§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
I beg to move,That the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC., 1979–80, No. 394), a copy of which was laid before this House on 20 February, be disapproved.The genesis of the debate is yet again the notorious statement by the Prime Minister in 1978, when she was Leader of the Opposition, about this country's being swamped by immigration from the New Commonwealth. Shortly after that emotive remark I showed from the statistics that happened to be published at the time that immigration from the Commonwealth was falling. The fall is a secular, long-term movement. It still goes on, as the quarterly figures show.
That is confirmed by the figures published by the Home Office last weekend, which show that fewer Commonwealth citizens were accepted for settlement in Britain in 1979 than in 1978. There were slightly more than 33,000 Commonwealth settlers—13 per cent. fewer than in 1978.
After our concern over the years to talk about immigration from the Commonwealth, it is interesting to note that the figures show—they are worth looking at at a later date—that immigration from outside the Commonwealth is increasing. The total number of immigrants accepted for settlement was 4 per cent. lower than in 1978. The number of people from Pakistan and the New Commonwealth countries continued to drop. The figures were the lowest total since 1974, continuing a decline that began in 1977. The number of those accepted for settlement on arrival fell by 25 per cent. Among those accepted after a time limit, there was the same pattern of a drop of New Commonwealth and Pakistan citizens and again a rise of non-EEC foreign nationals.
The figures published last weekend follow the same pattern as I dealt with nearly two years ago. The trend has been going on for a long time. So at the very beginning of this debate one thing is clear: not only was the Prime Minister wrong in 1978; she is still wrong. The figures for immigration from the Commonwealth are continuing to fall, and immigration from the Commonwealth is largely of dependants.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
The right hon. Gentleman has often misquoted my right lion. Friend the Prime Minister on the question of swamping. Did she not say in fact that the people of this country feared that they would be swamped, and is not that quite different from the alleged factual basis that the right hon. Gentleman now gives for his assertions?
§ Mr. Rees
I heard the right hon. Lady. If the Leader of the Opposition talked in that way in the run-up to an election, when immigration and race were good vote-catching subjects, that is what she meant. She meant "swamping". If the right hon. Lady likes to say that she did not mean it, that will be one thing, but she will not.
§ Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that if the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister, had not meant that she agreed with the fears that she expressed she would have gone on to say "This is not true. We are not being swamped"? But she did nothing of the sort.
§ Mr. Rees
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The right hon. Lady said it, and however she put it, she meant it. We were in a pre-election period.
It is important to get the figures right. There is one other aspect of the statistics leading to the secular decline that has gone on for 14 or 15 years. It was first seen in the White Paper of 1965. I refer to the number of work permits issued every year. In those days there were work permits and a different sort of document for Commonwealth citizens. Every year the numbers became smaller and smaller. That meant that, inexorably, primary immigration from the Commonwealth would fall.
1012 Just after the rules were first published a Minister at the Department of Employment spoke of the changes that were to take place with regard to the number of work permits. In terms of numbers, that is far more important than what is in the rules. The argument about the rules is not about numbers; the numbers are very small. Our argument is that it is not worth the candle to give the community here the impression that the changes are affecting numbers to any degree.
§ Sir Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman recognises that he was mistaken in saying that it was only those who came in on work permits who were primary immigrants. All those who came in from East Africa were, for this purpose, primary immigrants.
§ Mr. Rees
I did not say that it was the only reason. I said that it was a major reason, because primary immigration was originally spawned by people who came here to work in the days before there were work permits for those from the Commonwealth. It was a different system. I believe that they had what were called Commonwealth vouchers or work vouchers.
The numbers that have come in in recent years have been dependants. It is something that the pledge on dependants given by the last Labour Government is not being broken by the new Government. I praise them for that. That would have been the worst thing to do, whatever my argument is about dealing with fiancés.
We have heard this debate before. There is no point in going over the same ground, but there are some important points to raise tonight. If it were only that the present Prime Minister talked about swamping in the way that she did in an election atmosphere, that would have been one thing, but the Conservative Party talked about having a register and a quota. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) never forgets that promise. He raises it from time to time, as does the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner), who, in the debate when I quoted the statistics, asked how I could give an assurance that immigration would go on in that way. I ask him to look at the figures for last Friday. The trend is going on all the time.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
As the Tory Party's promise was that there would be a clear end to immigration as we have known it, and as the measures that we are considering will reduce immigration by only about 3,000 or 4,000 at the most, they can be only the first of many very important restrictions that we can expect in future years.
§ Mr. Rees
We are now hearing the authentic voice that speaks for the context in which the swamping remark was made. I do not even believe that the figure is 3,000 or 4,000. I doubt whether more than about 50 old people, in regard to whom the rules have been changed since December, will be affected. The effect is very small. Our argument is that the change is having a small effect but that it is designed to look as if it were much larger.
The hon. Members for Wolverhampton, South-West and Reigate know that other promises were made about a register and a quota. The Franks committee looked at the question of a register when the Conservatives were in opposition. They did not have to go to Conservative Central Office to obtain a view on the register. The committee considered that in terms of a fall in the numbers the question of the register and the quota was irrelevant.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has just said that the numbers that will be affected by the new rules are very small. Does he wish it was a far larger number? Will he speculate on what he thinks the British people as a whole would wish?
§ Mr. Rees
I do not. I have made this argument many times. I made it in the run-up to the general election. I have no doubt that in many parts it was an unpopular argument. The then Opposition wanted a register and a quota, but it was part of the aura of the times, into which the words about "feeling rather swamped" were put.
These proposals have been dropped, in the face of reality. Ministers realised the implications of them when they came to office. The facts were set out in the then Government's response to the report of the Select Committee on race relations in July 1978. It was not even a question of 1014 the then Opposition waiting to get into government. The facts and the arguments were there before the election.
§ Mr. Budgen
What evidence has the right hon. Gentleman that the other proposals to which he refers have been dropped by the Government?
§ Mr. Rees
Just now, a number of Government supporters were putting their interpretation on what the Price Minister said when she was in opposition. I put my interpretation on what has happened during this Government's first nine months in office. I lay an even bet that these two proposals will not see the light of day.
To make the minimum look large is the Government's policy. It is on that minimum number, which the Opposition think is the wrong way to set about it if the Government want to do something—and we think they should not—that I am concentrating my remarks.
We are left with the proposals on fiancés, and to those I shall return. But first let me deal with some of the other changes announced by the Government.
I refer to the proposals for widows over 65 and grandparents. On 4 December they were to be admitted only if they were wholly or mainly dependent on sons and daughters settled in the United Kingdom, provided they had no relatives in their own countries and that they had a standard of living substantially below that of their own countries.
I said that given the fact that they were reasonably required to be in receipt of funds from their families here it was impossible for them to have a standard of living substantially below that of their own countries.
There was no evidence of abuse of this part of the rules. My view and that of my hon. Friends and others in the Department was that it was not easy under the existing rules to bring this group of dependants here. There was no traffic in grannies and grandpas from Asia to this country.
The Government have looked at it, and the right hon. Gentleman said in his written answer of 20 February:We undertook in the debate to reconsider the changes proposed in the qualifications for entry of elderly parents and grandparents. There seems to us to be force in the argument 1015 that there would be great difficulty in some circumstances in showing that an applicant was both being supported by children in the United Kingdom and enjoying a standard of living below that of his own country. I have therefore removed the latter requirement. It will still, however, apply, as now, to more distant relatives, and to parents and grandparents under the age of 65, except widowed mothers.That is it. The one that we were concerned about a few months ago to all intents and purposes has been ended. The Government have seen the force of the argument, and they have changed their minds about it.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not only his observations that influenced the Government? It was also representations from such august bodies as the Women's Advisory Council of the Conservative Party, which pointed out the inhumanities that this would lead to.
§ Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that welcome though the changes are they still leave a situation where, even in the most extreme and compassionate circumstances, if people are not able to prove that they are living below the standard of living in their own country—disabled people, for example—they will not be able to come here? This hardship is very substantial for a few individuals. It will not affect the numbers, but it will create a great deal of sadness.
§ Mr. Rees
On this point about the interpretation of the words, in view of what the Government have done it is important for the House to be told the full significance of the change in words following what Ministers have said.
At the same time, I raise the matter of students. The draft proposal stated that students would have to show that they were able to maintain and accommodate themselves without working in Britain. There was a ban on spouses working to maintain students. In the written answer to which I referred the right hon. Gentleman said:It has also been argued that our proposals to prohibit from working the wives and children of students and of people allowed to stay in approved employment could severely affect the prospects of students and unnecessarily deter people whose scarce qualifications or skills make their presence here desirable. We accept this argument and the rules will accordingly not be changed on this point.1016 We are glad that the Government have seen lit to change that as well.
With regard to au pairs, the Government have changed their mind about the age limit. My criticism at the time, which I discussed with my hon. Friend who had the day-to-day control of these matters, was that apparently there was abuse from some Eastern countries and so the new rules said that we could have au pairs from Western countries, Israel and Turkey, but not from certain Eastern countries.
If there was abuse, the way to deal with it would have been to deal with the abuse from the country concerned, not in this way. Much as I am glad that there is this relaxation, it does not meet the point raised by the Opposition during the debate.
I welcome the other changes with regard to applications to remain for employment from those admitted as visitors or students or for some other temporary purposes.
The Government state:We have, however, ensured that it does not debar the employment on completion of their training of nurses and midwives at hospitals in this country, provided that the training was not financed by an international scholarship agency or by their home Government.What is the relevance of that last part? If someone comes here quite properly to study and work as a nurse and has not come through a Government scheme, why should not that person be treated in exactly the same way as those who come through some more formal method? I suppose that such a person could be described as exercising private enterprise, as opposed to coming through her State, or an international organisation. I hope that the Government will look at that.
On the last two changes, the Government said:The drafting of the provisions about refugees has been improved."—[Official Report, 20 February 1980; Vol. 979, c. 187–9.]I am sure that that is right. It is a bald statement of which those of us without the ability to question those who recommend this sort of thing do not know the full import. It would be useful to know.
I also welcome the section in which the Government undertook to look again at writers and artists, and the proposal to prohibit them from taking employment.
1017 Although we shall not win on the point about which we feel strongly, we see how debating the draft rules in advance of their being put into statutory form has enabled the Government to think again on these issues. On most of them we are glad that the Government have done so.
I come back to the proposals in respect of husbands and fiancés. There is no change in respect of wives and fiancées, because the rights of men are entrenched in statute law. The Government were unable to do anything about that without altering primary legislation. I shall return to that in a moment.
We made clear our opposition to these proposals when the Secretary of State made his statement on 14 November. We opposed them in December. We still reject this section of the rules. When we return to office we shall treat men and women in the same way. We do not accept the Government's proposals, and we shall revoke these rules because we feel strongly about them.
What is the present situation as a result of the changes in the draft rules? The Government continue to treat arranged marriages as an abuse. The more I read and re-read the debate in December the more I reject the view of the cultural habits of Asians which talks about arranged marriages as though they were an abuse. It flies in the face of the facts as we know them to be, especially in the Asian community.
In 1978 I took steps that were not universally approved to deal with marriages of convenience. Where there is a marriage of convenience, the Government have the power. If it does not work well enough for them it must be clear to them that no one on the Opposition Benches is in favour of those who come into this country by means of a marriage of convenience. However, the normal arranged marriage is not an abuse.
§ Mr. Rees
There will be only one Front Bench speaker from this side, and I shall wind up briefly at the end. This is a chance for everyone to speak. I have given way two or three times, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.
Why are the Government acting in this way? The numbers involved are small. 1018 Is it as much as 2,000 a year? By the nature of the problem the numbers are falling as Asian girls find their husbands in this country. Whatever else is happening, even in the Asian families, with their strong community ties, more and more they want to choose their husbands in this country.
So the figure is about 2,000–
§ Mr. Rees
I believe that it is less. It is bound to alter. If numbers are the Government's concern it is not a long-term problem, but it is a family problem. A girl born in this country of Pakistani parents has no problem. Her sister, born a year or more previously in the country of origin, will be dealt with differently. Men of all nationalities are dealt with in a different way, so brothers and sisters will be dealt with differently. There is discrimination within a family and discrimination between male and female. Still, because of the rules of the EEC, a German girl or a French girl, for example, who is married to an Asian can bring him into this country.
As for making changes in the nationality law of this country—we do not have citizenship in the true sense of the term—the Government have promised a White Papex on nationality law. We can return to that matter next Session. A new law in this respect, which, incidentally, will be very complicated, will not sweep away all our problems. The quicker that our citizenship law is made comparable with that in other countries the more logical it will be.
The matter that we are discussing is an example of illogicality, because we are treating the men under statute law and the women under the discretionary rules of the Secretary of State. The. Government have made changes in the rules affecting fiancées to the advantage of those born here—black and white, I accept— and of those with one parent born here. Nevertheless, in this respect the rules are still racist and they are sexist. The racial aspect is now stronger than it was before.
I referred in December to a view that had been expressed a day or two previously in an article in The Sunday Times:There is no serious doubt that the new immigration rules are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.1019 That is easy to write, but that is the view.
I also pointed out then that the Government, in the other place, were at least considering whether to enshrine the convention in our law. What a curious situation, that they are considering making it part of statute law at a time when, to many people, it looks as if they are breaking the spirit at least of the convention.
Now that the first report of the Select Committee on home affairs is before the House we should have a statement from the Attorney-General. The evidence given to the Committee by many eminent jurists leads to the conclusion that the rules would almost certainly be in breach of articles 8 and 14 of the convention. Perhaps the Government do not agree about that. Perhaps it is not of great concern to them, but we have subscribed to the convention and all that goes with it.
§ Mr. Rees
I imagine that in Strasbourg these double-doing MPs can do what they like.
In any event, I ask, as The Times did in a leader on 6 March:Is it really necessary for the British Government to show itself to be in deliberate breach of its moral and legal international undertakings for such a puny result?I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr Archer), the former Solicitor-General, will be able to speak later in the debate, because this is an important matter that we ought to consider—particularly since the Select Committee on home affairs has published the evidence, even if, for its own reasons, it did not come to any conclusion.
The genesis of these rules lay in preelection promises. We have heard it all 1020 before. In a by-election in the East End of London in 1905 the Conservative candidate said:The Radicals, by their obstruction to the Aliens Bill, are evidently glad to see foreigners who are criminals, who suffer from loathsome diseases, who are turned out in disgust by their fellow countrymen, who are paupers, who fill our streets with profligacy and disorder. The Radical welcomes them all.The Jewish people who came in at that time now occupy high places—but that was said at that time.
I believe that the same will happen with those coming now—the black British—in the course of time. It will go on a long time, because there are problems, but what we should be talking about is not this miserable couple of thousand, simply in an attempt to make it look different. We are told that the Tories are carrying out their election promises, when many of them know that they are not. We should be talking about the inner cities, about programmes to replace section 11, and measures to deal with race relations problems. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against these rules again tonight.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Timothy Raison)
On 4 December, after a very full debate, the House approved the draft immigration rules embodied in the White Paper "Proposals for the revision of the Immigration Rules". During that debate, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I said that in response to views expressed in the House and outside we were prepared to consider a number of changes. This we did, and the final version of the new rules embodies certain significant alterations. Nevertheless, the rules are substantially as set out in the White Paper. They were published on 20 February and came into effect on 1 March. Tonight we ask the House to resist the motion, which would disapprove the rules.
My right hon. Friend accepts that we have only limited time, and although he intends to wind up, he will do so only briefly so as to allow more hon. Members to speak.
During the debate on 4 December, my right hon. Friend and I set out the reasons why we believed that new rules were necessary and what our objectives 1021 were. We came to power last May committed to a firm immigration control, in the interests not least of good community relations. We believe that, if we could end the persistent fears about the level of immigration, we could relieve some of the tensions that occasionally erupt. We were also concerned to check some of the loopholes that unquestionably exist—for example, in the way in which some people, nominally on temporary visits, seem able to extend their stay in this country far beyond what seems reasonable—and we wanted to start to get to grips with the problem of overstaying. We set out, therefore, to achieve a tighter control, but we have aimed to do this in a way which would be reasonable and based on common sense.
Overall, we believe that the rules embodied in the White Paper got the pattern right. Nevertheless, as I have said, there are certain changes which we have felt it right to make since then, and I should like to say a word about these.
First, we have made reasonable, and indeed generous, transitional arrangements. The new rules will preserve the position of those who had made their applications on or before 14 November 1979, the date on which we published the White Paper. I am sure that the House will readily accept this. It seemed to the Government that it would be wrong for people who had applied before the Government's intentions had been published to be affected by the changes. This is especially so when applicants have waited many months to have their cases considered.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Can the hon. Gentleman say how many of the 27,000 people who are in the queue on the subcontinent are fiancés who would be able to exercise their right under the transitional provisions?
§ Mr. Raison
I cannot give the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) a number. It would be difficult to do so.
The provisions also safeguard those who before the new rules took effect had an entry clearance, or a limited leave to enter or remain in certain categories. Thus, for example, a business man who had already been permitted to enter for 12 months under the old rules would have his claim for a further 12 months 1022 considered under those rules. We have ensured that where a refusal is made under the old rules any appeal will also be decided under those rules, and again this is only fair.
Secondly, we have modified our proposals relating to husbands and fiancés in the two respects which we promised during the debate on 4 December. The general approach remains unaltered.
But where the qualifying conditions are met an entry clearance will—not may—be issued to the husband or fiancé provided that the woman is a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies who was born here or—and this is an addition—that one of her parents was born here.
We had, of course, a good many representations on this point and there seemed force in the argument that people who are citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies with close links here should not be penalised simply because they were born when their parents happened to be abroad. There was a strong and natural preference for the rules to confer entitlements in this area and not leave cases to the exercise of discretion. Let me add that there will still be scope for the exercise of discretion outside the rules where a woman citizen's connection with this country is very substantial—for example, by descent from people in Crown service overseas—but where she does not meet the formal requirements.
Thirdly we have reviewed, as we said we would, our proposed changes on elderly parents, grandparents and widowed mothers. We have accepted the force of the argument—the so-called "Catch 22"—that in some circumstances there would be great difficulty in showing both that the parent or grandparent was being supported by children in the United Kingdom and that he or she would suffer a standard of living substantially below that of his or her own country by remaining overseas. As the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said this latter requirement has therefore been removed.
§ Mr. Douglas-Mann
Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that it is still a "Catch 22" situation, since a relative below the age of 65—who is in exceptional compassionate circumstances and dependent upon someone in this country—is not 1023 likely to be living below the standard of living of his own country?
§ Mr. Raison
This is the position that obtained under the previous Government and we are making no change.
Our proposals to prohibit from working the wives and children of students and of people allowed to stay in approved employment have been dropped. We accept that the prospects of many students could have been severely affected and that those with scarce skills or special qualifications of value to this country—-such as doctors—might have been discouraged from coming here by a ban on their dependants taking employment. Under the new rules therefore there will be no such prohibition unless, as formerly, the head of the household is himself not allowed to work.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that we have relaxed the proposed upper age limit for the entry of Commonwealth working holidaymakers and au pairs. This would rise from 25 to 27 to take account of those who extend their studies and therefore are not able to travel abroad until later on in their twenties. Let me add on au pair girls that in confining them to Western Europe —including Turkey, Cyprus and Malta—we have done no more than the previous Government did with resident domestics. There were signs that as the resident domestic route into this country was blocked, those who had used it were starting to switch to au pair status although they were not in any sense what is normally meant by au pairs.
We have also modified the provisions which govern applications to remain for employment from those admitted as visitors or students or for some other temporary purpose in one respect. The embargo on visitors or students staying on to take employment is strict. But we need to ensure that nurses and midwives trained here are not prevented on completion of their training from taking employment at hospitals in this country. They will therefore remain able to do so, unless their studies were financed by their home Governments or an international sponsorship agency in the expectation that they would return to use their skills in their own country.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman got this the wrong way round. However, 1024 I hope that this gives him the answer that he is looking for and that he will agree that what we propose is reasonable. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the improvements to the drafting of the provisions relating to refugees to take account of points made by the London representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We have already made significant changes, but this one is principally a technical point. The rule now refers to the 1967 protocol as well as the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees.
have already made significant changes, since publication of the White Paper. They show our willingness to consider reasonable points of detail while maintaining our general determination to achieve reductions in the overall level of immigration. I believe they are sensible. I acknowledge that there is still sharp argument about our provisions on husbands and fiancés but the Government's case for making these amendments is strong.
As the House knows, the new rules will enable us to refuse an application from a man whose marriage has been contracted with admission or settlement here in view or where the parties do not share an intention to live together permanently, or where they have not met. Those are surely reasonable requirements.
Next, where there is no cause to believe that the marriage has been entered into for the purposes of immigration, our changes confine the right to bring in a husband or fiancé to women citizens who were born here or one of whose parents was born here.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
Can the hon. Gentleman explain what will be the position of adopted girls bearing in mind that many girls born abroad have been adopted by people now resident in this country? Will the birthplace of their natural parents determine whether they may bring in a fiancé or husband or will it be the birthplace of the people by whom those girls were adopted?
§ Mr. Raison
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) when he replies. These women are the ones who are likely to suffer most by having to go abroad to live with their husbands.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
In dealing with the question of fiancés the hon. Gentleman earlier gave the reasons why changes had been made. Is the House to take it that the Government have given no weight whatever to the arguments put forward to the effect that we are in breach of the European Convention?
§ Mr. Raison
It is a pity that I gave way to the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) because I will be dealing with those arguments later in my speech. The women to whom I have just referred have the most substantial connection with this country. We have deliberately defined this connection as far as we can in the rules to avoid doubt and to leave as little as possible to discretion.
The context in which we have made these rules is important. It is a widely held view that primary immigration to this country should come to a halt. This was the firm view of the all-party Select Committee on race relations and immigration which reported on immigration in the Session before last. With substantial unemployment and pressure on our facilities and services it is right that immigration should be kept to a reasonable minimum. The trouble is that we know that through the operation of the old marriage rules we were having to accept an appreciable number of men each year who had married girls settled here not for the usual reasons but because this was their only way of coming to this country. We do not have to accept this. Indeed, it weakens the system of immigration control.
No one can seriously question the need for an effective immigration control. It is dictated by such factors as the unemployment situation, the capacity of our social services to cope with extra commitments and by the need to ensure good community relations.
But even in a situation demanding a reduction in immigration, the United Kingdom has accepted two major commitments. The right hon. Member for Leeds, South acknowledged that—and we continue to accept them. The first is that the wives, with minor children of men already settled in the United Kingdom should be permitted to join them here. Second, there is a special responsibility for those United Kingdom 1026 passport holders subject to immigration control who are in difficulties in their countries of residence. Of course the United Kingdom has continued to play its full part in the resettlement of refugees.
It has been said that the control of immigration statistics published last week demonstrate a continuing decline in immigration. But not a great deal can be read into the 4 per cent. fall overall from the 1978 figures. The numbers are still large in absolute terms, and the underlying pressure to settle here remains high. In 1979 the decline in the number of entry clearances granted reflects, at least in part, the reduced number of applications processed. This reduction took place in those posts which have had to concentrate resources on shortening the delays faced by applicants appealing against decisions to refuse them entry clearance.
It must be said that there is great pressure to come here from many parts of the world. We have to look to the rules to control this pressure and to ensure that those who come are those whose case is strongest. The new rules on husbands and fiancés are just one example of this continuing process. The policy of restricting entry for employment to people with scarce skills was clearly being undermined by the settlement, in each year since 1975, of more men on marriage than were allowed to settle on completion of four years in approved employment. In other words, the principal means of primary male immigration has become marriage rather than employment.
This problem of husbands and fiancés is something which has of course troubled successive Governments. That is why the Labour Party, with the Leader of the Opposition as Home Secretary, changed the rules in 1969 to ban husbands and male fiancés. That is why it had doubts and misgivings in 1974, before it eventually decided to change the rules back to let husbands and fiancés come in. And that is why it was obliged to change the rules again in 1977 to deal with marriages of convenience. Despite this change, marriage is still being used as a means of securing migration.
These arguments do not apply with the same force to women entering the United Kingdom to join husbands. In the main they join husbands who are in the position of having the prime responsibility for providing for their families. 1027 Frequently the husband has lived in the United Kingdom for many years, leaving his wife and any children behind in their own country. Men entering the country to join women settled here are, however, usually part of a quite different pattern of behaviour. They are not joining the family's breadwinner but expect, and are expected to make, a major contribution themselves to the earnings of their new family unit.
It has been said that the rules are racialist in intent. But they contain no provisions based on racial distinctions and I reject the allegation that they are racially discriminatory. The opening paragraphs of section one and section two of the rules expressly prohibit this. Broadly speaking, people from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan constitute a significant proportion of those granted settlement each year-60 per cent. in 1978 and between 60 per cent. and 75 per cent. in earlier years. Those entering from these areas will continue to be a significant part of the whole, and will probably remain the majority, whatever restrictions are placed on the entry of men for marriage. There are, therefore, no grounds whatever for alleging that the motive for these restrictions is racial prejudice. The Government's aim is to prevent the use of marriage as a means of securing settlement in the United Kingdom.
It is true that a great many people seeking to enter the United Kingdom claim to do so under marriages arranged in accordance with Asian culture and traditions. But we do not on that account accept that the requirement that the parties should have met is discrimination on racial or other grounds. Our understanding is that the customs attaching to Asian arranged marriages are not entrenched in a rigid and unchangeable code.
The husband or fiancé of a woman whom he has not met cannot reasonably claim that he has a right to enter another country to live permanently with her there. It is difficult to see how refusal to permit entry in such circumstances could cause hardship.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)
The hon. Gentleman has said on many occasions that wives must have met their husbands and fiancés. If he follows 1028 through that logic, should he not also prevent husbands from bringing in their wives if they have not met?
§ Mr. Raison
If the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) had followed the argument and listened to the debate in December he would know that whatever one might wish to do, under the law governing immigration and nationality that is not possible. We are not changing the law, we are changing the rules. We have given firm pledges in that respect. We have not time in this Session to change the primary legislation. We propose changes in the rules. That has been done on a number of previous occasions.
It seems to be assumed that our approach to husbands and fiancés is altogether exceptional. But that is not so. My understanding is that France admits husbands only if special considerations render their exclusion undesirable. West Germany does not permit the entry of fiancés. Bangladesh does not admit husbands for settlement, nor does India, except that a Commonwealth citizen can join his wife indefinitely as a visitor. In Sweden husbands are allowed to join their wives there only if they have lived together for some time. Switzerland has no right of entry for husbands. We are far from being unique in our proposals.
I turn now to the first report from the Home Affairs Committee. It is entitled "Proposed New Immigration Rules and the European Convention on Human Rights". It is useful to have assembled in this document the principal arguments put to the Committee on the compatibility of the rules with the convention. As the House knows, the Committee refrained from passing judgment on the issue.
The Government's general position is clear. As we made plain during the course of the debate on 4 December, we have considered collectively the full implications of these proposals, including the question about international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. We believe that we have strong arguments with which to justify these proposals if they are challenged.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexley-heath)
Does my hon. Friend accept that the overwhelming weight of expert 1029 legal opinion is against the Government's detailed proposals? Does it not behove a party which claims to be the party of law and order and which claims to give particular weight to international obligations to move with great caution in this area?
§ Mr. Raison
I cannot accept that the overwhelming weight of legal advice is directed in that way. In a sense we are moving into uncharted waters. Arguments on both sides have been expressed, for instance in the other place. I accept that only one member of the House of Lords was called before the Select Committee, but another distinguished lawyer in the other place argues in the opposite direction. I cannot agree with the assumption made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend).
It has of course been said that we should now detail all those arguments. I think, however, that an examination of the evidence to the Home Affairs Committee will show that it is not as simple as that. The precise arguments depend very much on the circumstances of particular cases. There is an almost complete absence of relevant precedents which have gone as far as the European Court and from which points of binding judicial principle can be gleaned. On the whole it can be said that the petitioners against our immigration control are not particularly successful. The main exception cited, the East African Asians' case, was, apart from being based on exceptional facts, not upheld by the Committee of Ministers.
The precise nature of the arguments is thus impossible to predict unless and until a case arises. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath will take that on board. If a case did arise, there might be good grounds for denying at the start that any prima facie breach of the convention had taken place. But if it did come to a question of justifying the imposition of controls against husbands and fiancés on general policy grounds, there can be little doubt that we shall have powerful arguments to deploy. Some indication of these arguments has been given in these debates. What I clearly could not be expected to do here is set out the case that 1030 might be deployed to deal with a hypothetical action.
The Government have all along made perfectly plain their determination to restrict immigration to acceptable levels. Can the Opposition say the same? An interesting document emerged last month from the Labour Party entitled "Labour Party discussion document on Citizenship and Immigration". I assume that this document is not yet Labour Party policy. It would be surprising if it were, since nothing on the lines proposed was so much as hinted at during that party's recent term of office. But it presumably commands a degree of acceptance within the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party or it would not have published it.
The introductory sections contain much quite unjustified denigration of this country and its system of immigration control. I find this rather strange in a Labour Party document when it is right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Benches who have been responsible, in Government, for our immigration system for 11 of the past 16 years. I wonder what the right hon. Member for Leeds, South and for that matter the Leader of the Opposition make of that denigration. Do they agree that the system they operated is offensive in major respects?
The document goes on to make a number of proposals. It recommends wide-scale extensions to the right of abode in this country. Tens of thousands of East African Asians in East Africa, and India would be freed from the control introduced by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Home Secretary in 1968. The rules governing the entry of dependants would be greatly relaxed, thus increasing the numbers eligible to come here. These provisions would be far less tightly drawn than anything operated by successive Governments. The changes to the work permit scheme and the rules on visitors and students would undermine much of our present control.
The document proposes a more expensive and elaborate appeals system which would enable any aggrieved applicant to take his case all the way up to the Court of Appeal. It would be impossible even to return to his country a passenger refused leave to enter without the risk 1031 of protracted legal proceedings. This is apparently only a discussion document. But if it were to become Labour Party policy, the electorate would have a clear choice between the present Government's policies, which are to provide a firm but fair control of immigration, and the policies of a party which clearly would have no interest whatever in an effective immigration control. Where do the Opposition stand? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the system that he operated is "unjust"?
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I operated the systerm for many years in the way that it works at the moment. There is no doubt that it works against people with coloured skins and will continue to do so until the laws on nationality are changed. The Labour Party document is one that should be discussed, and it is much better to have that sort of discussion than to act as the Conservative Party has in coming up with proposals before the election and making changes afterwards.
§ Mr. Raison
If that is what the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is astonishing that he should have done nothing to change the situation while he was in power.
I should like to conclude by reminding the House of the overall purpose of the changes which the Government have made. There is constant and heavy pressure to enter this country. One can understand the powerful economic incentive which induces people from less fortunate countries to wish to come here and settle. But we have our problems, too. Our unemployment, the strains on our social services, and the need for good community relations, all emphasise the need to bring immigration under control. There is nothing racialist about this. We are already a multiracial society and the maintenance of stable race relations is a matter which I regard as being of paramount importance. But it is in fact in the interests of all the ethnic groups which make up our population to reduce immigration to what is reasonable and acceptable.
Against this background, the new restrictions on the entry of male fiancés and husbands can be seen as only one among a number of measures designed to reduce the scope for exploitation of the system.
1032 Experience shows that, as one avenue is closed, so great pressure arises from people seeking to come by an alternative route. This is why Governments must, from time to time, review the effectiveness of the control and take measures as necessary to correct any defects. That is what the Government have done in the "Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules" laid on 20 February. I believe firmly that the amendments made were necessary and right and in the interests of all sections of our community. That is why I have no hesitation in urging the House to reject this motion.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I can understand the air of embarrassment that always surrounds the Minister of State and the Home Secretary when we debate this subject. The reason for that embarrassment is that, while the Minister of State may say that the rules are not racialist in intent, they are certainly racialist in effect. Moreover. some Conservative Back Benchers intend them to be racialist in intent as well. I can therefore understand the state of nervousness of the Minister of State and the Home Secretary and their uncomfortable appearance when they are at the Dispatch Box on these issues.
On the last occasion when we debated the rules, on 4 December—
§ Mr. Steel
I gave way to the hon. and learned Gentleman within 30 seconds of starting my speech on 4 December. I shall not do that tonight. On 4 December I made what was by my standards a long speech, and I do not propose to do so this evening.
I do not want to be churlish, and therefore it is right that I should welcome the minor amendments which have been made as between the draft rules and the rules on the question of elderly parents and of the spouses of students seeking to work to maintain their spouses in this country. The Minister of State was quite honest when he said that, substantially, these rules are the same as the new ones that we debated in December. I go fur-there. The minor concession that has, quite properly, been made on fiancés and husbands entering this country makes the rules even more blatantly discriminatory 1033 than the form in which they appeared before us on 4 December.
The former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) has already quoted from the celebrated —perhaps I should say notorious—broadcast of the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister. Much is made of her use of the word "swamping" and the fears about "swamping", but I want to quote from another part of the same broadcast because I think that we have focused too much on that one phrase.
The right hon. Lady was asked in the broadcast whether it was her intention with her immigration proposals, such as they were vaguely enunciated at the time, to seek to bring back to the Conservative Party some of the support which the National Front had been winning at by-elections. Her reply to the interviewer was "Oh, very much back, certainly". It seems that if one is setting out, as part of one's policy, to retrieve votes from the National Front, one cannot be surprised if one ends up with a racialist policy. That appears to be the only way in which one can attract those votes.
I wish to take up two points with the Minister of State. He mentioned one in the last debate, but signally failed to mention the other. He sought to intervene on 4 December when he was challenged by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South about his speech at the Conservative Party conference when he talked of fiancés and husbands being used as stepping stones for others. In c. 273 of the Official Report he quoted at length, as evidence in support of his conference speech, from a book called "The Myth of Return" written by a social scientist called Dr. Mohammed Anwar, who is on the staff of the Commission for Racial Equality.
I was a bit surprised at the quotation, and when I checked afterwards its references to Pakistanis in Rochdale and so on I discovered that it was written about immigration before the 1962 controls. It had nothing to do with husbands and fiances at present. To put it in parliamentary terms, I think that it was disingenuous of the Minister of State to produce that as evidence to support what he was saying.
§ Mr. Raison
In the passage in my speech in which I quoted those parts of the book I was not confining my remarks to the issue of husbands and fiances. In my speech at the party conference I was talking in a much wider framework than that.
§ Mr. Steel
I accept that, but the Minister used that quotation in our debate on 4 December in response to a specific challenge from the right hon. Member for Leeds, South about the evidence of fiancés and husbands being used as stepping stones. That is the answer that he gave from that Dispatch Box. Dr. Anwar's book has nothing to do with the current position of husbands and fiances. Dr. Anwar was dealing with the pattern of historic immigration before 1962 and before we had started the process of control.
May we be told how many people will be prevented from coming into this country as a result of these miserable regulations? We have asked that before, but we have had no answer. The best estimates that I have been able to get have been between 2,000 and 3,000. We are going through all this paraphernalia of introducing rules which I believe are thoroughly repugnant, and of causing an uncertain degree of suffering to families of those already settled here in respect of their elderly people, their fiancés, their husbands and their children.
The Government continue to justify their action—the Minister of State did it a second ago—by referring to the problems faced in this country, particularly that of unemployment. On 4 December I mentioned the article which the Minister of State wrote in The Daily Telegraph. He said thatthe first aim"—that is, of the draft rules—is to reduce the numbers coming into this rather crowded island with its relatively high unemployment.I went on in my speech—I had no answer to this, and I hope that the Home Secretary will do me the courtesy of giving an answer tonight—to quote from various publications showing the numbers of people who come here from countries such as Australia each year for so-called working holidays. From Australia alone there are between 15,000 and 20,000. I make clear at once that I have no objection to that, but I think it hypocritical to 1035 allow that scale of employment to come in every year and at the same time produce as an argument in favour of these rules that we have high unemployment in Britain. It does not make sense.
What does the Minister of State mean when he talks about acceptable levels of immigration? What is an acceptable level? One cannot just pluck a statistic out of thin air. We are dealing with families and with individuals. There cannot be any right number for immigration. Surely, it depends on the family circumstances in each case.
Turning to the question of the European Convention on Human Rights, one should bear in mind that the rules of the European Court are far wider than those of the British courts. I speak of the British courts, recognising that the English and Scottish legal systems are separate, but evidence and material which would not be permitted in the British courts, either north or south of the border, are open to submission in the European Court. Obiter dicta—including, for example, the entire transcript of the right hon. Lady's Granada television interview—could be produced in evidence before that court to show that the motive and motivation for these rules was indeed discriminatory.
Twice in his speech the Minister of State referred to the strong arguments which the Government had to counter the suggestion that we were in breach of the convention, yet we have not had the barest outline, never mind a detailed case, of what the allegedly strong arguments are.
I wish to end on a constructive note, and I put a particular appeal to the Home Secretary. I believe that the time has come for a new inquiry, and I suggest that in this connection we might do well to look at what has happened in some other countries. I suggest that we set up a major inquiry into our immigration procedures and rules, and I draw upon three examples elsewhere in the world.
In the United States, the Congress created by statute, under its different procedure, a Select Commission to make recommendations with regard to immigration and nationality law and also to consider the social, political, economic and demographic effects of refugee pro- 1036 grammes and to review them. It took account of political and economic conditions in the United States, present and projected unemployment, the conduct of foreign policy, and so on.
In Australia, chaired by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, there has been a Population and Immigration Council—a very wide body including representation from trade unions and academic circles, and again with wide terms of reference.
In Canada, in the 1974–75 Session of the Canadian Parliament, a special joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons was set up, which produced a report to Parliament again covering demographic and economic factors, refugee programmes and procedures for control and enforcement.
Here in the United Kingdom, one has only to look at the evidence given by the Home Office to the Select Committee on race relations and immigration in February 1974 to see what the position is. In a written memorandum the Home Office conceded thatImmigration law in this country has developed mainly as a series of responses to, and attempts to regulate, particular pressures rather than as a positive means of achieving preconceived social or economic aims.It is for that reason that I believe that the time has come for a wide-ranging and independent inquiry. With great respect to our Select Committee—either the previous one or the present one on home affairs—I must say that it does not have the scope to go widely into matters which are the responsibility of the Foreign Office and the Departments of the Environment, of Health and Social Security, of Industry, of Employment and of Education and Science.
For that reason, I believe that we ought to establish the only prestigious and effective form of independent inquiry that we have in this country, namely, a Royal Commission to go into these matters, to look at our national policy objectives, our international obligations and our foreign policy needs as well as the protection of the family life and civil liberties of our citizens. I believe that that would be a better way to proceed than year after year to have these debates on tighter and tigher controls on different areas of our immigration legislation.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
When we debated the Immigration Act 1971 many of us hoped that it would be the end of the matter. However, it was inherent in that legislation that the Secretary of State would be empowered to bring before the House statements on the administration of the immigration rules and any changes to those rules which he proposed. As a result, we find ourselves debating further changes tonight.
It would have been far better if the 1971 Act had been a sufficiently effective instrument of immigration control to be permanent. We could then have concentrated more on the vital matter, which is good community relations. This is the overriding criterion for what we are debating tonight, and I think it right that we should remember it.
The trouble with the 1971 Act was that abuse of the legislation became possible following the concession that the Labour Government issued in 1974 to admit fiancés and husbands for settlement in this country. There is no doubt that there was abuse, and the very fact that in 1977 the Home Secretary was forced to amend his proposals showed that the abuse was real.
However, in the changes that he made in 1977 the Home Secretary said that where he had reason to believe that one of the parties no longer had any intention of living with the other as his or her spouse the probationary time limit on residence would not normally be removed. In other words, if someone was clearly using the June 1974 provision, as a fiancé or as a husband, to come to this country fraudulently, the Secretary of State would take appropriate measures.
That was all very well, but the trouble with that system has always been that it leads to post-entry verification, which the immigrant communities are unhappy about, and I think that it was that aspect of post-entry verification that led the Conservative Party to its manifesto commitment to end the concession to husbands and fiancés introduced by the Labour Government in 1974. I think it much better that the situation should be absolutely clear and unambiguous.
What the Government are doing in this proposed change, to come into effect as 1038 from 1 March, is to take the provisions of the Immigration Act 1971 as far as they can be taken without any actual legislative changes. The relevant part is section 3(2), which states:section 1(4) above shall not be taken to require uniform provision to be made by the rules as regards admission of persons for a purpose or in a capacity specified in section 1(4) (and in particular, for this as well as other purposes of this Act, account may be taken of citizenship or nationality).Tonight, the existing provisions of the 1971 Act are being taken to the utmost legal and rational extremity. I can understand the rationale behind that.
The Conservative manifesto was firm about proposals for immigration control. The supporters of the Conservative Party wish to see the manifesto commitments carried through as quickly as is reasonably possible. However, as I have said already, to institute a new and fully comprehensive system of immigration control would require new legislation of a difficult, complicated and time-consuming nature. Therefore, we are adjusting the immigration rules tonight.
To adjust the rules has certain disadvantages, in that the proposals perpetuate a system of discretion and subjective judgment on the part of entry clearance officers. In my criticism of the 1977 provisions I referred to the acts of subjective judgment that the Secretary of State is called upon to make about whether a marriage is one of convenience. Under these proposals, entry clearance officers will have to judge whether one of the parties has any intention of living permanently with the other party, or whether the marriage was entered into primarily to obtain admission to the United Kingdom. That is a difficult responsibility for an entry officer to take upon himself.
I often feel that there are two classes of hon. Member in the House—those who represent areas of high immigrant settlement and those who do not represent such areas. Perhaps I should add another category, namely, those who have served on the Select Committee for race relations or the new Sub-Committee of the Home Affairs Committee. Only they comprehend the difficulties faced by entry clearance officers.
If one has sat in, as I have, on interviews at our missions in the sub-continent and has listened to the questioning 1039 that goes on through interpreters, one is aware of the difficulties of understanding, and the difficulties that entry clearance officers face in coming to their judgments.
The proposals are comprehensible, and I can understand the rationale behind them. They fulfil a short-term need. However, I suggest that a better method would be to pursue the first objective in the Conservative proposals on immigration control, outlined in the manifesto, which could ensue from a thorough review of nationality and citizenship law. In our manifesto we said:We shall introduce a new British Nationality Act to define entitlement to British citizenship and to the right of abode in this country. It will not adversely affect the right of anyone now permanently settled here.If that new Act enshrined in law the right of abode as presently defined in section 2 of the Immigration Act 1971, that is, to United Kingdom and colonies passport holders and patrials, and if they—and only they—were able to bring in their dependants, that is, their spouses—I do not define the sex—and their children, once and for all we would have evolved a system of immigration control that would not require periodic amendments and tinkering with revised immigration rules.
That system would not be prejudicial to Commonwealth nationals resident in the United Kingdom because they can, after five years of continuous residence, register as United Kingdom citizens. Those Commonwealth nationals who wished to bring in their families—presumably because they had decided that they wished their home to be in Britain, and did not wish to return to their countries of origin—would have all the rights which, in equity, are their due.
I believe that immigration control on that basis would not be sexist, racist or open to challenge in international courts of law or anywhere else, but would enable us to concentrate on the important task of the amelioration of community relations and of rising to the challenge of the rest of this century, which is to make our big cities worthwhile places in which to live and places of harmony where people get on well together and tolerate and understand each other. That is the important task.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
In the last Parliament there was only one debate on the subject that we increasingly miscall immigration. Even that debate occurred accidentally. It was the result of success in the ballot by the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken).
I remember that during the course of that Parliament, there were increasing and repeated demands from the Opposition side that the subject should be further ventilated upon the Floor of the House. The Labour Party, then in office, responded by saying that this would be a suitable topic for a Supply day. I recognise that now in opposition the Labour Party has been true to its professions and has properly and rightly provided a longer time tonight for the discussion not merely of the detail but of the bearings of the document before the House.
We are only in form debating immigration in the literal sense of the term. If all it was about was literal immigration, we should not year upon year tear ourselves to pieces about the details of rules to be followed by immigration officers; nor should we be studying the small print; nor would there be the excited, almost feverish, interest in so relatively small a practical effect as that which will be produced by regulations such as these.
This debate, these regulations and the whole discussion of immigration in the literal sense is conditioned by something that is hardly ever mentioned in these debates. The major premise of the argument remains unspoken. We debate under the presence of a cloud, to the existence and presence of which hardly anyone ever draws attention. We have these debates and we engage in this legislation only because of the present and prospective composition of the population of England in one particular respect. I use the word "England" accurately. Indeed, more accurately still, I would say "most of the major cities and industrial areas of England". It is because of what we know about the present composition of that population and what we have reason to know about its future that we engage in feverish discussion of an extra thousand or more entering or being 1041 prevented from entering this country year by year.
Opposition Members who say that these rules are not in intent of universal application, but related only to a specific description of potential immigrants, are right; they are pointing to a known fact. The rules are related to that element in the population of England which we all have in mind, and have for many years had in mind, when we have debated immigration and legislated on it.
It is a matter of much more than semantic importance—indeed, in some ways it has bedevilled discussion and understanding—that we have no appropriate word to describe that clement in the population. We call it "the immigrant population"; but that is increasingly inapplicable, for increasingly that population consists of those who have not immigrated into the United Kingdom. So, from that difficulty, we take refuge in colour, and refer to the "coloured population" or to "the blacks"; but we know perfectly well how unsatisfactory that is. After all, we are all coloured. " Coloured " in that context is a mere euphemism that betrays our embarrassment and difficulty of expression. As for the word "black", I will only say that no one who has ever served in India—or perhaps I should say "served India"—could ever bring himself to use that term.
What are we to do? We have, fortunately, some assistance from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. It has at least a term of art, clumsy though it may be—persons of New Commonwealth and Pakistan ethnic origin".There is at any rate a definition, not exactly convenient, but still a definition of that element in the population of greats parts of England, which is what all this is about—its present and its future. So—I hope with occasional pardonable abbreviation—I shall endeavour to use that phrase from now on.
We know a good deal—not as much as we might—about the present and future size, the relative size, of that element in the population. We know that in the areas of England to which I have referred, for as far back as records have been kept—in the case of the city of Birmingham that is for about 22 or 23 years, which 1042 I think is the longest period for any place in the Kingdom—the proportion which the births to that population bear to total births has remained at a level of one-fifth, one quarter and one-third, where, over the years for which we have these figures, they have varied, they have steadily increased as a proportion of the total.
I should add a further point about the figures for the more recent years. We know that they are not complete. The OPCS tells us that perfectly candidly. Those figures no longer include births to members of that population where both parents were themselves born in this country. Therefore, on the definition of the OPCS itself, the New Commonwealth and Pakistan ethnic origin births are a larger proportion of total births than the fractions that I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Ennals
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that that is in some way an unfair method of making a judgment by OPCS. Surely it is perfectly right that where a husband and wife are both born in this country we should not talk about immigrants. Surely the right hon. Gentleman would agree that OPCS has been doing its job quite properly.
§ Mr. Powell
Yes, I thought it was clear that I had accepted its definition of the population about which we try to talk but for which we have no appropriate single or simple terminology; and I was simply drawing attention to the fact that the OPCS itself points out that the figures to which I have referred have in recent years increasingly understated the proportion of births which are births to the New Commonwealth and Pakistan ethnic population.
This further we know in consequence. We know it not as conjecture; we know it not as extrapolation; we know it not as theory. We know it as a fact. We know as a fact that those proportions are the pattern of the future total population of those parts of the country. Subject to very minor qualifications, such as further literal immigration, and subject to internal migration, there is no escaping from the fact that the pattern of births over 10, 15, 20, 25 years must be the pattern of the future total population, unless one makes assumptions which I have never made in this context, namely—
§ Mr. Wilkinson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What does this have to do with the proposed changes in immigration rules that we are debating tonight?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)
I think that it is sufficiently material to what we are debating. It is a general debate on immigration.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall
Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Order Paper is quite clear. It is not a general debate on immigration. It is a debate aimed specifically at the statement on immigration rules and the proposed changes in them.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I have noted what the hon. Gentleman said. I think that what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has been saying is perfectly in order in terms of the debate.
§ Mr. Powell
I am much obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Before I conclude, I hope to show the hon. Member and others that what I am talking about is very relevant indeed to the fact that the House has before it these particular rules and this particular document.
I was saying that we know, because it is the result of facts which already exist, the minimum proportion in future which that population will represent to the whole over the areas of this country which are concerned. We know that in central London it will be one-third or more; and we know that there will be a similar ratio in many of the other great cities of England.
In those circumstances, to imagine that by these rules or any others one can bring, in the Conservative Party's terminology, of which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) reminded the House, "a clear end to immigration", is totally absurd; for if there is a settled population of this magnitude, it is idle to imagine that its recruitment will not continue—I use "recruitment" as an entirely neutral word—unless we are to say to part of the resident population of this country, "You shall not marry whence you please, you may not choose or find spouses where you think fit".
§ Mr. Powell
I understand that. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) is assisting me and Mr. Deputy Speaker to fix the relevance of my remarks to the subject of the debate.
It is absurd to contend that one can bring an end to immigration when this is to be the pattern of our future population. By the very natural order of things such a population, taking it as a whole—the parts vary to some extent—is bound to involve—I almost said "to require" —continuing immigration. Therefore, the attempt to deal with the anxieties of great numbers in our cities, the attempt to deal with the fears or feelings or whatever it was to which the Prime Minister was referring, by adjustment of the detailed requirements for immigration, is not merely futile; it is either deception or it is, more charitably, self-deception. But whether it is self-deception or deception, the effect is to promote and keep alive in people's minds a kind of escape route from the future that lies before this country, to enable people in large numbers—all hon. Members know what I am saying—to say to themselves, "Oh, if only immigration were stopped this would go away. If only they would control immigration." That is a delusion which we merely feed by pretending that by controlling immigration, by tinkering with, by rendering rational—in the words of the Minister of State—the immigration rules we can appreciably alter that which, on the facts as they are, lies before this country.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
Is not the fallacy of the argument of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that when this population stabilises at 3.3 million there will not be any substantial danger such as he argued in the past. These people, though their ethnic origin may be Asian or West Indian, will be British in their outlook and the composition of this society will be different; it will be settled and harmonious.
§ Mr. Powell
I take it to be confirmation of the logical manner in which I was attempting to evolve my argument that the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) anticipated the ground on to which I was about to move. At least I am sure that he is with me—I do not see how anyone 1045 can be against me—in saying that if we have such a population settled in this country it is idle to talk of "a clear end to immigration"; for immigration is implicit in the existence of that population of those dimensions in the cities of this country.
Now I come to the question which the hon. Member for York posed to me and which I say it is the duty of everyone to pose to himself. Not merely should we pose this question to ourselves but we have a duty and responsibility to declare ourselves upon it and to say what we believe would be meant by an inner London one-third New Commonwealth and Pakistan ethnic, or a Leicester, a Birmingham, a Wolverhampton and a West Riding of similar dimensions.
Broadly speaking there are three schools of thought on this subject. They vary in shades but they can be, perhaps, usefully classified into three. There are those who say—if I may use a jocular expression—that "it will be all right on the night", that it will evolve naturally and harmoniously—that I think is what the party to which the hon. Member for York belongs says—that we shall grow up with it and it will grow up with us; so we need not bother our heads about it, and least of all need we attempt to bring to bear irrelevancies of irritant detail such as those that are before the House this evening. That is one point of view.
There is a second point of view which, however much over the years I have sought to persuade myself that it could be ill-founded, I must nevertheless admit to holding. It is that such an England would be unlivable and ungovernable. It would not merely be inconceivable to us because of our past habits. It would be inconceivable in reality; and its inconceivability would be resolved in civil discord and violence. That is a second point of view, one which many hold.
The third view is in a sense akin to the second and that is the view—I use the word for convenience only—of the race relations industry. The race relations industry belongs to school 2, not to school 1. In fact it belongs to school 2b. It says that there is such a catastrophe ahead, but that it can be averted by race relations legislation, administration, persuasion and all the rest of it.
1046 Now we do not know which of those views is right. The matter cannot be decided by any deduction, logic or analogy from elsewhere, because such an England would be unique and unprecedented in the relevant terms, which are the terms of England.
§ Mr. Powell
No, I will not give way. I have given way to the hon. Member once and I want to complete my speech.
Nevertheless, we have the duty now, because we are responsible for the future as we have in the past been responsible for that same future, to decide, to declare and to persuade our fellow countrymen if we can that we are right in what we see.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I have been listening very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. I must explain that I have black relatives and I do not take kindly to the sort of statements that he is making. Apart from that, what is the logic of his argument, where is he leading us? He has explained, quite rightly. that we are now a multiracial society and that we must have some control over immigration, whether it is white or black. That is accepted. I do not think anyone in the House would argue that there can be unlimited immigration into this country. Having accepted that, what is the logic of the right hon. Member's argument? What does he propose? Is he suggesting that we should send all these coloured people back? Where do we send them back to? [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Powell
Evidently the question is one that is worth debating. First, I am extremely sorry—indeed I am grieved—if anything that I have said could give any offence to the hon. Member or to any other person.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
The right hon. Member gives offence every time he opens his mouth on this subject.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) claims that I give offence whenever I open my mouth on this subject. To echo the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer), one must ask where that takes us? It takes us to a point at which hon. Members, responsible to their constituents, responsible for the future, may offer one view, and 1047 no other, as to what that future holds; otherwise they will be regarded as giving offence.
The importance of all this and where it is leading is this: that according to the view which is taken as between those broad alternative interpretations, according to the view which, on their responsibility, the Government take, so they must act. If it be the case that the prospective pattern of the population of this country is such that this country would not be a place worth living in, or London a city capable of being governed, for all who live in it, then it is the duty of those in authority to take measures accordingly. Those measures, since they are in the interests of all, are measures which should claim the support of all and for which the support of all should be sought. I believe it would be forthcoming.
What the Government are doing, what the Conservative Party has done by what it said in its election manifesto and by way it has acted in office, is to renege on that responsibility. The Conservatives have not been prepared to say to the public "This is the future of the population of England, and we believe it to be acceptable. We intend therefore to shut our eyes to it henceforward; for nothing that we will do, and nothing that we shall bring forward, can make any practical effect to it." By this kind of fiddling in these rules—it is not even legislation—as the Minister of State was careful to say—the Government are only finding an excuse to deny the British people the duty which, as the Government, they owe to them.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. K. Harvey Proctor (Basildon)
I am pleased to take up the remarks of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who has spoken inside and outside the House on a number of occasions on this subject when politicians of both main parties have felt, like some hon. Members tonight, that he would do best to be silent about the issue on which he speaks so well and so succinctly.
The right hon. Gentleman began by saying that the House rarely debates this subject. He referred to the last full debate on immigration and emigration held on 24 May 1976. It is a pity that we do not discuss the subject at greater length. The fact that we do not debate it at further 1048 length contributes to the fear that many whom we represent have come to associate with the issue. We are indebted to Her Majesty's Opposition for the fact that we have this debate, but we temper our indebtedness in the knowledge that they seek less rather than more control over immigration from the New Commonwealth.
I represent a constituency that has been little affected by immigration of large numbers of citizens from the New Commonwealth to our shores over the past three decades. However, many of the voters whom I have the honour to represent have experienced—many of their relatives are still experiencing—the problems in the inner cities that such migrations have exacerbated. We cannot turn a blind eye to present and future racial strife merely because we represent constituencies in the greener pastures of, for example, Mid-Essex.
Successive Governments have heard the fears of black and white alike. They have witnessed the strains and stresses on the surface in our inner city areas and in our urban conurbations. Both parties have responded by imposing successive controls on immigration, Alas, they may all be typified by the words "Too little and too late".
In the 1970 election manifesto of the Conservative Party, entitled "A Better Tomorrow"—[Interruption.] I am interested in the response of Labour Members because that was a manifesto on which the Conservative Party won a splendid victory. In that manifesto we pledged:There will be no further large scale permanent immigration'from the New Commonwealth into the United Kingdom."
But since then 457,873 New Commonwealth citizens have been accepted for settlement. The highest number was in 1972, when 68,519 came in for settlement. The lowest was in 1973, when 32,247 were settled here. The average over that period was 45,000. These figures take no account of illegal immigration.
§ Sir Ronald Bell
Those figures also take no account, in the years that my hon. Friend is referring to, of those who entered not for settlement but who were subsequently accepted for settlement. That category is now included in the statistics, and therefore we now know its magnitude.
§ Mr. Proctor
My hon. and learned Friend adds to the information on this subject. The figures that I have given are indeed under-estimates for that period, for the reason that he so clearly gave.
It is in the light of those figures that we must judge the rules. The changes in the rules are likely to have the effect of reducing immigration. The figure has not been mentioned by my own Front Bench, but I take it to be a few thousand each year.
Having considered the matter carefully, I do not think that that change will be sufficient in itself to allay the fears that gave rise to the assertion by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that people feared that this country was being swamped by New Commonwealth immigration. Nor do I believe that it will in any way meet the statement by my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary in the debate in 1976, when he ended his speech by saying:We must convince many people in this country that their genuine fears of future racial difficulties caused by too lax an immigration policy now are unfounded or, if there is a risk of such difficulties, that we will make sure that they are dealt with."—[Official Report, 24 May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 93]Of course, Ministers will reply that no further controls can be exercised, because the bulk of immigration from the New Commonwealth is now made up largely of wives and dependants. It was with that in mind that a few days ago I tabled a motion making it clear that immigrant families could be reunited in their own country as well as in the United Kingdom. Must we wait a further 10 years and allow another⅓million or½million migrants to enter before we act?
Racial harmony and avoidance of strife will be achieved only when the indigenous population see a fall rather than a rise in the total New Commonwealth population resident in the United Kingdom. Simply stopping the immigrant flow will not now, regrettably, be sufficient to bring this about.
§ Mr. Stephen Dorrell (Loughborough)
My hon. Friend is saying that he wants to see a reduction in the total immigrant or coloured population. How will he decide which British citizens will be expelled from the country whose citizenship they hold?
§ Mr. Proctor
My hon. Friend should not put words into my mouth. If he will bear with me for a little while, I may answer his question.
The fuel for the further increase in the immigrant population is natural increase and not further immigration. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to reaffirm the view of successive Leaders of the Conservative and Unionist Party since the leadership of Sir Alec Douglas-Home that repatriation has a role to play for all those who wish to avail themselves of it. That role needs reviewing, clarifying, publicising and financing properly. The greater the take-up of a humane repatriation programme administered by the Home Office rather than by some international charitable institution in South London, the greater can be our tolerance and flexibility with regard to dependants.
This subject and the fears of our people about it will not go away with the passing of these rules. The House will be driven to return to it. I hope that it will return to it before long.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
The first thing that we should recognise is that immigration controls on blacks and Asians—and we are dealing basically with blacks and Asians in this debate—are very tight and have existed under successive Governments for a number of years.
The speech to which we have just listened was one of which we should all be ashamed. Really, the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) wants to set up camps—in practice this would be the position—to force people, many of whom are British citizens, out of the country.
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not believe that there could be anything more un-British than the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Basildon, and I have no intention of withdrawing my remarks about him.
§ Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)
I disagree with most of what my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) said. However, to talk in the sort of language just used by the hon. 1051 Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and to put words into the mouth of my hon. Friend which he did not use simply serves to inflame the atmosphere of this debate.
§ Mr. Winnick
That is a matter of opinion, but I believe that the offence which that type of speech gives to people who do not have white skins should be recognised. Therefore, I do not believe that any apology from me is needed. The apology should come from the hon. Member for Basildon.
Britain has probably some of the tightest immigration controls in Western Europe. Whether we like it or not, most of us recognise that there have to be effective immigration controls. That has been my view for a number of years. I do not think that it is disputed. The important question is how those controls apply in practice.
On coming into office the Conservative Government found that the amount of immigration which could be reduced was very small. Prior to coming into office they had promised to reduce immigration and they gave the impression that there was a great deal of immigration which could be reduced. In practice, however, the majority of people who come from the New Commonwealth countries are women with their children who come here, rightly, to join husbands who are settled in the United Kingdom. The amount left for the Government to reduce has always been very small because primary immigration stopped some time ago.
Unless one said that wives and children should not be allowed to join husbands in the United Kingdom—it happens to be the Opposition's view that they should be allowed to continue to do so, and I am happy to say that that is also the Government's view—the scope for reducing immigration is limited. In effect, therefore, the Government have concentrated on two main groups—male fiances and aged parents.
I take the view that it is an accepted custom amongst the Asian community to arrange marriages for their children. In my view the greatest possible distinction should be made between marriages of convenience and marriages which are arranged in the Asian community. Un- 1052 doubtedly, as time goes on, a number of Asian girls born in this country will find their own partners, but it is wrong to force the change, as the Government intend. The only reason why they are forcing through this change is to reduce the number of Asians coming in. That has been drawn so as to make it clear that it will not affect white women.
We must be honest about this. The whole point of the new rule is to reduce the numbers—not necessarily of black people, but of Asians, who are told in effect that they are not required and should not be allowed to come through the accepted Asian custom of arranged marriages.
It has been said that we could be in breach of articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Tomorrow our debate will arise from the fact that the Government broke a domestic law. We should be aware that we may be breaking an international convention to which we are a signatory.
The views expressed to the Select Committee by such distinguished people as Lord Scarman, Professor Jacobs and Mr. Anthony Lester should not be dismissed out of hand. They are based on a great deal of experience and should be heard with respect.
There is a misleading impression that before the new rules were introduced it was relatively easy for aged parents to join their adult children in this country. This is not so. I remind the House that under the old rules the parents had to show that one of them was 65 or over and had a sponsor here with adequate means to support or accommodate them. That was a preliminary, but it was not sufficient on its own, because one also had to show that the parents were wholly or mainly dependent on the adult child in this country. Thus, even under the old rules, it was difficult for aged parents to join their children here. Time and again parents could not satisfy the strict rules. They failed to get clearance to come here and they lost their appeals.
On a personal note, while I was out of the House I represented a number of people at immigration appeal hearings. It was very difficult to persuade an adjudicator or the immigration appeals 1053 tribunal that the parents satisfied the relevant immigration rule. The reason was clear. It was that, some time ago, the tribunal had ruled, in the case of Zaman, that the sending of money by adult children to parents was not sufficient on its own. It was also necessary, according to the tribunal, for the parents to show that they were "necessarily so dependent". Thus, the number of aged parents who were allowed in from the Indian Sub-continent has been very small.
I am pleased that the Home Secretary has changed the Catch-22 rule. I was one of those who made representations to him. If the original proposal had gone through, no aged parents would have been allowed in. That was clear enough to lead to the change. However, under the new rule 48, in addition to the matters that I have mentioned, it is now also necessary for parents to show that they have no other close relatives in their own country to turn to. So, on top of the difficulties and obstacles under the old rules, aged parents have this extra condition to satisfy.
It should not be considered an offence for parents of 65 and over to wish to join their adult children here. In most cases there is no advantage to those children who take on the responsibility of aged parents. It is highly commendable that they are willing to do so. They have come to this country and settled down. It would have been relatively easy for them to have ignored their parents or simply to have sent them money, but they have an understandable wish to look after their aged parents.
Certainly the elderly parents do not come here for the fun of it. Flaying lived all their lives in India or Pakistan they do not particularly wish to come to a strange land. Why do they come here? It is not to join the labour market. In most cases the elderly mothers of children in this country have never worked in their own country and are not likely to do so here. Their husbands have no particular desire to start working either. Therefore, for various reasons—mainly because of pressure in their own country where they may need help—they come to this country to join their adult children. Is that a crime? Under the new rules 1054 it will be even more difficult for those aged parents to satisfy the criteria for coming to join their children.
The children settled in this country cannot understand why their parents should not be allowed to come here. The children have the means and the accommodation to support their parents and have provided documentary evidence to that effect. They ask why their parents should not be allowed to join them.
I am worried that when this rule is interpreted by immigration and entry clearance officers it might be said that there is no need for the aged parents to come to the United Kingdom because perhaps, they have a married daughter in India or Pakistan, but the custom among these people is that it is the sons who look after the parents. It would be most unfortunate, where a married daughter in India or Pakistan is not in a position to look after her parents, if they were not allowed to come here. I hope that that aspect will be looked at carefully.
I may be wrong, but I understand that the Minister has said—according to reports in the press—that he has received too many letters of complaint from Members of Parliament about immigration. I do not know whether it is accurate, but he seems to be saying that there is too much representation on the issue. I must warn the hon. Gentleman that as the rules become tighter in relation to elderly parents he will receive more not fewer letters. Where adult children in the United Kingdom are not able to bring their parents here, they will understandably ask their Members of Parliament to make the appropriate representations.
We have made substantial progress in bringing race discrimination to an end in this country. I do not believe that all discrimination has ended, but when I hear sarcastic references by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to the "race relations industry" I remember that race discrimination really did exist 10 years ago. It cannot be denied that discrimination existed in employment and housing in those days, and it was rare to see an Asian or a black face behind a counter. To a large extent that type of discrimination has disappeared, and that surely proves the point that we needed an effective Act in the first place. I go further and argue that we are a better and 1055 healthier society as a result of that discrimination having been brought to an end.
However, I am worried that there will still be discrimination when it comes to the operation of the immigration laws. Along with the majority of my colleagues, I take the view that effective control of immigration is necessary. I do not want to give the impression that an open-door policy is desirable or that such a policy could be pursued by a Labour Government. There is a general wish for tight controls, but I am concerned about the manner in which those controls will be exercised. I believe that the new rules will give great and justified offence to those of our fellow citizens who do not have a white skin.
Up to now we have maintained effective immigration control, although some people argue that the controls have been too tight. There is no need to tighten them further. Therefore, I hope that even at this late hour the Government will recognise the offence that they have caused to the immigrant community. We are entitled to say that the rules are not necessary. We are also justified in voting against them.
§ Mr. George Gardiner (Reigate)
I intend to make a contribution based upon a visit to India in January, when I studied the operation of our immigration control procedures and sat in on a number of the interviews of applicants. However, the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) based a considerable part of his case on the Home Affairs Committee report on the proposed new immigration rules and their relation to the European Convention on Human Rights. I was a member of the Committee which prepared the report and interviewed witnesses.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that the report is strictly neutral. We set as our task the gathering of evidence and the presentation of it to the House. We heard all the witnesses with great respect. Among the witnesses was Professor Jacobs, professor of European law at London university. One significant point arose from his evidence—the distinction in the eyes of the European Commission between "differential treatment" applied by a 1056 Government to their citizens and "discrimination". His evidence was that differential treament can constitute discrimination only if it hasno objective and reasonable justification".The Government have ample evidence to sustain the proposition that they have "objective and reasonable justification" for amending the rules in the way that they propose. It is clear that in reaching its opinion the Commission would have regard to a wide range of attendant circumstances. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) was correct to say that evidence could be put to the Commission which would not normally be admissible in a British court of law. He cited a television interview of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she was Leader of the Opposition. It is equally true that a party manifesto containing proposals on which a party is elected to Government, reports of party conferences and the treatment given to the issues in speeches and articles can be put before the Commission.
I am confident that if anyone were so misguided as to take the present Government to the European Court on this issue the Attorney-General and his Law Officers would be able to make a good case in defence of what we are voting upon this evening.
When I was in India I spent some time talking to our staff when undertaking their duties. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) in paying tribute to the work of our officers in India and in other parts of the Sub-continent. It is obvious that they have a keen awareness of the duty that we have placed upon them. They undertake it with humane understanding and they conduct the interviews of applicants in a most considerate manner.
In debates such as this I sometimes wonder whether Labour Members are inclined to forget that our real purpose is to control immigration. The most obvious lesson that struck me when I was in India was the way in which we are now paying the pr[...] of previous laxity in these matters. Before I went I looked up a document which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) placed in the Library for us some four years ago. That was the report by Mr. 1057 D. F. Hawley when he was Assistant Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after a tour of inspection of our immigration posts on the Indian Sub-continent. He then reported to his superiors that the concession introduced in June 1974 over husbands and fiances was being abused, and he said:The concession involves the 'multiplier' factor as it entitles parents, grandparents and allegedly distressed relatives of the fiancé to apply—to apply, of course, for entry to this country as well.
When one sits in at these interviews today one can see that multiplier effect at work in a most significant way. Our ECOs are now interviewing the aged parents of former fiancés admitted under that relaxation. While I was there I witnessed an interview of the aged relatives of a gentleman who was admitted to this country as a fiancé to marry a particular lady who then rejected him on sight. Before the authorities could catch up with him he had quickly found another to marry in her place. This is an instance of the terrible legacy that has been bequeathed to us from that relaxation of the rules in 1974. We are tonight discussing a fairly modest step to tighten up there.
I referred to the famous Hawley report, and I think that it was significant in another respect which is still pertinent today. He remarked in paragraph 21:The present position is unsatisfactory because current procedures and instructions are based on a Home Office assumption that the immigration problem in the Sub-continent is finite and that we are in the last stages of clearing up a backlog of 'entitled' dependants.He went on to report that all the heads of mission and post then—that is, four years ago—were convinced that this assumption was wrong, and that he shared their view.
When I was there I put this point to our ECOs and they, too, were still of the opinion that the queue lining up for interview is constant, that as the top is scooped off so it is added to at the bottom. They were inclined to share the view put forward by Mr. Hawley four years ago that much more serious consideration should be given to the establishment of a register of those who still had an entitlement to enter this country.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
As to the finite nature of the queue, the suggestion that I made in 1974 that the queue of wives and children would ultimately end has been indicated quite clearly in India. It is now indicated quite clearly in Pakistan. Of the 27,000 who are now in the queue in the whole of the Sub-continent, the great majority are in Bangladesh, and that is all that is left of what I always said was the finite part of the queue.
§ Mr. Gardiner
The evidence which I quoted was from India, not from Bangladesh, and I put it forward with confidence in the source from which it came.
When I look back over all the argument about these proposed new immigration rules—which many of us regard as a fairly modest step towards fulfilment of the promises which we put to the electorate in our manifesto—I must ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister of State whether they are fully satisfied that these new rules will suffice to allay the anxieties which undoubtedly exist in this country.
In his opening speech, the right hon. Member for Leeds, South raised the question of the proposed register. I recall the words of my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary in a speech at Leicester on 7 April 1978. After posing the question how many were left in the queue, my right hon. Friend made the basic point:If certainty and finality are to be introduced into our future plans, and if anxiety is to be relieved, the answer to that question must be found.He went on to make proposals for a register and for a system of annual quotas applied right across the board, and he concluded:I believe this change to a predetermined rate of entry, coupled with a finite number to be received, will allay many—perhaps most—of the anxieties about immigration that cause such damage to good race relations today.I believe that those words of the Home Secretary two years ago are as true today as they were then. We are being asked tonight to vote upon a small but helpful step in the right direction, but I hope that it will not be long before the Home Secretary or the Minister of State is able to reassure us that work will start in fulfilment of that manifesto commitment—or that, if the Government for some 1059 reason come to the conclusion that that is not practicable, they will bring forward other proposals which will achieve the same end.
§ Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)
The speeches which we have heard from the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) and some of his hon. Friends show how deeply divided are hon. Members on the Government Benches over this issue. Some of them are worried about the move which is being made and have made their position clear. Some want us to go very much further. There is no unity whatsoever. Perhaps they all fought on the same manifesto, but they do not know what to think today.
The only good thing to be said about the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is that he is at least against what the Government are putting forward tonight. But he has made his own contributions over the years to the fears and uncertainty of the minority community in this country, and I do not think that anything he said tonight, although he said it without some of the pictures of rivers of blood and the other emotive terms which he uses, will do anything to allay that uncertainty. I admit that he has been followed in that in the interview by the Prime Minister, which has been referred to on many occasions. I hope that he will not feel that he has a special and continuing role throughout his life to stir up uncertainty among the minority communities in Britain, who have a right to live in freedom and equality with all our citizens.
I spoke briefly in a debate on 4 December, when I concentrated mainly on the social and religious implications of the rules which were, in my view, discriminatory on grounds of sex, race and religion, and on their effects on community relations. It would be unfair not to recognise that some move has been made as a result of that debate.
I wish to be brief and to concentrate on one aspect only, namely, the legal for Reigate in doing so. I shall concentrate on paragraphs 50 and 52 of the rules. The Government, who have had so much to say about law and order, appear to be all too ready to breach the law themselves. It undermines the appeal which the Home Secretary and 1060 the Prime Minister made to the public if they are prepared to take action which they know to be illegal, or which they fear and suspect is illegal.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said, we shall be debating tomorrow a Bill to legalise retrospectively actions taken by the Secretary of State for Social Services, which were clearly illegal when he took such actions. Tonight we have, in my view, a worse position. We are being asked to vote into effect rules which, as the Government must know, in spite of the Minister's remarks, are contrary to the responsibilities which we have accepted in ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights. That is a serious matter.
I wish that the Minister, when introducing the debate, had concentrated on some of the arguments. He said that there were many strong arguments but he did not adduce any of them. I wish to remind the House of an exchange that took place in the debate on 4 December, when my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) asked the Home Secretary:Will he now tell us what legal advice will be available about whether his proposals are in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights?The Home Secretary replied:That is a matter for the courts when the time comes for them to consider it. It is not a matter for me at this stage.That reply was not good enough. It is not good enough for a Minister to say that he is not certain whether actions that are being taken are within the law, and that it is a matter for the courts to decide later. The court reached a conclusion, and that may be the position regarding the European Court.
I refer to an intervention in that debate by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin), when he said:Surely the House should be advised by a Law Officer of the Crown about whether these proposals are in conformity with, or in breach of, the European convention?The Home Secretary replied:I am coming to that."—[Official Report, 4 December 1979; Vol. 975, c. 256–57.]But he did not come to that, and at no stage since then have the Government come to that issue.
Reference has been made to the first report of the Home Affairs Committee, 1061 HC 434, published on 11 February. I refer the House to paragraph 6, which states:In addition to the Home Office, the Sub-Committee had invited one of the Law Officers to appear before them. This invitation was not taken up. While we do not wish to press the matter in this instance, we feel that the refusal by Ministers to give evidence could raise an important issue which might need to be resolved early in the lifetime of the new Select Committee system.The hon. Member for Reigate, who is at this moment leaving the Chamber, says that there was no agreement in Committee, but there was certainly agreement in that report that the Law Officers invited were not prepared to attend. Neither in the debate on 4 December, nor in the debate today, has there been a Law Officer present to say whether in his view the actions which are being taken under paragraphs 50 and 52 are considered or would be considered to be in conformity with the obligations which we have undertaken under the European convention.
Having read the report with some care, I have to say that those who gave evidence did so with great clarity. On page 30 of the report of the evidence Lord Scarman, talking about fiancés and husbands, said:Now, undoubtedly, the effect of that policy carried out will be that some women settled in the United Kingdom will be less well placed in their family life than others. That is a discrimination, and it is a discrimination which can be said, prima facie, to offend Article 14, so that it is a combination, as you say, of Article 8 and 14 which gives rise to the possibility of a breach of the Convention.Other evidence given before the Select Committee is to the effect that the Government are asking us to vote for something which would be against the views of the European convention, the terms of which we have accepted.
Before sitting down, I want to put some questions to the Home Secretary to which I hope he will reply. These questions also convey the views of the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory Service. That body, referring to the evidence given before the Immigration Sub-Committee of the Home Affairs Committee, stated:The sections of the convention which would be breached would be the Articles on the protection of the family and on discrimination on grounds of race and sex.1062 It goes on to say thatit is inconceivable that a government which respects the rule of law should knowingly breach its international obligations on matters of such importance. To do so would bring discredit on the United Kingdom in Europe and internationally.I ask the Home Secretary, first: what are the views of the Law Officers? Do they believe that the action that the Government are proposing to take will be in conformity with our obligations under the European convention?
Secondly, why did the Law Officers refuse to appear before the Sub-Committee when they were invited to do so? Was it that they feared that their evidence would enable the Select Committee to reach the conclusion that what we were doing would be against the terms of the European convention?
What is the Home Secretary's view? It is all very well to say, as the Minister of State said, that there are many arguments that we could bring forward if we were brought before the court. No doubt plenty of criminals have said "Do not worry. If we are brought before the court, we shall find all kinds of arguments that will get us out of difficulty." That is not good enough for Home Office Ministers who have responsibility for law and order in this country.
Does the Home Secretary still adhere to the argument that it is not a matter for him to determine whether his actions are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights? If not, whose responsibility is it? If it is not his responsibility to ensure that what he puts before the House is in line with the law, we are living in the law of the jungle.
Finally, is that just the first step, as so many of the Home Secretary's hon. Friends want? Is this the 1980 version of the application of the manifesto, or is there more to come in terms of legislation?
I hope that in winding-up the debate the Secretary of State will answer those questions.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) in hoping that the Home Secretary will tell us whether this is the beginning or the 1063 end of the programme. I also agree that the matter has been left very vague.
Indeed, I noted in the speech of my hon. Friend the Minister of State that apart from a few pretty vague paragraphs about the problem of illegal immigration he did not say anything at all about the general problems. Even in relation to illegal immigration, which was dealt with in the Home Secretary's speech on 4 December, nothing was said about the specific measures for dealing with that. Therefore, on any basis, not much has been said to the House about the future of immigration policy.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) helped the House in the first part of his speech. He defined the problem that, as he put it, hangs like a cloud over these debates, which he tried to describe as the problem of identifying what we mean by immigrants, which he now describes as persons of New Commonwealth and Pakistani ethnic origin. While I was much helped by his description of the problem and his precise identification of a term by which it could be described, I did not find that I was able to agree with his sharp division of the two schools of thought, with a subdivision to the second school. The right hon. Gentleman said that there are those who, broadly speaking, believe that it will be all right on the night. Then there are those who fall into the school of thought, who say that England will become ungovernable. I fall nearer to the second category than to the first. But it seems to me that one does not have to go as far as the right hon. Gentleman goes. One does not have to say that England will ultimately become ungovernable.
§ Mr. Garel-Jones
Does not my hon. Friend agree that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) described two schools—the one that would be all right on the night and also the hecatomb that he prophesied? Surely it is not good enough to say that it will be all right on the night when the right hon. Gentleman admits that no one really knows who was right. Surely it would be much more constructive if we all worked to make it all right on the night.
§ Mr. Budgen
We want to try to make it all right on the night, but we must also recognise that there is a serious possibility that the right hon. Gentleman could be 1064 right. I think that he goes too far, but none the less I believe that without action, even if England does not become ungovernable it will be an extremely unhappy place in which to live. There seems to me no doubt that the policy by which about 2 million people from other lands have been allowed to settle or to produce families in a few areas of England has created much unhappiness for them as well as for the people who have received them.
I wish to reduce the tension and the unhappiness. One of the most effective ways in which that can be done is to have a tight immigration policy. But before saying why I support what we the Tories said at the general election, I ought to deal with the point that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor). He plainly believes that a policy of repatriation is not only desirable but possible.
We have to define very carefully what we mean by repatriation. There will always be a number of persons from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan who will wish to go back to their country of origin. They will wish to go back voluntarily. I am in favour of making it possible for them to go back voluntarily. But out of 2 million people, of whom two-fifths have been born in this country, there will not be a very significant number who will wish to go back voluntarily. So unless anyone wishes to advocate compulsory repatriation, with all that that implies—and I say immediately that I am not in favour of it—it will not be possible to deal with the problem in a significant way by voluntary repatriation.
So we are left with other proposals that we shall advocate, in the hope that the prediction of the right hon. Gentleman that England will become ungovernable can be proved to be wrong, but at least in recognition of my proposition that there is a vast, terrible and often unrecognised problem that ought to be faced with courage and honesty by this House.
When we look at the revised rules we see that it is plain that absolutely all the concessions have been made to the Opposition. [Interruption.] Well, all right—to the opposition within the ranks of the Tory Party and to the Opposition. But not one concession has been made to those who wish to see tighter controls over immigration. As I said earlier, not one 1065 word has been said about the future control of immigration. It is plain, is it not, that in his kindly way the Home Secretary is very sensitive to criticism in respect of this policy?
As a practical matter, I invite the whole House to look carefully at what was decided in the past when we became a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. There are many people who oppose the immigration rules. Members of Parliament are perfectly entitled to oppose them, and it is right that when matters of minority rights are debated, they should be fiercely debated. But the worst argument is the argument that we are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. I say to the Home Secretary that there is a need now to say immediately that we should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Let us have a look at the consequence of our being a party to that convention. I invite the House to look at the report of the Select Committee to which reference was made a short while ago, and more especially to page 36, because the Committee was very fortunate in that Mr. Anthony Lester, QC gave a very careful opinion to the Sub-Committee. On page 36, at paragraph 9, he most usefully set out the relevant principles from the convention to be applied to this problem.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State is being slightly less than frank with the House when he says that there is no racial discrimination in the proposals. I know that one can make an argument for almost anything. I am sure that if this matter is litigated an apparently respectable argument will be put forward for the proposition that there is no discrimination on either sex or race. I should have thought that that argument would be unlikely to succeed.
What is the next line of defence? It is the principle of proportionality. As Lord Scarman told the Sub-Committee, that means bringing into effect the argument whether the end justifies the means. What it comes to is that the broad issues that we have to debate—
§ It being Ten o'clock the debate stood adjourned.