HL Deb 25 November 1969 vol 305 cc1190-204

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Although the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, to which I have just invited the House to give a Second Reading, embraces several, but I think notably fewer, items of legislation than it has done in the past, it has become the custom of the House in recent years for our debate to concentrate principally on the question of immigration control, and more particularly on Commonwealth immigration, since that is the topic of most lively public concern to-day. But before following the practice of earlier years, I should like to refer briefly to the laws that are being made permanent in the Bill.

I know that there are at least two noble Lords in the House to-day who in our previous annual debates on this subject have chided the Government with their failure to make certain laws permanent. Noble Lords, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, wall be glad to see the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act made permanent to-day. Similarly, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, will welcome the particular words that he sees printed on the Bill which we are now considering. On a number of occasions he has urged my noble friend Lord Stonham to make this legislation permanent, and I hope that Clause 1 gives him pleasure.

Turning now to the main subject of the Bill namely, arrangements for Commonwealth immigration, I should like to say at the outset that while there is clearly a close link between the subject of immigration control and race relations, I do not propose in introducing this Bill to discuss race relations issues, because the Bill itself is essentially concerned with existing immigration control and continuing it for another twelve months. Noble Lords will also be aware that my noble friend Lord Walston has a Motion on the Order Paper relating to the recent publication of the Institute of Race Relations, Colour and Citizenship, which will, I hope, give the House a very full opportunity in the course of the next few weeks to address a debate specifically to that particular aspect of the problem.

It has been customary, and your Lordships generally follow custom, for the Opposition Members of the House to tax the Government on these annual occasions with the fact that immigration control continues, year after year, to be renewed on this annual basis. They take the view, as indeed do the Government, that legislation of such continuing importance should be placed on a permanent footing. In fact I think the records show that both Parties, when in office, have accepted the need for permanent legislation. This is the first occasion when I myself have taken part in one of these debates, and I do not propose to spend time apologising for the fact that once again we are seeking an annual renewal of legislation governing the immigration both of aliens and of Commonwealth citizens. The Government are on record as agreeing that permanent legislation is desirable, but we have been, I think the House will agree, far from inactive in the field of legislation in the immigration area in these last few years. In particular, your Lordships will remember the Immigration Appeals Act which was introduced last Session; and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary thinks it right that we should gain experience of the working of the appeals system before consolidating the immigration laws on a permanent basis.

The statutory system of appeals will be brought into operation next year, when a heavy programme of administrative preparations for the new system has been completed. These preparations have to cover such matters as the training of staff, the appointment of adjudicators, the provision of premises, and the preparation of a number of Statutory Instruments laying down regulations and rules of procedure. All these preparations are now well under way, and the Instruments will be laid before your Lordships' House in the coming months. These will, at the appropriate time, include a commencement order under Section 24 of the Act specifying the starting date for the new arrangements. I am afraid I cannot give the House a definite date to-day, but I can assure your Lordships that there will be no avoidable delay.

One important feature of the Act has already been brought into effect—that is, the requirement in Section 20 that dependants should be in possession of entry certificates before they arrive here. I think there was a general welcome for the Government's decision to introduce this requirement. This change was primarily an administrative one, and we made it clear that it was designed to reduce hardship at the point of arrival, and in particular to avoid the need to send passengers away, after a long and sometimes tiring journey to this country, because their claims to admission had not been scrutinised before they set out. The new requirement does not impair the statutory entitlement of wives, and children under sixteen, to join men settled here.

As I said just now, it is already possible to say from experience that the new requirement has been manifestly successful in its main object of removing hardship at the point of arrival. In the early months of this year we were having to refuse admission to one in every forty dependants arriving—a rate of about 1,000 a year, and nearly all were women, children or aged parents. From India we were refusing one in every twenty-five. Since the new entry certificate requirement was enforced at the beginning of June, we have had to refuse admission to only two dependants arriving with entry certificates, while we have admitted up to the end of October about 10,000 dependants who have arrived with entry certificates. In the same period another thirty-five dependants unfortunately managed to arrive here without entry certificates, in disregard of the new arrangements, and had to be refused admission.

Your Lordships will no doubt be aware that a Select Committee of another place will be examining the arrangements for the issue of entry certificates overseas during the present Session, and members of the Committee are themselves shortly to go overseas to see the arrangements in operation in the countries from which the greatest number of dependants come. We shall pay close attention to the Committee's findings. But we have already greatly strengthened the arrangements overseas in order to cope with the additional burden of work which has been occasioned by them.

It was inevitable that the introduction of the new arrangements would have a short-term effect on numbers arriving. As all noble Lords will agree, figures of Commonwealth immigration are notoriously difficult to interpret. But it is clear that the numbers of dependants arriving from the Commonwealth as a whole were already set in a declining trend before the new requirement was introduced.

The House may also wish to have a progress report on the arrangements for non-statutory appeals for dependants, because the statutory appeals scheme will not come into operation until next year. The House will recall that the Government decided to introduce in advance of the statutory system arrangements under which dependants affected by the new entry certificate requirement would have a right of appeal against the refusal of an entry certificate, and also against the refusal of admission to an entry certificate holder. These appeal arrangements have already got under way, and are providing a useful trial run for us in preparation for the statutory appeal system.

Some of your Lordships may be aware that these appeals are dealt with in the United Kingdom by lawyers nominated by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. This arrangement follows the pattern recommended by the Wilson Committee on immigration appeals. When an entry certificate is refused, the applicant is given a written explanation of the reasons for the decision, and a form on which to give notice of appeal. If he appeals, the lawyer has before him the appellant's grounds of appeal and a report from the entry certificate officer setting out the facts and the reasons for the decision. By arranging for the appeal to be heard in this country, we make it possible for the dependant's sponsor in the United Kingdom to be present when the appeal is dealt with. He is given an opportunity to ask for a hearing, and arrangements have been made for appeals to be dealt with not only in London but also in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

My Lords, I have given this progress report, if I may so call it, on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill because I know how concerned many noble Lords have been about the working of these arrangements. I do not think I need detain the House further at this stage, but if there are any questions that noble Lords have to raise in relation to the new arrangements, to the number of persons involved, or in regard to any other changes there have been in the last year, I will try to answer such questions. With that introduction, I hope that the House will give this Bill its Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Serota.)

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I hope the noble Baroness will not think that I mean anything disparaging towards her clear and courteous speech when I say that I look forward to the disappearance of this annual Bill. One of the few contributions that I have made to the work of Parliament occurred when I was a Treasury Minister and I managed to get rid of an annual Bill, the Isle of Man Customs Bill, which each year took up valuable Parliamentary time in both Houses. I have for long been convinced that the Expiring Laws Bill could in due course be dispensed with, and I trust that we are on the way to that end. The noble Baroness in the course of her introduction made one slip when she said that she was introducing the "Expiring Laws Continuance Bill". It has now been given a new temporary title, being simply the Expiring Laws Bill, because Clause 1 performs the excellent service of in fact making two of the temporary Bills permanent. I think it was two years ago in your Lordships' House that I suggested that the Accommodation Agencies Act and the 1955 Act, which is commonly termed "The Horror Comics Act", should be made permanent.

I am delighted that the Government have discovered that that can be done through this Bill, by a change in its name. I am sure that nobody would be more pleased than my noble friend Lord Ilford who introduced the original Accommodation Agencies Bill in 1953, as a time when it was badly needed, as a Private Member's Bill in another place, and who now has the pleasure of seeing it become part of permanent legislation. As to the "Horror Comics Act", I think that the probable reason why it was made temporary in the first instance was because it was felt to be a dangerous form of censorship, and censorship of publications is not something that we in this country like. But what has happened in the intervening 14 years is that it has been found that theoretical objections must yield to practical experience, and I believe that by universal consent this Act, which forbids the importation into this country of a particularly foul form of children's literature, will become part of our permanent law.

The noble Baroness did not make any mention of subsection (2) of Clause 2 of the Bill, which continues for another year Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964. This deals with the subject of licensing planning, which is not one of the most exciting subjects that your Lordships could be invited to discuss. In my time as Home Secretary I set up a Committee under Mr. Ramsay Willis, now Mr. Justice Willis, to make recommendations to the Government as to the future of Part VII of the 1964 Act. In 1965 the Willis Committee published what seemed to me at the time a valuable Report, and I am bound to express regret that the Government still do not seem to have made up their mind on that Report. It will be tragic if we have to continue this Expiring Laws Bill simply and solely in order to retain Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964 in existence when the aliens legislation and the Commonwealth immigration legislation have been, as the noble Baroness forecast, made permanent.

I would remind your Lordships that three years ago, on November 17, 1966, to be precise, the spokesman for the Government, replying to me on the subject of licensing planning, said: I can assure the noble Lord that we shall try to come to conclusions in this matter. That was three years ago. I have raised the point each year, and a year ago on this same Bill the noble Lord replying for the Government said: I can assure your Lordships that we have these matters very much in mind. Well, if we had a Home Office Minister in the Lords—and without disrespect to the noble Baroness I regret that we no longer have—he, I am sure, would repeat the assurance that at the Home Office they had these matters very much in mind. But the task to which the Government were pledged of reaching decisions on this practical matter appears to have been beyond them. I trust that in clue course we shall have Government decisions implemented by legislation on this subject of licensing planning which, though it may be of limited intent, is nevertheless important to some.

I agree with the noble Baroness, however, that the main subject of debate on this Bill must naturally be immigration from the Commonwealth and from foreign countries. The Government wish to bring forward permanent legislation on both these subjects to overtake the Aliens Restrictions (Amendment) Act 1919 and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. This too, the bringing forward of permanent legislation, has so far been beyond them. I grant that it will be a considerable undertaking, but judging by what both Houses of Parliament have been told and have said in the past, it is overdue. It will now fall to a Conservative Government to introduce the permanent legislation. When it is taken in hand, I sincerely hope that the new Bill will rise above short-term expedients and will be so constructive as to implement a fully considered long-term immigration policy for Britain. I shall come back to that matter later in my speech.

As to short-term measures, within the past two years a number of the loopholes for evasion of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act have been closed. I want to give the Government credit for that, though I must say that their own White Paper of July, 1965, more than four years ago, pointed out how evasion was developing and said that firm action was urgent to stop it, but a number of their own supporters rebelled at the firm action that was proposed in that White Paper, and so action was postponed for two years until an appeal procedure had been set up. The present Home Secretary, Mr. Callaghan, who has shown himself stronger in this matter than his predecessor, also had the courage to bring in legislation to cope with the risk of Kenya Asians seeking to come to this country in very great numbers because they hold British passports though they have never set foot in Britain. But that is not what we are debating to-day, for that Act is permanent and does not call for annual renewal. Under the Acts which we are renewing (and let me say that the Opposition certainly support their renewal) new methods of evasion may be discovered in course of time, for the temptation to do so is very great; but, for my part, I do not think there is much evasion now, and I want to say that publicly to Parliament. May I pay tribute to the work of immigration officers? I think they have a most thankless task. It has been eased for them, I believe, by this new procedure of appeals, which at the moment is non-statutory but is about to become statutory. However, I want to say that in this whole field, which, as we have discovered, is highly charged with emotion from time to time, the immigration officers at the ports and airports have, in my view, faithfully carried out the will of Parliament, and I think it is right that Parliament should take the opportunity to thank them.

I agree with the noble Baroness that this is not the occasion to debate race relations within this country. I, too, hope that we are going to have another opportunity of that before long, but I trust that neither the noble Baroness nor anybody else will think I am getting out of order if, having spoken of the immigration officers, I also pay tribute to the teachers. This large-scale Commonwealth immigration has put a new and tremendous strain on teachers in a great many schools in different parts of this country, and I think they have risen to the task magnificently.

The two Acts which we are renewing have different histories, and they enshrine quite different procedures. The reasons for that are, we all know, historical. if we were starting with a clean slate I am perfectly sure we should seek to assimilate the procedures. We should not deliberately create two different procedures which contrast so sharply as those which govern alien immigration under the 1919 Act and Commonwealth immigration under the 1962 Act. The particular difference I want to dwell on for a moment is that an alien who receives a work permit to come to this country is admitted here for a limited time; in contrast, the Commonwealth citizen who receives a voucher under the 1962 Act can stay for ever. Long before it had become official Conservative policy I urged that all permits to come to this country for purposes of work should be for a limited period, a period extendable at the dis- cretion of the appropriate Minister. That has worked perfectly satisfactorily in the case of aliens, and I see no reason why it should not be applied equally to Commonwealth immigrants.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord a moment? Would the noble Lord make clear that there is no ceiling on the number of aliens who come in, while there is a ceiling on the quota of Commonwealth immigrants?


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, knows that an alien can get a work permit to work in only a limited range of industries, and even there he has to get a permit to work for a particular employer. The suggestion that there is unlimited opportunity for aliens but limited opportunities for Commonwealth immigrants really is not the case.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again. but the immigrant has to have a work permit, too.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Does this apply to Irish immigrants as well?


No, my Lords. I am sure the noble Baroness is so familiar with the debates on the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill in 1961 and 1962 that she must well know the reasons why it does not apply to people from Ireland. Many people think that it should, I believe, and others think that it should not. The frank truth is that as there is a land frontier between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, it is deemed impossible to apply to Southern Ireland the same restrictions as apply to immigration from other parts of the world.

But, my Lords, to return to what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said, I for my part should not be at all sorry if the charge led to larger numbers coming from the Commonwealth for a period of two or three years' experience here in the professions or in industry. What we have to watch is the number of people, whether they are aliens or Commonwealth immigrants, who come here for permanent settlement. At present, between 4,000 and 5,000 Commonwealth immigrants a year are coming in on vouchers. I am sure that it would be right to admit at least that number on temporary permits. But I am not at all sure that it is right to give vouchers for permanent residence here to so many doctors, engineers, teachers and others in the professions who, after gaining experience here, would have just the skills for which their own countries are crying out. I am not at all sure that we have a right to present those people with opportunities to remain here permanently, thus depriving their own countries of their services.

To run our hospitals largely on immigrant doctors is something which the Royal Commission on Medical Education itself said that we must stop doing. We have cause, I would say, to be intensely grateful to all the doctors and nurses from overseas, without whom the hospital side of the National Health Service would collapse. But have we the smallest right as a country to run a brain-drain on this scale against the countries from which these doctors and nurses come and which are crying out for trained personnel? I come back again to the need for thinking out long-term aims. This is a great country in which we live, and it is fantastic for us to behave as though we could not be expected to produce the manpower and womanpower required to staff one of the finest and noblest humanitarian services—the hospitals of this country. We are not doing it at present.

I realise that we cannot expect any more legislation on immigration policy in this Parliament. That makes it all the more important to plan ahead for the next. I am one of those who have consistently held that where an immigrant has settled down permanently in this country he should have the right to have his wife and children with him. The case for that on human and moral grounds seems to me overwhelming. I do not think that the age limit for entry as of right is correct. It is now, as the noble Baroness has said, sixteen. Up to their sixteenth birthday, if their two parents are both in this country, children can come as of right. I do not think it is desirable that fifteen-year-olds should come from a distant country to go straight on to the labour market in this country without passing through any form of British education at all. I cannot believe that we have got that age limit right. Sons and daughters of parents who are already here, or who are coming here, ought to have the advantage of a year or two here at school with other children before they start work. Subject to that, I would certainly maintain a statutory right of entry for wives and young children of all parents who are already here or are coming here.

But, my Lords, Iet us make no mistake about it: this is going to mean the continuance of net Commonwealth immigration at a level of something like 50,000 a year for some years. Last year I think the figure was 53,000; this year it may be 47,000. But it is clearly going to be something like 40,000 or 50,000 a year for some years, and that is bound to make the ultimate problem of maintaining good race relations here harder.

In the debate on this Bill in another place, Mr. Enoch Powell pointed out that before long one-fifth, or even a quarter, of the population in the centres of large cities would be coloured. To judge by Press reports (I was not there myself) his speech caused uproar in the Commons. I have looked up past speeches of mine. I find that three years ago in your Lordships' House, on November 3, 1966, I said that in less than fifty years one-third of the whole population in large areas of our big cities was going to be coloured, and that in some cases that might well be one-third of the whole city. Mr. Enoch Powell's speech caused uproar; my speech caused not a ripple. It makes me wonder whether the lurid language with which he embellished some of his previous speeches is essential if one is going to get anyone to listen. This, my Lords, is my main anxiety in this whole difficult subject: that so many people prefer to close their ears and eyes, and to live in a world of what I can only call liberal unreality.

During the years of heavy immigration up to 1960, shockingly little thought was given by most people to the social and administrative problems that would be created by the arrival of rapidly growing numbers of newcomers and their concentration in particular districts. We all regret that now; and we are all trying to catch up on that. But I believe that we are now committing a similar mistake again. We are in danger of turning blind eyes to the pace of change in the make-up of the population in those areas, and to the rate of increase in the percentage of the whole population of these islands who will be coloured.

To-day, the proportion is a little over 2 per cent. How soon will it be 5 per cent? No one knows. Why does no one know? My Lords, 2 per cent. spread over the British Isles is nothing, but the essence of the problems we have to tackle is that it is not thus widely spread. In the areas of concentration, certainly before many years are out, it will be between 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. I remember that in a previous debate (I think it was in the corresponding debate last year) the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, speaking from the Cross-Benches, and referring to his experience of minorities all over the world, said that often where there was no difference at all in the colour of the skin: … as soon as a minority attains about 10 per cent. of the population in any one area… somehow it begins to cause ill-will".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10/12/68, col. 459.] If he is right, troubles arising through race differences in this country have hardly begun, but we have a great deal to be anxious about for the future.


My Lords, will the noble Lord— LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR: I will carry this no further now because we are to have a debate next month on race relations, when we can think more about all this.


My Lords, the noble Lord has been very kind in giving way previously, and I am obliged to him; but we seem now to be getting quite away from our previous discussions on this matter. In the past, it has always been a question of Commonwealth immigrants, but now we are having a concentration on coloured immigrants. There has constantly been a denial from critics of Commonwealth immigration that it has had anything whatever to do with colour. Is the noble Lord now saying that colour really does matter in their considerations?


My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, for whom I have great respect, is really giving further evidence of this phrase which I used a few minutes ago, "liberal unreality". There is no doubt whatever that colour influences people. There is equally no doubt that the presence of large minorities, even when there is no difference in colour at all, can create ill-will. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, was saying. But we must not be afraid to be realistic about this. I try to discuss these matters in sincere and non-emotive terms; but those of us who attempt to do so are not helped when there are people who run away from what appear to us to be realities.


It is a colour question.


it is a colour question, but primarily it is a question of numbers and concentration, and that is what we must not ignore. Exactly the same thing could happen if there were large numbers of immigrant people in cities of this country who were indistinguishable in colour from ourselves and were distinguishable only in language and culture. The great difference, of course, is culture. The clash of culture is liable to be the most dangerous. To be frank, the trouble about colour is that it forces itself upon the eyesight. but there arc many other things which can force themselves on people's perception; and I beg your Lordships not to try to argue about all this as though colour did not matter, culture did riot matter and numbers did not matter. All these things matter, and we must take account of them all if we are to help to build up in this country a wholly happy community.


My Lords, I have been listening to the noble Lord with increasing despair, and I wonder whether he will undertake, when we have the next debate (this may not be the occasion) since he has laid so much stress on colour, to come forward with some practical advice about how we can deal with this problem. At the moment, though he speaks in more moderate terms, his speech seems to me to have an Enoch Powell strain in it. I am quite certain that is not the noble Lord's intention.


My Lords, it is not my intention to speak on this subject in sensational terms; it is my intention to speak in realistic terms, and nothing will frighten me from doing that. But when the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, speaks about our coming debate on race relations, I would remind him that I have a pretty good record, in Parliament and elsewhere, so far as community relations are concerned. For many years I was the representative in another place of a constituency which probably has a larger percentage of overseas-born people than any other in the country. We learned there a very considerable degree of toleration among ourselves, and it is through toleration and understanding that we must solve these problems. But we shall not solve them by turning a blind eye to them. Today I was seeking only to pay regard to the aspects of these matters which were affected by immigration policy. For that reason I do not apologise for not having expanded my views on community relations, because I think that really would have been out of order.

My Lords, what I am bound to say is that the problem of numbers—and I think it is mainly a problem of numbers and concentration—is bound to grow and grow, even if we were to stop all further immigration immediately. It will, of course, be affected by immigration policy, and that is why I would urge yet again that the Government should state their long-term aims and then state their policies to secure them. The first need of all is to establish authoritatively figures of future population on various alternative assumptions—because we cannot know for certain what assumption to take—and then publish them to the world so that everybody may grasp them. Otherwise the British people will be entitled to say, as indeed many of them are saying now, that this Government, and not only this Government but all their Governments, have been pursuing immigration policies to which they have never consented; and that is the most fertile and dangerous ground of all in which race prejudice can grow.

Inevitably this is an emotional subject. Emotion can best be checked by establishing facts. I am in agreement with a great deal of what the Government have done in recent years in revising their immigration polices. I have indicated in my speech where I disagree with these policies. The fundamental difference between us, I suspect, to judge by speeches made in another place, is that the Government are ready to take pride in the prospect of Britain becoming a multiracial society just like Brazil. I believe that Britain can gain much by learning from other cultures, and setting a shining example in treating everybody who settles and lives in these Islands as equal in all respects before the law. But I believe equally firmly that Britain is likely to make her best contribution to the world if she continues to be, as she has been for centuries, a nation of predominantly Anglo-Saxon stock; and I think that that needs to continue in London and all the great cities of our country too. If, for saying that, I am called a racialist, a racialist in that sense is what I am proud to be. I am not frightened of pejorative words. Procrastination over looking facts in the face is what frightens me; and we have had too much of that in this field over the past twenty years. My Lords, I support the Second Reading of this Bill.