HL Deb 07 October 1981 vol 424 cc107-8

2.58 p.m.

The Duke of Portland

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 why the flow of immigrants from former dominions and colonies since these became independent has been such as to necessitate the imposition of drastic restrictions whereas prior to 1945 there were no restrictions affecting the right of entry of citizens of British colonies and dominions to the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 was introduced following the large increase in the previous few years in the number of Commonwealth citizens coming to this country to work or to settle. Since 1962 further measures have been necessary to limit the numbers coming here for settlement in line with our capacity to receive them.

The Duke of Portland

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

My Lords, will the Minister not agree that in fact the answer to the noble Duke's Question is that pre-war this country had large unemployment, and therefore was not an attractive place to which anyone would migrate; that in fact there were other places—for example, the United States of America—which, under the New Deal, was expanding and was therefore more attractive as a place to which people might go; that the war changed all this because during the war many people from the Commonwealth came here, not only in the forces but also to assist in manufacturing; and that post-war Britain was in fact short of labour and people were encouraged to come from the Commonwealth in order to meet that need? Would the noble Lord not agree that that is the answer to the noble Duke's Question?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, there is obviously a great deal in what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, says that is true, but that does not, I think, contradict the main point in the Answer which I gave to my noble friend the Duke of Portland, which was that there were reasons concerning the capacity of this country to receive people which prompted Parliament to agree that the 1962 legislation was necessary.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, would my noble friend the Minister not agree that there is in the country a very large body of opinion which holds that in the past Administrations permitted too large an inflow of people into this country, particularly following the illegal entry and the over-staying of permits that there had been? Would not any further encouragement to a already too large flow into this country only add to the cost and misery of unemployment in this country?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the Government made it clear from the time they came into office that they were committed to a both firm and fair immigration policy as was set out in the election manifesto. Part of that is dealing firmly with those who are illegal entrants into this country.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, is it not true that we have a very strict bar on the entrance of Commonwealth immigrants and, for the record, that Mr. Enoch Powell when he was Minister of Health was one of the greatest encouragers of coloured immigrants from India and the West Indies and his behaviour is a disgrace as a result of that previous behaviour?