HC Deb 05 December 1991 vol 200 cc384-6
5. Mr. Maclennan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has held recently with Ministers in European Community countries about immigration and nationality questions.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I attended meetings of European Community Ministers concerned with immigration matters at Berlin on 30 and 31 October. and at The Hague on 20 November. The Minister of State—my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten)—attended a meeting on my behalf at The Hague on 2 and 3 December this year. In addition, I have had a number of informal bilateral discussions with European Community colleagues.

Mr. Maclennan

As those matters are clearly occupying the time of Ministers in the European Community, and as interest in the issue is bound to deepen with the removal of internal border controls, does the Home Secretary accept the proposed draft treaty article A arrangements recognising the common interest of Community countries in such matters? Does he accept that there should be Community competence in that sphere? What will be the Commission's role in it in future?

Mr. Baker

The draft treaty on immigration, which is to be discussed at Maastricht next week, contains a series of proposals starting with article A. That proposes that immigration and asylum matters, together with certain police, fraud and drugs issues, should not come under the competence of the treaty of Rome, but should be dealt with on an intergovernmental basis—a view with which the Government completely agree. Article K allows for those matters to fall within the competence of the treaty only after a double lock—first, the unanimity of Ministers, and secondly, the specific approval of the House. The Government support that position and do not believe that immigration and asylum matters should fall within the competence of the treaty of Rome.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while Jean-Marie Le Pen is legally entitled to come to this country, his obnoxious views on racism, immigration and nationality mean that he is simply not welcome in this country? His racist views will be rejected by all the people in this country regardless of party. Does my right hon. Friend share my view that those people who may wish to have a dialogue with Mr. Le Pen are simply selling short their country and their countrymen? Will my right hon. Friend say how unwelcome Mr. Le Pen and his views are?

Mr. Baker

I am sure that Mr. Le Pen's views are racially and politically unacceptable. I was asked as Home Secretary to consider whether I should ban his entry. I decided not to do so. I see that a former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), agrees with that decision. I think that it is correct. Apart from anything else, Mr. Le Pen is a Member of the European Parliament. However, I want to make it clear that, by allowing him to come to Britain, neither I nor any Conservative Member has any agreement whatever with the racialist views that he is peddling, and I am sure that that is true of Opposition Members as well.

Mr. Winnick

On reflection, does the Home Secretary consider that if someone is due to come to Britain with the sole purpose of inciting race hatred there is no reason why he should be allowed in, and that Le Pen should have been excluded? I welcome the view of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) that Le Pen—a person whose only claim to fame is the manner in which in France he has agitated to poison race relations and incite hatred—is completely unwelcome in Britain and should not have been allowed in. Is it true that Le Pen is to meet a number of Tory Members and, if so, will the Home Secretary make it clear that that would be wrong?

Mr. Baker

The best way of dealing with poisonous views is to expose and destroy them, and that is what free speech does. Le Pen will have few converts in Britain. The views that he is peddling in France exploit the anxieties of many people in a ruthless and unacceptable way. We want none of his ideas here and I am sure that they will not become established.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

Will my right hon. Friend consider the remarks of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who suggested that we were moving towards a cross-border liberalisation and liberation? Can my right hon. Friend explain why the hon. Gentleman's party suggests that we should increase the differences between those of us who live north and south of the border in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Baker

If these matters were to pass into European competence in the way that the Liberal Democrats want, there would be an inevitable weakening of our controls and our frontier controls, which I am not prepared to accept. We need greater co-operation in Europe in these matters, because immigration and asylum flows are a major political concern, as we have just noted from the exchanges about Le Pen and the way in which people are feeding upon his visit. However, that comes best through the co-operation of European countries rather than through competence under the European treaty.

Mr. Darling

I welcome what the Home Secretary said about Le Pen's visit to Britain, but will he go a little further and dissociate himself from those of his colleagues who are seeking to meet that man?

Mr. Baker

I have no information on who is meeting Le Pen. I have made my views clear—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] I do not know who is meeting Le Pen and I have made my views clear. I regard Le Pen's views as totally and utterly unacceptable, and I have made that clear.