HL Deb 28 July 1905 vol 150 cc749-75

Order of the Day for the Second Readying read.


My Lords, the subject with which this Bill deals has attracted great attention in the country for a considerable number of years. I think it was in the year 1888 that a Committee of the House of Commons first; sat to consider the serious increase in the number of destitute aliens coming into this country, and although their consideration did not lead them to recommend any legislation, yet it was clear from their Report that they looked forward to the time when this increase would necessitate legislation. To come to a. later period, in 1896 a measure was mentioned in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne, and two years later a Bill dealing with the immigration of undesirable aliens was brought forward and passed through its different stages in this House, but did not proceed further. Finally, in 1902, a Royal Commission, of which my noble and learned friend Lord James was Chairman, made a full and complete inquiry into the whole question. They also inquired into the laws which had been passed with regard to aliens in other countries, and the majority of that Commission recommended that effective measures should be taken to check the wholesale immigration of destitute aliens into this country.

I think, perhaps, I ought to acknowledge that there were two members of the Commission who, although they signed the Report, took a somewhat different view from that of the majority as to the particular proposals which should be adopted. They added a Memorandum stating their objections to some of the proposals made by the majority of the Commission. In 1904 a Bill was introduced into the other House of Parliament to carry out the recommendations of the Majority Report. It is needless for me to comment on the fate of that Bill It met with almost microscopic criticism, and it never reached its later stages in the other House. This session a Bill, the Second Reading of which I now move was in traduced, and it has passed through the House of Commons. It differs in some respects with regard to the machinery from the Bill of last year, and I think it will be generally admitted that, so far as many of the points go, it is an improvement on that Bill.

Now, my Lords, what is the case for the Bill I now ask your Lordships to read a second time. The facts are these. It is acknowledged that a whole sale immigration from the eastern part of Europe has been going on for some time, and is taking place now. Many of these immigrants are quite destitute and without any trade by which they can earn a living. They are of a low type of civilisation; and they lower the standard of living among our own working classes. In the East End of London especially and in other crowded centres they work for very low wages. It is stated in the Report of the Royal Commission that there is no great amount of disease among these aliens when they first come into this country, but it is a fact that the insanitary conditions under which some of them live have introduced new diseases of a very disagreeable character. The local government authorities have had great difficulty with them under the existing law. Further than this, they have in some parts of London displaced the occupants of a large number of dwellings, by the fact that landlords who are unscrupulous and anxious to make as much money as they can out of their poor dwellings find that they can obtain more by taking foreigners, as a very large number are willing to live in the same house.

The statistics with regard to alien immigration have been before the country for some time, and I am well aware that there has been considerable discussion with regard to what is the actual number of alien immigrants coming into this country. I therefore intend to avoid such immigration figures as are controversial. It is recognised that there is a very large number of alien immigrants year by year and that a large proportion of them go out of the country again, some of them immediately and some at a later period. There is considerable difficulty, therefore, in checking the number of aliens who remain in this country. But there are statistics which are conclusive as to the conditions of the aliens in this country. To these I attach the utmost importance in proving the necessity for legislation. They show that there has been an enormous increase in the number of criminal aliens convicted in this country. In 1897 the number was 2,572; three years later it was 3,130; and last year it was 4,774. Their percentage to the total criminal population has risen in the same time from 1. 12 to 1. 7 or half as much again. I think this rapid rise in the number of criminals of the alien class shows, at all events, the necessity of some attention being paid to this very serious and important point.

Let me now take the question of Poor Law relief. My figures also show an increase in the number receiving poor relief. In London, in 1902, the number was 3,234; and in 1904 it had risen to 4,162. Lest it be supposed that this is peculiar to London, let me add that in some of the chief provincial centres from which statistics have been collected the number receiving relief was 1,381 in 1902, and in 1904 it had risen to 1,685. With regard to my statement that a large number of the poorer classes were practically turned out of their houses to accommodate newly-arrived aliens, I may point out that last year in Stepney alone 380 houses were occupied by aliens, the former occupants having been turned out. What is, therefore, the present position? The increased steamship facilities for coming to this country at low fares and the fact that nearly every country in Europe, and also the United States, have passed laws regulating the admission of aliens, has made the necessity of some action in this country more urgent.

I find that in 1900 nearly 1,200 foreigners were rejected by the United States and sent back to this country, and 1,700 foreigners who had come to this country and tried to go on to the United States were refused passages on the ground that they would be rejected when they were taken there. We had information that foreigners who tried to go into the United States and failed were frequently taken back to Europe and then shipped off again to this country as the easiest means of getting; rid of them. I am told that there-is one special passage broker in Bremen who makes a trade of dealing in this, way with emigrants who have been refused admission in the United States What is the result? I do not want to use what is a fashionable slang expression now and say that this country is the dumping ground of the destitute and most undesirable aliens, but I think I can use a word which is quite as expressive and more applicable to the occasion. This country is rapidly becoming the sink of the most undesirable class of aliens on the Continent. They come here because they cannot get into any other country, and of those who come to this country with the intention of going on to America it is clear that the least desirable ones remain here because they know that if they go to the United States they will not be permitted to land.

I do not wish to worry your Lordships by statistics nor by long argument, but I think the necessity is proved for the State having some control over alien immigration. If that fact is granted, let me say one word now as to the machinery of this Bill. The proposals are practically divided into two parts. The first part deals with the regulation of alien immigrants and takes power of refusing them at the port of entry; and the second part deals with the exclusion of those who are undesirable when they are a heady in. With regard to exclusion— and this, I take it, is perhaps the most contested portion of the Bill, for there has been more general assent given to the power of refusing admission to aliens than to their exclusion— let me explain the machinery of the Bill. The Bill proposes that aliens should only be excluded who come into particular ports-It has been shown that out of about 207,000 aliens who came into this country in 1904,201,000 came in at eight particular ports. It is proposed, therefore, to deal with the ports at which aliens are principally introduced, and that at those ports there should be power of inspection of ships bringing in aliens.

In the Bill inspection is only proposed where a ship is bringing in more than thirty steerage passengers. The Secretary of State, however, has taken power to alter this number if he thinks it necessary. If is obvious that without some such power an attempt might be made to evade the law by bringing in a smaller number than thirty in order to escape inspection at the port. To meet this the Secretary of State has taken power to alter the number if he thinks it necessary, and to have ships inspected even though the steerage passengers might not number thirty. The inspection will be carried on by an immigration officer and a medical inspector on ship-board or on shore, whichever is most suitable, and if any alien objects to the decision given, there will be power of appeal to an immigration board, who will decide whether the alien is to be rejected or not.

The reasons for which immigrants may be refused admission into this country are contained in Clause 1, Sub-section -3. This section provides that an immigrant snail be considered an undesirable immigrant if he cannot show that he has in his possession, or is in a position to obtain, the means of decently supporting himself aid his dependents, if any; if he is a lunatic or an idiot, or owing to any disease or infirmity appears likely to become a charge upon the rates or otherwise a detriment to the public; or if he has been sentenced in a foreign country with which there is an extradition treaty for a crime not being an offence of a political character which is, as respects that country, an extradition crime within the meaning of the Extradition Act,1870; or if an expulsion order under this Bill has been made in his case.

With regard to expulsion, an alien in this country may be expelled if it is certified by a Court that he has been convicted of any felony or misdemeanour or other offence for which the Court has power to impose imprisonment without the option of a fine, and if the Court recommend his expulsion. There are other important conditions under which an alien may be expelled. He may be expelled if he has within three months from the time at which proceedings for the certificate are commenced been in receipt of parochial relief, or been found wandering without ostensible means of subsistence, or been living under insanitary conditions due to overcrowding.

Having explained the provisions of the Bill let me now deal with some of the objections that have been raised against it. I do not understand that the Second Reading will be opposed in your Lordships' House, but I noticed that in the other House it was objected to the Bill that it made a difference between the very poor person and the man who had means. That is a perfectly fair cliticism, but I do not think that any alien would necessarily be excluded under the Bill because he was poor. The fact is, he will have to show that he is likely to have the means of keeping himself and his family. That is a very great distinction. It is notorious that the Jews have organisations in this country which prevent any Jew coming in from becoming a charge on the rates, and maintain him until he can find employment. Under this Bill there would be no chance of a Jew being excluded as long as one of those organisations wished to find means for him and made it clear to the officer at the port of entry that provision would be made for keeping him off the rates. I do not think it is unreasonable that an alien who cannot show that he has a prospect of earning his living and is likely to become a charge on the rates should be debarred from coming into the country.

It has been objected in the House of Commons that the Bill interferes with what is called the right of asylum; but I submit that the provisions inserted in the House of Commons make it perfectly clear that no man would be excluded who was flying from political or religious persecution. Then it is argued that the effect of the Bill will be very small, but that argument coming from those who object to the Bill shows that there cannot be a very great belief on their part that the Bill will do the harm they profess to think it will. I believe that when it becomes known that regulations for dealing with undesirable aliens are in force, a large number will be deterred from coming over. I do not think I need detain your Lordships further. I will only say, in conclusion, that in my view the Bill attempts to deal fairly and morally with the question, and I hope your Lordships will not only give it a Second Reading, but will also show by your general support your desire to see it put upon the Statute-book.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Belper.)


My Lords, I admit that on the speech of the noble Lord a ease has been made out for some legislation. The noble Lord said there was a wholesale immigration of aliens from the astern part of Europe. I cannot help thinking that there has been a considerable amount of exaggeration in that matter. I do not rise for the purpose of opposing the Second Reading of the Bill, but for the purpose of making a protest in reference to one or two points. Notwithstanding the safeguards that have been introduced, I fear there is considerable danger in the Bill of wrecking that right of asylum, or perhaps I ought to say custom of asylum, which has existed for so many years in this country, and under which those who suffer from political or religious persecution abroad have always found safety in this country.

I also object to the Bill because I consider that the evils complained of are really much smaller than they are represented to be. The principal object of the Bill is to deal with aliens who remain in this country, and the aliens who so remain are much fewer than the numbers that are often quoted. The noble Lord has avoided giving any figures with regard to the number of aliens who are supposed to settle in this country. It may have been wise on his part. I quite admit that there is a difficulty in arriving at any figures which both sides in this controversy agree upon. Very large figures were given last year in the other House, and it was afterwards found that the Secretary of State had forgotten to substract sailors who were enumerated in the figures. Many persons who have studied the matter put down the number of aliens who settle in this country at from 7,000 to 8,000 annually. That may be an under - statement, but I believe the figures are taken to a great extent from the census and from figures that were admitted by the Commission over which my noble and learned friend Lord James presided.

I would refer for a moment to the supposed dangers arising in consequence of the presence of these aliens. There are the criminals. We are all ready to declare that we should not object to those who are convicted of crime being in some cases expelled from this country, and in others prevented from entering it, if it were worth while to take these steps and if the privilege of asylum was preserved. The noble Lord quoted some figures as to the increase of crime. But are the aliens referred to aliens who have just arrived, or have numbers of them been settled here for some time? The number of Russian Jews convicted is very small in comparison with Germans, Italians, or French. Therefore, those figures do not relate to the case of those who are principally affected by the Bill— namely, the Russian Jews.

It is interesting to note that in 1903– 4 the number of alien inmates in penal and reformatory institutions in the United States who had been convicted of crime was 9,825, whilst the number of persons debarred from landing on similar grounds in five years only reached a total of 106. Therefore, though they did prevent during those five years 106 aliens who were supposed to be criminals from arriving in the country, there were, notwithstanding, 9,825 alien inmates in penal and reformatory institutions. Is that a very satisfactory state of things? If there are all these convicted aliens in penal and reformatory institutions, can it be said that the laws of the United States have had much effect in diminishing the number of criminal aliens in that country? I doubt very much whether you would be able to largely diminish the number of convicted aliens. A great many would come into the country and remain some time before becoming criminals. The noble Lord gave some figures with regard to pauperism; but unless an increase in the proportion of alien pauperism to the total pauperism in each year can be shown, they cannot

be regarded as constituting a very strong argument.


Perhaps I ought to mention that there might be added to the list a very large number if you I were to include the Jews who are sup-ported by the Jewish organisations.


Figures have been given officially with regard to paupers which certainly strike me as not proving that an enormous number of aliens come on the poor rate. On July 17th Mr. Gerald Balfour stated in the House of Commons that— The latest figures in my possession as to alien paupers relate to the 1st of July,1903 The ratio of alien paupers to the total number of paupers in England and Wales on that date was about 0. 22 per cent. The total cost of the Poor Law relief in the year 1903– 4 in round numbers was £13,369,500, and the cost of relief to alien paupers calculated on the above ratio, would be about 7pound; 29,000. When we look at these figures and compare them with the total, this seems to me a very small sum indeed. The noble Lord referred to the question of health. He said that as a rule the health of these immigrants was good, but that certain bad diseases had appeared from time to time and had been spread among the population.


The evidence before i the Commission was that those who examined these aliens did not say that there was a very large amount of disease among them, but there were some horrible diseases introduced owing to the insanitary conditions under which they lived.


If they were diseased when they arrived no one would object to dealing with them; but I have seen figures which show that the infant mortality in districts where there are a large number of aliens is really lower than in other districts. In White-chapel, with 24. 11 percentage of foreigners to population in 1891, deaths of children under one year per 1,000 births in 1886– 90 was 170. Whereas in Southwark, with a. 7 percentage of foreigners to population, the corresponding deaths of children under one year per 1,000 was 172. These facts strike me as rather disproving the general assertion that the immigration of these aliens increases ill-health and disease in the particular districts to which they come. The noble Lord referred to aliens as being often the means of displacing the present occupiers of houses. But how does that arise? It arises through their being able to pay more in rent than the people in the district, and, therefore, they are not very poor.


They are able to pay more because more live in the houses. They pay considerably less per head.


That may be a serious matter, but at the same time overcrowding is a thing which ought to be dealt with under the present law. There is a law to prevent overcrowding just as there is to prevent sweating. I think these laws ought to be strengthened, and that that is the way in which these matters should be dealt with. Then we hear that the competition in trade is very serious, but there are some very curious facts with regard to that. I have in my hand an extract showing what happened in a particular district through a firm— Messrs. Hitchcock, Williams, & Co.—transferring their German industry to England by employing Jewish labour. The following is their account of the results achieved— In 1899 we decided to introduce foreign Jewish tailors into a new factory that we had recently built. Their work has been excellent. British material has been used instead of German, and a large part of the money sent formerly to Berlin has been distributed among British manufacturers and in wages. The quality of the work has improved year by year, and the garments made in our factory are better than those previously imported. Other English firms have followed our lead, and to day the German Press admits the loss of her trade in these goods. Our experience shows that these foreign Jewish tailors do a class of work which our workers cannot undertake with success, and that they earn a high rate of pay. In that way trade in this district was stimulated by the demand for material, and so forth; therefore you cannot say that they did harm to the trade of that particular district. I admit that occasionally there have been cases in which harm has been done. There is*a trade with which I am very familiar, viz., the shoe trade, which I believe the immigration of aliens did hurt to some extent. But it must be remembered that when that occurred the shoe trade was undergoing almost a complete change, the factory system being in process of substitution for that under which the workmen did the work at home. I do not know, therefore, that that argument holds good.

Then my noble friend referred to another argument, for which, I think, there is a good deal to be said, namely, that the Bill applies to the poor and not to the rich. I certainly agree with that. We object to the Bill because we believe that it will apply almost entirely to undesirable aliens who come in as steerage passengers, and not to those who may travel in first or second-class cabins. I do not know what answer there is to that objection, but I certainly think it is one of considerable gravity. The test of poverty is one of the most difficult to apply. The authorities have attempted to apply it in America, but it has been almost entirely broken down by the devices of those who wish to obtain cheap labour. When a ship comes in on which it is known there are a certain number of poor people, agents go down and claim relationship with them, or adopt some other device of that description, with the result that the people get through, and the law is entirely evaded.

I referred just now to the figures given by the Local Government Board as to the cost of pauper aliens to the rates. The amount was £29,000 a year. But what will be the cost of maintaining all these stations on the coast? It is calculated that the stations and the necessary machinery for carrying out the inspection will cost £24,000 a year. I maintain that this machinery, which may break down and affect classes which you do not want to touch at all, is really unnecessary to deal with an evil which is not so serious as I think the noble Lord by his speech would lead the House to believe. I know that this is considered by some people to be a very important political operation; it is believed that there is considerable political feeling in certain parts of London, that this Bill is introduced to a certain extent to satisfy that feeling, and that to prevent its passing would entail the loss of a great many votes at an election. I have a great contempt for any operation of that sort. If, as the noble Lord tried to make out, there is a great necessity for this measure, if there is a great need to keep out criminals and others and if it can be done with safety, well and good; let it be done. But do not let it be done merely for a political cry. I do not think the noble Lord wishes to do it for that purpose; I say that at once; but I would point out that there was a measure of this sort passed some years ago, and it is instructive to see what the result of that Act has been. The Foreign Prison-made Goods Bill was brought in from a purely political motive— or, at any rate, it certainly appeared to be so— and we who opposed the Bill said that the matter was of such infinitesimal dimensions that the measure ought not to have been introduced at all. What has been the result of the Act? A few days ago a Question was asked in another place to the following effect— What is the value of the foreign prison-made goods excluded up to the latest available date by the action of the Foreign Prison-made Goods Act? The Secretary to the Treasury answered the Question, and what do you think the amount was? £183 4s. Everybody will admit that those figures show that the Act, which was supposed to be going to relieve an enormous number of people from the competition of publicly-assisted, prison-made goods, has completely broken down. I sincerely trust that that may not be the case with this Bill. At the same time. I believe that there will be enormous difficulties in the working of the Bill. It is open to very great objections. It will apply to persons to whom you do not wish it to apply; it will be very costly; and it is brought in to meet a very small necessity indeed.

There is one other point I ought to mention, because I have received communications in reference to it, and that is the hardship this Bill will involve upon shipowners. Shipowners, if they have any undesirable aliens on board, will be compelled at their own expense to take them back whence they came. I think I am right in saying that the shipowners will have to bear the cost both of carriage and of food. They complain very much against that, and I think with some justice. If this is a national necessity, it is rather hard on them to disturb their trade in this way. They will certainly suffer a good deal if this Bill passes, because it will affect very considerably the over-sea trade, which is a very important item in the profits of the merchant service.

I am sorry to have detained your Lordships at such length on this matter, but I have considerable objection to the Bill, and, though I do not intend to move its rejection to night, I give notice that when the Committee stage is reached we on this side will probably have some Amendments to propose.


My Lords, the attitude of the noble Earl opposite seems to some of us not a little puzzling. He began and ended his speech with the announcement that he did not intend to object to the Second Reading of the measure.


What would be the use of doing so in this House?


And that he would not even record an adverse vote in regard to it. But in the speech that followed that announcement, he went on to whittle away the figures produced by my noble friend behind me, to challenge my noble friend's statement that these undesirable aliens were the means of introducing disease into this country, to point out that their destitution was greatly exaggerated, to contend that our Bill would be unavailing for the purpose for which it was intended, and to suggest that the cost of administering it would be altogether out of proportion to any results that we were likely to achieve. If ever a speech against the Second Reading of a Bill was delivered, I think the speech of the noble Earl deserves that description.


I admit that.


Not content with that, he went on to suggest that the Bill had been taken up by us, not because of any sincere conviction as to its merits but for political considerations. The thought must have crossed the minds of some of your Lordships that the decision of the noble Earl not to oppose the Second Reading may also to some extent have been inspired by political considerations.


By political considerations in the sense that it is hopeless to oppose your majority in this House on the Second Reading.


However, we will pass that by. Let us assume that though the noble Earl is not perhaps committed to the details of the measure, he is committed at any rate to its main principle. Now, what is the main principle of the Bill— because I think the measure does contain a very clear and easily defined principle. That principle is not that we desire to depart from the honourable tradition of this country, which has never been in the habit of closing its doors to persons of all kinds seeking refuge in these islands, but that we desire to prevent the abuse of that hospitality. The question we have to consider is whether in fact that hospitality has been abused and I think the clear statement of my noble friend should have been sufficient to convince anyone who listened to it that that abuse has existed. It is true that the noble Earl taxed him with having laid before the House figures which were exaggerated.


Statements, not figures. He did not use any figures.


My noble friend refrained from laying figures before the House because we freely admit that it is easy to challenge those figures in matters of detail. But I have here a figure which, perhaps with certain reservations, I will venture to lay before the House. We are told that in 1904 no less than 75,000 of these aliens came into this country. I will be perfectly frank. I am not here to say that all these people settled in the United Kingdom; some of them may have been transmigrants, but we have no doubt whatever that a very large number of them did remain. We are sure of that for the very best of reasons, that these people are to be seen in Stepney and the neighbourhood, where the accumulation of aliens of this class has been going on apace during the last few years. My noble friend Lord Belper tells me that the figure of 75,000 was arrived at after the deduction of a certain number of aliens who were known to have left the shores of this country. But let us assume that that figure of 75,000 is to be even more liberally discounted. Let us suppose that only 50,000 remained in this country. Can we afford to treat as negligible a yearly drifting of that number, or of any number approaching it, of such persons into our great cities?

My noble friend referred with great force to the fact that the presence of those people is revealed in a most inconvenient manner by the perceptible increase of alien pauperism and by an increase in the number of alien criminals. But what else is to be expected? What are the facts? Other countries do not allow alien immigrants of this kind to establish themselves within their limits; they are careful to turn them back. We, on the contrary, receive them without question, and not only that, but when they have established themselves in our midst we allow them to be supported out of the rates. Is it not obvious that an arrangement of that kind must have the result of causing what without any abuse of language may be called the scum of this stream of human population to collect in the backwaters of London and other great cities? I have no desire to be thought wanting in compassion for these people; they deserve our compassion and our sympathy. But surely we have a right to think of our own people also and of the effects of allowing a population of that class to establish itself here and to extrude our own people from quarters in which they have been in the habit of living.

Then the noble Earl told us that he detected in the Bill the principle that poverty was to be recognised as a crime.


I think that is-going rather beyond what I said. I said that the Bill in its working would attack poverty more than riches. I did not use the words"crime" or "criminal'' in. that connection.


I will withdraw the word "crime," but I think he implied that mere poverty was to be considered as a bar disqualifying a person for admission to this country. If the noble Earl will look at the wording; of the section, he will see that there is. nothing in the Bill to exclude a man, simply because he is poor. The language is extremely careful. The would-be immigrant is required to show that he is— in possession of, or in a position to obtain, the means of decently supporting himself and his dependents. A man may be a poor man, he may have only a couple of shillings in his pocket, but if he is a perfectly able-bodied, healthy man who will without doubt be able to take his place amongst our labouring population, I take it that the-immigration officer will raise no difficulty to such a man landing in this country. The noble Earl pointed to the fact that the provisions of this Bill would only catch the steerage passenger, and that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent undesirable aliens arriving on board vessels affording accommodation which would cost them a larger sum of money. I do not think it is very probable that a person who is destitute within the meaning of the words I have just quoted would be found except amongst the steerage passengers But I pass that by. Let us assume for the sake of argument, that the Bill stops short of affording absolute and complete protection to us against the arrival of these people. Are we to repudiate it simply because, although it affords us protection, that protection is not absolutely perfect at all points? The Bill is a palliative, and as such we believe it will have good effects. It does, not seem to me to be an argument that can be legitimately used as against it that, although the Bill may arrest the main stream of immigration of this kind, the flow may still continue to trickle through some less visible and better concealed channels.

What I think we have to consider is the argument used with so much effect by my noble friend, namely, that the results of this Bill will have to be measured, not by the number of aliens who are interfered with when on the point of landing, but by the number of aliens who will be deterred by the provisions of this Bill from, attempting to come here. It is the deterrent effect of the Bill upon the immigrants and upon the shipowners to which we look rather than to the operative effect of the provisions of the Bill.

The noble Earl made some reference to the prejudice which this Bill was likely to cause to shipowners. That, no doubt, is a question that we shall have to discuss in Committee; but I think I am right in saying that the ship owners' point of view was fully considered in Committee in the House of Commons, and that Amendments were introduced in the Bill which, to a very considerable extent at all events, were successful in meeting the criticisms of the shipowners.

With regard to religious and political refugees, the Bill is so drawn as to make it clear that where an immigrant desires to obtain asylum in this country for the bona fide reason that he is escaping from persecution or any kind of molestation due to his religious or political tenets, the provisions of the Bill will be relaxed in his favour. We believe that as the Bill stands it deals with that difficult problem in a most liberal and considerate manner. We are, at any rate, convinced that there is a grievance and an abuse which for public reasons we cannot afford to leave unredressed, and we believe that his Bill meets that abuse in a reasonable and, we hope, effectual manner.


My Lords, in view of the precarious hour at which we have arrived I will occupy the time of your Lordships for only a very few minutes, but I think that in the course of two years patient study of questions affecting alien immigration I have learnt something which perhaps places me in a position between those who support the Bill and those who oppose it, and possibly enables me to say something which may add to your Lordships' information. This Bill ought not to be looked at wholly from the standpoint either of those who say that the alien immigrants who come into this country form an evil that ought to be put an end to for reasons which they give, or of those who speak enthusiastically of the great traditions of this country, who wish it always to be a place of safety for the oppressed, and who say that aliens ought to be allowed to come in freely. We must try to find a medium between those two points of view, and endeavour to discover a method of dealing with what is an evil without inflicting a wrong upon anyone.

In the first place, what is the evil we have to meet? If my noble friend the Leader of the House will allow me to say so, I think he has greatly overstated the number of aliens who come to this country. Great deductions have to be made from the figures he gave, because they include all persons who come as transmigrants, sailors, persons who come here to see friends, persons who come and go, a large number who are sent back immediately by charitable agencies or friends, and various other classes of persons. The best information you can get on the point is from the Census Returns. It is not absolutely accurate, and in former years it was not in so good a form as it is now, but it is the most re liable figure we can get. According to the Census Returns we have this fact— that in 1881 there were 135,000 aliens residing in this country, while in 1901, twenty years later, there were 286,000, an increase-of 151,000. That increase was mainly to be found in London County because it includes the East End of London, where the increase was from 60,000 to 135,000. The most serious increase was from Russia and Russian Poland. The question of how this matter should be dealt with is then well worthy of consideration.

But it is not only a numerical increase it is a local increase. When we on the Royal Commission were approaching the termination of our labours, some of us said the inquiry had reduced itself to a Stepney inquiry, because the evil existed mainly in the borough of Stepney and in the neighbourhood of that borough. In the borough of Stepney there are 54 000 of these Russians and Poles out of a population of about 300,000. It is that localisation which causes the great evil, and it is an evil that will not diminish. Take the question of language alone. These people speak what is sometimes called "Yiddish." They will not go where they cannot make themselves understood. But in Stepney they can be understood, not only by their friends and relatives, but by tradesmen in the shops where they make their purchases. Thus they find themselves in the midst of those with whom they can associate, and, that being so, you cannot alter their destination. We felt this so strongly that the bulk of our Report went strongly to show that this country had certain rights which it might well exercise. Of course we wish to be hospitable to everyone who comes to these shores. We owe a, great deal to these alien immigrants. A great student of them has said that there is not a single great trade in this country our superiority in which we do not owe to the alien. When they came over here in such large numbers at the time of the Inquisition, during the reign of Henry VIII., one-third of those who paid subsidy to the King in the City of London were aliens, and. they were all teaching our people trades. They were driven here for the sake of their religion. In the early days of the Reformation they built churches representing the Protestant religion throughout the country, and when the second great wave, the Huguenots, came they found these churches in existence, with settlers around them. We must never forget the services they rendered to us by their trades, or the great strength the Protestant tendency of the aliens gave to this country.

But whilst we have that debt to pay, we must see to it that we pay it to the right people. I quite recognise what we owe, but I am not quite sure that when we give to the unskilled agriculturist from Russian Poland great indulgence or superior opportunity we are paying to the right persons the debt which we owe to the immigrants of former times. Certainly when this country grants its hospitality it has the right to impose the terms on which that hospitality should be granted.

Therefore, if this great evil which is inflicted upon the borough of Stepney and neighbourhood is to be dealt with, there is no reason, either from a desire to retain the hospitable character of this country 01 from an economic point of view, why we should not impose such conditions as we think fit upon the entrance of aliens into the United Kingdom. It was our duty as Commissioners to take what evidence we could. But we found that there was one class of witness that could not attend upon us, and so we attended upon them. We visited Stepney, and devoted two long days to hearing evidence there. We were told by those who could not deceive us the state of things which there existed, and we were also told, "If you do not take care there will be bloodshed here, for it is an intolerable condition of things." We were told of families sleeping out on staircases because there was no room for them inside the tenements; we were told of the in sanitary conditions which obtained under such a state of things; the details were sickening. Morality was gone and health was gone—all in consequence of this overcrowding. Moreover, the danger, instead of being lessened in its intensity, is likely to increase year by year in consequence of the demolition of houses. House accommodation is failing in this borough; it is becoming less while the population is increasing. Alien immigration is increasing, and yet nothing has been done.

Although I support this Bill for the value of what is contained in it, yet I do note with regret that the recommendation of the Royal Commission on this part of the question has no place in the Bill. I am not blaming the Government, because I believe that in the Bill of last year they did make an attempt to deal with this subject, but the opposition was so strong that they were unable to carry through the machinery. However, I do deeply regret that that which formed the main result of our deliberations has been for some reason or other passed by. The ordinary machinery against overcrowding may be sufficient in districts that exist under normal conditions, but it is not sufficient to deal with the abnormal conditions which obtain in this borough in the East End, and for the sake of decent life within our own centre of existence something will have to be done.

My noble friend dealt with the case of pauperism and the charge on the rates. I do not think he can make anything out of alien pauperism. The comparison is largely in favour of the alien. He is not so poor as he is supposed so be, and he has got friends to help him. The members of the Hebrew faith treat men of this class who belong to their persuasion with singular liberality. I agree that my noble friend has the right to say that we have these poor people amongst us and that they have to be relieved in their poverty, but, at the same time, they are not a charge upon the rates. In the borough of Stepney the proportion of paupers among natural-born subjects is as seven, whereas among the alien population of 54,000 it is as 2. 5, or about one to three in favour of the alien.

In the matter of crime my noble friend has a slightly stronger case, but I doubt very much whether the crime is amongst the class with which we are dealing. You get your criminals from the French, Swiss, and Italians who go to Soho and other districts; they are not the immigrants against whom this Bill is directed. The immigrant under this Bill is a man who comes as one of twenty or more passengers in the steerage portion of the ship. That is not the way the criminal comes over. He comes to rob, to forge, not from Bremen or Rotterdam, but from Prussia, France, or Italy, wherever it may be, and he is often an educated man, and not by any means the pauper this Bill deals with. I do not think there is much in the case either for crime or for pauperism. The rates are not suffering; they are burdened less by these men than by British subjects.

I wish to refer briefly to one view that has been put forward, I will not say by whom, but by some people who take an entirely political view of the situation which has been created by this alien immigration. They say, "We, the Government, or we who favour a certain policy, are going to protect the English working man; we are going to protect the British skilled workmen against the invasion of the foreigner or the alien," and anyone who refuses to give full effect to the protection against that invasion is, I do not know what they call him, a Little Englander, or whatever it may be. Such a use of this Bill, which is to deal with that most difficult problem t which I have referred, is an error that ought not to be lightly committed. I believe I am right in saying that those who had charge of this Bill in the House of Commons, the Home Secretary, and, I think, the Prime Minister, refused to accept that view of the Bill; they have very properly said that that is not the purpose of the Bill, and that they have not introduced it for that purpose. But the statement has been made, and I protest against so great an evil being used for a political purpose, and such a statement being addressed to people who do not know better. In the course of our investigation we did not find that the trade unionists came and complained of alien competition with skilled labour. There are no better trade unionists in the world than aliens: they are industrious to a degree; they keep op their wages, and they turn against the employers as quickly as any class. After making the fullest inquiry on the point— because, although trade unionists generally did not make the complaint, the miners of Lanarkshire objected to foreigners working amongst them— this is the result at which we on the Commission arrived— On the whole we arrive at the conclusion, after weighing the evidence on both sides, that it has not been proved that there is any serious direct displacement of skilled English labour."

That was our unanimous conclusion; there was no dissension on that point; it was agreed to by Mr. Alfred Lyttelton and by that most able and active member of the Commission, Major Evans Gordon, who represents Stepney and, if I may use the term, conducted the case against the aliens. And yet men of the Party to which both those Gentleman belong are announcing in the country that a triumph has been won, and that the Government deserve all praise because the battle of the English skilled artisan is being fought by virtue of this Bill. That was not the object with which the attention of the Home Secretary and the Government was called to this evil, and, as I understand, it was not the object with which they took the matter up. I think my noble friend will agree as to that, but I think it would be worth while, in case such a statement is repeated, that there should be a denial, and, if possible, a denial on the part of the Government, that that is the object of the Bill.

One word more. In one sense there has been a certain displacement of labour, and it arises in this way. The men who come here are mostly agriculturists, but they do not become agriculturists here. They seek to learn a trade, and they select the trade which can be most easily learnt. When they come over here they are what are called "greeners," and, like apprentices, they have to be taught their trade. While they are being taught they receive very little wages. They learn by degrees, and as they go on— the transition cannot be defined— they go on from the state of "greeners" until they become as skilled in their trades as any persons in this country. It is strange that even during this last wave, which has been going on now for over fifteen years, the men who came in unskilled have in some way or other learnt almost by instinct their trades, and have introduced a new system of working which has produced most beneficial effects. They have established a system of the sub-division of trades, in which, instead of one man taking a coat away and making it from beginning to end, a subdivision of labour is effected by which one man cuts out, another does the sewing, another the buttons, and so on, so that every coat has about five trades at work upon it, each one trained to perfection. The men have little to learn, and they arrive at a state of perfection in their particular sub-divisions of the labour. This sub-division also involves the whole of the work being done in one house, and under one supervision instead of being taken from house to house, with the result that they are now producing goods better made in these trades, I believe, and certainly much cheaper than they ever were before. If that is competition with skilled workmen— which they themselves do not say it is— no doubt it has been effected b/ this learning of trades, and the carrying on of trades in this way. But I say that to my mind that is a benefit to the consumers of this country, and is not a reason for condemning these men.

Do not suppose that these men are less worthy of consideration than men who are natural - born subjects. They are singularly sober; they are singularly industrious; they are singularly careful; and it is a remarkable fact that, in the East End of London in the school competitions the great majority of the prizes are now being taken by children of these immigrants, on account of their possessing greater intelligence— I am sorry to say it— than the children of natural-born parents. We are told by the schoolmasters that they set an. example to the other children, and as. they grow up, becoming industrious and learning much, as I have said, I believe we shall have no cause to regret their having been received amongst us and Welcomed to the hospitality of this country.

Still, I do recognise this evil; it does exist; and I think we have a right to say that if these men come here we are entitled to endeavour to obtain those who are desirable, and to exclude the undesirable. Therefore, with the qualifications I have stated, I shall certainly give a full support to this Bill.


My Lords, I should like to ask, after the speech to which we have just listened, what is the object of bringing in this Bill? The noble and learned Lord opposite, who knows more about this matter than any other Member of this House, has by his-speech destroyed all the reasons that have been given by the Government for introducing this measure. The Bill involves a totally new principle. I do not say that we have not a right to-exclude persons from our shores, but it is a right that we have never exercised, and it is a right that we have always been proud not to exercise. I can understand two grounds for the exclusion of aliens from these shores. I could understand it if foreigners came in in such numbers as to swamp our civilisation. I can conceive an inroad of yellow men by the million, which would absoutely destroy our civilisation and turn it into other channels. I can also conceive our right to exclude undesirable aliens, and these undesirable aliens have been described by two Committees as follows—criminals other than political, anarchists, prostitutes, persons infected by dangerous disease, lunatics, and idiots. The Commission of which the noble Lord opposite was the head recommended that the persons to be excluded should be criminals, prostitutes, and persons who might be a charge on the public funds. I regret that one category that of persons living on the proceeds of prostitution is not mentioned. But any criminals, any persons infected with dangerous disease, any persons of whatever kind of character, can come into this country under this Bill to any number they please so long as they come as cabin passengers. Therefore, it is right to describe this Bill as one for excluding the poor, because if he is a cabin passenger the alien may be as bad as you please; he will come within the scope of the Bill only if he is a steerage passenger. That is discrimination, however you may try to explain it, and it is discrimination between the rich and poor. Therefore, it cannot be denied that the Bill is aimed at the poor, in contradistinction to embracing both rich and poor alike.

Then, my Lords, I could understand -the Bill being aimed at poverty if the poverty involved a burden to the country of invasion. But, as the noble and learned Lord has just told us, there is no case for poverty. There is very little case for crime, and none at all for poverty. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord has pronounced an eulogium upon the business qualities and aptitudes of the alien population that might very well be applied to those aliens whom he described in the earlier portion of his speech as having been the founders of all our main industries.

In regard to the machinery of the Bill, I do not like this secret investigation— for it is a secret investigation— by the immigration officer at the particular port. As far as I can understand, it is a secret investigation subject to no appeal, except to three nominees, a tribunal set up for the purposes of this Bill, without anything in the nature of judicial qualifications. In this country if you want to attack a person, to call him a criminal or an undesirable alien, or to bring him into a category which is an un pleasant one, it is generally held that the onus of proof rests upon the person making the charge, but, as far as I can gather, under this Bill the poor alien is to prove his own innocence. If he comes in under certain categories he is an undesirable alien unless he can show reason why the immigration officer should permit him to land, and when the immigration officer has given his decision the only appeal is to the immigration board. If I recollect aright, there is a subsequent appeal to the Home Secretary, which I do not think is at all a good mixture of the judicial and the executive. From first to last, the alien is not given the protection of a judicial tribunal to decide upon his case.

These are grave objections which I see to the machinery of the Bill. For my part, I should be perfectly willing to support any proposal for excluding the classes of persons enumerated in the earlier Report, viz., prostitutes and persons living upon prostitution, criminals, anarchists, lunatics, and idiots, hut I would not make the measure applicable to one class of lunatic and not to another. If I excluded any I would exclude all. I would not permit a distinction to be drawn between persons who travelled in one part of the ship and persons who travelled in another. Under these circumstances, as I am told a division will not be taken against the Second Reading I shall certainly reserve to myself the right to raise some of these points in Committee, when I hope they will receive the serious consideration of the Government.


My Lords, I think the noble Marquess who leads this House must be rather sorry he spoke so quickly after my noble friend Lord Spencer, for the speech delivered from the other side of the House by one who knows more about this subject than probably anybody else in the House supported in the most complete way the facts and figures brought forward by Lord Spencer, and, in my humble judgment, constituted a strong argument against this Bill having been introduced at all. I think the noble and learned Lord opposite made it perfectly clear that this question of alien immigration was confined to a very small district, and that it existed in great urgency only in certain districts in London. If that be the case, surely it was not necessary to bring in a Bill applying to the whole of the country. It is a case for the application of local remedies to meet local requirements.

The noble and learned Lord opposite, Ly his description of his visit to Stepney, showed exactly what is the position of affairs there He said that he found great congestion, great overcrowding, but that the poor people who caused the congestion and overcrowding were not specially criminal or specially poor, that they were excellent workmen, that they turned out excellent work, and that they were doing excellent service to the country of which they had become the guests. It seems to me that that does not make a case for a general measure applying to the whole of the country such as is now brought before us, and I hope that when we get into Committee something may be done to alter or modify same of the provisions in the Bill. Like my noble friend behind me, I would gladly support any proposals for keeping oat the classes of aliens referred to in the Report of Lord James Commission. We none of us want to see the criminal and the diseased permitted to enter.

But, my Lords, there is one remark of the noble Marquess which I wish to emphasise for one moment. I think it was a remarkable statement. He declared distinctly and without modification that under this Bill poverty alone would not keep an alien out. He said that supposing a man was healthy and able-bodied, then Sub-section (a) of Section 3 of Clause 1 would not apply. I welcome that declaration, and I hope that in Committee we shall make that point clearer than it is at present in the Bill.

On Question, Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.