HL Deb 22 July 1970 vol 311 cc974-6

2.56 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have reasons to think that an official estimate from New Delhi, recently reported in the Press, to the effect that at least 3,000 Indians enter Britain illegally each year is approximately correct, and whether they consider that police officers and others specially assigned to the task of detecting illegal immigration are sufficiently numerous and include a sufficient number of persons familiar with Asiatic languages.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government do not know who made this estimate or on what information it was based, but we regard it as greatly exaggerated. The services concerned with the detection of illegal immigration have sufficient manpower available, and they include a considerable number of persons who are familiar with the languages of the Indian sub-continent.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, which should I think give satisfaction, I should like to ask him a question about what may be called the Ministry's detective powers in this field. Is he aware that when I put down a Question on April 22 last year about Press reports on illegal immigration the reply which came (I need hardly say from a most able and highly respected spokesman) was that—and I quote: To the best of our knowledge and belief, clandestine immigration is now rare;…"—OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 301, col. 372.] and, later, …there is no evidence whatever that it now continues on any scale."—[col. 373.] I should be interested to know whether the noble Lord would now endorse that view, or whether he thinks that recent events have suggested that the Ministry may in recent years have been not quite sufficiently informed. If so, does the Minister intend to revise his methods and amplify his resources in this field?


My Lords, our records show that since June, 1968, 122 Commonwealth citizens have been apprehended and returned to their country of origin for attempting to enter this country illegally. It is impossible to say how many illegal immigrants have escaped detection, but the Government still have no reason to believe that their numbers make a significant addition to Commonwealth immigration. The primary responsibility for detecting illegal immigration rests with the police. The police have officers specially assigned to investigate immigration rackets, and Scotland Yard maintains a central intelligence unit which collates information from all parts of the United Kingdom. Many other police forces have officers specially assigned to work on illegal immigration. The Home Secretary has no direct responsibility for their deployment, which is a matter for the operational judgment of the chief constable concerned.


My Lords, is the noble Lord able to say when the Director of Public Prosecutions expects to be able to proceed with the case against the fishermen at Bridlington who are still remanded in gaol in connection with this illegal operation?


My Lords, I am not able to give any information about the proceedings which are pending. If the noble Lord is referring to the 40 illegal immigrants from India who landed on July 1, I can tell him that 38 have now been returned to India and that two remain here as witnesses in the proceedings against the organisers in which eight persons have so far been charged. Police inquiries are continuing in this country, in the Continent of Europe and in India, with the assistance of INTERPOL.


My Lords, could the noble Lord inform the House of the number of illegal immigrants who have been deported, excluding those who were caught at the time of illegal entry?


My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord that information at the moment. I can find out and will let him know in writing.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether aliens from Europe and elsewhere are treated in the same way and how many were apprehended of those who attempted to smuggle themselves into this country?


My Lords, I am not aware that the same problem exists with aliens.