§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.2
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, may I first mention a matter of personal regret to me and, I am sure, to all of your Lordships? I am told that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, who leads the Liberal Party, has slipped a disc and will be unable to be here to speak this afternoon. I am sure that your Lordships would like me to express, on behalf of the whole House, our hopes for a rapid recovery and that the noble Lord will soon be with us again, to make the speeches which we all find so acceptable.
I think that it would be convenient if I first dealt with Part I of the Bill, which covers the control of entry. The Government gave prolonged and anxious consideration to the serious questions at issue before deciding to ask Parliament to make provision for controlling immigration in this country from the Commonwealth. To explain the reasons why they came to the conclusion that the time was appropriate for the introduction of this Bill, it is necessary to give some statistics.
The reports of the Oversea Migration Board give estimates, which are made by the Registrars General of the difference between the total population of the United Kingdom at the beginning and end of the calendar year, in so far as it is due to movement in and out of the country and not to excess of births over deaths. In 1957, there was a net outward—I repeat, outward—balance of 72,000.
3 In 1958, this had changed to a net inward balance of 45,000; and by 1960 the net inward balance had nearly doubled to 82,000. The figure for 1961 is likely to have exceeded 160,000.
These figures do not give a picture of Commonwealth immigration. They include aliens, persons from overseas whose stay here may be only temporary, and an undetermined amount of immigration from the Republic of Ireland. Nevertheless, they strikingly illustrate the trend.
On some aspects of this inward migration, there is more precise information. For some years, the Home Office has been recording, through the immigration officers at our ports and airports, the inward and outward movement of passengers to and from certain Commonwealth countries: the West Indies, India and Pakistan, other territories in Asia, and territories in East and West Africa, and the Mediterranean. The figures are the total movements of all kinds, including short-term visitors, but the short-term movements in both directions roughly cancel each other out. The net inward balance was about 43,000 in 1955.
It dropped to 30,000 in 1958, and to 21,000 in 1959. This drop may well have resulted from the slight economic recession in this country and the fairly stringent measure of emigration control applied by the Governments of India and Pakistan. In 1960 the net inward balance rose to 58,000. In 1961, it rose to 136,000. The figure for January, 1962, was nearly 11,000, whereas in January of 1961 it was less than 3,000.
The United Kingdom is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. At present about a quarter of the entire population of the earth is legally entitled to come and live here. There can scarcely be anyone who would advocate limitless immigration; and the Government, after watching the situation closely for a number of years, have come very reluctantly to the conclusion that the time for control has now arrived. This is a breach, the first breach, of the cherished tradition that all British subjects are free to come here at will and stay as long as they like. The Government have viewed this prospect with repugnance; they bring this measure for- 4 ward with great regret, and they would not have brought it forward, if they had not been completely convinced of the need to introduce a measure of control.
Some noble Lords may urge that there is no need for a control just yet, since the immigrants would not come if there were no work for them, and by and large they have succeeded in obtaining work. While it is true that our economy has been remarkably successful in absorbing immigrants even in these large numbers, it would be rash to assume that no difficulty can arise. The Minister of Labour stated last November that the number of coloured immigrants unemployed, namely, some 21,700, was double what it had been the previous November. It represented something like 6 per cent. of the total coloured working force. The figures at the beginning of February of this year had risen to 32,000. Nor is employment the only difficulty.
The immigrants tend to concentrate in certain areas, particularly those where there is most work to he had; but these are often the areas where there is a considerable shortage of houses. Uncontrolled immigration into those areas adds to the problems of local authorities in their slum clearance and rehousing programmes and tends to turn them into a labour of Sisyphus. To shut one's eyes to the social tensions inherent in that situation is not, I sincerely believe, in the best interests of the immigrants themselves.
Clause 1 defines the persons to whom control of immigration is or is not applicable. The objective here is to exempt from control persons who, in common parlance, "belong" to the United Kingdom and therefore should have a right of entry, or re-entry, here. One would normally expect this to be expressed in terms of citizenship, but there is no such thing as a citizenship of the United Kingdom. There is a citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and this covers a Jamaican who has always lived in Jamaica as much as an Englishman who has always lived in England. Some test other than citizenship has therefore had to be devised, and it must be one that can be applied quickly and effectively by the immigration officer at the port of entry. The test which has been devised is based on the type of passport held, and on the place of birth, which is 5 always shown in the passport. The immigration officer has only to look at the passport to discover whether the holder is exempt from control. It is to be emphasised that the definitions of "belongers" (if I may use that word) contained in Clause 1 are not of people who will be freely admitted after examination, but of people who are legally exempted from control. With these exceptions, the clause applies the power of control to all Commonwealth citizens, British protected persons, and citizens of the Republic of Ireland—although there are special difficulties with which I shall deal later, in applying the control between the two British Islands.
The Government have never contemplated a system of control based on race or colour. Nor have the Government thought it right to suggest any system of territorial quotas. Such a system is essentially discriminatory if it implies that the citizens of one Commonwealth territory are less desirable than those of another; and there would be very formidable practical difficulties in operating a quota system which was equitable and could be demonstrated to be equitable in its application. After long consideration, the Government came to the conclusion that the only viable system of control was one based on employment. It is therefore a key provision of the Bill, as is explained in the Memorandum prefixed to it, that a Commonwealth citizen coming here for employment is entitled to admission only it he holds a voucher issued by the Ministry of Labour.
Applicants for vouchers will fall into three categories—Categories A, B and C. First, there will be those who have a definite and genuine job to come to. Applications in this Category, Category A, will be handled as follows. An employer who wants to employ a named person in a Commonwealth country will give particulars to the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry, through the employment exchange service, will seek any necessary confirmation that a job is there for him. If the Ministry are satisfied that the vacancy is a genuine one, a voucher will be issued. It will be sent to the employer who has applied, and it will be for him to send it on to the man for woman for whom he has asked. There is a vital difference be- 6 tween this system and the system of labour permits for aliens. A labour permit is not issued for an alien unless there is no indigenous labour available; but there will be no such limitation in the case of Category A vouchers issued in respect of Commonwealth citizens.
The second Category, Category B, consists of persons who possess training, skill or professional qualifications likely to be useful in this country. It will be for the Government to decide, from time to time, in the light of employment prospects and needs in this country, what kinds of skill or other qualifications will be covered. These will apply to all Commonwealth countries without discrimination. The kind of people we have in mind are, first, skilled craftsmen, especially in the building and engineering trades; secondly, draughtsmen and higher technicians; and, thirdly, those with university degrees, and with professional qualifications such as teachers and nurses. Vouchers will be issued as freely to applicants in Category B as in Category A.
The third Category, C, will consist of all other people who want to come to this country to take up employment. Vouchers in this category will be issued, (a) on a "first come, first served" basis; and, (b), in numbers which the Government from time to time consider right, having regard to our capacity to absorb immigrants into our national life.
Such matters as the housing situation and educational facilities will have to be considered, as well as employment prospects. The rate at which the vouchers are issued will have to be kept under constant review and may have to be altered at fairly short notice. The number fixed will be an "overall" or "global" figure—not a figure for each territory.
The arrangements for handling applications for vouchers in Categories B and C will vary from territory to territory and will depend on the outcome of the consultations we are having with the Governments concerned. In some countries applications for vouchers will be sent direct to the Ministry of Labour here. In others they will be sent to our High Commissioner in the territory concerned or to the Government of the territory, who will forward them here. Generally speaking, we shall send the 7 vouchers to the High Commissioner or the local Government to be forwarded to the applicant. There are one or two points in the scheme which I should like to emphasise, so as to avoid possible misunderstanding. The persons to whom Category C vouchers will be issued will be job-seekers, not people who already have a job promised to them. There will be no system of job control after admission: control is applied at the port of entry. Once in, the voucher holder will be free to move about, without registering with the police, and to change his address and his job at will.
My Lords, I now turn to persons other than voucher holders. The general effect of Clause 2 is that control of entry is to be exercised by the immigration officer at the port of arrival. Under subsection (1) he may refuse admission, or he may grant it subject to a time condition, with which he may couple a restriction on taking work. Subsections (4) and (5) provide for the refusal of admission on grounds of health, criminal record and security, or because a deportation order is in force against the individual.
There are, however, important qualifications to these general powers. In the first place, returning residents, and wives and children of Commonwealth citizens already settled here, and of Commonwealth citizens who are themselves admitted cannot be placed on conditions and can be kept out only on the ground that a deportation order is in force against the individual. Then, vouchers holders cannot be admitted on conditions, and can be kept out only on grounds of health, criminal record, security, or previous deportation. Students, and visitors able to support themselves for the period of their intended stay can be placed on conditions, but can be kept out only on grounds of health, criminal record, security, or previous deportation. The immigration officer must carry out his functions according to instructions issued by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary has already published a draft of his instructions as a White Paper. I hope your Lordships have the White Paper and have had an opportunity of considering it, because the instructions have been widely recognised as indicating that the powers conferred on immigration 8 officers by Clause 2 are to be exercised in a liberal spirit.
Then there is the important arrangement to be made in respect of entry certificates. Paragraph 4 of the White Paper explains that administrative arrangements will be made whereby Commonwealth citizens, other than those who need vouchers, may apply for entry certificates to the appropriate United Kingdom representatives in their own country or in the country where they may be living. This arrangement may perhaps be described as a system of "optional visas". In no circumstances will the possession of an entry certificate be compulsory, but in practice it will not be possible for the possessor of it to be kept out except on grounds of health, criminal record or security, or as a result of knowledge that it had been obtained by misrepresentation. It is hoped that the system will prove to be for the convenience of travellers and that it will meet the legitimate anxiety felt by individuals—for example, a student who may feel that there is some doubt whether he would be admitted and wishes to remove that doubt before he starts on his journey.
I need not detain your Lordships with any detailed exposition of Clauses 3 and 4, which provide the necessary ancillary provisions for enforcement. Clause 3 introduces the First Schedule, the purport of which is set out on the second page of the Explanatory Memorandum, and deal with examinations by immigration officers, the procedure of refusal and removal, and other things, while Clause 4 sets out the offences.
The application of Part I of the Bill to the Irish Republic is a matter of considerable difficulty. Citizens of the Republic, though not British subjects, possess under Statute all the privileges and obligations of British subjects. This has been the position for the last thirteen years, anomalous though it may be. As noble Lords on the other side of the House will remember, this Bill was introduced by a Labour Government; but I want to say that I myself, on behalf of the Conservative Opposition, agreed with the Bill which the Labour Government put forward. I remind your Lordships of only one point; that is, that Mr. Chuter Ede was in charge of the 9 Bill. He was then Home Secretary, holding that office between the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and myself. Those of your Lordships who were in another place thirteen years ago may remember Mr. Chuter Ede saying (I may quote what he said thirteen Sessions ago) that it was almost impossible to deal with anything connected with Ireland without creating an anomaly or maintaining an anomaly. Therefore, as the anomaly is there, I thought it only right that I should remind your Lordships how it came into being.
There was, however, no reason in principle why citizens of the Republic, who are outside the Commonwealth, should have been exempted from a control imposed on Commonwealth citizens. The Bill was therefore drafted so as to cover them. But the Government have from the start realised the very great difficulty there would be, for practical reasons, in operating the entry control against the Southern Irish. We know that movement from the Republic into the United Kingdom is on quite a large scale, but many of those who come are seasonal workers, or are visitors who come for quite a short time.
To control traffic from the Republic would be ineffective so long as there was free entry from the Republic into Northern Ireland and no control between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. But to control the Northern Irish land border is a matter of great difficulty. It was not attempted even in war time, and it would be intolerable to impose, in peace time, a control between two parts of the United Kingdom. I myself took off control early in 1952. I studied the question carefully at the time and, I repeat, it would be intolerable to impose, in peace time, a control between two parts of the United Kingdom. In these circumstances the Government decided not to apply an entry control in practice to traffic from the Republic at the present time, but to take the power to do so, as a reserve power, for use if it should become necessary.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, may I just ask the noble and learned Viscount a question, as he says he has taken a personal interest in this matter? Is there still a Customs control between Northern 10 and Southern Ireland along this border?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am almost certain there is, because I have been at the border myself and watched the cattle, for example, having their ears punched as they came over the border. I certainly was under the impression that there is Customs control, and I think I am right.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I was dealing with the position that in these circumstances the Government decided not to apply an entry control in practice to traffic from the Republic at the present time but to take the power to do so, as a reserve power, for use if it should become necessary. They accept the principle that if the power to control immigrants is ever to he exercised it should be exercised at the point of entry into the United Kingdom; and this power is provided for in the Bill.
The decision not to apply the entry control at present has been misrepresented in some quarters as an indication that the Bill was really based on colour prejudice. It is nothing of the kind: it is a concession to the facts of geography. In face of the fact that the Bill applies as much to citizens of Canada, Australia and New Zealand as to those of India, Pakistan and the West Indies, it is quite wrong to labour the almost inevitable anomalies which always seem to arise in any dealings with Ireland, as I have already pointed out; and to misrepresent them as evidence of colour prejudice is I submit to your Lordships, far-fetched in the extreme. Returning for a moment to Lord Silkin's point, I would say that my recollection is that there are some sixteen roads between Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. But, of course, in addition there is a very considerable land frontier which can be crossed by those who have the intent. That is the sort of picture I have in my mind.
I now come to the question of the duration of Part I of the Bill. In pursuance of Clause 5 of the Bill the entry control provisions expire at the end of 1963, but will be renewable annually thereafter under the expiring laws continuance procedure. Before the first review takes place, the Government hope 11 to have a good deal more information available about the facts of immigration from the Republic of Ireland, from the records of the social service Departments of the Government and by use of sampling procedures in respect of the traffic between the two British Islands. But, my Lords, the position is that the whole matter must be renewed in about eighteen months, and your Lordships will have a chance of looking at the whole picture again.
Part II of the Bill is intended as permanent legislation. It differs from Part I in another way also, in being much less controversial; and your Lordships will be delighted to know it can therefore be dealt with much more quickly. It is obvious that, if the principle of the open door to Commonwealth citizens is being breached, powers should be taken to deport, and thereafter to keep out, those who offend seriously against our laws. By virtue of Clause 6 of the Bill, people connected with the United Kingdom by birth, parentage, naturalisation or marriage, will be exempted from deportation; as also, by virtue of subsection (2) of Clause 7, will anyone who has been ordinarily resident here for five years before his conviction. Subject to these exceptions, Clause 7 gives a court power to make a recommendation for deportation when an immigrant is convicted of an offence punishable with imprisonment. Under Clause 8, appeal will lie against the recommendation in the same way as against the conviction. Deportation will be exercised by the Home Secretary, under Clause 9, acting on a recommendation from a court. He will not be obliged to act on the recommendation; he is left a discretion. Clauses 10 and 11 contain the necessary ancillary provisions for the enforcement of Part II of the Bill. Clause 10 introduces the Second Schedule, dealing with detention and removal arrangements; and Clause 11 creates offences in regard to deportation orders.
There is one consequential provision in Part III of the Bill that calls for special mention. Clause 12 of the Bill raises from twelve months to five years the qualifying period of ordinary residence in the United Kingdom entitling a citizen of any other self-governing Com- 12 monwealth country to be registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. This is inescapable. Citizenship of most of the self-governing Commonwealth countries is automatically lost, under the law of the country concerned, on voluntary acquisition of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. The effect is that a person who has lost his original citizenship in this way cannot be deported. If an immigrant could register as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies after only twelve months' residence he could, therefore, render the deportation provisions of the Bill ineffective, so far as he was concerned, by so doing. The qualifying period for registration has therefore been brought into line with the five-year period after which an immigrant becomes exempt from deportation. The clause retains the Secretary of State's present discretion to accept a lesser period in appropriate cases.
The remaining clauses of the Bill are general provisions applying to Parts I and II of the Bill. Clauses 13 and 14 deal with arrest and detention, and Clause 14 with penalties and proceedings. Clause 15 confers the power to vary or revoke orders made or directions given under the Bill. Clause 16 provides for the appointment of immigration officers and medical inspectors, and enables Customs officers to act as immigration officers where necessary, and your Lordships will recall that I have already referred to the provision in this clause that immigration officers shall act in accordance with the Secretary of State's directions.
Clause 17 confers exemption on diplomats and members of the Forces, and Clause 18 and the Third Schedule allow for the establishment of the necessary immigration control in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Expenses are provided for in Clause 19, and Clause 20 makes repeal provisions consequent upon Clause 12. Clause 21 deals with interpretation and date of operation, and your Lordships will observe that different operative dates may be prescribed for the different purposes of the Bill.
My Lords, in bringing forward this measure the Government have shouldered a distasteful duty. The measure is being conceived in a practical 13 spirit by applying the control at the point of entry, where it can be applied most easily and effectively, and dispensing with oppressive or unnecessary regulation after admission, and by directing the control primarily to the question of employment. This is a measure to control immigration, not to stop it; and we hope to continue to benefit in the fields where immigration has already brought us so much help—for example, in our hospitals and public transport services, and in our textile and other industries—while saving both ourselves and the immigrants from the effects of an unregulated inrush that may be beyond our capacity to absorb.
Every effort has been made to cater for those who can reasonably be regarded as belonging to the United Kingdom and for those who ought to be able to rely on being freely admitted, such as genuine visitors and students. The White Paper is, as I have said, an indication of the liberal spirit in which the powers of control will be exercised; and the Government have also given evidence that theirs is not just a negative approach, in that they have undertaken to set up an advisory body to help on problems connected with the welfare of immigrants and their integration into the community. The Government ask your Lordships to say not only that an inescapable problem has come upon us but that a reasonable, fair and humane solution has been found, by giving a Second Reading to this Bill. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, we have, as usual, heard from the noble and learned Viscount a very clear statement in exposition of this Bill. Let me say at once that if it were possible to reconcile those of us on this side of the House to the provisions of this Bill no one could do it better or more persuasively than the noble and learned Viscount himself. I must say at the very outset that we on this side object to this Bill in principle, and no exposition of the various clauses in the Bill can satisfy us that this is a Bill which is either desirable or necessary in the interests of this country. I want to set out straight 14 away what are the principal objections that we have to the Bill. The first is that this is a departure from the long and, to use the noble and learned Viscount's own words, cherished tradition of keeping our shores open to all Commonwealth citizens, and that this has been an important link binding the Commonwealth together. Secondly, we take the view that this Bill and the manner of its origin and introduction greatly weaken our ties with the Commonwealth, already less firm on account of our talks on the Common Market, although I do not want to be held to be expressing any views on the Common Market at this stage. Thirdly, we think that the Bill is widely regarded in the Commonwealth as a measure of racial discrimination.
There can be no dispute that this is a departure from a long tradition; the noble and learned Viscount said so himself. It is said that there is similar legislation in the Commonwealth countries, and I believe there is, but in fact it is not operated against us in India or in the West Indies and, so far as I know, it is not operated against us in other parts of the Commonwealth as well, although I would admit that most of the Commonwealth countries have legislation which enables them to restrict immigration. I may say that in France, which is comparable, entry is free from all parts of the French territories abroad without any discrimination at all. But even if there were discrimination or restrictions imposed upon us on the part of the Commonwealth, I would say that we have a special place as the centre of the Commonwealth, as the Mother Country who should welcome her children at all times, all the more when they are in the greatest need of her, as the place which many members of the Commonwealth look to and talk of as home.
There is no doubt at all that this Bill will affect most of all immigration from the West Indies. Your Lordships will remember that we owe a special duty to the West Indies. We must never forget their origin and that in the past they were forcibly abducted from their homes in West Africa and taken to the West Indies and there enslaved for the enrichment of people in this country. If to-day these islands are overcrowded and the 15 people poor, as they are—and those of your Lordships who have been to the West Indies recently will have been impressed by the tremendous contrast between the great show of wealth and luxury that you see in places like Jamaica, on the one hand, and the way in which the poor people live, on the other—if these islands are in that condition and the people are overcrowded and poor, we have some responsibility for this and we owe them a duty to help and not to frustrate them. The people of the West Indies—and I refer to them because, whatever we may say, the burden of this legislation will fall almost entirely upon them—have remained loyal and devoted to the country at all times, and particularly in the hour of our need, and they, above all, should be made welcome in the place which, as I have said, they look to as home. If conditions become intolerable in the West Indies, where can they go? They have nowhere else to go but to this country.
This Bill originated under political pressure by appeals to our lowest feelings of jealousy, prejudice and intolerance. There can be no doubt that there has been a propaganda movement for some time on the part of a number of honourable Members of another place, at Party Conferences and so on, which has gradually aroused feelings, which I admit were dormant and liable to be kindled very easily; people were easily prejudiced. But this is the outcome of several years of propaganda, and racial propaganda at that; and this Bill would not have been introduced but for the success of that propaganda.
I am not accusing the members of the Government of racial prejudice—I should not think that that accusation was true—though I accuse some of their supporters who have been putting forward their views and gaining considerable strength for them in the country. But I do accuse the Government of not having the firmness, the courage and the determination to stand up to this agitation and to fight for what they believe to be right. That their heart is not in this Bill there can be no doubt. One need only have heard the Home Secretary introducing the Bill, the Minister of Labour winding up in another place, and the noble and learned Viscount in this House to realise that this is a task 16 which is not congenial to them. I will not say that the noble and learned Viscount was apologetic, but I thought he went as far as being almost apologetic for introducing this Bill at all.
A strong and courageous Government would have resisted this pressure and not succumbed to it, and I greatly deplore the fact that the Government have not been firmer about it. They could in any case have talked the matter over with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers most affected, as one talks over mutual problems in a family. They should not have rushed this measure by making it among the first to be introduced after the gracious Speech this Session, and by introducing the guillotine procedure in another place. I have never understood what was the urgency about it. Had they not done this, it would have given reasonable time for the talks with the Commonwealth; and though I do not deny the right of the Government at the end of the day to come to their own decision, at least they would have heard the views of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and to some extent possibly have got from them a line of thought which might have influenced their ultimate decision.
This Bill, and the way in which it is proposed to administer it, in fact constitutes a colour bar. Although immigrants from the Irish Republic are included in the provisions of the Bill, they will not actually be prevented from coming in, whatever their numbers. I realise that there are administrative difficulties about restricting the entry of people from Southern Ireland; I am certainly not in favour of it. But to include them in provisions in the Bill, and then to exclude them on administrative grounds, seems to me almost a confession of weakness. One can say, as the noble and learned Viscount said, that this Bill applies to everybody: it applies to Canada and Australia and to Ireland; but in fact it is like saying, as we have all heard it said at some time, that the Ritz is open to every citizen of this country—provided he can pay the charges. Of course it applies to everybody, but in fact it is going to apply to coloured people far more than to anybody else.
I should have thought—and I put the question to the noble and learned 17 Viscount in the course of his speech—that it would have been possible, had we wanted to exercise some kind of control over entry into this country, to police the borders in the same way as we police them for customs purposes. After all, if you can control the entry of goods into this country, surely it should be possible also to control the entry of human beings. But I do not want to develop that point, because I do not want it to be thought that I am in fact advocating the exclusion of the citizens of Southern Ireland. I am not advocating the exclusion of anybody.
I would ask your Lordships to consider the protestations of our belief in a multi-racial or a non-racial society for Central and South Africa, where we happen to be in a minority. In our actions under this Bill, does it not seem rather anomalous that here we are doing much the same kind of thing as we are objecting to in the case of Central Africa and South Africa? The difference is that we happen to be in a majority here, whereas in these other countries the Europeans, and particularly the British, are in a minority. I fear that the effects on the Commonwealth will be most unfortunate, and will inevitably weaken the ties which already to-day, as I have said, are becoming weaker.
I agree that during the passage of the Bill the Government tried to conciliate, accepted suggestions from all parts of the House, and indicated a more friendly and tolerant administration by publishing the instructions to the immigration officers, They have also said that they are prepared to rediscuss this Bill in eighteen months' time. But these instructions are the instructions of the Home Secretary. They are instructions for which the Home Secretary is responsible, and while I freely admit that the present Home Secretary is a liberal-minded man, I wonder what would be the position if he were succeeded as Home Secretary by the honourable Member for Louth or the honourable Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool. Would they be content with the situation? The noble and learned Viscount opposite may think that that situation is not likely to arise. But there are others. If either of these gentlemen became Home Secretary one can well imagine that these instructions might be altered, 18 and not for the better. So that there is no guarantee that these instructions, liberal-minded as they are—I admit that—will necessarily be permanent, unless the Government are prepared to give an undertaking that they will never be changed except for the better.
Of course, we will endeavour to improve this Bill all the same. There are ways in which we think we might improve it. Let me say at this stage that, but for the fact that there is a tradition which has grown up in this House since the war, we on this side should have registered our opposition to the Bill in the Division Lobby. The fact that we do not do so is entirely due to this tradition under which both sides have taken the view that to-day, when a measure has received its approval in another place, it is not for this House to oppose the principle of that Bill. But I think it is right that we should express exactly what we feel about it.
What are the reasons which are being put forward by the Government for introducing this measure? The noble and learned Viscount said that we are a small and crowded island and cannot afford to allow unrestricted entry into the country; that it creates social problems; that immigrants come here and occupy our houses, of which we are desperately short; that they occupy them in large numbers, thus creating undesirable conditions in those houses; that they are—I do not say the noble and learned Viscount said this, but this has been said in the course of the debate in another place by honourable Members—exceptionally prone to crime and are a serious threat to public order; that, because of their colour, they arouse hostility on the part of their white neighbours and cause friction and racial disorder.
What are the facts? I think it is right we should have them quite clearly. These arguments are grossly exaggerated. First, as to health and crime, statistics do not in the least justify these charges. In another place on February 17 the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department specifically recognised that this was not the case. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 634, cols. 2011–12]:The danger to the nation's health from the presence of large numbers of … immi-19grants is, so far, not serious … I am advised by my right honourable friend the Minister of Health that there is no reason to think that … immigrants from the Commonwealth bring diseases into this country or constitute a danger to public health.In the same speech the Under-Secretary said:… there is so far no evidence that they breed crime or, in general, have a bad effect on public order.
My Lords, how long ago was it that he made that speech? Was it before or after the smallpox epidemic?
§ LORD SILKIN
Smallpox? I do not know. I can give the noble Lord the date when he made that speech—it was in February 1961—but if the noble Lord is going to make the case that we must exclude them on account of smallpox, then he is not supporting this Bill—I will deal with that in a moment—because this Bill permits their entry.
What is the position regarding housing, of which we hear so much? Obviously, if we do accept them into this country in any numbers—whether in accordance with the numbers the Government have now stated they would, or in any other form—they have to live somewhere. In fact, they get no priority of any kind from the local authorities. Indeed, I should be very surprised to hear that more than a minute proportion of them ever get on to a housing list and are housed at all by the local authorities. If they come here they must be housed somehow; and what they do, of course, is to acquire a house—usually at an exorbitant price or rent—and pack in as many of their compatriots as they can. Frankly, they have no alternative. Admittedly, this causes problems. But what is the answer?
Is one to keep them out entirely? Possibly we shall hear this afternoon some noble Lords who would do that. But that is not suggested under this Bill; that is not the purpose of it. Under this Bill considerable numbers will be admitted, and the noble and learned Viscount himself admitted that, so long as the net numbers that come into this country are in the region of 60,000 or 70,000, nothing will happen at all, but even 60,000 admissions into this country can create—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I certainly did not quantify any figure of that kind. What I did say was that the general proposition was that this is a Bill to control immigration, and not to stop it. But I am quite sure that it is within the recollection of the House that I did not say that any specific figure such as that mentioned by the noble Lord would be admissible.
§ LORD SILKIN
I was not attempting to put words into the mouth of the noble and learned Viscount which he did not say. I was interpreting his speech, and what I understood him to say was that here were the figures of admission into this country and that in the last year or two they had grown tremendously, which had caused us to sit up and take notice. What I inferred from that was that, so long as the figures were of the order of those that he gave for the earlier years, for 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960—and it was in 1960 that they began to go up—the Government would not have taken action, and the Government did not take action. Therefore, I hope I am right in inferring that, at any rate, 50,000 or thereabouts is not regarded as so grave a problem as to call for action.
But I was making the point that even the admission of that number would cause housing problems, and all sorts of other difficulties of the kind which many people are treating as a reason for excluding them altogether. Of course, if we desire the admission of a certain number of Commonwealth citizens and we regard it as of some advantage to us, the answer is that we should provide for their housing and not regard them as being responsible for bad housing conditions which they themselves have done nothing to create.
The actual reason given by the Government for introducing this Bill is that the rate of immigration, particularly from certain parts of the Commonwealth, has recently become a serious factor in our thickly populated country. Now what are these figures? They were quoted by the noble and learned Viscount, and also by Mr. Butler on the Second Reading of the Bill in another place. Let me just remind the House of the figures that Mr. Butler gave as to the net intake. In 1955 the net intake was about 43,000; it was the same in 1956 and in 1957; 21 in 1958 there was a drop of 13,000 to only 30,000; and in 1959 there was a further drop to 21,000—less than half the figure for 1955. So up to 1959 all was well. Then we come to 1960, when there is an increase to 58,000. The trouble arises over 1961, which is the only year for which the figures have grown substantially, because I do not regard an increase from 43,000 in 1955 to 58,000 in 1960 as a substantial increase. So that we have only the one year, 1961, in which there was a substantial increase.
My Lords, I should not regard that figure alone as a justification for departing from our long-cherished tradition of free entry from the Commonwealth. The noble and learned Viscount himself said that these figures include people who came here temporarily; they include Irish; they include all sorts of things about which we have no real, definite information. But even supposing that these figures do include a substantial increase in immigrants from the West Indies, is it not probable that they are largely the result of anticipation of this measure, which has been talked about in the last year or so, and that in 1961 they began to realise that if they did not come then it might be too late? So they have been flocking in. And that is not surprising.
I do not know it, and the noble and learned Viscount does not know it, but there must be some explanation for this increase. As for the years when immigration fell, the reason given by the noble and learned Viscount for the decrease was that there was a slight recession in this country. Does that not mean that these people themselves are very sensitive to the possibilities of getting employment in this country, and that when there is a reduction in the amount of employment available there is a tendency for the amount of immigration to drop; and, on the other hand, that when there seems to be an increase in the availability of employment, we get more people?
The fact remains that substantially all the people who have come over to this country have found employment. The noble and learned Viscount talks about a measure of unemployment of 6 or 7 per cent. But, of course, there is bound to be a certain amount of unemployment when they first come and while they are waiting for work. One would expect the 22 unemployment figures among immigrants of this kind to be somewhat higher than among our own people for that reason alone; that it might take them two, three or four weeks to obtain work, and during that time they get on to the register of unemployment. But, by and large, they have found work and there is no more unemployment among these people than among British subjects.
We know that we are living in a time—at least, we hope we are—of a rapidly rising economy, and that there is more and more need for labour in this country. We know that there are many vacancies which are not being filled and cannot be filled, and the immigrants are serving a most valuable purpose in helping to fill them. We know that in transport, particularly public transport, we should not be able to get on without the immigrants. As regards building work, one has only to look round to see that on almost every site there are quite a number of coloured people about, as is also the case in our factories. So far as the women are concerned, we know that they are serving a most valuable purpose here in acting as nurses and orderlies in hospitals; that they have taken on hotel work, domestic work, as well as work on the railways. One has not to go very far, because, in fact, we have some immigrants employed in this House.
So, my Lords, there is not really the fear that immigrants will be out of work; nor, in my submission, is there the fear that they will continue to flock here when employment begins to get less, because in my view this matter is self-regulatory. This Bill will either keep out labour which we badly need—and this to my mind makes economic nonsense—or it will make no difference, because we shall take in just the amount of labour we require. If the latter is the case, what is the point of it except to conciliate certain rather awkward Government supporters in another place, and perhaps to provide a conciliation for not adopting flogging?
If we do keep out the members of the Commonwealth whom we badly need, that is not the end of the matter. The West Indies, with their 3 million population, in an area of exceptional heavy unemployment, are a responsibility of ours. Can we shake off this respon- 23 sibility? They are our Colonies and they regard themselves as British. We must take some part in helping them to solve their problems of extreme poverty and unemployment. Are we prepared to do so?
If, as we all hope, we are to retain, and even to strengthen, the ties which bind the Commonwealth together, we must ourselves learn to practise and not merely preach to others the principles of a multi-racial society, which include, first of all, no discrimination on racial or other grounds. It is not an easy lesson to learn. Many of us have an instinctive race consciousness, but in order to live together, and to give to ourselves and to the world the benefit of our great Commonwealth experience with all its opportunities, we must all take hold of our prejudices and fight against them. It is because this Bill is a retrograde step towards the realisation of these noble aims, that I deplore its introduction. I can only hope that before long better and more liberal counsels will prevail, and that when the matter comes up for review in eighteen months' time we shall deal with it in the spirit of that liberalism.