HL Deb 25 November 1969 vol 305 cc1208-13

3.56 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, sat down I wished to make a brief comment on his speech. The noble Lord made great play—


My Lords, I am not sure what the state of play is. Are we returning to the debate? I do not think that after such an interval it is possible to take advantage of the, at best dubious, Rule by which people manage to get in an extra speech. I am very sorry; but I rather thought that the House did not want it.


My Lords, I thought that I was speaking with the leave of the House. I wanted to comment just after the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, sat down, but the debate was interrupted by the Minister making a Statement on local radio.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, made great play about being realistic. Certainly his speech, even if realistic, will give a great boost to prejudice in this country. However, if he is being—or if we are all being—exhorted to be realistic, I wonder whether the noble Lord is being realistic about the economic consequences either of stopping immigration now or of stopping it in the future; and whether he has really done his sums on that account.


My Lords, I was not going to intervene, but the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, makes it essential for me to do for I am an immigrant—as are many noble Lords opposite. I am not Anglo-Saxon. I should like to speak also as a member of the Community Relations Commission. I have no doubt at all on the noble Lord's record as an unrealistic liberal in the other House, sitting for a constituency very largely immigrant or non-British born, that he behaved admirably. I would only ask him to spare some of us who are trying to build up community relations at least the discouragement of the kind of speech we had today. This is not a question of realistic figures, figures to be added up, or a question of distribution or sorting out the whole of the immigrants in this country. What we have now is a realistic situation. The realism is that we have to come to terms with people who are here and who are trying—I can assure the House that they are trying—to find their place and to behave as we would expect people of any culture to behave in this country. If we cannot reconcile cultures, I want to know how on earth the British race, so-called, ever emerged.


My Lords, surely the noble Lord is under a delusion. He is not an immigrant to Britain, is he? He is merely an immigrant to England—and we are dealing with a British Bill and not with an English Bill.


My Lords, all that I desire to do is to offer my thanks to Her Majesty's Government for having accorded permanent status to the Accommodation Agencies Act. It has taken rather a long time, 16 years. Last year the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, promised that it would be given permanent status. Now that that has been done all that remains is for me to express my appreciation.


My Lords, I do not want to prolong this debate, but I should like to take this rather rare opportunity of expressing my very strong agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, for one thing in particular that he said. Towards the end of his speech he stated that we must check emotions by establishing facts and, subsequently, that we must look these facts in the face. Those, I think, are admirable sentiments; the more facts that we can adduce from this very difficult and vexed question the better it will be for all of us.

He also said—and here I am afraid that I revert to my more usual rôle of partial disagreement with him—that we must not be carried away by liberal unreality. If his emphasis was on the word "unreality", I agree entirely; but if his emphasis was on the word "liberal" my agreement is somewhat more dubious. But we must not be carried away by unreality in any form, whether it be liberal unreality or whether it be whatever the antithesis of "liberal" may be in this context—shall I call it reactionary unreality? I am afraid that there is at the moment a great deal of reactionary unreality which is carrying people away from the truth and much further a way from reality than any amount of the "liberal unreality" to which we have been listening. I should like to issue a warning against reactionary unreality no less vehement than the noble Lord's warning against liberal unreality.

My third point is that I disagree with him quite categorically when he says that this is primarily a question of numbers and of concentration. Undoubtedly these are of the greatest importance, but in my view—and this is pertinent to all in this House and elsewhere—the question of immigration and integration is primarily a question of leadership. I believe that the vast majority of people in this country are prepared to follow decent, honest and unequivocal leadership in this matter; and that, above all, is what we require from this House. If we get the leadership which encourages people to welcome and to integrate those who come to these shores, we shall resolve this problem; but if we get a leadership which strives to create barriers and to accentuate difficulties, we shall fail.


My Lords, may I, with leave of the House, just say this? The noble Lord, Lord Walston, said that he disagreed with me on some matters and agreed with me on others. I think he will appreciate the difficulty in which I am when we have one debate on immigration, on which I sought to speak to-day, and then a separate debate later on race relations, in which we are greatly looking forward to hearing his speech and in which I hope to be able to take part, too.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, for correcting my slip of the tongue. I can only say that old habits die hard and I have heard other noble Lords round the Chamber muttering about Expiring Laws Continuation Bill, forgetting that we have changed the name. I should like to say to the noble Lord that we have gone a long way, as I think he has recognised to-day, in dealing with many of the problems which have been raised on numerous occasions in the past. We have not managed, as he rightly pointed out, to deal with this vexed and complex question of licensing planning, and I can only repeat the assurances, which I know he was given on five previous occasions by my noble friend Lord Stonham, by saying that we still have this very much in mind.

Other than that, the discussion we have had has concentrated on the questions of immigration which raise both emotive words and considerable feelings on all sides of the House. My noble friends Lord Ritchie-Calder, Lord Walston and Lady Gaitskell have already answered, I think, many of the points which the noble Lord made. I was a little surprised when I heard what appeared to be a slight tone of envy in his voice, when he reminded us that the words of a certain other person had been listened to rather than his. I hope that this was not what he meant to say, because the noble Lord does not normally speak in emotive terms in this Chamber and I thought that by his words to-day he raised the temperature of the House and by some of the things he said caused considerable concern in certain parts of the Chamber.

The noble Lord made a particular point about the doctors and other staff in the National Health Service who come to this country from Commonwealth countries, and implied, I thought, that we were deliberately enticing these men and women here. That really is not so. They come because they want to come. We do not set out to recruit doctors from Commonwealth countries. They want to come and that is why we have had to introduce a voucher scheme to limit the number who do come. Many of these doctors come traditionally to training posts. This country has been the heart of Commonwealth training and this, I am sure, is a right and proper role. Many go home, though admittedly not all do, and my right honourable friend has accepted the comments of the Royal Commission on Medical Education by announcing in the last few months that by 1975 the number of places we have in our medical schools will be increased up to 1,000.

In recent months, we have also given great consideration to the problem of the number of doctors from overseas, some of whom are not always fluent in colloquial English, though they have sat their qualifying examinations in written English. Here again, the Government have announced a scheme for compulsory attachment of doctors, so that they will go into training in hospitals. This scheme will come into operation very shortly. I make these points, not because I wish to delay the House, but to show that the Government have a positive and constructive attitude to what is admittedly an extraordinarily difficult problem, and I do not think it is entirely fair to suggest either that we have ignored it or that we have deliberately enticed people here.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cum-nor, made a point in debate which he has made in previous debates, one which I know he holds most sincerely, relating to the age of 16. He has always taken the view that youngsters coming to this country from overseas should come at an age when they can benefit from education in this country before they go into the employment market. This view, as he also knows, the Government cannot accept. My noble friend Lord Stonham has already set out, more effectively than I can, the strong reasons against dividing families in the way the noble Lord suggested we should, and I think that the majority of the House accept this point of view.

Coming to the issue which has raised the temperature of the House to-day, noble Lords have already made their position clear. We are to have a much wider debate in two or three weeks' time on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Walston, and I hope that on that occasion the House, keeping temperatures down, will rationally, reasonably and constructively debate this vital issue of cornmunity relations. The only comment I would make to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, on his remarks about future population projections is that I think they are based on a major fallacy—namely that the people he was referring to will be aliens in this country. We are thinking towards the future of people who will be born here, who will be educated here, who will be working here, who will be married here and will produce their families here. Surely, my Lords, this is the crux of the issue. They will not he aliens, they will be British citizens in this country. I hope that in our forthcoming debate we shall see the ways in which we can help newcomers and avoid the kind of recrimination and discrimination that we have seen on occasions in the past.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.