HL Deb 21 March 1988 vol 495 cc11-25

3.5 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Termination of saving in respect of Commonwealth citizens settled before 1973]:

Lord Elwyn-Jones moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 6, leave out ("repealed") and insert ("amended by substituting for the word "wives" the word "spouses" ").

The noble and learned Lord said: We now embark upon the Committee stage of a Bill of great importance and a good deal of complexity, certainly so far as my attempt to understand it is concerned. The amendment proposes to amend the first section of the Immigration Act 1971. Clause 1 of the Bill repeals Section 1 of that Act and thereby removes the only absolute right to family unity in British law. The Bill's proposal to remove that right breaks the promise which was given to people settled here for over 14 years and which has been repeated by previous Conservative governments.

Section 1(5) of the 1971 Act provides: The rules"— that is, the immigration 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".

In that section the language and the use of the words "citizens and their wives" envisages that the settlement here of male Commonwealth citizens is the essential right but that freedom of settlement of their wives and children is a derivative and a secondary right. That language contrasts with that of the law of the EC, which of course applies to us and which operates in this as in other EC countries. It acknowledges the rights of spouses of either sex to come and go freely under EC law. That means that "spouses" embraces wives—if that is not too unhappy an expression, and I do not think it is—as well as husbands.

That is not the language used in subsection (5), and therefore we propose not to repeal the provision but to amend it by substituting for the word "wives" the word "spouses". That will repair the defect which exists in the language of Section 1(5), which ousts the presumption of the interpretation Acts of 1889 and 1978 that the female form of words includes the male.

The amendment is obviously technical. Nevertheless, it has considerable potential importance. The purpose of the amendment is to achieve parity as regards husbands and wives between our law and EC law. It will ensure that immigration rules are so framed that men shall be no less free than women to enter and remain in the United Kingdom in accordance with the immigration rules in force at the passing of the Bill. This is essentially an egalitarian measure as between men and women, husbands and wives. For that reason I feel sure that it will achieve the support of the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Bonham-Carter

It is a great pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, who has explained the nature of the amendment. I support it. Clause 1 repeals Section 1(5) of the 1971 Act which has been found to be sexually discriminatory. That is why an amendment to the 1971 Act is thought to be necessary. I argue that the only amendment required is the very simple one that the noble and learned Lord has proposed.

I do not know why this Bill has been introduced. There has been no widespread cry against a flood of 25 polygamous wives every year. Primary immigration is dropping; secondary immigration is dropping. The Bill was precipitated by an election letter. I can see no other reason for it. As the noble and learned Lord has said, it is a breach of an undertaking written into the 1971 Act—written into an Act of Parliament. Some argue that governments cannot bind their successors. At the best of times this has always seemed to me a somewhat tenuous argument. It is particularly tenuous if the government in question are of the same political complexion as the predecessor whose undertaking they propose not to honour. If that technical doctrine were taken seriously it would mean that no undertaking by any government would be worth the Hansard upon which it is printed.

That is one reason why the Bill seems to me a somewhat serious one. It calls into question the whole reliability of pledges given by governments. As a consequence of this unreliability—this question of the honour of governments—we are asking in subsequent amendments for affirmative resolutions of both Houses to be introduced under the Bill. No honourable person would behave as this Government have behaved in respect of a pledge given to a whole group of people. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is an honourable man; we all know that. He would not behave in such a manner in his personal or business life. It seems strange that the rules, the norms, the values and the propriety which apparently bind individuals in their private and business lives are not relevant to the behaviour of governments.

We wish to amend the clause in order to conform with the ruling of the European Court. The method the Government have chosen is characteristically restrictive. The restrictiveness is characteristic of the whole Bill. The Bill, it can be argued, deprives husbands of rights and places them in the inferior position in which their wives found themselves. It is somewhat ironic after the Chancellor of the Exchequer has removed financial discrimination against married women by levelling them up to the position of unmarried couples that the Committee should be asked today to deal with a similar anomaly by levelling down. That is the central argument I put forward about this Bill and this particular clause.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, argued at Second Reading that it is wrong and anomalous to distinguish between those born before 1973 and those born after that date. That distinction was deliberately and carefully written into the 1971 Act. It was an anomaly which the Act inscribed in the law. When did this anomaly become intolerable? All laws of this nature create arbitrary distinctions. The noble Earl may remember the British Nationality Act 1981 which distinguishes between a child horn abroad of a British woman after 1st January 1983 and that child's brother or sister born before 1983. Is that anomaly intolerable? Will we now have an amendment to that Act to abolish the anomaly? I believe that the noble Earl will need to answer that very simple question if he really asks the Committee to take seriously the position on anomalies.

This Bill introduces elsewhere huge anomalies to which we shall be drawing the attention of the Committee. In particular I refer to the distinction between EC citizens and citizens of this country. Here is an anomaly to which the noble Earl referred at Second Reading. I hope he will explain why what he found tolerable in 1971 is intolerable in 1988. Perhaps the noble Earl can explain why an anomaly introduced in 1981 is tolerable while an anomaly introduced earlier is not.

The virtue of the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, is that it is simple. That is a great virtue in the law and a rare one. It maintains an undertaking which the Government solemnly wrote into the law. It is non-discriminatory. And it levels up, not down.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Renton

When the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, suggests that there is an anomaly in our law between the admission of citizens of the EC and citizens of the Commonwealth, I wonder if he is really suggesting that Commonwealth citizens should all be given the right of entry which, under the Treaty, we have granted to EC citizens? If so, it would seem to be inconsistent with what he said at Second Reading. He made it clear then that he and his party were opposed to mass immigration. If we were to repeal the control of Commonwealth immigration, that is what we would have.

Lord Bonham-Carter

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. The proposal that I support is written into the amendment to which my name is committed.

Lord Renton

That I understand. It puzzled me somewhat when the noble Lord went a good deal wider than the amendment. He has drawn attention to what he considers to be an anomaly but which most of us do not consider to be so. Most of us do not believe there is an unjustifiable anomaly between the treatment of Commonwealth citizens and those of the EC.

Let us see where we are agreed, because in a controversial matter which arouses strong feelings it is best to find agreement if we can. In Amendment No. 1 the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, is assuming, just as the Government are assuming, that subsection (5) of Section 1 of the Immigration Act 1971 shall be either repealed or replaced. Therefore it is a question of how this is done. Perhaps it would help the Committee if I were to remind it of the terms of subsection (5). It is not very long and I think it would be helpful to put it on record so that Members of the Committee can have it in their minds. It reads: The rules shall be so framed"— the rules mentioned in the previous subsection, to be made by the Secretary of State— that Commonwealth citizens settled in the United Kingdom"— I stress the words "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". Therefore we are talking about how the rules shall he framed.

Subsection (5), as has been correctly, accurately and appropriately mentioned, is discriminatory. The European Court found that it was discriminatory. It benefits the wives of male Commonwealth citizens and not the husbands of female Commonwealth citizens. In the case of Abdulaziz the European Court of Human Rights held that our Parliament was guilty of sex discrimination. That is what the Government are trying to correct. I find that the indignation expressed in the speeches today and at Second Reading was somewhat misplaced. I hope that I am not being unfair.

The Government are now asking Parliament to put this right. One should mention in passing that in the 15 years in which we have tried to operate it—since 1973 when it came into force—it has been found difficult to administer and has had some rather strange results. For example, at col. 365 of the Official Report at Second Reading my noble friend Lord Ferrers mentioned a case where the Court of Apppeal found that a woman liable to deportation can render herself wholly immune from deportation by marrying a Commonwealth citizen man who was settled here on 1st January 1973. That is only one example (but I understand that there have been others) of the strange and, if I may borrow a phrase, anomalous results of the operation of the subsection. After 15 years' experience it is right for us to consider a change in the law.

Without repeating the arguments given by my noble friend and without labouring what I have already said, I believe the simple thing to do is to repeal subsection (5) of Section 1 of the 1971 Act. Obviously we have to be careful how we do it so as not to cause injustice or hardship. But, there again, at Second Reading my noble friend Lord Ferrers made it perfectly clear that it does not mean that those who settled here before 1973 would be unable to bring their wives and children to join them. It means that they will have to satisfy the same requirements in the immigration rules as those who do not at present benefit from this subsection. I must confess that I find that perfectly reasonable and I hope that my noble friend will not advise the Committee to accept Amendment No 1.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, for introducing the amendment and for commenting that it is a complex Bill. It is reassuring for one who is not a lawyer to learn that. As I try to find my way around its complexities I am glad to know that others also do not find it entirely straightforward.

I am flattered to find that Amendment No. 1 to which I have put my name arose in part from a comment I made at Second Reading. I listened with great care to the arguments put forward at Second Reading by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. It seemed to me that their major argument in favour of the Bill was about numbers. We heard a good deal about numbers. We heard about the tens of thousands who were still coming into this country. We were also assured by the noble Earl that the numbers affected by the Bill before us would be very small. In other words, it is as if we are screwing a tap which is dripping only very slightly in order to try to cut down the drips. We have to ask whether the small numbers involved justify the cost of squeezing people in that way. Some of us argued at Second Reading that the cost would be so great that it could not be justified by the fact that small numbers might be excluded.

At Second Reading there were two arguments against Clause 1. The first has already been underlined by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. It is that Clause 1 is a breach of the undertaking already given by a previous government. The second reason for disquiet about Clause 1 concerns family life. It will make it that much more difficult for certain families to be united. This is the thrust of the argument from the Churches in relation to a number of clauses in the Bill. It is yet another threat—involving perhaps only a small number of families but nevertheless a threat—to the family life of a number of people settled in this country.

I listened carefully just now to the noble Lord, Lord Renton. He said quite rightly that what was at stake was how the immigration rules were to be framed in order to do justice to the decision of the European Court. He commented that to pass this amendment would introduce an anomaly in that it was possible under present legislation for a woman affected by a deportation order to overcome that order by marrying a Commonwealth citizen settled here before 1973. That is how I understood him and he will correct me if I am wrong. What is at stake here is the question of whether the immigration rules affect those who were settled before 1973. Those rules include the business of not being a liability to public funds.

It is perfectly possible that a Commonwealth citizen settled here before 1973 would satisfy those conditions and that therefore the marriage to such a person of somebody who was due to be deported would still overcome that order. It seems to me that however we frame this legislation there will be anomalies. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, has already pointed that out. To overcome all the anomalies in the legislation will be extremely difficult. Therefore to bring up the example of one anomaly as an argument against an amendment is simply to leave out of account all kinds of other anomalies which will continue.

This is a simple and straightforward way of bringing about what the European Court wished to occur; namely, the overcoming of the discrimination in the 1971 legislation. It is simple and straightforward and does so by an extension rather than a reduction of rights. That is the thrust of our case.

3.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said that this Bill was a matter of some complexity. If such a distinguished noble and learned Lord who is qualified in these matters finds it complex, I still have hope. It is a complicated matter; anything that concerns immigration is complicated. The noble and learned Lord said that the clause was discriminatory and that by introducing the amendment, which he has put down with a number of his colleagues from different parts of the Committee, the discriminatory nature of the Bill as it stands would be removed.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said that he could not understand how people who were honourable in themselves could not be honourable in government. If I may say so, I find that rather a curious argument—not that there is any dishonour between the Government and private individuals—because when an Act is passed it does not mean that it is passed for all time and that there can never he any alteration to it, or that Parliament is sacrosanct. In this clause we are saying that it is now 15 years since the 1971 Act was enacted and those whom Section 1(5) was intended to apply to have had all that time in which to bring their families to this country to join them without any question being raised as to their ability to support or accommodate themselves.

I differ from what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon said in respect of the breaking up of families. The provision does not mean the breaking up of families; all that will happen now is that people will have to show that they have the ability to support and maintain those people without recourse to public funds, merely because it is now 15 years after the provision was put into effect. The reason it was introduced into the Bill, as I understand it, was because there was some justifiable concern at that time that those who were already resident in this country might be worried about their future. When the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, asks, "Why was it acceptable to the Government of the day and yet is not acceptable to the Government now?" I should remind him that it was not the Government's wording; it was part of a wording introduced by Members of this Chamber in an amendment to the Bill.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said that the whole purpose of the amendment was to try to get the equality of the sexes right. He referred to the 1891 Act.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

It was 1981!

Earl Ferrers

Yes, indeed; it was the 1981 Act. I remember once being told by a civil servant: "The male embraces the female in the Civil Service". I replied that I did not think you had to join the Civil Service for that. It is of course true to say that in the normal course of events the two sexes go together.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said that the purpose of the amendment was to make the Bill non-discriminatory. I am bound to tell him that it would not have that effect. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon said that very few people were going to be affected by this provision. However, I should remind him that it was the judgment of the European Court that stipulated that our law as it is at present is discriminatory. The noble Lord has tabled his amendment to try to make it nondiscriminatory. However, the fact is that, although it would no longer discriminate in its application as between men and women, there would remain discrimination between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth citizens and between those who settled in this country before 1st January 1973 and those who settled here afterwards.

It is already the case that, within a family containing two sons one of whom was born in 1972 and one born a year later, Section 1(5) provides that, should they in future marry foreign girls, the elder of the two would be able to bring his wife here without meeting the normal tests and immigration rules, while the younger brother would be subject to them. The lack of sense in the present position is further exacerbated by the fact that if those two children were girls, and not boys, they would both now be subject to the requirements of the rules should they wish to bring their husbands to settle here at some time in the future.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon said that this is where their amendment would make things better. However, it would in fact put a further twist of illogicality into the situation. For example, in the case of the two girls to which I have already referred, if that provision were to apply, it would be the elder sister, and not the younger, who would be in the favourable position of not having to satisfy any particular tests before bringing a husband to this country. Therefore, if the Committee were to accept the amendment which has been moved—for reasons which I entirely understand—the Act would in fact continue to be discriminatory and it would be discriminatory within families. We think the right way to deal with this is to remove the clause altogether and thereby remove the discrimination.

Lord Pitt of Hampstead

I wish the Government would try to face the issue. We must recognise what is at stake here. When the Immigration Bill was going through Parliament in 1971, there was tremendous concern in the black community that their rights were being taken away from them. The Home Secretary of the day gave an undertaking that that would not be so. This Chamber went further than that and tabled an amendment to the Bill—which the Government finally accepted—to safeguard that position. Therefore the black community felt satisfied. It is still satisfied but, when the Government repeal Section 1(5) of the 1971 Act, it will once again be upset. If a pledge made in that connection can be taken back, that means that any other pledge that has been made can be taken hack. That is why it is unwise to go down that road.

It is recognised that the Government are in difficulty with the European Court of Justice, because the court has ruled that the section is sexist. The amendment would remove that aspect and it would no longer be sexist. Therefore the Government should accept it rather than proceeding to repeal the section. It is no use talking about the fact that it is discriminatory between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth citizens. Why should it not be? After all, when all is said and done, of course it is discriminatory; any law relating to immigration would be discriminatory as regards the citizens of a country. Therefore, that argument is a bit of a nonsense, if I may say so. It is bound to be discriminatory between the people who were in this country before 1973 and those who came afterwards. That is an understandable situation; the law introduced in 1971 was intended to control the people who came afterwards. All the law provided was that those who were here at the time had their rights safeguarded. Why then can we not recognise and respect our pledge and continue to honour it?

The fact that the provision was introduced 15 years ago is also a serious blot; it is a blot on the Administration. I say that because what has happened over the years is that people have experienced the maximum amount of difficulty in bringing their wives and children to this country, as all manner of obstacles have been placed in their way; for example, about the children not being their children and so on.

We have advanced. We now have DNS to prove whose children they are. There will no longer be any difficulty about that. There has been an argument about public funds. If someone has been living here for 15 years they have been contributing to public funds tremendously. If at the same time they had no children here, they were paying for the education of others' children while theirs were elsewhere. They were not receiving child benefit; they were paying it for other people. It is nonsense to talk about such people living on public funds.

I wish that the Government would think through these matters. We are talking about people who have been here for 15 years. During those 15 years they have been contributing to the state through taxes, rates, their work and their contributions to society. In 1971 the Government gave them a pledge. I ask them for Christ's sake to keep it. The amendment merely asks the Government, since they are worried about the court's ruling—obviously they must be worried about the ruling of the European Court—to remove the sexist element. That is what the amendment will do. I hope that if the Government do not understand that, the Committee will. I plead with the Committee to see that parliamentary pledges are regarded as pledges that will always be observed.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

I should like to say why I feel that I should support the amendment. I am sure that all sides of the Committee appreciate that we are dealing with real people. Although the numbers affected by the proposed legislation are comparatively small, these people form a significant group in the life of our country. The point about family life and the strengthening of family life is important whether it applies to many or to few.

Some years ago I spent a day with the Bangladeshi Divided Families' Association in my diocese in Oldham where many Bangladeshi people came to work in the mills when we were glad to have them come to this country. The Committee will remember that the studies carried out by all-party committees working with the Bangladeshi community in particular indicated that it is one that for a variety of reasons faces more difficulties than any other ethnic minority in our country.

I vividly remember the day that I spent with the Bangladeshi community. I heard about the difficulties that the men had in being reunited with their wives and families. I admit that this is a complex matter. It was difficult in Bangladesh to determine the truth of certain family relationships, and yet one by one many families have been allowed to come here while with others there are great delays.

In preparation for the debate I thought that I would ask one of my staff in the diocese to interview Bangladeshis again to see whether the situation was continuing. I am afraid that I was unable to do it myself. I shall give two examples of the kind of people who will be affected by the legislation. One is a male whom I shall call Abdullah for the sake of the debate. He was originally from Bangladesh. He came here before 1968. Section 1(5) applies to him. His wife will be interviewed at some point but well after the legislation is likely to go through. As is relatively normal, she could be refused right of entry due to insufficient proof of relationship. Any further application would then come under the new rules. As he is working for a low income, below the subsistence threshold for DHSS purposes, Abdullah feels that she will never get here because he will never prove that he can support her and the children without recourse to public funds. He feels that she has fallen foul of an informal quota system which is not supposed to exist.

The second example, whom I shall also call Abdullah, has been here since 1959. He is now in his middle fillies. He has taken early retirement from the buses. He has a house, but he will not work again. If he does not put in an application before the repeal of Section 1(5), he feels that he will be permanently separated, because, although he has paid his taxes and so on for 25 years, under the likely rules which he feels would apply to him, he could not prove that he could support his wife without recourse to public funds.

Although these people are a small group in our communities, many of them come from the more vulnerable sections of ethnic minorities, and the legislation may affect them. The point made by my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon about the need to consider the effects on family life is valid.

I find it difficult to understand why, in response to the decision of the European Court, the Government did not decide to implement the change the other way and give wives permission to bring in their husbands.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, with his customary modesty, said that this was a complex Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who has that quality in common with my noble and learned friend, assented. That does not mean that this is a complicated amendment. The issues are transparently clear, in my submission. They cover two points. First, is Parliament prepared, and is this place prepared, to enter into a breach of faith? Secondly, is Parliament prepared, and is this place prepared, as at this moment if the amendment is defeated, to dictate a matter of social policy in our country which I believe to be highly undesirable?

First, on the issue of good faith, the noble Earl said that Parliament can always repeal something which Parliament has previously enacted in the light of experience. I wonder whether he would assent to this proposition: one does not do that unless there are exceptional new reasons for doing so, especially when a previous Home Secretary, of the same political complexion as the present Government, dealing with arguments that were advanced in this place and in the other place, said that, if the 1971 Act were passed and it did not deal fairly with people who were settled in this country, it would be a wrong parliamentary enactment.

This place, with people of all political persuasions contributing, and with the leader in that matter being the noble Lord, Lord Wade, sitting on the then Liberal Benches, passed an amendment. That amendment said, and meant, that it was wrong for that Act to be passed without in the future protecting the dependants of the people who were settled here, as defined in that Act.

Mr. Maudling, the Home Secretary at that time, solemnly, and without talking in terms of inconsistencies—whether they be of someone born a year later, or whatever—used words which I ventured to quote on Second Reading, I quote them again. Mr. Maudling said: I said on Second Reading—and I was very anxious that this should be made known—that Commonwealth citizens already here free of conditions, which means, broadly speaking, all working immigrants, will not be affected. There will be a right to work where they wish, as at present, and a right of automatic citizenship, as at present. There will be no new papers to be carried, and they will be allowed to bring in dependants. That WAS the undertaking I gave, and I have not departed from it in any way".—[Official Report, Commons, 19/10/71; col. 551.] In order to hind that undertaking into solemn legislation he concluded by saying at col. 552: By these Amendments we are giving statutory form to the undertaking I gave on Second Reading that people already accepted for settlement in this country would not be prejudiced by the Bill. It is no answer to say, "Well, we have had experience for so many years". The noble Earl did not talk about bad experience, difficult experience, exceptional circumstances for breaching that undertaking and that statutory provision. People trusted the Government when that provision was passed. I solemnly ask whether, if the present provision is not amended in this way, the Committee is worthy of that trust. It is a weak argument to talk in terms of the European Court of Human Rights and its decision. The decision was: "British Government, you have not gone far enough. You must not do this in regard to husbands if you do not do it for wives and vice versa". It is like saying to those judges dealing with human rights: "Do you know what the British Government are going to do because of your judgment? Because of your judgment they are going to say, 'it was wrong, was it, to do it for husbands and not for wives? Well, we will not do it for either. This is our conception of human rights. Thank you so much, European Court of Human Rights, for having got us out of all our difficulties'".

I ventured to give an example at Second Reading; I shall somewhat alter it. Is it not the same as if there is a storm and noble Lords, in their mercy, open the door and admit a wife? Somebody says, "Is not that a little wrong? The husband is on the doorstep too". You say, "Oh, really? Then in those circumstances I think I shall push the wife out". Is this the way in which we deal with immigration and with promises?

I turn shortly to the second issue. It is a social issue and, as I said, we shall he deciding it in the course of the debate. We on these Benches understand completely that we have to control new immigration. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, was quite right when he said that it has to be controlled. Most of us regret it, but our island areas are limited, our employment is limited and our housing is limited. On both sides we agree that there has to be limitation. This is the time, is it not, to consolidate? This is the time to reaffirm a fair immigration policy. This is the time when we want social conditions which are just and which are harmonious with good family life because good family life breeds good citizenship. The numbers have been going down; as has been said, they went down to 40,000 in 1986. I asked the Minister whether he would kindly give me the figures for 1987 and, with his usual courtesy, he gave them so far as he could. They were approximately 35,000 for the first nine months of 1987. So there were no exceptional circumstances in regard to mounting immigration, primary or secondary.

In these circumstances, quite apart from the pledge and the decency argument, as a matter of policy do we not wish to ensure that those who are here, and properly here, who have been settled here for years, can bring over their families, including their children up to the age of 18, so that both spouses can be reunited, in the hope that we shall cement instead of divide and unite instead of separate? In those circumstances, we can say with good consciences that we have done our best to produce good citizenship among our immigrant community. If we do not pass this amendment, we may have much on our consciences.

Earl Ferrers

One of the great pleasures of being in this House is being able to hear good advocacy, and we have heard the remarkable advocacy of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I say in all seriousness that it is a pleasure to hear it, even if one may not agree with the conclusions or with the point which he is trying to make.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is a distinguished lawyer. He is also a distinguished parliamentarian and politician. For those reasons I find it quite astonishing that he fell into the elementary trap of making a clause stand part debate speech and did not address himself to the particular amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, fell into the same trap. All the arguments of both noble Lords were that the clause should not stand part. What we are addressing ourselves to is Amendment No. 1.

Lord Mishcon

I know that the noble Earl will forgive me, as he always does, and allow me to intervene, because he is very courteous. However, if we were debating whether the clause should stand part, the noble Earl knows as well as I do—and he is always fair—that the argument which he would address to the Committee would be that the clause cannot stand part because we should be in breach of the European Court of Human Rights. If the clause is to remain, we should be in breach of that judgment. That is exactly why I am trying to say to the Committee that we should be upholding that judgment and altering the word "wives" to "spouses". We cannot do anything else.

Earl Ferrers

That is all very fine, but the noble Lord did slightly sweep away the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights because he said "Oh, the Government would say 'here comes the European Court of Human Rights to solve all our problems' ". The fact of the matter is that the noble Lord is suggesting that we add certain words. I tried to explain to the Committee that if we added those words we should not be eliminating discrimination but adding to it. I made it perfectly clear why and gave the example of a person who was here in 1972 and one who was born later. At the moment there is discrimination between the two. If these words were to be added to the Bill, there would be discrimination between girls who were born before and after that time. It really is not an answer to say that if we pass this amendment we shall all be in the clear, that we would satisfy the European Court of Human Rights and that there would be no discrimination. There will be.

Lord Bonham-Carter

Perhaps the noble Earl will permit me to intervene. I am not sure that I quite follow his argument. Is he saying that if we pass this clause as amended there will be sexual discrimination? We have never argued that there will be no discrimination if this amendment is passed. All we have said is that if the amendment is passed, the sexual discrimination to which the court objected would be eliminated. Is he saying that that is incorrect?

Earl Ferrers

No. Of course sexual discrimination will be eliminated if we pass the amendment. However, this amendment will have other effects which will make it discriminatory.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

The Committee has heard distinguished speeches and I shall now be brief. What is in issue here is whether we are going to perpetrate the further breaking up of families, which would be one of the consequences of the government proposal. The maintenance of family unity, especially in the immigrant communities, is absolutely crucial at this time of so much law being infringed and so much disorder. I venture to invite the Committee to weigh very carefully the guidance we have received from the two right reverend Prelates and from other parts of the Committee. I invite the Committee to express a view on this very important issue as regards the future of social harmony in our country.

4 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 95, Not-Contents, 120.

Amherst, E. Blackstone, B.
Ardwick, L. Bonham-Carter, L.
Attlee, E. Boston of Faversham, L
Aylestone, L. Bottomley, L.
Basnett, L. Briginshaw, L.
Birk, B. Burton of Coventry, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. McNair, L. [Teller.]
David, B. Mais, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Manchester, Bp.
Dean of Beswick, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Mayhew, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Mishcon, L.
Edmund-Davies, L. Mulley, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Nicol, B.
Ennals, L. Northfield, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Ogmore, L.
Falkender, B. Oram, L.
Falkland, V. Paget of Northampton, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Peston, L.
Fletcher, L. Phillips, B.
Gallacher, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Galpern, L. Ponson by of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grey, E. Porritt, L.
Hampton, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Hayter, L. Reilly, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Ripon, Bp.
Heycock, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Hughes, L. Sainsbury, L.
Hunt, L. Seebohm, L.
Hylton, L. Serota, B.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Shackleton, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Shepherd, L.
Jacques, L. Stallard, L.
Jay, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Jeger, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
John-Mackie, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Kennet, L. Tordoff, L.
Killearn, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Leatherland, L. Underhill, L.
Listowel, E. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L
Longford, E. Whaddon, L.
Lovell-Davis, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
McCarthy, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Effingham, E.
Ampthill, L. Ellenborough, L.
Arran, E. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Bauer, L. Faithfull, B.
Beaverbrook, L. Ferrers, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Beloff, L. Gainford, L.
Belstead, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Bessborough, E. Greenhill of Harrow, L.
Birdwood, L. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Blake, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Blatch, B. Harvington, L.
Blyth, L. Havers, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Hesketh, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hives, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Butterworth, L. Hooper, B.
Caldecote, V. Hylton-Foster, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Jessel, L.
Carnock, L. Kaberry of Adel, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Kimball, L.
Cottesloe, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Cowley, E. Kinnaird, L.
Craigavon, V. Lane-Fox, B.
Craigmyle, L. Lauderdale, E.
Crawshaw, L. Layton, L.
Cromartie, E. Long, V.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Lothian, M.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Lovat, L.
De Freyne, L. Lurgan, L.
Denham, L. [Teller] Lyell, L.
Derwent, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Dilhorne, V. Macleod of Borve, B.
Donegall, M. Mancroft, L.
Dundee, E. Margadale, L.
Eccles, V. Marley, L.
Merrivale, L. Sempill, Ly.
Mersey, V. Shannon, E.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Munster, E. Stockton, E.
Nelson, E. Strange, B.
Newall, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Nugent of Guildford, L.
O'Brien of Lothbury, L. Strathspey, L.
Onslow, E. Sudeley, L.
Orkney, E. Suffield, L.
Oxfuird, V. Swansea, L.
Ponder, L. Swinfen, L.
Penrhyn, L. Terrington, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Teviot, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Polwarth, L. Thurlow, L.
Rankeillour, L. Trafford, L.
Renton, L. Trumpington, B.
Rippon of Hexham, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Rodney, L. Waldegrave, E.
Romney, E. Ward of Witley, V.
St. Davids, V. Wolfson, L.
Salisbury, M. Young, B.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Viscount Long

I beg to move that the House do now resume for the Statement.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.