HL Deb 06 December 1977 vol 387 cc1459-61

2.45 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 there is any truth in the Press reports that the French Government have suspended the facility whereby families of "guest" workers join them in France; and whether Her Majesty's Government regard such action as a breach of human rights comparable with the actions of South Africa recently condemned by the UN and the EEC.


My Lords, the French Government have not suspended the admission into France of the families of "guest" workers. Legislation recently enacted continues to allow "guest" workers to be joined in France by their families.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Can he say how many people are affected by the recent reprieve for illegal immigrants into this country, and what would be tile effective number of dependants allowed to come in under the present arrangements? Further, what, according to the most recent figures, are the numbers of dependants coming into the country under the 3,500 bodies limit at present existing?


My Lords, I could produce a number of figures, but I do not know that I should assist the noble Lord or your Lordships' House if I went through the full categories and the appropriate figures at this time. No doubt there are ways and means—the noble Lord is so good at this—of putting down Questions to elicit this precise information. For the moment, I can tell the noble Lord that it has not been found possible to make a reliable estimate of the number of the "illegal immigrants", as he calls them, who are subject to the amnesty and who may be found eligible to qualify in the terms extensively defined by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in a Statement made in the other place on 29th November. It is impossible to assess the number, but I should not think that it is very large.

With regard to the other information which the noble Lord sought, perhaps he and I could sit down together and possibly table a Question for Written Answer relating to these categories. I should be delighted, as always, to co-operate with the noble Lord.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for saying that, and I will take advantage of it and put down a Question for Written Answer with regard to the exact figures. But, reverting to his reply to the original Question, is it right to understand contrary to Press reports, that, with regard to families of dependants of foreign "guest" workers in the continental countries, there is at present no limit to the inflow of dependants?


My Lords, that is not quite the position. I believe that the position could be more precisely and more helpfully defined if the noble Lord followed the course which I have suggested to him. With regard to the position in France, although it is not for me to answer for the French Government—whose responsibility it is—the position is as I have set it out in my first Answer. The French Government have not suspended the admission into France of the families of "guest" workers and recent legislation in that country continues to allow "guest" workers to be joined in France by their families.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us are astonished by his generosity, first, in answering a question which has nothing to do with the Question on the Order Paper, and, secondly, in his offering to co-operate with the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, in his further Question, which we shall ail appreciate? Is it not the case that, if there are infringements of human rights in France or in Britain, they are peripheral compared with the overall denial of human rights which exists in South Africa?


My Lords, my noble friend is entitled to his view of my interpretation of co-operation. I believe that I am entitled to co-operate in a parliamentary sense with any Member of either House, and I propose to do so. That is the heart of our parliamentary democracy. As to my noble friend's animadversion, he is entitled to comparisons between what happens in this country and other countries. That is a matter of opinion. I probably share his opinion, but he does not expect me to engage in a mini-debate on that at the moment—or does he?


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, although we are not astonished, we greatly admire the noble Lord's generosity, of which no one stands in more need than the noble Lord, Lord Brockway?