HL Deb 11 December 1975 vol 366 cc1170-98

8.38 p.m.

Lord HILL of LUTON rose to move, That this House takes note of the Second Report of the European Communities Committee of this Session on the Action Programme in favour of Migrant Workers and their Families (R/39/75) (Soc. 2). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move, on behalf of the Select Committee on the European Communities, the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The subject of the Report is a Consultative Document emerging from proposals embodying a draft action programme in favour, to use its own words, "of migrant workers and their families". It is a vague document. It is expressed for the most part in general and not explicit terms, and we have to consider the general objectives that are set out in the document as well as some early proposals.

My Lords, I would make four preliminary points. The authors of this document, it is perfectly clear, have had in mind the particular migrant problem on the mainland of Europe rather than the one which concerns this country. There, in general, migrants tend to spend a time in the host country and then return to their own countries. Thirdly—and this is of great importance in examining this document—the word "migrant" used in this document covers those people whom we describe as immigrants in this country. That is borne out by the figures—figures of the migrant population in this country or, to be more accurate, in this country when the Census of 1971 was taken.

We have about 1.7 million migrant workers in this country— "migrants" within the definition which I gave. Of that 1.7 million migrant workers—I make abundantly clear that it does not include dependants, it is migrant workers, as are all these figures—about 650,000 come to this country from Member-countries of the Community; rather more than 1 million come from non-Member countries. When one breaks down that rather more than 1 million, one finds that nearly 700,000 have come from the Commonwealth, the new as well as the old Commonwealth. In fact, just over 600,000 come from the new Commonwealth; for example, the West Indies, India and Pakistan. These were the figures for workers in the 1971 Census. All these people are covered by these proposals.

The main proposals include, first, a new definition of "dependant". In this country, we offer today unrestricted entry to what may be called vertical dependants of the migrant worker—sons, daughters, grandparents, and the like. In this document and these proposals it is suggested that lateral dependants—cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces—be brought within the definition of dependants. The significance of that will be immediately seen.

Secondly, there are proposals affecting non-contributory benefits; family allowances, attendance allowance, supplementary benefits, are examples of the noncontributory benefits which are concerned. First, there are family allowances. It is a fact—I have no doubt your Lordships were aware of this, but certainly I was not—that in the case of a migrant coming here from an EEC country but leaving his family at home, family allowances are paid to that migrant in respect of children who have never come to this country, who are still in the home country. That stems from the Treaty to which we have acceded. Although it is not specifically proposed, there is a broad hint, as we read the document, that the objective is to enlarge this export of family allowances and pay them in respect of the children of all migrants, including those coming from the new Commonwealth. All I will say is that the financial results of that can be imagined, if not calculated. So far as other non-contributory benefits are concerned— here the proposal is very vague—if the proposals meant that such benefits as attendance allowance, and of course supplemental benefits, were exported in the same way, substantial problems would arise.

Secondly, there are contributory benefits; unemployment benefit is the main example of this. Again, the present position is one in which, in my ignorance. I did not realise that where a migrant EEC worker comes to this country to work, falls out of work, registers as unemployed and then, not finding a job, goes home, we pay—presumably we post to him back at home—unemployment benefit for up to a period of three months, If, on the other hand, he did not register—he fell out of work and just went home—then as he gets into work again in his home country and, as it were, scores up for unemployment benefit, there is then a system by which he can aggregate the entitlement that he has gained here to his unemployment benefit at home. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who knows so much more about it than I do, and perhaps more than most of us do, will later be dealing more fully with this point.

There are some vague proposals under another heading, and I simply mention them. There is a proposal for dealing with linguistic barriers. It could mean that we need to establish an interpretation service of public officers, public establishments, in order to enable the migrant to be understood. If that really meant the provision of interpreters in that way, it would mean some problems; but there is one other problem of crucial importance. There is a proposal—your Lordships will be hearing about it later, for it has been developed in greater detail in another document yet to be examined—that the host country should not only provide crash courses for teaching English but, as a matter of educational policy, should promote the mother tongue of the migrant and the culture of his country of origin, including the appointment of foreign teachers for the purpose.

Baroness WHITE

My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Does this apply to Welsh people coming to work in England?


My Lords, they have not been covered by our definition of migrants. The Irish, Yes, the Welsh, No.

Baroness WHITE

Another injustice to Wales!


My Lords, our policy here—this is the most significant point—has been to do our utmost to assimilate our migrants, to integrate them with the people and life of this country; something which we persistently and sometimes painfully sought to accomplish. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potter hill, with his unrivalled experience, will be developing this point in a moment.

Despite the vagueness of this document and its imprecision, there really are some important issues—or potential issues in some cases—raised by it. Incidentally, we have just seen—I imagine the noble Lord the Minister who is to reply has also seen it—a revised version of the Paper that is to go before the Council of Ministers next week. It is slimmer than the original one, but that is because many of the issues have been temporarily set aside to come back in the form of more detailed and separate Directives but the long term objective of these proposals is unchanged. The role of the Select Committee is to bring to your Lordships proposals of importance emerging from Brussels which perhaps, without their scrutiny and that of another place, might escape public attention. This is the purpose of the Select Committee, and this is an important illustration of what such scrutiny can reveal. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Second Report of the European Communities Committee of this session on the Action Programme in favour of Migrant Workers and their Families (R/39/75) (Soc. 2).—(Lord Hill of Luton.)

8.50 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, rightly points out that there is no definition of "migrant worker" either in the document which the Select Committee examined or in the Select Committee's observations on it. However, he has provided us with a useful working definition which, to paraphrase, is a person who was born overseas and comes here legitimately to work with the approval of the Home Office. That is certainly the definition to which the Social Affairs Directorate of the EEC has been working in its dealings with the United Kingdom, and that is a useful starting point for our discussion.

I wish, first, to draw attention to the national origin of the people who are entering this country for the purpose of taking up work because at the moment they are not, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill, implied at one stage in his remarks, principally of New Commonwealth origin. I am taking my figures from the published Home Office statistics for the year 1974. During that year, from the New Commonwealth, 1,373 persons were admitted with work permits and from Spain in the same period the number was 1,425. Au pair girls, who I think are included in the definition of migrant workers, numbered 28 from the whole of the Commonwealth and 1,624 from Switzerland.


I should like to get this abundantly clear, my Lords. The figures I gave were based on the table on page 14 of the paper, Annexe 1, which gives the numbers of people actually here from those various countries in 1971 in terms of the Census.


My Lords, I appreciate that the figures given in the table to which the noble Lord refers relate to those who were present in this country at the time of the 1971 Census. I am amplifying the picture a little by giving my analysis of the figures published by the Home Office relating to those who came here during 1974 so that we are not looking at a static picture of what was the position in 1971. Let us examine what is actually happening now and who the migrant workers are who are entering the United Kingdom, because that is what I am trying to illustrate. From the New Commonwealth during that year, the number of persons accepted for settlement on the removal of the time limit which had been imposed when they first entered this country was 17,400 and the equivalent number from non-EEC countries, excluding Pakistan, was 19,400. The number given leave for working holidays, as they are called, from Canada, Australia and New Zealand was 16,400 and from the rest of the Commonwealth, 3,592.

I quote these figures because it is important that we understand in discussing this question that our policy on the admission of migrants—whether they be workers or people coming here for any other purpose—is blatantly racist; we do not mind how many Swiss or Spanish we admit, or our kith and kin from the Old Commonwealth, but we arc not going to let in any black workers if we can possibly help it.


My Lords, am I not right in thinking that we have taken a very considerable number, under the quota we have agreed with Kenya and the like, who come in from Kenya with United Kingdom passports and do not have to get work permits? In my view the noble Lord's figures do not accurately give the number of people coming from another country and who will obviously seek employment when they get here.


My Lords, I hope the other members of the Select Committee have studied the subject a little more thoroughly than the noble Baroness apparently has; that is, if she thinks that our United Kingdom citizens who were formerly resident in East Africa can come here without permission. They need to obtain a quota voucher and the issue of quota vouchers is severely limited by the Home Office, as she can understand from the figures I have given.


My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord can dismiss the fact that these are people coming in for employment. I do not say that they are not quoted, but the figure is something like 3,000 in the last year from Kenya and it is completely misleading to say that we are not taking Commonwealth citizens in anything like the numbers that we are taking European ones, because if one leaves those quota figures out—from Pakistan, Kenya and other African and other countries—one is giving a completely false picture of new arrivals seeking work.


My Lords, I do not want to repeat all the figures I have given. If the noble Baroness has a quarrel over them, perhaps she will take it up with the Home Office, which published them, rather than waste the time of the House.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, would the noble Lord not give figures only from certain tables and not from others? We all have the document, as the noble Lord will be aware, and Table lA refers to the "Citizenship and purpose of journey" of passengers given leave to enter the United Kingdom. Of Commonwealth citizens, in 1974 there were 26,000 United Kingdom passport holders, of whom 10,000 were admitted for settlement on arrival. The noble Lord will probably know where the United Kingdom passport holders came from; from Kenya there were 14,000. It would be very much better if the noble Lord did not make the kind of racist point he has been making.


My Lords, that was, if I may say so, a very stupid intervention. If the noble Baroness wants to make her own analysis of the figures, she will have an opportunity to do so later. In the meanwhile, I hope I shall be allowed to make my own speech in my own way. I say that we have a racist immigration policy in this country, and there are many people who agree with me and who think the figures I have quoted go a long way to substantiating that assertion.

The Report deals with the needs of migrant workers from the point of view of employment, housing, social security benefits, vocational training and education; but nowhere does it refer to the difficulties which confront the migrant on first entering this country in obtaining access to these services; that is, immediately upon entry or after arrival. I draw the attention of the House to the Paludan Report on the Problems of Refugees in Exile in Europe, which refers to the need for reception and counselling services. That need is certainly not confined to those who are explicitly within the definition of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees of a refugee.

As the Home Office will be aware—probably the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, who is to reply, has knowledge of this also—a working group has been set up under the auspices of the Standing Conference for British Organisations for Aid to Refugees which is recommending that a reception centre should be established to provide accommodation for those with nowhere else to go when they arrive in this country; to provide advisory services and information for new entrants and to advise the Government on how to deal with migrants who may arrive in this country as a result of some political upheaval overseas, as has happened in the case of, for example, Chile and Cyprus. In my view, a proposal of this kind, extending to all migrant workers and their dependants arriving in this country, would be an essential pre-condition of any co-ordinated policy of those migrant workers, and I suggest that it should be an additional function of the new Community Relations Executive which is to be set up following the Government's White Paper on Racial Discrimination.

That proposal would obviously cost money, but I submit that it would pay for itself in acclimatising workers who are arriving here more quickly than would otherwise be possible and would be the kind of project which, I have good reason to believe, the EEC Social Fund would like to support. In this connection, I wish to raise the issue of the admission of dependants, and in particular I want to refer to some aspects of the Committee's reference to this matter. They say that the proposal to offer unrestricted entry to migrant workers' dependants would require considerable lateral extension of the United Kingdom practice which at present admitted only the migrant's spouse, children and dependent relatives in vertical line. This is not an accurate picture of what happens at the moment because dependants do not have unrestricted entry. They have to go through the procedure of applying for an entry certificate and every conceivable obstacle is erected to make the process as lengthy as possible.

I had a letter this morning from the Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the dependants of a resident in this country who had applied to join him here. The Under-Secretary of State tells me that it Ls still taking about 16 months for dependants to get even as far as being interviewed by the entry certificate officer in the High Commission. Those who are familiar with these cases will recognise that the interview may be the first stage in a very lengthy process of inquiries which then has to be made to establish the bona fides of the dependant, inquiries which may not be confined entirely to the country of origin but may refer to the situation of the sponsor in this country.

In relation to the children in particular, I should like to draw attention to the comment made by Mr. Larry Grant and Mr. John Constable in the New Law Journal of 18th September, who say: One of the most distressing aspects of the system of immigration control is that the rules have been framed strictly to limit the number of children who are able to join their parents settled here. It can take as long as three years from the date of the first application by a dependant to join his father or mother in this country, and I sincerely hope that the Community will ultimately go beyond the recommendation that a formal granting of a right of entry should be made to a migrant's dependants and will insist that the administrative procedures should be such as to make that right effective without undue delay.

On the subject of education I suppose that it is assumed by most people that the children of migrant workers will automatically be admitted to schools, but what happens in Britain is that, if the parents are admitted for six months or less, the local education authority is under no obligation to admit them; if the parents have been admitted for between six and 12 months, the right of admission is discretionary; and only if the admission is for more than 12 months is there a mandatory requirement on the local education authority to admit those children to school. It may be said that most of the parents admitted for six months will leave at the end of that period anyway, but I can quote many cases where a temporary permission is first granted for three or six months and then renewed for the same period several times in a row. It would be quite possible for the children to be here for a year or more without obtaining any education, when it should be obvious from the start that the parents will have the conditions removed and that the children will then be considerably behind with their education.

With regard to higher education, the Select Committee said: The proposal for equal treatment of the children of migrant workers and the indigenous population in the award of study grants was not disputed. However, the parents must have been resident in this country for three years before the children qualify for a grant. Incidentally, the Committee points out that that will apply to citizens of the United Kingdom just as much as it does to foreigners. The vice-chancellors of the universities have admitted that this is e. discriminatory provision and, though it is not expressed as such, it in fact discriminates against ethnic minorities since most United Kingdom citizens with under three years' residence will be people of Asian origin who were formerly living in East Africa. I do not know why the concession which was made to the children of refugees from Uganda could not have been extended to the children of other refugees from Kenya, Tanzania and other parts of Africa. This is what the White Paper on Racial Discrimination describes as a "pattern" of discrimination which could ultimately be investigated by the proposed Race Relations Executive when it comes into being. However, since we can already see that it may be open to criticism by that body, why should we not take steps to abolish the rule now?

On housing, the Select Committee says that the recommendations are not applicable to the United Kingdom. It asserts that housing policy treats migrants and United Kingdom nationals on the same basis. That is literally untrue in the case of the London Borough of Ealing, where applicants who are not British subjects are specifically excluded from admission to the housing list, and in practice it is untrue everywhere else. Housing policy is a classical example of the way in which apparently fair arrangements discriminate against migrants because, the effect of our housing policy is that minority groups stand in greater need of council housing than the rest of the population but are less likely to obtain it. That quotation is from the PEP Report, Racial Minorities and Council Housing. We find that a higher proportion of people from the West Indies and people of Asian origin live in multiple occupation than do the indigenous people. The The Runnymede Report on Race and Council Housing in London shows that people from ethnic minorities, when they are offered council accommodation, are likely to be housed on the older estates and in the most unattractive areas.

So I wonder why this Select Committee Report has been produced at all when it makes no reference to these patterns of discrimination which exist against the migrant worker and his family. I am afraid I must say that it is a thoroughly slipshod, flimsy and incompetent piece of work. The Select Committee took no evidence from organisations which might have had something to say on the question of the problems faced by migrants—the Community Relations Commission, the Race Relations Board, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Runnymede Trust or the NACRC, to name a few obvious examples—let alone from any migrant workers themselves.

9.8 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to deal only with the proposals in this document which relate to the education of the children of migrant workers coming here. The proposals are six in number. The first of these places a requirement on: …reception and accelerated training classes to assist the migrant children to settle into the new linguistic and educational environment. This seems to me inevitably to present a problem—hut no major unacceptable problem—to the education services in this country. As your Lordships know, substantial numbers of children of immigrants to this country have been accommodated in the schools and special provision is made for them both in relation to learning the language and in settlement into the new educational setting which they have entered.

The second proposal is, …the exchange of information and instructional aids, as well as research and pilot schemes in teaching methods. Here again there is a complete structure of interchange of information and instructional aids, and I do not see any problem in the acceptance of that provision. Next is, the development of assistance activities outside school hours by social workers. I cannot speak for the social services, but I should imagine that they co-operate with the educational services—indeed I have every reason to believe that they do—in helping in the out-of-school activities of immigrant children and immigrants in the community.

The next proposal is, the equal treatment for migrant children in the award of study grants and similar assistance", a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred. I do not think that the noble Lord is right when he says that the parents have to be in residence for three years. It is the student who has to be in residence for three years if he is to be considered for an award. I accept that this is a differentiation as compared with the normal resident in this country, but I think the reasonableness of it is rather obvious. There could be a vast number of students arriving for no other purpose than to attend our universities or polytechnics. Is it suggested that if they so arrive we necessarily have to give them awards to go to our universities? They are required to be three years in ordinary residence before these conditions apply, though during that three year period it is open to authorities to make awards if they think that the circumstances justify it, more particularly where the admission of them to courses would not necessarily involve major additional expenditure.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? If they were the dependants of a person who had been admitted for work, then they would not be admitted as dependants if they were over 16. They would then have to apply to be admitted as students, and it would be a matter for discretion whether an entry certificate would be granted to them for that purpose.


My Lords, that is perfectly true, if they were of that age at the time of entry of the parents. The vast majority of cases we are dealing with here bring their younger dependant children who have been in ordinary residence more than three years by the time they reach the stage of going into higher education. Therefore no problem arises in these cases. But I accept that there is a differential when compared with our own people. There is a further differential in the fact that for foreign students generally the fee charged for tuition is higher than that charged to our own people. This is also a difference which exists, and these matters would have to be examined in the light of this document.

I am much more concerned with the other provision. I had better read it out as it is stated: …the provision of education in school-time so as to preserve the original culture and mother tongue. That would be a major change of policy for the educational services in this country. The vast majority of immigrants coming into this country are not transient. They do not come for a year and then go back home again. They come and settle here. Therefore we have devoted ourselves within school hours to the first objective of teaching them the English language and helping them to integrate into the community of which they have become a part.

In so far as anything is to be done in preserving the mother tongue or the original culture, we have taken the view that this is the responsibility of the parents or of those concerned with that particular community. A good deal of activity has in fact taken place in the case of Italian workers, but this has been done out of school hours. Local education authorities have co-operated by providing accommodation or otherwise helping, but for this to become a duty on local education authorities, as it would, we would find neither practicable nor educationally desirable.

Let us consider the problem for a moment, my Lords. If you are to teach the mother tongue and the native culture during school hours, you will reduce the time available to teach the English language and to incorporate the child into this country. This is what must happen. I can think of areas in which they would have to teach not one language but half a dozen within a limited group, because this is the reality. Wolver Hampton would be an example. I believe that, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, said, there is a genuine difference here between the situation on the mainland of Europe and that in this country. I believe there are countries in Europe where substantial numbers of migrant workers come from a particular country (Germany, I think, would be an example of where this obtains) and are probably there for only a limited period—a year or two years-after which they will return to their own country, the country of origin.

In these cases, clearly, it is a major obligation to enable them to return at the end of two years and, therefore, to maintain the mother tongue and the mother culture, knowing that this is what is going to happen. Of course, if it is only a large group from one country this becomes a practical possibility; but this is not the situation in this country. The great majority of the children of immigrants in this country do not return; they stay. They are here to stay, and our problem is to integrate them into the community of which they are a part in this country. That provision, therefore, I think, would be neither educationally desirable nor, frankly, practicable in many areas.

This whole problem is one, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has said, which has been embodied in a subsequent document, and the Department of Education and Science have circulated that document to all the relevant educational interests in this country for their observations. When these have been obtained, no doubt the Department itself will express an official view. What I am expressing now, therefore, is no more than my personal reaction to the proposals which are before your Lordships' House.

9.17 p.m.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, at this time of night the kindest thing I can do to your Lordships' House is to be extremely brief. Before making the very few comments that I wish to make, I should like to say in the friendliest possible way to my noble friend that I think perhaps he has slightly mistaken the purpose of this Report. In reporting these proposals of the EEC to your Lordships' House, we are not, of course, discussing the full implications of what might be done in this country on all the subjects raised by the documents which have come from the EEC. Our purpose is the very much narrower one of looking at what the EEC proposals are and asking, "How do these impinge on what we are doing or might be doing in the matters raised by the documents?" There are a great number of matters—of course there are—arising on the subjects that are touched upon here which we should deal with in the framework of our own law and which we should be entirely entitled to deal with in the framework of our own law. But here we are merely doing a much narrower thing; that is, seeing what is being proposed and then seeing, in those particulars but only in those particulars so far as this Report is concerned, how we ought to be looking at what we are doing.

I would say to my noble friend in passing that as I personally have in a class at the moment two Iranians and two Americans out of a group of eleven, I should be very sorry indeed if I felt that we had to provide grants to those two Iranians and two Americans.


Who says that we should?

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, we are discriminating against them on the grounds that they have no residence here. You have to have discrimination of this kind; otherwise, I would suggest, you would be landed with paying grants to Iranians and Americans. However, that is beside the point and is, as you might say, a family quarrel.

The purpose of the EEC draft which has come to us is a very general one. It is, I think, something we should be glad to have. It is vague because it does not come to us at present in the form of specific suggestions, directives or regulations; it comes as a first draft, as it were, of what we might be getting later on. I think that your Lordships should be glad that we are getting this kind of document, vague though it is, because it gives us a chance to think well in advance about what we ought to be doing. The difficulty up to now has been that so often we have had documents from Brussels, where the suggestions are pretty well cut and dried before they reach the review committees and certainly before they reach your Lordships' House, and there has been little time for proper consideration of what we ought to be doing in this country and what our representatives in Brussels should be saying in order to have the proper impact on the documents which finally come from Brussels.

The vagueness of this document, although it makes for a less satisfactory debate than we should have had had it been more specific, is good because it is an advance notice of the kind of matters to which we must give very much more consideration. As I see it, we are thinking here—and in these days of unemployment it is difficult to think in these terms —of the times to come, foreshadowed in the Treaty of Rome, when there will be such a thing as the free movement of labour. We talked about the free movement of labour before the Treaty of Rome was signed and we were moving into Europe. With rising unemployment in all our countries, this now becomes a rather different issue from when it was first considered. It is to be hoped that these days will return.

If the free movement of labour is to be the benefit that we all hope, it has to be satisfactory both to the host country and to the people who wish to move about from one country to another. I want to draw attention particularly to two areas discussed in this Report which are of great importance both to the host country and to the migrant workers. One is the area of social security. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, threatened your Lordships with a discourse from me on the details of social security. I am quite sure that you are not going to get that; but there are two sides to it. The host country must have a clear idea of what commitments there are to the migrant workers coming in and moving out again, particularly in the case of migrants within the EEC; and the migrant workers must be assured of the benefits both that they have acquired in their own country and the additional benefits they acquire when they move into the host country, and what is to happen if they move back. There must be certainty about these matters; the certainty that rights are assured and that social security will be what the migrant expects and thinks that it is going to be. This is of the essence of making the free movement of labour a really satisfactory working proposition.

My Lords, there are one or two things which arise in connection with the social security provisions. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, referred to doubts as to the wisdom of exporting non-contributory benefits. Certainly, before we were committed to anything of this kind it would have to be gone into very fully. I would not myself say (and I do not think that the Committee would say) that ultimately when the matters are fully explored it would necessarily be wrong to enter into an agreement about noncontributory benefits; but we should need to know more about what is involved and what the cost would be.

Commitment on family allowances we have already. There is only one detailed but important part of the family allowance issue. At the moment the commitment to pay family allowance is family allowance on the basis of the host country and not on the basis of the country from which the migrant worker has come. But there is one country which wishes the reverse practice to be adopted. It will not surprise your Lordships that that country is France. It would suit France extremely well with their much more generous provision (shall we say?) for families if the provision were to be made in terms of the country of origin rather than the host country. We think this suggestion from France should be watched carefully. It would be an open-ended commitment if we were going to have to export benefits on the basis of the level of benefit of the country from which the migrant worker came rather than vice versa. The other countries of the EEC adopt the same policy we are recommending. But France—not for the first nor I suspect the last time, and I speak as a strong Francophile Member of this House—would like it the other way. This is something about which we should be forewarned.

Regarding contributory benefits, it is a question of the responsibility which the host country should adopt towards migrant workers in the detail of the administration of social provisions. For the individual worker the detail of administration can make a great deal of difference. This is a small point which illustrates the detail that has to be gone into if there is going to be real security for the migrant worker and, at the same time, a satisfactory arrangement for the host country. This is the situation: If a migrant worker who, having registered, paid unemployment insurance and acquired unemployment benefits in this country, becomes out of work if he is here for four weeks then, when he returns to the country from which he has come, because he has registered here, he carries with him a right to unemployment pay for a period of three months from this country. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, pointed this out. People, alas, arc unwise from time to time, and if he is unwise enough not to register but drifts back home—this would not be an unlikely happening in a number of cases —he will have no benefit rights in any country. This illustrates the care which needs to be taken in the briefing and supervision of migrant workers if social security rights are not to break down. From that flows consideration of the kind of service, advice and information which we need to think about if the number of migrant workers within the EEC is going to increase. We are not familiar with those workers in this country, although the numbers coming in from non-Commonwealth countries are larger than a great number of us realise. These are migrants who intend to go back to their own country. This continuity and social security benefit is a very important matter indeed.

The other issue to which I shall draw attention is to do with vocational training and language training. The standard of vocational training and the approach toit—I do not mean the actual standard of instruction, but availability of vocational training—is more widespread in the EEC than it is in this country, though we are improving our provision here. The proposal from the EEC suggests that migrant workers should have rights to acquire vocational training in the host country. We pointed out in our Report that at present people in this country do not have rights to vocational training. We shall be under considerable pressure from the EEC to extend and enlarge our appreciation of vocational training rights.

There will be pressure on us, I suspect—and personally I welcome it—from Brussels to have a more extensive provision for vocational training, and people will be given rights to vocational training in a way that we have not given to our own citizens up to now. Until we give it to our own citizens, it would be unrealistic to imagine we are going to give it to migrant workers. That is an area we need to look at. All the evidence I have shows that pressure is likely to come from the EEC to extend what we are doing. This will come both in the form of general standards and in making provision for migrants.

One final word about language training, which is a very practical and down to earth matter. Vocational training, social security benefits and access to jobs —all these are of minor value if the migrant worker is seriously handicapped by language difficulties. The pressure is upon us now from the European Community, apart from a national programme for such training. May I say that I consider we should give more thought to this. We have been slow in providing imaginative language training for the immigrants who are already with us.

I should like to draw attention to one particularly successful experiment which is being carried out by the National Centre for Industrial Language Training. The essence of it is that language training is taken right into the place of work. This links language with the immediate needs of the workers, because there is a better chance of their learning a language when it is linked to the work they are doing and is undertaken in the work setting than if the language training is given in an educational establishment which is apart from the place of work. Since these EEC proposals ask us to stress the importance of language training and to develop it, I would urge upon your Lordships' House that more attention should be given to this training and that we should see it gets the required financial support.

9.32 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, for giving us the opportunity to discuss a very important document which may involve vast financial implications and millions of people in the Community coming within the category of migrant workers. It is the kind of subject, unfortunately, which attracts far fewer numbers of your Lordships than does one which concerns the animal species. I always think this is a cause for regret, because the way in which the Government take decisions on this draft action programme will indeed affect millions of people.

The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, tried to some extent to frighten us about the cost that may be involved in sending family allowances outside this country, but I think we have to remember that the terms on which this is done form part of a multilateral agreement between the nine Member-States. Of course, the terms decided in this programme will affect all British citizens who go abroad and who will benefit from the decisions which are taken. As I understand it, more British citizens went to EEC countries last year than came here from those countries; so if we accept the basis of the policy we should look closely at the cost to see what can be decided for the good of those people who are working either in this country or within the other Member-States of the Community.

Each of the areas covered by the programme will obviously require careful consideration in relation to the Member-States concerned, whether or not the migrant workers are nationals of the Member-States—and of course regard must be had to the overall Community policy of future manpower needs. As your Lordships know, there has been a great deal of discussion as to the benefits for the Third World countries who are sending workers to the EEC and thereby losing valuable manpower themselves, thus preventing them from developing as fast as they otherwise might.

Therefore, I particularly welcome the part of the programme which refers to co-ordinating policies between the European Community and developing countries, in order that the people concerned should be able to develop their full potential and be trained, possibly in the European Community, in order to be able to go back to their own countries to teach the skills needed there. But if they remain in the European Community, they should have the right of every other citizen of the Community to complete nondiscrimination and to equality of treatment in the working conditions which obtain in the country in which they are living. This is a very important principle which we should be prepared to accept and which we should be seen to be prepared to accept. In this regard, I particularly welcome the statement made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on vocational training because, as she pointed out, citizens of the United Kingdom do not have an automatic right to this. But if we are to play our part in helping developing countries, one of the best forms of aid we can probably give is to allow migrants to have vocational training, in order to enable them to improve the conditions in their own countries.

I should like to say a word about social security benefits, because it becomes more and more evident, if one looks at the benefits in the other Member-States, that in nearly all cases they are very much better and at higher rates than obtain in this country. One of the great difficulties is the exchange rate. If one looks at the kind of family allowances that are available in the different Member-States and translates them into pounds sterling, they show considerable differences. This is one of the reasons why those of us who have always looked forward to closer European integration feel that the only hope for full benefit for all members of the Community is by the eventual achievement of economic and monetary union. It is only on that basis that we shall get full social security benefits for all working people within Member-States.

Similarly, we can learn a great deal from the other Member-States in the way they organise their social security benefits. We have for so long in this country considered ourselves to be the leaders in this field, and I know it is very difficult to make comparisons, tabularly or statistically. But, from the individual cases that one comes across, it appears that the other Member-States undoubtedly have very high standards, and in several cases they are higher than our own.

With regard to housing, we probably have one of the best records in the Member-States because, on the whole, the people who come to this country come to stay here permanently. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander, very rightly drew attention to the difficulties in the educational field in the case of those who come to this country to stay here. Therefore, it is in both their interests and the interests of our community to give them an education based on English schooling and English teaching, rather than encourage them to have teaching in their own languages. The problems of, for instance, Italian migrants are very different, nearly all of whom leave Italy with the intention of returning. Although many Italian migrants intend to stay for a time in the country to which they migrate, their eventual intention is always to return at the end. So there is always a very deep desire to have their children taught Italian, and learn the culture and traditions of their own country. This problem simply does not arise in the case of the vast majority of migrants who come to this country, and from whose work we benefit.

If I understood him correctly, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that non-British subjects are excluded from the housing lists of local authorities—


My Lords, I said that they were specifically excluded in the London Borough of Ealing.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I understood the noble Lord to say that that was so in every other borough as well. But perhaps we can check that in Hansard. In any case, I know a great many foreigners living in local authority housing who have been extremely well and very fairly treated. I must say that about the record of those local authorities who are not here to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, because they make great efforts in very many cases to provide housing on an equal basis with British nationals.


My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness again, but I wonder whether she has had the opportunity to read the PEP report on racial minorities and Council Housing. If she had read it, I do not think she could have made the assertion that local authorities treat ethnic minorities on an equal basis. The proportion of West Indians and people of Asian origin in public housing is much smaller than that of the indigenous population.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord relies on his reading. I rely on my experience as a social worker for 15 years in Kennington. I have not had the benefit of reading the book, but I have had the benefit of seeing West Indians, Italians, Germans, Greeks and Turks living in council housing, so it is a question of my eyes against the noble Lord's book and we had better leave the matter there. With regard to the solving of the non-contributory social security benefits problem, it can be solved and, by and large, I think we shall find that it will be the British citizen who benefits. We must take the broad view and fall in with our European neighbours as to the manner in which this is to be done; but again I must draw attention to the very great difficulty of exchange rates.

Turning to the education of the children of migrant workers, as your Lordships know a sum has been allocated specifically for that purpose under Article IV of the European Social Fund. I do not know whether the noble Lord will be able to tell us a little more about what kind of programme the Government envisage when they make application for sums from that Fund. I understood that this was to be allowed for in this year's Budget. No doubt the children of migrant workers in this country will be eligible for part of the proceeds of that Fund to assist their training as well as sums which will be made available for the reception of migrant workers into Member-States. Perhaps, therefore, the noble Lord will be prepared to enlarge on this matter. So far as education is concerned, it should also be said that one has to consider the kind of education that the migrant workers want for their children. Some of them are demanding a far higher standard of education for their children than some of our schools are able to offer. They will not accept education for their children in mixed schools, nor will they accept the lack of religious instruction, and naturally they insist on having their own language taught in order to maintain their own cultural traditions and history. I presume that courses are arranged in these cases and that school buildings are made available, even if the teachers are not always to be found. I am not sure how easy it is to train teachers in this country to teach English as a foreign language to many of these migrants. Obviously, this will need a certain amount of expenditure and a considerable number of people will be involved. No doubt Article IV of the Social Fund will be used to train teachers to teach English to migrants, and again we should like further information about this.

The proposals need a great deal of study. I am not at all sure what the effects of the trade union rights will mean to workers who come to this country; and perhaps the noble Lord will be able to tell us what the effect upon them of the closed shop will he. Will a migrant worker be obliged to join a trade union in order to get work? This would be contrary to practice in many of the other Member-States. It could certainly never be harmonised. Under the German Constitution, for instance, it is not possible to restrict a worker from working if he does not join a trade union. There may therefore be a conflict of law in this area. Certainly we should welcome further statistics on the problem of migrant workers, so that proper plans could be made for their training, housing, educational and social needs. Above all, proper plans must be made to enable them to fit into the employment needs of the community.

Finally, may I say a word about the electoral rights of migrant workers. Certainly we should like there to be a uniform period of residence in all of the Member-States for the acquisition of nationality by a migrant worker, be he a European Community national, or be he somebody who enters from another country under an association agreement. The very uneven legislation regarding the acquisition of nationality would certainly benefit from a degree of harmonisation and common sense in that area because it creates great hardship at the moment.

Secondly, I should like to see a right for any European Community national who is resident in another Member-State automatically to be able to record his or her vote during the Election of the country of his nationality at the relevant consulate or Embassy. We had this problem during the referendum, when British residents abroad were not allowed to vote on a matter which was of great importance to the future both of themselves and the citizens of this country. It is certainly a democratic right that anybody should have the right to vote for the Government of their country, and I think this is the kind of thing which should be possible throughout the Community. Community citizens should be able to vote at their consulate. In particular, when we come to direct elections in 1978, I think this point should be carefully watched. Wherever Community nationals may be they should be able to take part in a direct election to the European Parliament.

I will not go into all the other matters that are contained in this document. There are obviously enormous implications but from what the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has said, it is only a draft programme and its contents are obviously vague. But we on this side of the House hope that this programme will lead to a better integration of the migrants who come to contribute to the wealth of the Community and that their rights are safeguarded and that they are free from discrimination from any of the Member-States.

9.47 p.m.


My Lords, first, I should like to say that we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and the members of his Committee for the attention which they have given to this programme of action for immigrants and for the care which they have taken in looking at what in many cases is a very vague document. We welcome the opportunity provided by this debate to discuss the implications of these proposals, and to say something of the way in which the Government are approaching the discussion of them which is to take place at the Council of Social Affairs Ministers on 18th December. But at this time of the night I will take it for granted that the House would wish me to deal only with bare essentials. Therefore, I shall deal first with the co-ordination of immigration policies. Changes in immigration laws are unlikely to be necessary unless the Council were to agree to measures which would bear directly on the rights of Member-States to control the numbers of those entering their territories or the conditions under which they entered. Action of this kind would go beyond that which the United Kingdom Government would be prepared to accept at the present time.

The Community has recently put in hand an examination of special Community rights which might be accorded within the EEC. It is the view of the United Kingdom Government that no action should be taken on the proposals in the draft action programme for granting political rights to migrant workers until this wider study has been completed. The Select Committee has referred in paragraph 2 of its Report to the proposals for a uniform system for the payment of family benefits. This proposal affects EEC migrant workers whose families are in a Member-State other than that in which the worker is employed. The family has usually simply remained at home. Under EEC Social Security Regulations for migrant workers, an Italian worker in this country, for example, receives family allowances at the United Kingdom rates for his children in Italy and vice versa.

The Regulations provide that France alone shall make payments at the rates obtaining in the worker's home country. The Commission is required by the Regulations to make proposals for a uniform system to the Council, and after lengthy discussions, it has put forward a draft amending Regulation which is designed to put family benefits for the migrant EEC worker in France on the same basis as that which applies currently to other Member-States. The Government concur with the views expressed by the Select Committee on this matter and would agree that the export of family allowances for non-EEC nationals, where appropriate, is best regulated by bilateral agreements.

The question of attendance allowances was mentioned. At the present time, under the EEC Regulations, a worker from any EEC country who is employed here would be entitled to the attendance allowances in respect of himself. He would also be able to export it if, because of his disability, he went home, but that is as far as it is exported at the moment.

My Lords, as for the Committee's observations on the subject of contributory unemployment benefit for EEC migrant workers, I would merely remark that there are in fact no specific proposals in the Action Programme for extending the present rules for this benefit, which are currently embodied in the EECs social security regulations. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned the rules, which have been in force here since April 1973, have not given rise to any undue difficulty. It is, of course, true that if a worker from another EEC country becomes unemployed, registers here and remains for four weeks, is available for work and afterwards goes home, he can be paid up to a period of three months. That payment is made by the authorities in his home country. Payment on their part is made subject to the conditions we specify concerning registration and availability for work. We arc required to reimburse the other authorities later, although we hope eventually to make arrangements with the other States for mutual waiver of these costs.

At present, the unemployed worker whose home is elsewhere within the EEC and who leaves without registering and without remaining four weeks is not, of course, entitled to payment. He is entitled to aggregate his contributions, but that would arise only when he commenced paying contributions in his own country. It may be that by mutual arrangement there could in future be some improvement on that, but that is as far as I would go. On the question of supplementary benefit we contend that this is a social payment and is outside the scope of the proposed co-ordination of regulations.

My Lords, paragraph 3 of the Select Committee's Report refers to an apparent conflict between proposals relating to vocational training for migrants and the policy of the United Kingdom in this matter. Although I ought perhaps to explain what is involved here, I do not think that in practice difficulty need arise. The position is that anyone entering this country to take work, other than EEC nationals, has first to obtain a work permit from the Department of Employment. It has been the Government's policy for some years that, with a few minor exceptions, one of the conditions governing the issue of such permits is that they shall be for specific employment, involving a measure of skill, and a skill which is not available from the resident labour force. Permits may be renewable annually, but after four years the worker concerned is free of permit controls. To ensure that the conditions of entry are met during the period of permit control, the permit holder is not permitted to change his job without the prior approval of the Department of Employment, and he is not eligible for Government-sponsored vocational training. I quite accept that potentially there is a risk here of conflict between our existing rules, and possible action by the Community so far as rights to training for migrants are concerned, but the Government do not believe that there should be insuperable difficulty in ensuring that any arrangements approved by the Council will not adversely affect the arrangements we operate as an essential part of work permit control.

On the subject of mother tongue and culture tuition, the Select Committee has suggested at paragraph 5 that local education authorities might not be prepared to accept responsibility for such provision. The case for such provision is in itself very complex and no general rule applicable to all cases would be safe. The United Kingdom has argued in the course of discussions in Brussels that, as is the customary practice in the United Kingdom, decisions on curriculum affecting school children rest with those best able to assess the individual's needs; that is, the school and the local education authority, in consultation, as appropriate, with parents.

On the question of mandatory awards, referred to by the Select Committee in paragraph 6 of its Report, the Commission has taken the view that our residence rules, applying as they do to United Kingdom as well as non-United Kingdom nationals, are compatible with Community obligations.

On the question of information, there is a British leaflet now available for aid to immigrants, and next year the Community will be producing several leaflets of their own in all languages. I think that kind of communication is vital. I would remind the House that the action programme covers much more than we have debated. It is very largely—not wholly, but very largely—concerned with the problems of the Continent, problems which are not quite with us; we have problems, but they are somewhat different.

In conclusion, I should like to say something of the United Kingdom Government's attitude towards future Community action based on the draft action programme. As I mentioned earlier, the United Kingdom Government fully supported the prominence given to action for the benefit of migrants in the Community's Social Action Programme. We have continued in the discussion within the Council machinery on the Commission's draft action programme to support in principle early agreement on action to secure fair treatment of migrants and their families. We have argued that this should be directed to longer objectives of extending to those allowed into Member-States for work rights and access to benefits equal to those available to nationals. I am sure that your Lordships would not wish to dispute either the importance of fair treatment for migrants within the Community or the general objectives to which the Government are working. That is not to say, of course, that particular proposals put forward by the Commission may be either undesirable or insufficient, and it is to this to which the Report of the Select Committee is largely directed.

Your Lordships will have had the opportunity of considering the information which the Government have made available about their attitude towards the details of the proposals in the Explanatory Memorandum submitted to Parliament on 28th May, and more particularly the Supplementary Memorandum submitted on 27th November. I hope this information, together with what I have said today, will help allay any fears which your Lordships may feel about the implications of the decisions which the Council of Ministers will be taking on the draft action programme at its meeting on 18th December. I can assure the House that before these decisions are taken the Government will pay close attention to the comments in the Report and to the comments which have been made in this debate.


My Lords, may I briefly thank the two noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady Elles, who have taken part in this debate, and thank Lord Alexander of Potter hill for his valuable contribution. May I also thank the Minister for the reply he has given—which I will study with great care tomorrow—and, through him, thank the Departmental representatives who gave very considerable help to the Sub-Committee in this matter. I am left with just one worry. So much is happening in Brussels, so much is emerging from Brussels, and unless these scrutinies arouse public interest and, where appropriate, public concern, we shall find ourselves faced with a vast number of changes which we may or may not like but of which we are wholly innocent until they in fact happen. Much more concern, much more interest, much more activity, much larger attendances, should be related to what is happening and what is emerging from Brussels. That is no criticism of the Common Market; it is a word of warning that much is being passed off as dull and unimportant when in fact it is very important and sometimes crucial to the life of this country.

On Question, Motion agreed to.