I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 13 and 14.
At this point, we are considering what are the rights, obligations and liberties of about 2 million foreigners who are either in this country or will he here during the forthcoming year. Of this total, 1½ million will be visitors, but 500, 000 will be here on a more permanent basis, some on labour permits, some on education permits and some permanently resident amongst us.
This is a subject which we English hon. Members, at any rate, should take a particular interest in since if it had not been for wave after wave of foreigners coming here most of us would probably simply net exist. We are the products of one wave of immigrants after another, for England is the great mother of Europe. That has been so for 500 years, because this is the land to which people who chose liberty have come.
We have those who fled from Germany and the oppression of the Empire, the weavers who came from the oppression in the Netherlands by Spain, the Huguenots from France, and those who lied from oppression in Russia. All these people came to England. They have enriched our nation, brought us their skills and made England what it is. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is here because of the Social Democrats who chose freedom here from Russia. I am here because the Huguenots chose religious freedom in Britain.
Upon that basis this nation is built up. Yet we in this House are, for the fiftieth time, to deny these people the most elementary of human rights—the right to live under the rule of law. That is what this provision means. We are renewing emergency wartime powers given to the Government on 4th August, 1914, and re- newed again without discussion in 1919 and renewed annually since then. These emergency powers give complete control to the Executive over the liberties of these people who come here. They are now more or less consolidated in the Statutory Rules and Orders, 1953, which provide the most Draconian powers to the Government.
Entry to this country is subject to the say-so of a number of immigration officers and from their decision there is really not even an appeal to the Executive. The immigration officer can say, "Back you go"—as he did to the Williams family of Cape coloureds who came to this country because they wanted to work in freedom here rather than in the oppression in their own country. But the immigration official, whether rightly or wrongly, said "No", and back to sea went the family again. Meanwhile, people intervened so that when their ship returned here, back they came with it.
This seems to be an excessively autocratic power to be exercised by a single official. We had a similar case with the two Canadians who came over to visit their grandmother, hoping to maintain themselves while they were here and before they went back home. Back across the Atlantic they went on a single issue on which there was not even an Executive appeal. The Williams' case was sad because the family had spent £1, 500 for their passages and the decision of the immigration official appeared to wipe that out.
There is also the question of the "black book" which the Estimates Committee heard about. It is a book containing about 7, 000 and more names and is supplied to immigration officers. It sets out the people who are not to be admitted. I have not the slightest doubt that the vast majority of the people in that book are properly excluded from our shores as criminals of various types, as subversives or as security risks.
But in a book like that there are almost bound to be mistakes. People may have been put there as a result of false information, or because their names happen to resemble others. Yet there is no procedure of any kind whereby any man can ever get his name out of that book. He is merely turned away and given no reason or indication as to why. If any hon. Member has tried to find out, he has been told that he cannot be given the reason because it is a security matter.
But, of course, only a very small percentage of the 7, 000 names in that book have anything to do with security. As so often happens, security is an excuse for arbitrary behaviour when that is convenient to the Executive. When the aliens do get into the country, they are subject to arbitrary arrest without charge and without explanation. They can be arrested by the Executive and they have no right to be told why. Sometimes they are not told why. If there is no country to which they can be sent they can be indefinitely imprisoned without charge.
These are all powers which we are being asked to give once more to the Executive. It is not unreasonable that, if foreign visitors do not behave themselves, we should ask them to go. Nor is it unreasonable that we should tell them why. But with residents here it is a very different matter. Many residents have never seen any other country with their "knowing eye" They came here as babies. They are married to citizens and their children are citizens but, simply by an executive act, they can be exiled from this country which is the only country which they have ever known and can be separated from their wives and children. Those are not reasonable rights.
We take power not only to expel them, but to expel them on a particular ship to a particular destination where the Government might want them for purposes of punishment, thereby by executive action, as in the case of Dr. Soblen, which hon. Members will remember, finding a way round the extradition procedure.
Lest us compare what we are doing today with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I will quote a few of its Articles. Article 7 says:
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
That we are denying to all these aliens. Article 9 says:
No one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
That is precisely the power which we are now giving to the Home Office.
Article 10 says:
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights…
This, again, we are denying to these aliens among us.
Article 15 says:
No one shall be…denied the right to change his nationality.
We provide no right at all in these directions. That may go outside the Bill and I will not proceed further with it, but if hon. Members do not like my quotations from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as it comes to us from the United Nations, there is a more ancient provision which will be found in the Bible and which says:
One law shall be to him that is home born. and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
There is something to be said for that, at least as a proposition.
I should like to quote from something which the present Attorney-General said on this subject last year. He put it so well that I cannot do better than quote it. He said:
The treatment of aliens is one of the tests of how a country conducts itself, or, at least, it ought to be. The deportation of aliens, going as it does to the root of individual liberty, is a matter of great concern to all those who have any interest in human rights…
In my view, there is a need for a fundamental review of the aliens law for many reasons. It is a basic principle of the administration of our justice and, indeed, of the rule of law itself, that the law should be certain and ascertainable. Another basic principle of the fair administration of justice is that the administration of the law should be frank and impartial and should be seen to be frank and impartial. In my submission, the present aliens law infringes both those principles of the rule of law.
Of course it does.
My right hon. and learned Friend went on to quote what Mr. Justice Barry said about the incomprehensibility of this law and went on to say:
The use of the power of a Home Secretary to choose the carrier and to put an alien upon an aeroplane is a use which enables extradition to be accomplished by means which deprive the alien of the remedy, or the protection, of reference to the court of his case. If it is desired that the Home Secretary should be given this power and that the principle of the non-extradition of political offenders
should no longer be honoured by this House, let the law say so in terms, let not this immense power be given administratively, so to speak, through the back door.
That is what we are doing now. My right hon and learned Friend went on to say that we could say to an alien:
'Get out and stay out.'
He added that we should not say:
Get cut and go to the place I choose you should go to.'
Finally, my right hon. and learned Friend said:
The exercise of the Home Secretary's discretion in a fundamental field of human liberty is in effect unchallengeable. There may be more than one lawyer in the House today who has had experience in court itself of the sense of frustration, indeed almost shame, that some of our judges have felt about this wholly oppressive and unsatisfactory arrangement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1963; Vol. 685, c. 300–5.]
It is not only my right hon. and learned Friend who has spoken in these terms. My hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Home Office and one hon. Member after another has spoken of the utter unsatisfactoriness of arbitrary administrative powers affecting liberty to this degree.
Why should we put ourselves in this position? After all, apart from short periods of unfortunate administration, on the whole our treatment of foreigners has not been too bad. These horrible arbitrary powers have, on the whole, not been used more arbitrarily than the powers which, less arbitrary in substance, other nations have. Why should we put ourselves into this false position and have to hang our heads at the United Nations and say that we cannot ratify the Declaration of Human Rights? It seems so unnecessary.
The Americans have done it. By their Law 414 of 1952, the Americans, in effect, have brought foreigners within the rule of law. They have provided tribunals to look into and to ascertain the facts and to give judgment in all those matters where we act arbitrarily. They have set the example. Why do we have to go on doing it in this way?
I shall make a suggestion about the manner in which we should deal with this matter. We need legislation. Of course, that legislation must provide wide discretions to the Home Office on matters of policy, for, in general, whom one admits and does not admit to the country must be a matter of policy. It may be that we should look at the policy rather differently and that one's object should not be to find a reason for keeping people out, but to find a reason for bringing them in.
I know of no greater enrichment which a country can find than having ready-made and skilled operatives which it has had neither to rear nor train coming to it. One used to think of nations being rich because of their natural resources, but all our experience since the war has taught us that the one natural resource which matters is the supply of skilled labour which one has or can attract.
The miracles we have seen, the German miracle, the Hong Kong miracle, the French miracle and our own miracle, for that matter, if one goes back to the Industrial Revolution, have all sprung from the supply of skilled workers who could take up the expansion and add to the wealth of the nation. The idea that we need to keep out people who would wish to bring their skills and capacity to us is erroneous.
However, although in general it is a matter of policy that the Home Office must have discretion, political asylum is an ancient and proud tradition of our nation and I do not see why that should be a matter of discretion. In extradition proceedings the courts try the issue if it is raised and decide whether it is a case for political asylum. Why cannot they try all such claims?
Finally, why should not reasons be given? It is occasionally said that one must not breach security, but so rarely is security involved and so often is it the mere excuse for arbitrariness. In all conscience, the Americans are not less security conscious than we are and they do it.
While there must be discretion about who comes here, when they are here why should they not enjoy the same rule of law that we have? There may be some instances for exception and one could consider those, but in general why should aliens not be under our law and have the same conditions of freedom from arbitrary arrest?
While discretion about the expulsion of visitors should probably be given to the Home Office, surely residents are entitled to be given reasons for their expulsion and surely when expulsion means the destruction of a family or is an offence against human rights, it is not a matter for executive decision taken privately behind doors, but is a matter which justice requires should be decided in the courts.
I ask the Home Office to agree to this. It is the procedure which we adopted when we got the Army Act. It is a procedure which I claim to have invented. For years, the Army Act was a collection of orders and regulations and year after year everybody said, "Well, of course, we would like to have an Act, but it can never be done". But with a Conservative Government, then with a narrow majority, we put up some obstruction, and Lord Head came to see me—I was running the obstruction—and I said, "What we want is an Act, and I will tell you how to do it. Set up a Select Committee of the House and a Committee from the War Office. Let those two Committees, working together, work out what can be done and when they have done that let us have the Parliamentary draftsmen to draft the Bill."
That is exactly what we did. It took us about 18 months. We worked as a Select Committee—and a Select Committee forgets what party it belongs to. We worked as a unit. We had a job to do and we did it. After 18 months, we brought out a unanimous Report and the Bill came before the House. That was the present Army Act. The Government and the House accepted it without a single Amendment. Five years afterwards, when, according to its provisions, the Act came for review before this House, I think that only three minor Amendments were necessary.
This seems to be an example of highly efficient legislation suitable for this sort of occasion, and suitable particularly where a Government have a narrow majority and are hard-pressed for time on the Floor of the House. The advantage of this procedure is that it will take no time on the Floor of the House at all. We go upstairs and work this out. We get the services of Parliamentary draftsmen at the right end of the year. We cannot ask for them during the 100 days, or whatever it is called, with the rush of legislation taking place, but when there is a slackening that is the time when we can do this kind of work. It seems to me that this is the way to do it.
I would make one other addition, because I believe that this Committee would have the advantage of 1952 Law 414 of the American Laws. They are the people who work by our system of law. It seems that this is the way that it should be done and I believe that we would, as we did in the Army Act, come to a unanimous recommendation.
I would end with this final plea. There is this further thing to be said. Here we are concerned with the rights of individuals and the protection of individuals against the arbitrariness of the Executive. This is what all this is about. If Parliament has any right or justification to exist at all, that is its most important purpose. Therefore, legislation dealing with this, which is so particularly Parliament's business—more Parliamentary business even than Government business—is the very kind of legislation in which the House of Commons should have a very special part in its creation, not in its mere approval.
I would urge that the Government accept this suggestion, get away from the excuse which we have heard year after year, "Yes, but it is not the time now." and now that 50 years of this prevarication have gone by say, "Let the House of Commons solve this as they solved the other".
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has a most honourable record on this matter. Year after year he has raised this question of the treatment of aliens, and I believe that the Committee is much indebted to him and will also admire the way in which this afternoon he has overcome a certain disability of voice, and once more put before us this question which is, as he says, of great importance for individual liberty and for the good name of our country.
There are several objections to the present method of our treatment of aliens. First, as was eloquently said by the Attorney-General last year, it is uncertain. Secondly, it is liable to be oppressive. In saying that, I certainly do not want to criticise in any way the humanity of the Home Office. Home Secretaries are liable to get into very hot water at very short notice and they have extremely difficult matters to administer.
The record of the present Home Secretary's predecessor is well known to the House. He indeed got into very hot water. I believe that he was made the scapegoat in many ways for procedures which were not his own responsibility, and I am sure that he discharged his duties as conscientiously and humanely as he possibly could, within the procedures laid down. While there is no doubt that occasionally our regulations are seriously oppressive, much more often, I think, they are mildly oppressive in that more and more people travel the world these days and expect to be treated as members of the human race and not as members of some nation to be put through a different Customs entrance procedure, to be made to fill in different forms and so on. It is important for us to keep up to date in the general world movement of the obstacles to travel being removed.
This brings me to the next objection to our regulations; they are ineffective. As is often pointed out, it is easy for train robbers to leave the country or for M. Bidault to enter it, certainly easier than for respectable members of the community to do so, for the great bulk of aliens when travelling must fill in forms and the information be filed, docketed, examined and the details eventually stored somewhere in a Government Department, in which, we have been given to understand, there are some 2 million cards, no doubt periodically examined.
Occasionally we find on the record details of how the hon. and learned Member for Northampton has entered the country by filling in the necessary forms describing himself as Adolf Hitler. I have no doubt that in due course someone will get around to this and a question will be addressed to the hon. and learned Gentleman. Needless to say he will find little difficulty in establishing that he is not Adolf Hitler. This all goes to show that a great deal of time is wasted under the present system.
The next objection which is often raised against these procedures is that they are not incorporated in permanent Statutes which have been properly discussed in the House but are subject to this annual procedure. For my part, I am less convinced by this objection. I believe that by chance, so to speak, there is a certain amount to be said for having an annual debate on this Act. It enables us to examine certain issues that arise from time to time. But I believe that our treatment of aliens is not one of the proudest features of our legal system. It is certainly uncertain and I believe that it is failing in its main object.
I appreciate that, and it certainly might be one of the matters which the Committee could consider.
Being a member of the Liberal Party has this feature: one has not recently had to rebut in office speeches made in opposition. Naturally, for my hon. Friends in the Liberal Party and I this is a temporary feature of our position, but at the moment it allows us a certain latitude in debate. I recall powerful speeches made on this subject by practically the whole legal representation on the Government Front Bench.
The Attorney-General has made the same suggestion as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. Several columns in HANSARD, much of it lucid, forceful and full of logic, are attributed to him, and I have no doubt that the officials of his Department will inform the Home Secretary of the intent of those speeches. The Home Secretary has taken part in these debates in past years. He is highly humane and logical, as a result of which he, too, must be impressed by his previous speeches. I am not so sure about the Under-Secretary.
Another feature of these debates is that most of those who take part in them would not have been in this country had they not got in as aliens. That applies to myself and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. Considering the number of people bearing his name, it is obvious that it must have been easy for his forefathers to enter the country. I will leave that matter there, for there is no need for me to go over the arguments in detail. The Minister without Portfolio, as well as all the others, is prominently on record as having drawn attention to many of the existing failings. These arguments surely need not be deployed yet again, particularly to a Labour Front Bench.
There is one slight difference between the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and that made by the Attorney-General last year, in that the precedent suggested by the Attorney-General concerned the establishment of a Royal Commission. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton has suggested the establishment of a Select Committee. I need not mention the rather unhappy history of the Liberal Party in recommending Select Committees, both at the time of the Maurice debate and in 1924. It would be interesting to know where the Leader of the Liberal Party stands on that point now.
What about the precedent of the Marconi scandal? If the Government were anxious to cover up anything, this might be a useful precedent. But Select Committees can bring out facts. I hesitate to cross swords, particularly when it comes to historical knowledge, with the right hon. Gentleman who now represents the Home Office on the "shadow" Front Bench, but I cannot think that his are particularly powerful precedents. In any case, I do not think that either the hon. and learned Member for Northampton or myself are particular about the form of the inquiry, so long as it follows the general procedure used over the Army Act.
It would be a useful inquiry. As the hon. and learned Member for Northampton pointed out, it might find that we should have an annual debate on this matter. It might find that in many ways wide discretion must be left to the authorities to deal with aliens. I do not think that he or I want to prejudice the findings of the inquiry by suggesting what it might recommend.
It is high time that we reconsidered the whole position of aliens, for the situation has changed out of all recognition since the First World War, from when this Statute dates. I should have thought that many of the arguments which have been urged in previous debates are valid today and therefore, without tying myself to any particular form of inquiry, I suggest that the case for an inquiry has been made out and I have no doubt that the Home Secretary will view it sympathetically and will accept the idea.
For the past 20 years we have had a debate every year along the lines which are still proceeding today. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) comprehensively, lucidly, powerfully and eloquently restated the case, and I certainly have no intention of taking a large part of the time of the Committee saying "ditto" to him.
In each of those years a group of hon. Members have repeated most of the arguments, no doubt not so well, but quite substantially, that my hon. and learned Friend advanced again today. I am happy to think that I have taken part in, I think, every one of those debates.
Among the little band of people who on every occasion during those 20 years have taken the time of the Committee to deal with this question, there are a number who now sit on the Government Front Bench. There is the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General and the Minister without Portfolio.
The Leader of the Liberal Party said what an advantage it was to be an hon. Member of the Liberal Party because he did not have to repudiate in office what he had said in opposition. To me it is an even happier lot to be an hon. Member of the Labour Party, because when in Government one can give effect to one's speeches made in opposition.
What I am saying is that the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General and the Minister charged with responsibility for law reform—and I see coming in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who has made powerful and eloquent speeches on this subject—now have the responsibility and, indeed, the opportunity of doing what the right hon. Gentleman was emphasising the Liberal Party could not do, namely, to give effect to the propositions which, year after year and over half a generation, have been advanced to the House of Commons.
Something has been said about the practice of the Home Office. This has varied. There have been periods when most of us have been thoroughly ashamed of its practice. There have been other periods when it has acted with a reasonably civilised approach. Reference has been made to the predecessor in office of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. I am not concerned to deny his sincerity. I am not concerned to deny that he acted responsibly and as he thought humanely according to his lights. But I think that most of us would agree that his lights were often lamentably dim. There were many things which he could not see which were plain to the rest of the world and certainly to the rest of the House of Commons. One has only to mention one name, Soblen—and I do not want to take time by mentioning more—to realise that it would be difficult to say a single word to rescue the reputation of this country from the ignominy with which the Soblen case and its handling by the then Home Secretary surrounded our reputation in the world.
I do not wish to take longer or to repeat any of the arguments. Like others, I am not wedded to the proposal which my hon. and learned Friend has made. Our difficulty on these occasions is that we cannot discuss details. We cannot propose Amendments. We can only say "Yes" or "No" to the proposition that the Act shall remain law for another year. We have said "Yes" for not merely 20 but 50 years. I do not see why a Select Committee would not be a good way to deal with this matter, and the precedent of the Army Act seems to me apt. But if this is not the case let us deal with the matter in some other way. Now we have the opportunity to practise what we have been preaching for so long. Let us not neglect the opportunity to put this arbitrary power behind us and make sure that people who live in our midst live on the same terms as the rest of us and are not subject to the arbitrary power of the Executive or of a Minister in any way or in any circumstances in which other citizens are not subject.
I am not seeking to bring the debate to an end. I thought that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervened at this stage.
It has long been established in the House of Commons that when human rights are at stake hon. and right hon. Members on both sides show a very deep interest. It is not surprising, therefore, that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who has such an honourable record in this regard, and the Leader of the Liberal Party referred to the number of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have made great, stirring speeches on this subject. I was interested in the statement of my hon. and learned Friend and the Leader of the Liberal Party that they would not be here if we had not permitted aliens to enter this country. I am a Welshman, and to the Welsh the English are immigrants because the Celts were here first.
I believe that our treatment of aliens is not a matter of secondary importance. It is an indication of the basic values on which our public policy is founded. The refusal of permission to land or a decision to deport an individual is fraught with such enormous consequences for the person concerned and for his family that the Committee is justified in exercising a jealous scrutiny of the way in which the Executive conducts itself in these matters.
We are dealing not with chattels but with people. Hon. Members on both sides will, I hope, concur in our view that there are no unimportant people in the world. Above all, we want to deal with people seeking entry to our shores on a basis of compassion and humane consideration. There are basic humane rights which no civilised immigration laws can or will ignore. Respect for the dignity of all people, regardless of whether by Providence they are born here or in another land, is a fundamental prerequisite for a good society, and this is the basis on which this Administration approaches the question of immigration law.
It is true that aliens lack protection because they are not citizens of our land, and our obligation to exercise the utmost care in taking decisions whether to allow them to land or to deport them is a very strong one indeed.
In view of the very large number of new Members of the House, I think that it would be useful if very briefly I outlined the basis on which control is exercised. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton said, we work from the Aliens Order, 1953, which consolidated previous Orders as amended by the Aliens Order, 1957 (which eased the requirements regarding registration at hotels), and the Aliens Order, 1960 (which exempted resident aliens from police registration). All three Orders were made under the 1914 Act as extended by Section 1 of the 1919 Act. They enable the Secretary of State to exercise such control over foreign nationals as may from time to time be necessary. I believe that on both sides of the Committee there will be recognition of the fact that such control is necessary from time to time. They provide in particular for such matters as the landing and embarkation of foreigners, the control of their employment or occupation here, the registration of addresses and personal particulars, and, of course, the deportation of undesirables.
There has been much criticism of the fact that what was originally granted as a temporary measure has come up for renewal for 40 years and more. The right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) last year, when he was Home Secretary, acknowledged the basis of the criticism that this annual procedure of what I might term the aliens legislation had to be gone through. I believe that everyone now agrees that the Alien Restriction Acts of 1914 and 1919 must eventually be superseded by permanent legislation. The Committee will appreciate, however, that this Administration has been in office for one month only. We have not had time to formulate definite propositions.
The general objective is, however, clear enough. It is to reconcile an effective control with a compassionate and humane treatment of the individuals arriving here and to face up to the question of permanent legislation. My right hon. and learned Friend agrees that it is undesirable that legislation concerning the life of so many people should be dealt with in this way. My own instinct is in full agreement with that of hon. Members who want to see permanent legislation. I understand, however, that there are many complications in this matter, and I must ask my hon. Friends and the rest of the Committee to give us time to examine the problem. My right hon. and learned Friend will look at this matter very carefully indeed.
It is clear that under contemporary conditions we cannot revert to the open-door policy of last century. Individual foreign nationals against whom there are serious personal objections have to be guarded against. Every country in the world has to do this. But it is important for us to ensure that no foreign national who may be eligible for entry is turned away in undue haste or without full consideration being given to what is urged in his favour. We are resolved to ensure that even when people are refused permission to land there shall be very opportunity for them, not only to advance the arguments in their favour, but, where necessary, to make contact with their relatives or other connections who are here.
Would my hon. Friend include in what he is saying, which we are listening to with great sympathy, the right of a man who is refused entrance to know why, so that he has an opportunity of replying to it, or of explaining it away?
I do not think that I can give a categorical assurance about all cases on this question, but I can assure my hon. Friend that we will look at the point that he has made.
Mr. hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton also reminded us that we ought to be more concerned about getting people in than keeping people out, and he referred justifiably to the great heritage which we in these islands enjoy, particularly the various groups of people who have come from other lands. The process still continues. Roughly, 16, 000 aliens stay here every year as it is, and I hope to give the Committee figures which will put in perspective the question of those people who are not allowed admission, but I want to deal a little further with what my hon. and learned Friend said.
One of the main criticisms advanced against our present system is that there should be a formal right of appeal for any alien refused permission to land, and my hon. and learned Friend referred to that this afternoon. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary would not be averse to such a right of appeal if a practical way could be found. He certainly would not rule the suggestion out, but any appeal would have to be directed purely to fact finding, for the ultimate responsibility as to whether an alien is to be admitted or not must at the end of the day rest with the Secretary of State and nobody else.
During the year ended 30th September last nearly 2½ million foreign nationals were granted leave to land; nearly 2½ million foreign nationals, just about equal to the entire population of Wales—I must be forgiven for making these important illustrations; an increase of 250, 000 or 12 percent. over the corresponding period of 1962–63. Against the total of million arrivals of foreign passengers the figure of 3, 515 refusals of leave to land during the same period can be seen in a better perspective: 3, 515 refused leave to land, 24 million people given permission to land. This works out at about one refusal for every 700 people admitted to our shores.
The Committee may wish for some indication of the kind of cases involved. Nearly half of the total, 1, 568, were refused admission because they had come to work here but they lacked a valid labour permit; 563 had insufficient means to support themselves during their proposed stay in this country; 74 were unacceptable on medical grounds; 95 were stowaways: 316 had no valid travel document and 57 were coming without a visa when they should have possessed one; 273 were seeking permanent settlement for which they were ineligible; and a further 279 were what were called technical refusals.
I looked into this. I discover they are largely passengers in transit through this country, and most of them, it is true, are Stateless aliens. They are allowed to continue their journey under suitable arrangements. A refusal of leave to land may be necessary because an alien has been deported from some other country and is passing through the United Kingdom on his way home, or it may be on account of difficulties over his documentation, which may be of very restricted validity.
The remaining 290 people who were refused permission to land on our shores could be described as undesirables for various reasons, and it is unfortunate that, although there are no unimportant people, in the world there are people whom to admit would create a social problem here or aggravate problems which already exist.
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend again, but he said people who were refused leave to land were undesirable people. It would be fairer—would it not? —to say that they were refused leave to land because it was thought they were undesirable people, because it might well have been that if they had had some knowledge of what was alleged against them and had had some opportunity of dealing with it perhaps the Home Office might have been convinced in a large number of cases that they were not so undesirable as they seemed.
I only said it of just over 290. I do not wish to quarrel with my hon. Friend. It may be—who knows? —that some of them might be able to establish a case, but the immigration officers, to whom I should like to pay high tribute, have an exacting task. They are given a task which no hon. Member in this Committee would like to assume. Let me say to the Committee that after being in this office a month, and having myself to take decisions which affect real people, I know that it causes salt tears and heartbreak if the decision is a wrong one. It is not an easy thing to do, to decide whether other people shall stay here, or go out, or whether they should be admitted. I do not like the job of doing that. At least, I like my job—it would not be honest to say otherwise—but I do not like that part of the job. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Hampstead and other hon. Members who have occupied positions at the Home Office will agree that it is a test of stamina to have to deal with these human cases. If it is so for me, it is so for the immigration officers. I salute these people who, dealing with millions coming to our shores, are able satisfactorily to deal with the overwhelming majority.
Hon. Members are understandably anxious about the question of deportation and the manner in which deportations are conducted. The number of foreign nationals deported in recent years has been of the order of 100 a year. In 1963, the total was 60. During the first nine months of this year, 44 deportations were carried out. When it is proposed to deport an alien who has been settled here for two years or more, the practice since 1956 has been to give him, except in a security case or where deportation is recommended by a criminal court, an opportunity to make representations to, and to be legally represented before, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate at Bow Street. Since these arrangements were made, 109 aliens have been eligible to make representations. Only 59 have decided to avail themselves of the opportunity. The Chief Magistrate has considered 57 of these cases and concurred in the proposal to deport in 42 cases. So far, there has been no deportation when the Chief Magistrate did not concur when the matter was put before him.
Since the total number of aliens in the United Kingdom is always well over 400, 000, the deportation figures are an indication that the overwhelming majority of these people who have come to live amongst us are well-conducted people whom we are glad to have as neighbours.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton raised the question of how we should proceed about permanent legislation and I am sorry that I did not deal with the point earlier when I turned to that subject. My hon. and learned Friend has suggested a Select Committee. Another suggestion was for a Royal Commission, and the example of how we dealt with the Army Act has been quoted. There were, of course, differences between the Army Act and the Aliens Act which, my hon. and learned Friend will be quick to realise, raise quite different issues. The aliens orders are not particularly complicated and while permanent legislation to replace them will be considered, the issues are of a different kind from those arising on the Army Act. They are issues of public policy such as Parliament itself might wish to debate in the ordinary way rather than to refer them to a Committee upstairs, however select might be its membership.
The Committee will realise that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and those of us who are privileged to serve with him in the Home Office are resolved to see that the treatment of aliens is dealt with in a manner commensurate with the rich heritage of these islands. We dislike the necessity for controls, but in the world as we find it they are essential in the national interest.
I assure my hon. and learned Friend that what he has said this afternoon will be borne in mind. The assurance which I can give to the Committee for my right hon. and learned Friend and for the present Administration is that if in the administration of these aliens laws we make mistakes and errors of judgment—and it would be remarkable if we or any other Government made no mistakes—we are resolved to err on the side of compassion and human kindness. We want the aliens laws to operate in a way that will at once not only protect our national interest, but also protect our good name.
I liked the speech of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, and I liked particularly and wish to endorse his tribute to the immigration officers. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not seeking to find fault with him by rising this afternoon. I recognise that he has had only a few weeks in office. I know how much I felt that I had to learn after three or four weeks. The hon. Gentleman has done very well in his first speech on behalf of the Home Office in a debate on a Bill.
I hoped, however, that the hon. Gentleman would be a little more forthcoming as regards permanent legislation. In corresponding debates on previous Expiring Laws Continuance Bills, I made it clear that in my view it was essential in the next Parliament to put this matter on a permanent basis. It is not possible to defend much longer the continuance of the control by this method from year to year. I recognise the difficulties. I listened to what the Joint Under-Secretary said, but he did not appear to me to have gone any further in pledging permanent legislation than I had gone towards the end of the last Parliament.
I entirely agree. I am not blaming the hon. Gentleman for not producing it on this occasion. This is a very big matter, and I should like to illustrate that by bringing to the notice of the Committee the sort of question which the House of Commons will have to decide before it puts this subject into permanent form.
First, however, I should like to invite the attention of the Committee to the fact that the figures quoted by the hon. Gentleman showing the very small percentage of people who are refused permission to land is a tribute to the reasonableness of the Home Office over the years. It is not true to say, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, that the Home Office is apt to act arbitrarily in these matters for the convenience of the Executive. I know, and everybody else who has held office at the Home Office knows, that the difficult cases are considered with great care. It is not true, as I have seen alleged, that somebody may be turned back at the ports because the immigration officer on duty happens to have a headache, or something of that kind. Difficult cases are referred right up, maybe to the Home Secretary himself. In my view, very few mistakes are made, although, as the hon. Gentleman said, none of us would claim that the immigration control never makes a mistake at all.
I thought that the deportation figures which the hon. Gentleman quoted also illustrated how reasonably that power in respect of aliens had been exercised, and that should be so. But I am certain he would agree that we need the power of deportation, because some people may arrive in this country and then information may come to light which indicates that they should not be here and should he got rid of as soon as possible.
I admired the hon. Gentleman's words about approaching all these immigration cases with compassion and sympathy, but there was very little compassion or sympathy from the party opposite when an American Fascist named Rockwell arrived in this country. The party opposite showed no sympathy or compassion towards him and demanded that I should get rid of him as quickly as possible, which I did. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that compassion and sympathy are not the prerogative of any one Government or any one Administration. As I say, individual mistakes may have been made, but in general this work has been well done, and I hope will continue to be well done.
I agree that the question of appeal is a difficult one. I gave a lot of personal thought to it, but I do not as yet see the answer. It has been suggested that other countries do this better, and that they give greater opportunity to people to establish their case to come in. But if one is going to give greater opportunity in twat sense by way of appeal, there must be some kind of Ellis Island procedure, on which so far we have firmly turned our backs. We shall need an Ellis Island procedure by which, when a person who arrives cannot satisfy the authorities that he has a right to be allowed to stay here, he can be kept somewhere—I hope not in a police cell—for possibly some considerable time until he has exercised his appeal rights, or whatever they may be, and the matter can be settled.
This is one question which the Committee or the House will have to face when we come to permanent legislation. Do we, or do we not, want a kind of isolation hospital where a person who has arrived here, but cannot immediately establish his right to land, shall be kept for days or maybe weeks until the matter is finally determined by the Home Secretary on the recommendation, perhaps, of some appeal tribunal? It is not an easy question.
I was aware of this difficulty in the Williams case. Everybody had much sympathy with the Williams family, but that family were doing what we never allow aliens to do, that is to say, they came here with no work permit, and with a desire to come here to look round for work. If we allowed that in the Williams case, why not in hundreds or thousands of other cases where aliens would dearly like the chance to come to this country and look round for work?
Hitherto we have taken the view that, this not being a country of general immigration, it is right that those who are hoping to work here should obtain a work permit, and, indeed, a firm prospect of a job before they can be allowed to come. I think that that is the appropriate way of proceeding. The hon. Gentleman said that he and his right hon. and learned Friend were going to ensure that anybody who was stopped at the port was given every opportunity of getting in touch with friends or relations in this country. There is no new departure in practice there. There is no change at all. That was the instruction to immigration officers throughout my term of office, and, so far as I know, for years back. Anybody who arrived at the port and appeared not to be able to justify his being given leave to land was offered the fullest opportunity to get in touch with friends or relations by telephone, or with a Member of Parliament, or anybody else. Nobody was denied that, and I hope that that situation will continue.
Let me quote one other case which occurred towards the end of the last Parliament. Somebody came here claiming political asylum. He had no papers with him. He had no identification at all. The immigration officers knew virtually nothing about him, except what he said. One cannot just let in somebody like that without taking time for inquiries, because, if it were possible to get in in that way, many of the most undesirable types might arrive, say that they were being persecuted in their own country, and ask for political asylum. One could, therefore, not accept that man's request for political asylum point blank, but the difficulty I have mentioned arose acutely. One was sympathetic to the man concerned, yet it was very difficult to know what to do with him until one could obtain further information from our representatives in the country from which he came.
The principal point I am seeking to make is that if one is going to alter the control in the ways which have been suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), and others, it may be that the House will have to accept some kind of Ellis Island concept for this country, which hitherto we have thought distasteful, and I confess I was not at all inclined to change our procedures in those directions.
Having said that, I conclude by thanking the hon. Gentleman for what he said, wishing him and his right hon. and learned Friend good fortune in their administration, and expressing the hope that they may have fewer really difficult, terrible cases to deal with than happened to me in my time.
May I cordially re-echo the hope expressed by the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke). I feel it very strongly, and I greatly hope that his desire will be realised and that I shall not have any of the difficult cases which he had, and which I recognise he had.
I have held this office now for one month, and one thing that I have learnt in the course of that month is that it is an office which confronts the holder with a number of extremely difficult decisions. It is very difficult to please everybody. The first example that I had was when I found a very friendly and delightful policeman standing outside my home. Shortly afterwards I received a letter from a neighbour who said that he was proposing to ask his insurance company to reduce his burglary insurance rates. I then received a rather angry communication from another neighbour, an elderly lady, who said that she strongly objected because it looked as though a crime had been committed in the street and that lowered the tone of the neighbourhood.
My hon. Friend has spoken fully in this debate, and I entirely endorse what he said, and only, as the debate has travelled wide, venture to intervene for a short time to give some indication of my own view of some of the matters which have been raised.
I differ from nobody in the Committee in thinking that we ought to have permanent legislation. It is not satisfactory that matters which touch the freedoms of a large number of individuals should be left to delegated legislation consisting of an Order in Council made under an Act passed in 1919 which, in a rather odd, lopsided way amended a war-time Act passed in 1914. I should have thought that, with the possible exception of the Leader of the Liberal Party, we would all take the view that it is time, as and when we can, to convert this hybrid type of enactment into something permanently on our Statute Book. But, starting from that, we do not get very far if all that we do is to take a Statutory Instrument and, by legislation, write it into a permanent Act of Parliament.
The purpose of those who feel that there should be permanent legislation is not merely to write into an Act, in terms, an existing Statutory Instrument. What they are asking is that the whole framework of legislation should be looked at in order to see whether it should be changed. In that connection, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) says that the right way to go about it is to appoint a Select Committee, as was done in the case of the Army Act, in order that the necessary legislation, which may be complicated, can be worked out by the processes of that Select Committee.
I join issue with him on that. I see the force of his suggestion, which he voices with great eloquence, but the feeling that I have about it is that if there is to be a change—and all the more if it is to be a fundamental change—in the legislation affecting aliens in this country, it surely is a direct responsibility of the Government. So far as I can speak from one month's experience, I feel that it is a matter which should be decided—or at any rate that the outlines of it should be laid down—by the Secretary of State for the Home Department with the assent of his colleagues, and that it should be a matter by which the credit of the Government should be judged, as in the case of other legislation.
If we shuffle it off, so to speak, to a Select Committee, we are abrogating a responsibility which should rest upon the Minister, and my view is that if legislation on these lines is enacted and takes a different form from the regulations which at present exist, it should flow from the consideration of the Minister concerned, with the approbation and consent of his colleagues, and it should be proposed to the Committee on that basis. I do not feel that great advantage will be gained by asking a Select Committee, in effect, to do that work for the Minister concerned. Therefore, accepting as I do that as soon as we reasonably can we should translate this ephemeral legislation into something more permanent, I do not see any great advantage in asking a Select Committee to work out the changes that are necessary.
I pass from that to the question of appeals. As my hon. Friend has said, the Government are not averse to the idea of appeals. In the month during which I have been at the Home Office consideration has naturally been given to the matter, and I have received the extremely skilled and valuable advice which Ministers normally receive from their admirable advisers. There is the difficulty that the right hon. Member for Hampstead indicated—the Ellis Island difficulty. There is the difficulty that arises as to the number of appeals which may be taken to whatever tribunal is set up to judge them. Are we to have a panel of Queen's Counsel, or something of that sort, or a panel of non-legal people?
As my hon. Friend has said, last year there were 3, 515 refusals. In what percentage of those cases were there likely to have been appeals? Where are the appeal tribunals to sit? Are they to sit in the courts, in London, so that a would-be appellant would have to go to London to prepare his case and present it there? I hope that the Committee will agree that while appeals are desirable in principle there are many real practical difficulties to overcome before we can accept the view that they must be set up.
I do not accept that aliens are so completely unprotected as some hon. Members have said. An alien in this country is protected by our laws in the same way as is anybody else. He is in some circumstances liable to arrest. If he lands without permission he can be arrested. So long as the decision whether or not he should be allowed in remains an executive one for the Government, it is difficult to say that the Executive should not have some power of arrest, especially in the case of an alien who lands without permission. But once he is permitted to land he can become the owner of property and can reside in this country, even on a temporary basis, and people cannot assault or injure him without his being able to have recourse to the courts, as would be the case with anyone else.
It has been said that he is unprotected, but I put it to my hon. and learned Friend that he has exaggerated the degree of helplessness of the alien in this country.
With great respect to my right hon. and learned Friend, although an alien is here and may have acquired property, if my right hon. and learned Friend orders his arrest that alien can be arrested. He has no right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus. The order of my right hon. and learned Friend is sufficient, and no reason for his arrest need be given. The security reason is considered adequate.
If he is to be deported there are powers. I will not take up the time of the House in discussing their precise nature and import, but it is wrong to refer to the alien as completely unprotected by our laws. He is not. If it were practicable to do so, however, some right of appeal should be accorded to the alien. In that I think that I have the agreement of my predecessor in office, and I can say that I will certainly examine that question. We have not been able to get very far with it in the course of one month, but I do not rule it out. I see the justice of the proposal.
It may be complacent to say it, but I think it not improbable that a Minister may become departmentally-minded and for him to be quite conscious that he is becoming departmentally-minded and, as a result, be the more careful to examine the advice that he receives and take the view that it would be useful to have the advantage of a new and independent mind in coming to a conclusion on a certain issue. With regard to somebody's name getting in the black book and there being some inaccurate information about him, this is a risk which in many contexts it is extremely difficult to avoid, much as one hopes to avoid it. It is suggested that an alien should always be told the reason why his entry is refused, if it should be refused. As my hon. Friend told the Committee, the great majority of cases are cases where the travel documents are incomplete, where the alien has no credentials, or where something of that sort arises. He may have no work permit to take up paid employment. In such cases it is rare that the alien does not know why he is being refused permission to enter.
In the case where an alien is regarded as undesirable, he may not be told that it is suspected, for example, that he is a drug pedlar, or that he has criminal propensities, or a bad record, but I hope that the Committee will agree that it is not easy to inform aliens, or would-be aliens, in all circumstances, that those are the reason why they are not being allowed to land, or what the grounds are for the refusal. That seems to be the only reasonable approach that one can take in dealing with that kind of difficult problem, which is bound to arise from time to time.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend say why we cannot tell people who are refused entry because they have a criminal record that we are refusing them entry because of that criminal record? It must be known to them.
I said that sometimes an alien is not told. Very often he is, or he can understand pretty clearly what the reason is for his being refused entry. If a man tries to land here after having committed a number of offences in France and he is refused entry he can draw an inference, if he is not told in terms. But he would probably be given a pretty clear explanation why he is thought to be an undesirable immigrant.
I do not exclude from consideration many of the proposals that have been made, nor am I averse to the general approach indicated by hon. Members on both sides on this question. I recognise that human freedoms are involved, and that large numbers of persons have decisions made in respect of them which are of the utmost importance to them, and that it is incumbent upon those making those decisions to see that the greatest possible care is taken to avoid injustice to any individual.
In those circumstances, I hope that the Committee will agree that the Amendment should not be accepted, but that we should be allowed to carry on the aliens control, as it is at the moment, for one more year.
It seems that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) is going to be disappointed. He implied that everything said by his hon. and right hon. Friends when on this side of the Committee would automatically be accepted by the Government Front Bench now that his party is in office. Yet he has just heard a proposal, put very eloquently by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and backed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), which has been turned down by the Home Secretary, and somewhat to my disappointment. I do not accept the argument that these changes are the direct responsibility of the Government of the day and of the Home Secretary.
I think that there was a great deal of force in the argument put by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton that individual liberties and the way we treat aliens are matters of such universal interest to hon. Members that this should be treated as a House of Commons matter and not something which should be merely a prerogative of Government. I do not see that this would abrogate a responsibility which should rest with the Minister, as the Home Secretary put it, and I think it a rather odd description to refer to this legislation as ephemeral. To my mind there seems to be great danger that if we allow this to be revised in the Home Office we may be having precisely the same discussion next year or the year after that for time immemorial because the previous Home Secretary, I seem to remember, gave exactly the kind of assurances which we have had this afternoon in a similar debate a year ago.
I wish to refer to one matter which I hope will be considered by the Home Secretary when he reviews the legislation and which I would much prefer to have been considered by a Select Committee, or some type of review of the kind referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. It is a case which occurred last summer, that of Dr. Bert Bensen. I spoke on this matter in the House during an Adjournment debate raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart). I also went to the then Under-Secretary of State about it, and I am extremely dissatisfied with the way things turned out in respect of that case.
The present Joint Under-Secretary of State referred today to the rules and regulations which had been made in consequence of the Aliens Act of 1919. He did not refer to the European Convention on Establishment of which we are signatories. In that it says that if an alien has been resident in this country for more than two years he shall not be deported without the right of representation to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. Dr. Bensen's solicitor went to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate to make such representation and it was not until the solicitor had arrived there that he was told that Dr. Bensen was being deported on grounds of security. I think that is the first unsatisfactory feature of the case. He should have been told immediately.
I hope that I am not wrong, but I think I heard my hon. Friend say that in every case, except where security was involved, where a man had been formerly resident in this country for two years or more and it was proposed not to renew his permit to remain, he was told what was wrong and given an opportunity to answer and the right of legal representation. I think that none of these things was ever offered to Dr. Bensen, nor has it ever been said in Dr. Bensen's case, so far as I know, that any question of security was involved.
I am sorry if I missed that part of the speech of the Joint Under-Secretary of State. The situation is that Dr. Bensen did apply through his solicitor to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate to show reason why he should not be deported. It was not until the solicitor arrived at the court that he was told it was because of security. I may say that the then Home Secretary was extremely disingenuous about this. On 4th June I put down a Question to the right hon. Gentleman in which I asked
if he will state his reasons for asking Mr. Bert Bensen, a citizen of the United States, to leave Great Britain.
His reply was:
I have asked Mr. Bensen to leave the country because I am satisfied that his continued presence here would not be in the public interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1964; Vol. 695, c. 188.]
If that had been the reason, and if that was all there was to it, Dr. Bensen would have been entitled to make representations before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. When I put this point specifically to the former Joint Under-Secretary of State she said that this phrase was always interpreted as meaning that imperative considerations of national security applied. I particularly underline the word "imperative". I put it to the Joint Under-Secretary that there would have been no point in putting in the word "imperative" unless there were certain security cases in which representations to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate might be very necessary. The answer to that was that the European Convention on Establishment gave Governments and Ministers complete right to decide what these considerations were.
I believe that Dr. Bensen got into bad favour because of his membership of certain peace organisations and because of his association with certain people who were involved in organisations which were not popular with the Government. I consider this a totally inadequate reason for deporting anyone. If I am correct in my supposition, it is a most reprehensible thing that deportation should be allowed to take place on the ground of security when that has nothing to do with it. These organisations are not considered to be a threat to security, and therefore individuals who belong to them, or associate with members of such organisations, should not themselves be treated as an imperative threat to security. It would be interesting to know how many of the 44 cases involving deportation this year were actually cases where security was involved. If he can give me an answer to that question I should like the Joint Under-Secretary to do so, because I think it important.
Are there a large number of cases in which deportation is being carried out for reasons which really have nothing to do with security but in which this phrase is used? That is what I want to establish and what I hope that a Select Committee or the Home Office, if new legislation is to be drafted there, will consider very carefully. I wrote to the present Home Secretary on 28th October asking whether the deportation order against Dr. Bensen might be withdrawn. I should be grateful if that could be considered now. I gave the right hon. and learned Gentleman notice that I was going to raise this matter and I hope it will be possible to say that Dr. Bensen can continue to reside in this country because, so far, no reasons have been given for his expulsion. I have never had any explanation from the previous Government that security would be involved and no explanation has been given to Dr. Bensen himself about the real reason. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to withdraw that order.
I shall not detain the Committee too long and I hope that I shall not convict myself of illiberalism by saying that during the 20 years that I have been dealing with the Home Office I have found nothing which would make me believe that anybody has been deported from this country because he had joined some organisation which is unpopular with the Government. I find that very difficult to believe. My own experience has been that in the execution of its onerous duties under this unsatisfactory legislation the Department has been zealous, fair-minded and meticulously fair. Other people may have had different experiences. I can only testify to my own. It in no way obscures the fact that the legislation, as it now stands, is utterly unsatisfactory.
I am concerned that the Home Secretary seems to think it is a good enough answer to the proposals of my hon. and learned Friend to say that there is a better way of dealing with the matter than that proposed by my hon. and learned Friend, without giving the Committee an explicit assurance that he intends to adopt that better course. We were all very impressed with the reputation of both the Ministers and the uneasiness felt by the Home Secretaries and their assistants for the last 20 years about the totally unsatisfactory denial of justice, at any rate in theory, which exists under the legislation. But until we get an explicit assurance that some action will be taken to remedy this state of affairs all that the Committee is being treated to is emotion without consequence. The reference to Ellis Island by the former Home Secretary typifies an attitude which justifies the facilities and the doing of nothing to remedy the present state of affairs. Because it is found that the Ellis Island proposal has objections an even more objectionable state of affairs is continued, of people having no right to appeal. One, of course, finds it easy to raise a number of difficult questions, and if one asks those questions before setting up tribunals one simply does not set up tribunals. These questions are difficult, but one could find the answer if one were determined to do so.
As for the suggestion of an Ellis Island isolation hospital type of accommodation, made by the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), we all know the right hon. Gentleman's delicacy in these matters. But rather than deny visitors or aliens the right of appeal against refusal to land we might set up the equivalent of an Ellis Island. It need not be in the nature of an isolation hospital, and it certainly need not resemble a prison cell. It could be more in the nature of a Customs bond where people who felt that they had been unfairly deprived of their rights should have the opportunity of consulting their lawyers, seeing their relatives and making adequate representations to the authorities.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who enjoys the deep affection and respect of both sides of the Committee, is rather touchy on this question of expecting authority to vouchsafe its reason. It is characteristic of authority that it equates its own wisdom and knowledge with what is desirable in the public interest and maintains taciturnity as long as it possibly can. When I asked why criminals were not admitted because they had a criminal record, my right hon. and learned Friend seemed to think that I had made a tactless and inappropriate intervention. It seems to me the most natural thing in the world and to correspond with natural justice that one might tell a man what one found wrong with him. He might then find that one had made a ghastly mistake.
Where there is a reasonable case and one puts it to the Home Office it is dealt with, as I have said, in an immaculate and open-minded manner by those who have the responsibility, but what about the thousands of cases of those who are turned away from all sorts of places in the world without their having gone to their Member of Parliament to put their case for them?
Many years ago, about 1948, I took up the case of a Greek shipowner who had a considerable business to do in this country in insuring and arranging freights for his ships, much to the advantage of this country. He was refused permission to remain in this country and when I pressed for the reason I was told by a right hon. Friend who is not in the present Government that the man spent more time in this country than could be justified by the business which he came here to transact. Apparently he ran a string of horses and was in the habit of visiting the stables. This was not approved by somebody who had given him a visa. That kind of nonsense can be fairly readily put right, but in humbler cases without access to Members of Parliament much injustice may result. It is no justification of bad law and bad power exercised by the Executive to say that the power is rarely exercised. An alien has the protection of our law in almost every respect, but is there any reason why he should not have the protection of our law, our principles and beliefs in natural justice, in all respects?
This preoccupation of ours with security matters is much overworked. In 1944 it was not found necessary to protect the security of the nation by depriving a British subject of legal rights founded in natural justice and on the long traditions of our land. There is no more danger to the State in this day and age from a foreigner coming here than there is from an English subject, and the long history of sedition and treason and the like, especially in recent times, seems to suggest that it is in the resident and the subject here that such danger might be found to exist.
We may have come down in the world as a nation in terms of power, but England's name is still a magic name in many parts in respect of its institutions and its pattern of justice. Instead of giving a good example in this matter of aliens, we are setting a bad example with bad law, and putting off time and again an obvious remedy. I beg my right hon. and learned Friend to give more firm and satisfactory assurances than we have had so far.
I also find this a very unsatisfactory answer. We are told, as we have been told for half a century, that there ought to be permanent legislation. We are then told by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, as again we have been told for half a century, that legislation would be very difficult. One suspects that the same result will come about and that we shall continue without legislation.
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a delightful speech, said that the position with regard to the Army Act was different because the position which we are now discussing raises issues of public policy. What on earth did the Army Act raise? There was a great issue of public policy there. It was a highly important one of what rights a citizen army should have against the Executive. The question which we have to consider here is what rights aliens should have against the Executive. It is very much the same sort of public question, and very much the sort of public question with which the Committee should particularly interest itself—the rights and the protection of the individual vis-à-vis the Executive.
My right hon. and learned Friend said that permanent legislation ought to be the responsibility of the Government. It must be, of course; but since Government for half a century have failed, why not let a Select Committee of the House of Commons make some suggestions? The Government can either accept or reject those suggestions but they would have something to look at and work on. What is the objection to this? It succeeded in the case of the Army Act. If we Members of Parliament as a Select Committee are prepared to do this work for the Government, why should not we do it? After all, this for both parties over the years has been an example of Government failure.
I do not know about withdrawing the Amendment. I feel on occasions that the House of Commons has lost its reputation and has become too much the servant of Government. If there is to be an association between two institutions, that association does not work if one institution is always to have its way. Sometimes Government ought to give way to Parliament and to the House of Commons. If the House of Commons insists on occasions, that does not mean that the Government are going to resign. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is not a Dr. Barbara Moore and is not going to threaten suicide if he does not have his way.
If the Committee were to insist on the Amendment, it would not mean that the Government would resign, and it would not mean that we would cease to have any law to control aliens. It would merely mean that Parliament had said to the Government, "We do not find this satisfactory and you have to think it out and come to us with better ideas on the Report stage." I am not at all sure that that is not what we should say to the Government. I ask them to think again or we may very well say it.
I hope that the Home Secretary will not completely turn down without further consideration the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). As a member of the former Government, I take my full share of responsibility for the fact that we have no permanent legislation on this subject. None of us in the former Government speaks with a clean sheet here. But the fact remains that we are operating, basically, under legislation dating from 1919. I thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman made a good point when he referred to the Declaration of Human Rights and the fact that much has happened internationally since then which has a bearing on this matter.
I am not fully convinced that a drastic revision of the law is called for. I am, however, quite sure that a clarification of the law is called for and new statute law on this subject is certainly called for. No Government have done what is necessary in this respect in the post-war period. In the circumstances, there seems to be a prima facie case for saying that a Select Committee of the House of Commons might be given a chance to look into the matter.
This history of Select Committees of the House of Commons is a chequered one. Someone, very properly, referred earlier to the rather unhappy precedent of the Select Committee on the Marconi case. No one will suggest that a Select Committee on legislation affecting, say, the steel industry would be particularly useful at this time. Yet one remembers that the procedure did work in 1952 over the Army Act. I remember those days very well. It seems to me quite arguable that this is a case in which a Select Committee, taking expert evidence and working with Parliamentary draftsmen, might have something to contribute.
As I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal, he is not suggesting that the Home Secretary should be deprived of the necessary executive decision or that the Government should be denied final decision about legislation which they recommend to Parliament. No one feels more strongly than I do that it must be the Government who ultimately decide what legislation they recommend Parliament to pass. There is, therefore, no intention that the Select Committee would usurp the Government's functions. All I am saying is that this is a particular case in which the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion at least deserves sympathetic consideration. It is not a political issue. It is very much an issue between representatives of constituents, on the one hand, and the Executive, on the other, and the proposal was put forward in a reasonable mood this afternoon.
I have a good deal of sympathy with the doubts and hesitations which have been expressed on the subject of some sort of appeal procedure for aliens. I entirely see the important questions which arise here, particularly on the Ellis Island point. In his delightful speech, the Joint Under-Secretary of State told us that there had been one refusal for 700 people admitted. Those figures suggest that, perhaps, the administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke) was not in all respects quite the sink of illiberalism which is sometimes suggested, and I am sure that we on this side are glad that those figures were given.
I shall say no more about it. Perhaps we can bring this debate to a close shortly. I ask the Home Secretary not finally to turn down the proposal made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton.
Most certainly I do not turn down the suggestion. I was indicating difficulties which seemed to me to be in the way of it and objections which occurred to my mind. Having received a very courteous letter from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) indicating that he would make the suggestion, I was giving my prima facie reactions. I can see the merit of his proposal, and I definitely undertake that I shall give it the most careful thought. If I ultimately decide that it is not a course which I can adopt, I assure him that that will be only after a most careful reading of his speech and considering the reasons which have been advanced.
I beg to move, in page 2, to leave out lines 17 and 18.
I must first make clear that my suggestion not to continue the Commonwealth Immigrants Act is purely formal. There was no other way of bringing the case forward. I support the Act. I voted for it on Second Reading. I wish to extend its provisions. In my view, it should be strengthened in the light of knowledge which we now have since the Act was passed. I say this very firmly not only in the interests of the old inhabitants of this country but also in the interests of all our new arrivals, for it is their livelihood which will the first to be threatened if any serious danger of unemployment were to arise.
This is no idle fear. Unemployment could arise under any Government. If the present Government do half the things they said that they would do in the carefree days of Opposition, it will certainly arise and arise quickly, and the danger will then be upon us.
I shall deal with one or two concrete suggestions in a moment. First I wish to resolve one point which has been puzzling me. Do I congratulate hon. and right hon. Members opposite on at last seeing sense on immigration, or do I sympathise with them on all having developed leprosy? One has only to think of what they said when we were passing the Act. It was opposed bitterly and viciously the whole way through. There is a certain macabre humour about the fact that it is now the Labour Party which is seeking to extend its operation for another year.
It is probably just as well that the Foreign Secretary's electors was as discriminating as they were in not returning him at the last election. I recall very readily what he said about the Act at the time when it was going through. He denounced it in no uncertain terms, saying that it contained
bare-faced, open race discrimination… written not only into its spirit… but into its very letter. The more I have studied the Bill, the more I have come to the conclusion that it is ill-conceived, that it will not work … and that it will do irreparable damage to the Commonwealth."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 16th Nov., 1961; Vol. 649, c. 706.]
Yet the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished member are proposing to extend the Act for another year, with, I may say, the warm support of everyone who has considered the problem of immigration at all seriously.
Perhaps it is just as well that the right hon. Gentleman is not with us because I am quite certain that, as an honest man, he would be driven to oppose this extension of the Act, and we should find him in open conflict with the Prime Minister, a most unedifying spectacle on the Front Bench. He could hardly speak and vote in favour of doing irreparable harm to the Commonwealth.
I had the honour of representing Smethwick for 14 years. I hope that I shall be pardoned before adding my protest to those which have been voiced against the quite unjustified smear made by the Prime Minister not only on my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) but on all those who voted for him. What had these terrible sinners done? They rejected a Member whose majority had been, over four elections, progressively reduced from 12, 000 to losing the seat. Who can blame them if they had come to the conclusion that they wanted a Member with more local knowledge and a great deal more local interest than their previous Member had shown? That hardly justifies—
In fact, they did not; but we can go into that another time.
As I was saying, what the Smethwick electors did hardly justified an accusation of moral leprosy from the Prime Minister, particularly in face of the Labour Party's past record in that constituency of dealing with a problem which the constituents obviously felt was of great local moment. They wanted a Member who had studied their problem and had obviously shown some sense of understanding it. Certainly they were not prepared to give their support to those who indulged in this frothy talk about "irreparable harm to the Commonwealth" in 1961 and then, as the General Election drew nearer and they found it electorally unsuitable, became much more tolerant in their view of the Act.
None the less, so furious was the right hon. Gentleman at the crossing of his will that he decided to outrage Parliamentary procedure and tradition by delivering an attack on a Member who had not yet made his maiden speech, and on one to whom he had given no previous notice of the attack, which is something which, to my knowledge, has never been done before.
What an attack it was! It may well be that the right hon. Gentleman has arrogated to himself the right to judge moral and political leprosy, or he may be relying on his two notorious supporters, the Bishop of Southwark and Canon Collins, two churchmen much more noted for their politicsthan for their Christianity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] For myself, I am prepared to rely on a remark by Talleyrand when he had been abused by the great Napoleon in very much the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick was abused in this House. On leaving the room, Talleyrand said:
What a pity so great a man should be such a vulgarian!
When one considers the campaign after campaign of innuendo, smear and everything else—
I apologise, Sir Samuel. However, I do not apologise for feeling some heat on this question, because my Black Country men are dear to my heart—[Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite will for a moment restrain their efforts at semaphoring their message across the Committee, they will see as I go on that my statement is true, whichever way one takes it.
Was it a belief in racial equality or merely fury at his will being crossed that led to the right hon. Gentleman's outburst? I do not know. I have suspected dictatorial symptoms on the other side of the Committee before now. I will not go into the behaviour of one or two Ministers at Question Time, because that would he out of order, except to say that they have confirmed my ideas that they are not all that attached to the normal processes of democracy.
The Labour Party's opinions about the whole question of immigration have been muddled throughout from the time they first opposed the Bill because they thought it electorally desirable to do so. Indeed, the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Jennie Lee), who now holds office in the Government, gave us a very entertaining speech on immigration. She pointed out how desirable it was to have more of it because nearly all immigrants voted Labour when they got here. Hon. Members opposite have now discovered that that it is not the case, and they are, therefore, prepared to take a more rational outlook on the problem of importation of other persons.
One of the most futile suggestions put forward by progressive thinkers hitherto is that this problem could be solved by agreement with the Commonwealth. This was put forward when the original Bill was being discussed. It was said that nothing could be easier and that all that one had to do was to ask them to restrict their emigration. Hon. Members forgot that it is not so easy to do as all that. Nor is there all that great willingness to do it. Let us be quite clear on this. Such agreement was sought and, of course, it was not found. In any case, this country had no right to abdicate to others the responsibilities for its own government.
Recently we were told, I believe with a flourish of trumpets, by some progressive circles that the Prime Minister of Trinidad had put forward a wonderful scheme to enable us to control immigration with the full agreement of the Comnmonwealth. I should think that even hon. Members opposite would realise that Trinidad is not India and that there are not 50 million unemployed in Trinidad as in India, and that the possibility of an unrestricted flow is very much less from the Caribbean than it is from far more overcrowded and, per head, far poorer countries.
Whether we like it or not, there is an immigration problem and we must face it. There are various things that we have to do. We cannot expect Trinidad to do them for us. First of all, we must realise that, in spite of this Act, more people are arriving annually in this country than we can comfortably assimilate. The figure is not as large as many feared, but it is still too large. Also, unfortunately, we do not know accurately how serious the problem is. We know that there is overcrowding in a number of our cities, but we do not know to what extent there is overcrowding because local authorities have been very neglectful in the past about trying to find out where there is overcrowding. This is understandable because if they track any down and enforce the overcrowding Act, they have then to rehouse the people they turn out of the overcrowded house, and they immediately get into endless trouble with the persons on their ordinary housing list. This is one of the great problems with any local authority. However, we could find out. We could make local authorities find out, without imposing on them the obligation to enforce the overcrowding Act, where the overcrowding is and how bad it is and whether there is any possible solution.
My experience in the southern part of the Midlands is that the overcrowding—and, indeed, the whole immigrant population—is not as serious a problem there as it is in many other places. We have, of course, an immigrant population in my constituency, but it is not nearly as big as most of my constituents think. However, I should like to know—and I should like the Home Office to make certain that the local authorities find out for me and others—exactly what the problem is, how many immigrants there are and whereabouts in the borough they are situated.
It is all very well to say that we have an electoral register, even if it were complete, which any hon. Member knows is not so. A very large number of people do not appear on it for understandable reasons, perhaps because their landlord would be distressed if it were discovered that he had far too many people in his house. Apart from that, this information is not traceable from the register. Many immigrants have names which are precisely similar to ours. One can find out where Indians and Pakistanis live, but one cannot find out where Jamaicans live. John Smith may have come from Kingston upon Hull just as well as from Kingston, Jamaica. This research requires to be done, and thoroughly done, so that we can understand what the problem is before we proceed to amend the Act, which I am convinced is very highly necessary. One can also understand the education problem as well.
We already have certain checks before people are allowed into the country. They have to produce vouchers to show that they have jobs waiting for them. I think that it is possible to tighten up the procedure to make certain that these vouchers are genuine and that there is no evasion in their production and distribution. But, more than that, it seems quite reasonable to ask that there shall be accommodation available before an immigrant is allowed in. If that were the case, we would not have this overcrowding.
This again is, to my mind, very much in the interests of the immigrants as well as ourselves. As it is, we refuse a man entry if he has a criminal record. What is more likely to encourage him to start a criminal record if he has not one already than to shove him into overcrowded accommodation at excessively high rents? It is almost forcing him into crime.
We reject, quite rightly, people on health grounds. What is more likely to produce ill health than to shove a family or a single immigrant into overcrowded accommodation, again at too high a rent and where both malnutrition and all the disadvantages of a very hard climate to one who has come from a sunny country will produce ill health? It is no good having this check at the ports, however good it may be, and then allowing conditions over here which will cancel out the effect of our original precautions.
The next problem is that of education. This is extremely difficult, but there is no doubt that a genuine education problem exists in a large number of towns. Where there is a very large proportion—in some cases even a majority—of children who cannot speak English in a primary school, it must follow quite obviously that the education of the whole school will suffer and be retarded. What the solution is, it is not for me to say tonight. It is for the Department of Education to work out. But we should take some precaution before allowing in immigrant families and thereby make certain that the children can be educated without disrupting the education service.
I admit that this is no easy task but there is no doubt that the education problem is the one which has given rise to more complaint than any of the others which have been brought forward against the inflow of immigrants—more so than overcrowded housing and their alleged way of life. Our schools are very important in the minds of those who have lived in this country for a long time and they are terrified at the possible reduction of standards which may occur from the sort of conditions which I have just described.
That brings me to the fact that it is not too late to solve the problem. We shall not solve it, however, just by continuing the operation of the Act by a year. It is a temporary Measure and I trust that it will be replaced with a more comprehensive and thoroughgoing Act.
This immigration started as part of a demand for cheap labour. There is no getting away from that. There is nothing immoral in looking for cheap labour. It is legal enough, and if it is legal it is natural that industry—including nationalised industry—and the local authorities, which are responsible for transport and other services, should look for cheap labour that they cannot get in this country.
No. I am confining myself to the English language. If the hon. Gentleman cannot understand it, that is not my fault. It is quite clear that the wages which are available in London Transport are not sufficient to attract enough of the older inhabitants of this country. London Transport has, therefore, had to get immigrants who will accept those wages. I really cannot be much more specific than that, although I am doing my best.
Yes, certainly. By "cheap labour" I do not necessarily mean underpaid labour but labour at a price—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I find it hard to explain this to what I must confess I consider to be a very stupid collection of people opposite. I mean labour which is employed at a price at which the inhabitants of this country will not work. Is that now clear and simple enough?
The hon. Gentleman makes a point that there is nothing wrong in employing cheap labour. Those were the words he used. Does he, therefore, condone this in the case of coloured nurses, coloured doctors and coloured transport workers? We do not accept that theory on this side of the Committee.
In his anxiety to make some form of interruption, the hon. Member has got a long way from the Bill. I am not condoning or approving anything. But there is nothing immoral in looking for labour at the lowest price one can get it for. I have no doubt that, when the hon. Member is thinking of paying his valet—as, no doubt, he will soon have one with our new affluence—he will not pay the man more than he has to. That is all that I have been saying.
I hope I have made it clear that my advocacy of continuing and tightening up the Act is as much in the interests of the immigrants as it is of the original inhabitants. Many immigrants will ultimately return to their home countries. Nearly all the Irish do and I believe that a very large number of Jamaicans do. But others will settle here and be assimilated. There is nothing new in this; nor it is impossible. From the year 1880, an enormous number of Central European immigrants have come to this country. They have been assimilated over quite a long period. When they came here they had totally alien views on life and the majority of them could not speak a word of our language.
I cannot give way again.
By degrees the assimilation of our earlier immigrants has been very nearly totally completed. Now it is very difficult indeed to trace who is an original immigrant from Central Europe and who is not. The same thing will undoubtedly happen again in the end, provided that we are allowed adequate time for this assimilation to take place and do not overcrowd our economy with more people than it can conveniently absorb at any one time. I have no doubt that, with a reasonable extension of this Act, we can do that.
Having said that I want these provisions to be tightened, I must make one proviso and ask for an exception to be made. This is a matter purely of sympathy rather than of practical politics. There are many Asiatics who for three generations and sometimes more have been resident in our ex-African colonies. They have no homeland except that in which they are resident at the moment. They cannot even speak the language of their country of origin. I have a number of them in my constituency with whom I converse in Swahili, which is their, native tongue, not Hindi or Urdu.
These people went to those colonies under the encouragement and protection of British administration. That is why they went there and that is how they managed to stay there. For good or ill, that protection has now been withdrawn and these people are faced with persecution and very hard ill treatment. Anybody who has looked at the pronouncements of some of the new Governments in dealing with their Asiatic subjects will know that that is only too terribly true.
These people should be admitted to this country because, whether we like it or not, it is our fault that they are in this state and we ought to do our best to find homes for them when they ask us. This is where Government interference and Government direction would be justified. They could be found homes where they would not be overcrowding the existing working population. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] These people are mostly craftsmen and there is always room for craftsmen in many different parts of the country. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Rugby?"] I am not trying to be funny about this. Nor do I think that hon. Members opposite are showing a decent appreciation of the plight of these people when they try to make out that I am. Hon. Members opposite should be ashamed of themselves for neglecting the sufferings of their fellow creatures. With that final plea, I ask the Committee to support my Amendment.
We are obviously faced with a very important social and human problem. The Committee will not be surprised if I do not emulate the tone of the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise). He fairly soon got down to solid argument, and I will try to respond to him in the tone in which he thereafter conducted his speech.
It will be of most assistance to the Committee if I seek to divide my answer to the hon. Gentleman's speech into separate compartments. As I have said, we are faced with a problem and we have to deal with it. It is no good pretending that it is not there, and we cannot simply take a merely negative attitude towards it. As a great nation, we have to take a positive attitude. When we on this side of the Committee say that we believe that our positive approach should be to take steps to try to prevent the coloured immigrants from being regarded as, or feeling themselves to be, second-class and not first-class citizens, I think that we will have the approbation of the whole Committee.
In my approach to what I would venture to describe as the positive aspect of our dealing with this matter, I will first endeavour to make some evaluation of the extent of the problem itself. One cannot form a view as to what is the right way to tackle it unless one knows its dimensions. I hope, therefore, that the Committee at the outset will bear with me if I retail what I hope will be not an excessive number of figures in order to enable hon. Members to evaluate for themselves the scope of the problem with which we have to deal.
Part I of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act came into operation on 1st July, 1962. The Committee will no doubt have studied its provisions, but perhaps it would not be unhelpful just to remind hon. Members of the general scope of the Act in order to see how its Sections have acted on particular streams of immigrants.
Hon. Members will remember that those who have vouchers issued by the Ministry of Labour are entitled to entry. There are other categories who are also entitled to entry under Section 2 of the Act, namely, the wife and the children under 16 of an immigrant who is given leave to enter, or who is already here; students who wish to seek entry to this country for the purpose of pursuing their studies for a substantial part of the time that they are here; and, of less importance in terms of numbers, persons able to maintain themselves.
May I again remind the Committee how the system of Ministry of Labour vouchers works? They are divided into three separate categories. Category A relates to would-be entrants who have a job to go to in this country and for whom employers have actually asked. Category B is a very important category, because it comprises immigrants who have special skill. In practice it relates very largely to doctors from Commonwealth countries, nurses, teachers and other people possessing professional ualifications—in general people who have some training which would enable them to be of great value to our economy. The remaining category, category C, broadly comprehends other would-be entrants, namely, workers who do not fall within categories A or B, and it includes a large body of unskilled workers.
What happens is that vouchers of the A and B categories are given precedence and the allocation made by the Ministry of Labour of vouchers for a long time has been taken up almost entirely by A and B vouchers. In other words, the entrants have been either workers who have come here to jobs for which they were actually required and for which they had been asked, or persons with particular training or special qualifications, such as nurses and doctors. It is not necessary for me to remind the Committee how essential their help has been to the running of the National Health Service. I think that I would have the agreement of everybody, particularly my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, if I said that it would be disastrous if their help were withdrawn from the National Health Service. Nor is it only doctors and nurses who come into category B, but teachers and other persons possessing specialist qualifications.
What happened with category C was that by the middle of this year a very big backlog of applications had been built up, largely from India and Pakistan. The backlog had reached the figure of practically 300, 000 applicants and, because of this very great backlog, in June, 1964. the last Government decided that they would accept no further non-priority category C applications from India and Pakistan, from where the great majority of the category C applications came.
So, if one tries to get a view of the scale and format of the immigrant problem, the position is that those workers who are now coming in are either those actually wanted for specific jobs and whose presence is necessary and helpful to the economy, or persons who have specialist qualifications which result in their being of very great value to the community. The National Health Service, for example is helped by them. Equally, as everybody knows, immigrants have played a valuable part in our transport services. So we are dealing with people who come here and contribute a great deal. The A and B category workers are of very great value to our economy.
The next figure with which I would venture to trouble the Committee is this. Hon. Members may say, "How many immigrants from the new Commonwealth countries"—I exclude Australia, New Zealand and Canada—"are physically here at the moment?" That is obviously a crucial figure to know in order to ascertain the dimensions of the problem. The best estimate that my Department can give of that figure is that there are now here 800, 000 immigrants from the new Commonwealth countries. In order to complete the understanding of the situation, one must ask how many of that 800, 000 have arrived since the control began to work, in other words, since 1st July, 1962. The best estimate I can give of that figure is that since 1st July, 1962, something in the region of 120, 000 have arrived, so if we deduct from the 800, 000 that 120, 000 and make allowance for the normal natural increase of the immigrants who live here, we get an idea of what the effect of the control has been and how it is running at the present moment.
For the sake of accuracy in the use of words, I would point out that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that 120, 000 was the number who had arrived from the new Commonwealth countries since 1st July, 1962. I think that if he studies his own figures he will find that many more than that have arrived and that the figure of 120, 000 represents the net increase, that is to say, arrivals in excess of departures.
I accept that correction. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly right. That is the net amount, the number who still remain here after deducting from the total number of arrivals those who have left. Those 120, 000 have remained here and are included in the figure of 800, 000 which I gave. I think I have given a general idea of the problem.
I certainly can give similar figures, but I would sooner pursue the train of my argument and give those figures later; otherwise it disrupts the thread of my argument.
In order to investigate the problem further, I propose to give some breakdown of the voucher holders of A, B and C categories who are included in that 120, 000. I shall deal in round thousands in order not to complicate matters. Of the voucher holders of the three categories from 1st July, 1962, until the end of September, 1964, some 46, 000 have arrived. Not all the vouchers issued are taken up, but we have found in recent months that the percentage of those that are issued that are in fact taken up and represent arrivals in this country are some 75 per cent. I hope this is not becoming too complicated. Of the arrivals since control some 46, 000 are A, B and C voucher holders. As I have reminded the Committee, that does not latterly include any C voucher holders; the only voucher holders now coming in are A and B.
The second major category of immigrants which goes to account for the arrivals up to the present date comes under the heading of dependants, and I would remind the Committee that under Section 2 children under the age of 16 and wives are entitled to come here. In point of fact, immigration control has not been quite as strict as that, and when an immigrant who is here and is working or who seeks entry and is going to be granted permission to enter wishes to bring with him a child who is over 16 or a near relative who is dependent upon him, the Immigration Control have granted the right to such persons to enter on, broadly speaking, humanitarian grounds which I feel the whole Committee would approve. Therefore, if we ask, under that second heading, how many arrivals there have been since 1st July, 1962, when the control began, to the end of September this year, the figure is 61, 000 dependants.
I want now to draw a contrast. When one sets the figures of net balance of immigration against those of immigrants who are, as it were, settled under a right which they possess to come to this country, it seems to emerge that there is a certain balance which is difficult to account for except upon the hypothesis that there is some degree—I cannot say how much because it is very difficult to say—of evasion of control.
If one makes the addition of those arrivals who consist of voucher holders and those arrivals who consist of de- pendants, and adds the two figures of 61, 000 and 46, 000 together, one gets a figure of 107, 000, which represents those who since control began up to the end of September, 1964, arrived and who, without any question, are entitled to settle here and in fact have become resident either upon a permanent basis, or upon a more or less permanent basis—because some ultimately will go back to their countries of origin. If one looks to see during the same period how many immigrants have landed on our shores and take from that figure the number who have left our shores during the same period, we find the figure is considerably greater than the figure of 107, 000. That figure is 138, 000.
The question immediately arises: what is it that accounts for the difference between 107, 000 and 138, 000, namely, some 31, 000? When I mentioned the figure of possible evasion, it was that which I had in mind. If one asked, "What is it that accounts for that discrepancy between the two figures?" it would seem to be that it must be accounted for by one of two hypotheses, or both. In the first place, students are entitled to come in and I am certain that the Committee will agree that the more students who come and receive training or education in this country the better for everybody, not only for this country but for the world as a whole. We have very much to offer to overseas students who come here, and the Committee will be glad to think that students have been coming here at the rate of about 18, 000 per annum. That is obviously a very large number.
In addition, there are visitors who during the operation of the control have been allowed here on a purely discretionary basis. They have no right to come. They do not fall into any of the categories that have an unchallengeable right to enter this country, such as voucher holders, or students, or residents here. But visitors who seek to come here from Commonwealth countries can be allowed in at discretion.
Since the control began, nearly half a million visitors have come into this country, but it is difficult for me to inform the Committee what is the number who went out because Commonwealth citizens leaving the United Kingdom are not, under the existing system of control, classified.
When Commonwealth citizens leave one does not know whether they are workers, visitors or students, because no record is kept to classify them. It is difficult to think otherwise than that there must be a certain number of visitors who stay on—although they are admitted only as visitors—and thereby evade the control, and, possibly, a far lesser number of students. That is obviously a problem of some seriousness.
Another way of looking at those figures—which brings them, as it were, more up to date and brings out a point which I should put before the Committee as one of some importance—is to make the same analysis of the figures for the first nine months of 1963 and contrast it with the figures for the first nine months of 1964. If for the first nine months of 1963 one takes the net balance of arrivals less departures, one finds that the figure is 56, 000. If one then contrasts with that those who are allowed to settle here, being holders of vouchers or dependants, one finds that for the first nine months of 1963 that figure is 40, 000. The first question one asks oneself is, "What is the explanation of the excess of 16, 000 in the figure of 56, 000 over the figure of 40, 000?
At first sight that looks a substantial excess, and one then asks whether there is a considerable measure of evasion concealed in that figure of excess; but I should inform the Committee that one must take into account, as a counterbalancing factor, the last three months of 1963. In that period, from September to the end of December, a large number, particularly of immigrants from the older Commonwealth countries, left. So, if one takes out those who left in the last three months, the excess—that is, the excess of the total number of arrivals over those admitted to settle—is reduced to about 6, 000.
In the comparable period of 1964 those who were admitted as settlers, workers, dependants and so on again totalled 40, 000, a slight diminution, but the net arrivals in the first nine months of 1964 were right up to 69, 000, an excess of 29, 000. One asks again, does that conceal an unacceptable scale of evasion? It would be made up, as I have said, largely of visitors and, to a much smaller extent, of students.
Many students may, when they come here and finish their studies, think that they would like to stay on and, under the existing system, when an immigrant has passed the control barrier he disappears into the community and no further record is kept of him. Whether the 29, 000 will diminish in the last three months of 1964, as the 15, 000 diminished in the last three months of 1963, it is impossible for me to say; but it would seem, from the figures at present available, that there must be some measure of evasion to which one cannot afford to turn a blind eye.
Having been slightly dazed by that bevy of figures, and not being in possesion of a slide rule, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how, when he is talking about evasion, we are able to know, other than by a rough calculation that there has, in fact, been evasion, and to what extent it has taken place?
As I said, under the existing system of control—and I wish to emphasise "existing system"—a good deal of what I am saying must be a matter of conjecture. Further, when one finds the sort of surplus I have described—between those who settled as workers and dependants and the net arrivals—it would appear that there was a measure of evasion.
I have explained that there is bound to be an element of conjecture in this because the precise whereabouts of those who settle is not recorded in any system of control. But if a person comes here and is wanted to work in, say a factory, or if a doctor arrives here to join the staff of a hospital, then the inference I am drawing is that such a person has permanently settled here or, at least, has settled on a long-term basis. At any rate, such a person has in no sense evaded the control. That is as far as I can answer the question.
We are extremely grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for deploying the figures so fully on what we all recognise to be an extremely difficult and important topic. I am certain that the whole Committee will gladly give him all the extra time he may require so that he may make it clear when he is talking about the old Commonwealth and when he is referring to the new Commonwealth. It is important that we should be clear about this.
I have the figure with me and I had intended to spare the Committee these details. I did not want to give a further breakdown. I was attempting to abbreviate my speech and so make it less wearisome to hon. Members.
I think that it is, broadly speaking, accurate to say—and I will give two examples to support this—that the old Commonwealth countries represent less than one-tenth. I spoke of 40, 000 admitted to settle in the first nine months of 1963 and 40, 000 in the first nine months of 1964. If one breaks down that figure of 40, 000 between the old and the new Commonwealths one sees that the figure for the old Commonwealth in 1963 was 3, 000 and the new Commonwealth 37, 000; and in 1964 the figure for the old Commonwealth was 2, 000 and the new Commonwealth 38, 000. That is the best answer I can give without going into an interminable recitation of figures.
We very much appreciate the helpful way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is giving the Committee this information, but I wonder whether he has seen the figures quoted by the Economist some time ago. Although they almost tallied with those he has given, they included a particularly odd aspect. They indicated that in the second year of control 90 per cent. of all immigrants from the Caribbean countries were non-workers—were, in other words, presumably dependent on people already here. Is the figure really as high as 90 per cent.?
I would be surprised if it were as high as 90 per cent, but it nevertheless is the case that the figure of dependants is higher than the figure of actual breadwinners, if I may call them such. Nevertheless, my remarks on this must be a matter of conjecture. I have not taken advice on this from my officials. I may be wrong and I speak subject to verification.
If that is the general nature of the problem, one must then ask oneself what is needed in the way of changes. Do these figures want adjustment or are they well within the economic absorbtive capacity of the country? To answer that we must first look at the credit side of the balance sheet. To regard these immigrants as people who do not contribute a service to this country is very wide of the facts. They are extremely valuable citizens, especially when we bear in mind the category B workers. I hope that I am not unnecessarily repeating myself when I say that this is borne out when one goes to the hospitals and sees how many coloured nurses are working in them and inquires of the hospital staff how they do their work. They are a very valuable addition to the complement of our citizens and render great service. The same is equally true of doctors and other skilled people. So that on the figures alone, which prima facie seem large, one would form a misleading impression unless one were to bear that fact very prominently in mind.
May I test what I have just said by giving the unemployment rate among the immigrant population in this country. It is now only 2·5 percent. of total adult unemployment, which is, comparatively speaking, a low figure. In other words, a large number of immigrants are exercising their skills to the advantage of the other citizens of this country.
I mentioned evasion. Since the control has been operating for only just under 2½ years, it is perhaps too early to form accurate computations of the scale of the evasion. One sometimes uses the phrase "an acceptable scale," and that means minimal evasion. But obviously if the evasion reaches a scale above that no responsible Government can turn a blind eye. They must take steps to deal with it. But those steps are not at all easy to frame.
If one seeks to go further than the existing scheme of control whereby, as I have said, once the immigrant is past the barrier he disppears into the population, one has to contemplate, I do not say an over-severe form of control, but the type of severe control which we apply to aliens. This carries with it the necessity for the person to make a report to the police and notify any change of address. Without going further into detail, the Committee will readily realise that there are serious difficulties in the way of imposing that type of control in the case of students and people from the older Commonwealth countries as well as those from the newer Commonwealth countries. I do not say that it is in practice impossible, but it would be very much resented, as the Committee may well conjecture. Therefore, one greatly hesitates about that. I am examining the problem very closely, but, unless a control of that sort must be imposed and unless the figures are imperative and require it, I hope that the Committee will understand hesitancy on my part about taking steps to impose it.
I turn to the question of the dependants. I suppose that by being more severe on dependants, who are admitted on a discretionary basis, we could reduce the number of dependants coming here. Human considerations require that we should not do this. Once the breadwinner is here, his family should be kept together. The Act gives the right to children under 16 to come here, but I hope that the Committee will agree that the previous Government were perfectly right in allowing a fairly wide measure of immigration to people who did not strictly come within the definition in Section 2 because they were too old, or because they were relatives who were dependants or because they were mothers and fathers. I therefore greatly hope that there would be no question of the Committee and the country thinking it necessary to limit the number of dependants. Whatever one does, one must be human and try to keep families together. That is in everybody's interest, and I am sure that everybody would approve it.
That brings me to the question of the voucher holders. This is a matter particularly within the province of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. It is proposed that, if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Sir, he should wind up the debate and indicate the considerations which, from the point of his Department, led him and the Government to the conclusion that, at any rate for the time being, the existing scale of applications which he grants—between 1, 600 and 2, 000 a month—should be continued. Obviously, the matter must be subject to review and closely watched as the problem develops.
That leads me to the conclusion of what I ventured to describe as my outline of the problem and of my indication of measures which could be taken, if they were thought necessary, to reduce the numbers. But that is only part of the case. The case which I feel the Committee would wish to consider is that concerned with the more positive approach to this problem. It would be quite appalling if in our country, with all its great tradition of tolerance and fair play, of insistence on the rights and dignity of the individual, there were allowed to develop some sort of division between citizens in this country according to which they became first or second class citizens. Whatever we do, we must fight hard against that sort of thing.
I feel quite certain that if the Government give a lead, there is an enormous fund of good will among the people of this country towards any effort made either centrally by the Government, or locally by local authorities, or voluntary organisations, to which we should give the maximum help in any effort they make, to integrate new arrivals in the fullest sense into our community. I know that I will have everybody's agreement when I say that it is idle to pretend that we do not have a formidable task, but it is a task which, with good will, tolerance and understanding, we can surmount. After all, we cannot consider this matter purely in a national context. One of the greatest changes in the pattern of the modern world is the emergence of many new nations to independence whose citizens are coloured. I think that I am right in saying that, if one looks at the debating chambers in the United Nations, the majority of nations represented at the United Nations are coloured nations. One of the greatest challenges to modern civilisation is to prevent a clash and mounting misunderstanding between peoples of different colour and different races.
That is the world scene. It will be with us for decades. It is not just a passing phase. It is one which will be an abiding problem for all of us for as long as we live and for as long as our children live. We should do whatever we can to facilitate and accelerate the process of building up understanding and of integrating the coloured citizens we have with us into our community. Obviously there will be a transitional stage, and during that stage there will be, as there clearly have been, social strains. But we must take a longer and a world view and relate our own activities to the world scene.
Against that background, what positive steps do we have in mind? One is this. I know that hon. Members, on both sides, both those who from the outset have felt an acute distaste for any control and those who from the outset have felt that control is necessary, will agree that it is essential to try to avoid the risk of harm to Commonwealth relationships. I know that everybody will agree to that.
We all agree that the Commonwealth, with its community of 750 million peoples of all colours and races, is the greatest grouping that the world has ever known for peace. Everybody would, I know, be most anxious not in any way, by any action that we take in our country, to impair the bonds which hold those peoples together. It is for this reason that the Government's approach has from the outset been that we should try to bring the Commonwealth countries into discussion with us to endeavour to take into account their point of view with regard to the working of our control. We can take their point of view into account and also—it is a two-way traffic—ask their help in assisting us to operate the control which, we think, we must operate. It is indispensable to prevent the gradual strain on our social services which otherwise would result.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations has, some little time ago, already taken steps to make contact with the Commonwealth countries to bring about, when we have been able to carry out such review as we consider necessary of the working of our control, the necessary discussions at which that collaboration can take place between the Commonwealth and this country.
I draw the attention of the Committee to this second step. We have always thought that, if we are to try to bring about this integration in the full sense into our community, an essential measure is legislation to prevent discrimination against coloured persons in public places. It is our intention to introduce that legislation.
Some people may wonder whether it is necessary now. It is the firm opinion of the Government that it is much better to anticipate any manifestations of colour prejudice that may develop rather than try to intervene ex post facto when the acuteness of feelings has already arisen which may be the consequence of demonstrations of colour prejudice. Therefore, we are firmly convinced that as soon as we can do so and as soon as we can frame the necessary legislation, we should introduce legislation on those topics. If we can find the necessary definitions—they are extremely difficult—we would add to that legislation against incitement. There are formidable difficulties of definition in the way of that legislation, but they are being closely studied; and if, as we hope, we can overcome those difficulties, we will couple that legislation with the legislation against discrimination.
I then go to the next point. Everybody would agree that the root cause of the problem with which we are faced is poverty and low living standards in the country of origin from which the immigrants come. We now have a Minister of Overseas Development who has her own Department. She and her Department can play a tremendous rocirc;le. She intends—and we all have every hope that she will succeed—to go far in assisting development in those countries and opening up in them the prospect for a fuller life for the inhabitants of those countries, for lack of which they have in large measure sought to come to this country as immigrants so that they may enjoy reasonable living standards which are absent in their own countries of origin. My right hon. Friend is considering anxiously her proposals which she will announce in due course, and in the course of this debate I would not seek to anticipate them.
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it realistic in this context to talk about these things without mentioning the population"explosion" in those countries? Do the right hon. Lady's responsibilities include this subject, and what can we do to help with it?
It would be obviously unrealistic to think that by the administration of her own Department and without more, my right hon. Friend can solve the whole problem of immigration. After all, the world is much smaller than it used to be; means of transport are far more extensive and one must, in the modern scene, reckon with the fact that there will be shifts of population on a far larger scale than was ever contemplated in the past. That is bound to happen. Even if development went on at a scale which is at present beyond all hope, obviously there would continue to be movements of population with which we would have to deal. Undoubtedly, my right hon. Friend will be able to help. Whether or not she checks immigration by providing better living standards in those countries, everybody would rejoice in any success which she achieved in raising living standards in those countries.
The hon. Member for Rugby, who moved the Amendment, referred to the difficulties of overcrowding, the difficulties of schools and the possible danger of certain schools, if they have more than a certain percentage of coloured pupils, becoming stamped as immigrant schools, with something approaching an unpleasant form of apartheid resulting. He spoke of the urgent need to stop all that sort of thing. A great deal of work has been done. Again, I would not seek to anticipate the steps now being actively investigated by my right hon. Friends the Ministers of Housing, Education, Health, and so on. Clearly, they have a big rôle to play in helping our country to absorb the newly-arrived immigrants and they will each, in due course, announce their proposals for playing their part in dealing with that problem.
That brings me to the end of my speech, but I do not want to conclude it without saying this. The question in this debate is whether the control should be continued for another year. The opinion has been expressed by, I believe, the hon. Member for Rugby that there should be more elaborate and more long-term legislation. I agree. Obviously, it must be reconsidered. We must reshape our control. We must watch the problem as it develops and so shape our legislation as to deal with it in its various phases. For the present, we are merely asking for the control to be continued for a year.
I close with this remark so that there should be no doubt about the Government's view. The Government are firmly convinced that an effective control is indispensable. That we accept, and have always accepted, although we couple it with the feeling that the Commonwealth must be brought in. We must have an effective control whatever else we have.
In response to a question from the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran), the right hon. and learned Gentleman said earlier that he could give the figures for Irish immigrants. I wonder whether he can give those figures and tell us how they are compiled. I always understood that they were not available.
I should like to answer the question by referring the right hon. Gentleman to an Answer given on 18th November, 1963, which gave the breakdown of those figures by the then Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. The reply is in HANSARD. It is elaborate and I would rather refer the right hon. Gentleman to it than weary the Committee with figures. The reply depends upon a nice calculation of those who have left and those who have come. The Committee may well understand that there is a considerable inflow in this country in and out of Southern Ireland.
I know that the hon. Member for Rugby put down his Amendment for the purpose of provoking discussion upon it. I hope that in view of what I have said, he will agree that the Government should have from this Committee an expression of view that the control should be renewed for one year.
I rise with trepidation to make my first speech in the House of Commons, but I am fortified by the knowledge of the kindness with which it is customary for hon. Members to hear the first speech of a new Member. In the last Parliament, I sat in this Chamber in what was literally, but in no other sense, a higher place, but where to give tongue would have been to court instant expulsion. That is, I hope, a hazard which I shall not run tonight.
I am proud indeed to be a Member of this ancient and honourable assembly and proud to represent the constituency of Chelmsford, which is so typical of modern Britain and which has, I might inform my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), a bishop who, while no supporter of the party opposite, has spoken out strongly on the racial issue. I am also very glad to be able to pay tribute to my predecessor, Sir Hubert Ashton, who served the State faithfully for so long and has now gone on to serve the Church. In his new position he is in charge of the investments and properties of the Church of England, so he is in the unique and happy position of being able to serve both God and Mammon. In Parliament he consistently upheld the traditions of progressive Toryism, and that is a path along which I am very happy to attempt to follow him.
This Amendment tonight is a rather technical one and I hope I shall remain within the bounds of order, but there is nothing technical about the subject which underlies the subject of our debate, which is, indeed, part of a debate being conducted in every home in the country. It is a debate about the problem of how we are to live in peace and in mutual charity with those who share a common allegiance to the Crown but many of whom are different in colour from ourselves and have different national traditions and different national ways of life. What is at stake in this debate is really the continuance of the amity and civil concord which is at once the basic prerequisite of a civilised society and at the same time its highest achievement.
We have to consider in this discussion whether or not immigration from the Commonwealth should continue to be controlled, and, if so, how it can best be done. This is an issue on which people feel strongly. It is an issue where emotions and passions are involved; and it is, therefore, right that it should be discussed; but I think there is an inescapable duty on all in public life, and, if I may venture to say so, particularly on Members of this Committee, to seek in that discussion to moderate and assuage the force of passion by the counter force of reasonable argument.
One argument which, I trust, will not be put forward to this Committee tonight—I mention it because it is an argument which is prevalent in the country—is that there should be stricter control of immigration because the crime rate and the prevalence of disease are higher amongst immigrants than amongst other sections of our population. Home Secretary after Home Secretary has denied this shameful and baseless allegation. I feel it is the duty of Members not only to refrain from presenting it themselves as an issue but to repudiate those who for electoral gain put it forward on their behalf. I do not think one can stand by on this issue like Pontius Pilate washing, or wringing, one's hands. I think one has a positive duty to dissociate oneself from that kind of support. I am not referring to the situation in Smethwick in particular, because I do not know what went on there at the time: I was busy in my own constituency. I mention it as a matter of general principle.
I trust that our discussion tonight. and any other discussion which is held here, will not be marred by any thought of party advantage or marked by a display of partisan venom, and, if I may be so bold, I would presume to offer the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary my own appreciation of the balanced, humane and informative way in which he has dealt with this problem tonight.
In passing—I do not say this for partisan purposes—may I say how much I regret the injection of rancour into an earlier discussion of this matter by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. That intervention must be at the back of our minds as we discuss this Measure, and, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) brought it to the forefront. I feel that it is better left in the background. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made a mistake. I think he is human and, therefore, it is not surprising. I think the temptation now is to exploit that mistake. I think it should be resisted, not out of tenderness for the right hon. Gentleman, because I do not think he needs it, nor, perhaps, deserves it, but because if we persist in keeping the discussion on the level to which it was unfortunately debased it will make it much more difficult to find the solution to the problem which involves not only the peace and happiness of many millions in this country at the present time but, as the Home Secretary has said, of generations of people to come.
Now I should like to say a word about the Act. To me the most that can be said for it is that it is a disagreeable necessity. I do not take very seriously the point made by members of the Government that the basic point at issue is one of consultation with the Commonwealth. I feel that, at the best, this view is wrong-headed, and at the worst a little hypocritical. I believe that there is general agreement that there should be some control, and far more important than the actual provisions of the Act are the manner and tone in which we discuss its provisions tonight and on other occasions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby criticised the Act because there were loopholes in it, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke of evasion of the Act and of a level of evasion which would be tolerable. I should like to make this point, that it is precisely because there are loopholes in the Act, because there is the possibility for a certain amount of evasion, that the Act is tolerable. If I may use an illustration, which may not be familiar to the Committee but will be familiar to my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran), it is rather like the Roman index of forbidden books, which is tolerable because to some extent it is unenforceable. If the Act were tightened and were to be made foolproof it could be done only at the price of an intolerable invasion of the very precious and basic liberty of all Commonwealth citizens to visit the mother country freely and with the minimum of interference. A certain amount of evasion, I think, is worth paying for the preservation of this freedom.
I should like to see one liberalising of the law. It was discussed in relation to the previous question of aliens. I should like to see the establishment of an appeals tribunal for Commonwealth citizens—it should certainly be established if one for aliens is to be established. People excluded from this country on health or other grounds should have an opportunity of appeal against executive decisions to a more impartial tribunal.
Of course, it will be said that we are in danger of being swamped by immigrants. Perils come and go. We had the yellow peril in the past and we have the black peril at the moment. Doubtless there will be some other coloured peril in the future. I do not think that this peril of being swamped by immigrants was ever very much more than a myth. Basically, immigrants come to this country because there is work for them to do, and that is borne out by the very interesting statement of the Home Secretary who said that the rate of unemployment amongst immigrants was 2·5 per cent., a very low figure indeed. There is a built-in economic regulator of immigration, in the actual state of our economy. This was, I think, proved in 1958 and again in 1959, when the rate of immigration fell dramatically when there was a mild recession.
I think it is right that we should pay tribute to the work, the excellent work, which immigrants, on the whole, do. The Home Secretary referred to their work in the National Health Service. Anyone who has been in hospital knows how true this is. If there be prejudice, then let it be prejudice on the side of liberty, and let this Act be liberally interpreted.
Liberalism today—and I say this with a proper sense of respect for the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and his gallant band who occupy nearly three-quarters of the second bench below the Gangway—is not so much a party but a frame of mind. It is an attitude to social and moral problems which is the fruit of centuries of free and ordered Government. It is found in every part of this Committee, and I would also like to say on this issue in particular that illiberalism is found in every part of this Committee, too.
One other principle of the Act to which I should like to refer is that, whatever the controls at the ports, once a Commonwealth citizen has been admitted to this country he ranks equally with other citizens. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that we should not have any second-class citizenship. How much I agree with that. We should deplore any attempt to do so. We should particularly deplore any attempt to deprive immigrants of the full protection of the courts. I know that we are not discussing the deportation proceedings tonight, but may I say in passing that any question of taking the jurisdiction over deportation away from the courts and giving it to the executive authority should be firmly resisted.
If the rights of those who immigrate to this country cannot be assured by the ordinary, normal, social processes, then I believe that there is a case for intervention by the legislature, and I was very interested in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's announcement that it is the Government's intention to introduce legislation to make certain forms of racial discrimination illegal. We must all regret the situation which has created the need for such legislation, but if it be necessary to secure one of the things which make life in this country worth living, namely, equality before the law, we as a legislature should not be afraid to take the necessary steps to ensure the enjoyment of basic human rights.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us a lot of figures, and we are most grateful to him for them. I estimate that under the Act this year the net immigration will be between 70, 000 and 90, 000, but what folly it would be to admit even one immigrant to this country unless we are prepared to make an intense effort both in housing and education so that the problems of these immigrants are solved. I refer particularly to overcrowding which is a great social problem, and which causes such social tensions.
I am not saying that there should be preferential treatment for those who immigrate to this country, because, if we gave preferential treatment as such, we would merely increase tensions and not lessen them. But, at the same time, it is the duty of local authorities to see that those who come into this country and contribute to our wealth and prosperity are not, by reason of their social position, denied the amenities of civilised life. It is equally the duty of local authorities and other voluntary bodies to do all that they can to help those English residents who suffer most from the inevitable tensions created by new arrivals and who bear the burden of this problem literally on their doorsteps.
We often speak of a multi-racial Commonwealth, and we speak of it with pride. Today, in Britain, for good or ill, we have, and we are, a multi-racial society. Life would be easier were it not so. It would be simpler if we put up the shutters now and said, "No admission", but I think that we would lose by that more than we would gain.
We should welcome the fact that we are a multi-racial society, because it makes us sharers in the greatest problem, apart from the problem of war and peace, which faces us in the twentieth century, namely, how men and women of different colours and different creeds are to live side by side and to work out their destinies in friendship and good will.
Today there are many people who are perplexed about Britain's role in the world. I believe that this debate highlights one contribution which we can make. We can build up a society in Britain which, for fairness, justice, and tolerance on the racial issue will be a model for the rest of the world. If this is successful, it will be a triumph not for power but for example. I believe that, if it can be achieved, it will be something worthy to rank with the greatest of our successes in the past.
It is always a daunting proceeding to address the Committee for the first time, and I have observed that it is not the habit of Members making their maiden speeches to pay any tribute to maiden speakers before them, but I hope that the Committee will understand my added difficulty in following the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas), and I hope that I am not trespassing on the normal practices of the Committee if I say how much I admired what he said, and the character which lay behind it. I only add, in reference to the hon. Gentleman's remarks about previous comments on the situation, that there are few burdens which we carry with greater difficulty than the burden of being forgiven by the other side.
Tolerance is the keynote of this debate, and I therefore should not ask the Committee for tolerance but rather for indulgence. I suppose that it is reasonable enough for a maiden speaker to select so non-controversial a subject as that selected by the hon. Member for Chelmsford, myself and others to embark on our careers as orators in this House. I do so because the constituency which has sent me here characterises, very frequently and in many ways, the problems which the workings of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act are throwing up before us.
I feel that I am not trespassing on anybody's feelings when I say that the matter of greatest regret to me, and perhaps to many others, is that the Committee should have to discuss this problem at all, and that it should discuss it, not in the context of Commonwealth immigration, which is what the title of the Act should indicate to us, but in the context of coloured immigration. I feel very deeply that to discuss it, even by implication, as we are now doing, in this way, is in some measure to give justification to people who think that the coloured problem is a special one. It is not a special problem. It is a special aspect of a whole series of problems.
I would not like to anticipate the discussions which will, I think, be fascinating and important when the measures adumbrated by my right hon. and learned Friend come before the House—measures to outlaw racial discrimination and racial incitement—but it is inevitable that in discussing this problem of Commonwealth immigration we should, in fact, be thinking, at the back of our minds, about some of these problems of racial differences.
I cannot, however, forbear to quote so authoritative and impartial a source as The Times. When the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill was discussed a year ago, The Times commented adversely, but it was before that, at the time of the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, that it said, in an angry leader:
…we have to consider whether the Bill, eviscerated as…a non-discriminatory measure by the exemption of the Irish, is any longer capable of being acceptable at all with any shred of decency.
That was said not by anybody on either side of this House but by The Times.
I venture to draw the attention of the Committee to the very special problem to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has referred, namely, the exemption of students under the terms of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. I have in my constituency the Balham and Tooting College of Commerce, which is probably unique in the facilities that it makes available to an enormous variety of students emanating from Commonwealth countries.
Out of 866 full-time students at present pursuing courses in commerce and related subjects at the college, no less than 850 are from Commonwealth countries. The majority come from Ghana and Nigeria, but there are representatives from Tanzania, Uganda, India, Ceylon, Jamaica, and so on. The interesting thing is that these are the full-time students. The part-time students attending the college are all regarded as Londoners, which is a remarkable tribute to the process of integration of the parttime students.
In order to facilitate the solution of the inevitable problems that arise in such an area as this, the college, under the auspices of the London County Council, has taken three important steps. In order to select students who will not fall into embarrassing difficulties through lack of finance it goes carefully into the background and facilities at the command of those students. Secondly, it goes to great lengths to run induction courses for the students entering the college and, lastly, it has a full-time welfare officer who is engaged for a large proportion of her time in solving some of the problems met by some of the students.
I refer particularly to their problems for the reason that nobody has at any time suggested that students of this sort should be subject to control, yet in my constituency they form a significant part of a very large immigrant population. The population is difficult to compute, but is reckoned by some to be as much as 12 percent. or 13 percent. of the total population of Wandsworth, Central, and very many of these are people who are pursuing courses not only at the Balham and Tooting College but at the London School of Economics and other university centres. They face problems which are highlighted in our social difficulties and which too often are referred to as problems of immigration. They are not problems of immigration; they are problems arising from the shortage of houses and social amenities.
We are all aware that people who come to this country from no matter where face the same difficulties. This is particularly true of those who come to the south-east corner of Britain, where our immigration problem—and I say this meaning no offence to anybody in or out of the House—is contributed to as much by immigrants from Scotland and the north-cast of England as from Jamaica. I have often felt that if all Scotsmen wore their kilts there would soon be a "Keep Britain Trousered" movement. In housing, the special problems of the immigrant population manifest themselves in a variety of obstacles to normal family life.
I want to refer particularly to the difficult problems faced by students of mature age who bring their wives over here—or perhaps I had better refer to the student of mature age who brings his wife over here. That would be a more tactful way of putting it. The inevitable processes of nature lead to the appearance of a new sort of immigrant—one who arrives on the obstetric delivery table. Unhappily, the difficulties which these people face in terms of housing accommodation, finance and the need to pursue a course of studies—often on the part of both husband and wife—have led to the farming out of these children, not for adoption but for fostering, often at remote distances. In some cases these children are well looked after, and in some cases they are not. In one case in my experience, where the necessity for fostering was recognised and embarked upon, the child subsequently died in a fire.
This sort of tragedy should be avoidable, and I hope that if we continue, as I earnestly hope we shall, to exempt students from the provisions of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, we will also recognise their special problems, which are different in kind and quantity from the problems faced by other immigrant groups.
I want to emphasise a further aspect of the problems that these people have to deal with, which was brought to my attention only this week by a Nigerian student who had pursued successfully a training course in accountancy at the college to which I have referred. He completed that part of the course with which the college dealt, and it was then necessary for him to find suitable employment so that he could proceed for his finals. Without this employment in a recognised post the A.C.C.A., the examining body, would not be able to allow him to sit for his final examination. The A.C.C.A. provided him with a list of recognised posts, to each of which he wrote, and from each of which he had a refusal.
This man is fortunately in command of sufficient independent means not to have to fall back upon our social security services, but that is not the point as far as he is concerned. He needs a job in order to make some sense of the two years which he has already spent in this country, exempted from the provisions of Commonwealth immigration. When we are thinking of the problem of racial discrimination we have to think of such small but very characteristic problems which are faced by some of our visitors in the scholastic field.
I shall not trespass much longer on the Committee's time. I want to end on a very hopeful note. It has been my pleasure for six years, on the other side of the river, to share the benches in County Hall with an able, courteous, intelligent, forthright and conscientious member of the Council, who is also a West Indian. I wonder if it is too much to hope that in the not too remote future we shall accept on these benches somebody of similar origin, who will make similar valuable contributions to the work of this House.
I am sure that the House would like me to congratulate the two hon. Members who have just made their maiden speeches. I very much want to congratulate them myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas) impressed us with his humane and compassionate approach, which was nevertheless realistic, from the point of view both of the immigrants and of those who live in the districts where they have to be received. We were, also particularly struck by his putting before us the ideal that this country could play a particularly distinguished part in what is undoubtedly one of the great tasks before the world—the achievement of a rise in the standard of living of the people in underdeveloped countries and lasting racial harmony.
As a former Minister of Education I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) on his particularly interesting survey of the problems confronting students from the Commonwealth, especially those who are in his constituency. The fact that there they have a full-time welfare officer is important. One hopes that this idea will be widely adopted in other areas where similar problems may exist. It was very interesting that the hon. Member should say what I think is true, and what I hope to show later in my speech, that the problems of immigration are a thousand different ones merged together to produce one formidable problem.
The Home Secretary made a very conciliatory and informative speech which I think was appreciated by the whole Committee. It is the first time that we have had a speech of that kind on this subject from the Government Front Bench. It would undoubtedly have made a great deal of difference to the whole political climate in which this subject has been discussed in the House of Commons and in the country if a speech of that character had been made during the Second Reading of the Bill which became the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.
I shall have to return to this subject later and briefly, but for the present I should like to follow the Home Secretary in his survey of the immigration problem. As befits his position, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was mostly statistical. I wish to endeavour to supplement what he told the Committee from a more human viewpoint and to speak mainly from my own experience in the Midlands where I believe that about 30 percent. of the Commonwealth immigrants go. I am also closely connected with the City of Birmingham, and I believe that one in 10 of the immigrants go to that city. I shall try to deal with the problem objectively and fairly.
It gives me great pleasure to agree strongly with what has been said by the Home Secretary and other hon. Members about hospitals. It is a delight to visit hospitals, certainly those in the Midlands, and see the dark-skinned nurses going about their jobs. In one hospital which I know particularly well the phrase used about these nurses is that they "think the world of them". But, if I may say so, they are trained, they are under discipline, mostly they live in. If one asked the matron what is thought of the situation, and obviously one does so, the matron would be inclined to give the very practical kind of answer which one would expect from a matron—" They are excellent, but you do not want to have too many of them."I wish to ask, are we to condemn such an attitude as a racialistic one? I should say no. I should say that it is a commonsense attitude.
I quite agree, but I am probably just as good a judge of a matron as the hon. Gentleman.
I find on the whole that teachers, although they are regarded as doing a useful job, have not achieved quite the same degree of acceptance by our own people as have the nurses. I turn now to the general workers and I say that, broadly speaking, they are excellent workers and highly regarded by many employers. Of course, the real difficulty arises over the problems of housing and social life.
How did many of these immigrants come to the Midlands? What happened in many instances was that they, or the Indian Housing Association on their behalf, bought an old house, as people said, a house old enough to be cheap and large enough to accommodate a lot of people in order that it might be paid for. Very often the people paid a large price for the house. What has been the immediate result? One knows—this has taken place in many streets—that the value of the rest of the property in the street would fall by about 30 percent. Why was this? The reason was that the original residents felt that slummy conditions would develop in the street. Young people were able to go away into a entirely different district. The older people, finding it more difficult to obtain a mortgage, stayed, but did so rather sullenly. The question one asks is whether this is the best way to introduce members of one race to another for the first time.
I hope the House will indulge me—I am going to touch on this very delicately, but it must be touched on because these are problems which actually affect our people in the Midlands. Conceptions of personal cleanliness are very high among Asians, but they are entirely different from those among Europeans, and there is no doubt that when the two meet for the first time this causes quite a shock, as it did in the Midlands. I shall not stress this beyond just mentioning it, because I feel that it is a subject which falls into a class which I am now approaching where remedial action of a tactful kind can be taken and can yield good results.
The same thing applies to what was a serious grievance with regard to West Indians in Birmingham, and that was that, according, no doubt, to their customs in their own country, they kept jollifications going until the early hours of the morning. [Laughter.] This might seem to be a joke here, but it is not quite a joke for people who have to be at the factory early in the morning.
Remedial action is beginning and this is a hopeful feature to which we want to fasten on. Again, and one might say that this is a small thing if one is not living in the street, Indians and Pakistanis look upon the occupation of houses in a way different from that of our own people. They do not bother to cut the hedges in the small front gardens. They let the land overgrow. [Laughter.] This is not a subject at which we should laugh. In the instance which I have in mind a liaison committee was set up to help relations between the races and in this case it was the Indian youth club which took the hint and neatly cut all the hedges in the street fronting houses occupied by Indians and Pakistanis. This is not something to laugh at but something about which we should be pleased because it is the beginning of good relations and the beginning of the healing of what might be serious wounds.
A wonderful job has been done in Birmingham by the liaison officer appointed by the city council. Undoubtedly he has the confidence of the immigrants and he has done invaluable work in helping them to adapt themselves to British conditions. This is very important. It is an idea which might well be adopted in other parts of the country.
The school problem has been mentioned. The real point here was undoubtedly the fear on the part of English parents that their children would be held back because Indian and Pakistani children, in particular, could not understand our language sufficiently well. In the Midlands under various provisions and remedial Sections of the Education Act quite a number of teachers have been brought in to teach Indian and Pakistani children the English language so as to remove this grievance.
I move to a very sensitive area in the matter of social relations. I have noted the statement which the Prime Minister made last night. As I challenged him on the subject at the weekend, it is only right to acknowledge the courage of the Prime Minister in making the statement last night, directed as it must be to an extent towards his own supporters. But I feel increasing doubt whether we are wise to approach this problem by what I might call rolling generalisations and ex cathedra condemnations by bell, book and candle directed against particular classes.
We are all, of course, against the colour bar. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh."] Are the real circumstances in relation to these clubs quite as they now appear? I stand in the Committee and say that I have some sympathy for the Midlands working men's clubs concerned and I notice that The Guardian today referred in a rather interesting way to what a club is and how special it is. Indeed, the theory has always been that a club is an extension of the home. Here I quote what was said yesterday, as reported in the Birmingham Post today, by Mr. Cotterill, the general secretary of the West Midlands branch of the Club and Institute Union. This is what he said, in, perhaps, his rough and ready way:
We cannot have these people coming off a ship and walking straight into a working man's club.
I link that point with the second statement which the Prime Minister made in his speech last night, when he referred to the importance of improving the standard of living in the Commonwealth countries so that no man would be driven here by the whip of poverty. This I enthusiastically support, and I hope, as the Home Secretary does, that the Minister of Overseas Development will have great success in her work. But it is, inevitably, a long-term job, as we all know very well. The Home Secretary himself referred to the immense numbers, some 700 million people, and these alone mean that it will be a long-term job. We must, therefore, face present facts.
I think that this has a bearing on the point of view of working men's clubs in the Midlands. A large number of Commonwealth immigrants come, say, from the Punjab. In the House we have talked endlessly about the underdeveloped countries and about the smallness of people's incomes there, as little as £20 or £25 for a whole year. When they come off the ships to which Mr. Cotterill referred, they come to an area where many people, and possibly even they themselves, will earn that amount in a week.
The standards of our Midlands working people today are high. We are very glad that they are. We still speak of the working man in this country although the term is really getting a bit out of date. By world standards, however, the Midlands working man is a rich middle-class man, and he attaches enormous importance to the standards which he has built up. Therefore, I feel that we must have some sympathy with him when he wishes to be a little careful, not necessarily on account of the colour of a man's skin but on account of the completely different approach a newcomer may have when he first arrives in this country.
The arrival of very large numbers of Commonwealth immigrants so suddenly has been a very great shock in the areas where they have been concentrated. The Home Secretary himself used the expression "a formidable problem". Nevertheless, we note that helpful remedial action is beginning. I plead with the Committee that, at this stage, we ought not to put too much strain on these early beginnings of remedial action.
I was very much impressed by what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford when he urged that it would be better if we did not let in one unless the quality of life which he had here and the treatment which he received were worthy. It is on that basis that I venture to make my plea. I quite understand when the Home Secretary says that we must consider this question in a world context, and I understand if it is thought that we should make a contribution in allowing immigrants from the Commonwealth into this country, but much more important than whether the numbers should be a little larger or a little smaller is the quality of the life which we can give them when they come. If, as I believe, racial harmony will be much helped if we keep the numbers, at least for the time being, on the low side, then we should be well advised to take that course.
I must turn here, I fear on a rather sharper note, to the attitude of the parties to this matter in recent times. The party opposite voted against the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, and we held that they were utterly wrongheaded in doing so. We believed that to support that Bill was the right course for the friends of racial harmony, and we held then, and we hold now, that in opposing the Bill hon. Gentlemen opposite were, in effect—though not, of course, in intention—stirring up racial disharmony in this country in a major way. It was, of course, their constitutional right to vote against the Bill, but it was our constitutional right to hold them to account for it in the constituencies. But then there was a peculiar new phase. The self-righteousness of hon. Gentlemen opposite was so great that they denounced anyone who so much as mentioned the Bill or the problem in the country. They denounced them as racialists. It was nothing less than a gigantic smear campaign. In fact, hon. Gentlemen opposite had every reason to be ashamed of the shifts and turns of their policy on this matter.
No. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. I wish to make my own speech.
Even the supporters of hon. Gentlemen opposite were dismayed. I noticed that in the Fabian Society journal published in September it was stated that it was feared that the policy of the party opposite as then declared would be taken by the electors as evasion. The journal went on to say:
It would be foolish to deny that there are ambiguities in the general policy that Harold Wilson outlined last November.
We deeply resent this campaign by the party opposite. Yet it is apparently completely accepted by that party. I quote what was said by the Leader of the House last week:
The gentleman who was the Conservative candidate I had never met before, and I met him only once when we were both canvassing.
By one look at him and by shaking his hand I knew that there would be no mention of the Commonwealth immigrants problem in that constituency—nor was there. But it is not a scrap of good pretending that this problem was not raised in Smethwick and in other constituencies. It was raised."—ICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 968.]
It is a very peculiar constitutional doctrine that an important, controversial Bill, fought over bitterly in this House, must not be mentioned during the ensuing General Election.
No. I shall not be long now.
Apparently we can still argue the matter in this House, but, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it is not fit to be discussed by the common people in the constituencies, whom one hon. Member opposite even described as "the illiterate electors".
One of the main bases of the opposition to the Bill by the party opposite was the exclusion of Southern Ireland from it. Amid all the shifts and changes of the policy of the party opposite this has never been withdrawn. What are they going to do now? They now have responsibility, and we shall wait to see how they reconcile their previous pledges with the national interest.
It is a privilege to be able to make a maiden speech, particularly after the last three speeches from right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I am supposed to be noncontroversial and I hope that anything I say hereafter will be taken in a noncontroversial sense. I want to answer, to begin with, some observations made by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd). He said that we on this side of the House objected to the question of immigration being raised in the election. Of course we did not. This was clearly an issue which should have been raised and discussed. What we objected to during the election, and what we object to today, was not the raising of the matter but the way in which it was raised.
If the right hon. Gentleman will be so kind as to bear with me, I will give him some concrete examples of how the issue was raised—I have past reports in The times—and one of how it may be raised, so it seems, by the Conservative candidate in the coming by-election at Leyton.
I am sorry that the debate should have taken this turn. Up to the time that the right hon. Gentleman spoke, this had seemed to me, as a maiden speaker, to be a constructive debate in which hon. Members on both sides were genuinely attempting to come to grips with a problem which is, on any view, one which must be dealt with and grasped firmly. With the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I tell him that his contribution did not help the cause of integration. With the greatest respect to some hon. Members opposite, I say that some of their remarks in the country during and since the election have not helped the cause of integration either.
Of course, problems arise from immigration—problems of housing, education and all the other tremendous problems of injecting a coloured minority into already overcrowded areas. The constituency I have the privilege to represent is just such a constituency where we have problems of bad housing and of people living cheek by jowl, overcrowding and multiple accommodation. We are also faced with the problems of immigration. The immigrants are not all coloured. There are a number of Irish among them. We are faced with these problems, but the one thing that we have not done is merely to say, "These are the problems but we will not try to deal with them." That, with the greatest respect, is what some hon. Members opposite are saying.
All the arguments presented by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield come down to this: "There are these problems. We will not deal with them but we will put a complete stop on people coming into the country." The immigration problem is something which should be discussed in a calm, rational and helpful tone. Perhaps it is not for me to say so—in fact, I am sure that it is not and I apologise here and now—but I honestly do not think that the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman were helpful.
The right hon. Gentleman asked what we objected to. I have here certain newspaper cuttings. Some happen to refer to the campaign in Smethwick. I represent a London constituency, and I was not in Smethwick during the election, since I was fully occupied with affairs of my own. But in London as well as in the Midlands the question of immigration was raised, not only in the form of sober discussion as to whether there should be control but in a "colour" way. I have concrete evidence of this.
I know of people on the doorstep being told about immigration in that way, and Conservative canvassers told them. It is idle for right hon. and hon. Members opposite to deny that the issue of colour was raised in this way during the General Election. because it was raised. If the Committee needs further evidence, let me quote two or three remarks from The Times of 9th March last. I accept that this deals with Smethwick and I use it simply as an illustration of what seems to many of us on this side a dangerous attitude which may be growing up in British politics. The Times' Midland correspondent reported:
I asked Mr. Griffiths why the Conservatives had refused to appoint a working delegate to a local committee formed to try and reconcile conflicting groups in the town. Mr. Griffiths said it was because the committee stood for integration.
I ask the Committee to note those words.
No racial group wanted integration: coexistence should be the aim.
I thought that this doctrine of separate and equal development on the part of both the coloured and white races had been overthrown in most civilised societies. It is not right and proper to see it raising its head in a British General Election in 1964.
Later on, the hon. Member for Smethwick was asked about the slogan:
If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour.
I should think this is a manifestation of the popular feeling. I would not condemn anyone who said that. I would say that is how people see the situation in Smethwick. I fully understand the feelings of the people who say it.
He is fully entitled to say that he understands their feelings, but it would be tragic if the British General Election of 1964 went down in history as the first General Election in which colour was an issue; not immigration but colour.
Where do we go from here'? I saw in the Observer last Sunday that the Conservative candidate at the coming Leyton by-election had had something to say. I should like to read it to the Committee and I hope that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield will note these remarks:
Referring to the last election campaign, Mr. Buxton said: 'While I was canvassing, many people complained about the immigration of coloureds. They do not resent coloured people as such, but they do object to the blacks coming off the banana boats and taking council houses that would be available for locals.'
If the Conservative candidate used those words, even if he was using them only to express the point of view of the electorate in that constituency, he was wrong to do so in those terms. Such language can only exacerbate a situation which may already be difficult.
That is why we say to the party opposite that it should not have used this issue in this way at the General Election. The problem we face is not so much of immigration as of integration. How are we to try to integrate coloured people already in this country into our community? I will say this as non-controversially as I possibly can—the one way in which it will not be done is by using the sort of language certainly used by members of the Conservative Party during the General Election.
I speak as one who has been in the House of Commons only three weeks. Perhaps I should not have said what I have said tonight, but I do not propose to withdraw what I have said. If I have erred, it is because, like other hon. Members, I feel very strongly about this issue. Whatever the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield may say about the Labour Party Front Bench, he cannot say it about me, because I was not a Member when the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was debated some two years ago. However, I accept the principle that there must be control of immigration from the Commonwealth into this country.
Having said that, it seems to me that the real problem is how to integrate the people already here into the existing community. It can be done by attempting to do three things. The first is to give special Government aid to areas which find themselves in need of that aid because of the problem in those areas. Secondly, we should put on the Statute Book a general declaration by the whole Parliament of the United Kingdom, and I hope that the Bill when introduced will be an all-party Bill, supported by the party opposite, declaring that this nation does not agree with racial discrimination and that it abhors racial discrimination in all its forms and further declaring that incitement to racial feeling or hatred shall be a criminal offence. The third thing is that all of us, at whatever level, should look inside ourselves, because integration begins with personal relations and not with Acts of Parliament.
I am sure that I have greatly trespassed on the Committee's indulgence, but if I have it is only because I feel very strongly about this issue. This is an important debate. It is a debate being heard in areas far wider than the United Kingdom and far wider than this Parliament or my constituency. If I thought that in 100 years' time someone would pick up HANSARD and read that the House of Commons tonight expressed views which, on any view of the matter, were openly racialist, I would be ashamed to be a Member of it.
On a point of order, Mr. Hynd. I raise this point of order solely with the interests of the House at heart. I realise that there is no rule of order strictly regarding maiden speeches, but is it not the convention of the House, fairly long accepted, that a maiden speech is not normally delivered in terms which provoke a debating reply? I raise that point simply because traditions are made in this House and I am keen to do what is best in the interests of the House of Commons.
Further to that point of order. Is it not the case, Mr. Hynd, that my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) fought his way into this House yard by yard in the face of the sort of tactics that he has been describing and that he has every right to describe them?
The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) will be the first to recognise that the maiden speech which he has just given was unconventionally vigorous and controversial. I should like to say that it was none the worse for that. While I envy him his boldness—I could never have done it myself—I congratulate him on his effort. I am sure that the whole Committee will look forward, if I may use the word, with relish to further contributions from him.
It should be the aim of every member of the Committee to see an abatement of any tension arising from a difference of culture or colour. If we subscribe to this end, we all have a duty to take this matter out of party politics. This was the precedent set by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas) in his admirable maiden speech, and in that I propose to follow him.
If we look at events over the past three years, there has been a considerable narrowing of the differences between the two sides of the Committee. Both sides of the Committee are agreed tonight that it is desirable to continue this law. Until this debate began, I would have said that the one possible remaining difference between us was over the long-term nature of any control over immigration. I would have said that right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the Committee were in favour in the longer term of continuing statutory control, while right hon. and hon. Members opposite were in favour of substituting for that statutory control a looser regulation arising from some kind of negotiation with individual Commonwealth countries. After listening to the speech of the Home Secretary, I am not at all sure that even that difference now persists. The right hon. and learned Gentleman ended his speech by talking of effective control. That is tantamount, to my mind, to abolishing almost entirely the one persisting difference between the two sides of the Committee.
I will give my reasons why I believe that the aim of abating racial tension is better secured with statutory control rather than through voluntary arrangements; but I also believe—and to this extent I go with the hon. Member for Barons Court—that by far the greater problem is not that of those now coming into the country but of the immigrant population already settled here.
I would remind the Committee of the genesis of the Act. This Measure was the product of a dilemma which we still have with us. The dilemma was that economically we needed the immigrants but that socially we were proving ourselves unable to cope with the immigrants coming in. The more we tried to satisfy our economic requirements by bringing in immigrants the greater the social difficulties we were making for ourselves. The more we tried to cope with the social problems by stemming the flow of immigration the more we were penalising ourselves economically.
That was the situation three years ago and this is still the dilemma, only we now have it in a much worse form. Economically we still need immigration, and I will produce to the Committee two pieces of evidence to sustain this view. The first is the striking contrast between the rate of immigration into this country and the rate of immigration into other Western European countries. The rate here for the last three years has been roughly 50, 000 a year, but in West Germany in the same period it has been between 350, 000 and 400, 000 a year. In Switzerland it has been of the same magnitude. In France it has been at the rate of 200, 000 a year and even in Belgium last year it was 26, 000. Anybody concerned with the slow rate of economic growth in this country must ponder over the contrast of these figures. That is one reason why I consider that economically we still need immigrants.
The second piece of evidence I would adduce is that according to the estimates of the Government Actuary the population of this country will have grown by 1975 by 6½ million people. Of that figure, 5 million will be either too young or too old to work and of the remaining 1½million, 750, 000 will be immigrants. In other words, the population of the country is increasing while the working force is practically stationary.
It is difficult to see how one can service a community of this kind of composition without some element of immigration. This, as I see it, is the economic need, the economic side of the dilemma, while on the social side the problem over the intervening years has become much worse, precisely because of the figures given earlier by the Home Secretary.
He gave as 800, 000 the approximate size of the immigrant population already here. This population has a higher birth rate than the rest of the population and if the birth rates are projected we see that while at present the immigrant population of 800, 000 amounts to between 1½percent. and 2 percent. of the population, by the year 2000, at the present rate of immigration, the proportion of immigrants to the total population of the country will have grown to 4·5 percent.—and even without any further immigration it will have grown to 3·5 per cent.
This could mean—and I do not want to weary the Committee with figures—that in areas where there are at present heavy concentrations of immigrants, perhaps 10 percent. or 15 percent. of the population, that concentration might rise to something like 50 per cent. Having said that, we must now ask why should this be a problem? I think the answer is that no community is easily tolerant of difference. We pride ourselves, possibly with justification, that we are more tolerant than other communities, but we cannot claim that we are immune from intolerance.
We are trying to absorb three new and quite different cultures: the West Indian culture, probably the nearest to our own; the Indian culture, which is more different; and, possibly the most different culture of all, the Muslim culture of the Pakistani. In all these cases the difference in culture is compounded by the difference of colour and therefore is likely to extend far longer down the generations than anything we have seen in the past.
The question which we face is: how do we abate the intolerance to which this situation can give rise? The answer, I suggest, is that we must recognise that difference creates a problem. Only if we accept that can we ever begin to overcome the problem. The case for the 1962 Act was that it was the beginning of this kind of recognition and it enabled one to approach the problem consciously. If I may use a word from the vocabulary of hon. Members opposite, it enables one to approach the problem purposefully. This is the case for statutory control as against control arising from voluntary negotiation.
This is a field in which we must be purposeful, but the purposefulness must go far beyond the mere continuance of this Act. I think that the purposefulness must extend into our internal policies at home. What has worried me of recent weeks is the suggestion that if we reduce the numbers of immigrants then automatically the immigrant population already here will be assimilated and everything will come right. I believe that this is the wrong way to look at the problem. We should look at it precisely the other way round. In other words, we have to deal with the problem of the immigrant population already here. Having solved that problem, we can then admit more immigrants and raise the level of immigration much nearer to the economically desirable level.
What changes would I make at home in our internal policies to deal with the immigrant population already here? There is a case, as I see it, for precisely the kind of change which we made when we introduced the 1962 Act. Before that Act, we assumed that just because of the common heritage of Commonwealth the differences of culture and colour automatically disappeared. When we introduced the Act we did away with that assumption concerning immigration, but we have left the assumption unchanged concerning our internal policy, and this is where we have to make the change. The 1962 Act must be complemented by changes here at home in two respects: first, as far as investigation preparatory to policy-making is concerned, and, secondly, as far as the policy itself is concerned.
This afternoon we had a great number of figures from the Home Secretary, but they were global figures. We know very little, as he admitted, about the health of the immigrant population, about the nature of their employment, and about their likely demand for schooling. We know little or nothing about any of these things, precisely because it has been assumed that to collect separate figures for the coloured immigrants would smack of discrimination. Once we recognise that difference creates a problem, only by having separate figures do we stand a chance of overcoming the problem. I want to see us achieve the end of discrimination, but to realise that end we must have separate figures. That is as to the investigation.
Now, the internal policy. The great objective of internal policy as I see it is to prevent the segregation of the immigrant population into ghettoes in the decaying centres of our large cities. In other words, the great objective of policy should be the dispersal of the immigrant population. I recognise immediately that this leads to immense difficulties. It is more than just a matter of giving extra aid from the central administration to local authorities. This leads to enormous problems. Although we have no figures, it would be true to say that the immigrants have had a far smaller proportion of the new housing which has become available than their numbers entitled them to. The points system—the length of time that people are on a waiting list—operates against them. Even more, however, the points system is such that it can be manipulated to discriminate against the immigrants.
If we are to break up the ghettoes such as we see in the decaying centre of Birmingham, we have to make housing available to immigrants in larger proportion than their numbers entitle them to. This is the awful difficulty, this is our travail, because to do this is to invite resentment from citizens who are native to these islands, and yet not to do it will perpetuate the problem of the ghetto into the future, causing problems of unknown dimensions to our children and our grandchildren.
It is not for me as an outsider to advise those in authority how to cope with this problem. I merely observe that all problems are better tackled earlier rather than later and that this problem has already been allowed to grow for far too long.
In the last few weeks, we have seen a great refurbishing of the machinery of government—in ways which I do not yet fully understand. If, however, there is one field where the machinery of government requires overhaul, it is in connection with immigration. This question touches labour, education, housing, health, overseas development and what not. All these aspects need to be looked at together. If there is a case anywhere for a single co-ordinating authority, it is here in relation to this question.
I hope that the Government will set up such a co-ordinating authority. Its aim should be to put an end to the discrimination arising from the difference of culture or colour. But to realise this end the coordinating authority must inject into all policies, domestic as well as immigration, a far greater purposefulness than we have yet seen.
Ten Parliamentary days have passed since the Gracious Speech. I am conscious that by the standards of this Parliament I am therefore a rather elderly "maiden". I am also conscious of the quality of maiden speeches which have preceded mine and of my inability to live up to that standard. I am, however, particularly pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones).
In the great conflict over Commonwealth immigration which engulfed Birmingham during the recent election, I often felt that the right hon. Member and his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) were more with me than against me. I offer that not in an attempt to embarrass either of those right hon. Gentlemen, but as an opportunity to pay my tribute to the point of view they then expressed. It was not so much that we invariably agreed about detail and about detailed policy, but, at least, we conducted our arguments from a basis, I hope, of rationalism rather than of prejudice. Wishing sincerely, as I do, not to contravene the conventions of this Committee about maiden speeches I should be less than honest if I did not say that the processes of rational discussion were not always observed when Commonwealth immigration was discussed in Birmingham six weeks ago. I think it is particularly appropriate that Birmingham Members should play such a large part in this debate this evening, and I hope that it is not inappropriate that I should be one of them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hall Green has referred to the decaying centres of the great industrial towns. The division which I have the honour to represent in this Committee, the Sparkbrook division of Birmingham, is such a decaying centre. In the last Parliament it was represented by Mr. Leslie Seymour who was preceded by Mr. Percy Shurmer. But the significant fact about my division is that for 40 years before 1945 it was represented by Conservative Members, whose support came from the large middle-class houses which are so well known in industrial towns. Those large houses are now almost invariably broken down from single family occupation to multi-occupation, and the problem of immigration, connected with the housing problem, is a problem next to Spark-brook's heart.
I think that those of us who regard ourselves as being in the progressive group, a description given to us by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), a description which I accept willingly, although I understand it was offered as a criticism, have, I think, something to answer for in our attitude to Commonwealth immigration over the last five years. We have believed with great liberal optimism—I am told that in this Chamber one has to be essentially optimistic to be Liberal—that if men of good will went on repeating the right things, eventually they would be believed and eventually they would be accepted. Our great fault over the last five years is that we have talked a great deal about racial tolerance and racial integration and done far too little about the practicalities of bringing it about.
In my own division the Sparkbrook Association was formed to perform this task. It was formed by the churches, by voluntary bodies and by private individuals and it is assisted a little with money and mostly by advice from public bodies. Its function is to try to eradicate the frictions which inevitably exist in an area like my constituency into which immigrants come in great numbers. Certainly, living and working in Sparkbrook eliminates any chance of an optimistic belief that immigrants can be assimilated into the community without a great deal of hard work and a great deal of effort. The association about which I tell the Committee has gone out of its way to make that effort and to put in that hard work.
Old houses have been bought, improved, and converted. Advice has been given about English customs and English laws. Some steps have been taken to enforce laws where it appeared that they were going by default. Children have been encouraged to accept Birmingham attitudes rather than West Indian or Asian attitudes, and, as well as the practical application of the job of racial integration there has been the overriding and continual repetition of the philosophical—I think this is the right word—the philosophical effects of equality, of justice, and of racial tolerance. I understand from a very distinguished representative of Birmingham that 70 years ago Joseph Chamberlain received great censure for saying that what Birmingham does today surely the rest of the country can do tomorrow. I want to avoid even that degree of controversiality and say that what the Sparkbrook Association is doing today no doubt the rest of the country will do tomorrow.
I want to warn my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that all Birmingham Members of Parliament will be most anxiously awaiting their proposals for material help for those areas which have a specific immigration problem. For my own part, speaking with a slight experience of local government, I hope that the help will not take the form of a general grant to local authorities to pay for all sorts of diverse purposes. I hope that there will be a sum specifically allocated to those authorities prepared to do something about immigrants' housing, prepared to do something about additional health inspectors for the enforcement of overcrowding laws, prepared to do something about the general conditions in areas in which immigrants are found concentrated. I repeat to my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench that I, in common with all other Birmingham Members, will be looking forward eagerly and impatiently to the announcement which they are soon to make about this sort of assistance.
My second point—and I apologise in anticipation of the suggestion that there is a degree of controversiality in what I have to say—is that it is essential to establish a code of conduct which makes illegal incitement to racial violence and racial hatred. All the practical work which voluntary organisations and the Government may do is bound to be vitiated if a number of people who do not share our progressive views play on the prejudices, fears and wrong thinking of certain members of the community.
Having observed the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite when a previous maiden speaker was critical of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd), I make reference to his speech with some trepidation. I suspect, however, that he at least might forgive me. I was his opponent in 1959, and think that he must feel a little charity towards me because I left Sutton Cold-field an even safer Conservative seat than I found it. I hope that for that favour he will forgive my one critical comment about his speech.
The right hon. Gentleman knows, as I do, that tomorrow morning the Birmingham papers, quite rightly and justly, will report all that he has said in great detail, and I suspect that, knowing his speech as well as he must, he realises that that report will take the form of a catalogue of the differences between ethnic Birmingham citizens and the immigrants who have come to live amongst them. I think that he spent a quarter of an hour categorising the differences. I have no doubt that his speech was motivated by a genuine desire to achieve greater integration. There is equally no doubt that the million people who tomorrow morning read his comparison of the difference between the two groups will react in quite the opposite way to the way in which the majority of the Committee believe they should.
Dr. King, I feel that I am entitled, and no doubt you will tell me if I am wrong, to be less than controversial in one other respect. As I understand the convention of maiden speeches, one is entitled to be as uncontroversial as one chooses, as long as one is aggressive only about groups not actually represented in the House. Therefore, I feel that I am entitled under the terms of that convention, and bound under the terms of duty, to draw the attention of the Committee to the inevitable lunatic fringe groups which associate themselves with any public discussion on Commonwealth immigration, and the necessity for Commonwealth immigrants to be properly integrated into this country.
I understand that during the day a copy has been sent to the House of a leaflet which is current in many London suburbs. It is published by the British National Party. As is invariably the case with such lunatic groups, the pamphlet is ludicrous in parts. It suggests that the civilisations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome died because of Commonwealth immigration. Were it simply foolish, it would not be worth wasting the time of the Committee in drawing attention to this reprehensible leaflet, but in places it is frankly disgusting.
It is with some trepidation that I read paragraph 3 of what the British National Party promises will be the outcome of any Commonwealth immigration into this country. It says:
In America where the white man is being forced to integrate with the negro, the common bond of integration is inevitably the bedroom.
It is not possible to consider with any degree of objectivity, with any degree of rationality, an issue which, no matter how vitally important it is to the nation, automatically produces that sort of reflex in certain groups and in certain people.
That is why some of us who are deeply concerned with, and affected by, this problem urge my right hon. Friends seriously to consider the possibility of increasing the penalties—I believe that in some ways it is now possible to indict and to convict—against those who incite violence and hatred in this way. Those of us who have fought our campaigns in Birmingham are particularly aware of this. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to a now defunct but not missed—and, I understand, only dormant rather than dead—organisation, by name the Birrningham Immigration Limitation Association. Apart from the remark- able lack of euphuism in the title of this association, it has dedicated itself over the last five years to propagating racial hatred and violence. It has pursued the anti-Commonwealth immigration cause in a most violent and reprehensible way.
I want to make it clear that I have no personal objection, in that the organisation did not raise its head in my campaign. But I think that I am entitled to say that the members of the campaign who were resident in my division left the Sparkbrook area and followed one of their founding fathers, Mr. Finney, and conducted their activities in the Borough of Smethwick. No matter how much real aid is given to the areas with genuine problems; no matter how much intensive effort is put in by individuals and corporate organisations, we will not solve the problem until we can root out these people who, for political, psychological and pathological reasons, wish to exploit the fears, the tensions and the hatreds.
Therefore, I support the continuation of this Act this evening, in the hope that it will be regarded as an interim Measure, on which two other things are based. First, there must be genuine physical help for those areas that suffer—and I do not apologise for the word "suffer" because suffer it is. If one is living in overcrowded conditions— and this is a matter of housing rather than immigration policy—if one is short of doctors—and this is a matter of health rather than immigration policy—if one is short of all sorts of other amenities because of periods of neglect, the influx of immigrants produces problems which the Government must provide special help to solve.
The second thing that the Government must do is somehow to create an atmosphere or climate in which those people who seek to exploit the situation for their own ends, no matter what those ends may be, are penalised not only by the absolute public disgust of the majority of the people of this country but also by the force of English law.
I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will wish to join with me in congratulating the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on his excellent maiden speech. It was modest, sincere and good humoured, and it was delivered with enviable fluency.
He dealt with a controversial subject in a cleverly non-controversial way. It was most interesting to hear from him, as we have heard from others, that—to use his words—they had a rational discussion when this question was discussed in Birmingham. In the course of the few remarks that I have to make I shall be returning to some of the points that he made.
He may not know, but other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may remember, that I had some part in presenting and explaining to the House the Act which we are now extending. I am much relieved, after the passage of two and a half years, to find that the need for it is now widely accepted, although it was so strenuously contested then. The Home Secretary made a most laudable maiden speech as Home Secretary. I congratulate him both on his appointment to that great office and upon the way that he so frankly, if that is not too appropriate a word, put the figures before us today. Also he, very candidly, pointed out the evasions which have been and are occurring in the administration of the Act. I am sure he would agree with me that these evasions are not the fault of the immigration service. They are, to a very great extent, the fault of those of us who, when piloting the Measure, yielded too much to the pressure for great humanity. I do not think it should be held against us that the Act contains weaknesses of that kind. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to face the fact that if, as he says, he must prevent these evasions in future, he must to some extent go back on the very high standard of humanity at which we aimed at that time, and I concede that we were doing so under pressure from almost the whole of the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister seems to cling to the erroneous belief that the Act was based on a colour bar. I never understood the allegation then, and now it looks very strange in the light of the figures given today by the Home Secretary, that out of a net increase from the whole Commonwealth of 138, 000 people in the last two-and-a-quarter years, no fewer than 120, 000 have come from the new countries of the Commonwealth. So whatever view people may have had at the time the Measure was introduced, we may all rest assured that it has not worked as a colour bar.
I concede—I think it may be the only point which the Prime Minister and others could conceivably continue in alleging that there was a colour bar—that by not controlling the Southern Irish, although we took power to do so, we placed the Irish in a better position than any Commonwealth people of any colour. But surely we cannot really be blamed for that either. When the party opposite introduced the British Nationality Act of 1948, they decided, I think once and for all, that the Irish should "have their cake and eat it", and it was very difficult for us to go back on that settlement.
The Prime Minister has made clear to us—I was not clear whether the Home Secretary was endorsing him today, if so perhaps he will interrupt me and make himself clear—that the Government propose to negotiate with the Commonwealth to get an agreed scheme based on a quota system in order to replace the control based on the 1962 Act. If that be the case, I advise the right hon. Gentleman most sincerely, although with great humility, not to be too optimistic about such an alternative, because I know that there are some formidable snags about it. I hope that the Committee will think it right that I should mention them.
The first is, of course—I think that in his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman accepted it—that we should still have to have our own control, whatever agreement we reach with the Commonwealth. If we are to have our own control we shall need this Act, or even a stronger one, to make sure that agreed quotas are properly enforced.
In my time at the Home Office—which was an unconscionably long time—we tried to get India and Pakistan to operate a voluntary control, from about 1956 onwards. It was not a very stringent control. It broke down mainly because it was based solely on the issue of passports, a thing which the Governments of those two countries found it very difficult to restrain.
Even if a fresh and thorough attempt were made to get Commonwealth countries to co-operate in administering a quota scheme, there would still be inherent difficulties which it would be very hard to overcome in practice.
The first is that they have a very strong interest in encouraging emigration from their own countries. Any kind of control on either emigration or immigration is difficult to administer. It requires immense tradition and experience and one starts off therefore with the natural inherent handicap that the countries which we would be asking to co-operate would not have their heart in this side of the job.
The next point is that India and Pakistan, in particular, would have at their end to beat what I understand are financial racketeers in those countries which have made a good many immigrants their victims. It is difficult to get at the facts on this matter. There have been various newspaper reports. I do not suppose that if I pressed the Home Secretary to give us precise information about this he would be able to do so, but I have no doubt that there is sufficient evidence of it to put us on our guard. We know that forged passports have been a feature of this traffic for some years even before control under the Act. We were getting forged passports even in the days of the voluntary control and one has read in the newspapers, though one has no means of confirming it, that forged employment vouchers have also been part of this racket. If we had a quota scheme I have no doubt that we should have the same kind of trouble.
There is no doubt also that a quota scheme cannot be effectively related to our own labour requirements, which are changing all the time. I say that because there is an inevitable time lag between the date when the quota is negotiated and the much later date when the immigrants would arrive under it. As long as twelve months could elapse, and meanwhile employment conditions here could change very sharply.
Then in order that the quota scheme might be effective, the countries of the Commonwealth concerned would have to help us by sifting their own emigrants to ensure that only those people coming for permanent settlement came here tinder the quota scheme and that people did not evade it by coming as students, visitors, members of families and so on.
There is the further difficulty about a negotiated scheme which must be faced. We had great difficulty over this matter under the Act as we have it. It is that the Governments of both Northern and Southern Ireland would have to be consulted as well as the Commonwealth countries, and the border between Ulster and the south is still there and will remain there. I do not want to go deeply into this delicate matter but I am certain that it would be futile to try to negotiate an agreed scheme with the Commonwealth without consulting both Ulster and Southern Ireland.
I hope that I am not speaking out of turn in saying that I doubt whether the Commonwealth would be keen to exchange a negotiated scheme for the kind of liberal treatment which the citizens of countries in the Commonwealth are receiving under the Act and will receive even if it is to be tightened up in various ways. I say therefore with all sincerity, and I hope without introducing any party prejudice on the matter, that I hope that Her Majesty's Government will completely drop the idea of a negotiated scheme and, instead, will see what can be done, as indeed has been mentioned by the Home Secretary, to get better integration within this country and if necessary to tighten up the Act to prevent evasion.
A word on the question of evasions. In last year's debate, on 27th November, the Prime Minister referred to "several loopholes in the Act", and he said:
We believe that health checks should become more effective."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1963; Vol. 685, c. 366.]
I should have liked to have seen more thorough health checks introduced as part of the administration under the Act. Many of my hon. Friends wanted that at the time. But it is easier said than done. People coming here with employment vouchers, of course, have a pretty thorough health check. On the other hand, the total number of passengers arriving here, including businessmen, students, tourists, families and others, coupled with the number of British passengers, aliens coming and
going, and so forth, is so large, about 6 million going through our ports in each direction each year, that the proportions of the problem are enormous. In comparison with that vast number of people passing through, the number of doctors is so small that, if one tried to intensify the health checks, one would create fantastic delays at the ports, and there would be chaos at London Airport, the principal port concerned. Therefore, I would not wish anyone to go with the Prime Minister in raising hopes about the general improvement of health checks.
Wives and children of Commonwealth immigrants are let in without health checks. This is so because we tried to be almost incredibly humane in this matter. But I agree with the Prime Minister that in that respect, perhaps, there could be an amendment of the Act.
There is so much more one could say on this issue. I conclude by making what, I hope, is a helpful suggestion to ease the problem of integration in the years ahead in respect of those who have not yet come to this country. Although I do not speak from personal experience, I understand that integration becomes almost impossible when the people concerned cannot even speak English, or, for that matter, Scots or Welsh. I believe that a knowledge of English should always be required before an employment voucher is granted. I hope that the Minister of Labour will deal with this point when he winds up the debate.
We should all be grateful for the spirit in which the debate has been conducted. It has been a great contrast to the debates we had on the Act, and I hope that we may keep up this spirit in the years to come.
It is appropriate that I should be able to speak tonight, for several reasons. One is that I am delighted to know that, for the past six hours, I have shared the salutary discipline of sitting on these green benches in company with the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Harvey), the Member for the constituency where I live. On this occasion, at least, we have much in common. The second is that, throughout my Parliamentary life, I have been actively interested in all questions once known as colonial questions, and our discussions today, of course, are closely related thereto. Third, the constituency which I still have the honour to represent has been mentioned once or twice, and it has now some relationship in these matters with the constituency of Smethwick. For those and other reasons, I am grateful for the opportunity to make a contribution, at this late hour, to our debate on this most important issue.
I have been immensely impressed by maiden speeches coming from both sides of the Committee. I particularly appreciated the speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), and I earnestly hope that he will be able to give a similar speech, for instance, in the Labour Club at Smethwick as well as in other institutions in that area. Equally, I found a great deal in common with maiden speeches on this side of the Committee. All of us, I am sure, are heartened to realise that the new Members have given of their best in our discussions today. That, too, is encouraging because it helps us to realise that in some measure, though we have strong political convictions on both sides, there are on occasions opportunities to transcend them, and I most earnestly trust that we shall transcend our political differences in regard to the treatment of the present many components of our British stock.
The conflicts between differing communities are a projection of a very old problem, one as old as the human race itself. When clans and tribes developed in the early evolution of man, when man exfoliated into a variety of different cultures, languages and customs, inevitably there was a sense of conflict born of this diversity. One can understand why it exists—because fear is one of the ingredients of human nature—fear about the different, the unknown and the dissimilar. Although I agree that economic factors have been one of the causes of human conflict, I am certain also that these cultural and psychological factors have been just as operative. Just as in earlier days there was conflict between the rival tribes because one tribe was afraid of the different characteristics of another, so I think that obtains also in this country at present. It is perfectly true that some of the immigrant communities in our midst have a culture very different from our own and, because of that, friction has arisen, and is likely still to arise unless something is done not merely by ourselves but by the immigrant communities also. Although we have our share of responsibility, I would certainly urge that the immigrant communities must also exercise their own obligations.
I remember going to a constituency near London where there is a large immigrant population. I spoke to about 600 Indians in a hall there. I felt rather uncomfortable, and at the end of my brief speech I turned to an Indian gentleman sitting beside me and asked whether I had said anything wrong. He said "No. It is all right, because probably 99 per cent. of the 600 people here did not understand a word you said." It astonished me on another occasion to find that an Indian association which was very active among the Indians in a certain district was actively promoting classes among them in Hindi—not English. I begged them to appreciate that unless that Indian immigrant community did its best to learn and understand English, it would bear some share for its sense of exclusiveness from the rest of the population.
Therefore, in confronting ourselves with the existence of diverse communities in this country, we should appreciate that it is no easy matter to secure the integration which all hon. Members desire. One of the difficulties in the past has been that too many have been ready to give way to emotional impulses without fully appreciating objectively and dispassionately the very real and complex problems before them. This emotionalism is to be found on both sides of the Committee. As far as I can tell, it may have been evident in a constituency to which I shall not refer again but which is familiar to us. It is so easy to exploit emotionally the differences between the immigrant population and the indigenous population. It is so easy to assume that, because the other man has a dark skin and a different culture, this therefore denotes a certain intrinsic inferiority and must be despised. By this means one can evoke applause and support and gain a cheap kind of notoriety. I admit that it is easy. But it is emotional. Many people assume that the only emotion is that of affection, but the emotion of hate is far more dangerous.
We must realise that emotion in some areas has undoubtedly exacerbated a stupid, racial approach. Some hon. Members on this side of the Committee, with the very best intentions, at one time insufficiently appreciated that we were faced with certain difficulties that needed objective judgment rather than emotional generality. That was why I was glad to hear my right hon. and learned Friend say that the Act will continue. In doing so, he has recognised the necessity of its substance.
At the same time I would say to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) that when he is so critical of the opposition of the Labour Party to the Act when it was introduced, he fails to appreciate that many right hon. and hon. Members on his own side were also critical and for very good reasons. The Act was so strenuously opposed because, basically, it was assumed, rightly or wrongly, that there was a measure of colour prejudice in it, since far more interest seemed to be shown in the intention to stop coloured immigration than the so-called white immigration.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the operation of the Act has entirely dispelled any erroneous impression there may have been about our intentions at the time? The Home Secretary has given the figures—a net increase of 120, 000 from the new countries out of the total overall net increase of 138, 000 from the Commonwealth.
I do not want to be controversial this evening for various reasons. Others may be: there is evidence of their capacity to do so. I am trying to say that my own side in some measure failed to make its own position clear enough at the time. It may be said that what has happened since has dispelled some of the impressions we had. On the other hand, I am not quite so sure on that score, because while there has been a certain restriction of so-called coloured immigration into the country there is still a continuous and considerable flow of European immigration—to which I do not necessarily object and of which no proper calculation, for reasons known to us all, can be made.
I say that I do not necessarily object to all immigration because we owe a tremendous debt to immigrants, both coloured and white. For instance, there are the nurses to whom I would pay tribute—particularly those in Whipp's Cross Hospital in my constituency. I understand that 95 per cent. of its nurses come from Ireland. Without Irish and coloured nurses, between one quarter and one-third of our hospital beds would have to be closed.
We owe a great debt to immigrants, and I will not try to set one type against another, but at the time this Act was passed there was an assumption of a certain bias against coloured immigrants. For instance, in Smethwick and areas of that kind one found more exploitation of prejudice against coloured people than against the Irish. Hon. Members must appreciate why it was that so many of us felt so strongly at the time. Moreover, we were not wholly satisfied that everything had been done to secure the consultation and agreement of the Commonwealth countries. All I would say now is that, having made our criticism and given our advice, surely we must now look to the future because so much depends on how we handle this question in the years ahead. I hope most earnestly that it will not become a party issue. There are sufficient hon. Members on both sides of the Committee to appreciate why I say so. If this were to become a party question, there would be grave world repercussions in the years ahead. Both parties have to play their part in this. Coming to the House today—