HC Deb 03 February 1983 vol 36 cc408-10
12. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to compile accurate figures showing the numbers of dependants of immigrants already settled in the United Kingdom who, as dependants, would be eligible to come to settle as well; and if he will distinguish between Commonwealth citizens and European Community citizens and their dependants.

Mr. Waddington

Since January 1981 the Government have collected statistical information designed to establish the scale and pattern of future immigration from the Indian subcontinent. We have no plans to extend this exercise to other countries.

Mr. Bidwell

Does not that reply show that Tory Back Benchers who are against coloured people are having their way in Government circles? Taking the total number of dependent relatives from the old and new Commonwealth in terms of present immigration law and EC rules, which provide that families should be able to join the breadwinner in this country, does not the Home Secretary's approach show that he is pandering to the racist and Fascist wing of his party?

Mr. Waddington

I do not accept for one moment the language used by the hon. Gentleman about my hon. Friends. Nor do I accept his description of what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary may be about to do.

Mr. Stokes

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the one statistic which the entire English population wish to see is that which will show that immigration into this country has entirely ceased?

Mr. Waddington

My hon. Friend must recognise that such a situation will never be reached. In any civilised society, there is inevitably coming and going. It is therefore unrealistic to talk about an end to all immigration. However, since 1979 there has been a steady and pronounced drop in the number of people achieving settlement in this country. There is no reason to believe that that decline will not continue. I appreciate full well that that is what my hon. Friends hope will happen.—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must not have a private discussion with his hon. Friends. He must address the House.

Mr. Pitt

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the plight of many elderly dependent relatives in the new Commonwealth? What provision does he intend to make in the new immigration rules for them to join their sons and daughters in this country?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman should read the rules. He will then see what is contained in the 1980 rules. He will see what was contained in the rules that were not approved by the House. I am sure that it is the wish of the vast majority of hon. Members that there should be strict controls on immigration. We cannot return to a situation in which every member of a man's family is entitled to enter this country, no matter how remote the relationship.

Mr. Jim Marshall

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the large decline in immigration shows without any doubt that there is no large pool of people seeking to enter this country for settlement? Does he agree that that shows the futility of the argument for a register of dependants? Is it not time that members of the Select Committee who suggested such a register in the last Parliament forgot all about it and let the idea be decently buried once and for all?

Mr. Waddington

One of the reasons for the statistical exercise is to assess the size of the pool, so one cannot say that the size is already known. We have not closed our minds to the idea of a register. The difficulty is that although such a register would show the number entitled to come it would not show how many of them intended to do so, so we may find the information that we want more easily through the statistical exercise.

Mr. Proctor

Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that there are two places in which immigrant families may be reunited—this country and the new Commonwealth countries from which they came?

Mr. Waddington

My hon. Friend knows the provisions that have been in the rules for many years. At the time of the 1971 Act undertakings were given and the statutory right to come to this country was given to the families of those settled before 1 January 1973. We cannot go back on that statutory right. After that time, undertakings were given by successive Governments that the families of those settled here would be entitled to come.