HL Deb 15 June 1965 vol 267 cc32-5

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, with permission, I wish to repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has just made in another place. His exact words were as follows:—

"I have just received from Lord Mountbatten a Report on his mission to a number of Commonwealth countries to discuss the control of immigration into the United Kingdom. This mission has been immensely valuable in securing real understanding between the countries visited and ourselves about the nature of the problems we are facing, and we are greatly indebted to Lord Mountbatten. His discussions with Commonwealth Governments were on a strictly confidential basis and his Report will not be published. We are studying it urgently, and I am looking forward to having some discussion with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers principally concerned while they are in London this week and next. After that the Government intends to make a full and detailed statement to the House of what is proposed in the light of these discussions."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement of the Prime Minister.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for conveying to your Lordships the Statement made by the Prime Minister in another place. There are two questions I should like to put to the noble Earl upon it. The Statement says that Lord Mountbatten of Burma's discussions with Commonwealth Governments were on a strictly confidential basis and that his Report will not be published. I should be the last person to ask that there should be any publication of any confidential discussions with Commonwealth Governments, but it is surely quite another thing not to publish the recommendations made by Lord Mountbatten of Burma to Her Majesty's Government.

I would ask the noble Earl (though I do not suppose he will be in a position to answer me straight away) to see whether he can persuade the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister slightly to alter from this position and to publish, not anything which has happened confidentially with the Commonwealth Governments, but what in fact are the recommendations for future changes of policy made by Lord Mountbatten of Burma: because only if we have information of those recommendations shall we be able to judge to what extent the statement which is promised complies with those recommendations. I urge upon the noble Earl that, for the purpose of considering this question, those recommendations should be made public. This is a most important subject, and one that is regarded by people throughout the whole of this country, whatever views they may take, as of the greatest importance. We welcomed the mission of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and I would stress to the noble Earl that if we are to have this "full and detailed statement of what is proposed" by the Government we ought to be able to consider it in the light of the recommendations made by Lord Mountbatten of Burma. That is the first matter I want to press, and press very seriously, upon the noble Earl.

The second matter relates to the promised full and detailed statement of what is proposed in the light of these discussions". Could the noble Earl give any indication of the possible time when that statement would be made? What I have in mind—I will be quite frank with the noble Earl—is this. We might get such a statement, say, in the middle of July, requiring action which might require some legislation, and there would probably be no possibility of further legislation on this subject until the autumn. The consequence, if, for instance, the proposal were to restrict immigration to a greater extent or to alter the existing Act would be that there would be a considerable gap. I do not press the noble Earl on that, but could he give any indication at all about when he thinks the statement is likely to come?


My Lords, I am grateful for the tone of the noble Viscount's remarks. He is very much experienced in Government, and he will not be surprised that I am not able to answer his second question. This Report has only just been received. There are these discussions with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers concerned and, no doubt, other discussions. I am afraid that I cannot say any more, and if the noble and learned Viscount were in my place, he would hardly be likely to say any more than has been said here. I will, of course, convey anything he suggests to me to the Prime Minister and the Government, and I will convey what he has said about the publication of this document. But without myself having had an opportunity to discuss the matter with colleagues, I am bound to say at this stage that I should be very surprised if this Report could be published. The matter has been carefully considered and, like many other documents of this kind, it is not thought advisable to publish it. It was drawn up in a way that was intended to be, and remain, confidential. Perhaps it would have been drawn up in a different way if it was to be published. Lord Mountbatten of Burma is a distinguished serving officer of the Armed Forces at the present time, and I should have thought that it would be unusual if it were to be published. At any rate, I will convey what the noble Viscount has said.


My Lords, the noble Earl will appreciate that I am not asking that the document as a whole should be published. I well recognise that it must contain a good deal of confidential matter. I was asking the noble Earl to secure, if he could, that the recommendations for future action made by Lord Mountbatten of Burma should be published. My memory goes back to occasions when one has been faced with this problem of a report made by an outside body containing some confidential matter, and it has (I think I can give instances of it) on occasions been published, with the omission of that confidential matter; and that situation has been accepted by both Houses. I am not going so far as asking for that here. It might not be possible to excise from this document as a whole the confidential matter and leave anything of substance after that. But surely the recommendations made by Lord Mountbatten of Burma cannot be of a confidential nature affecting Commonwealth Governments. I would therefore ask the noble Earl to give it further consideration.


My Lords, I will gladly convey what the noble Viscount has said, but I can imagine great difficulty in separating recommendations from the facts and arguments supporting them.




I can, anyway.