HL Deb 21 March 1967 vol 281 cc717-34

5.29 p.m.

LORD MERRIVALE rose to ask Her Majesty's Government why the people of Gibraltar, a British dependent territory, are subjected to the control of immigration provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, since they are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies holding passports issued by the Governor of Gibraltar in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the reason for my raising this short debate this evening is that I hope to show either that the people of Gibraltar should not be subject to the Control of Immigration provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, or that they find themselves in a very special position warranting very particular consideration. I am grateful to Major Gache for having discussed this matter with me last week and for putting forward certain arguments which I found somewhat convincing. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will find them equally convincing. I would mention to the noble Lord that Major Gache is a gentleman who has for a number of years taken a close and keen interest—and an enlightened interest, I might add—in the affairs of Gibraltar.

Should the people of Gibraltar be subjected to the provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962? Section 2 of the Act gives an immigration officer power to refuse admission or to admit subject to conditions restricting the period of stay, with or without a condition restricting freedom to take employment, any Commonwealth citizen who does not satisfy one of the conditions laid down in Section 1 of the Act; namely that he is:

  1. "(a) A person born in the United Kingdom,
  2. (b) A person who holds a United Kingdom passport and is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.…"
and so forth. And "United Kingdom passport" means a passport issued to the holder by the Government of the United Kingdom, not being a passport so issued on behalf of the Government of any part of the Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom.

But, as stated by the then Foreign Secretary, Mr. Michael Stewart, in his letter of March 30, 1965, to His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador in London: The Constitutional position with regard to the granting or renewal of British passports is that all such passports (including those issued to persons who belong to a British dependent territory) are granted or renewed in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. This Royal Prerogative is exercised through Her Majsty's Ministers and in particular, but not exclusively by, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It is also exercised through Governors of Colonies, British High Commissioners in Commonwealth countries and Her Majesty's Consular Officers acting on the instructions of Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It would therefore appear to me logical to assume that the Governor of Gibraltar, when granting or renewing a British passport which is marked "Colony of Gibraltar", is acting solely on behalf of, and as an agent of, the Crown. Should it not then follow that such a passport is constitutionally a United Kingdom passport? For it seems to me, on reading the letter which the then Foreign Secretary sent to the Spanish Ambassador on April 28, 1965, there can be no doubt that Her Majesty's Government felt that this passport is not issued on behalf of the Government of any part of the Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom.

I apologise for quoting again, but this letter says: …all dependent territories for the international relations of which the United Kingdom is responsible have governments. These territories are not sovereign independent States, and the use of the term "government" in connection with them does not, and cannot, imply that they have the international personality and capacity required for statehood. The Government of Gibraltar has no extra territorial competence within the normal meaning of this expression, since the United Kingdom is responsible for its international relations. Further on, it says: …all British passports are issued in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, and there is, of course, no exception to this in the case of passports bearing reference to the 'Government of Gibraltar'. And again: …it is clear that no question of the recognition of the Government of a State is involved in respect of British passports bearing a reference to the Government of Gibraltar'. Later, the letter says: …there is. in the present circumstances, no question whatsoever of the recognition of any authority claiming to be the Government of an independent State.

My Lords, if the Government of Gibraltar have no international personality or capacity for statehood, then one would have thought that passports cannot be issued on their behalf, thus meaning, I would assume, that a passport issued by the Governor of Gibraltar in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative is, in effect, a United Kingdom passport of a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and therefore not subject to the provisions of the 1962 Act. I am wondering, therefore, whether the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, could say under what authority these passports, bearing the words "Colony of Gibraltar", and issued by the Government in exercise of the Royal Prerogative are marked: This passport is subject to Section 2 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962.

My reading of the provisions of Section 1 of the British Nationality Act, 1948, is that the national status of the people of Gibraltar is British subject, citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and I do not know of any later legislation—not even the 1962 Act—which would change anything of that interpretation. Like other British subjects, Gibraltarians have the common national status of Commonwealth citizens, but unlike citizens of other member States of the Commonwealth they "belong"—and I use that word deliberately—to the United Kingdom, if we bear in mind the provisions of Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht.

On the other hand, if my assessment or interpretation of this matter is wrong—and I sincerely hope that it is not—I hope the noble Lord will agree that there are strong grounds for looking into this ques tion of the right of Gibraltarians to enter this country freely. I sincerely urge Her Majesty's Government and the Minister to consider this Question most sympathetically. The Gibraltarians certainly deserve it.

Should the present restrictions be lifted at some future date, my guess would be that, out of the total population of around 25,000, at most 100 or 200 might take advantage of the easing of the restrictions and thus have free access to what they consider to be, and rightly so, the Mother country. As Mr. Sol Seruya, the Gibraltarian Minister of Economic Development, put it in the remarks he made on March 13 last, in a Committee Room in the House of Commons to members of the Society for Individual Freedom, The Gibraltarians would never leave their sunny rock for a magnificent but foggy Britain. Surely the noble Lord must understand their desire for the basic freedom of a United Kingdom passport without restriction, giving them the right to enter Britain freely at any time.

I should have thought that this was not too much to ask for a people, natural-born British subjects and citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, who have been subjected since November, 1964, to an intolerable blockade of their frontier by the Spanish authorities, and who since then, through loyalty to this country, have denied to themselves the pleasurable experience of seeking temporary respite in Spain from the economic stranglehold which is being imposed upon them by Spain; and, I would add, all the extra pressure that has been put upon them by the Spanish authorities, and all the aspersions cast by the Spanish information service, are due to this loyalty. If these people do not go into Spain through loyalty to us, is it right to deny them free access to this country, which they consider to be theirs, too?

In their "Instructions to Immigration Officers" contained in the White Paper on the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 (Cmnd. 1716) the Government seem capable of a certain flexibility in their interpretation of the Act. Paragraph 25 says: A woman who has been living in permanent association with a man, even if not married to him, should be treated for this purpose as a wife.

Another paragraph says: Husbands. The normal rule should be to treat a Commonwealth citizen as eligible for admission if the Immigration Officer is satisfied that he is coming to join his wife and the latter is ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom. The White Paper goes on to say, in paragraph 35: Any Commonwealth citizen is entitled to admission if he satisfies the immigration officer that he is ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom or has been so resident at any time during the previous two years. Further down, it says: A Commonwealth citizen can still be admitted if, for example, he has strong family ties there and has previously lived in the United Kingdom for some time. Surely, if there can be a certain amount of flexibility in the interpretation of the 1962 Act, there can be a certain amount of humanity and understanding on the part of the Government with regard to the plight of the population of Gibraltar, who are, as it seems to me, so wrongly restricted from free access to this country.

With regard to paragraph 36 of "Instructions to Immigration Officers", it might be an interesting thought for the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that in 1940 16,700 men over 45, women and children were evacuated to this country from Gibraltar, and lived here for a number of years. Should they not be allowed free access, as (heir children who were born here during that period of time?


My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that people who were born here will not be in any difficulty.


I am well aware of that fact. I am just suggesting that, for a number of reasons, it might be worth the while of the Government that this should be extended to their parents.

Finally, I should like to say a few words concerning what I consider to be a somewhat regrettable incident involving five Gibraltarians at the port of Harwich on March 2 last. These youngsters are members of a very good "pop" group, called the H.T. Group. They were returning to this country from Holland. On arrival they were refused entry, and held under police supervision for over 24 hours pending deportation back to Holland. They had previously been over here for a period of six months.

If my information is correct, it seems to me that in this matter the Home Office acted in a somewhat thoughtless and inhumane way. For I understand that the senior immigration officer at Harwich received a minute from the Home Office to the effect that he should not allow the Gibraltar H.T. Group into this country as they did not possess a work permit. They were going to be deported quite regardless of whether or not they had any money and as to how they could make their way back to Gibraltar. The noble Lord may laugh, but it is a valid point. Can he imagine the field day that the Spanish information services would have had over such a rebuff to loyal Gibraltarians trying to re-enter this country, and having, in effect, to make their way back in some way to Gibraltar, possibly having to go through Spain?

I understand that now the Home Office have agreed to their entry for a period of three months. But surely this should never have happened in the first place. It seems to me—I should not like to say disgraceful, but a poor way of treating British subjects, who, in effect were nearly deported, and not for any crime, but purely due to the fact that they had passports which were issued in Gibraltar.

These passports carry these words, which I should have thought still have some meaning: The Governor of Gibraltar requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary. Well, my Lords, there we are. Would not the noble Lord agree to look into this question sympathetically? I raise the matter of the five Gibraltarians because I feel that something like this should never happen. They are British subjects and hold British passports issued by the Governor in the exercise of the Royal' Prerogative. It seems wrong that British subjects should be detained for over 24 hours, under police supervision, when they have committed no crime whatever.

Then, there are certain anomalies. For instance, a Gibraltarian whose passport expires while he is in this country can obtain from the Passport Office a new United Kingdom passport containing no restrictions whatever. This means that one of these Gibraltarian young men could have remained in this country while the others were sent back. Equally, I presume that if a Gibraltarian was abroad and his passport expired, he would get a brand new United Kingdom passport issued by Her Majesty's Consular officers with no restrictions on it.


My Lords, it would be issued in the name of Gibraltar, and would therefore be no different from a passport reissued by the Administration of Gibraltar.


I cannot see how it can be issued in the name of some authority in Gibraltar.


On behalf of, then, I assure the noble Lord that I have made inquiries about this.


It is surely not issued on behalf of the Government of Gibraltar, because that was one of the points which the Spanish authorities objected to. Therefore, it is issued solely by the Governor in the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, or on behalf of the Crown, as a U.K. passport and the sole words that are added are "Colony of Gibraltar".

Another anomaly seems to be that, according to Section 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1948, a woman who is an alien and who has been married to a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies can become a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by registration. Thus, an alien woman who marries in the United Kingdom a person holding a "Colony of Gibraltar" passport would herself be granted a United Kingdom passport in the United Kingdom. So "Control of Immigration" provisions would not apply to her, nor for that matter, I presume, to her husband, who is a Gibraltarian, if he wished to be included in her passport.

A Gibraltarian who has a "Colony of Gibraltar" passport which expires in this country, and who goes to the Passport Office to get a new passport, gets a British passport which has no restriction on it, and does not get a passport marked "Colony of Gibraltar". There seems to be an anomaly if a Gibraltarian can come and get a British passport. I do not see why he is entitled to it here but not when he lives in Gibraltar.

I feel that I have not convinced the noble Lord in any way. Perhaps I have not convinced him of the validity of my argument. However, I hope that I have convinced him of my sincere belief that there is need to do something for the people of Gibraltar; that there is need to look into this question; and that maybe it is unfair under present conditions that the people of Gibraltar should be treated in this way. Perhaps the point I put earlier on is not valid, but what is valid, I think, is that the people of Gibraltar deserve special consideration in this matter of free access into this country.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, if I may, to give qualified general support to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale. As we have just heard, clearly this is a question which can be presented in its various fairly complicated technical aspects, but it seems to me that the noble Lord has a point which might cause some concern. According to the 1962 Immigrants Act, the provisions of which were renewed in 1965, the control of immigrants does not apply to persons who were born in this country or to persons holding United Kingdom passports, or to persons who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and I think I am right in saying that it seems to be the case that the people of Gibraltar qualify under the last two categories, both as holding British passports and as being citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

This being the case, I think there is a prima facie reason for requiring the Government to answer, if indeed there are cases of restrictions imposed upon the people of Gibraltar. Possibly I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, to give his description of the restrictions which operate against the people of Gibraltar, and perhaps also one might emphasise the degree to which the people of Gibraltar are denied their full rights in this respect. If they are denied to the degree which it appears that they are, this must tend to depreciate the belief of the people of Gibraltar in our determination to remain in the island.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful for the detailed way in which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has presented his case, and I never for one moment doubted the sincerity of his convictions, or indeed at times the passion with which he put forward his case on behalf of the Gibraltarians. So far as his objective is concerned, and the principle that he was driving at, I do not suppose there is any difference between any two people in any part of this House. But the noble Lord has asked a question, and in short the Question on the Order Paper is why the people of Gibraltar, Commonwealth citizens, should be subject to immigration control. It is to that question that I propose to address myself.

I do not think that in this House I need to justify the existence of immigration control over Commonwealth citizens. Nobody regrets more than I do the breach which was made by the 1962 Act in the freedom of British subjects or Commonwealth citizens—and I emphasise that the terms are interchangeable—to come and go as they wish. Whatever differences of opinion there may have been on this in the past, I believe that there is now general agreement that the Act was necessary and that some control over Commonwealth immigration is essential, although there may still be—and indeed there are—differences of view as to the degree of control required.

Given the need for control, the first question that arises is to which Commonwealth citizens the control should apply? I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and indeed all noble Lords opposite, that the Conservative Government, of which they were supporters, refused to institute a system of control that differentiated between the peoples of the different Commonwealth territories overseas. I should be the last to dissent from that view, and I do not think anyone else dissents from it. Indeed the Government fully accept the principle upon which the Act of 1962 is based. This principle is that people who, for want of a better term, "belong" to the United Kingdom (the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, used the word "belong") should be free of immigration control, and that people who "belong" to other Commonwealth territories should be subject to it. That is the short answer to the noble Lord's question asking why the people of Gibraltar are subject to the provisions of the 1962 Act.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but would he agree that the people of Gibraltar belong to this country on account of the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht?


My Lords, I used the word "belong" in the sense in which think we understand it. I will develop that, because I think the noble Lord has really mixed up Sections 1 and 2 of the 1962 Act. I have only reached the point so far about British subjects or Commonwealth citizens being interchangeable and being the same for those purposes until we come to the 1962 Act. Then, one lot of British subjects are not subject to its provisions and another lot, by the virtually unanimous agreement of Parliament, are subject to it.

The noble Lord made some references, which I regretted, to the immigration officers and the way they carry out their duties—


My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but I did not cast a single aspersion on the immigration officers and the way in which they carry out their duties. I am sure that they do so efficiently and extremely well. I was casting aspersions on the way in which the Home Office handle this question in their notification to the Chief Immigration Officer at Harwich.


I am glad to have that assurance from the noble Lord, because I think they carry out extremely difficult duties extremely well, and in a humanitarian way. Indeed, I hope that the booklet from which the noble Lord quoted will be read by every noble Lord in the House, because it gives an example of the kindly, human way in which we interpret the provisions of the 1962 Act. The noble Lord quoted one specific example, and if he reads tomorrow what he has said, he will find that he was somewhat rigorous in his criticisms of the Home Office and their attitude and, if I may say so, rather inaccurate. That is why I smiled at the pitiful picture he conjured up of these five poor "pop-groupers" being in danger of going penniless back to Gibraltar. The facts are somewhat otherwise.

This matter was raised in December, 1965, by my honourable friend, Mr. Colin Jackson, in another place, when he raised the question of this group being admitted for six months. At first there was some understanding that they might have been employed by the Shell Company and that they did "pop" work in their spare time. Therefore the question of work vouchers was raised, and indeed properly raised. When it was found that they wanted to come as a "pop" group they were admitted in March. so it was not for a period of six months, but in March, 1966, they were admitted for six months.


My Lords, that is what I said.


The noble Lord said that they were here for six months.


I said, "previous to their visit to Holland".


My Lords, I am telling the noble Lord that he is wrong, because their stay was extended to December 16, 1966, in order that they could be here when their first record was released. Incidentally, I understand they have a five-year recording contract with the Polydor company, so they are not hard up. The recording was delayed, so they actually remained here until January 31 of this year; namely, ten months. Then we were informed that they were leaving for a month's engagement in Cologne, and we were asked whether they could then return here for a further six months.

We have these concessions for entertainers, and we have entertainers and "pop" groups of our own in the country. We have concessions for entertainers who come here for a maximum of six months; but these boys had then been here for ten months, they were away for a month, then they asked whether they could come back for another six months. We thought that they had worked out their allowance at least until early 1968, and therefore we said, No. But they arrived at Harwich on March 3, and one of them, a Mr. Brittenden, travelling on a United Kingdom passport, was exempt from control. I would mention, in view of the fact that the noble Lord asked whether this was a question of policy, that Mr. Brittenden was given a passport which was not endorsed with "Gibraltar" to show it was issued on behalf of the Government of Gilhraltar. That was a mistake; it should have been endorsed in that way. But he happened to be lucky. You cannot get a British passport in that way except, as this was, by accident. After considering the matter they were admitted for a further three months to allow them to fulfil the engagements to which they were committed. That is a total of 13 months out of 14, and I do not think they have been hard done by. In fact they have been treated particularly well compared with any other entertainers from abroad.

To come back to the original proposition, the principle is simple enough to express in general terms, but there are great technical difficulties in expressing it with sufficient precision for incorporation in an Act of Parliament. If there were such a thing as citizenship of the United Kingdom, in the way that there is citizenship of Switzerland or Canada, which distinguished the people who belong to the United Kingdom from those who belong to all other Commonwealth and foreign territories, we should have a simple task. But although each of the independent Commonwealth territories has a separate citizenship of its own, complication arises with people who belong to other parts of the Commonwealth, such as Gibraltar. Our nationality law draws no distinction between an Englishman who has lived all his life in England and a Gibraltarian who has lived all his life in Gibraltar, or a Fijiian who has lived all his life in Fiji. All of them are what we term citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. But for the purposes of the 1962 Act—and this is the point where I think I depart in argument from the noble Lord—and of immigration controls, it is necessary to draw a distinction between the two. The Englishman must be free of the control and the Gibraltarian ought to be subject to it. At least, that is what we have said until this moment under the Act.

The relevant statutory provision—Section 1 of the 1962 Act—makes this distinction according to whether a Commonwealth citizen was born in the United Kingdom and, if not, according to the kind of passport he holds. The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, and the noble Lord, Lord Reay, both made incomplete statements as to, broadly speaking, what exempts the Commonwealth citizen from the control. There are three, and I should like to give them in full. First, lie is exempt from the control if he was born in the United Kingdom; secondly, he is exempt from control if his passport was issued to him by one of the British passport offices in the United Kingdom—that happened to Mr. Brittenden, by accident. Thirdly, he is exempt if he is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies—which is as far as the noble Lord. Lord Reay, got in what he said—and his passport was issued to him overseas by a British High Commission or Consulate. That is part of what is necessary.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but what the noble Lord is saying is not what is said in the Act. Section 1(2) of the 1962 Act says: This section applies to any Commonwealth citizen not being—

  1. (a) a person born in the United Kingdom;
  2. (b) a person who holds a United Kingdom passport and is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies "
and so forth. And this is qualified in sub-section (3), which says: In this section 'passport' means a current passport; and 'United Kingdom passport' means a passport issued to the holder by the Government of the United Kingdom, not being a passport so issued on behalf of the Government of any part of the Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom". There is no mention of the point made by the noble Lord: that it should be issued in this country by the Passport Office.


My Lords, I am afraid the noble Lord read that section far too quickly for me to grasp the whole point. Indeed, I am not sure that I should have grasped it completely had he read it more slowly. The only ways a man can be exempted from the control are the three ways I mentioned, and I do emphasise on that exemption the third one is that he must be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and his passport must have been issued overseas by a British High Commission or Consulate.


It is not in the Act.


I would ask the noble Lord to accept that I will take note of his point and look at it. What I have given him is not only what I am advised but what has operated for the last four and a half years, ever since the Act was passed.

The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, also argues that a passport issued by the Government of Gibraltar to a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, acquiring that citizenship because he belongs to Gibraltar, exempts the holder from Part 1 of the Act, and that is why I said he is confusing Part II and Part I of the Act. We are talking about immigration control. That is the whole purpose of the noble Lord's Question. He is asking why Gibraltarians are subject to immigration control. I am telling him why. The noble Lord's view of the law which he has just expounded does not accord with ours. This point has not been tried out in a court of law. Therefore we shall continue to act on the assumption that Section 1 of the Act does what it set out to do. I think that is the position I must take up there.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment, merely to ask for information, because I am puzzled by all this? If what the noble Lord said is right, why do not the words "citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies"—"and Colonies"—produce exemption?


A citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies is a British citizen in the same way as the noble Lord and I are British citizens and citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. But the point we are dealing with is which of us, persons like the noble Lord and myself, who were born in this country, or persons like the Gibraltarians, the Fijiians, the Mauritians, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, who were not born here but nevertheless are, like us, British citizens, are subject to immigration control, and that is precisely what I am now saying. I am dealing with the provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, and I have correctly stated those provisions.

I would remind your Lordships that those provisions were virtually unanimously endorsed, not only in 1962 but again, as the noble Lord, Lord Reay, reminded us, in 1965. It is with these provisions that I am now dealing, not the undeniable fact that the noble Lord and I, and people born in the British Commonwealth overseas, are all equally citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, though we do not have equal liabilities under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. As I have tried to make clear, a Commonwealth citizen is not exempt from the control, if he was born outside the United Kingdom and his passport was issued by or on behalf of the Government of a Commonwealth country overseas or of a Colony or protectorate. The result is that citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who have acquired that status because of their connection with Gibraltar (and who thus get passports issued by or on behalf of the Governor of Gibraltar) are as much subject to the immigration control as the citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who acquired that status through a connection with, say. Hong Kong or Mauritius; and all are subject to the immigration control to the same extent as, say, citizens of India or Cyprus.

The noble Lord has argued that citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who "belong" to Gibraltar should be exempted from the immigration control. It was the burden of a considerable part of his speech that they should have special consideration. If I may say so, I respect his reasons for doing so, and I respect his sincerity. But I do not think his arguments are strong enough to warrant a breach of the principle on which Section 1 of the Act is based. I have no doubt whatever that it would be possible to make out a moving case for special treatment for almost any Commonwealth territory overseas, including the independent Commonwealth countries, and the noble Lord, eloquently though he argued, has not convinced me that his claim for Gibraltar is so strong—so much stronger than any other claim from any other country—that Gibraltarians can be treated more favourably than all other Commonwealth citizens who are at present subject to the control. Indeed, a great deal of what he said on behalf of Gibraltar would apply to the dependent territories in general; and, though there are fewer such territories now than in 1962 when Section 1 of the Act passed into law, their citizens still add up to a formidable population.

The total population of all the dependent territories in 1966 was no less than 9,123,000. What is being advocated on behalf of the 24,000 Gibraltarians could be argued with almost as much force, in many cases with quite as much force, on behalf of the whole of that 9,123,000. Out of that number of more than 9 million, 30,162 were admitted to this country last year. That is about one in every 300. So far as Gibraltar is concerned, the population of which is a little over 24.000. the number admitted here last year was 2,247—almost one in ten. That compares, I am glad to say, with the admissions of Gibraltarians in 1963 of only 1,660. It is going up. In 1963 all but 39 of that 1,660 re-embarked. Last year, the net balance of admissions over embarkations of Gibraltarians was 176. The noble Lord mentioned that only 100 or 200 would come here. One or two thousand are coming here, and 100 or 200 are staying. So they are not doing so badly.


My Lords, what I meant was, do they remain permanently?


My Lords, if the balance of admissions over embarkations was 176, the assumption is that they did remain. That is why I have given all the figures fairly. Clearly, even if we thought it right to abandon the principle that the control should apply equally to all Commonwealth citizens overseas, I feel sure it would not be practical politics to exempt 9 million who do not belong to the United Kingdom from our immigration control.

The noble Lord said he hoped that at least consideration will flow from this Question. Most certainly we will consider it. My right honourable friend will consider carefully all that the noble Lord has said, and the support given by the noble Lord, Lord Reay. But I do not want to raise false hopes. I am bound to say at the moment that I do not think that the noble Lord has made his case. But this is not to say that there is any lack of warmth in our feelings for Gibraltar or the Gibraltarians. We greatly admire the courage and resourcefulness to which he referred, and which they have shown over the last eighteen months when they have been confronted with grave difficulties.

Her Majesty's Government have made quite clear their determination to sustain the people of Gibraltar, and I am glad to have this opportunity to reiterate that.

As your Lordships know, considerable help has already been given, and more has been pledged. I would emphasise that the fact that the Gibraltarians are subject to immigration control does not mean that they are prevented from coming here. Large numbers of people who are subject to the immigration control are entitled, as of right, to be admitted to the United Kingdom, and other categories are freely admitted in accordance with the Home Secretary's instructions. The people of Gibraltar share these rights with the people of other Commonwealth territories, and I am glad that the figures I have given indicate that they are using and exercising those rights in an ever-increasing degree. I hope that they will continue to do so, and that the strong ties between us will continue to grow and thrive.