§ 4.10 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD WINDLESIIAM)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Some Members of your Lordships' House will know that this is an annual occasion when certain legislation of a temporary character is continued in force for a further year. With the passage of time the number of items has dwindled until to-day we are left with only two: the control of immigration to Britain by people from other countries, and a limited system by which local planning authorities and licensing justices can work together in certain areas of the country. I will have a few words to say about licensing planning later on, but it is the usual practice of both Houses to make use of this annual occasion for a discussion of the far more important subject of the working of our immigration controls.
It has often been pointed out that this temporary basis for our immigration laws 415 is a most unsatisfactory one dating, as it does in the case of aliens, back to an Act passed within 24 hours of one of the most significant dates in history: August 4, 1914. A great deal has happened since the proclamation of a state of war with Germany, but ever since then the control of immigration has been continued on a year to year basis, and Ministers in successive Governments, irrespective of Party, have vied with each other in saying just how unsatisfactory this temporary basis for our immigration control was in practice and how firm was their determination to put matters on a permanent basis as soon as possible. There is a French proverb, however, which runs:There is nothing so lasting as the provisional.That certainly has turned out to be true in this case. In 1962 Commonwealth citizens became subject to immigration control; in 1968 further legislation was enacted; but, my Lords, the expiring laws procedure endured. For this reason, I am asking your Lordships once again for your agreement to extend these powers for another year.
In doing so, however, I think I can say with some confidence what no predecessor of mine would have been rash enough to predict: that this should be the last time that the Government will need to renew the powers referred to in Clause 1(1) of this Bill. Of course no one can safely predict that the law will be changed until an enactment is safely on the Statute Book; but as noble Lords will know, the Government are firmly committed to the introduction of comprehensive legislation making immigration control permanent. A Bill is now in the course of being drafted and will be laid before Parliament this Session. It will not be long before the Bill is published, and whatever differences there may be between us when its contents come to be debated, I hope that to-day we can all welcome the fact that an objective shared between the major Parties for so long is at last in sight of being achieved; that is, that the legislation will in future be on a permanent basis.
As noble Lords will know, the forthcoming legislative proposals were contained in our Election Manifesto; they were referred to by my right honourable 416 friend in the debate on the Queen's Speech in another place, and again in a debate on the Committee stage of this Bill in another place last week. It would, I think, be inappropriate to seek to debate the very real differences which exist between the Opposition and the Government on immigration policy this afternoon since we shall have ample opportunity to do so when the actual proposals are before us later in the Session. But what I thought might be helpful to your Lordships would be if I were briefly to summarise the main principles—there are only three—upon which our immigration policy rests and on which the Bill will be based.
First, the measure will be a comprehensive one, replacing both the Acts governing the entry of foreign nationals and those regulating the entry of Commonwealth citizens. It will confer full power on the Home Secretary to take effective action to prevent any further large-scale immigration, and to discharge his responsibilities for applying a just, humane and at the same time effective immigration control. We believe that the knowledge that the Government have this power should have a stabilising effect in the field of community relations. Nothing is more harmful to good community relations than fear; and the fear that is most dangerous of all is that entry may get out of control. Entry is not out of control and it will not be allowed to get out of control. The Government have made it quite clear that there is to be no more large-scale permanent immigration. The Bill will contain the necessary powers for this purpose.
Secondly, the basis of entry from the Commonwealth by Commonwealth citizens who come here to work will be altered. As already announced, they will no longer be entitled on entry to remain here indefinitely for settlement, as a Commonwealth employment voucher-holder has been hitherto. Instead, they will be granted work permits for particular jobs, in particular places where resident labour is not available, and for a maximum of 12 months in the first instance. Extensions of stay will be granted if the Commonwealth citizen remains in approved employment or obtains other approved employment. He will not have a right to permanent settlement, but at the end of four years in 417 approved employment it will be open to the Home Office to cancel his conditions—that is, to accept him for permanent residence.
Let me say a word about dependants, on which there has been some misunderstanding. Commonwealth citizens coming here with work permits will receive just the same treatment as foreign nationals receive at present. That means that they will be able to bring in, or be followed by, their wives and children up to the age of 18, and the wives and children will be admitted for the same period as the work permit-holder. No other dependants will be admissible during the period that the permit-holder is subject to conditions. If after four years the conditions, are cancelled, the Commonwealth citizen will be eligible to apply to bring in such other dependants—parents over a certain age, for example—whose admission is provided for in the immigration rules.
Thirdly, I should emphasise that there will be nothing in the new Bill to disturb the security of those Commonwealth citizens who are already settled here free of conditions. The ordinary law-abiding immigrant, already accepted for permanent residence under the existing legislation, will retain that status unchanged.
I think we can all agree that, whatever the system of immigration control, it must be enforced. In the last few months I have been able to visit a number of the ports and to meet a cross-section of members of the Immigration Service. I must say that I have been impressed by the way in which the immigration officers do their work. They are currently handling no fewer than 29½ million arrivals and departures at the ports a year. Of these, approximately 11 million are subject to immigration control. The vast majority are routine law-abiding visitors who are very welcome to this country. Many are tired on arrival, a few are irritable, some may have difficulty in making themselves understood, while a tiny minority may be suspect for one reason or another. But all must be treated by the immigration officer with patience, courtesy and understanding.
We have to remember that the immigration officers are both the main line of defence against the evasion of our immigration controls, and at the same time a reception service, being the first people whom the visitor from overseas meets on 418 arrival in this country. It is extremely difficult to combine this double role, and I should like to pay tribute to-day to the very competent and fair way in which it is performed by members of the Immigration Service. While the immigration officer will always be on his guard to detect those who, by deception or other means, may try to frustrate the immigration control at the ports, there are from time to time, unfortunately, instances of would-be immigrants who attempt to by-pass the ports altogether. These are the people who come in small boats—or perhaps hired aircraft—or who, in one way or another, manage to smuggle themselves through a port without submitting to examination by an immigration officer. There have been several such cases reported in the Press recently, and I make the point in passing that the existence of illegal immigration is in itself an indication of the effectiveness of the controls at the authorised points of entry.
To prevent these instances, the police are working in co-operation with the Immigration Service, Customs and the Coastguard Service. There is close liaison between these Services, and they are well aware of the need for constant vigilance. All illegal immigrants detected are promptly returned to their own country, except for the few who may be needed as witnesses in criminal prosecutions of the smugglers. Nor have the courts been slow to impose substantial terms of imprisonment on those who traffic in human misery. Noble Lords may remember the case of 40 illegal immigrants from India who were discovered crowded together in a cellar in Bradford last July. Resulting from police inquiries, at the Leeds Assizes recently eight men were found guilty of a conspiracy to contravene the provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, and were sentenced to periods of imprisonment ranging from 15 months to 7 years. My right honourable friend is in touch with chief officers of police about the necessary precautions, and I can assure your Lordships that we are conscious of the need to take every possible measure to detect and punish those who engage in the smuggling of immigrants into this country.
Rather separate from illegal immigration in the true sense, which is what I have been describing, is evasion. Here the chief anxiety is felt about Commonwealth citizens 'who obtain entry as 419 visitors or students, and who then, by one means or another, seek to stay on indefinitely. It is important not to exaggerate the scale of this evasion: to the best of my knowledge it is modest. In the nature of things it is impossible to be certain, but I would invite those of your Lordships who are particularly interested in this subject to refer to the memorandum that the Home Office presented to the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration of the House of Commons, which is printed as an Appendix to the minutes of evidence, dated February 19, 1970. Paragraph 3 of that memorandum sets out the calculation of what is known as the "net balance figure" for the period from July 1, 1962, when Commonwealth immigration control was introduced, to June 30, 1969, a period of seven years.
Subject to the qualifications which are set out in that paragraph, a calculation based on the gross admissions and departures of Commonwealth citizens over this period indicates that there is not gross evasion by people from the Commonwealth who have been admitted as visitors or students. And this is supported, with regard to students, by the sample survey referred to in paragraph 8 of the same paper. The indications are that the great mass of Commonwealth citizens admitted as visitors or students do indeed return to their own countries. Of course there are some individual cases where this is not so and I would not want to deny that. But I think it is always worth trying to get a more general picture, if it is possible to do so, over a longer term of years.
There has also been some publicity recently about Commonwealth visitors who come here on charter flights. These passengers come from countries in which the airlines require them to obtain entry certificates (which are endorsements in a passport similar to a visa) before they embark. So the first hurdle that the would-be evader has to jump is the entry certificate officer in the British High Commission post overseas. He will not grant an entry certificate for a visitors to come to this country unless he is reasonably satisfied that the applicant is a bona fide visitor, who intends to return after his visit to the United Kingdom. Next, on arrival in this country the passenger is subject to examination by the immigration 420 officer. If the immigration officer admits him, there are special arrangements whereby all charter flight passengers are recorded on entry, and there are also arrangements for checking up on whether they depart on the return flight, and for following up individually those who do not do so. Of course a proportion of people who come on charter flights may have genuine reasons for applying for an extension of stay, and this may or may not be granted by the Home Office. But here again, subject to the occasional failure which is inherent in the nature of the work, our system of control is an effective one and is extremely difficult to evade.
§ My Lords, with those remarks—
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I ask this question? Since there is a complete record of those who come in on charter flights, and those who go out on them, will the noble Lord tell us the number of people who have not gone out again?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Not without notice, my Lords; but if I can obtain that information by the end of the debate, when I shall reply briefly to points that are made. I will give it to the noble Lord.
May I say a few words now on Clause 1(2) of the Bill before us, which concerns licensing planning. This clause provides that Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964, which deals with licensing planning, shall continue in force for another year. I am aware that the continuing renewal of these provisions has aroused some comment in previous years—most recently by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, in this same debate last year. We regret that once more it is necessary to make use of the expiring laws procedure to renew these particular provisions. Noble Lords who have followed this matter (it is a somewhat narrow and technical one, but there are noble Lords who have done so) will know that the previous Government did not feel able to act on the main recommendations of the Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Ramsay Willis, which was set up in 1964 by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, as Home Secretary, to report on the future need for licensing planning machinery. For our part, the difficulty lies not in any particular doubts we have about the 421 conclusions of the Ramsay Willis Committee, as in the fact that the Government are now considering what should be their attitude to the whole question of the licensing laws. Noble Lords will agree that while the general framework of the licensing laws are under consideration it would not be wise for me to hold out too much hope to-day of introducing early legislation on this one, limited, aspect.
I feel that I owe the House an explanation of what licensing planning is. Before I sit down perhaps I may give it. Licensing planning is generally regarded as a useful piece of machinery in those areas of the country—there are 17 of them—where it still applies. It enables the functions of the licensing justices and local planning authorities in the redistribution of on-licensed premises to be co-ordinated, and it is able to take into account local requirements in the light of actual or proposed building developments. The proposals of the licensing planning committee are subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State for the Environment. In a licensing planning area the licensing justices still have power to grant new on-licences but with the exception of restaurants and residential licenses, they must be satisfied that the licensing planning committee does not object. Although of a limited nature, we believe that these co-ordinating functions are useful, and hope that your Lordships will agree to their being extended for a further year. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for his explanation of this Bill. The Second Reading of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill has usually in both Houses been an absolute field day for anybody who wants to raise any question about immigration. This year is, in some sense at least, exceptional, because we have been told that we shall have in this Session a completely new and comprehensive immigration law put before us for consideration. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, can give me any further assurance about the Part of the Session when it is likely to be introduced. It 422 has been said somewhere that it will be introduced in one House or the other before Christmas—I do not know whether the noble Lord can tell us about that. But he has given as an assurance that it will be introduced this Session. That being so, I do not propose myself to commence a debate on immigration matters. We shall have these new laws before us. I do not suppose it is likely that we shall agree with them altogether, but I do not think it would be useful for me to start lo criticise them until we have seen them. Of course, I should not wish, and indeed have no power, to restrain any other noble Lord who wishes to raise any immigration points, but, for the reason I have given, I do not propose to pursue the question of immigration to-day. All I propose to do, if I may, is to attack the whole of this Bill.
My Lords, I hate this Bill. I have always hated this Bill. It is not the way to legislate. I might have hoped to obtain some assistance from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack on this point if he had remained here. I am not without hope in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who I remember expressed a similar sort of view on a previous occasion. Of course, it must very occasionally happen that Parliament thinks that a law it is enacting need be effective for only a very short time, and therefore it may say that it is to last for a year, and provide that it may be renewed at the end of the year. But, for one reason or another, we have had quite a number, and a bad habit has grown up among Government Departments of automatically coming along and saying, "Just this twelve more months only, please", sometimes for about twenty years, in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. We used to have licensing Acts, rent control Acts, the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Act and other similar Acts, until a few years ago we were left with only five.
First, there was the Accommodation Agencies Act 1953. The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, is no longer with us, but I rather think (though I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will know better than I) it was a Private Member's Bill which he introduced. Be that as it may, it may be that a Private Member thinks that he is more likely to get a Bill through if he says, "Well, just do 423 this for a year and then you can see how it is working." But I know of no one who does not think that that Act ought to have been made permanent. It is true of all these Acts, that if they are right they ought to be made permanent, which means only that they run until they are repealed or amended. If they are not right, then they ought not to be continued.
The Accommodation Agencies Act is a simple Act making it illegal for accommodation agencies who were being employed by a landlord to find tenants for his accommodation, to charge the prospective tenants for simply giving them a list of the premises, which was the very thing those agencies were already being paid to do by the landlord. I think that that concerned the Board of Trade and it was not without some difficulty that I was able to persuade them to make it permanent. Then we had the Ministry of Supply Act 1939 and the Services (Transitional Powers) Act 1945. The only surviving part of that was an emergency war-time provision to enable the Air Ministry to look at their contractors' books. On that point, I remember, I had to deal with Mr. Wedgwood Benn. That had gone on for over twenty years—"Just twelve more months, please." We got rid of that altogether as being unnecessary and that was a great help. When the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said that most of these Acts had gone with the passage of time it reminded me of the hard work I had had to put in, and I can assure him that it was not done just with the passage of time.
Now I was left, fortunately, with only one enemy—the Home Office—because the other three measures were all concerned with the Home Office. The next one was the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1955. For about thirteen years the Home Office had gone on saying, "Oh, we want it renewed just for twelve more months, please." This was the horror comics Act, to keep out horror comics. I said, "Either it is a good Act and we ought to keep it; or, if it is not any good, what is the point of going on with it?" They also said that there had never been a prosecution. I said, "If there has never been a prosecution, the Act is no good. Let's drop it." They said, "Oh no; we would not drop it because, you see, it is 424 the very fact that it is on the Statute Book that stops the horror comics from coming in." I said, "If it does that, then why on earth don't we make it permanent?" And at long last it was agreed that it should be made permanent.
Now I have only two enemies left. One is the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act 1919 and the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962; and here indeed there is a change. What the Home Office have said for years and years is: "Of course we agree that it is frightfully untidy having on the Statute Book immigration legislation and, indeed, emergency Orders dating from"—I think it was— "the First World War. Of course they all ought to be put together in one Act. We are going to do it, but we cannot get it ready for this Session. So twelve months more, please!" I am very glad to recognise that at long last we are to have comprehensive immigration laws, and that, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, we shall not see this Act in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill next year.
So I am left with my last enemy of all, and the question is: Do we really need to have a special Act of Parliament called the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill for what now, at the end of a fight for some years, is the last enemy of all, Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964? Your Lordships should not be deceived by the date. I think this was a consolidating Act. It is quite old, and it is very simple. It was at the end of the war, when it was found there were a few particularly devastated areas, that the conclusion was reached, rightly or wrongly, in rebuilding that not as many public-houses would be needed as there had been before the war. So the question was: which of the licensees who had lost their public-houses by the bombing were to have the new, reduced number of licences? So in what is now Part VII of this Licensing Act there was very sensibly set up a machinery for deciding this question, consisting of joint committees of planning people and licensing people. The House will not be surprised to hear that it has now long ago been decided which of the publicans are to have their licences, and to keep this Act on the Statute Book is absolute rubbish.
A Committee considered this question about three years ago, and I remember 425 that in a previous debate on an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said that one of the reasons why he set up the Committee was to get rid of this nonsense. The Committee have said that the continuance of the Act is nonsense, and that it ought to be thrown away, but they recommended other changes in the licensing laws. So what the Home Office have gone on saying ever since is, "Oh well, it would be administratively tidier if we waited to get rid of this legislation when we introduce our new Licensing Bill". But they never do introduce their new Licensing Bill.
Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, whether in this Session the Home Office are going to introduce a new Licensing Bill. If not, then, subject to anything which he says in reply, I shall advise my noble friends, when it comes to the Committee stage of the Bill, to put down two Amendments. One will be an Amendment to make Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964 permanent—which means only, of course, that it will continue in force until the Home Office do introduce their new Licensing Bill—and the other Amendment will be one to make it expire. And they can take their choice.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I shall not venture on the grounds of Licensing Acts, or matters of that sort, and I do not intend to avail myself of the permission of my noble and learned friend to have a "field day" on immigration. But since this is, we hope and understand, the last occasion on which this particular Bill will be brought before your Lordships with any reference to immigration, I hope that I may be allowed to say a few words about it. In the first place I am very happy to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, of the proposed new Bill: I am sure that it is long overdue. Certainly the concept of the Bill is welcome; whether its contents will be welcome remains to be seen.
We have come a long way in our attitude towards immigration. Until 1914 we had the open door, and we were proud of it. The door was then closed (though it was openable under certain conditions) for aliens, but it remained open for members of the British Empire—later the British Commonwealth. Alas! the door did not remain open indefinitely. 426 As your Lordships know, in 1964 it was pushed shut; and in 1968 there followed that shameful Bill—even more shameful because it was introduced by the late Government—which still further restricted Commonwealth immigrants.
My Lords, although I am sad at the passing of the "open door", I cannot oppose it. In these days of planned economy and of great movements of people, the completely open door of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century I do not believe is possible. But I do believe that it is both wrong and foolish for us to close the door in the way that we have done; in other words, to close it because of panic and pressure of public opinion—uninformed public opinion in most cases, without a full knowledge of the facts—rather than to close it because we have a definite objective in view.
To my mind, our immigration policy should be based first on a desire to admit into this country as many people as we can digest, house, welcome and make use of and, above all, that priority should be given to members of the British Commonwealth. I thought I detected (although I hope I was wrong) in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, comments on the new Bill which we shall shortly he seeing which indicated a restrictionist attitude; a feeling that the object of this Bill is to keep out as many people as possible and only to let in a small number here and there when the pressure becomes too great. That, my Lords, I believe to be entirely wrong. What we should aim at doing is to have a comprehensive plan for immigration with priority for members of the Commonwealth based on our own economic needs. I make no bones about that and I am not at all ashamed of it. Where these people are needed—and God knows! we need many of them; far more than the opponents of immigration will ever admit—they should not only be allowed in but should be welcomed in because they will be useful members of our society.
At the same time, our general plan should not simply be an immigration plan dealt with by the Home Office and immigration authorities, nor indeed should it be purely a labour plan dealt with by the Department of Labour and Productivity. 427 It should be a comprehensive plan in which those people who come in, do so in order to work, it is true, but with facilities for living in equality with resident British people and with other immigrants who are already here. A plan should be made in advance for housing them, caring for them, educating their children and for their dependants, and all the rest of it. This matter should not be looked at in watertight compartments but should be part of a comprehensive plan of immigration, work and social living in this country. That is my first plea, and I hope that the new Bill will encompass it.
The second point I should like to make, following upon that, is to urge upon the Government that still more positive support could be given to the integration of those immigrants who are already in this country and those who will be coming under the new Act. The Community Relations Commission has been set up in order to do this. I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Frank Cousins for the very difficult work he has done in starting off this most important activity, and I know that the whole House will join in our good wishes to his successor, Mr. Mark Bonham Carter, than whom I can think of no better person to take on this vital task.
The C.R.C. is the first line of attack in this problem. It has an enormous job to do. It has the resources already, and I hope that none of its work will be impeded for lack of resources, either financial or of manpower. But there is far more to it than this. It is not simply a question of dealing with immigrants, strangers who come into this country. The nub of the problems facing immigrants is identical with that of the problems facing all those in this country—and there are many of them—native born, who are in one way or another underprivileged. This is a problem which the late Government attempted to solve by its urban programme. I believe that was the right move, but once again I should have wished to see more money available. But we have heard little of the urban programme lately, and I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, replies to this debate he will be able to give an assurance that the urban programme will be pushed forward with the utmost vigour in concert with the activities of 428 the C.R.C. so that in the years ahead we can say that there are no people in this country, whether they be immigrants or not, who suffer from feelings of frustration, hardship and almost being outlaws of society because of deprivation through the places in which they live, the communities in which they live, their attitudes towards the police, their attitudes towards their teachers, their attitudes towards the houses (if one can dignify them with the name "houses") in which they find themselves herded together.
This is the basic problem which is facing us, and we should do the immigrants and ourselves a great disservice if we tried to separate the two problems from each other and feel that simply by keeping out immigrants and restricting them to a mere trickle we shall have taken a step towards solving it. We shall equally have taken only a very small step towards solving it if we try to solve it in isolation from this wider problem. My Lords, I apologise for widening the debate and straying somewhat from the actual terms of the noble Lord's speech, but I feel that unless we look wider in this matter we shall never have any success.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, my noble and learned friend, Lord Gardiner, may accuse me of having a field day, but I do not think that a Bill which has as one of its effects the continuation of Section 1 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 should be allowed to pass through this House without a protest, or rather without an outcry, at the result of that section of that Act as it affects British citizens in Africa to-day.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, will the noble Lord excuse me? Surely Section 1 of the 1968 Act is permanent and does not need to be renewed by this Bill: it has nothing to do with this Bill.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I read the Explanatory Memorandum, which says that Part I of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 is one of the measures continued, and Section 1 of the 1968 Act amended part of Part I of the 1962 Act. So, unless I am corrected by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, I apprehend that the 1962 Act, as amended by the 1968 Act, is made to continue by this Bill to-day.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I believe the position is as stated by my noble friend. The 1968 Act is permanent, whereas the 1962 Act required to be renewed every year. At the same time, I think the gloss which the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has added, in practice brings him within the rule of order—that the provisions of the 1968 Act do hang together with certain provisions of the 1962 Act.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for the clarification. If ever there was a case where we, as Members of this House, should, as my noble friend Lord Walston said, be ashamed of the handiwork of Parliament it is the case of that Act. We should be ashamed because on that occasion Parliament allowed itself to be bulldozed by the pressures of intolerance into a panic measure. We should be ashamed because we denied a group of British citizens the basic right to enter their own country, ashamed because we reneged on a solemn pledge given to that group of citizens, and ashamed because we introduced legislation which, as the Government themselves have admitted in their submissions to the European Human Rights Commission, was discriminatory in intention and effect. We should be ashamed, finally, because of the degradation which that Act has caused to many thousands of citizens of Asian origin in East Africa. This is a matter which cannot wait until the passing, after long deliberation, of a new Immigration Act. It is a situation which calls for action to-day.
My Lords, although I may speak with passion and even with anger on this topic, my approach to it is not a partisan approach. In the first place, it was the Labour Government which, to its discredit, was responsible for the passing of the 1968 Act. In the second place, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to his credit, was one of those 85 noble Lords who voted against that Act and nearly succeeded in defeating it in this House. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, having voted as he did and holding the office he now holds, feels that there is no problem which he would rather see resolved and no wrong which he would rather see righted than the wrong done to the citizens of Asian origin in East Africa by that Act. What I would say to the 430 noble Lord is this: that of course I recognise that a new Government needs time to review the situation, and of course I recognise, as the Home Secretary has stated, that the situation is being reviewed. But 5½ months have now passed since the General Election, and the decision on the future of the British citizens in East Africa cannot, in all humanity, be delayed much longer.
There are two factors in particular which cause the need for urgency in resolving the problem. In the first place the situation inside East Africa is deteriorating week by week. It is perhaps most graphically illustrated by a report from Uganda, which the noble Lord may well have seen, a report called The Crisis for British Asians in Uganda, prepared for the British Council of Churches by the Rev. David Mason. I know the Rev. Mason very well his work as founder and leader of the Methodist Group Ministry in Not-ting Hill over the last few years has been widely admired and recognised. He is not a man who would falsify or distort the facts. He spent six weeks in Uganda. His report says quite clearly that the situation in Uganda is coming to a new pitch of intensity.
Two Acts were passed by the Uganda Government, the first, the Trade Licensing Act, which forbids non-Ugandans to trade or work without a licence, which, in the vast majority of cases, they cannot obtain, and the Uganda Immigration Act of 1969, which requires all non-Ugandans to possess an entry permit, which again, in the vast majority of cases, they could not obtain. The result, as the Rev. Mason says, is:The British Asian is thus trapped between two fires. The Ugandan Government forbids him to work and demands that he leaves Uganda at the earliest possible opportunity. The British Government limits his entry to the United Kingdom and insists that he takes his place in the queue for a quota voucher, which usually means a wait of two or three years. The result is poverty, family separation, homelessness and despair.The report further indicates that matters even now have not yet come to a head. A case was heard in the courts in August, 1970, of a citizen of this country who was charged, tried and imprisoned for being in Uganda illegally. His name was Harkasan Mulji, and he was a 55-year old tailor. He had applied for a work permit in Uganda and had been 431 refused. He had appealed to the Minister of the Interior and his appeal was rejected. He had applied for a voucher to come to this country and had been told that he must wait. He was ordered to leave Uganda within a month. He could not leave, and eventually he was charged with being an illegal resident of Uganda, and the magistrate had no option but to send him to prison for a month. It was then, after the case, that the High Commissioner finally gave that man a voucher; but he had spent a month in gaol in Uganda before he could come here. One wonders what would happen if, as is likely to be the case, this is only the first of many more cases.
Happily, so far that is an isolated case, but the cases of destitution and despair number thousands. The Rev. Mason estimated that 2,000 in Uganda were destitute, and he stressed particularly the plight of teenagers and young persons over the age of 16. They cannot work in Uganda because they have no permit. They cannot study, because to study entails payment of money and their funds are running out. They cannot come to study in this country, because, even if they are offered a place by a college, they are not given a voucher, I understand, unless they can show that they have a re-entry permit into Uganda, which of course, they cannot. They cannot in many cases even accompany their own parents to this country, because, being over 16, they are not considered dependants, and therefore have to come under a separate voucher.
Again I quote the words of the report as to their situation:This means that often the parents and younger children do receive their vouchers for the United Kingdom in advance of their older sons and daughters, so that a teenage boy or girl is left behind in Uganda, lonely, penniless and eating his heart out with anxiety and frustration.One wonders what sort of attitudes the people who have been through that experience are going to bring to this country when they finally, as they must, obtain admission. The more one reads about it the more one finds it to be a nightmare situation which has to be changed. It is small wonder that some of these people have been driven by these pressures to try to come to these shores by whatever method they can, and that 432 they have been involved, as so many have, in this appalling shuttlecock from country to country.
The second new factor which adds urgency to the situation is that some of these shuttlecock victims, as was their right, have made application to the European Commission of Human Rights, and that Commission have declared that their case is admissible. This is not a final pronouncement by the Commission; it remains, however, a highly authoritative pronouncement of our law as it relates to the human rights guaranteed in the Convention. Out of some thousands of cases brought before the Commission, only about 50 have reached this stage, and in nearly every case the Governments concerned have taken steps to change their practices. The admissibility of the applications of this group of Asians was upheld not merely on one breach, or one alleged violation of the Convention, but on four: Article 3 protecting freedom from degrading treatment; Article 5, protecting the right to security of the person; Article 8, protecting the right to respect for family life; and Article 14, the right to enjoy one's rights without discrimination on racial grounds.
As a lawyer, and as an internationalist, I have the greatest admiration for the Human Rights Convention. It represents a first step by a group of democratic nations to submit their laws and practices to the scrutiny of an international body of impartial and distinguished lawyers. It lays foundations which have to be built on if we are ever to see some kind of international order in the world. It would be a tragedy and, moreover, make a mockery of our pretensions to be members of the community of Europe if we were to disregard a ruling of the Commission or Court of Human Rights, if, as there is every reason to believe, it rules that there has been a violation of human rights.
Those are the matters which, I say, make it essential for this nightmare to end. I hope that the noble Lord, if he cannot make a positive statement to-day, will at least assure us that a statement about the position of these people will be forthcoming from the Government very soon. Will it form part of the Immigration Bill, or will something be done sooner than that? If we cannot get an 433 assurance of some early action on this intolerable problem, I for my part should be disposed to put down an Amendment at the Committee stage of the Bill and ask noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to stand up once again and be counted on this issue in the Division Lobbies.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I think we all respect the intensity of feeling with which the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, speaks against the 1968 Act, which we are all aware he vigorously opposed at the time. With many of us his views would carry greater conviction if he would combine with his condemnation of successive British Governments an equally severe condemnation of the Governments of Kenya and Uganda, who have brought about this situation by the most gross racial discrimination. I apologise for having interrupted the noble Lord, but I still think that the main issue of the 1968 Act does not arise on this Bill. The 1968 Act is a permanent Act, until such time as the Government decide to introduce amending legislation; and there may well be amending legislation when the comprehensive Bill which the Government have promised comes along.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, if the noble Lord is passing from the 1968 Act, would he not agree, first, that taking away rights from non-citizens is a very different thing from taking away rights from citizens? Furthermore, if he does despise the Kenyan and Ugandan Governments for what they have done, does he really think that we should take steps lower than theirs in order to vie with them?
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I find it difficult to accept what I have described, and will describe again, as gross racial discrimination by the Kenyan and Ugandan Governments, simultaneously with their apparent readiness to condemn the British Government in our attitude to, for example, South Africa or Rhodesia. But, quite frankly, I do not think that this is an issue here. I am not minimising the importance of the 1968 Act; I am simply submitting that the time to discuss it in detail will be when the comprehensive Government Bill comes before us for Second Reading. 434 I am going to follow the example of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, who expressed the view that this was not the occasion for a far-reaching debate on immigration. In the past it has naturally been considered to be so because there has been no prospect of another Bill within the year. But there is now every prospect of a Bill of a permanent character reaching your Lordships' House during the next six or eight months, and that Bill will require searching examination from all quarters.
I had not intended to speak in this debate to-day, but as I have been referred to by a number of noble Lords, and as I have taken part in debates on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, either in this place or in another place, on, I think, the last eight occasions and have in fact twice moved the Second Reading of this Bill in another place, I feel that perhaps I should be failing in my duty if I left this last Bill without a single word from myself. I am looking forward eagerly to the comprehensive Bill. Before I ceased to be Home Secretary in 1964 I had reached the definite decision that there ought to be an attempt to assimilate the very different codes of immigration practice for aliens and for Commonwealth citizens, though I fully recognised the difficulties. I am not criticising the last Labour Government for not having time to bring that about. I believe that, in principle, such assimilation is a good thing, if it is practicable, and I look forward with eagerness to seeing that Bill.
I would only ask the Government to bear in mind something I have stressed in all these debates: that the crux of this problem of immigration is concentration of numbers. Whether it is Commonwealth citizens or aliens, if those who are with us now were evenly spread throughout the whole country there would be no problem worth talking about. The problem arises through concentration, whether it is of Indians in Southall, or of Italians in Bedford, or wherever it may be; and that is what we have to address ourselves to.
I am not going to argue with Mr. Enoch Powell, or anybody else, as to what the proportion of coloured people in Birmingham or elsewhere may be fifty years hence. But we all have a duty now to try to look forward, in our minds, 435 to the situations which, by our legislation, we may be helping to mould for our children and grandchildren. I believe that it is not the will of the present British population, white and coloured, that there should be great cities in this country which, in the 21st century, will be one-third or one-half coloured, even though in fact those populations will quite definitely be British-born.
My own view is that those who have taken up what I might call an extreme Right-wing attitude on these matters of immigration—and I mention no names—have made their mistake in not stressing, as I have always tried to stress in my speeches, the overriding necessity of ensuring that all who are living in this country, young or old, shall be treated with absolute equality, not only by our laws but by our practice. Though I do not like the idea of race relations legislation—I wish we could do without it—nevertheless I am convinced that it is a necessity, if only to ensure that those children who are born in this country to overseas parents have, as they grow up, an equal chance with everybody else of a good life. But I am sure that these are matters for the major Bill which is in course of preparation.
May I mention, in conclusion, as my name was specially linked with this, licensing planning? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, said that he was going to move drastic Amendments in the Committee stage of this Bill—thereby, I think, creating a precedent in your Lordships' House—to get rid of that. I agree that it would be lamentable if we had to go through all the stages of an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill each Session in order to continue licensing planning. My own record in this purpose, which is very near to his heart, of getting rid of annual Bills is, I think, a good one, because I was the Minister who got rid of an accursed little Bill called the Isle of Man Customs Bill, which darkened the Parliamentary Order Paper in July of every year; and I am extremely anxious to see the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill go likewise.
I would say, with the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, that the Government of which he was a member had five years from the date of presenta- 436 tion of the Ramsay Willis Committee's Report to do something about it, and to get licensing planning out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. But they failed to do so; and here it remains. I sincerely hope that my noble friend Lord Windlesham and the Home Secretary will be able, by some means or other, to avoid the unhappy situation which threatens us if we have to continue to have an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill each year simply to maintain this highly esoteric matter of licensing planning.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordship, for not having given notice of my intention to speak. I had hoped that one of my noble friends would speak, but unfortunately he is unable to be here. I think it is right that a voice should be heard from these Benches, if only to join with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in welcoming Mr. Mark Bonham Carter as the new head of the Commission. As a distinguished Liberal I am sure he will perform his task with great skill and determination.
I welcome the fact that the Government are going to produce what one hopes will be a comprehensive and logical Immigration Bill. Whatever it contains, it will certainly be better than what we have now, and what we have had. I do not necessarily follow the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in what he thought would be the right basis for an immigration policy. I am never entirely happy that we should regard immigrants purely as economic factors, and welcome them in or keep them out only if they have something to offer our economy. That does not seem the right approach.
What seems much more the right approach is to weigh, on the one hand, what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, called the "open door" policy—which I think must always be a great Liberal ideal—and, on the other hand, a population policy which is virtually never mentioned in our debates. I sincerely hope that in approaching this problem the Government will bear in mind the idea of a population policy for this country, as one of the countries in a world which is suffering from a population explosion, and will balance that policy with the "open door" policy.
437 I say to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that if there is to be a long-term, comprehensive and rational Bill, it must be seen to be founded on justice. It should be a Bill which, when we have fought out our little battles in the other place and here, can be seen from all sides to be worth while. But it will be seen to be worth while only if it is just, and that is where we come up against the very real problem of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968. Whatever the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, who introduced that Act, may think about it, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who voted against it, may think about it, and whatever other noble Lords may think about it, the world as a whole sees it as an unjust Act. I identify myself with almost every word that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said, but I do not want to go further into that subject than to ask the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to consult with his friends and, before the Bill reaches its final form, to bear in mind the importance of seeing that anything which is unjust is eliminated if it is to be a really worthwhile piece of legislation.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate, because I had hoped to reserve what I have to say until the promised legislation was introduced. But I am taking part for two reasons: first, because the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, went considerably further than dealing with the laws which are now expiring; and, secondly, because of what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said about Kenya and Uganda. I welcome the fact that there is to be a comprehensive Bill, but I look forward to it with very great fear because of what the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has indicated that Bill will include. It means that those who seek to come here from Commonwealth countries will be admissible only if they have work vouchers, and then only for one year.
I think back to the record both of the Empire and of the Commonwealth; to the time when we were proud that in the extension of the Empire all its residents were subjects of this country. I think of the time when we went further than that, and made them citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. I think back to the time when we went still further and, with the independence of Kenya, 438 Uganda and Tanzania, recognised that their people should be British citizens if they opted for that, and should hold all the rights of British citizens. When one thinks of that record, and sees that our attitude towards the countries of the old Empire—the countries of the Commonwealth to-day—has led us now to the position where we are to treat them in the same way as those who are aliens from foreign countries, it makes those of us who have some reverence for the Commonwealth very sad indeed.
I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, that, despite my fears arising from what he said, I hope very much that when the Government introduce this legislation they will reflect the spirit which was shown in this House when I moved the rejection of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill in 1968. I think the most remarkable feature of that debate was the fact that I then had the support of all those distinguished Conservative Members of this House who had been associated with the Colonial Office and with the Foreign Office at the time Kenya and Uganda obtained their independence: the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, the noble Viscounts, Lord Boyd of Merton and Lord Chandos, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and even Lord Windlesham himself—and may I express my great sympathy with Lord Windlesham, because of his sincere convictions at that time, when he voted against this Bill, that he should now have the disagreeable task, in office, of administering the legislation which he then opposed.
My Lords, the fact that the rejection of the 1968 Bill had that degree of support from those Conservative Members of the House associated with the Colonial and Foreign Offices was because they approached this issue not from the point of view of immigration but from the point of view of national honour. I was in Kenya and Uganda on the occasion of the independence of both those countries and, if I may say this to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, I exerted my whole influence there, addressing in Nairobi thousands of Indians, with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who is now the Prime Minister of India, urging that Indians should follow the advice of Pandit Nehru and become citizens of the countries in which they were resident. If they had all done that, this problem of British Asians would not have arisen.
439 But at that moment assurances were given from our Colonial Office and from our Foreign Office that if Asians in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania decided to remain British citizens, they would have all the rights of British citizenship, including the rights of the passports which they hold. That pledge—a pledge of honour by this country; a pledge which the leading Conservative Ministers at that moment recognised by the votes which they gave in this House—was repudiated by the 1968 Act. I want to appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to ensure that when this new legislation is introduced (and I am encouraged by the fact that Mr. Maudling expressed his doubts when the matter was discussed in the House of Commons) the Government will look at this matter as one of national honour, with a view to saving us from repudiating pledges which were made at that moment.
Though I shall return before I sit down to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, I want to add to this general statement just one or two points which have come to my knowledge to-day. The first is this. It has often been argued that the British Asians who wish to come to this country should be treated with less sympathy because, on the whole, they have been the richer element in the non-white population of Kenya and Uganda. But, my Lords, they have now been two years without permission to trade or to work, and destitution has spread. I should like to ask Lord Windlesham this question. I have heard to-day that at the High Commission Office in Uganda three conditions are now being laid down before anyone can be registered as an applicant for a voucher—not to receive a voucher, but to apply for one. Those three conditions are: first, they must be homeless; second, they must be destitute; and, third, they must be unemployed. Only under those conditions, I am informed, is registration for applications now being received. I should very much like to know if that information, which I have had from a high authority to-day, is correct. If it is, then it indicates the depth of destitution which these people have reached after two years' unemployment: that is, since the priority of work was withdrawn.
440 The other question I want to ask the noble Lord in detail is this. When this Bill was introduced in another place Mr. James Callaghan had to acknowledge that if Kenya or Uganda evicted those who were British citizens and held British passports there would be no alternative but to receive them in this country. My Lords, what is happening? In Uganda to-day the Government is giving instructions to individuals that they must leave. But they cannot leave. They are not allowed to leave, because we do not allow them to come to this country. They are then arrested, and are imprisoned. They are in prison at this moment. I want to suggest to Lord Windlesham that at least, if we say it is our duty to accept these men if they are evicted because they are British citizens, it is also our duty to accept them when they are ordered to leave those countries and when they are imprisoned because they have not the opportunity to come here. My Lords, I am talking about British citizens—those to whom we have given pledges; those who hold British passports, with all the promise in those passports. They are being treated in that way under the 1968 Act.
Before I conclude, let me deal with the point which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has raised regarding the attitude of the Kenya and Uganda Governments. I want to say this to him, and I think he will believe it because of my record. I regret very much what they have done, and I have said so publicly. My words have reached them, and I would have hoped that they would have some influence, because those who are in Government now are my old friends of difficult times.
But I put this point to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. The British Asians who are suffering now are those who declined to become citizens of Kenya and Uganda, and of Tanzania. In Kenya and Uganda, particularly, there is heavy unemployment, and the Governments have decided that priority in trade and in work shall be given to those who are citizens of those countries. I admit that there is a little more in it than that. There was always some latent African opposition, because of the Indian monopoly of the retail trade and of other businesses. I admit that there is some racial feeling. But the basic decision in declining to allow Asians and other 441 non-citizens in Kenya and Uganda to trade or to work is a decision taken on grounds of nationality and citizenship, rather than on colour or on race. I have friends in Kenya at this moment, Indian friends with whom I stayed, who, because they opted to become Kenya citizens, are not suffering any disability at all.
My Lords, I conclude by saying that although I deplore a world in which opportunity in life is restricted by one's birth or citizenship, nevertheless we have no right to be self-righteous about this; because it is the very principle of our immigration laws. It is the very principle on which is laid down the new legislation mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham: immigrants from the Commonwealth are not to have work here unless they get a voucher. Even then, the work must be only for one year, and it must not be work in competition with our own citizens. That is the very principle which Kenya and Uganda have adopted in this instance. While regretting a world where that kind of differentiation is applied, we should be self-righteous to an intolerable degree if we denounced them for applying a principle which we ourselves apply in our own immigration laws.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I can say that I am heartily pleased that there are only two items in this Bill to-day because we seem to have covered a very large number of subjects. What may have been the case in the past when the noble Lord was speaking on Bills of this kind and when the list was a great deal longer, I hesitate to think! To-day, in a lengthier debate than the number of names on the list had caused us to anticipate, the debate has covered the shortcomings of temporary legislation, as explained by the noble and learned Lord opposite; licensing planning; and the future of immigration policy—with two notable speeches by the noble Lords, Lord Gifford and Lord Brockway, whose interest in this matter is well known to us, on the plight of the U.K. passport holders in East Africa—and speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, on community relations. I have been asked a very large number of questions in the course of this debate and I hope 442 that noble Lords will bear with me if I do not succeed in answering all of them. If I miss out some of them, I can assure noble Lords that I will read the whole of the debate in Hansard, will pick out the questions that I have missed and will write or speak to noble Lords with the information they have asked for.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, asked whether I could tell the House when the Immigration Bill will be introduced. I am afraid that I cannot go further than the statement which has been made by my right honourable friend that it will be introduced during this Session. He also said—or rather implied with great politeness—that I perhaps used rather too loose a phrase in saying that with the passage of time the number of items in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill had come down to two; and I should like to congratulate him on the work he did. I can understand that it was no easy task to reduce the number of items; but I can also say that I wish he had finished off the job.
Now he is pressing me very hard, not on the major subject of immigration policy (which will be dealt with) but also on this one remaining sore thumb of licensing planning. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said that it would have been a great help if the noble and learned Lord had finished off the job in his term of five or six years on the Woolsack and had managed to erase this particular item as well. But I have noted very carefully and seriously his remarks concerning Part VII of the Licensing Act 1964. The noble and learned Lord will know that I cannot stand here to-day without notice and give a guarantee that the Government will introduce a comprehensive measure to reform the licensing laws; but I can assure him that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will take very close account of what he has said to-day. I will see what can be said as a matter of urgency about the point he raised in his speech this afternoon and whether I can join with him in one final effort to remove this item from the Parliamentary timetable.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, sent me a message to say that he is sorry that because of another longstanding engagement he has had to leave the House before the end of the debate. This 443 is because the debate has gone on longer than expected. I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, broadened the debate to a discussion of community relations and the relationships between the people who came to make their homes in this country from the new Commonwealth. He underlined the importance of the Community Relations Commission and commended the work done by the first chairman of the Commission, Mr. Frank Cousins, who announced this week that he wishes to give up that office at the end of the year. I should like to add my tribute to what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said about Mr. Cousins. For many years he has had a record of working for equal opportunities in the trades union field; and after such a long and conspicuously successful career in the trade union movement, I think that we were extremely fortunate to have had two years with Mr. Cousins as chairman of the Community Relations Commission. We can also join with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, in congratulating Mr. Bonham Carter on his appointment as chairman of the Community Relations Commission, not as a Liberal but as a man who—
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, that phrase was used by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. We join together in our congratulations to Mr. Bonham Carter who has been chairman of the Race Relations Board for five years. He has handled an extremely difficult task with great skill and confidence and we all look forward to the period when he takes over the work at the Community Relations Commission.
The noble Lords, Lord Gifford and Lord Brockway, pressed again on the subject of United Kingdom passport holders and the plight of British Asians, as they are sometimes called, who are in East Africa and subject to control under the first section of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968. It is true that this subject has been a great deal in the news recently; but we should note that those who have received publicity are nearly always those who attempted to come to this country for permanent settlement without being in possession of the vouchers that would have entitled them 444 to settle here. We might get the impression from the media that all United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa have been denied entry into this country. This is far from the case. All the time there is a steady number of authorised entries into this country. The intake at the moment is at the rate of 1,500 heads of families a year or 6,000 including dependants. We have admitted over 15,000 British Asians from East Africa since the 1968 Act came into force and over 50,000 since the beginning of 1965.
It is estimated that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 United Kingdom passport holders still in East Africa and we know that many of them will ultimately wish to settle in this country. Nearly 9,000 heads of households, mostly Kenyans and Ugandans, are at present awaiting vouchers. This means that there are well over 30,000 persons waiting to come here. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, asked whether it was the fact that the High Commissions in East Africa will not accept applications for vouchers unless the applicant is homeless, destitute or unemployed. The policy is that all applications for vouchers are accepted. If the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, would like to give us the source of his information, we shall certainly follow up the implication of what he has said. I am afraid, however, that I must agree that the position of the United Kingdom passport holders in East Africa has deteriorated over the course of the last year. Persons who are not citizens of Kenya or Uganda are being forced out of employment and the immigration laws of those countries are aimed at preventing non-citizens from continuing to reside and work there.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, made the point that it is the policies of the Governments of Kenya and Uganda which have been responsible for the plight of the United Kingdom passport holders in both countries. There is no doubt that there are a considerable number of Asian families holding United Kingdom passports which are in distress and are under pressure to leave. A substantial number, over 5,000 since 1968, have gone to India, and others will go there. This was referred to by Members of another place and my noble friends will have seen what the Home Secretary said. Both the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, 445 and also the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, know that this matter is under very close review, but beyond that I am afraid it is not possible for me to go this afternoon.
The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, mentioned a visit made to Uganda recently by the Reverend David Mason on behalf of the British Council of Churches. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Mason before he went to Uganda, and afterwards. We have studied his report, and I am pleased to say that we have been able to help Mr. Mason on one point; that is, the statement contained in his report about dependant children over the age of 16 and other members of the family unit, which was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford. The position is that dependant children of quota voucher holders are freely admitted up to the age of 18, and above that age if dependant and if part of the family unit overseas. Since getting the report we have been in touch with Mr. Mason and pointed this out to him, and I hope that this will clear up at any rate one misunderstanding; because if it is a misunderstanding in certain cases, it should be brought to the attention of the people concerned.
My Lords, I said at the beginning of this winding-up speech that I was very conscious that I should not be able to cover all the points. I hope I have at any rate covered some of the more important ones.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether he would clarify one figure? When he says that there are 150,000 waiting, does he mean 150,000 heads of families or 150,000 total?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hawke; we ought to clear this point up. The total number of individuals is between 150,000 and 200,000. There has been a certain amount of publicity and speculation, in the Press and elsewhere, that the total number is in excess of 1 million or that it is round about 1 million. That figure is totally wrong, quite misleading and based on the assumption that the 150,000 to 200,000 are heads of families and would be voucher holders, and not the total number of individuals. So we are talking of a total figure between the brackets of 150,000 and 200,000.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord cannot go further than saying that the position is under close review. But can one expect a statement on the matter in the near future, or is it simply going to be allowed to continue as at present, with no change in the practice, the quota or the law?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, we are aware of the situation but it is not possible for rile to add to what I have said.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.