HL Deb 14 July 1976 vol 373 cc313-6

2.56 p.m.


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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the efficiency of the arrangements for detecting illegal immigration.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, all reasonable and practicable measures are taken to prevent evasion of the immigration control. Both the police and the Immigration Service have special intelligence units to combat illegal entry; close co-operation with the authorities in neighbouring countries has been developed; and there has been a substantial increase in the resources devoted to this work.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer to my Question. May I ask him two short supplementary questions? Bearing in mind the length of our coastline, is there any organisation in existence for detection of illegal immigrants before they land on our coast and when they come within our five-mile limit? Secondly, assuming that the police are primarily responsible for detection of illegal immigration after people come ashore, can he give some explanation as to why, in the report of the Commissioner of Police to his honourable friend the Home Secretary, no mention was made of any prosecutions or convictions for illegal immigration in the year 1975, although other crime was categorised in the Commissioner's report? Would it not be useful that the public should be reassured that, given some information, proper action was being taken?


My Lords, the first point raised by the noble Lord really goes to the heart of the Answer I gave; that is, that intelligence units have been set up and the chief constable of the forces who are responsible for the coastline are well aware of the risk of illegal immigration. They have strong bilateral links with a number of forces on the mainland of Europe to ensure that people of this sort are detected. On the second question, I will have another look at the Commissioner's report. I do not think that there is anything particularly significant in it on this matter. So far as I am aware, convictions as such are not normally dealt with separately in the Commissioner's Report, but I shall gladly look at the matter and I am sure that the Commissioner will be interested to note what the noble Lord has said.


My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that here there is really a dual problem? On the one hand, there is the distress caused by the delay suffered by those who are genuinely entitled to come to this country and, on the other hand, there is the illegal entry of those who are not so entitled? Would he agree that it would be most unfortunate if this country were to give the impression that it was concerned only about the latter and not about the former?


My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord; that is perfectly right. At a time like the present we are obviously anxious to ensure the maintenance of tolerant, civilised relations with the immigrant community in this country. I think that we also have to accept the fact that there is some anxiety about the level of illegal immigration. Certainly, as I have indicated in my replies to the noble Lord's Question, the police take their responsibilities in this matter very seriously.


My Lords, when an immigrant takes up employment in this country, is there any check as to how he arrived in this country?


My Lords, there are various arrangements which are made in this connection so far as people newly arrived in this country are concerned, such as insurance cards, and so on. I shall write to the noble Lord and tell him in detail what they are. But steps taken so far as newly arrived people are concerned are, I think, fairly satisfactory.


My Lords, concerning the illegal entry which does come to the knowledge of the police, which is the larger number—those who have overstayed an agreed and indicated period for residence, or those who come in on day passes? It is, of course, very difficult to trace the latter.


My Lords, it is clearly difficult to work out exactly how many immigrants evade controls because, manifestly, one cannot measure that with any degree of precision. So far as numbers are concerned, between 1st January 1974 and 31st December 1975, 127 Commonwealth citizens and citizens of Pakistan were detained as illegal entrants at the time of entry, and 166 were found and detained after arrival.


My Lords, am I right in assuming that nobody can work in this country without an employment voucher, and is not this a very good safeguard that we have?


That is perfectly true, my Lords. The other arrangements, as my noble friend is well aware, concern our responsibilities so far as British passport holders in East Africa are concerned.