HL Deb 10 December 1974 vol 355 cc542-68

3.0 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It was most encouraging to note the very favourable attitude that the House took over the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill that we have just dealt with; because the purpose of the simple Bill which I am presenting to the House this afternoon is, in effect, to repeal Section 1 of the Immigration Act 1968. If it is the general feeling of your Lordships that we should do away with as much antiquated legislation as possible, I hope that that attitude will prevail when your Lordships come to consider the arguments in favour of the Bill. I also hope that the Minister, in his reply, will not feel tempted to rest his arguments on any defects in drafting, which are entirely my own responsibility, bearing in mind that the purpose of the Bill, as I have already explained, is readily comprehensible and would, with suitable Amendments be able to achieve the objects which I have described.

Until the passing of the infamous and racist Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies were exempt from immigration control, no matter how their citizenship had been acquired. So long as they held United Kingdom citizenship, they were free to come and go as they wished or, in other words, the right of abode corresponded with the holding of United Kingdom citizenship. In the autumn of 1967 Kenya began to restrict the activities of non-citizens within her own borders, imposing a requirement that foreigners should have a permit to work or trade in the country, and it became clear that sooner or later all United Kingdom citizens who were living in Kenya would be deprived of any means of support for themselves and would therefore be compelled to seek entry into this country. That in turn generated a demand in Britain for additional controls to stop those people from coming here or at least to ensure that the numbers seeking to do so were held down to the minimum possible figure.

Seeing the way the wind was blowing, these United Kingdom citizens who were resident in Kenya came to Britain in fairly large numbers at the end of 1967 and in the early months of 1968, so as to get in before the door was slammed in their faces. The immediate effect of talk about restrictions was therefore temporarily to accelerate the flow of migrants into this country. From 1968 to 1970, the admission of United Kingdom citizens was limited to 1,500 heads of household a year, under a system, which was introduced in consequence of the 1968 Act, of special vouchers for this category of immigrant. The total allowed in during 1968, including dependants, was, for the Record, 6,043 and in 1969, 6,249.

As a result of these restrictive policies, the waiting list of applications had by the end of 1969 swelled to over 5,000 heads of household, the majority of whom were in serious difficulties in their own country, according to the information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Select Committee on Race Relations which examined control over immigration in 1969 and 1970. The majority of the people in question were under notice to leave their country of residence by a given date, or they were barred from obtaining employment or from trading, or they were school-leavers without the remotest possibility of obtaining a job, or they were people in difficult family circumstances, such as deserted wives with young children or elderly people with no means of support from younger relatives.

One of the consequences of forming such a large queue was that by the time the applicant finally received his entry certificate he was inevitably destitute and his children had fallen behind in their education because in the countries concerned the parents had to pay for their education. As a result, when the family finally arrived in the United Kingdom it was infinitely more difficult for it to adjust to a new way of life. Another result has been the growth of what is known as "shuttlecocking", in which a United Kingdom passport holder comes here in desperation without an entry certificate and then, after a period of detention of varying length either in a prison such as Canterbury or Pentonville or in a detention centre, he is sent back to his country of residence or to the last port from which he embarked.

During the last six years some 3,000 of our citizens have been forced by circumstances in their home countries in Africa and India to travel here in the hope of obtaining entry, only to be turned away after doing time either in Canterbury or Pentonville prisons or in the detention centre at Harmondsworth. Some have been stranded in third countries, such as Yugoslavia or Italy for varying periods of up to months on end, unable to communicate in foreign languages and barely kept alive by charitable agencies. For the purposes of this debate, I have found out how many of these United Kingdom citizens we know of at the moment: the figures which I propose to give to your Lordships are not exhaustive, but these arc United Kingdom citizens who are at present stranded and who arc known to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants which has collected this information for me.

There are four such citizens in Frankfurt, three in Athens, one in Zurich and 20 in Harmondsworth. Of those 20, 15 came from India and five arrived from Tanzania the day before yesterday. The 15 from India include six who were originally from Uganda and who went to India temporarily in the hope of being able, ultimately, to enter the United Kingdom. There are two men, two women and two children. Your Lordships may well ask how it is that people who originally came from Uganda are still being shuttlecocked around the world so many months after we were supposed to have disposed of that problem. Perhaps the Minister could deal with this matter in his reply.

My Lords, apart from the immense damage which the 1968 Act did to individuals and whole families, it has had very serious repercussions on Britain's standing with other countries and, in particular, as your Lordships know, cases have been presented against us in the European Commission on Human Rights which were ruled admissible as long ago as January, 1971. Then, after an oral hearing of a complaint by 31 United Kingdom citizens who were originally refused leave to enter Britain, the Commission placed itself at the disposal of the parties with the hope of reaching an amicable settlement in accordance with the Convention.

However, so far as I am aware, during the three years which have elapsed since then, neither this Government nor their predecessors have made the slightest attempt to satisfy the complaints and, indeed, it is very hard to see how they could do so while the discriminatory legislation which gave rise to the hearing is still on the Statute Book. Meanwhile, the Commission has given its opinion that breaches of the Convention did occur and the matter was referred to the Council of Ministers, I believe, some time early in June.

I hope that that reference to the Council of Ministers will have assisted the Government to take a favourable attitude to the Bill now before your Lordships, even if they were not minded to accept it already on the basis of humanitarian considerations. However, if the Government do not intend to accept the Bill, I think that they owe the House an explanation of the arguments which they will present to the Council of Ministers, and also I suggest that they must tell your Lordships why it has taken six months since this reference by the Commission to the Council of Ministers for anything further to happen. I am told that this is an unusually long delay. What have the Government been doing to twist the arm of the Council of Ministers to get it to shelve this complaint, bearing in mind that it originated as long ago as 1970 and was ruled admissible in January, 1971?

People may well think that the European Commission is a poor safeguard of human rights when it takes so very long to reach a decision even on whether a contravention of the Convention itself has occurred. Mr. Alex. Lyon, Minister of State at the Home Office, wrote to me on 15th July, and said in his letter: I am anxious to deal effectively and speedily with the residual problem of United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa. The Government accept our commitment to allow them to settle in this country if they wish. This Bill translates that admirable statement of principle into action, with a couple of further adjustments. It would of course be quite illogical to confine our attention to those United Kingdom passport holders who were living in East African countries, though in practice one recognises that Kenya and Tanzania represent the main problems. But I am sure Mr. Lyon would not wish to ignore the plight of United Kingdom citizens in other countries, including particularly Malawi and the people who went temporarily to India when life was made intolerable for them in East Africa. We also have a number of citizens in Malaysia and Singapore, and even though there is, so far as I know, very little demand for entry certificates from those countries—they were not even mentioned in the minutes of evidence of the Select Committee on Race Relations when it examined the control of immigration in 1970—the same rights should be extended to all citizens, irrespective of their need to exercise them.

We may draw an analogy here in respect of our commitment to the EEC, because in January 1973 it became possible for all nationals in the other member States to obtain the right of residence in Britain, though obviously only a tiny fraction of them would expect to take up that right. In theory, there arc nearly 400 million people living in the other eight member nations of the EEC who could migrate to Britain if they wished, but in the 15 months from January 1973 to April 1974 only 3,616 nationals of EEC countries were in fact accepted for settlement. I think these figures should be borne in mind if there are any opponents of this Bill who are disposed to argue against it on the grounds that it represents a great increase in the number entitled to enter without any restriction.

Your Lordships may also like to have regard to the 8 million patrials who were given the right of abode in the 1971 Act—a right which it is proposed to leave unaltered in this Bill. In this connection it is reasonable to suppose that, for example, an Australian whose father arrived in Australia from Dublin in 1921 is not very likely to want to settle back in Britain, any more than a Malaysian who worked for five years in the base at Changi is likely to want to do so. Yet the latter individual has a rather stronger claim to exercise the right of abode because of his connection with this country than the Irishman whose father emigrated to Australia in 1921.

This Bill also gives the right of abode to British protected persons who are resident in territories that were formerly protectorates but who did not acquire citizenship of the various independent countries those protectorates now form. According to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, in an Answer she gave on 26th February, 1973, at column 520 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, the numbers are not large; and it is only right that we should take this opportunity of clearing up another of the minor anomalies left over from the days of Empire.

There may also be some cases of people who still hold dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies and of an independent Commonwealth country. It was alleged in evidence before the Select Committee on Race Relations in 1970 that about a million dual citizens were living in Malaysia, together with an unknown number in Singapore, plus a few thousand others in the West Indies and Cyprus. It is not very clear to me where this information came from, and I have been unable to verify it from inquiries made at the Malaysian High Commission. However, it seems that the purpose of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in giving the evidence they did before the Select Committee was to inflate all the figures so as to be able to justify the restrictions imposed in the 1968 Act. on the ground of numbers. Again, whatever the numbers may be, in practice there has never been any sign that these dual citizens, if they exist, would like to come here in droves, so there can be no more harm in restoring the privilege which was taken away from them in 1968 than there was in conferring similar new rights on the 400 million Europeans and the 8 million patrials.

It is a significant fact that numbers seem to be used as a justification for immigration policies only when they refer to non-whites. I had a very revealing correspondence with a lady in Bristol not so long ago. She first of all wrote to me and said that while she was no racist she was concerned, as a conservationist, with the effect of immigration on the population of this country, and hence on its environment. When I pointed out that migration had reduced our population and that the Registrar-General's projections included the assumption of a net outflow of 30.000 people a year continuing as far ahead as he could see, she wrote again, pointing out that most of the people arriving are black while most of those leaving are white. The true reason why United Kingdom citizens are being shut out is not because there are too many of them but because they are the wrong colour.

There is one group of people whose situation would be greatly improved by this Bill without affecting the rate of immigration at all. Those are the United Kingdom passport holders already living in this country, but subject to conditions. Largely, they came from Kenya or Tanzania, with some former residents of Uganda who left the country before the emergency to settle in India, mainly for the purpose of study. The practice of the Home Office has generally been to grant an extension of stay to these people, but seldom to revoke the conditions which were attached to their stay. As a result, most of these people are debarred from entering certain jobs, including in particular employment with London Transport and the Post Office. I should have thought that both could do with the additional labour they would provide. They cannot bring their dependents here and are effectively prevented from travelling outside the United Kingdom because of the risk that they might be refused readmission.

I do not think I need give detailed evidence of the suffering and hardship our citizens are experiencing in East Africa, in Malawi and in India. Mr. Alex. Lyon was saying on "Panorama" last night that he is dealing personally with some 400 to 500 immigration cases a week, and while he said this in the context of people and their dependants, he was no doubt also thinking about the large number of United Kingdom passport holders brought to his notice by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Members of both Houses of Parliament. These Ministers, Mr. Alex. Lyon and his colleagues, know that our citizens are being forced into destitution and beggary, and in Malawi and in Tanzania they are even prosecuted in the courts for the "crime" of holding British passports. Mr. Lyon admitted candidly en television last night that our present system of entry certificates is more inefficient and more inhumane than that which operated prior to the 1968 Act. Again he said this was in relation to dependants, but this same system applied to our own citizens makes an absolute mockery of the words which appear in our passports, that the Foreign Secretary requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary. Some people regret that Great Britain is no longer a world military Power with Armed Forces capable of making the world tremble. Others are sorry that we are no longer leaders in industrial and economic strength. I am not disturbed by the loss of those past glories, but I mourn the passing of any claim we once possessed to moral leadership. We have sunk to the depths of hypocrisy when Parliament can allow the names of Her Majesty the Queen and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to be used in such a way, calling for assistance and protection to be afforded to the very people whose lives have been ruined by our refusal to allow them to pass freely without let or hindrance into the country that pretended to give them those rights. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Avebury.)


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him a friendly question? Those of us who handle this problem know how great is the desire of people to come into Britain. Under paragraph (c) of the new Clause 2(1) the Bill extends the permission to those who are adopted by Commonwealth citizens. Does this not open the door to wholesale adoption of people who wish to come into Britain under this clause?


No, my Lords. My new Clause 2(1)(c) is simply a repetition of the patrial clause which appeared in the Immigration Act 1971, which, as I have explained, I have left unaltered in this Bill although it has had to be repeated. I am substituting a new clause for the whole of what was Section 2(1) of the 1971 Act, and I have therefore had to repeat the subsection which dealt with patrials.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, the main purpose of this Bill, for which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is requesting a Second Reading, is to alter drastically the categories of persons who have the right of abode in this country under Section 2 of the 1971 Immigration Act. That section provides that Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies have the right to come here free of controls on the condition that they have close and substantial ties with this country either personally or through either parent. These so-called patrial ties are created by birth, naturalisation, adoption, or by five years' residence in this country.

The 1971 Act makes a distinction between patrials and non-patrials, the non-patrials being those Commonwealth citizens and citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who have no substantial connection with Britain. So far as the non-patrial Commonwealth citizens are concerned, in general the same sort of immigration controls are applied as are applied to aliens wishing to enter Britain. The noble Lord's Bill does not seek to alter that state of affairs, but is mainly concerned with the position of the non-patrial citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies; or, in other words, the non-patrial United Kingdom passport holders. At the present time, their entry into this country is strictly controlled by quota. Under Clause 2(1)(a) of his Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, seeks to remove the distinction between patrial and non-patrial United Kingdom passport holders and consequently to get rid of the quota restriction on the latter category.

When the 25,000 United Kingdom passport holders were expelled from Uganda in 1972, the then Conservative Government recognised the responsibilities and duties to those people and agreed to their entry into this country. My right honourable friend the then Home Secretary said: Having accepted that burden, as we did, I do not believe that it would be right for any British Government again to accept a similar burden to that which we accepted last summer". He continued: The vital qualification is that I would not say what I have just said without at the same time accepting absolutely an ultimate responsibility to take in our passport holders in a controlled and orderly manner under the voucher system". My Lords, that is still the attitude of this side of the House. This Bill is designed to end this system, by giving all United Kingdom passport holders the immediate right of entry into this country. This does not mean that we are not concerned with the deplorable plight of the East African Asians, but we think that a large part of the responsibility for their plight rests upon the Governments of the countries concerned and their internal policies.

Furthermore the noble Lord is attempting to increase the right of entry of spouses by Clause 2(1)(d) of his Bill and to remove the restrictions on wives of non-patrial United Kingdom passport holders by repealing Section 2(2) of the 1971 Act. If this Bill became law, men or women of any nationality who were married to United Kingdom passport holders who were not even resident in the United Kingdom would have the right of abode in this country. I shall be very interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has to say about this Part of the Bill in particular, especially since the present Government published new immigration rules at the end of last August extending the right of entry to foreign husbands and fiancés of British women. Also, it would help if the noble Lord could tell the House what factors made the Government change their mind, since it was a Labour Government that introduced the restriction in the first place in 1969. On 28th March this year, his right honourable friend the Home Secretary said in another place: Were I to admit husbands on the same basis as wives, in my view it would lead to a substantial and continuing new wave of male immigration, particularly from the Indian subcontinent. I cannot dissociate the problem completely from the cultural tradition of arranged marriages, but I must take into account the substantial effect upon the rate of immigration''.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 28/3/74; col. 612.] Since Britain is both crowded and possesses a labour force which for the moment appears ample for her needs, we on this side of the House believe that all permanent immigration must be restricted to the inescapable minimum and this can be achieved only by effective controls. However, we recognise that this country has a very real and continuing responsibility to those people who are still entitled to United Kingdom citizenship. Therefore, it is essential that as large a proportion as I possible of the limited numbers that this country can admit year by year are reserved for those people, but it must be done in a controlled and orderly manner. Likewise, we as a Party believe that it is only right to permit free entry to those people who have close and recent family ties with this country, provided of course that they create no significant pressure for permanent settlement. Our aim, both now and in the past, is to create an immigration policy which, within our overall need to limit severely permanent settlement in this country, is not only reasonably humane, but also recognises our obligations to other countries.

On the other hand uncontrolled immigration would create untold pressures upon community relations in this country. We believe that it is in the interests of good race relations and for the benefit of immigrants already in Britain, as well as for the wider community, that immigration should be strictly limited. I think that the whole House would agree that it is essential that there are no second-class citizens in this country. Everyone who is born here or who has lawfully settled here should be equal before the law and should be treated equally. I believe that this Bill threatens this aim.

In 1973, the total number of Commonwealth immigrants who came to Britain was just over 25,500—well under half the annual average of 63,000 in the last three years of the preceding Labour Government. It is estimated that there are some quarter of a million United Kingdom passport holders who have no other citizenship and who have the right of entry into this country. While we recognise their right to come here, it must be under firm and fair control. The noble Lord's Bill does not provide this. In fact, it creates the exact opposite situation, and after the experience of the Uganda Asians I do not believe that this country could, or would, be willing to absorb such a concentrated influx of immigrants.

However, this is not our only objection to the Bill. We believe that it is wrong for such an important area of any Government's policy, as surely immigration is, to be legislated upon by means of a Private Member's Bill. Before any change in the law is made it is absolutely essential that all interested parties, both in this country and abroad, should be consulted about any proposed changes. This is something that can be done only at Government level. This Bill is extremely unwise, especially since there have been no or, at least, very few Government statements since the Government took office last October as to what their policy is, or will be, in the area of immigration.

The Labour Party's so-called Green Paper of 1972, entitled, Citizenship, Immigration and Integration, advocated a policy which could in essence have meant a return to the right of colonial citizens to free entry into the United Kingdom. Also it would effectively have removed controls from United Kingdom passport holders, thus conflicting with the Labour Government's own Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968. The Green Paper's principles were also inserted in the Labour Party's Labour's Programme 1973. While I fully recognise that the Government are in no way bound by their own Party's documents, over the last decade or so the Labour Party's policy on immigration, both in Office and out of it, has shown a certain amount of vacillation and ambiguity. Thus, it would be highly desirable, if not essential, that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, should make a definitive statement on Government policy on this subject. I believe that the whole House would be interested to know whether, to use the noble Lord's own words: the Government recognise that there is still a need to maintain a balance between the number of immigrants entering this country and the capacity of the country to absorb them".

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, on all sides of this House the term "compassion" is often used. It was used by the Leaders of the three Parties during the General Election. They were concerned, rightly, with the under-privileged in our own country. But the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has done a great service to this House in introducing a Bill which shows that our responsibility in compassion is also for British citizens overseas.

I want to make only a brief reference to the speech which we have just heard from the noble Earl, Lord Cowley—if he will give me his attention. He has stated that this country is over-populated and therefore we have to restrict immigration. Since the last war there have been only two years when the number of immigrants to this country has been greater than the number of emigrants leaving this country. The second fact to which I draw his attention is that the number of immigrants in this country today from alien territories is very much greater than the number of immigrants who come from Commonwealth territories. I do not think that there is any doubt that the political concentration on Commonwealth immigrants is not because they are immigrants but because they are coloured peoples.

In presenting the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, dealt mainly with British citizens of Indian origin in East Africa. My references to them will be comparatively brief. I was in East Africa at the time when Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania were granted independence. With Indira Gandhi, who is now the Prime Minister of India, and with the support of Pandit Nehru, who was then Prime Minister, I addressed large meetings of Indians urging them to accept the advice of their own leaders that they should become citizens of the territories in which they resided. A large number did so. A minority did not, preferring to rely upon their British citizenship and their right to hold British passports which would protect them in movement and allow them to come to this country. I pay tribute to the action of this country when in the most cruel way the Head of State in Uganda expelled the Indian population, although there are still some difficulties about their resettlement.

In Kenya the principle was adopted by the Government that the first priority in trade and in jobs should go to those who were Kenya citizens, not only Africans but the Indian population who had accepted Kenyan citizenship. Those who did not were denied the opportunity to trade, denied the opportunity to work, denied all opportunities of gaining a livelihood. That was a cruel step to take. They held British passports. They were entitled to come to this country. But the argument was put forward that if they came here in the large numbers which were excluded from gaining a livelihood in Kenya, there would be an extent of immigration which would destroy our community relations and be a severe burden upon our social services, upon our health facilities and upon our education.

I ask your Lordships to look at what has happened. Because we have had the restricted voucher system, allowing only 1,500 to come here in one year, those Indians without any livelihood in Kenya have become poorer and poorer. Indeed, many of them have become destitute. When ultimately they reach the quota voucher system they come here without any savings, in a beggarly condition, and because their return has been delayed they are a far greater cost than they would otherwise have been to our community relations, our social services and to our health and education services. I think particularly of the children. Many of them have been without school for three years, they have lost their knowledge of the English language; and when, under this voucher system, ultimately they arrive they are a much greater problem in our schools than they would have been had they been allowed to return originally.

My Lords, I ask my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich and the Government to pay particular attention to one problem, that of the school leavers in Kenya. They leave school, they are not allowed to take work, they are not given any place in the quota voucher system because the priorities in that system are to those to whom work permits have been refused. They have never worked, they have not had their work permits revoked, and those young men are left in the position that they have no hope of getting on the quota voucher system. They probably are the worst off of all.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has pointed out the international effects of our policy, the condemnation by the International Commission of Jurists and the fact that the European Commission of Human Rights has found admissible 39 cases which have come before it. I want to emphasise one further point. The reputation of Britain in other countries has been extraordinarily high because of our tolerance and our readiness to admit to this country those who are refugees. That reputation has been spoiled in the last three years by the number of those we have sent back from this country and who have found refuge in one European country or another. I think of 39 assisted—and I pay my tribute to the Catholic Church—by the Catholic organisation Mani Tesi, by the help of the Council of Turin. In Holland, in Belguim, in Denmark and in many other countries where help has been given to these stranded Indians there has been incredulity that this country, with its long traditions, should have denied entrance to refugees who actually hold British passports.

I want to turn from this question of Indians with British citizenship in East Africa to the issue of the dependants of Pakistanis who came to this country while their country was still a member of the Commonwealth. In the Bill which the noble Lord has presented there is a clause which would allow the spouses of those who are here to come to this country. I hope that at the Committee stage he will extend that clause to the children of those who are in this country. I begin by paying a tribute to the Government. Mr. Alex Lyon, the Minister of State particularly responsible for immigration, has decided, we hear today, to cut short his Christmas holiday, leaving on 27th December, in order that he may investigate the delays which are taking place in coming to this country of the wives and children of immigrants. He is to visit India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I pay my tribute to him for that decision. I want also to pay my tribute to the Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, who has said, These dependants have a statutory right to come here. I regard the extent of the delay as intolerable". He has indicated that there will be staff reinforcements to make the situation easier. I entirely accept that reassurance. I know from personal knowledge that the Home Secretary is deeply concerned about civil rights and about justice, and in what I am saying now I do not want any criticism to extend to him.

In the Act of 1971, which came into force in 1973, Clause 1(5) reads: The rules shall be so framed that Commonwealth citizens settled in the United Kingdom at the coming into force of this Act and their wives and children are not, by virtue of anything in the rules, any less free to come into and go from the United Kingdom than if this Act had not been passed. I am referring to Pakistanis who came in while their country was still a member of the Commonwealth. They are the great majority of the Pakistanis who are in this country. There is now a system by which their dependants (their wives and children) have to obtain entry certificates. The spouse in this country makes a declaration which is sent to the family, and the family then applies to the High Commissioner in the case of a Commonwealth country or the British Embassy in the case of Pakistan. I submit to this House that this system in practice is cruel, costly and not worth while.

There has just been a remarkable survey by the Birmingham Community Development Project. That is one of twelve projects which have been set up by the Government, and a quite detailed survey has been made in one area of Birmingham, Saltley, which is typical of areas where Pakistanis live. There were interviewed 491 immigrants, and all but 17 were from Pakistan. Nearly half of the Pakistanis in Saltley who came before they left the Commonwealth are still separated from some or all of their families. The number is 47 per cent., and of the 53 per cent. with families, 21 per cent. came here before entry certificates were even necessary.

I want first to speak of the delay. This is increasing. Under this survey, in 1969 56 per cent. had their entry certificates delayed for more than one month. In 1974, the 56 per cent. had increased to 82 per cent. There are cases where these Commonwealth citizens have had to wait three and four years before their wives and children have been allowed to join them. The average wait is two and a half years. Some of them are from Bangladesh. One Bangladesh man said: It is three years since I sent for my wife. She is still waiting. My children and wife are Jiving where famine is in full grip and I am worried for their welfare. The second point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Government is the journey which the families have to take in order to give any evidence to the Commission at all. It is often a day-long journey and has to be repeated several times. One husband in Pakistan said this: My family lives very high in the mountains and it is very hard and very expensive for them to come again and again to Islamabad. It is costly. Those who can afford it stay in hotels. Many of them cannot afford any accommodation at all and sleep out in the streets until it is time for their cases to be heard.

The third point to which I want to draw attention is the evidence which is required when they do appear before the Commission. Let us try to picture the situation. A peasant woman comes from a distant village. She may be illiterate, she may never have seen a white person before; she has been asked to come and there, at the British Embassy, she is interviewed by two white men in a closed office; she may be embarrassed and confused. One woman, who was educated, took a note of the questions which were put to her at her interview and I am going to read them out. She was asked all the names of the relatives of a neighbour in her village; how many windows there were in her neighbour's house; which direction the house faced; how many trees there were in the village; the names of the children of her husband's sister; the kind of house her husband was living in in England; why she married him; where they spent their first night; how much he earned in England; how many houses her husband's family owned; and how old his parents were. All of those questions were for the purpose of deciding her identity. She was told to come back in six months with her father and her husband's mother. Both in fact were too old and unable to take the long journey. In the meanwhile, the husband was being interviewed by police in this country to corroborate the statements which his wife had made. No final decision has yet been taken.

My Lords, I recognise that there is a right of appeal. The spouse can appeal, though the delays in appeal are considerable. Mr. "S" applied for an entry certificate for his son late in 1969. The son was interviewed in Pakistan three times, the last time over a year ago, and he was refused entry into this country. Mr. "S" has still heard nothing.

If the appeal is lost, the spouse can go to the Immigration Tribunal. This is the remarkable fact: when cases are taken on appeal, the number of people who are eventually refused entry is very small indeed. That illustrates the need for a review of this system. All of the suffering, humiliation, cost and long delays are in the last resort for nothing. Is it to be wondered at that many Pakistanis have given up trying to get their wives and children here. In Saltley, 60 per cent. of those who have so far failed to get their wives and children here have given up. This is an example of a man's despair; he said: I have served in the British Army, given them my blood, and spent five years as a Japanese prisoner of war for them, and now they do not let my wife and children in. In conclusion, I would say that at the very least, if this system is to be maintained at all, it must be reviewed. The delays must be speeded up, the humiliating interviews must be ended. I hope very much that the visit of Mr. Lyon to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will achieve that. I want to urge something further. In view of the small number of refusals which are ultimately endorsed, I should like to see the abolition of the system altogether. A woman and child arriving in this country would have nowhere to go if they were not bona fide dependants. A spouse wants his wife and children here: why should he want them if they are not his dependants?—he would become responsible for them while they were here. Before entry certificates were in operation, Indian and West Indian families could join their spouses here, and there is no evidence of bogus immigrants. My Lords, I ask that this Bill be supported because it represents the compassion which is perhaps the greatest value we possess.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, it may be helpful if I intervene at this juncture to explain the Government's attitude to the Bill and the problem it is designed to solve. This is a complex subject and I shall need to go into some technicalities, but there are also issues of principle at stake and the House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for the opportunity for this debate this afternoon.

Before I come to the contents of the Bill, I shall reply briefly to three points made by various noble Lords. First, in reply to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the European Commission on Human Rights, the Commission's report—which the noble Lord will recognise is confidential—is now with the Committee of Ministers. The United Kingdom Government have no control over the pace of these proceedings, and it is for the Committee of Ministers to decide the pace at which it works in this particular matter.

On the second point, the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, asked for a definitive statement of the Government's position on immigration policy. I suspect that he will not be altogether surprised to learn that he will not be receiving that definitive statement this afternoon, although if noble Lords opposite feel strongly that they would like such a debate I am sure that arrangements can be put in hand. Thirdly, my noble friend Lord Brockway referred to the forthcoming visit to India of my honourable friend the Joint Minister of State at the Home Office. As my noble friend recognises, this is an indication of the seriousness with which my honourable friend, and, indeed, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, view the present situation and I am sure that this visit will be welcomed in all quarters of the House.

If I may come to the Immigration Bill itself, may I say straight away to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that I sympathise with his motives in moving the Second Reading. The noble Lord has been a notable champion of the cause of civil rights both in this House and in another place, and I am sure it is appropriate that I should say so this afternoon on behalf of many of my noble friends and many others in other parts of the House. The Government have never made any secret of the fact that they, unlike, I fear, the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, are unenthusiatic about the concept of patriality or the right of abode as distinct from the right of citizenship which was introduced by the Immigration Act 1971. What divides us from the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is how the problem of patriality is best tackled. The matter is not simple and we have to be quite sure that we replace patriality with a satisfactory alternative.

The 1971 Act made a broad division between those who have the unfettered right to enter this country as they please—that is, patrials—and those who are subject to immigration control. Those who have the right of abode are, first, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who were born here or who have a parent or a grandparent who was born here; secondly, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who have at any time been settled here for five years; thirdly, any Commonwealth citizen who had a father or a mother who was born here; and, fourthly, women who are Commonwealth citizens who are, or who have been, married to a man with the right of abode. Only those who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or Commonwealth citizens are patrials. No foreign national has the right of abode.

One striking feature of this concept is that there is no correspondence between citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies and patriality. We share a common citizenship with the inhabitants of the remaining dependencies while retaining the power to exclude them. Those who derive their citizenship from connections with a former dependency are often in the invidious position of having no immediate right to enter or remain in the country whose passport they hold. They are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who cannot, at the moment of their own choosing, enter any part of the territories of which they are citizens. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, made that point with considerable force this afternoon. On the other hand, Commonwealth citizens with a parent who was born here and women from the Commonwealth who are married to men who were born here have the right of abode.

United Kingdom passport holders from the former dependencies in East Africa and, indeed, elsewhere have been made subject to considerable hardship as a result of their having been denied the right to come here when they wish. Since the coming into force of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 their entry has been regulated by the operation of the special voucher scheme, a control maintained by the 1971 Act. The current scale of issue of vouchers by heads of household is 3,500 a year. A point which was made by my noble friend Lord Brockway is that there is a valid criticism of the special voucher scheme in that it results in those who have lost their chance to work as a result of Africanisation being forced to live on their savings while awaiting their turn for a voucher, so they may well be destitute when they eventually arrive here. My Lords, that is neither in the interests of the persons concerned nor in the interests of this country. However, I do not believe that the right way to deal with this—


My Lords, is it not also true that most of the people who eventually obtain their vouchers are not allowed, anyway, to bring out of the country with them their assets and savings?


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Kenya Government permit United Kingdom passport holders to bring out assets with them, although the total amount of the assets which they can bring out has recently been reduced?


Yes, my Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said that the situation is inevitably—and the Government recognise this fact—that quite apart from any arrangements which are made by the Government concerned, like the Government of Kenya, which the noble Lord has just mentioned, the very fact that there is delay means that these people are often put in a situation where they arrive here with extremely small funds available to them; and in the past there have been some problems of the kind which the noble Baroness has just mentioned. However, I do not think that the right way to deal with this problem is to seek to modify the law governing patriality, so as to give all United Kingdom passport holders the right of abode while leaving the law of citizenship undisturbed. The Government's view has always been that the only satisfactory approach is first to put our citizenship law on a proper footing, and that any attempt to modify the concept of patriality in the meantime is doomed to failure.

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I think that his Bill demonstrates some of the problems to which I have just referred. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that he hoped that when I came to speak I would not spend too much time talking about defects in drafting. I think that that is a very fair point. Sometimes, members of all Governments tend to spend too much time making drafting points against Private Member's Bills. I think we should all recognise that the preparation of a Private Member's Bill requires a considerable amount of ingenuity, effort, and, very often, cost. Therefore, I certainly hope I make no petty points of the kind which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, feared that I might make. However, having said that I fear that there are some substantial problems over the contents of the noble Lord's Bill as drafted, and I think that he probably recognises some of these problems.

First of all, the noble Lord's Bill would sweep away the existing definition of those who are free from immigration control. Certainly, we agree with him that this is an unsatisfactory definition. But what is to be put in its place? Under the noble Lord's proposals, the right of abode would be conferred on all citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and British-protected persons, but only while they are ordinarily resident outside the United Kingdom and Colonies. Nobody who is ordinarily resident inside the United Kingdom and Colonies would have that right. I find it a somewhat curious and undoubtedly unintended proposition that all of those who are ordinarily resident in this country, including all of us who are born here, would forfeit the right of abode and become subject to immigration control, while Commonwealth citizens who are living outside the United Kingdom and Colonies but who have a parent who was born here would have that right of abode. I should be surprised if that is what the noble Lord intended; obviously it is not what he intended, but it is, in fact, what his Bill provides.

Moreover, if we were to decide to migrate to some country outside the United Kingdom and Colonies which would have us, and established ourselves there in ordinary residence, then under the noble Lord's Bill we would acquire a right of abode here, but as soon as we exercised that right and settled here once again we would cease to be patrials. I do not think that it would be a practical arrangement if the enjoyment of the right of abode at any given time depended upon one's place of ordinary residence. There are other difficulties. The Bill would give the right of abode here not only to citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies living abroad who have no other citizenship, but also to the many dual citizens, numbering at least a million throughout the world, who are not in any difficulty or hardship because they have a right of abode in their own country of residence. Yet another difficulty is that those who derive citizenship from birth in a colony and who are living in a third country would also be able to come here at will.

I think that I have said enough to demonstrate that the Government, with regret, cannot support this Bill and that we must stand on the proposition that the right of abode should be left undisturbed until a review of nationality has taken place. The intention of the Government to undertake this review was announced earlier this year, and a good deal of preliminary work has already taken place on this subject. I am not able to announce today what form the review will take, but my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is fully aware of the importance of this subject and he intends to make progress with it. In the meantime, I would suggest that the problems of United Kingdom passport holders in difficulty in East Africa and elsewhere is best dealt with by a review of the number of special vouchers which are issued, and the Government now have this under urgent examination. In the light of what I have said, I hope the noble Lord will not press the Bill this afternoon.


My Lords, before the Minister sits down would he say something about my special plea for the teenagers in Kenya who are not at present admitted under the quota voucher system.


My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend. I will draw what he has just said to the attention of my honourable friend the Joint Minister of State and will discuss the matter with him, certainly well before the occasion of his visit.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to press the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill to a Division, but I should like to make one or two points about the speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, and of the Minister who replied from the Government Front Bench. With regard to the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, he plainly put it that in the view of his Party all permanent immigration must be restricted to the inescapable minimum, but he did not comment on that part of my speech in which I referred to the removal of restrictions on the 400 million people living in Europe and the 8 million patrials. This is a perfect illustration of what I was saying during the course of my opening speech. Many people are not worried about the numbers so long as the people concerned are white, and it is no skin off the noble Lord's nose that all these people from Italy, Germany, France, et cetera are able to come here if they wish, and the 8 million patrials, including, as I have said, people remotely descended from people who emigrated from Dublin in 1921. All these people are welcome to come here so far as the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, is concerned because they are the right colour.


My Lords, I would ask the noble Lord to give way for a moment. Actually, if he checks the information he will find that the position of EEC nationals is slightly different. If the EEC nationals are here for longer than two years and do not have a job they can be removed from this country.


My Lords, that may well be so, but the noble Earl's object is to reduce permanent immigration to the inescapable minimum; that is the way he put it. He does not seem to mind if there are large numbers here for a short period instead of smaller numbers for a long time. If one were to press this to the logical extreme one would ask why we have au pair girls coming into this country. After all, they are taking up residence here. They are using housing facilities—admittedly it may be in a house which anyway is under-occupied. They are taking up places in the technical colleges which could be given to natives of this country. However, nobody is worried about that. They are only worried about people coming into this country who happen to have other than white skins. This is a good example of the points which I made only 10 minutes earlier.

The noble Earl said that we should have a "reasonably humane" immigration policy—whatever that may mean. It rather reminded me of the phrase used by the Minister of Justice in Sri Lanka when he said that people could be guilty, not guilty, or partially guilty. I do not know what the noble Earl means by "reasonably humane": can one have a policy which is unreasonably humane? Then he said that uncontrolled immigration could create unfair community relations. I do not know how much he has had to do personally with community relations' organisations in this country—whether he has discussed this matter with CROs and with organisations representing the minority community—but he will find that the exact opposite of what he said is the view taken by those people, who after all ought to know more than the rest of us because they spend their whole time dealing with the problem. So why is it constantly repeated that the only way of improving community relations in this country is to keep down the numbers to the inescapable minimum, as if it was always an evil to have any of these people coming into the country, and that we do not consult those who really ought to know about the problem before making up our minds on it?

The other point I wanted to comment on in the speech made by the noble Earl was his remark that total immigration was reduced to 25,500 in 1973, which he said was well under half the average for the last three months of the Labour Government.


Three years, my Lords.


My Lords, three years of the Labour Government. I regret any Party political connotations of that remark, although it may have been totally unintentional, because if the noble Earl has spent any time studying this matter he will know that the rate of immigration in recent years has been determined largely by the influx of dependants, and that in turn is roughly correlated with the heads of households who were coming in many years before. So one cannot look at the numbers in any particular year and say that they are the result of policies which have been adopted recently, when in fact, they stem from the legislation of many years earlier, and from the heads of households who were brought in under that legislation.

In conclusion, on the noble Earl's remarks as to whether changes of this nature should or should not be brought about by Private Member's Bills, that is a matter of opinion. All I would say on that matter is that quite frequently when Governments are slow to move they can be prodded in the right direction by a Private Member's Bill, even though, being a realist about it, one has no hope of ever putting that Bill on to the Statute Book. But it does at least compel the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, to stand up at the Dispatch Box and say a few words about Government policy which he would not otherwise have had an opportunity of doing. Being a realist, that was all I had expected from this afternoon.

Turning to the Minister's reply, he said that he was not able to tell me anything about the Report of the Commission which found that infringements of the Convention had taken place, because he said that the Report had been presented to the Council of Ministers and it was confidential. I should like to ask the noble Lord—and perhaps he will not have an opportunity of dealing with it in another speech this afternoon, but it is important—what is the reason for these Reports being confidential? Is it because we are ashamed of something that may be contained in them, that we would not want them to see the light of day? Does the Council of Ministers have any discretion to publish Reports which are placed before it, given the assent of both Parties, the complainants and the respondents? If the Council of Ministers does have that power, would the Government allow them to exercise it, so that everyone can see what the opinion of the Commission is and we can then judge for ourselves when we see any reply that is made by the Government to the allegations made?

The noble Lord said that the Government were not responsible for the delay in considering the Report, but I should like to know whether any communication whatsoever has taken place between the Government and the Council of Ministers since the matter was referred to it. Legal experts whom I have consulted say that it is extremely unusual for a delay of as long as six months to take place between a Report being made by the Commission and any further action being taken on it by the Council of Ministers. I am sorry to say this, but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has no knowledge of it. I really suspect that somebody has twisted the arm of the Council of Ministers so as to obtain the maximum possible delay until perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, or more likely the Home Secretary himself, is able to announce some concession on the greater award of the special quota vouchers so that they hope may satisfy the complainants.

The noble Lord said he recognised that there was considerable hardship, particularly among the East African Asians, as a result of the policies being followed, and an urgent review was undertaken, as I understand it, with the aim of increasing the rate of 3,500 vouchers which is at present awarded. May I ask the noble Lord to take into account that the number of vouchers taken up is never the same as the number issued. If a figure of 3,500 vouchers was operating in 1973, it should be compared with the 1,994 actually taken up by the Africans. This is because of changes in the circumstances which occur over the very long time-scale which elapses between the first application and the final issue to the person concerned. Therefore, suppose one increases the num-of vouchers to 5,000 or 6,000. I am not suggesting that this would be a figure which would satisfy me, but if that were in the Government's mind, one of the points to take into consideration is that probably in only two-thirds to threequarters would the right actually be exercised.

My Lords, I am very sorry that the Minister was not able to tell us anything conclusive about this urgent examination of the voucher system which he says is under way. The problem has been going on for rather a long time. I can only hope that as a result of the debate this afternoon an announcement will be speeded up and made to this House or another place before Christmas, so that some reassurance can be given to the many thousands who have been in the queue for years.

On Question, Motion for Second Reading negatived.