HL Deb 06 December 1965 vol 271 cc29-67

3.48 p.m.

Debate on Second Reading continued.


My Lords, I return to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. When, a year ago, the Act was passed continuing that Act, it appeared that there was then, as there seems to be now, widespread agreement about the need for some control of immigration; and it appeared that one matter of controversy, at least, might be disappearing. There was great hope that there might be less political friction on the whole subject and, consequently, a greater national concentration on integration as a task for citizens, quite irrespective of politics. It is about integration that I want especially to say a few words. I am not specially fond of the word, though I do not know that a better comprehensive word has been invented. But 1 think we know what we mean by integration; namely, to secure that citizens from overseas in our land shall be able to reside happily and in peace with their neighbours, wherever they may be, and to play a full and welcome part in our society.

Since 1962 most important work in connection with integration has been done by the Advisory Council, under the Chairmanship of Lady Reading, set up by the then Home Secretary. The four Reports issued by Lady Reading's Advisory Council show remarkable progress made through three years—progress in the growing knowledge of the problems and in the will to tackle them and to apply many skills to them. In the autumn of this year a new body was set up, partly to continue the functions of Lady Reading's Council and also to add some other functions to them. The new body was called the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, and I was invited to be its chairman. I accepted the invitation, and my motive in doing so was simply to encourage my fellow citizens in giving practical service to an immense task with which the citizens of this country are greatly concerned.

May I say a word about the work of this new Committee? Its work is going to be done largely through panels on the particular subjects of health, housing, education, employment, training for social work, public relations, legal and welfare problems. These panels are in touch with many liaison committees already existing in many parts of the country. My own initial impression of the task is that there is in the country a great body of people aware of the practical problems and working at solving them within their own localities. But, at the same time, some localities are a considerable way behind others, and therefore I conceive it to be the work of our central body to ensure that knowledge is conveyed to a locality which urgently needs knowledge as to what other localities are able to achieve.

For instance, if, rather unexpectedly, there arrive at the school of a particular district a body of children from overseas who cannot speak English, there at once come about a whole group of problems for children, teachers and parents; and for others, as well. And if it is known in a particular locality how the problem is being tackled with great skill in some other locality, then the sooner the knowledge can be brought to bear upon the spot the better. Let me add one further impression; that is, that in the work of local committees dealing with integration the immigrants themselves have been playing a steady and increasingly valuable part as contributors to the whole task.

But at the moment there is another side, and a very sad side, to the matter. The work of integration, as is being reported from many parts of the country, is being hampered by bad feelings aroused by the Government's White Paper. It may be wrong that this should be so; and it may be unnecessary. But we have to face the fact that it is so, and for those concerned with integration the resulting immediate problem is a pretty grave one. One effect is that in a good many places immigrants, having had their feelings hurt by things read in the White Paper, find themselves in a non-co-operative kind of attitude and sometimes withdraw their co-operation with bodies dealing with integration into bodies of a racialist kind. Another effect is that some of our own workers for integration, people who have been giving themselves to the tasks for a long time, find themselves discouraged and depressed by this wave of unrest on the matter. It is in relation to integration that I am viewing the matter and asking your Lordships to view the matter. While those of us concerned with integration want to concentrate on these tasks, and not to be drawn into political controversies, it is the fact that things said and done in other parts of the territory do vitally affect the work of integration.

Let me mention three things in the White Paper concerning which criticism is made. First, in the distribution of categories there is the bias in favour of professional people among the immigrants, which means that there is an impression that immigration is being organised in a way that may be detrimental to some of the countries from which immigrants come. I remember this point being made in the corresponding debate here a year ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, who pointed out that a doctor in Pakistan may be looking after a population of 50,000 people, whereas in England he or she may be looking after, say, a population of 5,000 people. This state of affairs which draws a specially big proportion of professional people within the categories of the immigrants is now being described as a "brain-drain" upon the countries concerned. I do not know what the answer is. I think it is very difficult to find an answer, and certainly it will need co-operation between the countries to find it. But I think there is just criticism of the fact that this matter has been left unanswered in the text of the White Paper.

Secondly, there is much concern about the new regulation concerning the admission of children between 16 and 18 who want to join their parents, or a parent, in this country. It indeed seems rather a rough attitude to families to say, in effect, "We will consider sons and daughters under 18 if their exclusion would cause hardship." I find myself wondering what I might have said at the age of 17 if I were told I might join my parents in the family if by being separated from them it would cause hardship, how I should have interpreted the phrase. I think that if at the age of 17 my sisters had been told they might join their mother if their separation was a condition causing hardship, they might have been even more puzzled. I do not feel that the present state of these regulations is satisfactory, even though I know the law is administered with sympathy.

Then there is, thirdly, concern about the powers for removal of immigrants from the country and about the limitations of the rights of appeal. I believe that this matter caused a great deal of distress, though it is now good to know that the Government, through the Committee which they have set up, are having a new look at this matter.

Certainly, on the other side, we have to recognise that some of the reactions to the White Paper have been caused by sheer misunderstanding. We also have to recognise the need for firmness in controlling evasion, and indeed such firmness is only a kindness to bona fide would-be immigrants. If I were a student anxious to come to this country to study, I should feel injured if my place in the queue were taken by somebody simply masquerading as a student—it is apparently possible to do that successfully. Again, if I were a child eager to join my parents, I should be aggrieved beyond words if my place in the queue were taken by somebody just masquerading as a child wanting to join his parents. I think that, with those thoughts in mind, we sympathise with the need for firmness about evasions.

However, my central idea is really this. It does not quite do to say, "We have a lot of immigrants in this country. Let us concentrate upon the work of integration and, when we have achieved that, perhaps it may be well to consider something more because it is quite evident that policy about controls arouses feelings of the sort that make the task of integration difficult." I have no doubt that the Government do indeed sympathise with these considerations. I believe that is partly a matter not just of the text of regulations but of what I would call Government public relations with the immigrant community. The Government must not only have regulations and adjust, but also take far greater pains to convey the meaning, intention and the humanity of any regulations to the immigrants themselves.

I believe that the coming year may be a crucial year for the growth of the integration that we all so greatly hope is going to happen. There are, alas!, ominous and unhealthy signs. There has been an unhealthy recrudescence of white racialist organisations in this country; and, as I indicated earlier, there has been the tendency for some immigrants to have their feelings hurt in a way that causes them to group themselves in non-cooperative ways. There is a story that an immigrant citizen from another part of the Commonwealth once said, "If you do not like my habits, teach me better habits. If you do not like my attitude to life, teach me a better attitude to life. But if it is the colour of my skin that you object to, well, I can only refer you to the Creator who made me."

One last word. I think it is most important how the immigrant community in this country are talked about and referred to by us who are their fellow citizens. There are many problems about their relation to the rest of the community, just as there are many problems about ourselves and about every part of our community in this land. But while we can discuss the problems concerning groups of people in the country and their relation to each other, I think we need to guard ourselves against talking of people themselves as being a problem. No person as a person is a problem he is a person, a fellow citizen and a fellow man, and the more that that is conveyed in sympathy and understanding to the whole body of our citizens, the greater will be the chance of this formidable problem being overcome, and of our citizens, of whatever colour, living happily together in their common service to one another and the community.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lords who have preceded me I want to concentrate what I have to say on the Commonwealth immigrants section of the Bill which is before us this afternoon. I am happy, and consider myself most fortunate, to be following the most reverend Primate in the spirit which he has shown in his approach to this matter. With everything that he said I am completely in agreement. This works out quite differently from my attitude to the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, delivered to the House a short time ago.

I do not want to be unfair, but it seemed to me that the noble Lord opposite concentrated on more and more controls, stronger and stronger controls, rather than approaching the matter in the spirit shown by the most reverend Primate, who urged that we should regard people from the Commonwealth who desire to immigrate to our land as fellow human beings, who are desirous only of making a better life for themselves than they would have the opportunity of doing in their own countries. Therefore I do not hesitate to be associated with the section of people in another place referred to by the noble Lord as "the Left Wing". I do not think that is any association at all. I am associated with them because I believe that in their attitude on this matter they are the humane wing of the Party and regard this question in the proper light.

I made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House on this particular subject just about twelve months ago. How time flies! I feel almost at home this afternoon, compared with the feeling that I had on that occasion. On that occasion, I know, I really did let myself go. This is a subject on which I have deep emotions, and my relationship, particularly with the people of the West Indies, has brought a love for them that I cannot adequately describe; and perhaps my thoughts on these matters are dictated by my knowledge of them and my appreciation of the people from that part of the world. I see opposite the noble Lord, Lord St. Just, who was a shipmate of mine on my first visit to the West Indies some eleven or twelve years ago, or perhaps rather more. I hope he will not mind my saying this, but I hope that he achieved in that visit some of the love for those parts and for these people that I myself achieved. So that is where I begin.

But while I know that I spoke strongly on this matter a year ago, I recognise that there is to-day something of a changed position—not a change in my mind by any means: I see no reason to change my mind in regard to what I expressed a year ago. But I recognise that since that day Her Majesty's Government have issued the White Paper which has been referred to by the most reverend Primate as well as by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent; and it is that White Paper that is worrying me at the present time.

It would be an under-statement to say that I was disappointed at the change of front in a Labour Administration. I find the White Paper shocking in its content, and I must say this. When the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred to the Front Bench on this side, if he was indicating that they were in agreement with him I am glad he was not including me. When I look at some of my noble friends on the Front Bench I wonder how many agree with him and the White Paper and how many of them might possibly agree with me. I must confess to some relief that many of the points in the White Paper have not been included in the immediate legislation along the lines suggested, and today your Lordships are only being asked to re-enact previous legislation. I am glad of this, as it might give the Government time for reconsideration, and I hope that it will avoid many of the implications of the White Paper.

I have to accept that in my views on the matter I am in a minority, perhaps a small minority, but in the light of the circumstances as I find them, I have the temerity to suggest to the Government one or two ideas which might be useful pending legislation. For my sins, I am co-President of the British Caribbean Association with my friend, Mr. Nigel Fisher, M.P. Recently that organisation sent a letter to the Lord President of the Council containing suggestions pending any legislation which might come along. I want to draw attention to some of those thoughts this afternoon, and I hope that when my noble friend Lord Champion comes to reply he may be able to deal with some of them.

First of all, I would mention the new limitations of what I call the arbitrary 8,500 vouchers. In spite of everything my noble friend Lord Stonham said in his opening and very reasonable speech, it seems to me that it is impossible to get away from the idea that this obviously brings in a colour bar restriction. Is it not ludicrous that there should be a ceiling on the number of Commonwealth citizens to be accepted when there is no such ceiling on aliens. And is it not still more ludicrous when we look at the situation of the Irish coming into our country? When the Irish broke away from the Commonwealth they ceased to be a part of the United Kingdom, and yet we are compelled to treat them in a much more liberal way than we treat fellow beings from Commonwealth countries. Once a ceiling is defined and imposed on one category of people, it becomes a matter of pandering to colour prejudice. This may not be the intention, but it certainly is the effect. This is the more obvious when the vouchers are given only to people in prearranged jobs or to people with special skills. There is no question of any evasion in this matter, and the cut which is sustained is a cut in the labour which is needed by British firms.

Secondly, I would express, with the most reverend Primate, my distress because there are restrictions on the entry of people between the ages of 16 and 18 who wish to join their families. Family life in the West Indies—and I am sure this also applies to other parts of the Commonwealth, as it indeed applies to our own country—is very cherished indeed. I regard it as completely inhuman that we should keep out of this country young people in their teens who desire to join their own relatives who have become established here. I would ask Her Majesty's Government for assurances that young people will not be harshly kept out and that instructions to immigration officers in this regard should be elastic.

Another point I would mention is this. The Minister of State at the Home Office, Miss Alice Bacon, when speaking at the Labour Party Conference in October suggested that what was set out in the White Paper was, in effect, merely a pause. Can it be made quite clear exactly what she meant by this? Is it a period of definite duration in order to give the Government a chance to integrate immigrants who are already here, after which there will be some return to the former rate of vouchers? I should be glad if my noble friend could help me in this matter. I welcome the suggestion in the White Paper that a committee is to be established to investigate the appeal procedure when people are refused admission or when deportation has been ordered. The most reverend Primate has dealt with this matter at great length and has saved me the task of doing so. I do not want to weary your Lordships further about this, but it is a very important matter which I hope will receive attention.

I want to object as strongly as I can to the suggestion that deportation—even the deportation of evil doers, people who have offended against this country—should be in the hands of the Home Secretary alone. I believe that this is entirely against the principles of British justice. I am one of those people who have to sit at least once a week on a magisterial bench, and in my humble duties I am very jealous of British justice. It seems to me all wrong that we should consider the possibility of deportation without recommendations by some part of the .Judiciary to the Home Secretary. That this matter should be placed in the hands of the Home Secretary alone seems contrary to all our ideas of British justice.

I am also unhappy that the possession of an entry certificate does not entitle a Commonwealth citizen to admission, and that it is for the immigration officer to decide. I want to see some clearer instructions given to immigration officers about this matter, so that there is not the rigid attitude that exists at present. I believe that Her Majesty's Government should consider strengthening the British High Commission in Commonwealth countries so that all applicants who wish to come to this country can be carefully investigated; and so that the entry certificate may be made the relevant document, without which no one can secure admission to Britain. Then the document should be one that would be accepted by immigration officers—in other words, it should be a kind of visa, as given by many foreign countries.

While I deeply appreciate the work carried out by Mr. Maurice Foley, M.P., along the lines of integration in many parts of the country, I am most disturbed at the lack of progress in certain aspects of integration. I think that there could be better approaches than have already been made. I envisage that approaches should be made to the trade unions, for there are often little problems in that re- spect when a Commonwealth immigrant wishes to obtain employment in a large factory. This applies not only to trade unions but also to employers, and is clearly necessary in order to ensure an acceptance of immigrants at all levels in commerce, in industry and in the professions. I hope that we are not very far from the time when we shall be appointing coloured policemen in this country. In very many parts they would be of tremendous service, and I am quite sure it would help to lift the standing and the standard of the immigrant population if some of their people were put into responsible positions in such services as the police force.

There is another matter about which I am concerned. We talk about educating the children of the immigrants, but I am very worried about the lack of education of the British public as a whole in their outlook towards this problem. I get more and more worried when I get letters condemning me and the Association with which I am connected for having been associated with these problems. I regularly get anonymous, nasty letters and telephone calls, which show an attitude of mind which is completely deplorable in a country such as ours. I want to see the British people understanding the background difficulties of the people who come to us.

May I in passing say something which I have mentioned before on previous occasions, and that is that I wonder what Her Majesty's Government have ever done in approaches to the white Commonwealth to take some of the burden off our shoulders. In countries like Australia and New Zealand, coloured people are hardly known. They do not bear part of that Commonwealth burden which they might be bearing, and I hope that when we come round again to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference efforts will be made to persuade them to take some of the immigrants from the poorer parts of the Commonwealth and so ease our own particular problem.

Before the legislation envisaged by Her Majesty's Government is introduced, I should like to see consultations with the local and regional officers of the Ministry of Labour, along with the local authorities, in relation to housing. I hope your Lordships will pardon me if I repeat what I said twelve months ago, about what I envisage may happen when an immigrant arrives at a port or airport. The immigration officer may ask, "Where do you intend to go?", to which the immigrant may reply, "Lambeth", or "Notting Hill", or "Birmingham". On being asked by the immigration officer why he wants to go there, the immigrant may reply, "I have got a cousin who has been there for a couple of years and he can find me some accommodation and a job". The immigration officer may then ask, "If we were to send you to a small town in Lancashire where there are not many coloured immigrants, where there is work for you and where the local authority will try to do something about housing you, would you go there rather than to Notting Hill?" I am assured by friends who work among Commonwealth immigrants in this country that on any day they can find a score of families who would be prepared to move in circumstances of that kind. So in that sense, this is not so much a matter of integration as of dispersal.

We are all worried about what have become ghettoes of Commonwealth citizens. I should like to try to do something about this, but I feel that the effort which should have been made along these lines has not been made. I put the suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, when he was Home Secretary. That seems a long time ago, and as the days have gone by nothing along those lines has been done, but I believe that it could be done. As noble Lords know, I used to sit for a Salford seat in another place. They have never been worried by the Commonwealth immigrant question. The Irish have always been their trouble. But I would say that Salford could take 200 families and Bourton-on-the-Water could take a couple. I am quite sure that if this kind of thing could be done we should ease a lot of our problems. So I throw out these ideas to my noble friend, in the hope that in his closing speech to-day he may be able to say something about them. I also express the hope that Her Majesty's Government will look at suggestions of this kind, to see whether the burden can be eased and to try to avoid the strong measures envisaged in some quarters.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Royle has remarked that his maiden speech was on this subject and that he then spoke very strongly. Perhaps because of acclimatisation to this House, he has spoken in more moderate terms to-day. I do not think that my experience in this House has led me to speak less strongly on issues about which I feel keenly than when I first entered, but to-day I am in the mood to speak more with sorrow than with anger.

I regard the White Paper, and the legislation which is foreshadowed in it, as a great blot upon the domestic legislation of this Government. That legislation has been splendid in its record and it is still more splendid in its prospects, but the White Paper and the legislation which is to follow it seem to me a repudiation of all for which our Party has stood and a repudiation of the deepest principle of life—that men and women in their personalities are sacred, whatever their race or the colour of their skin.

I always listen to my noble friend Lord Stonham with respect, but, quite honestly, he cannot ask us to believe that this is not a racialist White Paper, with racialist legislation to follow it. I put the simple point to him that if the Commonwealth immigrants had been white persons with white cultures, the White Paper would never have been introduced and the legislation which it is intended to bring before the House would never have been thought of.


My Lords, I cannot expect to convince my noble friend on this matter, but I must point out to him that the White Paper applies to all Commonwealth countries including, of course, the older Commonwealth countries where most of the population have white skins. If legislation is introduced, it will apply equally to the citizens of all Commonwealth countries, irrespective of the colour of their skins.


That I appreciate, but I cannot believe that my noble friend thinks that an answer to the charge which I have made. It is true that legislation will not mention race or colour, but more than 90 per cent. of those who will be kept out of this country under the legislation will be coloured; and that legislation would not have been introduced at all if they had not been coloured. There is no other argument to-day for any legislation, except that the Commonwealth immigrants have caused problems related to their race, their colour and their culture.

I want to admit at once the kind of justification which is put forward for this proposed legislation. As the noble Lord knows, I have been involved in discussions with members of the Government who have been responsible for the White Paper and for the legislation. Their argument has been this: that the feeling about race and colour is so intense in many parts of the country that it is necessary to have the pause to which Miss Alice Bacon referred in the speech that my noble friend Lord Royle has mentioned. They say that it is necessary to have this pause so that, during it, policies of integration may be pursued which will diminish colour and racial feeling and which, if the word "pause" is to be accepted literally, would allow even larger immigration of the coloured in a few years' time.

In another place I represented a constituency which had these problems, and I was largely defeated on this issue of colour and race. I appreciate, therefore, the intensities of feeling. They arise from housing, due largely to the fact that the immigrant population is concentrated in 33 towns in this country. I endorse what my noble friend Lord Royle has said: that pressures can be exerted (although I should not want compulsory direction) to bring about a greater dispersal of that population. But the real problem, surely, is that the immigrant population go to those areas in this country where work is easily available; and the difficulty is that not only do the Commonwealth immigrants go to those places but that workers from other parts of Britain which are not so prosperous concentrate upon those towns, too. Therefore, we have in a number of towns not the 2 per cent. immigrant population which there is over the whole country, but 5 per cent. and 7 per cent. and, in the case of the borough with the highest percentage of all, Paddington, over 10 per cent. Arising from that there are housing difficulties.

I say to the Minister that the coloured immigrants are not the cause of housing shortage: they are the scapegoats of it. The Party on the opposite side, when it was responsible for the government of this country, and the Party on this side, even with the new housing measures which it is now intended to produce, are not yet understanding the tragedy to the whole social life of the country by our housing shortage. It causes more suffering, it breaks up more families, it causes more ill-health, it is a greater cause of juvenile delinquency, than any one other thing. We ought to be having a Government which will wage war on the housing shortage with the same concentration as in waging a military war against a foe. We ought not to be surrendering the fundamental principle of belonging to the same human family because we have failed in housing; and we ought not to make Commonwealth immigrants the scapegoats of our failure. We ought also to remember this: that in actual fact a large proportion of those employed in the construction industries are the very Commonwealth immigrants whom it is now proposed to restrain.

The second problem which causes difficulties in localities is that of education. I was a little surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, say that this problem is becoming more difficult. That is not my experience. My experience is that within the last eighteen months the problem has been eased considerably. It has been eased considerably because reception classes where the children learn English have been introduced into the schools; it has been eased considerably because special help in the way of extra teachers is now being given to those schools; it has been eased considerably because headmasters and teachers in those schools, having had experience of these problems, are acting to meet them in new and successful ways.

The Ministry of Education have published a pamphlet on the subject of the immigrant child in the school. What impresses anyone who reads that pamphlet is the fact that the Ministry say that the children of different race and of different colour are actually an educational advantage to the white children who are in the school. They are an advantage to the white children who are in that school because they bring to those children knowledge of different parts of the world which they read about and see on a map but which mean little to them until children from those territories are there. It is only when these children reach teenage, and where they have been influenced by adults, that any colour or racial feeling arises. I believe that when we can deal with the problem of insufficient teachers and can deal with the problem of teaching the English language (they are mostly Indian and Pakistani children who need it), our education is going to develop and progress because of the fact that we have children of different colour and different race in our classes.

The third immediate problem which is causing, or intensifying, the ill-feeling is that of hospitals, and particularly is this so in the case of English mothers who are seeking beds for maternity and who find that there are coloured women occupying those beds. Again, that is due partly to our failure to provide sufficient hospital accommodation. But, much more than that, our National Health Service would hardly be able to exist at all if it were not for the Commonwealth immigrants. My Lords, 40 per cent. of the doctors who are in our hospitals are Commonwealth immigrants, and 17 per cent. of the nurses in our hospitals are Commonwealth immigrants. When we begin to say that Commonwealth immigrants must be excluded because of the problem of hospitals, the problem they create, due to the absence of beds—which we have failed to provide—it is insignificant compared with the great contribution which they have made to our Health Service.

Now I want to say to my noble friend Lord Stonham—and I do not use the word "friend" in a formal way—that it cannot honestly be argued that this Bill is not a Bill the object of which is to exclude coloured and Commonwealth people—people of other races—from this territory. I have admitted the argument put forward by the Government; but that very argument acknowledges that the cause of the proposed legislation is colour and race. I want to say to my noble friend that this is of enormous importance at the present time, because the whole future of our Commonwealth is now in doubt. I am very closely in touch with the leaders of the Asian and African peoples. I know the effect that the original 1962 Act of Parliament had upon them: a worsening of their psychological attitude to this country.

That feeling has been intensified almost beyond description because they found, when a Labour Government came into office in this country, that that Government endorsed what the Labour Party had so strongly opposed when in Opposition. Because the feeling among Asian, African, and Caribbean representatives is marred in this kind of way (and for other reasons which are irrelevant to this debate) the future of our Commonwealth is now in very grave doubt. One of the factors that have contributed to these worsened feelings has been the fact that we have had a measure in this country which has excluded Commonwealth immigrants who used to be regarded as our citizens and as our equals. By not only maintaining, but even strengthening, what has been done before, we are deepening those kinds of psychological relations.

I want to say just this to my noble friend Lord Stonham: I am aware of the difficulties of excluding the Irish— and I am not sure that I would want to exclude them. I have some Irish in my own ancestry, as perhaps has my noble friend. But I put this point to him. When you have people from a country which is not even in the Commonwealth (a country which by its own decision has remained outside it) able to enter freely and without any restriction, and then you say to immigrants from the Commonwealth: "You should be limited; you should be restricted", inevitably they see that contradiction and inevitably they feel that it is a Bill based on race and colour.

Forgive me, my Lords, for speaking with this sincerity; but I believe that the principle at stake here is the most fundamental principle in human life. I am the descendant of three generations of missionaries. I was born in India; my father was born in Africa. I do not share the Christian theology, but I accept the Christian ethic. I believe that the principle we must hold if mankind is to go forward in co-operation is the Christian ethic, which says that in the core of the personality of every man there is a potential of fulfilment in tune with the infinite which makes the spirit of man more important than the colour of his skin or the race to which he belongs. It is because—to my almost despairing regret, because I love the Party to which I belong—I believe that the White Paper and the legislation which is to follow epudiate that most essential principle of all human life that to-day I have spoken in this way.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I find it difficult to follow such a truly moving speech as we have heard from my noble friend Lord Brockway. I share his feelings in much, if not all, of what he says. But this afternoon my part must be to speak more particularly of the difference which I have found between the effect of the Government's White Paper on Commonwealth immigration and the intentions behind it. I spoke on this subject three weeks ago in your Lordships' House, but before going further I should like to say how much I appreciated the spirit, and much of the content, of Lord Stonham's reply at that time. If one cannot agree with the policy of the Government, surely the next best thing is to have one's objections so fully and kindlily dealt with. I hope that my noble friend Lord Champion will recognise that it is in the same spirit of co-operation that I take up the issue again to-day.

In my speech three weeks ago I speculated on the hardening of attitudes and the increased tensions which I felt would arise from the publication of this White Paper. My noble friend replied in these terms: I cannot believe that the Race Relations Act "— and then he mentioned many other measures that the present Government had put forward— can leave any doubt about our determination that immigrants shall be full members of the community with the same rights and responsibilities as anybody else."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 270, (No. 5) col. 551; 16/11/65.] My Lords, if I could be satisfied that this were true, that there were no doubts in the country about this, I would withdraw my opposition to the Government forthwith. But from correspondence and conversations with individuals and organisations working in this field, and from reports in the Press, I am convinced that it is not.

The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, spoke of the protest against this Government policy as being a Left-wing protest. I submit to your Lordships that it is not. It is not just another predictable outburst of the Left wing; it is supported by Labour Members of Parliament of all shades, by the Bow Group, by Liberals, by The Times, by the Economist and, most significantly, by the overwhelming majority of the individuals who are actively fighting in the cities for the improvement of race relations and whose efforts should never be forgotten by noble Lords who discuss this issue in the remote comfort of this House.

Perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I read one passage from a letter I have received. It comes, most eloquently, from Oxford: Several immigrants came to me to say that they felt now that there was no one they could trust; they had always felt before that at least the official attitude of the Government was against racialism, but now they felt abandoned and bewildered. I received many letters expressing similar views from almost all the organisations that are working in this field. I think the surest indication that their views are accurate and widespread is to be found in the speech of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am sure that he will bear me out when I say that it was because of the nearly unanimous reports that the National Committee had received from local authorities that they spoke the other day to the Prime Minister of the distress and frustration among immigrants and of the increasing difficulties they were experiencing.

There has already come to light some very disturbing evidence of this distrust; of a hardening of the attitudes of the immigrant community. The Indian Workers' Association called last week in the strongest terms for the dissolution of the National Committee, calling it, "the product of a racialist document". The West Indian Joint Standing Conference has taken a similar line. May I again ask your Lordships' permission to read one small passage from a letter to me from an immigrant? It states: The White Paper has provided the proof, if one were needed, of what status we have got here. All this polished talk of integration from high quarters seems to many of our people downright hypocrisy. Though they emphasise that we should not be made second-class citizens. most of our people know this by bitter experience. The position of moderate leaders of immigrant opinion, such as Dr. David Pitt, to whom I should like to pay the warmest tribute, has become increasingly difficult. By becoming a member of the National Committee he is accused in many quarters of selling out on his people. These attitudes may not be commendable, but I submit that they are wholly understandable. I believe we are horribly in danger of entering a vicious circle of inter-racial antagonism, where apparent intolerance on one side is met by intolerance on the other. We must break out of this circle or else the cause of racial harmony in this country will be lost.

I have so far spoken to show that, whatever the Government's intention, they have failed to give a strong lead. They have failed to convince the country of their determination, as my noble friend put it, that immigrants should be full members of the community. If I may have the temerity to point briefly to one or two of the causes which I feel have contributed to this failure, I would say that undoubtedly the first cause is the imposition of the numerical ceiling. So far as the reaction of the immigrant is concerned, the issue is quite plain. Four years ago a Conservative Government introduced a Bill which controlled the admission of Commonwealth immigrants on a basis of employment broadly similar to the basis of admission of aliens. The Labour Party called this "colour bar legislation" because it did not include the Irish. Now the same Party puts forward a policy which appears to be directed against only the coloured immigrant and to put him in a worse position than the alien, and makes no mention of the Irish. The coloured immigrant is asked to believe that this policy is not discriminatory against him.

I accept the answer which my noble friend has given to me on two occasions about the admission of aliens. I also accept, with greater difficulty, his explanation of the omission of the Irish. But I submit to the Government that their public relations have been very bad. They made no mention of the Irish or of the aliens in any White Paper or ministerial Statement after the publication of the White Paper, and it is small wonder that their intentions have been misinterpreted.

The second reason for the ill-feeling in the country must be the specific measures envisaged to prevent evasion of the controls. The Government have made some welcome concessions and given assurances on this point. I have already welcomed the appointment of the Independent Committee to deal with appeals against deportation and refusals to admit. I welcome the assurances given by my noble friend the other day about the admission of children between the ages of 16 and 18, and I would ask my noble friend Lord Champion only one question. It is about students. It is worrying enough to face the ordeal of a difficult examination in a strange country without the additional anxiety of not knowing whether you will be able to stay for the following year. Will my noble friend give an assurance that, provided the student devotes a substantial part of his time to his studies, permission to stay will be automatically extended for the whole duration of his course of study?

My Lords, I come back to my central point. The Government are failing to get their intentions across. They are failing because their policy is taken to be a policy of coloured immigration control, when it should be a policy of general immigration control. There are signs, particularly in the appointment of the Independent Committee, that the Government are beginning to look at the problems of immigration in a general and rational way. I urge them to look at the whole question of admissions in this way; in a way which is genuinely related to economic and social factors and in a way which allows no possible accusation of colour discrimination.

The absurdity of the present situation cuts both ways, because not only is it easier for a Spaniard to obtain admission to this country than a Pakistani, it is also easier for an American than for a Canadian. If the reply of the Government to this is that Commonwealth immigrants are admitted on a different basis, that their dependants have an absolute right of entry, why not review the Aliens Law? Why not consider the admission of the dependants of alien immigrants to this country on the same conditions as for their breadwinner?

If the Government persist in thinking of Commonwealth immigration as a special problem, one is forced to the conclusion that they are being influenced not by the housing shortage, not by overcrowding, but by the prejudices of the British people. Indeed, there is evidence from the statements of Mr. Maurice Foley that this is the case. This is very dangerous reasoning, and, with your Lordships' permission, I will quote a comment of a leading authority in this matter, Mrs. Ruth Glass. She said: Because prejudice is being taken for granted, it is being appeased. And the more this happens, the more, it will grow, and it will become a political handicap for the appeasers. Already the restrictionists are demanding still harsher control. I am convinced that the strongest possible lead is required to combat prejudice. I am supported in my conviction by the magnificent work done in Willesden where the two Members of Parliament, Mr. Reginald Freeson and Mr. Laurence Pavitt, have taken a strong and courageous stand on this question. Incidentally, their electoral popularity has increased in the process. I urge my noble friend Lord Champion to declare that the Government are not appeasing prejudice, but will take much stronger steps to convince both immigrants and the host community that they genuinely desire to promote healthy multiracial communities in the cities of Britain.


My Lords, I desire to intervene only for one moment in order to say that I am very glad to find that some future useful life is anticipated for the Accommodation Agencies Act of 1953. That Act was a Private Member's Bill for which I was responsible when I was in another place. It was a Ten-Minute-Rule Bill, and I remember moving my Motion for leave to introduce it at 6 o'clock in the morning, which was a very favourable hour if you wanted to get a Motion through.

I remember that I was assured by all the official agencies, including, I think, the Home Office, that the Bill was unnecessary and that the existing law was I adequate to deal with the evil at which it was aimed. The Bill's life was at first limited to five years, so it expired in 1958. Since then, I am glad to say, the Home Office have continued it from year to year, and from that I deduce—I hope that the noble Lord who will reply will be able to confirm this—that it has proved a useful measure and done something to combat the evil against which it was aimed.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a word because I do not find myself completely in agreement with some of my noble friends who have spoken this afternoon. The part of the White Paper which I dislike intensely is that dealing with civil liberties. While I associate myself with what they said about it, I think that other parts of the White Paper are much more reasonable and that the mass of modern opinion is behind these parts. But the part on civil liberties is against the whole tradition of civil liberties in this country.

There has been a great deal of protest, not only from members of the Labour Party, but from members of other Parties as well, and I have reason to believe that the Government have been much influenced by this. As more than one speaker has said, from the appointment of a new Committee, it seems that, for the time being, the Government do not propose to continue with this part. It seems to me that this is an extraordinary valuable concession, and one that should go a great deal of the way to meeting opposition to the White Paper. I am sure that among the immigrant population it is this side of it which has aroused the greatest amount of indignation, and I feel that the Government should withdraw this part of the White Paper.

Some people think that they have, by implication, already done so, in the appointment of this new Committee to consider the whole problem of immigration, both from the Commonwealth and from foreign States. I hope that that is so, but it is not so clear as it ought to be, and I believe that it would make a good deal of difference if the Government were to withdraw this part of the White Paper and say that, when the new Committee has reported, they will look at the matter again. This would be a valuable move, and I think it would remove a great deal of the indignation and difficulty which undoubtedly exists in the country at the moment.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene, as I have spoken on this subject in your Lordships' House more than once. I should like to offer my sympathy to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, who has been assailed from both sides of the House during this afternoon's debate, though he needs no champion, as he can more than fight his own battles.

One of the things that strikes one most in discussing Commonwealth immigration is that there has been a marked change in the view of the majority of the Government since their days in Opposition. When the Bill first came before Parliament, there was bitter dispute, both in another place and here. Now noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite are supporting what is put forward in the White Paper, while there are other elements opposite who do not support their Government in this. We have heard speeches of burning sincerity from the noble Lords, Lord Brockway and Lord Royle, and no one who had the good fortune to listen to them could fail to be struck by the conviction with which they spoke. I do not make this point for Party political reasons. I think that the reason why there has been a change of heart in the Government, in their attitude towards immigration, is that during the months they have been in office they have had access to the facts about immigration, and the hard realities of the situation have forced them to change their point of view.

Listening to the debate this afternoon, I do not think that anyone could possibly quarrel with any of the sentiments put forward by noble Lords opposite. Of course, we should all like to see our less fortunate brothers in the Commonwealth coming here, as to a kind of Utopia; but we just do not have the physical resources to do it. We may criticise successive Governments for their housing programmes and hospital plans, but the fact remains that no Government, whatever its achievements in these all-important fields, could have created the conditions in which we could go back to the old days of unlimited Commonwealth immigration into this country.

I would say to noble Lords opposite that certainly we on this side—and I am sure that some noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite will support me in this —do not quarrel at all with the principle which they have put forward. But it is the Government's job to govern, and to do so for the greatest good of the greatest number of people; and we must accept physical limitations as they exist. I make this point because I should very much dislike it to be thought that we had not great sympathy with the ideal, though at this stage, and for the foreseeable future, that ideal must be regarded as totally impracticable.

With the publication (of the White Paper last August. the Government have taken another bolder stride forward, and I find myself largely in agreement with their proposals. The first one I should like to refer to is the annual rate of 8,500 vouchers. This is a sad figure; it is a substantial reduction. But the situation is even sadder, now that only "A" and "B" voucher-holders are to be admitted. Those with "C" vouchers, that is, those without skill or without a job to come to (and I believe that there is a waiting list of over 300,000 of them), are no longer to be admitted.

The admission of immigrants with special skills is very satisfactory for us, but I confess that it worries me, because they are the very people whom the developing countries of the Commonwealth can least afford to lose. It has been pointed out that doctors and dentists, and others, come here, work for two or three years and return to their own countries with greater skill and knowledge, to the benefit of their own people. This is wholly admirable—and certainly I do not think that we should underestimate the benefits of the study of medicine in this country. We have the example of Dr. Banda, who practised in North London, and is now the leader of a Commonwealth State in Africa. There is no knowing what a few years of medical study and practice in this country will achieve for the right chap!

The point has been repeatedly made this afternoon that we ought to be able to meet the needs of the people coming to this country for houses and hospitals, as if that were the ultimate aim. To my mind, the ultimate aim is for us so to help and support the developing countries that the people there will not want to come here. People do not usually want to live away from their own shores. Noble Lords who have had the misfortune of hearing me before will have heard me make this point and I should like to repeat it. We must get the social and economic infrastructure in the developing countries of Asia and Africa so off the ground that the flood of people coming to this country will diminish to a mere trickle. That is the ultimate aim, rather than the improvement of housing and hospitals for everyone who comes here.

As other speakers have said, the White Paper contains, in paragraphs 23 to 25, some important proposals for legislation. The reason for these proposals is the alarming rate at which the evasion of the existing conditions continues. It has been stated in another place that it was estimated that in the first year of the working of the Act 900 people from Commonwealth countries entered this country illegally. In the second year, this figure multiplied tenfold, to 9,000. The most recent figure shows that by September of this year we had already reached the figure for the whole of last year namely, 9,000. These are substantial figures. I welcome the fact that the Government are determined to take steps to put an end to this illegal entry, because, as my noble friend Lord Derwent said, unless the figures are genuine; and unless, when the Government say they will admit so many, they do, in fact, admit so many, the whole of their scheme and planning for Commonwealth immigration falls to the ground.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Duke? I speak subject to a correction, but I believe I remember, from my reading, that in another place the noble Duke's right honourable friend, Mr. Thorneycroft, quoted the figures of 900 and 9,000, a rise of 1,000 per cent., in relation to the old Commonwealth, whereas the new Commonwealth, I think, was 30 per cent.


If the noble Lord looks at the official record, I think he will find that my right honourable friend Mr. Thorneycroft quoted the figures from the old Commonwealth and the new Commonwealth. The ones I quoted were the accurate figures from the new Commonwealth.

We welcome, as I have said, the steps proposed in paragraphs 23, 24 and 25 of the White Paper, and our only hope is that legislation will be forthcoming. My noble friend Lord Derwent, in his speech, made some reference to the fate of steel legislation, and I must confess that I am a little worried. There has been appointed this new official Committee. I hope that the Government are not going to ride off their responsibilities by putting the work on to a Committee. As I have said before, it is the Government's duty, however unpleasant the task may be, to govern.

The situation should be clear, I think, because on November 4 of this year in another place the Prime Minister, when referring to Commonwealth immigration, had this to say: I cannot believe that there is any subject in recent times which has had more research, more discussion and more careful consideration than this one. The White Paper was put for ward as a result of that."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, Commons, Vol. 718 (No. 670), col. 1231; 4/11/65.] So, quite clearly, a great deal of trouble, discussion and research had gone into the subject before the White Paper was produced. Why is it then necessary to have yet another Committee to advise the Government before they can decide on legislation? Surely the work that is being done by this new Committee should have been done before the White Paper was published. It seems to me to be putting off the day when this thorny problem is tackled and legislation is introduced. The time for the new Committee was before the White Paper was produced, not afterwards.


May I intervene for one moment? The noble Duke has overlooked the fact that this Committee will also inquire into aliens, and, as I have said, we shall regard its advice as most important when we come to consider permanent legislation in respect of aliens.


I accept that. But I think it is a valid point to say that the best time for the work of this Committee would have been prior to the publication of the White Paper, and not afterwards. One only hopes that the Government will stick to their guns and carry through the proposed legislation outlined in paragraphs 23, 24 and 25. We have every reason to suppose that they will, because, speaking more recently, on November 9, the Prime Minister said in another place, referring to the White Paper: This represents our policy and we are implementing it."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, Commons, Vol. 718, (No. 671), col. 49.] That is a categorical undertaking that the proposals set forth in the White Paper will be embodied in legislation at an early date.

I should now like to turn, quite briefly, to the happier section of the White Paper, the third section, which talks of how Commonwealth immigrants can become one of us, and can become in every sense as good citizens as those who have lived here for generations. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, when replying to the debate is going to amplify these points. As other noble Lords have said, there are three main problems to be faced in getting—like the most reverend Primate, I hesitate to use the word "integration", but to get these people happily established here. I refer to housing, education and health. The first and last, housing and health, are really outside the scope of this debate. I feel, speaking from these Benches, that my Party are more likely to build more houses overall than the present Government; and I also think that our hospital programme will be more satisfactory; but this is a matter for argument, and naturally noble Lords opposite would not agree with this. I think it fair to say, however, that those two problems, as they are bound up with domestic problems, would be better discussed in a debate on housing or the Health Service.

That is true also, to a certain extent, about education, but here I feel there are certain specialist sides of that subject which would help enormously to make Commonwealth immigrants, and particularly their children, feel more quickly at home, and I should like to make reference to them. I think it is in paragraph 47 of the White Paper that reference is made to discussions which are going on as to the use of language laboratories, modern techniques of wireless and television, and teaching English as a second language to immigrant children who do not speak English. One of the great difficulties in the education field is that these children, however high their I.Q. may be, are seriously handicapped when compared with our own children by being able to speak little or no English. I thought that the White Paper might have been a little more urgent on this aspect of the matter. It says that discussions are taking place. There have been great advances in recent years in the technique of speaking English as a second language. I have already referred to the language laboratories. The British Council have been pioneers in this work, as have London University, the University of Leeds and one or two others. There is great scope, without spending too much money, for a "crash" programme, and I would ask the Government to look into this to see how much can be done in putting forward a "crash" programme so that immigrant children can master the English tongue within a reasonably short time of their arrival in Britain.

The second point is whether more could be done among volunteer youth workers in this country. Noble Lords on all sides of the House will be aware of the magnificent work done by Voluntary Service Overseas. I think this is one of the most successful things we have achieved in this country since the war. I wonder whether something of the same kind could not be done among the substantial numbers of Commonwealth immigrants in our great cities. There is a body called the Youth Service Development Council. I am afraid I do not know much about the work of this Council as I should, and it may well be that this Council is already tackling the problem. There is undoubtedly in this country a great urge among young people to help the developing peoples abroad —and to go abroad, of course, is more of an adventure. There is this genuine feeling of service among a large number of young people when they leave school or university. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Government to sponsor and organise in this country something on the lines of Voluntary Service Overseas—call it Voluntary Service at Home, or what you will—because it is much easier for young people to help people of their own age and generation to get accustomed to our ways in this country. This is only an idea which I put forward, and it may well be that the Council to which I have referred are already tackling the work.

Finally, I should like to quote the beginning of the last paragraph of the White Paper. There it says: The good name of Britain, our relations with other members of the Commonwealth, and, above all, justice and common humanity, demand that Commonwealth immigrants in this country should be absorbed into our community without friction and with mutual understanding and tolerance. That is a splendid sentence, and one with which every Member of this House, no matter where he sits, will wholeheartedly agree. There is no quarrel here, I should like to assure the Government, on the end—the end is stated clearly—the quarrel is on the means. We must accept our physical limitations. We must make ourselves as sufficient as possible, but we must accept that we have substantial physical limitations and that it would be the height of folly to allow more people into this country than can be properly assimilated, because racial feeling would suffer infinitely more than it does now by a number of people feeling that they have been badly treated by not being allowed in. Far more racial trouble is caused by one Nothing Hill riot than by several tens of thousands of people being unable to obtain admission into this Island. I congratulate the Government on producing the White Paper, and I hope they will have the strength and courage to go through with the proposals tabled in it.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, this is the sort of debate to which I do not like having to reply. Most of the criticisms have come from behind me, and most of the support for this White Paper continuing the power that we are here seeking has come from in front of me. That is always a difficult situation for someone who is to speak for the Government.


A stab in the back!


It is not exactly a stab in the back. I should rather think it was a pin in the behind, which is just a little different but, nevertheless, is something which might be very uncomfortable, if not deeply wounding.

This debate has been marked by a deep seriousness and profound feeling about the issues raised by this Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, particularly as it applies to immigration. The noble Duke used better words than I had thought of when I was scribbling this down just now. He said, "a burning sincerity" and he was absolutely right. It seemed to me that that burning sincerity came through all the speeches of my noble friends and of course of the most reverend Primate, all of whom, in varying degrees, criticised this White Paper.

Perhaps the most forthright was the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in the sort of speech that we expect from him and know we shall get, because of his deep feelings in this matter. What he told this House is what he has told us so many times: that we are all brothers under the skin, no matter what our colour; and I agree with him. I remember George Lansbury using a phrase many years ago, at a public meeting which I attended as a youngster, when he said, talking of coloured people, "Scratch them and they bleed; tickle them and they laugh, the same as we do. They are human beings, they are our brothers." The noble Lord may agree with this, as I agree with it. Unfortunately, we are some distance from a general acceptance of this idea by the whole of the people of this country, and by those in the areas to which most of the coloured immigrants have come during the past two years. Here is our difficulty. We know, too—and this has been stressed by many noble Lords to-day —that racial prejudice exists and has been exacerbated by the conditions in which, unfortunately, these people have to come here and live—housing, school difficulties, the general overcrowding and massing in these areas.

To admit unlimited numbers in present day circumstances would, I agree with the noble Duke, have the opposite effect on Commonwealth relations to that which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, thinks it would have. I believe that if immigrants were permitted to come in in numbers of the kind that some people to-day say should be allowed, the results would be disastrous to the Commonwealth, rather than helpful. I am sorry to have to disagree with him on this, but it is a point of view which I hold, and which the Government hold. That is why we have frankly to admit that our attitude towards the 1962 Act has changed. A greater knowledge and a greater experience in the meantime have definitely taught us that.

My noble friend Lord Gifford said, or suggested, that we were giving greater preference to aliens than to Commonwealth immigrants. I am bound to say that this is quite untrue. He said, too, that the White Paper tends to exacerbate racial feelings. They might be to some extent. He has pointed out instances, as have others, including the most reverend Primate and the noble Lords, Lord Brockway and Lord Royle. But we, too, as individuals have a responsibility, and if in our speeches we exaggerate some of these points we also are exacerbating racial feeling. That is why we have to accept responsibilities and, when we make speeches, realise that they are read outside this House and that they themselves might add that little additional fuel to the conditions which we seek to avoid, and which we do not want to exacerbate. We have individual responsibilities, and we must exercise them when we speak in public places. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, asked me a question which was of rather less importance than his main speech. He asked whether there was, or would be, any difficulty about students who are genuinely studying remaining for the whole period of their course. The answer to this is, No; there is no difficulty at all, provided that they are genuinely studying and pursuing a course of study which will provide a result which they want, and we want for them. The difficulty we have found is that so many people have come here under the guise of students but have not followed a course of study.

The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, gave me some relief when he told us that he was delighted about the Bill he had introduced, about its effect over the period, and the fact that it was being continued by this legislation today. If everybody had spoken in those terms my task tonight would have been an easy one.

The noble Duke and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, spoke about the problem of evasion of control. Lord Derwent suggested methods of check on this matter. I cannot attempt to answer here the points that he has made, but I am bound to say that I think his suggestions are worthy of study. Indeed, some of them are under consideration at the moment, or are being put into operation, but I can go no further than that. As his suggestions come from an ex-Minister of State in the Home Department, knowledgeable about this whole subject, we can assure him that we will give them the consideration they deserve. On this point, I can add nothing to paragraphs 23 and 24 of the White Paper, Immigration from the Commonwealth. At the moment, what can be done by administrative means is being done.

However, as we say in those paragraphs, some of the powers which are required will necessitate legislation. Here I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that the Committee was not set up in order that the whole problem might be swept under the carpet. That is always a good opposition phrase when one sets up a committee to consider something of this sort, but so often when a committee is set up something emerges which is really worth while. The question has perhaps been given that little additional consideration which such a committee can give; and we are extremely grateful to Sir Roy Wilson for having accepted the responsibility in this case. I cannot imagine that Sir Roy would have accepted the chairmanship of this Committee had he thought it was merely a nice little shuffling-off job by the Government.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but what I am really interested in is the speed with which this Committee can do its work; and as the noble Lord is talking about pinpricks into the hide, perhaps the Government would exercise that and ask the Committee to go even more quickly than it has intended to go.


Yes, my Lords. We always say this about committees which are set up. I think the reply almost invariably is that we would rather they do their work well, than hurriedly and not well.


A bad answer!


My Lords, as I have heard the noble Lord give that answer himself it must be a pretty good answer, and not a bad one.

My noble friend Lord Royle found the White Paper disappointing and distressing. He referred to the statement that was made by the Minister of State at the Home Office at the Labour Party Conference, which was something to the effect that what we must have is a pause. As I understood the noble Lord he asked me to clarify the word pause Unfortunately, I have not the context of the speech by me, but I think that it is quite clear that no definite reply can be given at this stage about the length of the pause, until it is known for certain what effect the present and proposed measures for integration—social services, housing, education and the like—will have. So we cannot set a date to this. Indeed, this is a matter which this and future Governments will have to keep under continuous review. But unless conditions change enormously I personally doubt whether we shall, in the foreseeable future, be able to revert to the open door for all who wish to come to this small island.

The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said that we must admit no more. I think he would, for this present moment, cut out the 8,500 vouchers.


My Lords, I particularly did not say that. I said that we should admit no more for permanent residence, but that there was no reason why we should not admit them on a temporary basis, as we do with aliens.


My Lords, I did not quite understand the noble Lord that way, but I shall check Hansard— well, I do not need to check Hansard, because of course I accept absolutely what the noble Lord has now told me. I think it would be a most difficult thing to admit them on a temporary basis, to do a job, and then at the end of the period turn them out. Moreover, I should have thought it was unworthy of this country to tackle the problem in quite that way.

The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has taken one point of view which exists in this country. The right reverend Primate has taken the other point of view, as so many have done. As I said here last week, the job of Government is always to balance: to balance the points of view which have been expressed in various quarters. We have done this here to the best of our ability, and we believe that the White Paper indicates the best way to tackle this problem, which is certainly a tremendous problem for us all.

The noble Lord, Lord Royle, is unhappy about the fact that an entry certificate does not guarantee admission. My Lords, an entry certificate indicates to the immigration officer that the Commonwealth citizen holding it has satisfied a responsible person overseas that he is eligible for admission to this country. It is rare for the holder of an entry certificate to be refused admission, but there are unfortunately, cases where it is discovered at the point of entry that the certificate has been obtained by misrepresentation, and therefore admission is refused. These things happen very rarely.


My Lords, are these the only cases?


My Lords, so far as I am aware, this is the only sort of case in which a person in possession of an entry certificate is refused admission. I will speak to officials after this debate is over, and if I find out that I have in any way misinformed the noble Lord I will write to him.


Thank you.


My Lords, we have not heard to-day, as I rather expected that we might, anything about the health checks. I thought we should do so, considering the fact that we have had the B.M.A. Report presented to the Government recently. Perhaps I might just say a word about this Report. The Report, which was received on December l, is a detailed document of some 30 closely typed pages, with eleven appendices, which have many implications, legislative, administrative and medical. Clearly we have not had time to form firm views on it, but all I can say at this stage is that we regard this as a serious document which will be carefully studied by the Government. Meanwhile, the Government's own policy is clearly set out in the White Paper on Immigration from the Commonwealth. A quick reading of the Report, however, indicates that, broadly speaking, the Government's policy is very much in line with the recommendation of the B.M.A. Working Party. But, as I have said, this is a detailed document which will be subjected to close study by the departments concerned.

Turning now to education, the noble Duke was quite right when he said that this is extremely important, and he mentioned some of the aspects which the Government also feel to be important. The circular, 7/65, issued by the Department of Education and Science in June, made a number of recommendations to local education authorities on the special measures which might be necessary in some areas to ensure that immigrants receive the best possible education. These recommendations covered, among other matters, the appointment of additional teachers and non-teaching staff in schools; the provision of extra books and equipment; English classes for adult immigrants and training courses for teachers.

In this connection I do not know whether the Department have, in fact, made any suggestions to the local authorities on the lines of the suggestions made by the noble Duke, but if they have not done so, I am sure they will study the problem. But of course the actual way in which they do this is very much a local education authority matter. They have the responsibility. What we have to do at the centre is to try to provide the additional finance, and so on, which will make it possible for them to carry out the suggestions we make to them, or the ideas which they might themselves have on this matter of providing the sort of education which is going to turn the immigrant into someone wholly acceptable to our society.

The only recommendation in the circular sent out at that time that has been criticised is one which suggested that local education authorities should, wherever possible, limit the proportion of immigrant children in any school to not more than about one-third of the school roll. This has been interpreted in some quarters as discrimination against immigrants. It was, in fact, an attempt to ensure that schools did not have to cope with so many children with educational problems arising out of their different cultural and social background, and often inadequate knowledge of English, that the standard of education or the standard of English provided by the school for all its pupils was in danger.

It is accepted that this recommendation is not' easy to implement, and authorities are not obliged to implement it. There are, nevertheless, increasing signs among teachers, in particular very recently in London and Birmingham, that they agree with the principle of limiting the proportion of immigrant children on the ground that this will ultimately be for the benefit of all children, immigrant and non-immigrant alike.

On the question of financial assistance to local authorities the White Paper announced in paragraph 60 that the Government intended to contribute towards approved expenditure incurred by certain local authorities that undertake exceptional commitments by engaging extra staff to ease pressure on the social services arising from the difference in language and cultural background of immigrants and to deal with the problems of transition and adjustment. The Government intend that the necessary powers should be taken when Parliamentary time permits, possibly in the course of this Session. I cannot be absolutely sure, but I rather hope it will be the case.

"Integration" has proved to be a word that a lot of people regard as not very blessed, and they have sought to find different words, but the problem remains the same, no matter what word is used about it. The Government have recognised that Britain is already a multiracial society and have made it clear that there can be no question of Commonwealth immigrants being regarded as second-class citizens. They must be full members of our community in every sense of the word, with the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. It is only honest to admit, as I am sure we all do, that there are many difficulties to overcome. They must be overcome if we are to translate into reality our belief in the equality of our citizens irrespective of their countries of origin or the colour of their skins. To achieve our purpose we need a concerted effort by all those who are or should be involved, and I hope that we shall be able to rely on the full co-operation in this work of employers, trade unions, local authorities, the churches and voluntary organisations, and the immigrants themselves. As the House knows, the Government have instructed a Minister, Mr. Foley, to take a personal responsibility for co-ordinating Government activity in this connection, and I will not say any more about it.

The most reverend Primate has accepted the chairmanship of the new National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants. We are deeply grateful to him for having undertaken that additional task, a task over and above the great responsibilities which he bears. We know that he brings to it the sympathy and understanding which shone out through the whole of his speech here this afternoon. I think I should mention here that we are grateful to the Council which is now defunct and which was presided over by Lady Reading, a Council that produced two excellent reports that I can think of at the moment—I know they produced more. The first was on housing and the fourth was on housing, and in between we had two others. My noble friend is whispering something to me; he is not quite sure whether they were about employment and education. Nevertheless we are grateful for those reports, and I am sure the Department learnt a lot from them.

I need not talk about the work of this National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants because it was described by the most reverend Primate. He asked me a few questions when he was talking about the work of that Committee. He said that considerable difficulty was being created as a result of our decision to put the age limit at 16 with a discretionary power being left to the Department concerned for the ages between 16 and 18. We explained in the White Paper how the previous rule was being abused to the detriment of family unity by the bringing in of children only as they reached working age. As my noble friend, Lord Stonham, said on November 16 in the debate on the Address, the Home Secretary does not exercise his discretion on any narrow interpretation of the word "hardship". When both parents or only the surviving parent are in this country, a dependent son or daughter aged 16 or 17 is normally allowed entry to join them here.

We are here up against, as one always must be in this sort of question, the difficulty of setting an age. If we set 18, there would be difficulties created of those between 18 and 21, and so it goes on. You have to decide on an age and allow some little flexibility on one side of it, as we have done; and I think in the circumstances this age was perhaps the right one. I can assure the most reverend Primate, as I am sure he heard from the Prime Minister when his deputation met him the other day, that the Home Secretary does apply this decision with the greatest sympathy and understanding.

The most reverend Primate also mentioned the bias that seems to exist towards allowing professional people to come in. He mentioned doctors and said that this has been described as a brain drain from countries that simply cannot afford it. I believe that in the debate on this Bill last year I agreed that there was difficulty here, but I frankly do not know the answer. I know that in many cases these professional people conic here, the doctors in particular, to gain experience which they can then take back to add something of value to the communities from which they have sprung. Some remain because the conditions here are so much better than those in their own country. There is no simple answer to this; but we recognise the problem, and if the most reverend Primate has any ideas on how to overcome it, I am sure we shall be very glad to look at them.

My noble friend Lord Royle supported the most reverend Primate on that point, and also on the point of the sixteens to eighteens. I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, that we have failed to give a strong lead to the country. I believe we have, in this White Paper. What we must face is the fact that there is no sudden, dramatic move that the Government or any Committee can make that will solve this problem of immigration and integration. Racial feelings and hatreds are not suddenly dissolved by telling people that they just ought not to exist. To translate our belief in the equality of all our citizens into reality we have to overcome the social difficulties which are obvious to everyone, and especially to those who are living in the forty or fifty already overcrowded towns where immigrants have settled. These towns must have a breathing space in which to tackle the physical conditions —housing, educational facilities, health and the other services which are at present under great strain. In this they must be helped to the maximum by the central Government, and indeed we have set our hands to that task. Only time can change psychologically and emotionally deep-seated attitudes. To shorten that period of time must be the aim of every decent member of our community, whether he be black or white.

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