HL Deb 11 August 1972 vol 334 cc1440-2

11.20 a.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 for what reason are some British citizens, holding British passports, being refused entrance to this country and being deported, in some cases more than once, to the country from which they came.


My Lords, under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 United Kingdom passport holders without direct personal or ancestral connection with the United Kingdom became subject to immigration control, and this is to remain the position under the Immigration Act 1971. Under the published immigration rules, people subject to control are admitted for settlement only if they have obtained an employment voucher or a special voucher or in other limited circumstances. In accordance with the rules, United Kingdom passport holders who arrive here for settlement without a document of entitlement are, after examination, refused admission. They are normally returned to the country from which they started their journey.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, and while realising that the situation has altered appreciably since the Question was put down a week ago and anxious not to embarrass the Government in their negotiations, I would ask the noble Lord whether he does not agree that the present system has not proved to be satisfactory and should be reviewed?


My Lords, the quota was increased quite substantially, as recently as last May with a specific eye to the United Kingdom passport holders in East Africa and India. I have no doubt that the whole question of the number of vouchers is tied up with the overall consideration which is being given by the Government; there is a Working Party across the board of the major Departments. This is doubtless one of the items on the agenda, but of course it cannot be the only consideration, on the ground that I mentioned to the noble Lord, Lord Slater, just now.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he recollects that when the Bill of 1968 was before this House all the Conservative Members who had been associated with the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office voted against it, including at least one Member of the Front Bench, on the ground that it was a matter of national honour and that a commitment had been made? Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the letter in The Times this morning from Mr. Woodhouse, the Conservative Member for Oxford, which emphasises this particular commitment?


My Lords, I am in this difficulty: that I cannot remember the intricate details of what was rather a fevered night, if I remember rightly, in 1968. And I have had so much to do with other matters this morning that I have not yet had time to read The Times. But I think the commitment in the end is the same as it always was. It was inherited from the previous Government, and it is the basis upon which we are trying to operate the present controlled entry system that has been referred to in the Question. I do not think there has been any change of policy on this matter.


My Lords, when the Minister does get round to reading his papers he might care also to look at the leading article in the Spectator, which refers back to the statements which were made by Mr. Macleod at the time. I think he will find that a valuable stimulus to his memory.

May I ask, in relation to the people from India, whether he thinks that the additional 500 vouchers which he mentioned in a previous answer really is adequate in comparison with the 2,360 persons whose applications have been accepted, according to the figures given by my honourable friend Mr. David Steel in the Commons? Would the noble Viscount now give special consideration to the situation of persons in India who are prevented from working there and who originally come from one or other of the countries in East Africa?


My Lords, does the noble Lord remember, in connection with what he described as a somewhat fevered night, which indeed it was, that one Conservative Peer, the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, who is, I think, the only active survivor of the negotiations which arranged this voucher system, voted with the minority of my Party against the majority of the Opposition?


My Lords, there are some of my colleagues whose memories are better than mine, and they confirm that the noble Baroness is quite right. As to what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury said, I think possibly we are all looking forward to the end of to-day, when we can start to read some of the things we should have liked to read a good time ago. The adequacy of the number of vouchers for not only the United Kingdom passport holders in India but those all along the East African coast has to be looked at together, and I suspect that this is one of the things that is being gone into in detail by this inter-Ministerial Working Party that is going on at the moment.


My Lords, can the noble Lord explain why the excellent work performed by U.N.R.W.A. over a period of so many years cannot be extended to encompass the plight of these unfortunate Asian refugees from East Africa?


My Lords, I am afraid that the answer to the noble Lord is, No, not without notice.

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