HL Deb 12 December 1968 vol 298 cc630-1

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government, having regard to the scale of evasion in the landing from the sea and on the South Coast of a number of nationals from Pakistan, for which a British national was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment, whether adequate facilities are available to the Customs and Coastguard services of the United Kingdom to prevent such breaches of the immigration laws]


My Lords, the task of controlling immigration does not belong primarily to the Customs or the Coastguard. However, the Customs exercise a general control over the movement of ships around our shores, as a measure against smuggling, and they are concerned to prevent unlawful landings. The Coastguard and the police co-operate in this; and the case referred to by the noble Lord is a good example of that co-operation.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, I am somewhat uneasy at his answer. Is the position really satisfactory when out of 21½ million people who entered and were cleared through British ports in the 12-month period to September 30 1968, only two persons were detected for illegal landing and evasion of control from the sea to the coast, and only one person was prosecuted and convicted? Would the noble Lord understand that what I am calling attention to is the colossal movement of persons and this one prosecution and conviction in the period I have mentioned. Can the noble Lord—



My Lords, the object of asking a question is not just to call attention. If the noble Lord would seek some genuine information, I think it would be more consistent with our procedure.


My Lords, could the noble Lord give some information of what steps are being taken to prevent evasions of this nature?


My Lords, first of all, the 1968 Act of course changed the situation considerably. It made it illegal for anybody to land and also made it illegal for anyone to bring over anybody illegally. It also extended the time in which the authorities could accost and send back persons who had landed illegally. Although there have been few prosecutions, the noble Lord did not quote the number of people who have been returned. That is one point. The other is that there has been a good deal of improvement in the co-operation between the police authorities and the Customs, and they are now much better equipped than they were with modern aids. I should have thought that the situation was now much more under control.


My Lords, is it not quite wrong to suggest that there is in fact large-scale evasion of the law in this matter? Is it not really a question of keeping it in perspective?


My Lords, I quite agree, and I thought the figures the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, gave could indicate, not that we have been lax in detection but that there had been few cases to apprehend.