HL Deb 08 February 1993 vol 542 cc446-77

4.17 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the European Communities Committee on the Community Policy on Migration (10th Report. H.L. Paper 35).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the issue of migration within the Community—indeed, within the wider Europe—is one of general concern. It presents some of the most difficult challenges facing us at the end of the century.

At the time that Sub-Committee C started its inquiry the debate within the Community was under way and is still continuing. The Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs of the European Parliament was preparing its own report on migration and asylum. We had the benefit of hearing evidence from the chairman of that committee, Mr. Amédée Turner, QC, one of our British MEPs. In addition, I participated in a meeting on the subject in Brussels attended by MEPs and representatives from parliaments of other member states.

In the UK, the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee conducted an inquiry into migration control at the external borders of the Community. We were able to draw on its published evidence as well as on earlier reports of your Lordships' Select Committee. Only last week I was in Strasbourg at the Assembly of the Council of Europe. Many of the debates were concerned with issues of migration and the integration of immigrants. There was, therefore, much information available which the committee has tried to bring together in earlier sections of the report as background.

Two weeks ago your Lordships had a long debate on the Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill, a subject to which the House will be returning tomorrow in Committee. That inquiry was conducted between the first Asylum Bill, which was considered by another place before the general election and then fell, and the introduction of the current Bill. Although we tried to avoid duplication, there was inevitably an overlap in the subject matter covered.

The timing of the inquiry proved somewhat difficult, with delays arising from the availability of Community documentation, then the interval of the general election and your Lordships' consideration of the committee structure arising from the Jellicoe Report. Thus, the collection of evidence and the examination of witnesses had to be undertaken in a matter of a few weeks during the summer. Nevertheless, we were much helped and impressed by that evidence. We are grateful to all involved for the care with which it was presented.

The committee is also indebted to our Clerk, Mr John Ingram, for his tireless efforts on its behalf, Mrs. Eileen Denza, the legal adviser to the Select Committee, and Mr Richard Plender, QC, our specialist adviser. Both advisers helped us through the complications of Community legislation and its interrelationship with relevant international conventions. On a personal basis, I am grateful to all Members of the Select Committee for their help and support throughout the inquiry. I am also grateful to the Government for the welcome they have given to the report in their written response that has been made available for the debate today. There is much common ground between the committee and the Government, although I should like to press the Minister on a number of points.

Two issues were uppermost in the consideration of the committee throughout the inquiry: one was the nature and extent of the problem and the other was the Community's competence to act on the issue. The committee shared the general consensus apparent in both the evidence and in other documentation before it of the growing need for closer co-operation and co-ordination within the Community towards immigration from third countries. It accepted the distinction between long-term policies and short-term crisis management to respond to disturbances in Eastern Europe and the developing world, particularly Africa. The report concentrates upon the former. The committee recognised that at the present time the only practicable way forward was by intergovernmental co-operation, although it was noted that the Maastricht Treaty provided for some shared competence between member states and the Commission.

One problem of which the committee soon became aware was the much greater need for transparency in the discussions taking place under the inter-governmental procedure. The Home Office witnesses advised us that an ad hoc working group on immigration had been set up during the United Kingdom presidency in 1986 and operated on an inter-governmental basis—that is, outside the Treaty of Rome. That meant that its documentation was not open to the same kind of scrutiny by member parliaments as proposals emanating from the Commission, let alone the scrutiny afforded to Bills in the British Parliament. That was an issue raised both by witnesses in the United Kingdom and by European parliamentarians. The committee's recommendation that Council of Ministers statements on the issue should be reported orally to Parliament was a minimal request.

In its response, the Government accept that more information should be given to Parliament but are not committed at this stage to any precise arrangements. Perhaps the Minister can throw a little more light on the Government's thinking. It is vital to the public's understanding of very sensitive problems, as well as to the accountability of government to Parliament, that means of bringing these matters into the public domain should be devised. I hope that the Minister is able to comment further on this matter.

At paragraph 86 of the report the Select Committee make a number of suggestions about priorities in the work of the intergovernmental groups. I refer to the issue of fair treatment of long-stay immigrants who have not acquired nationality of a member state. This matter may not be so difficult in the United Kingdom as in some other states where legally resident immigrants can remain indefinitely without being able to acquire nationality and whose children born in that country are in a similar position. Nevertheless, even in the United Kingdom long-stay immigrants, who may have contributed considerably to our society, do not enjoy the same freedom of movement in the community as do nationals. I note that the Government intend to bear in mind the Select Committee's recommendation that after a period of at least 10 years the same rights should be extended to long-stay immigrants as to citizens. I hope that the Government will press our partners on this matter.

The Select Committee diverges from the Government on the issue of binding legislation to deal with racism and xenophobia. That is our principal conclusion and recommendation. At paragraph 79 of the report we describe the connection that we perceive between the problems of immigration and manifestations of racism and xenophobia in Europe. We recommend that the Community should take powers under the treaty to outlaw racism and xenophobia. It seems to the Select Committee to be entirely appropriate that the European Community as an outward-looking, multi-racial and multi-cultural community should take this step and reinforce the efforts of those in member states who are struggling to resist the re-emergence of racism in all its forms. The suggestion that the United Kingdom should take the initiative is based partly on the proposition that we among the member states have experienced immigration earlier than some of our continental partners. We have had the advantage of the operation of race relations legislation.

We believe that that legislation, despite its acknowledged imperfections, will present a useful contribution to a common framework of Community law against racism. We also believe that there will be support from the European Parliament and member states for the proposal which is relevant to the present situation in the Balkans and elsewhere. Agreement was reached on a similar issue only last week in Strasbourg.

I am sorry that the Government do not accept that the European Community has competence in this field. There was a very strong conviction on the part of some of the witnesses, particularly those from the Commission for Racial Equality, that the power was already there under the Treaty of Rome. That was amplified by legal opinion to the Commission for Racial Equality dated 26th June 1991. That is referred to on pages 63 and 64 of the evidence. I suppose that the question of competence is one that may be resolved by the European Court; but to obviate that and clarify the position beyond doubt, the Select Committee has recommended that an opportunity should be sought for the Treaty to be revised to that effect. We believe that the United Kingdom is the appropriate country to raise that issue. The response from the Government is disappointing. I hope that in the light of the discussion they may be persuaded to change their minds.

There are other detailed policy recommendations which largely relate to subjects that are likely to be handled in inter-governmental groups. We were particularly anxious that the Council of Ministers should not overlook the problems facing such small but important groups as unaccompanied children and the dependants of non-Community nationals who lose their spouse or breadwinner by reason of death, divorce or separation. No doubt the House will turn to matters of this kind in its detailed consideration of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill.

We recognise that a Community policy on migration would involve the necessity for some kind of machinery to ensure uniform interpretation of its body of common rules, whether those arose from treaty provisions or conventions and agreements covering the treatment of migrants. Although the European Court seems a natural home for a tribunal of this kind, it seemed to us that the nature and number of likely appeals, and the particular problems of those making them, would require a specialist body to deal with them. The Government, in their response, do not comment on this. Even if the Government rule out the competence of the Community in this area, there is surely still a need for a uniform interpretation of matters arising from conventions and agreements under the third pillar.

However, on the whole question of common rules, the Select Committee has a real reservation. It trusts that this method of reaching decisions will not be regarded as an opportunity to level downwards. In the course of taking evidence, there was a great fear among witnesses that the Dublin Convention and the common visa list might lead exactly to this. I hope that the Minister might be able to reassure the House on this matter.

Finally, I turn to the distinction that I made at the beginning between long-term Community policy and crisis management. The question of aid policies featured in much of the evidence. The Select Committee accepted the need and relevance of short-term aid to crisis areas, including aid to those developing countries who find themselves the recipients of refugee inflows. However, we saw long-term aid to the developing countries as an entirely different matter with its own separate moral, humanitarian and economic imperatives.

While every encouragement should be given to would be migrants to stay at home through the arrangement of trade measures and the application of know-how techniques and the like, we shared the scepticism of those who felt that this would do little in the short term to halt migration, and that Europe, with its internal market, would continue to be a magnet to migrants of all kinds. My Lords, I commend the report to the House, and I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the European Communities Committee on the Community Policy on Migration (10th Report. H.L. Paper 35).—(Baroness Lockwood.)

4.34 p.m.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, for the clear way in which she has introduced this report. I had the pleasure of serving on the sub-committee that conducted the inquiry under the able chairmanship of the noble Baroness, and I am glad to support the conclusions and recommendations of the report. The introduction explains how member states have become increasingly concerned by the build-up of migratory pressures from eastern Europe and developing countries, and by the consequences for their national immigration policies of the freer movement of people that will accompany the internal market.

The report also tells us in paragraph 83 why Given an absence of internal barriers to free movement, and an expressed commitment of the great majority of the membership of the Community to closer co-operation in the social policy field, it seems entirely appropriate that the Community should seek a common approach to questions of immigration policy as it is already doing in the case of asylum seekers". Concurrently concern has been expressed in the European Parliament and elsewhere about the lack of public discussion of these matters, and that is the first point on which I should like to dwell. In their evidence to Sub-Committee C the present arrangements for co-operative action were criticised by a number of witnesses for the way in which consultations were conducted and decisions taken, and the lack of regard for the need for Community policy to be subject to democratic scrutiny. The Runnymede Trust and the Commission for Racial Equality were particularly critical of the way in which business is conducted in inter-governmental groups discussing immigration policy matters.

I should like to express my strong support for the committee's view that the policy issues and decisions taken in respect of responses to migration matters must be well understood by the general public and be adequately considered by the European and national parliaments. In that connection I am glad to endorse the recommendation that statements to the British Parliament about European Community ministerial meetings on immigration questions should be made orally rather than merely in writing.

In paragraph 86 of the report we say that in seeking greater transparency and accountability in the formation of Community immigration policy, we accept that, because of differing national traditions and experience in this area the most realistic route at present for progress in detail is by intergovernmental cooperation. I was a party to that conclusion, but would nevertheless like to express the reservation that that co-operation must be validated by results, or in my view it will need to be stiffened by legislation.

That brings me to my next point, for there is one respect in which the committee has concluded that legislation is already required—and the noble Baroness referred to this—and I welcome the recommendation warmly. All of us, but especially those like me who are old enough to have fought in the last war, will have viewed with horror recent evidence of racism and xenophobia, particularly but not exclusively in eastern Germany. That unwelcome development helps to explain why we say in paragraph 88 that as part of a constructive approach to a Community immigration policy there should be a formal treaty commitment against racial discrimination and xenophobia.

My noble friend Lord Bonham-Carter, who is to speak later, is better qualified than I am to expand on that theme, but clearly this country's Race Relations Act affords a good example of what could be done on a Community-wide basis. It is indeed with that model in mind that the committee recommended that the Government should take an early opportunity to press for the introduction of Community legislation on racism and xenophobia based on United Kingdom experience.

There are a number of subject areas in the work of the inter-governmental groups to which the Government are recommended to give priority. The one on which I should like to concentrate is that special attention should be paid to the problems of unaccompanied minors both at their reception in this country and as regards their protection at work.

The Commission for Racial Equality stressed the need in its evidence for educational and training opportunities to be made available to young migrants to ensure that they did not become marginalised in labour markets. The Childrens Legal Centre described a proposal for establishing reception centres for unaccompanied children which had been brought up to date by the Refugee Council. However, it is true that the general view of witnesses was that it was better to treat the position of children in the context of asylum rather than as a matter of immigration policy.

That being so, I am glad that in the debate on the Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill the other day, the problems faced by immigrant children were highlighted by a number of noble Lords and especially by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, who spoke movingly about her experience in dealing with the daunting problems that she has faced in finding accommodation for refugee children and even in communicating with them. I am sure that the committee was right to say that unaccompanied minors deserve specially favourable treatment at Community level even though the numbers involved might not be large.

In conclusion, I should like strongly to support the view of the committee that there should be an adequate system of judicial appeals from executive decisions to refuse refugee status to immigrants. I found it disturbing that on the Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill several noble and learned Lords were highly critical of the Government's appeals procedure proposals. I hope, therefore, that those proposals will be examined closely at the Committee stage of that Bill, starting tomorrow.

4.41 p.m.

Baroness Flather

My Lords, I feel greatly privileged that I have had the opportunity of working on this report as a member of Sub-Committee C. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has covered most of the important points in the report, so I apologise if your Lordships find that in due course I re-emphasise some of them.

Before coming to your Lordships' House in 1990, I was a member of the Economic and Social Committee of the European Community. During my time in Brussels I had become deeply concerned about the attitudes prevailing in many of the Community countries towards immigrants from third countries, particularly towards those who belonged to different races. On my own arrival at that committee, I was asked, "Are you a European?", to which I replied strongly, "Yes, and I am here to remind you of the changing face of Europe". I might add that I was never asked again.

By producing a report on migration policy in Europe, the committee has, I believe, attempted to tackle one of the more difficult problems facing the member states at this moment. Clearly, the committee's recommendations will not provide all the answers but, taken together, they will move the Community in the right direction. At least one can hope that, by bringing all the available information together in one report, we shall have provided a useful document for all the campaigning organisations in the member states. That is, of course, if they are able to afford the full report at £23.80. It is a matter of great regret to me—and I am sure will be to others—that the very people we would most want to reach are likely to find the report extremely expensive.

I formally entered the race relations field in 1973–20 years ago—as a member of the conciliation committee of the Race Relations Board, and ended that formal involvement with six years as a member of the Commission for Racial Equality in 1986. It was only my subsequent three years in Brussels that brought home to me the fact that the United Kingdom undoubtedly leads the way in this field—not only because our legislation is superior to that of any other member state but, perhaps even more importantly, because we have some extremely fine non-statutory bodies which closely monitor the situation and tirelessly campaign for improvements in this country.

In addition to the Commission for Racial Equality, we received excellent evidence from the Runnymede Trust, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, Justice and many others. I should like to pay tribute to all of them for all the excellent work that they do. It would be remiss of me if I did not also mention the ethnic press which we are fortunate to have in this country.

We also received some excellent evidence from reports on different aspects of the migration question which were produced by the European Commission as well as by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs. I was particularly impressed by what Mr. AmÉdÉe Turner, the chairman of that committee, had to tell us. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has already mentioned his contribution but I should like to re-emphasise its importance. It was encouraging to hear that that committee's rapporteur for free movement had put forward the proposal that, after 10 years, any third-country resident of any member state should have the same rights as a citizen of a member state to reside and move in the Community. That sounds like a mouthful, but it is exactly as the noble Baroness has said—although someone resident in this country acquires a right to nationality, that person would never acquire that right in other member states. One must hope that this idea will gain momentum and will become accepted, as it will go a long way towards removing the present injustices against many lawfully settled non-citizens of Community countries.

Although we have no cause to be complacent, we in the United Kingdom are clearly doing better than our EC partners and I would urge the Government to put their knowledge and experience to good use by influencing others to follow the UK's example. The Maastricht Treaty, under its flanking pillars, provides for a joint approach between the Commission and national governments. We know that the United Kingdom is reluctant to allow any competence to pass to the Commission in this area, but if the situation in some of the member states is to improve, the Commission will of necessity have to be involved. How else is the Community going to take a common position not only on migration policy but, even more importantly, on outlawing racism and xenophobia?

Lately we have talked a great deal about "subsidiarity" and how it is going to allow more decisions to be taken locally. Clearly, that should certainly apply when those decisions are better taken at local level, but otherwise should we not develop a further concept of "reverse subsidiarity" through which the Community should be encouraged to adopt the better practices of the individual member states? I am absolutely sure that, when placed within a framework of Community legislation against racism and xenophobia, the United Kingdom's approach to race relations and the institutions which we have developed here could make a serious and constructive contribution to developing the Community's stance towards ethnic minorities.

The seeds are already there. In 1990 the Council and representatives of member states adopted a resolution on the fight against racism and xenophobia. It called on member states to, adopt such measures as they consider appropriate", with the Commission making comparative assessments of those measures and disseminating information. In December 1991 the European Council at Maastricht, recalling earlier actions, expressed its convictions that, combating discrimination in all its forms is therefore vital to the European Community, as a community of states governed by the rule of law". It is not a huge leap from this to an overseeing role for the Commission to assess and monitor the quality and effectiveness of national legislation, making sure that it provides equal treatment for all minorities.

At this point, I should like to pick up on something that I have heard a lot about lately. I am deeply concerned that a view is being put forward that it is to be expected that we should see a rise in racism and xenophobia in times of recession. Perhaps I may remind the House that in much better times we still had a great deal of racism and xenophobia. Some of the most shameful incidents in this country took place, not in times of recession, but in times of plenty. That is just an excuse for doing nothing. It is of course easier when jobs are scarce to find scapegoats and to incite people to target those whose colour is different.

I come now to some of the committee's recommendations. One of our recommendations relates to the position of dependent spouses. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, mentioned the point. In Community countries, women who lose their husbands through death or divorce can be put in a difficult position. That hits women and children hard and adds to the problems they face at a difficult time. It is an area where a joint approach is clearly called for. I am well aware that a compassionate view is often taken by the Home Office in this country, but even then there is no certainty about the matter. I urge my noble friend the Minister to give the issue some urgent consideration.

My final point relates to the need for more openness. These matters are not discussed in the Community as openly as they are in the United Kingdom. As I pointed out on Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill, it is important that debates on these issues should take place in the Community in the public domain as happens in the United Kingdom. It serves only to foster suspicion and mistrust where none may be justified when people do not have access to the facts. Not many miles from the Community's borders we have a conflict which has given birth to the term "ethnic cleansing", a term which denigrates humanity itself. If the European Community is to send out a clear message to Yugoslavia, it needs to take a strong stance on the rise of racism and xenophobia within its own borders. We need a clear vision of the kind of Community we are trying to create for ourselves and our children. I hope that it is one which will unreservedly reinforce liberal traditions and send out a strong signal that no injustice of any kind will be tolerated within its borders.

4.52 p.m.

Lord Butterfield

My Lords, I should like to add my voice to those who have congratulated the chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, on the admirable way she led the committee. It was a considerable education for me not just to see how we interrogated our witnesses and elicited from them important pieces of information, but to experience her kindness and courtesy to all members of the committee.

I am happy to be able to agree with all the remarks that have been made so far. It occurred to me that I might be permitted to use the various paragraphs of the report as one might use stepping stones. The important part of the first paragraph shows the emphasis the Community has laid upon immigration and its concern that there has not been much public discussion on these matters. I have recognised more and more clearly as time has gone on the lack of public discussion about immigration.

Paragraph 11 picks up the interest of the European Commission and its point of view. It emphasises a point that ran through my mind throughout my service on the sub-committee: the conflict between the demands for immigration to help the labour markets —the number of people who can be employed—and the understandable anxieties felt in so many quarters about unemployment and how migrants might upset the labour market. That is an important factor in the national psychology—the national pipedreams, almost—which lies behind debates on this topic.

In paragraph 44 the committee reports that it received evidence from the Green Party. I must confess that for a little while I allowed my imagination to run wild. Its representatives referred to environmental refugees. It suddenly occurred to me that my good friend and colleague, the Warden of Green College, Oxford, might be able to provide us with some alarming information about what might happen to Europe as a result of global warming. I obtained the excellent book published by the DoE entitled The Potential Effects of Climate Change in the United Kingdom. I was reassured, in part, that it was not a topic about which the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, needed to worry. Sea levels will continue to rise. They may rise by about three feet by 2030. There are risks of increased storms. There will be problems with power stations sited beside the sea. In some places they may be inundated in ways which were not thought of when they were first designed. While that might be a longer term problem, it is clear that we will not have many migrants from the Low Countries or East Anglia and Cambridge to other parts of the country or the European Community as a result of environmental factors.

I want to step on then to the paragraphs relating to demography (paragraphs 46 and 47). As a doctor interested in human biology, demography in Europe strikes me as an important problem, although not one to be headlined in the report. Your Lordships should not be left in ignorance about what is happening demographically in the European Community countries. The quickest way might be for me to digress for a few moments and talk about Luxembourg. It was a fortress in the Middle Ages. It made such good steel that neighbouring countries would not allow anyone to dominate the production of the metal, and yet, due I suppose to competition from the Far East and Japan, its iron industry has run down. Although it was the location of the original iron and steel administration, which developed into the Common Market, that country has apparently lost the will to procreate. I do not know whether that is due to the loss of the industrial base, the impact of the wars or the appearance of the contraceptive pill, but the fact is that its population has declined. I believe I am right in saying that it now has a high proportion—I may be misquoting—of migrants from Portugal. I believe the figure is in the order of 30 per cent.

What is happening in Luxembourg—our smallest member state —should not blind us to the fact that our population may need important infusions of the kind of enterprising people who become immigrants. We had to be most careful when dealing with that matter in our report. We made the point that if we made too much about demography we might attract too much attention. We might stir up difficulties because people might believe that immigrants, by their fertility, would quickly oust the local population—that is, the home population—from authority.

I took the trouble to look at the fertility rates for various countries in Europe. They appeared in a publication of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and they are worrying. If a stable population is to be retained in a country it is necessary to have two births for every two people in that country. I admit that it is difficult to obtain the data. The committee made the point that good data must be collected in order to allow better planning for the future. If we bear in mind that two is the magic number, in 1949 the people of Luxembourg had a fertility rate of 1.45; in Belgium it was 1.56; in Denmark it was 1.67; and in British it was 1.83.

While everyone agrees that migration and immigration are major political factors for the future, I suspect that it will be a necessary feature in our development. I commend paragraph 47 of the report because it deals with the social factors involved in the changing fertility rate. It deals with the problems which come from later motherhood, single parenthood, the rising voluntary childlessness and oral contraceptives. It also deals with the rapidly increasingly number of females in the labour force and personal anxieties about employment as the industrial base shrinks. People even worry at night about the nuclear holocaust, which was more likely previously than now. We must face up to the question of demography, therefore, and not flinch from it. It will catch up with us sooner or later.

Finally, I was pleased to see the emphasis which the report gave to the small number of immigrant minors, who are important. We need to make sure that we welcome those people. I have said previously in this Chamber that our youth are our real wealth. Let us give immigrants who come to live with us a good welcome to this country.

5.3 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I was a member of the committee whose report is now before the House. It was a detailed and I think rather difficult remit. As will be seen from the report, the committee received a large amount of evidence from interested bodies and arranged for a lot of evidence to be taken verbally as well.

Our chairman, my noble friend Lady Lockwood, has already covered the ground with her usual expertise. I too express my gratitude to her for that and for the way in which she chaired the committee. I do not want to go over the same territory but there is an aspect of the report about which I feel strongly, even though it was not a major part of the remit. I should say that we were conscious of the fact that we were covering ground that would also be covered by the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill, which has already had its Second Reading in your Lordships' House and is now about to go into Committee. We did, however, touch on the subject of unaccompanied minors. That matter is of considerable concern to a number of organisations involved with the care of children, including Save the Children Fund of which I am a council member. An unaccompanied refugee child is a person under 18 years of age who has been forced to flee his or her country of origin without a parent or other adult who has responsibility for him or her and who has travelled to another country in order to seek asylum. When parents are dead, imprisoned, missing or unable to uproot the whole family, the child sometimes flees alone or with friends or siblings.

I have a personal reason for feeling strongly about that. I well remember that when I was young in the thirties my family befriended a young girl of my own age. She had come from Sudeten Germany, which had then been overrun by Hitler. She and her younger sister came from a loving, caring family. The family was Jewish and both parents had considerable doubts about the possibility of their own survival. In that their fears proved tragically well-founded. When my friend returned to Czechoslovakia after the war in an attempt to trace her family she was unable to trace her father and later discovered that her mother had died in Ravensbruch. But her parents, desperate to save their children, had handed them over to a mission which took children to Britain and she was able to grow up here among people who befriended her.

Unfortunately, we still live in a world in which desperate parents send their children away because they themselves are threatened. Western Europe as a whole receives only 5 per cent. of the world's refugees and children make up one half of the 18 million refugees worldwide. Relatively small numbers of unaccompanied children come to Europe seeking protection from persecution, war and violence. However, that number may increase because there seems to be little prospect that the violence and civil strife that result in the flight of people, including children, from their homes are likely to diminish. Under conditions of civil war children are likely to become separated from their parents. As we are seeing in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia, children comprise a significant proportion of the casualties of war. Sometimes parents try to find a way to pay for the air fare to get their children to safety. It is very difficult for an entire family in a developing country to travel.

Many families go into serious debt to purchase a ticket. Where parents are dead or imprisoned, relatives or family friends may arrange for the children to leave the country. According to the Children's Legal Centre, which has undertaken substantial research, there have been reports of children travelling on foot from Eastern Europe and CIS countries to seek refuge in central Europe. On arrival in the country of asylum refugee children are often exhausted from their trip. They are suffering from the shock of separation from their homes and families and are unlikely to speak the language of the receiving country. If refugees generally are seen as a vulnerable group, unaccompanied children are even more so. The committee looked at the issues involved here and felt strongly that special attention should be given to the problem of unaccompanied minors both at their reception and later on in the context of the Commission's proposals for the protection of young people at work. The idea of reception centres commended itself to us.

A number of witnesses thought that the general issue of unaccompanied minors was more appropriately dealt with in the context of asylum rather than general immigration policy. However, we were aware that, whereas our Children Act gives priority to the interests of children, the same does not apply to immigration policy in which no distinction is made between adults and children. Several countries, including our own, have enacted carrier liability legislation. That imposes heavy fines on airlines and other carriers which bring in travellers without proper documentation. Children may never have possessed the necessary documents. The Children's Legal Centre says that there have been instances in Britain of some unaccompanied minors being returned by airlines without being able to claim asylum.

I am aware, of course, that the House will be able to address some of those issues when the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill is in Committee. But the report now before the House flags up some very real areas of concern. As has already been mentioned tonight, the CRE, for example, stressed the need for education and training. It felt that otherwise young migrants could all too readily become marginalised in low-paid and exploitative employment—even more so, I would suggest, if the Government's proposals to do away with wages councils, which currently provide at least some small amount of protection to those in low paid employment, are eventually approved by Parliament. Many young migrants end up in wages council industries at present.

Our report stresses the need for inter-governmental co-operation. Clearly that is essential when dealing with the problem of unaccompanied children. The survey conducted by the Children's Legal Centre revealed a wide diversity of practices as between EC countries. Some were very good and supportive of such migrants while others were quite the reverse. Our report stresses the need to develop constructive, compassionate approaches to the problems of migration.

We were all keenly aware of the considerable contribution made to the prosperity and success of the UK by previous generations of migrants, many of whom came to Britain to escape racial persecution in their countries of origin. We were concerned—as a number of noble Lords have stressed —about what appears to be the emergence of xenophobia and racial intolerance in some EC member states. For that reason, we thought that consideration should be given to the recommendation that the Community should have explicit powers to combat racism and xenophobia. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, who was with me on the committee, has already stressed that point based on her own considerable experience.

Our report points to our own legislation for the promotion of racial equality and to the existence of the CRE. As the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, said, we believe that our legislation and arrangements are superior in many respects to those in many other EC states. We have suggested that the UK should press strongly for appropriate changes within the Council of Ministers. My noble friend Lady Lockwood has already referred to that and to the whole matter of EC competence in that regard.

I have dealt with only certain aspects of the report, which covers, as my noble friend Lady Lockwood said, a very wide area. However, I believe that the report has a great deal to commend it and I trust that it will be useful in the continuing development of policy in this area.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Hayter

My Lords, when I was in business, I used to go home and my children would ask what I had been doing at work. I would tell them that I had been to a board meeting or had perhaps visited a factory. They would then ask me what had happened. That is a question that I always ask at the conclusion of any committee. I am sure that that is good advice.

As regards European committees—and I have had some experience of them—it generally takes about five years for something to happen. I remember sitting on a committee which considered European air fares. Nothing happened to start with, but eventually it did. There was another committee which considered the price of motor cars in Europe. Again, nothing happened to start with but about five years later, action began to take place.

What about this committee? As your Lordships have heard already, we had an admirable chairman. Like all good committees, there were many tiresome people on it, of which I count myself one, but the chairman kept us all in order. We had to look at a welter of words and masses of paper. On one occasion I took the opportunity to weigh the paper which I had to take to the committee meeting and it weighed one pound and a quarter. Therefore, we were dealing with an exhaustive subject.

First, I wish to praise the report. I believe that it is brilliant. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, said, that is due in part to the secretarial. However, I wish to go further and wider. If your Lordships think about it, the nation with the most experience of immigration is the United States of America. It has been dealing with it for about 300 years. If you were an immigrant into the United States of America, there was no seat that you could not occupy. You have only to think of the names of two recent presidents — Presidents Eisenhower and Roosevelt—to realise that anything could be achieved. At the same time, we must recognise also that all the immigration problems in the USA have not been cured. I am talking about racism among other matters.

The second most important country to tackle problems of immigration in a big way was Australia. I have been there 13 times and have seen the problems from the very beginning. Just after the war there were immigrants from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They were called by the Australians the "Balts". They transformed Australia. Restaurants were opened. Chemist shops stayed open later. I am not sure how many of your Lordships know about the six o'clock swill, and I shall not explain it, but that came to an end. Ladies were allowed into public houses—something which had never happened before.

Of course, Australia also had its economic problems. Your Lordships must believe me when I say that just after 1946, I was sitting in a house in Perth when the hour hand was coming up to the hour and out came the candles and the matches. We lit the candles because hour by hour the electricity alternated between Perth and Fremantle. There was not enough power for that part of Australia.

However, having conquered all that, matters improved. Years afterwards my wife and I were invited by the Lord Mayor of Perth to a reception for new immigrants. There were 70 families. Of course it was compulsory for the men of the families to take the oath in English. The ladies of Perth looked after the wives and children of those families. It was most warming to see how they were being welcomed. I do not remember anything like that happening in this country. The Australians realised, as we should do, that their country would benefit from immigration.

There is no need for us to be ashamed of our record. I read in Hansard the other day that a Minister last travelled on a train on 1st December. However, if he travelled with me on the tube trains he would see people who had obviously come from countries other than our own. They are probably second, or even third, generation children of immigrants of past years.

I saw this happening from the beginning. I returned from Mexico in a French ship, the "Ile de France" and I saw all the immigrants coming to this country from the West Indies. I should emphasise that it was a time of full employment and we welcomed those people who were prepared to work in the hospitals and on the buses. Indeed, they did a good job.

Behind all that—and it has been mentioned before —is the question of education. The most difficult question is: what are the fundamentals of our nationhood and our culture? Some things cannot be swept aside; for example, the English language. I noticed the other day that the House was debating the Welsh Language Bill. We must allow the Welsh their idiosyncrasies, and that is not sour grapes about the football because as every Englishman who saw that match knows, we really won it. There are fundamentals and there are some inessential differences. However, those inessential differences can worry people. For example, there was the problem of the Sikhs who insisted on wearing their turbans when they were riding their motorcycles.

There is also the question of religion. We have several different kinds of religion running in this country. I agree with Voltaire that man made God in his own image and that that accounts for the differences in religion.

There is another problem which worries me; namely, that on Sundays an enormous amount of time is devoted to television programmes on eastern races. I suppose that we should not worry about that because in the end it will die a natural death as the second and third generations come along. However, it is a matter that we should think about.

I may be accused of cynicism but I have a phrase written down which states, "do not let us start preaching to Europe". We have problems in this country which we have not yet solved and we should solve them before we start trying to convert Europe.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said the other day that there was a spirit of 19th century generosity in this country which he hoped would be maintained. To be honest, that was not a spirit of generosity; that spirit arose from a situation of full employment. One cannot suggest at this time that there can be a European policy on immigration when unemployment prevails throughout Europe. We are in a difficult situation and we must face up to that.

Some of the points that I have made are mentioned in the report. I hope that I may give your Lordships a piece of good advice. I suggest that noble Lords read the comments made by the Runnymede Trust in the report. That trust was started in 1968 and it has devoted itself to the question of a European Community policy on immigration. The trust states: successful integration requires both a legal and administrative framework to allow the immigrant population to achieve parity with the national population, as well as educational measures to enhance public awareness". That matter has already been referred to. The trust further states: The experience of the UK suggests that such efforts should include a public education programme explaining the state's anti-discrimination policies and measures, showing the contribution of immigrants to the society in question, and encouraging harmony and positive efforts by all citizens". The Runnymede Trust also stated in the report that a European policy on immigration, 'should be based on open, informed and extensive public consultation and expert analysis"— that has been referred to today— 'of what such a policy is intended to achieve; it should take account both of States' likely labour needs and projected demographic trends; it should take account of States' legal, humanitarian and historical responsibilities both in general and to particular countries; particular account should be taken of the world refugee problem and the Community's response to it; it should take account of States' responsibilities towards existing migrants, particularly in terms of family reunification". Your Lordships may perhaps accuse me of cynicism. However, I believe I am being realistic. I shall, however, conclude on a more optimistic note. As regards whether there will be a Community policy on immigration, I feel that in time there will be one.

5.22 p.m.

Lady Kinloss

My Lords, I wish to speak for only a few minutes on this report. As I am speaking at the end of the debate I find that many points have already been made or mentioned by previous speakers, very many of which I agree with. Human beings have been migrating since the beginning of time, as we know from history. The problems are not new, and the field is enormous.

As a member of the committee it became clear from the evidence we heard, and also from written evidence, that there are innumerable difficulties and problems facing the European Community in regard to migration and immigration into its member states of nationals from non-member states. Among other areas of concern, the committee thought that there was a particular need for Community provision to protect spouses and other dependants of non-Community nationals in the case of divorce or separation or following the death of the non-Community national spouse.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants noted that the matter was under consideration by the Commission and the European Parliament. The Commission also noted that it was to be raised in the Council. Perhaps it should also be considered by appropriate groups of national representatives. Government witnesses said that the subject fell outside the EEC treaty and that United Kingdom immigration laws made no special provision for women in this category but considered each case on its merits. Witnesses, however, confirmed that it was to be further discussed during the United Kingdom presidency.

The Runnymede Trust, which my noble friend Lord Hayter has already mentioned, had some imaginative ideas on the question of immigration. With the creation of the single European market with its resultant greater freedom of movement and greater co-operation among European states, the subject of migration must be discussed by all member states together. Each state, after all, is affected by the immigration policies of the others, so it is only logical that there should be joint discussions together with joint action.

The Foreign Secretary in his speech to the Swiss Bank Corporation suggested the use of trade measures in the agricultural sector to encourage producers to remain in their own countries and the application of know-how fund techniques to encourage other would-be migrants to remain put. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has already mentioned this suggestion. Would the Minister care to comment on the matter when he comes to reply? Perhaps he can say what progress has been made, or whether discussions have been held with other member states to discover whether it could be of any possible help?

The subject of migration is a difficult and complex one. No matter how carefully it is discussed and what conclusions are reached, there will be some who will slip through the net one way or the other. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has explained the committee's work with great detail and care and I would like to thank her for all her patience and kindness in guiding us so well.

5.26 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I believe I am the first person to take part in this debate who did not serve on the committee of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. I can therefore, without fear of being accused of complacency, congratulate her most heartily on the work of her committee and on the report that it has produced which is both timely and constructive. She and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, mentioned the role of inter-governmental co-operation in this whole matter. That is a topic I shall return to.

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, drew attention to the position of children. That matter will be raised at the Committee stage of the asylum Bill. That is a matter of great importance. A number of those who have contributed to this debate have urged that our legislation should be adopted on a Community-wide basis. I fully assent to that view but I hope that it will not make us complacent about our own legislation and its effectiveness. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, in that respect. There is plenty for us to do in this country, and if we wish to transfer our legislation to the Continent, let us do it as the best thing we have but not the best thing we could have.

I have said that this report is timely. I say that because migration is a matter that is moving up the political agenda throughout Europe and also throughout the world. As others have mentioned, this debate coincides with the passage of the asylum Bill. I said that this is a constructive report because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, said, the evidence submitted in the report provides a factual basis for the discussion of these matters which are often discussed with little reference to what is actually happening or has happened. The report is also constructive because it seems to me that the recommendations it makes are such that it would be very difficult for anyone to resist them. They seem to me to represent about the least that we can do.

Nonetheless, I look forward to hearing the Government's response without absolute confidence that it will be as positive as we might hope. Nevertheless I shall listen to the comments of the noble Earl when he replies to the debate. I fear, however, that, like the response of the Government to so many matters that concern the Community, particularly in the political and social fields since the passage of the Single European Act, it will be somewhat negative.

This was brilliantly described in an article in November in the Financial Times written by Ian Davidson in which he describes the Government's response to the European Community and measures connected with it as minimalist. In the article he was concerned to analyse the Government's reaction to the Maastricht Treaty. He wrote: Mr. Major has repeatedly said that he wants Britain to be `at the heart of Europe'. But as time passes, it seems clear that his only real reason for wanting to be inside the Community, is that he does not want to be outside". That seems to be all too true.

The consistency of the Government's minimalism is confirmed by the account of those negotiations given by the Belgian ambassador, who was present. He said that different member states had different objectives. France and Germany were keen on foreign policy, Denmark on the environment, Italy and Belgium on majority voting, and so on. But a very important fact must not be overlooked: one major player was keen on nothing! ‥ The outcome of the negotiations cannot be understood if one forgets that one of the main partners did not, in fact, desire any specific result". That country was Britain. I hope that that will not be the nature of the noble Earl's response to the debate. However, it sometimes seems that the Government's attitude to migration and asylum vividly represents that minimalist view. The asylum Bill asks what is the minimum number we can take and what is the least we can do for them.

If ever there was a European problem which required a European answer it is surely the question of migration. If ever there was a problem demanding a harmonisation of European policy it is surely this question of migration. The issues on which we need agreement are: who may enter; what rights they have when they have entered; and what is meant by Article 8A, to which I shall come.

The British Government's position appears to be characteristically minimalist. They plump for the narrowest definition of refugee, namely, that of the Geneva Convention of 1951. I shall not dwell on that point because it will be raised in Committee tomorrow. However, the rights of people within the Community are very important issues. They are, for example, the right of free movement and the interpretation of Article 8A and the right of protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour and so on, which has been mentioned. Those are crucial questions which can and, in my view, must be answered on a Community basis.

It is no surprise that the Government argue that Article 8A in the Maastricht Treaty does not impose an obligation to dismantle all border controls and allow free movement of persons regardless of nationality. Whatever the niceties of the legal interpretation of Article 8A, I would argue, as I did during the Second Reading of the asylum Bill, that in resisting the Commission's interpretation of that article the Government are acting on the advice of Canute's courtiers. As the Economist pointed out, with the advent of air travel and the Channel Tunnel, the white cliffs of Dover argument about Britain's borders has become anachronistic: add to that the Shengen agreement which, when ratified, in this field will lead us straight into a two-speed Europe. There is no denying that fact. Is that a fact which the Government welcome? Do they welcome the fact that, just as trains arriving through the Channel Tunnel will have to slow down to 60 miles an hour, people arriving in England will have to join a queue? Is that really what they want to achieve?

Then we come to the right of protection against discrimination, about which we have already heard. It appears that the Government do not regard that as a high priority, despite the fact that here, for once, we have something positive to offer our colleagues, despite the fact that it would protect the rights of British citizens in the European Community and that, at a time of rising racism on the Continent, one can hardly think of a measure which is more appropriate.

I suspect that the reason why that does not have high priority is that the best way to ensure that throughout the Community there is an effective anti-discriminatory law would be to make the matter a Commission competence. That would fly in the face of that symbol of Mr. Major's minimalism, inter-governmental co-operation. Here I would put a slightly different emphasis on the priorities from that of the committee. Asylum and immigration matters are, under Maastricht, a responsibility of an ad hoc group of Ministers. The ad hoc group of Ministers suffers from three real and serious deficiencies: lack of transparency, or undue secrecy; lack of accountability; and bureaucracy. Here we come to the heart of political co-operation.

There are two arguments against political co-operation. The first is one of principle and the second one of practice. The argument of principle is that political co-operation was precisely the basis on which the League of Nations worked before the war. It was the way the League of Nations worked which led M. Monnet to say that political co-operation was not enough and that it should be replaced with the kind of structure which lies at the basis of the Community.

Political co-operation suffers from a second practical difficulty which is in some ways worse and is easily demonstrated by Mr. Major's achievement at Maastricht. It removes the matters which are handled by political co-operation from parliamentary control. That means that asylum, immigration policy and policy regarding the nationals of third countries are removed from the control of the European Parliament and are subject simply to periodic reports to this Parliament. I should have thought that any parliament in the world would want to be associated with the control of those matters. But it is those matters which this Government, who constantly emphasise their democratic auspices, will not allow the European Parliament to touch, still less to control.

Not only are the proceedings of the ad hoc group secret and held in private, as the report indicates. To whom are the responsibilities for looking after such matters consigned? That is the central question. The answer is, to national civil servants. The Government inveigh against the Brussels bureaucracy, but when one hands over the control of security, foreign policy and home affairs—and it is home affairs to which I return—to inter-governmental co-operation one is handing over control to national civil servants. One has only to read Article K4 of the Maastricht Treaty to see what it means. Article K4 provides for the setting up of a co-ordinating committee of senior officials —for which read senior national officials. It is they who prepare the agenda and they who propose the policies which constitute the work of the Council of Ministers. Of course, the Council of Ministers meets in private. We do not know how our representative votes, still less how he argues. The real bureaucracy is not that of Brussels. It is the bureaucracy of national civil servants who service COREPER and the Council of Ministers.

Reports indicate increasing disenchantment in Europe with the negative, minimalist attitude of the British Government towards the Community. It would appear that the considerable good will and patience which have been shown towards this country are being eroded. What a change it would be if for once this Government could take a positive stance on the issue of immigration and make a few positive proposals that would represent a constructive approach to this difficult problem which will be with us for the next 10 or 20 years. It demands a European and constructive approach, and one in which this country for once takes a lead.

Perhaps I may make some suggestions. We should propose a law to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race, colour and so on on the lines of our race relations legislation, or better, to apply throughout the Community. We should propose measures to harmonise European immigration policy which would apply throughout the Community. We should remove the secrecy which surrounds the work of the ad hoc groups. We should associate the European Parliament with those policies. Finally, as I suggested at Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill, we should call a conference along the lines of the conference called by President Roosevelt at Evian in 1938 to discuss the asylum crisis which faces Europe and demand a common approach and a common policy. We should for once give a lead in the matter.

5.40 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Lockwood for the way in which she introduced this important report. She made matters clear to me which I regret to say were not clear despite attentive reading of the report. Reports from the European Communities Committee usually respond to a specific directive which has a clear thrust; the response of the committee can be readily explained and understood. The European Communities Committee on migration had the disadvantage that it was dealing only with two communications from the Community, rather than directives. Those communications were in themselves tentative and vague. The committee clearly had to achieve consensus. It was difficult for it to achieve the thrust which is a common feature of the reports of our European Communities committees. However, my noble friend made the issues much clearer in her opening speech and I am grateful to her for that. I am indeed grateful to all the members of the committee for the work that they put into the report.

My noble friend stated that there were two critical issues on migration: first, the nature and the extent of the problem; and, secondly, Community involvement. I wish to take those two critical issues as my theme.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, stated, there is no doubt that the issue of migration is moving up the political agenda. At Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill, I ventured to suggest that migration is likely to be the most important issue of the 1990s and the first part of the 21st century. There have been improvements—I deliberately use that tense—in standards of living in a number of developed and developing countries. However, what has not changed—indeed it has become worse—is the difference between the standard of living of developed countries and that of the third world. Therefore the economic pressures for migration clearly will not go away.

As has been said both in the Second Reading debate and today, that difference has been combined with improvements in communication, transportation and education. Such developments have in turn led to improvements in the command of other languages and to the "internationalisation" of technology. That has meant an internationalisation of job capabilities. Thus it becomes clear that pressure for movement for economic reasons is increasing rather than diminishing.

Sadly, at the same time pressure of migration for political reasons, and for self-preservation against persecution and civil war, is not going away either. In the 1990s we are seeing a collapse of the 19th century nation states in many countries of the world. We are seeing that without the protection for minorities which is the necessary condition if the new, smaller nation states are to survive and to provide a decent life for their citizens. There can be no doubt that when we debate migration, we talk of perhaps the great issue for the world in the 1990s—and I do not underestimate the importance of environmental matters.

How does that relate to the concerns on which the committee spent time? There are issues which are clearly at the sharp end. A number of noble Lords have properly paid attention to them. Clearly, with the prospect of increased pressure for migration into the European Community, the way in which we treat those who seek to come to the member states, and those who have come is of critical importance. The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, rightly made the point about the changing face of Europe when she responded to the question of whether she was a European.

The noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, referred to the issue when he spoke of the need for infusions of enterprising people. The noble Lord, Lord Hayter, made similar points when talking about the value of immigration to this country. That migration is sometimes at the expense of damage to the exporting countries when people are forced to come to this country. One thinks of what has happened to the economy of Uganda after the Ugandan Asians came to this country. They are of enormous benefit to us but the damage to the Ugandan economy and society must not be overlooked.

The treatment of people who come to this country is an issue which has a history of 2,000 not 20 years. We have to consider it now in the context of a society which is not increasingly equal, but has increasing equal opportunity. We have to remember what my noble friend Lord Young of Dartington said in a very far-sighted book entitled, The Rise of the Meritocracy. A number of years ago he pointed out the danger that if we really have equality of opportunity without reducing class differences, all we shall attain is a situation where those with greater ability rise to the top of the heap and we then have class differences which are ineradicable. My noble friend has been disproved. The rise of the meritocracy has not occurred largely because of immigration to this country, with successive waves of people. The noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, referred to infusions of enterprising people who come to this country to do many of the things that other people are unwilling or unable to do.

Briefly, I wish to dispose of the argument that it is possible to take a rational view by looking at labour markets, and to say, "We can allow quotas where there is a shortage of skills in specific parts of the European Community". Our understanding of the labour markets is not so accurate as that. Our understanding of skill shortages is not so accurate as that. If we attempt to treat immigration in terms of social engineering I can assure noble Lords that we shall fail because we shall adopt an unduly restrictive approach. Almost every case of immigration which may have been unwelcome at the time, has been found to be of enormous and unpredicted benefit to the economies of the receiving countries. The fact that it was unwelcome at the time leads me to the second major consideration: racism and xenophobia within the Community and individual countries.

It may be true, as a number of noble Lords said, that we are doing better than other member states in the way in which we behave with regard to racism and xenophobia. It may be true that our Race Relations Act is better than that of many other countries. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, is right to say that our Race Relations Act ought to be extended to other countries in the Community. But we would be in great danger if we became too complacent about race relations in this country, even though we have a law which purports to cover it and even though we have not recently had the kind of riots and racist attacks that they have had in Germany, particularly eastern Germany. The problem has not gone away; it does not go away. It requires unremitting attention and vigilance if we are not to allow racism to rear its ugly head in this country as in all other European countries.

I shall not refer to the issue of unaccompanied children because my noble friend Lady Turner, the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, and others covered it adequately.

I wish now to turn briefly to the vexed question of Community involvement in migration policy. The advantages of greater Community involvement are clear. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, and others have talked about the lack of openness of this ad hoc group of immigration ministers, of the TREVI and Schengen groups and the risk that they may make their decisions in secret. Those decisions are not reported either to national parliaments or to anyone else. Under the circumstances, I find it surprising that the Government's response to the recommendation of the committee in paragraph 84—which was only that the reports should be made orally to Parliament—should be that the request will merely be considered.

My noble friend Lady Lockwood made it clear that the request that the reports should be made orally was a minimal request. It was very little to ask. If the Government cannot even accede to that in their response, it makes one dubious about whether they have any real commitment to openness at all.

The positive effect of moving from migration being a matter of common interest to it being a matter of Community competence cannot be doubted. But there are possible negative effects and we cannot ignore them. There is the fear which has been expressed by a number of noble Lords that intervention by the Community would mean a levelling down rather than levelling up. In its recommendations, the committee referred—though not in so many words—to the primary purpose rule which the Home Office has in deciding whether a marriage is such as to allow the admission of the dependants into this country. The fear must be, since this primary purpose rule is not exercised by other countries, that our more restrictive practices would be exported to other countries rather than their more liberal practices being exported to this country.

I am sorry to say that the same could be true of the Race Relations Act. The effect of greater Community involvement may be that the power of the Race Relations Act would be weakened rather than that its strength should be extended to other countries. If we are to take the route of greater Community involvement in migration matters—and I perfectly see the justification for it, as I made clear—we have to be on our guard against the lowest common denominator.

Above all, our first priority must be to put our own house in order. I can only say to your Lordships that the debates which we shall have on the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill tomorrow, on Thursday and next Tuesday, will be evidence of the willingness and ability of your Lordships' House to take a liberal and far-sighted view on those matters. I urge as many of your Lordships as possible to be present for the Committee stage, to listen to and to take part in the debate and to help to preserve our reputation as a civilised country, not only in the Community but in the world.

5.55 p.m.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, on that closing remark of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, perhaps I may say that I too hope that your Lordships will be present at the Committee stage of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill to hear all the sound arguments that will be put forward, from this side of the House at least. Then your Lordships will be able to make up your minds.

I wish to add my gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, for the opportunity which she has given us this afternoon for a most interesting debate. Several noble Lords said that we would look at the problem of immigration in the near future. I believe that I can accord with that view.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, was kind enough, as he always is, to say that he looked forward to my speech. I feel deeply flattered and I hope that I shall not disappoint him. But then, in a charmingly gratuitous way, he said that he did not believe that it would contain anything—but nevertheless he would listen to every word. I am deeply grateful for that. At least it means that I shall have an audience of one, and I could not expect more than that.

The noble Lord, Lord Hayter, made two remarks which I found hard to believe, but coming from him I am forced to believe them both. First, he said that he was a difficult member of the committee. I do not believe that that could have been the committee's view, although it must have been his view, otherwise he would not have said it. Secondly, he said, with astonishment, that the amount of paper he had to read weighed 1½ lbs. I can only say to him that if that was the whole weight of paper he had to read he is a lucky fellow.

Immigration is a complex and often emotional issue. It becomes no easier when we have to examine these matters on a European scale. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness and her sub-committee for producing such a useful report in Community Policy on Migration. It enabled us to discuss the whole matter. I have written to the noble Baroness setting out the terms of the response which the Government have in mind to make to the report's main conclusions, subject to what your Lordships have said this afternoon. A formal response to the report will be published as soon as possible after the debate.

It may be helpful if I remind your Lordships of our underlying policy on immigration. The first part of the Government's policy is to allow all genuine visitors and students to enter the United Kingdom. Most of the foreign nationals who come here are visitors, or they come here for a short-term purpose such as to study.

In 1991, about 16 million people who were not British citizens came here. About half of those were European Community nationals. The remainder were non-Community nationals who were subject to immigration control. The majority of those would have—and certainly should have—returned to their own country at the end of their visit.

The second aim of the Government's policy is to give effect to the provisions of European Community law which permit free movement of European Community nationals and their families between the member states. There are a number of European Community directives which allow a European Community national to work and to live here. In addition, provided that he or she is self-supporting, a European Community national is also allowed to stay as a vocational student, a retired person or for any other purpose.

These rights of residence work two ways. They also mean that British citizens are just as free to reside anywhere else in the Community. Your Lordships are now at liberty to study in France—if you should feel so motivated—to work in Germany or to retire to Spain.

The third aim of the Government's immigration policy is the most difficult. It relates to people coming for settlement. Britain is a small, densely populated island, and we have to accept that we simply cannot admit everyone who would like to live here. That is why the Government's policy is to restrict the numbers of people who want to come to live here permanently or who want to work in the United Kingdom. But at the same time we must continue to admit the spouses and minor dependent children of those who are already here.

In 1991 some 54,000 foreign or Commonwealth citizens were accepted for settlement and were given indefinite leave to remain. The Government's overriding aim is to pursue this immigration policy in a way which is both firm and fair.

The noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, was concerned as to whether there was an argument for immigration on economic or demographic grounds. I think that the demographic argument should be treated with caution. The view of a number of researchers is that immigration is not a long-term solution to the issue of ageing populations in developed countries. A one-off injection of fresh labour would not solve the problem. But in order to offset the effect of ageing, the intake of young migrants would need to continue indefinitely, with potentially very great social consequences.

We in the United Kingdom are not alone in finding immigration a sensitive and straining issue. Almost all the member states of the European Community now face similar immigration pressures—some worse—and this is mainly as a result of the economic attractions of Europe. There has also been a considerable increase in the number of people who claim asylum right across Europe.

I never thought—and I dare say that some of your Lordships never thought—that any of us would live to see the collapse of Communism. It seemed almost an impossibility. But it has happened. While we welcome the fracture of Communism—indeed, the total destruction of its fabric—it has, nevertheless, left in its place a degree of uncertainty and apprehension and a wish to see something better.

The welcome changes in eastern Europe have led to greater democracy, but they have increased the immigration pressures across the eastern frontiers of the European Community. We, therefore, agree with the committee that it is right for us to seek a common approach on immigration matters with our Community partners. That is why we have been playing an active part in the discussions in the European Community Ad Hoc Working Group on Immigration. I know that that organisation did not meet with the rapturous approval of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. He proposed various laws and measures which the European Community might adopt, such as laws against discrimination, harmonising measures for immigration and so forth. But we think that immigration matters should be decided by the governments of the member states working together rather than by the more rigid system of Community law.

Under the Maastricht Treaty immigration will be based on inter-governmental co-operation. Only two matters will be brought within Community competence. The first is that there will be a uniform format for a European Community visa. The second is that there will be a common list of countries whose nationals will require visas.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, was concerned about matters relating to immigration and asylum policy. They are for the most part outside the Community competence. The European Court of Justice would not have jurisdiction over any appeals in these areas. The United Kingdom would resist any further extension of the court's jurisdiction into these areas. The harmonisation of asylum and immigration policy will continue to be conducted through inter-governmental co-operation once the Maastricht Treaty is implemented. Any harmonisation of appeals would have to be established by consent among the Twelve.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, would the Minister agree that it requires that there should be adequate protection against discrimination throughout the Community if the writ for free movement of labour is genuinely to run?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. There must be anti-discrimination. I believe that the only difference between us is that we think the right way to do it is to enable and encourage other countries to adopt the sort of measures that we have rather than to produce a European Community diktat.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, said, I believe, that after 10 years a long-term stayer should have the same rights as a citizen of the country. As the report notes, that is a matter of great sensitivity for some member states. Many would say that the remedy is for the people concerned to take out citizenship of the member state. The Maastricht harmonisation programme refers to that. But it is a remedy that is likely to be approached with caution by member states which may lose employment opportunities for their own nationals.

The noble Baroness asked whether I could throw more light on the Government's intentions on making information available about European Community work on immigration. At present the position is that successive Home Secretaries have thought that the written replies are adequate. But the Maastricht Treaty raises new questions. The task will be to find a procedure for informing and consulting Parliament on the work of the Maastricht third pillar, which fulfils the same sort of function as the present arrangements for scrutiny of Commission proposals for Community legislation under the Treaty of Rome.

The whole matter requires not only further consideration within government but also close consultation with your Lordships' House and another place. I can assure noble Lords that the Government will make proposals as soon as possible. I accept that more needs to be done to provide improved information to Parliament. We are moving in changing times and we are certainly considering how best that might be achieved under the new Maastricht arrangements.

Under the United Kingdom presidency we achieved a great deal through the inter-governmental route. At the meeting of European community immigration Ministers on 30th November, which was chaired by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, we secured agreement on a number of texts on matters such as asylum and illegal immigration. All the texts which were agreed at that meeting of immigration Ministers have been made publicly available and copies have been deposited in the Library of your Lordships' House and that of another place.

We also accept the committee's view that better comparative statistics need to be achievable on immigration matters relating to the member states. There is though a difficulty in making valid comparisons, not so much because of differences in the type of migrant but because of differences in the way in which immigration policy is administered in each member state and the way in which the statistics are collected. This is an improvement which we shall continue to work for within the Community.

Indeed, a "clearing house" on asylum has now been set up to provide a forum for the exchange of information and for the collection of data. It has also been agreed to set up a similar immigration clearing house to act as a centre for discussion and exchange of information between member states on the crossing of borders and on immigration.

I was glad to see that the committee felt that for the United Kingdom the most effective way to control immigration is at our ports of entry. That is the Government's view. We will continue to maintain immigration controls on those who arrive at our ports from other European Community states. When it is open, we will also have to operate immigration controls on Channel Tunnel traffic.

On 1st January this year, with the completion of the internal market, we removed routine customs checks on passengers arriving from other member states. We are though continuing immigration controls on non-European Community nationals, together with a light passport or identity card check on European Community nationals in order to distinguish them from non-European Community nationals.

There is already a separate European Community channel at most of our ports and airports, the purpose of which is to speed up the passage of British and other European Community nationals when they arrive in this country.

We shall also be considering what further changes we could make in the course of 1993 to reduce the checks on European Community nationals to the minimum level possible. It will obviously be one which is, nevertheless, compatible with the retention of proper control of third country nationals and which is compatible with the safeguards which are necessary to protect ourselves against the entry of terrorists and other serious criminals.

The committee concluded that the treatment of long stay immigrants who have not acquired nationality of a member state should be given priority attention at a European level. That is one of the matters which was listed for examination in the immigration and asylum work programme which was approved by the European Council at Maastricht in December 1991.

As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, our Immigration Rules provide that foreign nationals who have been admitted here to work or to establish themselves in business or self-employment may be granted settlement after four years; and their spouse and dependent children will be too. The Government consider that that provides fair treatment, especially since settlement opens the way to British citizenship.

The committee also drew attention to the difference between our own Immigration Rules relating to the admission of spouses and the Community law relating to the free movement of European Community nationals and their families. In our view, that difference simply reflects the different purposes of our Immigration Rules and those of Community legislation.

Our Immigration Rules relating to marriage are designed to guard against abuse by those who are prepared to enter into marriage simply as a device by which they can obtain settlement in this country. The rules do not seek to place obstacles in the path of those who want to enter into genuine marriages with people who are already settled here. In 1991, some 30,600 spouses were accepted for settlement on the basis of marriage. That figure suggests that genuine applicants do not find it difficult to meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules.

The committee suggested that special attention needs to be given to the protection of the dependants of non-European Community nationals in cases of death, divorce or separation. My noble friend Lady Flather followed that up by saying that in the United Kingdom applications to stay in such cases are considered on their merits, taking into account any compassionate circumstances. My noble friend believed that a joint approach with the European states was desirable. However, it would be difficult to identify a uniform rule which could be applied in all cases. It would be difficult also to reach an agreement on a standard rule which would in fact be as favourable to those in the United Kingdom as is the present United Kingdom practice.

The other type of case in which the committee felt that priority should be given at a European level was that of unaccompanied minor children. That point was referred to by the noble Baronesses, Lady Lockwood and Lady Turner, and the noble Lord, Lord Hayter. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to it only briefly in saying that he did not intend to refer to it.

It is a difficult and sensitive issue; and it needs to be considered in particular in the context of asylum. Children who are not accompanied by relatives or by any other responsible adult are unlikely to seek entry other than when they are claiming asylum. Although those asylum cases create particular problems, the numbers are relatively small and the question of the reception and maintenance of those children is part of a country's broader provision for the protection and welfare of children.

The exact handling of those cases inevitably reflects the arrangements for the care of children in the host country. In that country the responsibility for the care of abandoned children lies with the local authority. We are also looking carefully at the Refugee Council's latest proposal for assistance with providing advice and information in those cases.

The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, was concerned with aid measures. That was a matter which also exercised the committee. The committee drew attention to the use of Community aid measures in support of immigration policy. I should remind your Lordships that at the Edinburgh European Council in December a declaration was adopted on the principle which governs the external aspects of migration policy.

One of the principles which was adopted was that the Community and its member states should encourage liberal trade and economic co-operation with countries of emigration in order to promote sustainable social and economic development and so to reduce the economic motives of migration. That was referred to also by some noble Lords. Of course, those are long-term policies—and none the less desirable for that—but they cannot be expected to produce immediate results.

The European Council, under the chairmanship of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, renewed its condemnation of racism and racist attacks, to which a number of your Lordships also referred.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and my noble friend Lady Flather that it is widely recognised that Britain has established a lead. In that regard I agree with my noble friend that not only has it established a lead on good equal opportunity law and practice and in the field of racial discrimination, but it has established one better than any other country within the European Community. We should like to share our experience and knowledge with our European Community partners—and indeed more widely.

We take the view—on this point I momentarily part company with the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood—that European Community legislation is not the right way to take action to improve racial equality. The noble Baroness is keen to have Community legislation on racism and xenophobia. But the Government take the view that the exact legislative arrangements must be a matter for each individual member state in the light of its own specific circumstances. We should like to encourage them to do all that they can to produce systems which are similar in effect and in content to ours.

We may not agree with all the conclusions in the report. There is much more in it that I have not had time to cover. Nevertheless, we fully accept that the report has added in considerable measure to the knowledge which we had in regard to immigration matters within the European Community; and as a result of the report a number of important issues were raised this afternoon by your Lordships in the debate.

I should like again to express my deep appreciation to the noble Baroness and her committee for the excellent work which the sub-committee has done under her chairmanship in producing such a helpful and informed report.

6.17 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate this evening. The members of the committee who spoke, together with my introductory remarks, covered most of the points contained in the report There is perhaps just one matter on which I should like to comment which arose from the remarks of my noble friend Lady Turner when she referred to unaccompanied minors and the question of a minor being returned under the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act.

One of the issues with which the committee was concerned was the decisions that are sometimes taken by officers of the carrier which should in fact be exercised by immigration officers and therefore could be subject to appeal. The example given by my noble friend was of an officer of an air company taking an immigration decision. Perhaps the noble Earl would bear that point in mind also when he elaborates on his responses.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, hoped that the committee was not complacent in regard to our anti-discriminatory legislation in the field of race, as did my noble friend, Lord McIntosh. I can assure both noble Lords that in the view of the committee that was not so. We were extremely conscious—in my opening remarks I referred to this fact —that imperfections in our own legislation existed. Nevertheless, as has been underlined by many speakers, the framework that is there is one of the best that exists in Europe and could provide a model.

I am only sorry that the noble Earl, responding on behalf of the Government, could not go further in undertaking to initiate some Community legislation in this sphere. He said that the Government would try to encourage other national governments perhaps to emulate our type of legislation. While that would be a help, like most noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, the committee felt that this is an area where the Community should exercise competence.

The noble Earl referred to the tentative nature of the written response which he had sent to me and which I believe, although I was away from the House all last week, has also been circulated to members of the sub-committee. Some of the responses that he gave this afternoon took us marginally further than the written response. I was glad to have that elaboration; for instance, on the making of information available on decisions taken under the third pillar. I am sure that all Members of the House will look forward to the proposals which the noble Earl said the Government would be putting forward.

I was rather surprised by the very determined way in which the Minister dismissed any question of Community competence in the field of common rules. From the evidence the committee had and from the communications received from Community Ministers' meetings, it seemed that there was a difference of opinion on the extent of Community competence in many of the fields covered by the report. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, made a forceful case against inter-governmental co-operation and in favour of Community legislation in this field. That reflects the division of opinion that exists not only in this House but in some other European countries. Perhaps only time will tell whether the Community will be able to accept competence in these fields.

The committee's view was that it is a very difficult area. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, indicated, the committee was dealing with two tentative and vague communications from the Commission and not a draft directive. That being so, the committee felt that we should approach it from the point of view of what could be done in a practical way in the immediate future. We hope that our recommendations may be a help in that respect. We also felt that the issues that we raised and the underlying issues which have been raised by a number of noble Lords, including the Minister himself, are ones that need to be debated—and debated not only in this House but throughout the country. We hope that our report will help towards stimulating such a debate.

On Question, Motion agreed to.