the community and I shall be prepared to re-examine the matter before the debate.

Mr. Kaufman

The right hon. Gentleman seems confident that the reaction in the country will not be the one that he met with in the House. Therefore, will he come to Manchester, address my Asian constituents, and answer their questions on the matter? Will he also clarify paragraph 13 in the document, which is open to wide misinterpretation? There it is stated that applications under the old rules will be considered up to today, but that such applications will be legally possible right up to the laying of the new rules. The implication seems to be that applications that can legally be made under the present rules will no longer be acceptable after the publication of the White Paper, which has no force in law. Will he clarify that matter?

Mr. Whitelaw

Whatever the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else accuses me of, he cannot accuse me of being afraid to talk to anybody at any time under any circumstances. Of course, I shall do so, but I do not wish to do so under the auspices of the right hon. Gentleman. I thought that I had made clear the proposals about the transitional period. All those people who are now in the fiancé queue will be considered under the present rules.

Mr. John Carlisle

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that by amending his manifesto commitment that we would end the concession to all male fiancés—it has been changed to women born in this country—any difference will be felt in the vast traffic that comes into the country?

Mr. Whitelaw

I believe that our proposals are correct and that they will make a considerable difference in the numbers. If we attempted to apply the restrictions to wives and female fiancées, nationality and immigration legislation would have to be altered. We would also break our pledge to the wives and children of Commonwealth citizens who were settled here before 1973. I have made clear that the Government stand by that pledge.

Mr. Stallard

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the widespread belief that the new rules already operate and that immigration matters have been tightened up since the election? Will he assure the House that no change in the instructions to immigration officers will be given until the House has passed the necessary legislation?

Mr. Whitelaw

I should like to make absolutely clear that since the election no new instructions have been given to the immigration service. We are operating exactly the same arrangements. The right hon. Member for Leeds, South knows, even if some of his hon. Friends do not, that the rules require very difficult decisions to be made by the Minister concerned. The hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) knows that better than most. The pressure from hon. Members on my hon. Friend the Minister of State and anyone who occupies that job are serious. I do not want the House to be in any doubt about that. Difficult decisions have to be made in each case. I have made some myself, one of which became clear today. I make some in consultation with my hon. Friend the Minister of State.

The instructions to immigration officers are the same. In defence of the immigration service, and in view of some of the things that are said about it from time to time, I should say that hon. Members should realise that in 1978 there were about 50 million passenger movements into and out of this country, half of which involved people who were subject to immigration control. They all had to be dealt with by the immigration service, under stressful conditions.

I accept that the House has every right to criticise me and other Ministers, but I hope that it will not criticise members of the immigration service, who are working under very great difficulties.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call four more hon. Members from each side of the House.

Mr. Budgen

May I remind my right hon. Friend of paragraph 83 of the Franks report, which said that it would take at least 18 months from a decision being taken by the Government for a register of dependants to come into effect? Will my right hon. Friend agree that because he is not prepared to use his considerable political authority in the Cabinet to obtain time for legislation to introduce such a register it could not come into effect before two and a half years from today?

Mr. Whitelaw

My hon. Friend must, as I must, judge our priorities. In terms of the priorities in the legislative programme that the Government are putting before the House I think that my hon. Friend will agree that the measures in that programme are ones to which he would wish to attach the highest priority. The matter to which he referred would require substantive legislation, and if it does not find a place in the legislative programme it will be because there are other matters that I believe—and I think that my hon. Friend would agree with me—have a higher priority.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Secretary of State confirm that under the Labour Government the rules were operated extremely tightly, that there is not, and has not been, mass immigration, and that the rules have therefore moved on to a tighter racist basis than previously? Does he agree that the Government are concerned only with uniting white families and are prepared to keep brown and black families apart?

Mr. Marlow

They can go home and rejoin their families in the country of origin.

Mr. Cryer

If the Secretary of State is concerned that immigration officers should not be criticised, will he undertake that if evidence is produced to show that the rules are being abused because of the general atmosphere engendered by the racist attitude of the Government and that immigration officers are found to be abusing their powers, he will resign?

Mr. Whitelaw

That is a sort of "Have you stopped beating your wife?" question. I am prepared to stand up for the immigration officers and for the policies that I have put forward. If the House repudiates those policies, or if my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wishes to get rid of me, of course I shall resign. However, I must make clear that I shall stand up for the immigration officers, as did the right hon. Member for Leeds, South.

I do not accept that there has been any change in their position because of the change of Government. If that sort of accusation is made, it must be clearly substantiated. It means that those in the public services change their attitudes between one Government and another, and that is a dangerous accusation to make in this country.

Mr. Hal Miller

Has my right hon. Friend considered the report of the Select Committee on the subject of immigration, its concern about male fiancés and husbands, and its recommendation that a continuing study should be undertaken and figures should be published? Will he undertake to publish those figures, with other immigration figures, in an accessible form in the Official Report before a debate is held on the new rules?

Mr. Whitelaw

I can give my hon. Friend some figures about fiancés. In 1975 there were barely 1,000. Three years later the number had trebled, to more than 3,000. Even with the lower priority accorded them by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South last year, the figure was still over 2,200. Of those, about three-quarters came from India and Pakistan. Those are important figures. I will consider what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

The Home Secretary has repeatedly said that an Asian girl in this country and her intended fiancé in India or Pakistan should meet before marriage. Under which section of the immigration rules will the fiancé in India or Pakistan be allowed to come here to meet his intended wife?

Mr. Whitelaw

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State has advised me—he knows all about these matters—the fiancé can come as a visitor in the first place.

Mr. Mitchell

That is not so. The right hon. Gentleman does not know what he is talking about.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Since the White Paper, in spite of the heat that it has generated, does virtually nothing, can my right hon. Friend say whether his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) means that he does not intend to do anything significant about immigration at all?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am surprised that my hon, and learned Friend should say that about proposed changes which would reduce immigration by 3,000 or 4,000 a year and would go a long way towards stopping the one remaining source of male primary immigration at a time of great strains on our resources. I think that that is thoroughly worth while.

Mr. Thomas Cox

Is the Home Secretary aware that as a result of his statement we have for the first time in our history a proposal that "If you are black or brown, you are to be a second-class citizen of the United Kingdom". That is what the right hon. Gentleman's statement means. How does the right hon. Gentleman expect Asian communities, which are some of the most law-abiding and hard working in this country, to see any benefit in working for good community relations in the areas where they live? The real victors following his statement are the thugs of the National Front, who will use it at every opportunity.

Mr. Whitelaw

I find the hon. Gentleman's statement surprising, inflammatory and unnecessary. I do not understand how he can make those remarks about a statement that preserves the position of wives and children of the heads of families already here and preserves the position of United Kingdom passport holders. How can he describe as racially discriminatory a proposal that girls born in this country, of any race, colour or creed, have exactly the same rights? I do not understand what he means.

Mr. Alan Clark

To what extent did the entry of husbands and male fiancés increase after the concession by the then Labour Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins?

Mr. Whitelaw

The restrictions were eased in 1974. The total accepted for settlement as husbands, fiancés or in some temporary capacity doubled between 1973 and 1974, and almost doubled again in 1975. It has remained broadly at that level since then.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Why is it necessary to make life even more difficult for those elderly parents and grandparents who want to join their families here? Has the right hon. Gentleman some evidence of large-scale trafficking in 80-year olds? Is he not aware that to come here now they have to meet the condition of being wholly maintained by their families? What a mean, nasty little measure this is.

Mr. Whitelaw

I find the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement surprising, because under the previous Government—he rightly stated the position—they had to show that they were wholly or mainly dependent on children in this country. We are saying that in addition they should have to show that they are without any other relatives to whom they could turn in their own country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will tell hon. Members why. Is it so unreasonable that people who have relatives with whom they can stay in their own country should stay with those relatives? We are prepared to take those who do not have relatives in those circumstances, but surely where there are other relatives with whom they can live it is reasonable that they should stay with them there.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Peter Walker, to make a statement.

Mr. John Grant

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it reasonable for the Home Secretary to present this appalling document, which refers to the work permits system, but instead of allowing hon. Members to question him on that aspect to skulk behind a planted question put down for written answer by one of his hon. Friends?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Jim Marshall

In his statement the Home Secretary has created a large area of uncertainty, which will create distress to many people in Leicester. The uncertainty arises from the interregnum, and the presentation of the White Paper to the House and the laying of the rules. If I understood the Home Secretary correctly, he said that until the new rules are laid applications in the pipeline are to be processed and perhaps a decision made under the present rules. That does not go far enough. It is that which will cause the distress. Will the existing conditions apply to the people already in the queue, with the laying of the new rules?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not something on which I can rule.

Mr. Kaufman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I give notice that at the end of the statement by the Minister of Agriculture I shall be making an application under Standing Order No. 9 on this matter?

Mr. Onslow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I put it to you that in the interests of more certain and efficient government it is advisable that this House should know whether the Home Secretary has sent instructions to immigration officers to operate the system that he has outlined today instead of the system of immigration control by interminable delay, which has been our shameful inheritance from the last Labour Government?

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it still the rule of the House that Ministers should not mislead the House? On a number of occasions the Home Secretary said that these new rules treat British-born citizens equally, whether they are black or white. He knows, however, that one of the rules treats an Asian girl differently, because she will not be allowed to marry according to her culture. Surely that is misleading the House. Should not the Home Secretary apologise?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members are raising with me now points of debate, not points of order.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be in the interests of the House for the discussion to continue for some time? The Secretary of State made a statement that dealt substantially with iancés and husbands. The White Paper will also affect substantially a large number of aged relatives. On my interpretation, the White Paper will virtually stop any dependent relatives entering under any circumstances, because no dependent relative is likely to have a standard of living below that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have been very tolerant. I have been allowing points to be made which hon. Members know are not points of order. I shall take another two and then we must move on.

Mr. Anderson

Will the Home Secretary comment on this point?—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is supposed to be making a point of order.

Mr. Anderson

I thought that I had been called to put a question.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is a little late.

Mr. Stan Thorne

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I give you notice of my intention to raise a matter under Standing Order No. 9 in regard to the statement we have just heard?

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear, but I was given notice a few moments ago that someone else proposes to raise the matter under Standing Order No. 9.