§ 4.8 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I beg to move that the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill be read a second time. I emphasised the word "Laws" to make it quite clear that we are not continuing discussion on expiring Lords. This is the fourth time that I have moved this particular Motion but, much as I value the high privilege of serving as a Home Office Minister, this is one of the least attractive of my tasks. It is not a particularly attractive piece of legislation either in title or in form. No one really likes legislation that we have to debate for annual renewal, and I hope one day it will no longer be necessary. That day is not yet, but we are working on it very determinedly indeed, and it will come.
I am sure it will be in accord with your Lordships' wishes if I devote most 33 of my speech to the question of Commonwealth immigration, but first I would say a few words about each of the other enactments referred to in the Bill. First, Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964, which Clause 1 of the Bill would continue in force until the end of March, 1969. Without this extension it would expire on March 31 next. A Departmental Committee under Mr. J. Ramsay Willis, Q.C., was appointed by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in 1964 to consider whether there was a continuing need for licensing planning. The Committee's main recommendation was for continuation in a modified form. Its implementation, however, must await comprehensive licensing legislation of which there is small prospect in the near future. Meanwhile, the existing system, which still serves a useful purpose, must not be allowed to lapse.
The extension of Section 3 of the Emergency Laws (Repeal) Act 1959 has a two-fold function. It gives the Minister of Aviation powers to procure "articles required for the public service" in an emergency, and also retains in force the compulsory powers contained in Section 10 of the Ministry of Supply Act 1939, by which the Minister of Aviation can oblige firms who have accepted contracts, at prices to be agreed, to give him access to any documents or records relevant to fixing a fair and reasonable price.
The Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955 was passed to deal with the unpleasant situation caused by the large scale importation of American "horror comics". It was necessary because the law on obscene publications had been used principally to control publications dealing with sexual matters, and it was not regarded as effective to control material of a purely horrific nature. Immediately the Act was passed the principal mischief against which it was directed ceased. There has been little subsequent attempt to import horror comics and no prosecution for publishing them. Our inquiries show, however, that there is still a flourishing market for them in the United States and if we relaxed our law this dangerous filth would almost certainly flood into Britain again.
The Accommodation Agencies Act 1953 makes it an offence to charge a fee for supplying information about houses 34 and flats to let. It was aimed at fraudulent house agencies which charged a fee for registering people's requirements, and then supplied lists of vacant accommodation. Such lists were often not only inaccurate and out of date, but unauthorised by the lessors. The kind of agencies at which the Act was aimed flourish where there is a scarcity of housing—particularly in London and the big cities—and conditions have not yet improved to a point where we could allow the Act to lapse.
I turn now to the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act 1919 and Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, the two Acts under which our immigration control of aliens and Commonwealth citizens is authorised. We have long felt in all parts of the House that it is highly unsatisfactory to have this important legislation on an annual basis, and now that we have the Wilson Committee's Report the Government intend to move forward with the preparation of legislation to put the whole of our immigration control for both aliens and Commonwealth citizens on a permanent basis. While, therefore, I cannot promise your Lordships that this will be the last of our annual debates on the renewal of immigration control, I can hold out some hope that the end is in sight.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? What he has said is of the utmost interest, and I should like to ask whether it is intended to incorporate legislation dealing with aliens and Commonwealth immigrants in the same Bill.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, the Bill has not yet been drafted, but it is the intention at one and the same time to make permanent the legislation with regard to Commonwealth immigrants and aliens. Some of your Lordships would like to see Commonwealth immigration still further curtailed—possibly not realising the extent to which it has already been limited, and I welcome the opportunity to set the facts before you.
It is our policy to control the entry of immigrants so that it does not outrun Britain's capacity to absorb them. The effectiveness of our measures so far is shown by the fact that the net balance of Commonwealth immigration has been reduced from 75,000 in 1964 to 51,000 in 1966. That is by one-third. In the 35 first nine months of this year it was 36,000, and it may well be that the net balance for the whole of 1967 will show a further reduction on the figure for 1966. This gives the lie to those who, despite the facts, persistently declare that net immigration is increasing. However, the net balance figures, which I have just quoted, which represent the balance of arrivals over departures from the whole Commonwealth, are at best an imprecise indication of the effects of immigration into this country from the Commonwealth.
What is of more significance is the scale on which people are admitted here for settlement, as opposed to short-term stays. The numbers of voucher holders are already kept at a low level. Since 1965 they have been limited to an annual rate of 8,500. But by no means are all issued vouchers used. During 1966 only 5,461 voucher holders arrived here, of whom all but 320 came from the new Commonwealth. In the first nine months of this year 3,500 voucher holders have arrived, all but 200 from the new Commonwealth. At this rate fewer will arrive this year than last. I must remind your Lordships that all voucher holders come here either because they have a particular job to come to and have been issued with a category A voucher, or those issued with category B vouchers (the great majority) because they possess qualifications which are scarce in this country and which we can turn to good advantage. It cannot possibly be said that the arrival of immigrants in such small numbers—about 5,000 a year—and with a job to come to can have any significant effect on our employment problems. Indeed, your Lordships are aware that there are sectors of the national life—notably in the health and transport services—where we would be in a most difficult position without the services of immigrants.
With dependants the position is different. Though the number of voucher holders admitted here is only one-third of those admitted in 1964, the number of dependants has not declined. For the last three years about 40,000 dependants have been arriving annually from the new Commonwealth. There are signs that there will be a good many more this year; in the first nine months over 8,000 more dependants arrived from the new 36 Commonwealth than in the same period of nine months last year. If this trend continues, the number admitted from the new Commonwealth for settlement during this year is likely to be 20 per cent. or so higher than in 1966.
It is important to recognise that there is no direct connection between the numbers of voucher holders and the numbers of dependants arriving in any one year. What we are now seeing is the arrival of the dependants of men who have been here some years; in other words, we are having to live with the consequences of the much higher rate of immigration that went on around 1962 to 1964 before the present Government curtailed it in 1965. Most of these dependants—wives and children up to 16—come here with a statutory right of admission conferred under the 1962 Act, and in the view of the Government it would not be in the interests of proper integration that these men, who have been allowed to enter and settle here and who in many cases are doing valuable work for the community, should not be allowed to have their families with them. I do not think that any of your Lordships would propose this.
But it is necessary to say these things so that those who advocate stopping immigration entirely know exactly what they are asking for. By inference they are saying that to prevent the reunion of families would be in the interests of this country, and they are asking us to ride roughshod over the rights and wishes of those primarily concerned both here and in the countries of the Commonwealth.
These things said, I do not disguise the fact that there are features of the present situation which give rise to concern. I was recently encouraged by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, not to regard everything done by the Government of which he was a Member as immutable or incapable of improvement. This of course is the last thing he needed to tell me. But so far as the statutory entitlement of dependants to join the head of the family is concerned. I am sure that the Government of 1962 were quite right to provide for it. Nevertheless, we are concerned at some aspects of the developing inflow of dependent relatives. It is increasingly made up of children from the new Commonwealth countries: 24,585 of them arrived in the first nine months of this year, compared with 37 17,867 in the same period of 1966, and the most notable feature was a 100 per cent. increase in the number of children under sixteen arriving from Pakistan. Many of these are boys of 14 to 16 years of age and they are arriving at the rate of over 1,100 a month. This means that immediately, or at least soon after they arrive, they are an addition to the labour force—and they considerably outnumber those admitted to work here under the voucher scheme. Moreover, these children—and this is a very important point if we are considering integration—have little or no opportunity to assimilate the social customs of Britain before they start working. Very often they do not speak our language. This is a situation which causes us concern, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is giving careful thought to it. As things stand, it could not be remedied without some adjustment of the existing statutory right of all dependent children to come to join a parent here.
There are also aspects of the employment voucher scheme which suggest that its operation needs improvement. We find that the waiting list for vouchers is becoming unduly long, and that some of the people admitted here with professional qualifications do not find it easy to find the type of jobs for which they qualified in their own country. I have in mind particularly graduates coming here from overseas to teach who, possibly because of language difficulties—I mean the spoken language—or unfamiliarity with our educational methods in this country find it difficult to obtain teaching posts. They are sometimes inclined to attribute this to prejudice. Further, the flow of voucher holders is not sufficiently well attuned to our social and economic needs. There are thus a number of ways in which the voucher scheme could be improved, and we are looking into them.
My Lords, I have been at times disturbed by allegations that there have been occasions when our decisions to admit or exclude have been tinged with racial prejudice. This is quite untrue. If there is one major organisation in the whole of this world where there is no vestige of racial discrimination it is the Home Office. This is not only true of Ministers but of the staff at all levels. If a decision, or the solution to a problem, could possibly be interpreted as discriminatory it is immediately and always 38 rejected. We administer the Statute—and when we do that obviously we cannot please everybody—as fairly, impartially and as sympathetically as it humanly can be administered.
Your Lordships will be aware that it is our intention to introduce a Bill to extend the Race Relations Act, but the Government are under no illusion that the law can of itself provide the solution to the problems of race relations. This is ultimately the responsibility of every individual in the community, and here I would pay tribute to the invaluable work which is being done by individuals and organisations up and down the country. The work these people do does not attract much publicity; the activities of the small number of racialists—white and black—are unfortunately more newsworthy.
I do not believe that the advocates of "Black Power" are in any way representative of the coloured community as a whole, any more than white racialists are representative of the white community, but there is a real danger that the much publicised efforts of these few extremists could undo the good work of improving race relations, which others with more sensible views are carrying out quietly and unobtrusively and with a fair measure of success. The excesses of one extremist group only serve to strengthen the misguided prejudices of the others and to harden attitudes at a time when a real understanding and mutual tolerance between the different racial groups is more than ever of crucial importance to the health of our society. There will no doubt always be lunatic fringes of one kind or another and there is, I suppose, very little prospect of persuading them to change their views by reasoned arguments. The rest of us, black and white, must do everything in our power to ensure that their influence does not increase, because potentially they could bring almost as great a disaster to mankind as a nuclear war.
My Lords, we live in a multi-racial society. Many of our citizens can be readily identified as belonging to a minority group because of the colour of their skin; but as the years go by, as more and more coloured children leave our schools, entirely the product of our educational system and our own environment, this will be their only distinguishing mark. They must have the same social 39 and economic opportunities as other citizens and not be forced in upon themselves by irrational prejudices within a white majority or be misled by the crude racialism of a black minority. They must, like the rest of us, be equal citizens of a free society. It is to this great cause, in my view an essential part of the wellbeing of mankind and of world peace, that the efforts of the Home Secretary are unswervingly devoted. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, particularly for having dealt with the Acts other than the Commonwealth Immigrants and the Aliens because it means I need not say anything about them; so we are talking, and I imagine the rest of the debate will be, about immigration. I have frequently said and I still feel that we shall not get over the difficulties of Commonwealth immigration until the law as regards Commonwealth immigration approximates to the law as regards the immigration of aliens, which has worked very satisfactorily for a great many years. I do not say they need be exactly the same in every way, but they must approximate. One of the Acts or series of Acts, the Aliens, has been successful, and, as the noble Lord has said, the other more recent Act, the Commonwealth Immigrants, has not been entirely successful.
The noble Lord has been even more frank than the Home Secretary was in another place. They both talk of disquieting factors about the way that the Commonwealth Immigrants Act is working. The Home Secretary was a little more detailed about when we could expect a permanent alteration in the legislation, because he said that we could not have it this Session but we should have the new legislation next Session. In view of the disquieting factors, which are many, although not many of them are urgent, we cannot afford to wait two years before doing anything about putting them right unless we want further trouble. The Government talk a lot about what they intend to do to put things right. There is plenty of talk about thought. But the Government really must take earlier steps, 40 by some small amending Bill, to hold the fort until the main legislation comes forward. We feel this most strongly. I shall deal with the points which I think need amending shortly.
May I, after the gentle gibe of the noble Lord, say this about the Commonwealth Immigrants Act? It was experimental; we had not had anything like it before. It is now five years old. We have seen that certain parts of it do not work correctly, and we must correct those mistakes. We cannot wait indefinitely while the Government's great brain is thinking. The problems about Commonwealth immigrants are twofold. There are certain problems about those immigrants who are already here, and there are problems about what to do in the future. Under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill we are not really, in the strict sense, discussing those immigrants who are already here, but we must see where the mistakes have been made if we want to correct those mistakes with regard to future immigrants.
I think most of us accept that the immigrants who are already here came in on certain terms and must in general be allowed to stay here on those terms. I agree that it would be wrong for those immigrants who have come to work and who have not brought their dependants with them to be banned from having their dependants here, if for no other reason than that in the early stages, when many of them had not got their womenfolk and children here, the police found that there was a certain amount of trouble—I will put it in that way. It was not serious trouble, but it was trouble. However, as soon as the women and children arrived things got much easier. Even if only for that reason, I think we must certainly allow their dependants to go on coming in.
Something the Government will not talk about, but which I believe also is essential, is that we hear from people dealing with them that quite a number of immigrants have not liked their life in this country: either they have not made a success of it, or they do not like the climate, or they are homesick and would like to go back. But because they have not made a success of their stay here, they cannot afford to go back. I believe it to be essential that those people who do not want to stay here should be 41 helped to go back and, if necessary, a public fund should be provided to pay for their return on condition that they will not be allowed to come back here afterwards, having received public monies to return to their own countries. Mr. Heath has put this proposal forward on several occasions, as have many of us, but we do not get any answer from the Government. Whether there are already funds that could be used, I do not know. Perhaps the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, will say something about it. If there are funds, it is not generally known.
In regard to immigration, this country is suffering from indigestion. We have got indigestion because we tried to absorb too much too quickly. Apart from that, in my view another reason is that we have not at different moments varied the diet enough. This does not apply now, but for a space of time there were too many West Indians arriving in a short space of time. That has now stopped. Then there were too many Indians arriving in a short space of time, and then there were too many Pakistanis. All this has helped to give us indigestion during the periods when these people were sweeping into the country.
In my view, we have tried to conceal this fact by foolish talk about "integration". When they first come, the majority of these immigrants, particularly Indians and Pakistanis, do not want to integrate; they want to live in groups by themselves. They prefer their own community; they prefer their own customs and their own culture. Have the Government given any thought to this—that it might be wiser to make arrangements so that those people could live in their own communities? It may well be different for their children and grandchildren who are born here, but these people do not want to integrate. They have come here to earn money and they are happier alone—not entirely alone, because they are bound to mix to a certain extent. But they are happier in their own community, and in my view this attempt at compulsory integration, so called, is one of the main reasons for the antagonism felt by some of our citizens against the immigrants.
I may add that this indigestion has been caused by all Parties, but I think more by the Party opposite than by us. 42 It was to some extent caused by us, because I have always thought we were too late in taking steps to control immigration. Although the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, talks about how well the Government have done in reducing numbers since they have come into office, which indeed is true, almost up until the time they came into power, the Party opposite fought as hard as they could to stop any control at all. So probably they are more to blame than we are, though to some extent we are to blame.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, may I say that we can only really talk about the acts of a political Party as a Government, and I think the records of the two Governments prove that the Party opposite supplied the indigestion and we supplied the bicarbonate.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, what has happened with this Government is that, as in practically everything they have touched, when they have begun making a success of anything they have been following out our policies: but when they have started their own policy they have had one failure after another. In this case they were continuing our policy.
The Home Secretary has pointed out certain things, as indeed has the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, which I think want altering, not in two years' time but much sooner. As regards this indigestion, why do we not copy other countries who have had far greater experience than we have of large numbers of immigrants? I am referring to the second cause of indigestion—not sufficient variety in the diet—and speaking about immigrants for permanent settlement, and not about students and visitors. What have other countries done, with considerable success? They have fixed an overall number of all kinds of immigrants over the period that they are going to admit them. It may be a year, it may be over a three-year period; but they say that during that period they will admit so many immigrants. They then have had a quota system by nationality, by country. Why have we not tried to do the same, particularly as we are getting communities which wish to live together, and therefore we do not want too many of one kind at one time? What is happening now 43 which is so disastrous, with the system of "no quota", is the situation as it affects schools. There are large influxes into particular areas and the strain on schools in certain areas is becoming almost insupportable. The same applies, in many instances, to the welfare organisations.
Let me put this to the Government as a suggestion. They may not like it, but they have not given us any suggestions as to how we are to deal with the difficulties besetting schools and welfare organisations. Let us not go about it in the present haphazard and rather silly way, but let us make every new immigrant—and I am talking about future immigrants—declare on arrival the number of his dependants. The number will be registered, so that if he says he has four children and in four years' time, with his not having been home, he says he has six children, he will not be able to get away with it. Then let us say to the immigrant who is here: "When you want to bring your dependants here"—and I still think they ought to come—"you must give six months' notice." On their national quota those dependents will have priority over new heads of families and after the six months' notice has been given those dependants will count against their national quota. In that way we should not face the difficulty, which the noble Lord and his right honourable friend the Home Secretary have admitted, of a completely unknown number of dependants coming in in any one period and causing a great many problems.
The Home Secretary has also pointed out that a large number of children, particularly Pakistani children, who come here are approaching the age of sixteen. They have no time for serious schooling, and this applies to even the younger ones of fourteen and a half. They do not know our language or our way of life, and they are thrown on to the labour market not knowing how to compete. In many cases, as the Home Secretary has said (I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said this), in relation to the boys who have come over to join a parent there is considerable doubt as to the parentage, whether in fact they are the children of the so-called parent who is asking for them. But the 44 person concerned wants them to work, and probably pays something for their room. That is why these boys come in about the age of 16. The Home Secretary has also said that because for the most part these boys go into a male environment, away from most of their family, certain other social problems have arisen.
How are we to remedy this? First of all, let us stop this so-called discretionary power of allowing in dependents between the ages of 16 and 18. That discretionary power was to be used in very special cases, but I am told—and if I am wrong the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will correct me—that although this power is supposed to be discretionary and seldom used, these lads of between 16 and 18, and even girls, are seldom refused. If I am wrong Lord Stonham will correct me and I will accept it, but I am told that that is the case. Let us reduce the age of free admission (that is admission as of right) for dependants from the age of 16 to 13. This will give time for schooling before they go out to work, time for them to learn our ways and our language, and in this way these young people will not be the problem they now are. Furthermore, with a three-year gap before they can start working, it is likely that only parents will ask for children under 13 to come and stay with them because they will have to keep them for three years before they can start proper work. And let us remove the right of free admission to any dependent children (except in special cases, which can be dealt with) if the mother remains in the country of origin. If she comes, let the children come; if she stays there, do not let the children come as of right, but only in special circumstances.
These are a few ideas which I put forward. They may not work, but the position in the schools at the moment, in face of this large influx of dependants, is that the education of our own children in these areas is adversely affected. When I say "our own children", I do not only mean the children who are born here, but the children of existing immigrants. These children now come in in large numbers, they are unable to speak our language, and there are not enough schools or teachers to go round. Let us think first of all of our own children and do something within 45 reason to curb this influx of dependants. The "do-gooders" are apt to forget our own children. Let us look after our own people first, and let us have a control, in the not very serious ways I have mentioned, as to the number of dependants coming in.
There is one other point I should like to put to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. He did not mention this, and it is a serious point. There are in East Africa at the moment some 170,000 people, Asians, holding British passports who may have to, or think they may have to, leave East Africa. What has not been quite clear is whether these 170,000 are heads of families holding passports, or whether they include their dependants—I have a strong suspicion that their dependants are extra, but I am not certain. I understand that these people have no other country to go to if they leave East Africa; and they are, as I say, holders of British passports. There is nothing we can do, so the Home Secretary says, to stop them coming here. They are coming over at the moment at the rate of about 8,000 a year, and the numbers are increasing. These people will probably want to live in the same area together, as a community. What arrangements are Her Majesty's Government intending to make about these people or are the Government, as in so much else, simply waiting for events to catch them up? At the minimum there are 170,000 of these people, if they all come—and they are entitled to come—and some special arrangements ought to be made for them. Have Her Majesty's Government decided to do anything at all, or are they just waiting?
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, in rising to express support for the Second Reading of this Bill I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that I do not belong to either of the lunatic fringes which he mentioned. I deeply appreciated the highly constructive speech—and I agreed with very word of it—of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. I do not propose to traverse the same sort of ground since he has freed me from the necessity to do so, but with your Lordships' permission I should like to say a few words of meditation (if that is the right word) on the subject of immigration, with particular reference to the closing 46 words of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in which he asked us to think about looking after our own people first. Over the past few years I have spoken in all these debates on such legislation, and I feel that it would serve no useful purpose to go into some of the details about control or the conclusions which experience has lamed us to accept.
This is a question of great national importance. It is not a suitable Party measure, and I think it could never become one unless—and I do not think there is any likelihood of this—one Party took the line of thinking only of those who were coming in and not of those who were already here. I think we all agree on the need for control, and on the desirability of ensuring that every immigrant person lawfully resident as a citizen here should have an equal expectation of public acceptance as such, with no special rights and no special disabilities, but with the obvious personal obligation to fit harmoniously into the social system of his new country, if he wishes to lead a happy life.
I suppose it is obvious that an immigrant coming from a stock of different outlook on life—different language, different standards, different religion, different traditions—has problems to face in this country, the country of his adoption, and the possibility of harmonious adoption of himself, his wife and his children becomes more and more difficult if he arrives in such numbers as to create active resentment in the native population of the country. Such resentment is bound to occur in any country in the world if the arrival of immigrants is in such numbers as to become an invasion which seems to threaten the social structure of the country into which they go, trespassing on local ways of life and disturbing traditional patterns.
The basic problem, as has often been said in these debates, and I think very truly said, is numerical. Basically, the problem has nothing to do with racial prejudice, and it requires statesmanlike handling. We have it on a recent statement of the Prime Minister that Britain now comes first, and presumably that means the interest and welfare of the native Briton; and I suggest that that interest and welfare should not be confined to the realms of high finance and 47 economics. I personally am a believer in nationalism as the most potent force in the world. The motive power behind progress has historically been associated with this pride in the culture and achievements of a nation's forefathers. Surely, if we look facts in the face, the brotherhood of man still lies far beyond the horizon of unborn centuries. It is just a transcendental dream, and I am sure that it cannot be found by sacrificing the peace and welfare of your own people.
In all the problems contingent on waves of immigrants of different stock, different in language and culture, and different in all that is covered by the phrase "the way of life", insolubility inevitably arises from numbers, and in the interests of all partners in the process restrictive control is essential. It is only by ensuring domestic peace and harmony that any nation can be strong enough to make a worthwhile contribution to world harmony. A determination to limit immigration to digestible quantities is not yielding, I suggest, to prejudice; rather it is wise and far-seeing statesmanship. As one who, like many of your Lordships, has lived and worked in many countries all over the world, I remember the well-known lines on a somewhat lower level:I have drunk with mixed assemblies,Seen the racial ruction rise,And the men of half creation,Damning half creation's eyes.Those lines show how easily racial prejudice can arise if the contributory forces are overlooked or ignored or underestimated by Governments.
My Lords, whatever may have been the position in the past, I believe that the present Government are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties that beset this question. Knowledge comes, but wisdom sometimes lingers, and I hope that suitable action may be continued in the early future, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said, and more powers taken, if necessary, to control immigration and reduce its numbers to manageable proportions in this already heavily populated country.
I have deliberately avoided recapitulation of the grave difficulties over education, housing, evasion of the present entry regulations and the unspecified numbers of dependants with a contingent 48 right of entry, which I suggest should be modified, if not very severely limited. They are well known and call for administrative action. It is possible that the power already exists. It has been said that a workable democracy requires a homogeneous population, racially and culturally. It is certainly difficult to apply these democratic principles, unadulterated, in a heterogeneous community with people of widely different stages of development. I suggest that that is a point to which we ought to give serious consideration.
I think we are all agreed that, in present circumstances, we must use every effort to achieve harmonious results, especially with those who are already here. The most difficult problems are the very complex ones of education and housing, and the natural tendency of the alien immigrant to concentrate in crowded centres. Above all, I would emphasise that we must take into account the potentially hostile and instinctive reaction of our own people, whose acquiescence cannot be achieved by legislative compulsion. As I have said, "Britain first" is now a motto which has the highest endorsement. It is a thought which cries out for constructive application.
Basically, human relations depend on very simple reactions to unfamiliar circumstances. A great and sympathetic student of human nature wrote these lines, which I suppose are familiar to your Lordships:The stranger within my gates He may be evil or good,But I cannot tell what powers control What reasons sway his mood,Nor when the Gods of his far-off land Shall repossess his blood.The men of my own stock, Bitter bad they may be,But at least they hear the things I hear And see the things I see.And whatever I think of them and their likes They think of the likes of me.These are simple, elementary, early reactions in any country—not only in ours—and they may pass away with the growth of individual understanding, if they are not aggravated by insensitiveness in the Government of the country. I suggest, my Lords, in conclusion, that these simple reactions are very important, and that we can neglect them at our peril.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, I should like to begin by paying a modest tribute to the two speeches to which we have just listened, both of which seemed to be remarkable contributions on this very difficult subject. How refreshing to hear from Lord Derwent a whole fusillade of constructive suggestions after all the debates, which I so clearly remember, in which the general assumption seemed to be that it would be almost wicked to tamper with the Act, or to take any measure which would in any way impair the complete freedom at present enjoyed by would-be immigrants! How much, too, I enjoyed the philosophical reflections of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton! This is a subject about which we need to be both practical and philosophical. Lord Derwent has been practical and Lord Milverton has been philosophical. But I, I am afraid, shall be neither.
I should like to take up what I think was the penultimate sentence of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in which he spoke about thinking of our own people first. I should like to follow him at any rate to the extent that, although by no means blind, and certainly, I hope, not unsympathetic in respect of the undoubted grievances and distresses of the immigrant coloured population, I propose to devote the greater part of my brief remarks to dealing with the other and corresponding side of the same tragic picture—namely, the grievances and distresses which are common among our own, native population—and to looking forward, on the long view, to the near-insoluble problems which we are apparently now certain to bequeath to our grandchildren.
It is now eleven years since, in conjunction with the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, I first introduced in your Lordships' House a Motion on this subject intended to draw attention to the problems likely to arise from what was then almost exclusively a West Indian immigration. Since then, there have been many curious revulsions of opinion, both among the general public and also, lagging far behind the general public (so far behind, usually, as to be almost out of sight), in Government circles. Perhaps the strangest of them is the mere fact that we should be invited this evening to give yet another blood transfusion to the Act of 1962 by the very Party 50 which in 1962 tramped the Lobbies of another place 46 times in opposition to the Bill and promised to repeal it.
My Lords, during the five years since the passing of that Act there have been at least three important new factors which have affected the situation and to which it would be dangerous and foolish for us to shut our eyes, as we so resolutely shut our eyes to practically every feature in the situation in the days when it was regarded as ungentlemanly to mention the subject in the course of a General Election. The first of these, of course, has already been touched upon. It is the obvious fact that all the early talk about a steady, general integration of the immigrant races with British society, if not with each other, was little more than a wishful pipe-dream. It is quite obvious now, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, made plain, that the Indians and the Pakistanis have no desire whatever to be integrated. Many of them do not even wish to learn English: they much prefer (and who can blame them?) their own ancient traditions and cultures. Still less have they any desire to be integrated with the West Indians, or the West Indians any desire to be integrated with the Indians and Pakistanis.
The second important new factor is that it is now becoming obvious that the numbers of the coloured population of this country fifty or a hundred years hence—and that is the sort of view we ought to be taking—are going to be very much greater than was once supposed. Here, of course, we inevitably enter a sort of Alice in Wonderland realm of guesswork, since even our present Government of self-professed scientific planners have resolutely refused to publish, or even to collect, the statistics without which any sort of planning, whether scientific or merely wishful, is hopelessly impracticable.
We do not even know the numbers of the coloured population at the last Census, because it is now common knowledge that a very high proportion of the then immigrants simply could not be reached by the Census officials. We do not know the size of the coloured population of the country at this moment. Nor do we know their birthrate: we know only that it is probably very high. Last week somebody sent me a cutting from a newspaper with a photograph of 51 a quite young-looking immigrant couple with their 15 children, together with the statement underneath that the mother had had six miscarriages and was again pregnant.
Under these conditions, with this lack of factual basis, there are bound to be the wildest variations in the estimates as to future population. The soberest I know of comes from the Economist Intelligence Unit, and this forecasts the coloured population of these islands fifty years hence as being approximately 6 million. For several good reasons, and quite apart from the fact that it necessarily took no account whatever of the threatened impact from East Africa of the 190,000 Kenyans, I believe that to be a serious under-estimate. At the other extreme, a Member of another place—
§ LORD STONHAM
Before the noble Lord leaves this very important point, he mentioned the estimate of the Economist Intelligence Unit as being 6 million fifty years hence. Did the Economist Intelligence Unit then go on to give an estimate of the total population in fifty years' time?
§ LORD ELTON
Yes, it did. I have not the figure in my memory, but it certainly did; and, of course, that is going up very fast, too.
The other extreme—and it is a wildly different extreme—is represented by a Member of another place who not long ago was reported as saying that in less than a hundred years the coloured population of these islands would outnumber the whites. That, I presume, at the other extreme, was a serious exaggeration. But at least we must recognise that in the days of our grandchildren this country will contain a coloured population of very many millions. I wonder what our grandchildren will have to say about us and about the men who allowed that appalling problem to be bequeathed to them.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, would not the noble Lord's figures have been much more effective if he could have told us the estimate of population of white people in fifty years' time, so that we could have judged the proportion of 52 coloured people to whites? Otherwise, his figures have no particular significance.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, in my opinion, all the estimates, even those of the whites, are pretty uncertain. I think the lowest estimate I have seen of the percentage of coloureds to whites in fifty years' time is about 6½ per cent.; but, of course, the higher estimates, such as the one I have just quoted, would make the percentage very much higher. But the fact remains that whatever we thought five years ago is obviously quite out of scale now.
In relation to the whole question of numbers, there are two Government statements—in fact, I think, one must call them Government undertakings—which it is most important we should remember. The first is from the Home Secretary, who said, in May of last year:The Government is bound to contain the flow of immigrants within the economic and social capacity of the country to absorb them.That was an unusually definite statement from the Front Benches on this subject. The other statement, dealing with a particular aspect of the problem, came from the Minister of Labour on November 17, 1964, when he said:If our children's education is going to be affected because there are more than 30 per cent."—and he was speaking, of course, of more than 30 per cent. of immigrant children in any one school—then we do something.He then proceeded to refer, in general terms, to remedial measures although he did not particularise them further.
This is the point with which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has already dealt; but I do not think that he told us that in January of this year, if I am correctly informed, there were already no less than 444 schools in which the percentage of immigrant children already exceeded 30 per cent., and these 444 schools were spread over no less than 40 local education authorities. This "over 30 per cent" in all these schools must be gravely affecting the education of our own children. In fact several months ago a Birmingham schoolmaster was on record as saying that in his school teaching had become virtually impossible. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, told us, I think, that in the 53 first nine months of this year 24,585 children under 16 had already arrived. I had the figure of 26,000; of course I accept that of the noble Lord; but they are much the same. I think we are entitled to ask what are the remedial measures to which the Minister of Labour referred in general terms. Was he thinking of more schools, more teachers or fewer immigrants; or all three?
Of course, there are other areas of national life in which it is already becoming true, as it obviously is in education, that the proportion of immigrants is greater than—to quote the Home Secretary:the economic and social capacity of the country to absorb them".Obviously, I do not want to talk in detail about this; but one of these areas is housing, where we have already seen houses let on the shift system, with lodgers coming in to sleep by day where others have slept by night. We have seen streets from which, as immigrants came in, the natives withdrew, often finding that their houses, into which they may have put their life's savings, had been massively devalued overnight. A Labour Member in another place spoke movingly of the experience of his own constituents in that respect.
My Lords, there is, finally, one more factor. It is, perhaps, the most important of all—at any rate, to anyone who believes that in a democracy the wishes of the electorate should be consulted. I am thinking now of the state of public opinion. We have known for some years that the general conspiracy of silence in the last two Elections was very far from representing the views of the whole nation. As long ago as July, 1964, a Gallup Poll reported that a majority of the electorate even then was in favour of further restrictions on immigration and that of the substantial minority of 20 per cent. which even then was in favour of total prohibition, more came from the Labour Party than from the Conservative Party; while the majority of both Labour and Conservatives were in favour of making further restrictions on immigration one of the chief points in their Party's programme. But, in spite of this, as your Lordships will remember, in that Election there was a kind of gentleman's agreement by which scarcely anybody whispered a word on the subject.
54 Recently some very remarkable evidence on this subject has come into my hands. Last August I contributed a letter to the correspondence columns of the Daily Telegraph in which I very briefly summarised some of the perils and problems inherent in this situation. The result was astonishing. I received one letter of dissent. It was signed, "John Coloured", and it told me that cold steel would soon be used, and that the coloured would take over. But within a comparatively few days I received 350 letters of fervent—and, in most cases, agonised—approval. They came—geographically, socially and politically—from the widest cross-section of the country. Not long afterwards, the Daily Telegraph published an article by its late editor, Sir Colin Coote, based on art examination of my correspondence.
In the course of that article he said that only once before had any letter on any subject evoked such voluminous correspondence. In respect of the actual writers of the letters, he went on to say:They included doctors, clergymen, former civil servants, social workers, ex-residents in coloured countries with a real affection for them; in short, responsible people.To that I would only add that they included many wage-earners; I should say that one-third or one-half of the correspondents were wage-earners. It was not only the number of these letters that was so extraordinary, particularly when one realises how many of the writers claimed to represent the views of their neighbours or work-mates. For example:… I could have got 50 of my neighbours to sign this letter …or:… 200 of my workmates wish to be associated with me …But more remarkable than the number of the letters was their character.
There was to be found among them scarcely any trace of anything like racial hatred. But anyone who leafed through that immense pile would very soon form an irresistible impression of a cry of bewilderment and indignation from the very heart of the country. The one characteristic common to them all was a profound concern for the future of the country, a concern often verging on something like despair. It was the mayor of a London 55 borough, who had been for 20 years a councillor, who wrote:We no longer fit, nor feel at home, in our own country. It's future is not ours.I soon lost count of the letters which complained of the conspiracy of silence in the Press—and, until lately, in Elections and in Parliament. Many complained that their letters on the subject were not answered nor even acknowledged by their M.P.s or even by the Home Secretary. There were countless writers who would support the correspondent who wrote:If a political Party came out with a 'full-stop' to immigration, it would sweep the country.Typical of many was a letter from a lady in Dartford who wrote:I and a million like me voted Labour—but never again!Incidentally I wonder whether the Government ought to reflect whether the build-up of these insoluble problems without much action by them in respect of them, may not have contributed to their recent electoral misfortunes.
The letters from the areas of dense immigration contained many shocking stories of social tragedies and social abuses; but if I were to quote them at large, I should be giving a one-sided impression since these, necessarily, are all, or almost all, complaints against immigrants. And when I read a complaint of scandalous conduct, say, by a negro, I remind myself of all the thousands of law-abiding, respectable members of his race; and indeed of my own negro friends who have more than once stayed in my home with me, and whose simple Christian lives would be an example to any of us. I will therefore quote only one letter, since it is, I think, symptomatic of a new and ominous note which is beginning to be heard; a comparatively mild example of something of which there have been very much more extreme examples. It came from a car-park attendant in Battersea who wrote, amidst more harrowing passages:Even the illiterate, irreligious, troublemaking pests of youths and kids come from the slum streets on to this estate and raise hell for the tenants, and when any tenant remonstrates they are called, especially the women, the most obscene names, and the youths sit on the grass and chant, 'Go home white pigs. England our country. We have your house soon. We black power.'56 Incidentally, my Lords, the letters contained overwhelming evidence of the lively apprehensions and resentment felt at the prospect of an extension of the Race Relations Act. As one writer put it, very simply,If we employ an immigrant, or let a house to him, we know that we are immune from the law. If we employ a native, or let a house to him, we know we may be prosecuted.Many of them quote instances in which, inevitably, just as there is unfair discrimination against immigrants so, parodoxically, measures taken against it result in unfair discrimination against the native. These would support, I have no doubt, by chapter and verse, the verdict sent by a clergyman who wrote:So far from being a racialist I have, as a Christian minister, long preached the equality of mankind. But my experiences in London have convinced me that the unfairness is now suffered by the natives of Britain.Well, my Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has suggested a great deal that might be done, and to that I would only add, in a final sentence, that surely we can now offer to repatriate—as he did indeed suggest—the families of those immigrants who would like to go home and cannot afford it; and not only offer to pay the expense of repatriation but also, I think, offer a generous resettlement grant. It would be expensive, but it would be less expensive than the cost of the extra houses, schools and social services which will be needed if there is a further large increase in the population. Also, ought we not to look seriously into the proposal of resettlement in Guyana and, if it proves viable, be prepared to finance that?
I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, speak of somehow fusing the law with respect to aliens and the law with respect to immigrants, because I very much hope that may also lead to the assimilating of one law to the other; for I think the Conservative Party in its last Election Manifesto very rightly suggested that the permission for an immigrant to enter this country should be conditional in the same way as it is for an alien, and be renewable if and when the applicant proves to have taken root in this country. I have not the slightest doubt that any action by the Government would be welcomed by the electorate with a heartfelt sigh from Birmingham to Bradford, and indeed from Land's End 57 to John-o'-Groats. But it is not really primarily of the present electorate that I am thinking; it is of their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I was very glad indeed to hear the Parliamentary Secretary indicate that it is intended to revise the law relating to the immigration of both aliens and of Commonwealth subjects; and, like other speakers—the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and my noble friend—I hope the Government will agree that in the conditions of the present time, the law relating to both ought to be broadly similar.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I correct the noble Lord, Lord Molson, on two matters, one quite minor and the other important? I am no longer a Parliamentary Secretary; there was an event a little while ago which altered that. The important one is that what I have said so far is that Her Majesty's Government hope before very long to have permanent legislation for both aliens and Commonwealth immigrants. I did not even go so far as to say that it would be in the same Bill, and I certainly did not say or imply that it would necessarily be related.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I most humbly apologise to the Minister of State. It is the more unforgivable because I wrote to congratulate him upon the very well-earned promotion that I thought was largely due to the skilful way in which he has handled legislation in your Lordships' House. I am aware that when I asked he refused to give any precise indication as to what the permanent legislation would be, but there is surely no harm in my repeating the views expressed by two other noble Lords that, broadly speaking, the same principles ought to apply.
It is, I am sure, because of the increasing force of public opinion upon this matter of immigration that there is now relatively little difference in outlook between the two Parties upon the subject. We in this House have the advantage of being able to read the report of the debate on this Bill which took place in another place, and one of the most remarkable things was the support that came from the Government Back Benches for the renewal of this legislation; and 58 pressure was brought upon the Government to tighten it up. In what I am saying to-day (I hope that it will not be controversial) broadly speaking I agree with what has been said before, and where I am going to try to make constructive suggestions I shall base myself very largely upon admissions by Government speakers in another place that the present state of affairs is not satisfactory.
The broad position is this: that of the total immigration from the Commonwealth at the present time, 10 per cent. are those who come on vouchers "A" and "B" and 90 per cent. are the dependants. It therefore follows that in so far as this is a problem, it is a problem of dependants. And as the Minister of State was quick to point out, the dependants are chiefly those who came into this country before the policy of the present Government in 1965 which tightened up so much the immigration of those who came with vouchers "A" and "B". My Lords, I wholly accept, as I think every speaker has done, that there must be no breach of faith with those who came into this country relying upon certain assurances which had been given. But when one looks at the Statute, and when, for convenience, one looks at the White Paper issued by the present Government in August, 1965, one finds that the only two categories of people who have, under that legislation, an unqualified right to come into this country are the wives and children under 16 of those who have come here. I believe I am right in saying that they are only a proportion of those who are coming in at the present time.
Paragraph 7 of the White Paper refers to certain other categories of dependants who are in practice, but purely by way of discretion, also admitted without vouchers. First, there is a child under 16 coming to join a close relative other than a parent. I pause at this point to say that where a child under 16 is coming in to join a close relative other than a parent the really compelling argument of not separating families clearly does not apply. Secondly, there is a son or daughter aged 16 but under 18 coming with, or to join, a parent. Thirdly, the fiancée or Common Law wife of a man settled here—and "Common Law wife" is a euphemism for a concubine. Fourthly, the widowed mother or elderly parents of a person settled here.
59 When I turn to paragraph 21 of the White Paper, which, as I have said, was issued less than two years ago, I see that it says:The Government have reviewed the present practice of admitting freely children aged 16 and under 18 who come to join one or both parents. The Government have decided that it"—that is, the privilege—must be withdrawn. The Home Secretary will nevertheless be prepared to consider individual applications where exclusion would cause hardship.The next paragraph goes on:The same considerations apply to a child under 16 joining a relative other than a parent or joining a putative father. The Government have decided that this concession must be withdrawn, although the Home Secretary will use his discretion to give permission to enter in individual cases.I should like to know from the Minister of State exactly what the present practice is under these paragraphs of the White Paper. I do not expect him to be able to produce all the information off the cuff, but if he were able to indicate in some degree what the proportion is of this large and increasing number of dependants who come in under these discretionary powers, I think it would be extremely useful. An article published in The Times not long ago, which struck me as being so extremely well informed that it possibly might be inspired, said:On top of these"—that is, those with an absolute right to come—other groups have a discretionary right of entry. In practice this means that unless the immigrant is suffering from illness or has a criminal record, he will be admitted.This article, published on November 3 of this year, does not seem entirely in accord with the declared intention of the Government in the White Paper. Therefore I would ask the Minister of State to give the fullest information about what in fact is being done.
While the number of voucher-holders has decreased in the satisfactory way he has indicated, the number of dependants who entered in 1965 was 44,182, in 1966 the number had gone up to 45,004 and the Home Secretary said in another place a few weeks ago that it would probably be more this year. It seems to me to be clear that it is open to the Govern- 60 ment to exercise their discretion without any breach of faith at all in order to remedy this matter. Instead of these people being normally admitted, as stated in The Times article, it would seem to be more reasonable that they should normally not be admitted.
A short time ago, my noble friend Lord Elton asked whether the numbers of East Africa Asians who obtain British passports and, owing to the uncertain future which faces them in Kenya, Uganda and other places, exercise their right as passport holders to come to this country have greatly increased. I had a very courteous letter from the Minister of State on this subject, but it was not extremely informative. The matter was also raised in another place, where the Secretary of State purported to reply to questions although he was no more informative, I thought, than the noble Lord. I do not want to press the Minister of State if there are important reasons for not disclosing what is in the Government's mind at the present time, but it is a matter which is causing great concern.
The number of people in Africa who fall within this category is some 190,000. Like my noble friend Lord Elton, I should like to know whether that is the total number of the community or the number of heads of families, because if it is the latter it means that with their dependants the number would be vastly greater and the problem vastly more serious.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I deal with that point at once? I can assure the noble Lord that the number of 170,000 which has been given is the total number, including dependants. There is not a vastly greater number.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. The Home Secretary also admitted the extraordinary anomaly that under the existing legislation if an illegal immigrant is not detected within 24 hours, there is no right of recourse against him: he has got through the barrier and after that he is at liberty to stay. That is a loophole. I think that it is contrary to the Government's wish and intention, and I would certainly echo what my noble friend has said: that a loophole of this kind is surely not something that can be left to be dealt with in legislation which is to be introduced next 61 Session and which will not come into force until a further two years' time.
One of the matters on which I want to make a constructive suggestion is that Commonwealth immigrants coming in should be required to obtain entry certificates. The present Government attach importance to entry certificates. The White Paper from which I have quoted refers to them and indicates that the Government are sending a number of immigration officers of experience from this country to overseas countries in order to help with the issue of these entry permits. Mr. Ennals, the Parliamentary Secretary who deals with these matters, replying to a debate in another place on November 15, spoke almost enthusiastically of these permits. The Government would welcome a greater use of them, he said. He continued:A great deal of the interrogation which is necessary at ports of arrival would be unnecessary if intending immigrants were to use entry certificates. The use of these certificates would greatly reduce the number of persons refused admission."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 15/11/67, Col. 574.]He went on:It would greatly relieve the burden of hard pressed immigration officers.He then goes on to say—and it would appear to me to be a remarkable non-sequitur—… it is not our intention to make entry certificates a requirement for those Commonwealth citizens who have a right to admission.I would ask the Government to think again about this. This is a procedure which they say is advantageous; that it relieves the immigrant of anxiety, of long waiting and interrogation, and it helps to relieve the hard-pressed immigration officers. Surely there is a great deal to be said for extending this and making it compulsory. As the permit is issued by British officials in the Commonwealth country overseas, it is possible for the credentials of the would-be immigrant to be examined carefully, and for the conclusion to carry conviction.
I should like to ask the Minister of State how the immigration officers here are able to tell whether some boy of apparently 15 who says that he is 14 is in fact the son or adopted son of some resident in this country. Does an immigration officer have to know the laws relating to adoption of the different communities and religions of different overseas countries? In many of these places 62 there are no birth certificates or, if there are, they are by no means regularly issued, and still less often are they obtained and provided by those who come in. It would be most valuable if the Minister of State could tell us how these immigration officers, hard-pressed as Mr. Ennals described them as being, are able at Dover or at London Airport to know whether these immigrants are coming under any recognised category of the White Paper.
I hope that the Government will consider carefully the suggestion that those who have not succeeded in making good is this country, and who desire to return home, should be assisted in doing so. Again I quote from Mr. Ennals in another place. He said:… the Supplementary Benefits Commission of the Ministry of Social Security can pay the fare of a Commonwealth immigrant who wishes to return home and cannot pay it himself, raise it from other sources or earn it from employment here. Each case is decided on its merits. … About 100 cases a year are dealt with in this way." (Col. 578.)Out of this vast number of immigrants it is unbelievable that there are only 100 cases a year where they are unhappy in this country, with all its different customs, its more rigorous climate and so on, and that not more than 100 of them desire to return to the land of their birth. I can well understand that when the Supplementary Benefits Commission—which is, of course, the old Assistance Board under a new name—ask them whether they cannot raise the money from other sources, or cannot go to work and earn enough wages and save up in order to pay for their fare home, it is a difficult obstacle for them to get over; and it is no wonder that only 100 of them each year succeed in obtaining that concession.
This is an appeal on behalf of those who are unhappy here; who find our way of life uncongenial; who are unable to earn good wages and desire to return home. I believe that it would be a generous act to them, and extremely acceptable to the great majority of the people of this country, if something were done in a bolder and more generous way upon those lines.
I am sure we are all agreed that we desire this Act to be continued for a further year. Many of us consider that it was introduced too late by a Conservative Administration. We gladly congratulate the Party opposite upon their 63 belated change of heart. We congratulate them that they have tightened it up, and that they administer it in a way in which my noble and honourable friends had not the courage to do. We hope that, having regard to the general consensus of opinion in this country, they will go forward in the way they are going at the present time.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate, but having listened to all the speeches I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I detain the House for a short while; and I hope that I shall be forgiven also for my apparent discourtesy if I do not stay to hear the remaining speeches. Unfortunately, because I had no intention of taking part, I made an appointment for exactly a quarter to six, and I must not be more than a short time late for it.
Reluctantly, I support this Bill. I say "reluctantly," because I think it clearly goes against the grain of many of us that we should be in a position where we have to restrict the immigration into this country of those members of the British Commonwealth of peoples who wish to come into it. I accept this as a necessity that must continue. However, there are two aspects to this problem of Commonwealth immigration and integration. One is that we must be in a position to prevent too many coming into this country, so that they form foci of discontent, unhappiness and problems. The second is that we must take every step in our power, and make every effort we can, to ensure that those who do come into the country are helped to be absorbed; that the mixture is stirred continuously, so that we get a genuine integration of those who come in. I do not believe that we can discuss one aspect of the problem without the other.
I am glad to say that the present Government has tackled both of these matters at the same time, and especially by the Race Relations Act 1963, which has itself made considerable progress towards this process of integration by setting up the Race Relations Board. But there is alas! still a great deal of racial feeling in this country to-day. We had an example of this, if I may say so with the greatest respect, in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, just now. That, to my mind, was the speech of a racialist.
§ LORD ELTON
Is the noble Lord referring to the quotations which I read from letters that I had received? If by "racialist" the noble Lord means hatred, or wishing to harm other persons because of their race, there was nothing of this sort in what I said myself, and I do not think in the quotations. But they came from a large variety of people.
§ LORD WALSTON
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to continue to explain what is my definition of "racialism" and of "racialist". A racialist is not necessarily somebody who hates or dislikes or wishes to harm people of other races, but somebody who regards keeping a group or member of another race permanently apart from the community; because a man happens to be a black man, because he happens to be a Jew, because he happens to be an Asiatic, he can never be absorbed and become an Englishman. That is what I consider to be a racialist.
My Lords, if I may interrupt, I rather resent the idea of my noble friend Lord Elton being considered a racialist, because the word has a very unhappy connotation. Lord Elton is a very eminent historian, and surely an historian is entitled to look at these things in perspective and project his mind to the future; and this is exactly what he has done.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, he has certainly done that, and I accept the distinction of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I hope he does not think that I was making a personal attack upon him. I was describing him as being a certain type of person, and I then went on to define what I considered to be the characteristics of a racialist. If the noble Lord wishes to interrupt, by all means let him do so.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, I think that in his definition of his particular type of racialist, the noble Lord said that a racialist was a person who wanted to keep persons of other races permanently apart. I think I am right in saying that the only references in my speech to permanent apartness occurred where I pointed out that the Indians and Pakistanis in this country had made it clear that they wished to remain apart. I did not say that they ought to: in fact, 65 I implied it was a pity they did. But I said that that was what they wished. And it is perfectly true; they have said so, through the secretary of the Indian Workers Federation, for example.
§ LORD WALSTON
I was not considering a racialist as someone who wanted to keep people of different races permanently apart, but as someone who considers that because the origins of a man were of a certain race he could never be part of this country. The noble Lord quoted the figure from the Economist Research Unit that 6 million black people would be in this country in fifty years' time. That is where it suddenly struck me that that seemed to me the mark of the racialist, whether it is derogatory or not. I am not using the word as derogatory, but in a purely factual manner according to my own definition, which may not be accepted by other noble Lords. But if one thinks that in fifty years' time the descendants of certain Africans, Indians and West Indians and Pakistanis, who came to this country between 1960 and 1965, must permanently be kept apart and categorised, be looked upon as of a different race, although they may have been here for two or three generations, that is what I consider to be racialist. I would say that in this country in fifty years' time we shall have, by all means—I accept the figures—6 million Englishmen who have been born here of great-grandparents who came into this country from some other country, some Commonwealth country, in the same way as we have in this country to-day I do not know how many hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people who stem from Huguenots, who came from France at a certain time because they wished to come here—
§ LORD WALSTON
—and Flemish people. The noble Lord is one. We have people who came from Flanders at certain times to avoid religious persecution or for other reasons. People came here in time of Hitler's persecution; Jews came here. We must not regard any of those people, whether they come from Flanders, whether Huguenots, or whether they are Jews, Pakistanis or Indians, as being of a separate race, and categorise them separately. We must regard them, if they are here in this country, if they 66 have lived here for several generations, been educated here, adopted our customs, and been absorbed, as Englishmen; and anyone who considers them, after that period of time, as belonging to an original race is, in my definition, at least, a racialist. That is the type of person who I believe—and I say this completely frankly to the noble Lord—is doing an enormous amount of harm to the whole problem of integration of these visitors, immigrants into this country. The objects of the Race Relations Board and the Race Relations Act is to kill that type of feeling, so that we accept and help these people to be integrated into this country. This is what we must aim at doing. As I say, the Government are attempting to do this, and they are making progress, but they are not making enough progress in this matter.
I should like to remind your Lordships of the first Report of the Race Relations Board to the Home Secretary, in 1966, where they say:We would add that discrimination on grounds of colour, race or national or ethnic origins "—and "discrimination" includes thinking of them in your minds as being separate—
§ LORD WALSTON
If I may continue, I will give way to the noble Lord in a moment. To require people to state on census reports that they are of different racial regions, or things of that type, is discrimination. The Report says:We would add that discrimination on grounds of colour, race or national or ethnic origins is so degrading and humiliating an affront to the individual who encounters it that any society which regards itself as civilised should provide a means of redress no matter how rarely it occurs.Does the noble Lord wish to interrupt?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, with the greatest respect, we were, I thought, discussing the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and the last part of the noble Lord's speech has nothing conceivably on earth to do with it.
§ LORD WALSTON
I am very sorry the noble Lord thinks that that is so. I think it has a very great deal to do with it, because I do not believe that the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill can possibly have the beneficial effects which we all wish it to have unless we discuss these 67 other matters, too. I think they are very germane to it. It is the attitude that you think you can deal with this problem solely by keeping people out, and not by attempting to integrate them, which is one of the most profoundly depressing aspects of the debate we have had.
My Lords, I will not, partly out of deference to the noble Lord, and to your Lordships as a whole, elaborate this point to any great extent. But I would go on with two more quotations from the end of this admirable Report:The effect of widespread discrimination has consequences on the whole structure and style of the life of the society in which it takes place, spreading far beyond the individuals who are its victims "—and, in fact, extending to all of us who are party, passively or actively, to it.We believe there is no more effective way for society to express its disapproval of discrimination, to protect itself from its consequences, or to mobilise opinion and voluntary action against discrimination than through the law.I wish finally, my Lords, to appeal to the Government and my noble friend to do all that they can to strengthen the existing Race Relations Act, so that it will cover some of the omissions which have already been pointed out. In that way, I believe the dual effect of the stronger Race Relations Act, and the continuance of our Commonwealth Immigrants Act, will have the result which all of us desire.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I have not put my name on the list of speakers, but I cannot let this debate pass without making some comment because of some of the things that have been said. I do not propose to deal with the broader issues, except to say three things. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said that this is not a matter of race but a matter of numbers. We are not honest with ourselves if we do not appreciate the fact that the feeling which has been expressed in the speeches today, and the aims behind them, are more concerned with race and colour than with numbers.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, shakes his head. He has been Home Secretary since the war, and he knows the facts; and he knows that in most years since the war more people have migrated from this country than we 68 have received into this country from elsewhere. Every noble Lord in this House knows that if the issue of immigration was one of white and English citizens of Australia or Canada or New Zealand, there would not be the intense feeling which there is on this issue at the present time. Indeed, one effect of the concentration upon colour and race which I welcome is that there is not to-day the indignation about Irish immigrants that there was only a few years ago. There is not the indignation about Irish immigrants, because they have white skins, like ourselves, and therefore the passions which are aroused by race and colour are not effective. We are just deluding ourselves and are rationalising what is subconscious and deep in our own natures if we do not recognise that there is fundamentally an issue of race and colour.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him for a moment? I was, of course, expecting him to speak in this debate, but he consistently blinds his eyes to the fact that, of the races which are not of white colour, while a certain percentage of them are of very high culture and are easily adaptable to English ways, a large number are extremely primitive in their education and cannot speak English. If the noble Lord had ever been a schoolmaster, as I have been, he would know that the problem of having in one's class an enormous crowd of children who can barely speak English, and whose education is practically nil, slows down education almost to a dead stop.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I appreciate that interruption, because the reason which led me to speak in this debate was the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, to the subject of education, and I propose to deal with that in my remarks.
The second thing I want to say of a broad general nature is that we ought all to recognise the contribution which the coloured immigrant has made to this country in recent years. This afternoon, for medical reasons, I have been to one of the largest hospitals in London. Of the three doctors in the ward where I was for a considerable time, one was an Indian, one was a Pakistani and one a Biafran. As I walked through those corridors to-day I saw coloured nurses nearly as frequently as I saw white 69 nurses, and all of us in this country ought to appreciate that it would have been impossible to maintain the health services of this country had it not been for the doctors and nurses who have come from abroad and are giving such devoted service in the hospitals. Not merely that, but in the years of full employment in this country, particularly in the industries related to construction, it would have been impossible for us to make the development we did in recent years had it not been for the contribution of our Commonwealth immigrants.
The third broad thing that I want to say—and it is relevant to our debate to-day—is on the question of dependants. No-one who knows anything about this problem, or who knows about the conditions of immigrant communities, so often segregrated in some of our towns, has any doubt that the coming of dependants, both wives and children, has contributed immensely to the health of those people and, indeed, to their order within the community, because they have not had the frustrations which they had before. Therefore I welcome the fact that in these last three years we have had so many dependants coming to join the men who were living here before.
I want also to deal with some concrete points which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. Let me say to him at once that I agree it would be much more satisfactory if decisions about immigrants were made at the port of departure rather than when they arrive in this country. I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who emphasised this point, that one cannot have compulsion in this respect until one has built up the personnel necessary and able to fulfil it. It would not mean simply having an adequate personnel in all the territories of the Commonwealth, because one cannot possibly apply that rule to the Commonwealth without applying it also to alien countries; and if one is to begin to develop that kind of service which alone would make compulsion practicable, it is not a thing that can be done immediately.
The second point in which I was interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, was in regard to education, which was mentioned also in the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Somers. I agree that in schools, and par- 70 ticularly in the lower age classes, where there are a number of immigrant children who do not speak English—mostly Pakistani children—there is a very great danger that the English children in those classes may be kept back in their own development because of the difficulty of the teacher in bringing on those Pakistani children. There are two answers to this problem, and both are now progressively being applied. The first answer is to have reception classes for these children, and the fact is that in many education areas of this country reception classes are now taking these children who do not know English and are teaching them the language for a year or so until they are fit to be able to progress with the English children.
The second problem is this. If one is to have effective reception classes, one must have teachers who have not only a knowledge of English but also a knowledge of the languages of the countries from which those children come. This also is something that is being done. This afternoon I want to pay tribute particularly to the Bradford Education Authority, which pioneered the scheme by which Indians and Pakistanis who have had teacher-training, but have not reached our standards, are given courses of training so that they can be effective in teaching these children who need to learn English if they are to play their part without deterring English children.
I am trying to be constructive, even though we may have different philosophies at the back of our minds, and the next point with which I want particularly to deal (it was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent) is the question of the Asians in East Africa. There is a problem there which arises from the fact that the Asians in East Africa almost had a monopoly of the retail trade in those countries. It is a repetition of the Jewish situation in medieval times here in Europe. When you have African people developing a sense of self-respect and nationhood as they move towards independence, inevitably there is a feeling against those who have a monopoly of a certain grade in their social order. I recognise at once that there has been a danger of antagonism between the African and Asian peoples. I want to assure your Lordships, if it is necessary for me to assure you, that I am well aware that racial feelings do not develop 71 only between the whites and coloured, but develop between different sections of the coloured.
I remember with some happiness the fact that Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who is now the Prime Minister of India, and I addressed a great meeting of the Indian population in Nairobi, urging them to identify themselves with the Kenyans and seek to obtain a basis of belonging to Kenya and recognising the inevitable progress of the African people in economic spheres in which they had largely had a monopoly. I would say to my noble friend that the way to deal with this problem is not so much in encouraging these people to come to this country but trying to find a solution to the problem in the East African countries themselves. I should like to see (and I put this to my noble friend) the Commonwealth Secretariat playing a far greater part in the problems between all Commonwealth countries and between different races in those countries than it has so far done. If our Government did it, that would be regarded as neo-colonialism; it would be regarded as intervention by our Government in ex-colonies. But, because of my pride in the Commonwealth, I should like to see the Commonwealth Secretariat being an association in the Commonwealth which would seek to bring together Commonwealth nations, when there was any cause of conflict between them, and even different races in the Commonwealth—I urged this in the case of Nigeria—when there is conflict between them.
If we are going to contribute successfully or constructively to the solution of the problems of the Asian community in East Africa it surely must be upon these lines, rather than just finding some outlet for them in migration, whether to this or any other country. I hope despite the tone there has been in some of the speeches, perhaps the tone of my earlier remarks, we shall look at these problems in this kind of constructive way, because only in this constructive way shall we find a solution of them.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, I rise for a single moment only to say that I am very glad to see that the Accommodation Agencies Act is to be continued for another period of 12 months. This was a Private Member's Bill for which I was so 72 unwise as to make myself answerable m another place. It was not a controversial Bill. Its only critic was the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who said, with the caution that we are accustomed to associate with the noble Lord, that we were going rather wider than was really necessary. Since those days the Act has continued to lead a harmless and, I hope, useful life, refreshed every 12 months by a renewed expression of your Lordships' confidence. All that I desire to do this evening is to ask the noble Lord whether the time has not come when this little Act might be made part of the permanent law.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I had not intended to speak this afternoon, and I hope my noble friend Lord Ilford will forgive me if I do not follow him in discussing the Accommodation Agencies Act, though I should like to congratulate him again on having initiated this valuable measure. He has at any rate taken heat out of the debate at the end of it, and I hope that we shall all manage to end on a constructive note. I appreciated very much some of the sentiments at the end of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. We surely must recognise that this problem of race and numbers in this country is perhaps the most difficult social problem that lies ahead of us in the years to come.
To-day we have had an unusually frank debate about certain aspects of it. Personally, I think it is unfortunate that there has not always been equal frankness displayed in the columns of the Press, because I can assure your Lordships that outside Parliament and outside the Press many people do discuss this subject. They discuss it with great can-dour, sometimes with constructive wisdom and sometimes with a good deal of unwisdom. But the discussion is there, and it ought not to be muted in Parliament. My own feeling is, as I have repeatedly stated, that we must do everything we possibly can as a nation and as individuals to assist the adaptation—I use that word deliberately rather than integration—of those who have come to make their homes permanently among us. I avoid the word "integration" because I believe that in the case of various groups of the immigrants they do not want to integrate, and integration in the sense we are using it could not be 73 brought about. But adaptation is essential. I have had some experience, as I represented in another place a constituency that possessed an exceptionally large number of inhabitants who had been born outside this country, whether with white skins or coloured skins; and I think in that area we all achieved a good deal of tolerance in our relations one with another.
But I should greatly regret it if noble Lords opposite were to go away from this debate with any idea that speeches such as we have had from my noble friend Lord Derwent were intended to be of an abrasive or non-constructive character. To my mind, the chance of solving this menacing social problem, which by common consent lies around us and ahead of us, is conditioned in large part by our policy towards future immigration. I well remember, for instance, when I was Home Secretary how I used to get reports from the police in different parts of the country about the potentiality or the actuality of racial tension; and after the 1962 Act had come into force the police in nearly all parts of the country said that the risks of racial tension were lessening because it was felt by the natives that they were not up against an absolutely overwhelming problem, now that a control over immigration was being exercised, and it was the intention, as they thought, of the authorities to limit the number of immigrants to that number which the country could successfully absorb.
I shook my head at one point in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. What I meant to convey was that up till, say, 15 years ago race was no problem in this country, although there were a great many people of different national origins and with different coloured skins. It was when there was immigration of coloured persons on such a scale that it seemed impossible for those areas where they congregated to absorb them successfully into our national life that this problem really began to burn. My anxiety is to take as much of the heat out of it as can be taken.
When my noble friend Lord Derwent, for example, was suggesting that we must look most carefully at the dependants who are coming in at the age of 13, 14 or 15, that was not a remark intended to 74 raise passions. It was a genuinely constructive suggestion bearing on the fact that our policy has been and is to admit dependants freely, but not to admit workers except with a voucher. If large numbers are coming in at the age of 13, 14 and 15 they are going to have but little chance of passing through a British school education, which I trust that all the younger children of immigrants will have, and will move almost at once into the labour market. They are in fact coming in as workers rather than as children. Therefore, that is an area where we must most carefully look at our policy.
I am quite sure that we should continue to admit freely dependants who are genuine dependants—wives unquestionably, and children who are coming here to join their parents and to be educated in British schools. But I am not at all, sure that we ought to admit so freely those children who are coming at an age when they are really ceasing to be children and are passing almost at once into the labour market. I feel also that we owe a considerably greater obligation to those children whose mothers are in this country than we do to those whose mothers are in their country of origin and are intending to stay there, because by admitting the latter group of children we certainly shall not be creating the sort of family units that it is our general desire to see, if it is the intention of the family to remain permanently divided.
I greatly hope that when he comes to wind up this debate the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will treat the suggestions that have been made from all sides as constructive suggestions. It would be lamentable if we were to get into a sort of Party racialist state in this Chamber, because I sincerely believe that our objects are, in general, the same, if with differences of emphasis. Maybe I go too far in that, for I myself believe that each nation should retain its own character. I look forward to this continuing to be a nation of predominantly Anglo-Saxon stock for the years to come, just as I hope that India will remain a country of predominantly Indian stock, and Nigeria a country predominantly of Nigerian stock, and so forth. I think there is virtue in that. I think that is the right sort of nationalism—not the selfish sort.
75 Quite frankly, I do not wish this country to become a mixed society, as, for instance, Brazil, because I think we should lose part of our particular national ability to contribute to the better state of the world if that happened. That is why I am always brought up short when somebody, like the noble Lord, Lord Walston, says that this is a multi-racial society. In one sense it is a multi-racial society, in that there are members of all races here, and all, I hope, are welcome here. But it is not a multi-racial society either in the sense that the races are equally mixed or in the sense that we have grown up over a long time with a large racial minority in this country.
Our task is particularly difficult because we are facing these acute human problems almost for the first time in this country, and this is what requires the height of statesmanship. I believe it also requires frank speaking at the right time as well, for I fear that if people are encouraged to suppress what others are widely saying, then we shall not be doing the work of Parliament. Parliament must be a place of free speech and a place where we recognise one another's sincerity.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, who indeed made my day; this debate would have been quite incomplete without his intervention. I am glad to assure him that his Act will go on doing useful work for some time to come. I said that I was glad, but in fact I should be happier if it were not so, because, as he is well aware, he introduced it because of acute housing shortages, and it is for that reason that it must continue.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said that his noble friend took the heat out of the debate. I have not noticed any heat at all. I have noticed sincerely held views, eloquently and warmly expressed. But so far as I am concerned this has been a most constructive and helpful debate in all parts of the House. It may well be that when I read Hansard to-morrow I shall wonder that some of the words do not set the paper alight; but that does not mean any other than that the words were most carefully expressed. This afternoon when I 76 came here I intended to speak for 40 minutes and to cover all the questions that I thought your Lordships would require to be answered. In fact, I spoke for 19 minutes, in the hope that I should thereby halve the time of the debate. I am sure that it was quite the wrong course, because I have a great many questions to answer, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I try to answer them all, but not at too great a length.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, opened his speech by saying that we cannot wait two years for important legislation; we must have a Bill soon dealing with certain matters that he regarded as urgent. In so doing he quoted my right honourable friend, the Home Secretary, somewhat incorrectly by implying that there would be legislation next Session. What in fact the Home Secretary said was thisI cannot therefore promise that time will be found this Session for the legislation on the immigration fields, although I do not rule it out completely. But I undertake that we shall bring forward a Bill on this subject as soon as Parliamentary time can be found.That is the position; and it is also the position, as I see it, that we want to include the Government's implementation of the Wilson Committee Report, in so far as the Government intend to implement it, with other modifications that require legislation and which are now under consideration.
The best thing about this debate, so far as I am concerned, is that a number of noble Lords—Lord Derwent, Lord Brooke of Cumnor and Lord Molson—have all said, in different words, that it would be wrong to bar dependants from coming here, that being a proper entitlement of genuine dependants. This is really the basis of the Government's whole policy. Indeed, I am bound to tell your Lordships that once you concede that, there is no immediate prospect of a substantial reduction in net immigration. This has to be accepted. Indeed, it is not the case that we have had ascending numbers.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, went far when he said that the present Government have tackled certain matters with far greater courage than our predecessors. We have seen the fruits of that in the fact that the net figure has gone down from something like 75,000 to 50,000. I do not want to dwell on that, but want to 77 make the point that once you have decided—and you must in equity decide—to continue admitting genuine dependants who have that statutory right, then the area in which you can work is not very great.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, then asked, "What about those who want to go back?" The noble Lord, Lord Molson, gave the answer which my honourable friend Mr. Ennals gave in another place, when he said that the Supplementary Benefits Commission will provide the money for immigrants who want to go back if they themselves cannot pay or cannot get the money to do so. Lord Molson said, "That is not good enough. I cannot imagine that there are only 100 unhappy immigrants every year who want to go back." The number of unhappy immigrants may be much larger, and some of them might be even unhappier when they go back, but a good many of them go back under their own steam. If one compares the net immigration figures with those figures admitted for settlement, one sees that quite a number of them are going back. We are here thinking of spending public money. I have already made it clear that we are willing to spend public money to send back people who want to go back, and who have no other means of paying their fare. But we cannot make a sort of "open house" and say: "Come to Great Britain. If you don't like it, we will pay your fare back home." This has to be handled quite carefully.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but when they are sent back on Government money are arrangements made that they cannot return to this country?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I would not say to the point of exclusion, but certainly they would have to pay for themselves to come here, and it would be a matter which would be looked at very carefully before they were admitted. People who are not only unhappy but who cannot pay their fare back are failures. It may be that they have been a charge on the community here for some time and therefore it may be an economy to send them back. We are not unaware of this.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said that it was foolish to talk of integration 78 and other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor mentioned this. There are so many of these people who have no desire whatever to do other than live in their communities. This is the core of the whole question of the future of coloured people in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, used the word "adaptation". Of course one would accept that the Sikh communities and various religious communities would wish to follow—and we would wish them to continue to follow—their own religions, and to that extent they will have their mosques or churches or places of worship, and to a great extent their way of life. But it is a shortsighted counsel of despair, which could only end up with the kind of situation which unhappily exists in many parts of the United States, if we accept that it is foolish to talk, if not of integration, of adaptation. Of course they must become adapted. Sir Edward Boyle, former Secretary of State for Education and Science, in a lecture only this week drew attention to the Tulse Hill report which indicated that children of 4 years of age coming into our educational system have proved already to be quite the equal of white children of the same age with the same opportunities. Therefore it will be time to talk of failure of adaptation when we have given these people the same chances our own people have, and when we have had them here long enough as children to bring them up in our community and to give them that chance. But please do not let any of us think that we are not aiming at the right target.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, then put some points to me which he said ought to be dealt with urgently by legislation, and I will run through them briefly. He asked why should there not be a quota system. In effect, vouchers are virtually a quota system; we have a given number. In the case of Malta we even say that the number is 1,000 Maltese under the 8,500 figure; so that there is a quota for voucher holders. But the noble Lord suggested that we should apply this to dependants. Immediately you begin saying, "We will have a quota of dependants from Pakistan or some other country", you do two things. You start a queue, which means that while they are waiting in the queue in that way, they 79 will be getting older and they may even lose their statutory right to come in. This would cause all sorts of difficulties, and one would be treating them less well than aliens. There is one thing which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, as Home Secretary did and which we have always followed since. Whenever it has come to the question, "How are we treating aliens?", we have never agreed that Commonwealth citizens should be treated less well than aliens. On that ground the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, would fall.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, may I interrupt to say that if the noble Lord reads what I said to-morrow he will see that the queue for dependants would be only six months long.
§ LORD STONHAM
I will most certainly read what the noble Lord said, but that was my impression. In any case the principle holds that we could not possibly agree to conditions for Commonwealth citizens which were worse than those we applied to aliens. That would be a principle which we should find unacceptable.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, suggested that we should register children on entry. This is an extremely difficult matter. Those who are Mohammedans have more than one wife. There might be one wife here, or two wives; and one or two wives could be left behind who could have children by their husband. A man could quite genuinely state, on coming here, that he had fewer children than he claimed later. We have considered this point and we have also considered the related question of making the certificates of entry compulsory, but that is virtually wholly impracticable. Moreover, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will be aware, when the Wilson Committee considered this very carefully, and took all the evidence, they agreed that it was not possible to make such certificates compulsory. But we regard entry certificates as of extreme importance for virtually guaranteeing entry to the holder. If they are all right they come in without the kind of complaints and troubles of which we have had examples.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, 80 asked me in particular about children from 16 to 18, and suggested that there might be large numbers coming in under these discretionary powers. We do not think the numbers are large. Unfortunately, I have no figures, for the reason that all those over 16 who come in under discretionary powers are classed as adults. So that when I gave the number of 24,000-odd children as having come in in the first nine months of this year, they were all children under 16. Therefore, any who have come in under discretionary powers would be counted among the adults. They are admitted, at discretion, only if there is a parent or parents here. They have to be coming to join either both parents or the sole surviving parent. If one of the parents is still overseas, then it is unlikely that the children—that is, if they are over 16—would be admitted on discretion. Also, if we tightened up in this way, if there were no discretion at all, it would almost inevitably mean not fewer youngsters coming; they would just come before they were 16. They would come just the same, anyway.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, suggested that we should limit the entry of dependent children to age 13. This is a point which I made in my own speech; that these 14 to 16 year old boys coming here now do not get any chance of either education or adaptation, and it is a very important matter. All I can say on that—because these matters are considered, as the noble Lord will be aware—is that if that proposal were approved it would require legislation and could not therefore be introduced immediately.
The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, who kindly sent me a note to say he could not stay till the end of the debate, certainly did not need to assure me that with his great experience he was not a member of either of the lunatic fringes. But while I appreciated his speech, I felt that he was rather pessimistic regarding success in what is admittedly a very great problem.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, was kind enough to send me a rather full summary of some 50 of the letters which he had received and to which he referred in his speech. They are certainly quite remarkable letters. But—and I say this with no intention of offending, in view of the 81 fact that the noble Lord said we should consider the wishes of the electorate—if our policy were decided by opinions of the kind which are included in the letters from which the noble Lord quoted, which he suggested we should have to take notice of if we wanted to be elected again, and which I should have no hesitation in describing as racialist, then, in my view, the Labour Party would never deserve to be elected again.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, mentioned the projection of the Economist Intelligence Unit of 6 million coloured people in this country in 50 years' time. Of course, anybody can make their guesses on any kind of premises, but I am bound to say that the other figure which he quoted and which was quoted by one of his honourable friends in another place is, in our view, a long way off—probably 30 or 40 per cent. It was based on false premises and if you do that you can reach any kind of conclusion you like. There was an estimate of some 3½ million by 1985, and we think that that is at least 1½ million over what would be a reasonable estimate.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I was quoting the answer to a question by Sir Cyril Osborne in another place, which was given by my honourable friend Mr. Snow, and that gave a figure of 3½ million in 1985. But, as I say, it was based on the premises which Sir Cyril Osborne himself put forward.
§ LORD STONHAM
I thank the noble Lord very much. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, asked me how many dependants came in under discretionary powers. I think I have dealt with that. He spoke critically, however, of children admitted at discretion. Apart from the fact that the numbers are small and, of course, nothing like the numbers of children under 16, the practice is broadly the same as it has been for aliens for many years; and there have been suggestions that we should, as it were, assimilate for the Commonwealth the existing practice 82 for aliens. Therefore, I really cannot accept that we are over-generous in this matter of discretion about children between 16 and 18.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, raised a point about clandestine immigration and, in particular, cases like the Sandwich Bay landing. So far as our knowledge goes, this is not a menace. It is not of any serious proportion but, of course, it is not a matter which we can ignore. It is the case that if a Commonwealth citizen lands illegally in that way and is in the country for 24 hours, then of course he stays here. But in the three or four cases of which we are aware—we do not think there are any others—all the people have been dealt with within 24 hours and we have had no difficulty. But this is a matter which is being considered by the Home Secretary, and if he feels that it is necessary to make a change in legislation in this regard then, of course, a change will be made.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, it may well be that cases like the landing at Sandwich, and so on, are few and far between and may not be a menace. Obviously, though, in cases where an immigration officer has accepted the word of somebody that he does comply, and then it is found after more than 24 hours that the immigration officer was hoodwinked, it is quite wrong that there should be no right to send back an illegal immigrant. That may be a much more serious problem.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, it is, of course, one of the points which we have in mind in considering the need for, and the possibility of, legislation.
The noble Lord also asked me how immigration officers are able to establish relationships. As he put it: How is an immigration officer to know, when he has a 14-year old boy in custody, the truth about the person he alleges is his father. Of course, this is a major problem for immigration officers and it is one which occupies a great deal of their time and effort. But they do—and quite successfully—carry out a thorough examination of the immigrant and of the relatives, and they compare the statements made. For example, they ask the boy about his other relatives in the country from which 83 he has come. They also ask him about any brothers and sisters, or any other relatives here whom he is joining. They also ask the putative father or relative who has come to claim him, and very often there is a remarkable discrepancy between the information given, and they then discover the truth. With regard to medical evidence of age, this is of course obtained by medical means, and it is sometimes found that a 12-year old boy gives his age as 15. He has every right to come in, but if he comes in at 15 he does not have to go to school. He then goes immediately to work. And it works the other way, but it would not stop him coming in.
The noble Lord also asked about Asians. I want to say, first of all, that this is not a question of evasion or anything of the kind. These people have United Kingdom and Colonies passports. They have every right to come here and they are outside the 1962 Act. That is not the problem. The problem arises because, for one reason or another, they have not acquired the statehood of the new independent territories which have been set up under different Acts of Parliament—not just by this Government but by various Governments—and there is now this number of some 170,000. But we do not think that this is a matter for panic, either here or in East Africa. They have been coming here for some years. In 1965 there were 6,000, in 1966 there were 7,000 and in the first 10 months of this year there were 10,000—and, of course, we are watching the matter very closely. But in most countries, if not all of them, there are still Asians who are being accepted into citizenship of the country concerned, in which event, of course, they become citizens of that country and no longer have the automatic right to come here.
My noble friend Lord Walston drew attention to the projections of coloured populations years hence, and indicated that in his view those projections were, by his definition, racialist. Whether or not that is so—and my noble friend is entitled to his point of view—I think that what we have to work for, when we talk about 50 years hence, is a situation in which these people, according to where they live, will be English, Welsh or 84 Scots, distinguishable not by their tongue—they will be able to speak English, Welsh or Scots as well as the natives—not by their clothing, not by their manner of life, not by their education or attainments, but merely by the colour of their skin. That is the thing that we have to work for.
My noble friend Lord Brockway, in his speech, when dealing with the question of education, spoke about nurses. I was chairman of five London hospitals for six years, and I have pictorial records of it. It is not a question of going through a hospital and seeing more coloured nurses than white. I can show your Lordships photograph after photograph of my presenting prizes to nurses 75 per cent. of whom were coloured. Moreover, nearly every year—they were three-year students—the top prize was won by a black girl. The only point I am making is this. Let us please get rid of this idea that there is something basically different, basically beautiful and something inherently lordly in the possession of a pale skin. If we give these immigrants the same kind of chances that we have had ourselves, then in a generation, or at most two generations, the problems which are now formidable—and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, was quite right to say that it is one of the most important and difficult social questions that we have to deal with—will to a large extent have vanished.
My Lords, I have been most grateful for all the speeches. I have done my best to reply to the points raised. If, on reading the debate, I find that there are any that I have missed, I will write to the noble Lord concerned. I would say that I did not think that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, was of an abrasive character. It was of a most helpful character. I do not think there is very much between us on this subject; and I hope that, as the months and years go on, we shall see this policy work out end our fears vanish, and that we shall find that we have achieved something which perhaps no other country in the world would or could have achieved in the same way as we shall have done it.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.