HL Deb 05 April 1962 vol 239 cc258-70

3.13 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, as, to my regret, there are two drafting Amendments, it may meet your Lordships' convenience if the Third Reading is taken formally and noble Lords who wish to speak reserve their remarks until we deal with the Motion that the Bill do now pass. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question. Bill read 3ª, with the Amendments.

Clause 6 [Application of Part II]:


My Lords, there are two Amendments in my name. As I said a moment ago, they are drafting Amendments. They have to be moved because the Amendments inserted in Clause 6 on the Committee stage on March 20 did not give full effect to the intentions of the Government as I explained them. I do not think I need go into the details. I beg to move.

Amendments moved— Page 5, line 39, leave out from beginning to ("being") in line 40 and insert ("a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who became such— (i) by virtue of "). Page 5,line 47, leave out from ("enactment") to ("or") in line 48.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question. Amendments agreed to.


My Lords, again, I hope your Lordships will not think it any discourtesy if I move this Motion formally and deal with any points that are raised in the debate when I come to reply. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, there is little that one can say at this stage of the Bill which is likely to have any influence on the noble and learned Viscount or on the Government generally. All that one can do at this stage is to make a few observations on the Bill as it is now before us and as it is likely to be passed after going back to another place. The Amendments moved in this House have been trifling and affect the Bill but little, and there is no doubt at all that in another place those Amendments will be accepted.

Speaking for myself and for a great many of my colleagues, I am bound to say that the discussions in this House have left me with the same feeling of regret and objection to the Bill as I had when it came to this House. It seems to me a deplorable thing that this country, having been regarded as home by members of the Commonwealth ever since its existence, should now put up a bar against immigrants and that we should put ourselves in the position of rejecting substantial numbers of them when they come here. We have raised our objection to this position right through the various stages of the Bill, and the situation has been the same in another place, where they actually voted against the Second and Third Readings. We do not propose to divide the House on the Third Reading, for the reasons that I gave on the occasion of the Second Reading. But our objection remains equally strong.

I greatly fear that the ties that join us with the Commonwealth will have been much weakened. That is the view of members of the Commonwealth which has been expressed in recent weeks in India and Pakistan and in the West Indies. With those words of regret, I am afraid that one can do no more than express the hope that the Bill, as it is implemented, will not work out against members of the Commonwealth as harshly as many of us fear. The Bill has not been much changed in character since it was first introduced in another place. The two main defects in the Bill, as we see it, are, first, that there is no provision for an appeal. I myself made the case, and other noble Lords have supported me, for providing some machinery for an appeal against a refusal of admission. We had some long and interesting arguments. I am afraid I remain unconvinced by the technical case, or by the practical case that was made against it.

I do not want to repeat the argument. I feel that this is not a question of principle in the sense that one ought not to have an appeal against a policy decision by a Minister. I feel that these are matters of discretion that would have been appealed against, not in regard to the policy of the Minister, but in regard to the way in which the discretion is exercised by his immigration officers; I feel that there was no justification for refusing an appeal on that ground. But there it is. The Bill contains this major defect and, in my view, if this provision had been made this would have done a great deal to reconcile the Commonwealth to this unhappy Bill.

The other defect, in my view, is the possibility of deportation of members of the Commonwealth for what might be minor offences punishable by imprisonment. On that point the noble and learned Viscount told the House on Report that he had tried to find some formula which would distinguish between minor offences not justifying deportation and major offences. We were told that both he and the Home Secretary had found themselves unable to devise a formula which would clearly distinguish between the two types of offence, and that they were therefore left with the criterion that any offence which was punishable by imprisonment could be the subject for a recommendation for deportation. I am sorry that they were not able to go further and devise some- thing which would have met that objection.

I am bound to say, my Lords, in all fairness, if we are to have this Bill at all—which, as I say, I deplore—and subject to the two points I have raised, that I think the Government have done what is reasonable by way of administration to ensure that it will be administered in as broadminded way as possible. I would instance the fact that the Bill comes to an end, unless Parliament otherwise directs, on December 31, 1963. I think that is a major concession, and will give us all an opportunity of looking at the matter again. I hope that the Government have not necessarily made up their minds that this Bill when an Act, will be automatically re-enacted at the end of December, 1963, or that it will be automatically re-enacted in its present form. I hope that the intervening period will be used to ascertain how far the Bill can be improved for the purpose of maintaining the best possible relationships with the Commonwealth.

I think also there is a substantial improvement in the administration in that the Instructions to the immigration officers provide that in the case of a refusal to admit entry the matter must go to a senior immigration officer. That has been welcomed, by members of the Commonwealth so far as it goes, and the fact that only a senior officer can ultimately decide that an immigrant should be refused immigration is regarded by them as a concession. Well, of course, it is an appeal from Caesar unto Caesar. It is not an appeal to an objective, independent person, but an appeal from one officer in the Home Office to a more senior officer in the Home Office. It certainly does not go anything like all the way we had hoped for, but it is a step in the right direction. There are other Instructions which have been published by the Home Secretary (which he has promised to republish in their final form) which go some way towards reconciling members of the Commonwealth to this Bill.

I hope that the position will turn out better than I fear, and certainly I promise the Government that, if I am here, I shall return to the attack before December, 1963.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, if I may add a very short postscript, in a very few words, I am in favour of this Bill, though like the Government themselves I have reluctance about undertaking it. But, having read some of the publicity which surrounded it outside the Palace of Westminster, in journals in this country and outside it, I have come to the conclusion that there are three groups involved: those for the Bill, those against it, and those who have read it. This measure does not, as has been claimed in some places, ban immigration, but merely controls it for a provisional period. All it boils down to is one straightforward physical fact: the absorptive capacity of this country and its inability to continue to receive immigrants on this scale.

Unfortunately, I was unable to be present at the Second Reading debate on this Bill, but I read the proceedings with great care. I read with particular care the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and if he will not mind my not quoting his exact words, he said something like this: no exposition of the clauses could convince him or his friends that the Bill was either desirable or necessary. It is difficult to see how a Bill could be desirable if it were not necessary, and if the Government came to the House and said that they thought that a Bill was necessary, but they did not think it was desirable, they would be laying themselves open to a charge of political cowardice.

Lord Silkin has said that it is "deplorable" that the long-standing fundamental right of entry for citizens of the Commonwealth to Britain should be controlled in any way. My Lords, there have been other long-standing practices in the Commonwealth which, in the evolution of the Commonwealth, have come to an end. There was a time when this country could absorb the entire primary production of the Commonwealth; there was a time when the Royal Navy could absolutely guarantee the defence of the Commonwealth. But, in changing circumstances, both those things have gone. What this Bill does enshrine—the really important Commonwealth point, and this is the basis of the Commonwealth relationship—is that each Commonwealth country pays attention first to its own citizens, secondly to Commonwealth citizens, and the foreigner comes in the last place.

There is one more charge against this Bill: that the timing is bad. If you accuse a measure of bad timing, it is either too early or too late. I do not for a moment think it is too late, but those who said it is too early tended to give the impression that if we had waited a year or two more racial hatreds and troubles might have quieted down and this Bill would not have caused such a furore as it has. I am bound to say that I am not so optimistic as they are. I think that racialism is going to be with us for many years to come. Those who principally object to this Bill do so on the grounds of misconception as to what it contains. Misconception is a thing one tries patiently to remove. But you cannot legislate, or forbear from legislating, to fit a misconception. With this Bill very soon to become law, I believe it was necessary to take this step. We shall always remember the need to take it with regret, but without a tinge of remorse. Let us join together and see that the provisions of this Bill are carried out with the maximum kindliness and tolerance.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord opposite, who has always shown such a keen interest in the Commonwealth, supports this Bill, especially so since I agreed with what he said about a very important feature of the policy of Commonwealth countries. He said that Commonwealth countries put their own citizens first; they then treat citizens of other Commonwealth countries rather differently; and, in the third place, even more different, is the treatment accorded to citizens of foreign countries. What we are complaining about is that this Bill is for the first time, by closing the open door, putting Commonwealth citizens in very much the same position as foreigners. I should have hoped, from the logic of the noble Lord opposite, that he would agree with us in opposing the Bill.

Now, my Lords, I should like to say a very few words—because I think no more than a few words are appropriate on the Third Reading—in support of my noble friend Lord Silkin. He has said that we object to this Bill, in spite of the undoubted improvements that have been made during the passage of the Bill through the House, because it is likely to weaken the links that bind the Commonwealth together. I think the fundamental reason is this. After it has passed into law this Bill will be regarded as colour bar legislation, and no amount of explanation will alter the impression that it will make on the minds of the populations of the non-European countries in the Commonwealth.

Of course, this is not colour bar legislation in the sense of the legislation in certain African countries, and no one would regard the Government as animated by any sort of prejudice. At the same time, the fact is that it will operate to keep out, in the great majority of cases, citizens of the new Commonwealth countries, which are, of course, the countries which are not of European origin. This will result in a very widespread loss of good will, and I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, in his analysis of what keeps the Commonwealth together, because I think that good will is even more important than citizenship. I believe that good will is the fundamental factor, even more fundamental than common interests; and there will be an enormous loss of good will in all the non-European countries in the Commonwealth.

So that we can have a little evidence from the Commonwealth, I should like, in conclusion, to quote, what some Commonwealth Ministers have said about this Bill. First of all, the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru, speaking in the Indian Parliament, has said that he objects to the Bill because it is based on racial considerations. One would expect the West Indies to object particularly strongly, because the Bill will operate, in the main, against people coming here from the West Indian territories; and Mr. Manley, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, has said this: England has failed the first time it has had to cope with the problem of assimilating a fairly substantial number of persons of a different race and colour. The Commonwealth will never be the same again. Mr. Grantley Adams, the Prime Minister of the Federation of the West Indies, has said that 90 per cent. of his countrymen—and, of course, he was speaking for all the countries in the Federation—were convinced that the new Bill was colour bar legislation. He went on: We are essentially British in the West Indies. All our education and upbringing makes us that way. Take the average man in the street. He may be dark, quite black, but when he talks about the mother country he does not mean Africa; he means Britain. Now you are letting us down and yourselves down. There are West Indians who never want to hear the word 'England' again. Once you get rid of that historic good will, God help us all. My Lords, those are public expressions of opinion by Commonwealth Ministers, but I am quite certain, knowing the tact of Commonwealth Ministers, that many of them who share the views that I have just quoted would not have expressed them in public. I only hope that, when the Bill passes into law, it will be administered in as friendly and sympathetic a fashion as possible towards immigrants; and that in all marginal cases, when there is doubt as to whether a man should be admitted or turned back, whatever discretion the law may allow will be exercised in favour of the immigrant.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, it is clear from the speeches we have just heard, that the question which still remains, as it was at the beginning of our discussions, is the question of principle; and that there is really no attack on the framework of the Bill once the principle is conceded, except on two relatively minor points. I want to say one thing—and I say it with all seriousness and realisation of the feeling with which the two speeches from the Opposition have been made; that is, that nothing has happened since the Government introduced this legislation to convince them that they were wrong in so doing; and, on the first point, I believed that the time had come when a control had to be imposed.

I realise that the figures which I shall give to your Lordships in regard to recent months must include some persons who have accelerated their plans in order to arrive here before the controls take effect. Nevertheless, it is significant that the net inward movement from the West Indies, East and West Africa, and the Mediterranean and Asian territories of the Commonwealth for the first quarter of 1962 was 38,000, against 19,000 for the corresponding months of 1961—just double. We also have information about unemployment among these Commonwealth immigrants, from the monthly count taken as recently as March 12; and the number of unemployed then stood at 32,000, an increase of nearly 10,000 on the November figure. Making all allowances for variations, I suggest that, to put it at its lowest, these figures controvert the suggestion that this legislation is premature.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, raised what I may call the colour bar question. I think that he put it both ways: that it is colour bar legislation or that it might be regarded as such, even if it were not. It is inevitable that the Bill will make its biggest impact on the citizens of those territories which have been sending us most immigrants. That must follow as night follows day. But to say on that account that a Bill which applies to the whole Commonwealth is a colour bar Bill is in logic a non sequitur against which I must protest, however eminent the person who indulges in the non sequitur. Similarly some people have tried to make the fact that the Irish are not dealt with specially appear as evidence on this point. Really, my Lords. I do not think anything could be more far-fetched. Apart from the a priori fact that all Irish questions can be dealt with only by a procedure which is prima facie anomalous, there is the further point that special treatment of the Irish is an answer to the facts of geography and the like; and it cannot be used—and I urge everyone to recognise this, because I do hope that this point will not be persisted in—as a basis for criticising the decision which has been made.

I then come, my Lords, to the general point. As I said when I introduced this Bill to your Lordships' House, it may be a matter of regret that we cannot preserve the wholly open door, but, as my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir said, one cannot ignore changing circumstances. And when the revisiting of the Homeland by people from the Commonwealth, which is something which we all cherish, changes its character to an immigration in mass, commercially supported and resulting in figures which make the absorption a matter of difficulty and (again as my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir pointed out) the dangers a matter of consideration, then we have a change in circumstances. And just as it is not possible for a private person to continue indefinitely, in the literal sense, to keep open house, so the Government felt that they could not forgo indefinitely the power to restrict the intake of population to what our own community could reasonably be expected to absorb. My Lords, I am not going to reply on other matters, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will agree, even if I have not convinced him, that I have done my best to give a full reply on the points which he raised.

I want to turn for only a moment to what is universally recognised as the happier side. As I said, it was not necessary (because that was not really the line of criticism) to change the Bill itself, but we have. I think, made the most useful improvements in administrative guidance, and I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have contributed to that. We have in the White Paper already published a clear statement of a humane and sympathetic administration of the Bill, but, to meet points raised in your Lordships' House, we are going to put in the formalisation of the rule about obtaining a second and higher opinion before anyone is refused admission.

Then, in answer to the point raised eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, we are going to see that the publicity, not only in this country but throughout the Commonwealth is made wide and clear, so that no intending immigrant will be under any misapprehension. In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who has just spoken, we are going to ensure that the revised Instructions, improved in these and other directions, will be available for your Lordships to study.

My Lords, I am not going to detain your Lordships further except to say, with great sincerity, that, despite the differences that have expressed themselves, I am most grateful to your Lordships for the help which I have received from all quarters of the House in placing this Bill before your Lordships.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, I think this might be the appropriate moment for me to intervene, in order to repeat a statement which has by now been made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place on the Report of the Committee on Security Procedures in the Public Service. The statement is as follows:

"The House will recall that the Committee were appointed to review these procedures in the light of certain convictions for offences under the Official Secrets Act. I welcome this opportunity "—

with which I am sure your Lordships would like to associate yourselves—

" to express to Lord Radcliffe and his colleagues the Government's gratitude for the care which they devoted to this important inquiry. Although their Report discloses no radical defect in existing security procedures, it contains a number of valuable proposals for their improvement and intensification. The Government have accepted the Committee's recommendations and are putting them into effect as rapidly as possible.

"In accordance with the undertaking which I gave to the House on the 11th of May last year, I have discussed the Committee's Report with the right honourable gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and some of his colleagues. The Report is based on a comprehensive and searching scrutiny of our security procedures, but it also demonstrates the unique difficulty of maintaining absolutely effective security in a free society. The Committee have themselves observed—and I am quoting their own words—that 'In considering any additional security measures to recommend, we have reminded ourselves that security weaknesses … are part of the price that we pay for having a social and political system that men want to defend'. The Government believe that publication will help to promote a wider public understanding of both the importance and the difficulty of the problem of security; and they have therefore decided to publish the recommendations of the Report, together with the supporting reasoning, to the maximum extent compatible with the public interest, and the requirements of security, preserving as nearly as possible the substance and sequence of the Committee's argument in their own words. A White Paper is accordingly being presented to-day; and copies will be available in the Vote Office in the normal way.

"In addition to the general question of security procedures in the Public Service, three specific issues were referred to the Committee. On May 30 last, in reply to a Question by the right honourable gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I undertook to invite the Committee to consider whether new methods of security were required in industrial establishments engaged on secret Government work; on July 13, in reply to a Question by my honourable friend the Member for Lowestoft, I agreed to bring to the Committee's attention the position of officers of Civil Service staff associations and trade unions in relation to security; and on August 3, in reply to a Question by the right honourable gentleman the Member for Belper, I undertook to refer to the Committee the question of the D Notice procedure. The Committee have examined all these three issues; and the Government accept the recommendations which they have made on them.

"I must emphasise, in conclusion, that the White Paper contains as much of the Report as, in the Government's judgment, can safely be published. I think I can say that the right honourable gentleman and his colleagues who have been consulted concur in this judgment. I trust that I shall have the support of the House in resisting pressure for the disclosure of other parts of the text which it would be contrary to the public interest to reveal."

My Lords, that concludes my right honourable friend's statement.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the Leader of the House for giving us the Prime Minister's statement. May I say at once that I agree with the last part of it, that in the publication made now in the White Paper the Government have gone as far as they possibly can, with reasonable regard to safety and security, in letting the people and Parliament know the facts? It is exceedingly difficult in dealing with these matters of very high secrecy, esepecially in defence matters—which gave rise to this question—to give all the facts one would like to give to those who are, as it were, part of the machine of government. That is always found to be literally impossible. I think that the Government have now gone as far as they possibly can in this White Paper, and I am obliged for the statement.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, may I just add from these Benches our approval and thanks to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for giving us this information? We are perfectly prepared to put our confidence in the Government in disclosing as much as they can, and we appreciate that it would, of course, be quite quixotic to make defence arrangements and then to disclose them in a White Paper. What I think many of us valued most in his remarks was the recognition of the fact that we are not a police state, and are prepared to pay for it. We are prepared to pay exceedingly high for it and I hope that we shall never approach being a police state in any circumstances.


My Lords, I should like to thank both the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for what they have said. I know the Leader of the Opposition has very wide experience of these matters, and I am very glad of the endorsement which he has given.