I was saying that coming to the House today I passed, as I frequently do, a wall near Leytonstone Station. I saw there inscribed in large letters the cryptic initials K.B.W. We know what they mean—Keep Britain White. Underneath there was the inscription of an organisation known as the British National Party. We also understand that in what might be an exciting political episode in the New Year another organisation intends to put up a candidate who stands for the same principle of "keeping Britain white".
By this cryptic inscription was a new symbol, no longer the circle with the lightning flash within it, but a circle with a cross within it. I thought how incongruous it was that this organisation should be scribbling K.B.W. on the wall and at the same time using the symbol of a faith founded by an Asian whose skin was swarthy and who, if lie had been in this country, would not have been allowed to go into Smethwick Labour Club.
I appreciate that, and I hope that these will be crank societies and dismissed as such by all worthy people, but unfortunately, that is what was once thought in Germany of a crank organisation there. What at one time was dismissed as a mere freak became in the end the evil despotism of that country and brought ruin to the world. That is what I am frightened of, because unfortunately the human mind can be conditioned and moulded, for good or ill.
From the most cursory and amateur study of anthropology, we know how the human mind can be moulded. We have all heard of Margaret Mead and her interesting researches into the same ethnic peoples living in two islands not far apart. Although the two were of ethnic similarity, one community became aggressive and the other pacific. They were moulded by a variety of factors in the same way that in one part of our country our people became colour prejudiced while in other areas, as in my constituency, such prejudice hardly exists.
It is because of the possibility of these cranks and freaks moulding emotionally conditioning the human mind in sinister ways that when I saw those letters I first felt anger that anyone could come to that pleasant kindly constituency which I have had the honour to represent for 32 years and proclaim such views. Leyton has its difficulties and its oddities like every constituency, but, after 37 years association with it and 32 years representing it in the House of Commons, I felt anger that this decent, kindly community should have this poison injected into it. Who is to say that the same poison will not maliciously he injected into the veins of our common humanity elsewhere?
I speak thus because I feel deeply, and because I do not want Leyton or any other constituency to be thus poisoned. I am only too well aware that it can happen. When I went around during the last election one or two people here and there showed some colour prejudice. I tried to understand their prejudice. I tried to explain my position and to get them to transcend that automtic reaction which I appreciate many people have at the mere sight of a coloured face. Sometimes people are so conditioned that they automatically react in that way.
After my anger I then realised that anger would get me nowhere. What I felt can best be summed up in some words taken from Shakespeare's Othello, which in this case are particularly appropriate:
…the pity of it, Iago!
O Iago, the pity of it.
If we can have that pity for those who try to debase the human mind, then surely decent men and women of good will here and elsewhere, even though they may still differ about how to deal with particular problems, will join together to eradicate any danger of this evil gaining strength in our midst and will encourage
every effort to be made to build up a British community which will vindicate our democracy.
It is a hard task, I admit, but it can be done and, for this reason, I plead that we should accept the diversity in our community, and recognise the problems of race relationship but at the same time do all we can to draw these mixed peoples into true fellowship so that our British democracy can be an inspiring example to the whole world.
Many references have been made to the necessity for good will, and…we all feel the desire to face up to the problem in that spirit. But we must all realise it is not merely a question of good will but a question of the need for good thought as well."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1929; Vol. 230, c. 366.]
I have chosen those words to begin my remarks for a reason. They fit the debate exceedingly well, but I wonder whether the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) recognises them, because they were the words with which, 35 years ago—not 32, as he said—he began his own maiden speech in the House of Commons.
It was when I realised that it might be possible for me to speak in the Committee following my distinguished constituent, the hon. Member for Leyton, that I looked up his maiden speech and found those appropriate words, appropriate to the opening of my speech tonight but also representing the opening of his own Parliamentary career.
If this is, as has been rumoured, the last time we are likely to hear the hon. Member for Leyton speak in the House of Commons the more is the pity because, knowing him as I do and knowing his constituency almost as well as I know my own, it is fitting that I should say that he has been an excellent constituency Member. He has been a very sincere, well respected and even well loved constituency Member and whoever the party opposite may choose to succeed him will have to be a very good man to be as good a constituency Member as is the present hon. Member for Leyton.
Having said that, and returning to the theme of the need for good thought in the difficult problem facing the Committee—and without wishing to stir anything up—I must say that the thing I tend a little to resent is that so many hon. Members opposite seem to claim a monopoly of virtue for themselves when they approach this subject, whereas the truth is that there is as much muddled thinking and, possibly, even as much malice among supporters of the party opposite on this subject as among any supporters of my party. It is very much more muddled thinking than malice, very much a question of lack of understanding. But this is not a subject on which anyone in this Committee can afford to start throwing stones.
The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) quoted from one or two newspapers; and I should like therefore to quote from a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, not to make a party political point, but to emphasise the point to which I shall come in a moment. There is a need to rid ourselves of this tendency to want to score points off one another. There is a need to face the problem and a need for clear thought.
The article in the Daily Telegraph states:
Mr. Fred Bullion, deputy-mayor of Deptford and a life-long 'bread-and-butter Labour man', spoke for a large and growing body of opinion in districts like his when he complained that many of the gains working people had made during a lifetime of struggle and progress were being wiped out or threatened by a few years of Commonwealth immigration. I've been called a Fascist for speaking out', he said but how can it be "prejudiced" or "reactionary" to defend what we have always fought for? Is it "progressive" to let the workers in Deptford be dragged back to conditions we've only just managed to struggle out of?'".
This is the Labour deputy mayor of Deptford.
The hon. Member for Barons Court talked of the things which canvassers report and which he sought to attribute to my party. I could tell canvassers' tales which have come back to me about the way this matter was tackled by people who do not support my party. But where do we get, when all is said and done, if we start throwing stones across the Chamber and trying to score party political points on an issue which must be set aside from the party political controversy if we are to do what has to be done, namely, to avoid the creation of a racial problem, to avoid exacerbation of the sort reported from Deptford—in fact, to be able to assimilate the immigrants already here?
I have no illusions, speaking for my sort of constituency in the Greater London area, that at rock bottom housing is the problem. The housing problem is a very much more difficult and intractable one in Greater London than anywhere else in the country. Of this there is no possible doubt. This is a separate subject which, in a sense, we shall have an opportunity to debate tomorrow. But I am convinced that unless and until local authorities are both able and willing to take action in housing, the problem will grow worse.
In some cases local authorities simply dare not send a health inspector or sanitary inspector to look at a house of which complaint is made because they know very well that if they do they will have to close it and rehouse the very large numbers of people in it—often far more than appear on the register of electors—ahead of other people on their waiting lists.
Therefore, we must, first and foremost, face the fact that something special in housing needs to be done to get this problem under control and to make it possible for these people who have come to live among us to be assimilated and to prevent any possibility of racial distrust and discrimination arising here on a large scale. It tends to exist already, and it worries the white population and the coloured population equally. It worries all those who want to see the end of race prejudice as such rearing its head. It worries all those who want to see assimilation.
I believe, therefore, that the Government have a duty to look specially into the problems that exist and to consider how far these problems can be dealt with, tackled and eliminated. We were told by the Home Secretary this afternoon that it is proposed to try for the time being to go on limiting new immigration to the 1, 500 or 2, 000 permit holders a month. Fifteen hundred to 2, 000 permit holders a month, by the time their relatives and their immediate dependants have come too, could mean something like 8, 000 people a month, or getting on for 100, 000 people a year—all this before we have properly assimilated, or even begun properly to assimilate, those who are already here.
It is high time that this problem was examined in the interests of the coloured people themselves. We have heard much about humanitarianism. Is it humanitarian to invite still more to come here to live in the squalid sort of conditions that a good many of us know and have seen to exist and are powerless as yet to do anything about? In the end, there is no room for party political controversy, because the provision of new housing has not exactly been one of the failures of the last few years. [Horn. MEMBERS: "0h."]Hon. Members opposite who say "Oh" had better remember that the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister accused us of tricking and deceiving the nation when we said that we would build 300, 000 houses a year.
Yes, and we have achieved it year in and year out throughout that period. Now that both parties are agreed that we can move up to 400, 000 houses a year as from next year, we must deliberately face seeking to make part of that extra provision available for the most needy cases in some of the conurbations around our big cities where the relief of the overcrowded houses in which immigrants live is a vital number one priority.
I urge the Government to look carefully again at the proposed inflow of immigration, beause 1, 500 to 2, 000 permit holders said quickly does not sound too much but 100, 000 more people coming in every year while we have not yet adequately begun to tackle the problem that already exists could add alarmingly to the social consequences of the problem that is already of great concern to very many of us.
This, surely, cannot be made a matter for controversy. It is of fundamental importance to the humanitarian treatment of all those who would like to come here that they should be able to come and live decent lives settling into decent homes. Before we have any further large expansion of immigration, it is vital that the Government should be satisfied that we are well on the way adequately to housing immigrants already here and that we shall be able thereafter virtually to attach the necessary accommodation to the work permit and to regard the two as indispensable the one to the other.
That is all I want to say tonight, because to my mind the crux of the whole problem is to get the housing straight and the other things will straighten themselves out in due course.
In spite of all the dangers, tensions, conflicts of ideas, this has been one of the most remarkable debates I have ever sat through here, and it is a great pleasure to be called in it, even at this late hour. I think that most of us will agree that a great deal of the credit for the quality of the new ideas which have been brought out in this debate is due to the maiden speakers who have taken part in it, and that at least should make us confident that, whether we have had proper debates on this subject here before or not, many other people throughout the country have been thinking, acting, working out various devices, and are ready to present constuctive ideas. There is little time to lose.
I suppose we have all had our moments of impatience during this debate. Mine came in the course of the Home Secretary's speech when he was going through those statistics and lost 30, 000 students and said that it was a matter for conjecture where they had gone. There had been a leakage. I wanted to interrupt him. I could have told him where three of them had gone, because I have had this day a message that they have not heard from the Church Commissioners.
The Church Commissioners of England have this day evicted from a flat in my constituency two African students and their families, and this was in reply to a plea from me that they should reverse a decision not to give two more days to the solicitors of the leaseholders who were being attacked by the Church Commissioners. This is an example of the cold way and the ruthlessness with which fastidious priests have always called in the secular arm to do their dirty work for them. This has been put into the legal pipeline, and nothing can stop it. This was an order to take over a leasehold unless the leaseholder evicted those who were in breach of a covenant because more than one family were in the flat.
Tonight I do not know where those boys are. I asked them to wait. The Division Bell rang and I said, "I will have to go through a Division and make a telephone call, but I will come back and tell you." They did not think I could help them. And I could not. But I did ask, I pleaded with, whatever contact I could make with the Church Commissioners that a message should be sent to the solicitors tonight to give them two more days or a few more days to get the flat they were already negotiating about.
This is the kind of damage that can be done by an incident of this kind. What is happening to those students? One cannot be sure they will find another flat. They will be part of this leakage. They are going to be lost. What kind of white man's justice do they think it will be? How are they to be absorbed? There is no one to whom they can go for advice. I know where they will turn up. They will turn up in a file in the Home Office sooner or later. Or others like them will. There are places where one could look.
The situation really is this. There are plenty of ideas, plenty of debaters, but not enough involvement of the general public in practical work which can bring about the fulfilment of the best of those ideas.
I want to say one thing on the issue of principle now, and then make some detailed suggestions. There is one thing I want to ask tonight, and I want to be controversial and I shall be really controversial. We have got through the debate pretty well. We had the obstacles. First of all we had the confusion of description about the use of electoral devices; we had the danger of the inflamed feelings about recollections of the election—as though this was the first time a certain political party had adopted that kind of electioneering. We know it was not, and we know it will happen again, and we ought not to spend a long time about it.
What interested me very much about the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones)—and there was a great deal in that speech I wished I had the chance to say myself first—was that the right hon. Member was looking at this problem not from the point of view of electoral advantage but from the point of view of economic advantage. I do not want to say this in a heated way but, on the whole, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) said so incisively during the debate last year, the Conservative Party has thought of this question of coloured immigration in electoral terms and not in practical terms. They have missed a great opportunity, because, if they had stuck to the rules of capitalist economics, they would have welcomed all the cheap immigrant labour they could get.
Uncontrolled and badly housed immigrants put an intolerable burden on the shoulders of their fellow workers in some areas, but from the point of view of the success of the economy, one has only to look at what has happened in Germany and in France to know that if we had an opportunity of getting 100, 000 skilled or even unskilled building workers into this country we ought to take them, because in a year they will have created the equivalent of the housing they are going to occupy. The party opposite did not choose to do that.
There is one example which I want to take, and which everyone refers to with immense respect. It is customary to refer to what has happened in the hospitals, and on London Transport. I wonder whether, 10 years from now, people will not look back at the agreement that we have for recruitment in Barbados and say, "This was the wickedest thing that we did". That will be said when all the freak Fascist ideas, all the prejudices, and all the Rachmans have been forgotten. We did this in cold blood and with the best intentions.
I do not know on whom I can call for support. Perhaps I can call on one of the older and wiser members of the Cabinet, the Secretary of State for Wales, when I say to the Cabinet that the wickedest thing we can do to a country is what we have done to Barbados. We have taken the young, the active, and the most enterprising. What will Barbados get in return? In a few years' time, a steady flow of elderly, experienced tube train drivers. This is a dreadful thing to do to a country. This is what we did to Wales during the depression. We took away the best and left behind the sick and the defeated, to the impoverishment of the country. This is not aid. This is not help. This is taking everything and giving nothing in return.
What do we get for ourselves? We get the guarantee of an endless flow of expendable cheap labour, as a result of which we have not got the right stimulus to proper technological advance in our public services parallel to the kind of technological advance that we get in private industry. We have not got the stimulus to improve our public transport services. I have every sympathy with the man who says that he will not come a long way from Rickmansworth to service a bad winter schedule. We are supposed to put up with a worse schedule in winter than in the summer. In the winter one has to use public transport, whereas in the summer one can walk.
I am sure that much the same sort of thing happened a hundred years ago when houses were being built in my constituency. The builders said, "Why waste time on taking lead pipe further than the first-floor landing when there is an unlimited supply of little girls from the unemployment areas to carry the slops up and down the stairs?". Only when that sort of supply was giving out did people look at the houses and say, "My God, there must be a better way of living than this".
The first thing that I should like the Government to do is to take a long, hard look at the type of agreement to which I have referred, to see whether in the long run it is not doing the maximum harm to both sides. I think that we ought to start afresh. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been defending their Act. I did not think that tonight we would have any difficulty, because the other night I put a few points to the Financial Secretary on the Money Resolution. He brushed them aside and said that the points I had raised were not covered by the Bill.
So I put down an Amendment, and there is only one form of words that is appropriate. I found myself in strange company. Hon. Members opposite are opposed to the Act; I am opposed to it, and the Government are opposed to it. We all say that it will not work. The Financial Secretary says that my ideas cannot be implemented, but we all want a better Act. I am certain that the electors wanted one, and the assumption was that the Labour Government would improve it.
Throughout the debate far too much emphasis has been placed on the idea that this was some sort of kindness that we were doing to these suffering people from the poorer countries, in handing out chits to enable them to come in in stages to take jobs. Warnings have been given from hon. Members opposite as to how difficult it is to consult other Commonwealth countries. First, let us hear what we are to consult about. We have not yet heard that from any Government. I want to hear it before the debate is over.
We have a fairly good case. The party opposite has had a few years to work this out and it has not thought of anything to consult about. I would have thought that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development was involved up to the neck in this, and I am sorry that in the list of her functions she did not include some kind of liaison with those who will operate the control on immigrants into this country. I would have thought it inevitable that if we are going to send material aid we can use the device of offering training to the people from the countries where the aid is going—training in the sort of work they will need to be able to do when they go back.
It is not tube lines which are preponderant in Barbados, but there is one tool that is essential in every underdeveloped country throughout the world, and that is the earth-moving machine. If a man can drive one of those giant grabs which walk about raising hundreds of tons of earth he can have a job anywhere in the under-developed countries. But it is the trained mechanics from this country who go overseas and earn enormous salaries.
The training of such people would be a positive contribution to the solution of the problem. That is why I asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the other night to indicate whether the Money Resolution in connection with this Measure would cover the possibility of an ad hoc expansion of the administration of many Ministries in this Government to meet the needs of immigrants We have not had from the Government any explanation of the problems of giving grants to local authorities in need, but I hope that we are all agreed that we are against the conception of segregated second-class citizens in second-class dwellings, doing second-class jobs. That is not what grants to local authorities are supposed to be for.
But there are many other things that local authorities can do, in co-operation with other Ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, and there is an enormous amount that the Ministry of Labour can do. I am grateful for having been called before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has spoken. I believe that the device which once existed is still operable. When Ernest Bevin was at the Ministry of Labour he was working on a scheme for sending out labour attachés in parallel with the diplomatic attachés, so that we could have contact between the labour movement and the industrial movement. These were people who were seconded voluntarily to the Ministry.
In due course, the jobs they did have been filled by civil servants, who have got promotion. I wonder if it is still open for outside people to be recruited to fill these jobs. If so, could we have tomorrow a labour attaché sent to every Commonwealth country and Colony, to consult about the kind of consumer goods industry that is required to be developed on those countries, and the kind of commercial and industrial training that is required for their workers, so that some of their immigrants here could go back enriched in the skills and experience required in their home countries? This is a dream, but it could come true, if we set out to make it come true. Can my right hon. Friend do it tomorrow, or have we to wait until a Supplementary Estimate is introduced or until it is tacked into next year's Estimates?
My right hon. Friend can do many things. There is a simple thing which we need to do to get over the problem of the plumber or the carpenter with a chip on his shoulder who is sure that the foreman will not take him on or, having taken him on, will sack him because he is a coloured man. If he has served an apprenticeship in a country where the techniques are different, the foreman will not take him on if he can help it because he knows that he will need instruction in slightly different techniques. Why not use the same device as that now used for the rehabilitation of the disabled and give him a six to eight weeks' course so that he can use a union card which would show that he had the qualifications? This was the question which I was asked by a coloured man at an election meeting, and hardly anybody knew what he was talking about. He said, "We have been asked to vote Labour and most of us will. Is there any chance of doing the job for which we are qualified?"
There is urgency about this matter. It will not wait until next year. If the Minister of Overseas Development had been able to turn right instead of left from the well-trodden path between Hampstead and South Africa House she would have come to Paddington where another apartheid is to be fought. We shall have segregated school classes within a year or two. There are already classes with only two or three white children who will be removed by their parents soon. There are secondary modern schoolchildren now whose mothers are worried because their daughters are bringing home coloured students. Let me tell the Committee why they are worried. I wonder whether it will be only the older miner colleagues of mine on this side of the Committee who will understand this point. I remember how when I was aged six my grandmother took me into the front parlour and made me promise not to go down a coalmine while site was alive. I remember the fight to keep out of certain occupations.
In the present-day mothers who worry, there is no panic. There is no prejudice. There is no nonsense about maniacs from the jungle. These coloured students are charming, delightful boys who are doing well at school, getting diplomas for shorthand, typing and accounting—and they are not going to obtain jobs. Whatever success they may have at school, they will be sorting out scrap iron.
They will be doing the menial jobs which ought not to be done by any human being, jobs which we should be struggling to remove from our cities altogether. This is what strikes the mothers. There is no moral problem. There is no problem of disciplining children. If the coloured boy is a bad character. out he goes. It is when he is a charming character that he is a danger. The good healthy collier was a danger to the house. A weedy assistant in a shop in a mining village would be a "chance." The daughter of the house would be marrying someone who would not be going through the routine of accident, disease, the "compo" doctor and the rest. We have learned a lot. Certainly the Labour movement has learned a great deal.
Why do not we apply what we have learned? I know that I have said too much and I apologise, but if I had been able to say all I had wanted to say tonight, and if I had been able to pour out all my ideas and the Government had said, "Right, we will implement the lot", what would my constituents have said?—" Are you going to do all that for the 'spades'? Why not do it for us? ". This is the nub of it. This is why hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite could not do it, and why they have never been able to do it in the past. They have always regarded unskilled workers as expendable.
I cannot improve on the crack made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) about Scotsmen wearing kilts. If we had been able to identify the children of unskilled workers, if dustmen were made baronets—they ought to be for the work they do, if there were any sense of justice—and if we could have recognised their descendants, we could have seen the weaknesses of the Welfare State. We should have seen the problem at the root of our education system. We could have seen the wastage, on the one hand, and, on the other, the way those who learned the book of rules of the acquisitive affluent society made a success of their affairs. We could have seen the heartbreaks and the waste, the little children pushed out from the wrong stream in the primary school into the wrong stream in the secondary school, the children who fill the juvenile courts, the approved schools, the borstals, the clubs where they eat "purple hearts", and the rest. This is part of the failure of the social system which right hon. and hon. Members have created.
Only if we look at the issue in those terms, at the way in which we have used expendable immigrant unemployed labour from all sources in the working of our cities for tens and hundreds of years, only if we draw on the experience of the past which the working class has accumulated, shall we find a right solution to the problem which is now troubling us. But it calls for a great administrative drive, a drive which we are beginning to associate with this Government. Some of us have had some very agreeable surprises from some very unlikely Ministers. [Laughter.] It is true. We have all had some most encouraging experiences of the drive of this Government. We want some on this subject now. It is something which they have overlooked. They have not taken the opportunity yet to tell us what they have in mind. The Minister of Labour is to reply. I hope that he will give us the right answer.
I hope that the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) will acquit me of extreme rudeness if I do not follow every point which he made in his speech. He asked one question which I thought very pertinent. He asked whether we were doing the right thing towards those who emigrated to this country by withdrawing them from their own countries, thereby drawing off the cream from their homelands. At the time when the Act was going through the House I was in Jamaica, and I took part in a television interview with people in the Government there. I do not want to go over all the controversies of the Bill's introduction. I make no bones about saying that I was myself violently opposed to it at the time. I was opposed to its method of introduction, and it is still an Act which I very much dislike. We are now discussing whether we should re-enact it, and, if we do, what we should like to see replace it, if possible, for the future.
I remember the Premier of Jamaica, Sir Norman Manley, as he then was, saying: "We do not like exporting our young people and our skilled technicians, but we have to do it. We have to export hundreds and hundreds of our people every year because there is no work for them. We cannot support them." He explained also that the money which they sent back from the countries to which they emigrated was a valuable contribution towards the stability of Jamaica's economy. We must face these facts. I hope that those in the country who are critical of people who come here from overseas will remember that they do not want to leave their homes.
What a terrible tragedy it is when one sees at Kingston airport the Jamaicans in their thin clothes, happy, carefree, queuing up for their charter planes to go to London. Then, suddenly, they get the cruel realisation of the cold and fog, and the full blast of the colour bar if they are unfortunate enough to live in those areas where certain people use the colour bar for personal advantage. These people do not want to come here. Let us remember that many of them come here because we as a great imperial Power failed in many parts of the Commonwealth and Empire to leave the people with a decent standard of living.
One realises that if one sees the shacks in parts of Nigeria and some of the conditions in which people live in Malawi. Although we have done much, if we go round the Commonwealth we cannot claim that we have done as much as we should have done to leave the people with a decent standard of living. That is why the people come to this country. That is why we have an obligation to help them to get employment and earn their daily bread and send money back to their families.
The reason why many of us were opposed to the Bill was that it was introduced without Commonwealth consultation. At least two Commonwealth Prime Ministers first read of its introduction in the daily newspapers. That was the extent of the consultation, and that was one of the reasons for the bitterness created at the time of the Bill's introduction.
The Home Secretary did a tremendous service in his speech because he put the whole subject in its proper perspective. He told us the percentage of those coming in on A or B category vouchers —that is, those who had jobs to come to, thereby meeting an economic need, and those who had special skills which were required, again thereby meeting an economic need—and the fact that there were very few immigrants in category C indicated that the immigration authorities, for better or for worse, had not allowed people in to contribute to the general pool of unskilled labour but had concentrated on the skilled and those crafts which could not be serviced in this country. So let us remember that these people have performed a very great economic service to this country.
Probably the perspective in which the Home Secretary was able to place the whole subject can best be perpetuated by passing over, and perhaps ignoring, the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), which I do not think was a particularly valuable contribution to the discussion. I should prefer to rely on speeches such as that of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and the other maiden speeches that we heard, which have been marked by wide humanity.
I should like to make one or two suggestions. First, an hon. Member asked what we mean by "consultation", and for what purposes should we consult. I feel that this is not a proper subject for discussions at a Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference. It would be passed over. I suggest that very careful attention should be given to having a special Commonwealth conference on migration and that those attending it should be the Ministers from the Commonwealth countries who have particular responsibility for these problems. There are a tremendous number of subjects winch could, and should, usefully be discussed. For example, yesterday we read that the Australians are hoping to attract 70, 000 migrants a year from this country, which would be about 15, 000 more than they attracted in 1963.
There are many aspects upon which we could try to build up a volume of Commonwealth agreement on migration. There are many ways in which we could try and lessen the shocks people sustain when they come to this country if we could get consultation and some form of working partnership which would continue after the conference concluded.
The second point—and here I agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones)—is that there should be a Minister primarily responsible for immigration matters. As he rightly said, many Ministries are affected—Housing, Labour, Education and Health. There should be one Minister, possibly loosely attached to the Commonwealth Relations Office, in charge of immigration matters. I am not necessarily suggesting that another Ministry be created. I am hoping that out of the wide ambit available to the Prime Minister somebody in the Government could be given an additional responsibility.
The next thing I hope we may be able to hear is something of the results of the Home Office Advisory Committee, which is doing very useful work. Perhaps the Minister of Labour could say something about that. But it seems to me that this is all in one direction. What we also have to do in this country is to concentrate—it sounds a priggish thing to say but it is true—on educating our own people in racial matters, because half the problem is not so much the volume of immigrants but the fear of the unknown that people have, the lack of understanding.
So often, if someone is introduced into a person's home in a large town, he can in that way get to know people and can become far more easily integrated in our society. We have very much more to do in this country if we are to approach the tremendous research carried out in the United States, where this problem is so very much greater, with 22 million negroes. There, in the process of integration, there is research into what is worrying people.
I agree with the hon. Member for Paddington, North in wishing that we had some extended form of labour information at our High Commission offices in Commonwealth countries. I do not know how many such attachés there are, but I know that in Jamaica, if a person wants to inquire into employment prospects in this country, he has great difficulty in getting the information. We should consider giving a member of the High Commission staff in each Commonwealth country from which immigrants come responsibility for giving information along these lines.
I believe that we must, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford said, realise that the greatest test which faces this country and, indeed, the world is whether we can create a multi-racial society. Certainly, in the Caribbean, there are countries where one can say that there is virtually no feeling of colour, that there really is a partnership between the races. That is something we experimented with in Central Africa, where it failed because it was all one way; it was all the maintenance of the established order and no give. In the Caribbean one can say that there have been attempts at partnership which have been tremendously successful. One sees people of all races mingling, and that is something we must tackle here.
The Prime Minister was so right when he said last night that we must not blame upon immigrants social problems such as housing and bad conditions which existed before they came and which would be with us whether or not they were here. They are not a very large percentage of the population and certainly it is the job of hon. Members—one would hope that one could say, with confidence, of all hon. Members of every political party—to kill all these arguments based on prejudice, arguments relating to high unemployment, high crime ratios and so forth.
If every hon. Member were to try individually to destroy this sort of argument which, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford has said, Home Secretary after Home Secretary has denied, then hon. Members at least would be playing some part in lowering tension and trying to build up a multi-racial society in this country. I hope, therefore, that the Minister of Labour will tell us tonight something about labour attaches in the High Commission offices, the Home Office Advisory Committee and the prospects of a Commonwealth agreement.
I still loathe this Act and I hope the time will come when we can build up some form of agreement common to all countries in the Commonwealth. I believe that until we can do that, can abolish this Act and put in its place some form of Commonwealth agreement we cannot claim that we have solved the problem of creating a multi-racial community. The sooner we can scrub this Act off the Statute Book the better it will be for Commonwealth relations in this country.
I hope not to detain the Committee too long tonight, but as my constituency was the only one during the election which was dishonoured by having a Fascist candidate I can speak with some feeling on the problem. When one considers that in these enlightened days a person of that kind can seek election to Parliament, whose only election programme was "Keep Britain White" and who collected some 3, 400 votes, one appreciates that there are some serious aspects of the problem.
In my constituency, therefore, we are concerned about the problems being created by this policy of "Keep Britain White". My Conservative opponent in the constituency wanted to show that the whole of the problem was due to the Labour council. It was nothing to do with the people here, but was the result of the action of the Labour council. These things tend to obscure the difficulties with which we are faced.
I am quite satisfied that a good deal of the problem stems from the failure of the Government for about 10 years to recognise what was the essence, first of all, of the basic problem with which we were faced. The first basic problem is that there are no means at all for the proper reception of Commonwealth immigrants. This led to their concentration in different areas where, very naturally, not speaking the language in many cases, they tended to congregate together. They wanted to be where there was a friendly voice to greet them.
Therefore, because we had no established means of dealing with them, this concentration always snowballed. I hope that we shall be told tonight that there is to be some form of reception and that immigrants should not go wholly into overcrowded houses and overcrowded areas where the next step will be that if a house is in multi-occupation the council will serve a notice on the occupants to vacate and they will then into another overcrowded house, and so on. This is a vicious circle which I think the Government will have to tackle right at the beginning so that we can control and deal with the problem from the point of view of a proper diversification of these immigrants when they arrive in this country, not with the idea of creating second-class citizens but in order to give them a better chance of being first-class citizens.
That is something to which we must have regard for the future. I welcome the idea and hope that we might hear something from my right hon. Friend tonight about how negotiations are to be started with the Commonwealth countries in order to find some method of consultation leading to agreement concerning the numbers that come in. I would say that the control of the numbers who come into the country, from wherever they come, is something which is here to stay, at least for a long time to come. The important thing is to get away from the implication of colour and to put the legislation on to a logical basis of what the economy of the country can stand in the way of numbers coming into it, wherever they come from—India, Pakistan, Jamaica or Ireland.
We have heard about the difficulties of doing anything about the Irish because of the 1948 Nationality Act in connection with the Irish Republic. That is sheer nonsense, because people in Commonwealth countries had the right to come here without any Act of Parliament, but that did not prevent the then Government from bringing in an Act to stop them. It is sheer hypocrisy to plead that nothing can be done about Ireland, but this problem cannot be tackled without dealing with Northern Ireland in some way to prevent the inflow through that channel.
In spite of what has been said about the Act not being colour discrimination, hon. Members will recollect that the Home Secretary at the time admitted that while the Act was not intended to be seen in that way, it could not be used to prevent people from coming from Southern Ireland. We hear a good deal about people coming and going from and to Southern Ireland. I wonder whether hon. Members are aware of the reason. Large numbers of people come here from Ireland and travel around from job to job and then, as soon as the Inland Revenue catches up with them, they go back for a few months and then return to start all over again. This is something which the Inland Revenue might look at, for it might do more about controlling immigration from Ireland than is now done.
The hon. Gentleman should learn the facts of life and about how long it takes P.A.Y.E. to catch up with a man.
A stranger coming to the House of Commons today and hearing the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) moving his Amendment and knowing nothing of our politics might have wondered what the Labour Government has been doing for the last 10 years. We now have to deal with factors which are certainly not of our own creation and which have nothing to do with whether we were in favour of or opposed to the Act at its inception.
This may be a matter for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, but the control of multiple-occupied housing needs a good deal of strengthening if it is to be properly operative without being harsh on the occupants.
Another matter which cannot be ignored is the need for a man who has come from the Commonwealth to be able to send for his family. Usually he does not wish to bring his family with him, but if he is permitted to come here, he should be able to send for his family later. We ought to be able to know what our liabilities would be in this respect, especially as nine times out of ten the family would be moving into already overcrowded areas, thus creating still more problems. This is where consultation with the Commonwealth would be useful. If these things could be done by agreement, the local knowledge which the country of origin could supply would be very helpful.
The problem of category B entrants is important. There are many disgruntled immigrants who came here on the basis of having special skills, or what were regarded as special educational qualifications. They sometimes found that those qualifications did not match the equivalent standards in this country, so that they were unable to get the sort of job which they thought they would get. They have then begun to think that this was some form of racial discrimination, even though it was nothing of the kind. That is why more should be done about people in these categories, either training them to the standards which they thought they had reached, or advising them of the standards they have and what sort of job they can expect in this country as a result.
The subject of education has been mentioned in connection with the increasing number of immigrant children. The education authority in my constituency was faced with problems in this connection and I would like to express my thanks to the former Minister of Education for the way he helped my local education authority to tackle the problem. It was tackled not on the basis of sitting back and allowing the children to gather in a certain area but by transporting them, by various means of transport, to other schools. By the simple process of having reception classes when the immigrant children were taken first to school to learn the rudiments of the English language and then into the ordinary classes where they were soon absorbed into the normal life of the school.
In my constituency, therefore, we do not have this danger of the standard of education being lowered, although I admit that some parents still believe that it is being lowered. What happened in my area shows what can be done when a local education authority and a Government Department co-operate. Nevertheless, perhaps this problem was more easily solved than the problem of overcrowding, which still very much faces us.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) spoke of the need for co-ordinating machinery to help solve some of these problems. Had he added his voice to mine a year ago, when I suggested that there should be an inter-Departmental committee to co-ordinate work on these issues between the various Ministries, the suggestion I made then might have received more support. As it was, although a year ago I suggested means to co-ordinate Ministerial advice to local authorities, the right hon. Member for Hall Green agreed with those who suggested that everybody was perfectly well satisfied. Local authorities, including mine, have problems and are in need of the help that has been promised. I am not referring to assistance in the form of additional block grants and so on, but specialist help to achieve a greater degree of integration.
It should be realised that problems exist on both sides. It is not merely a question of there being a desire on our part to integrate coloured immigrants, for we are steadily reaching the point—it will happen if we are not careful—when they will begin to turn inwards, so to speak, and not be readily willing to accept integration. The longer this process goes on the worse the problem will get.
I am not sure what answer will be found to the problem of creating more living space in already overcrowded areas. Whatever is done, in certain areas the Government should make special efforts to provide accommodation in addition to that being provided by local authority housing programmes. Frankly, when I think of the people I know who are living in overcrowded conditions and who have been on the local housing list for upwards of 10 years, if someone such as a coloured immigrant took precedence over them on the list there would be a riot. I say this to prove that by some means the solution to this problem must be taken beyond the boundary of local authority housing arrangements. The Government must do something to make special housing provision for immigrants so that we can start the process of integration.
I have addressed the Committee for longer than I had anticipated. This is because I am extremely concerned to see these problems resolved. I hope that when the Act comes up for renewal next time—if, indeed, it still exists—it will have been modified in such a way that we can get on with the problem of integrating immigrants, giving them a true future in this country.
I appreciate the constructive nature of the speech of the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) and the fact that he kept closely to the subject, which I cannot say that everybody else who has taken part in this debate has done. It has, however, been a good debate, because it has been remarkably non-controversial. On a difficult subject of this sort, that is the right kind of debate to have.
Some hon. Members may remember that I opposed the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill when it was introduced by my right hon. Friends nearly three years ago. I should like to try briefly to explain why I opposed the Bill then and why I support the renewal of the Act today. My position is really like that of the Government. Although the Home Secretary gave us an informative speech, however, I did not think that he fully explained the Government's change of mind as from last year's position and the reasons for it. Although I was not present at the debate last year, I have read every word of it. [Interruption.] The only person who is always consistent on this subject is the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe).
My reasons—and they may well be the reasons of the Government, too—for taking these apparently contradictory positions are, paradoxically, the same now as they were in 1962. I will try to explain why. I care—as, I know, other hon. Members care, too—very deeply about the Commonwealth and I attach great importance to good race relations both in the Commonwealth and in the world as a whole.
It is often a good thing for a politician to have his head right up in the clouds of idealism but his feet firmly planted on the ground of realism. Although I think that my head was nicely up in the clouds in 1962 when the Bill was introduced, perhaps my feet were not sufficiently planted upon the ground. At least, when the Bill was brought in, I thought, and I so declared at the time, that it was a colour Bill, not by intention, but in appearance. It did not—and, I suppose, in fairness, it probably could not—include the Irish, and for this reason it looked to the Commonwealth as though it was a colour Bill.
I am making the point that I said at the time that I thought it was a colour Bill, and I am trying to explain that although I do not think that was ever the intention of my right hon. Friends, nevertheless, because the Irish were left out, as they probably had to be—we know about the difficult practical problems of North and South—it seemed a colour Bill to the Commonwealth, and I thought that for this reason it would be bad for Commonwealth relations and also for race relations. I do not believe that the effect upon Commonwealth relations has been anything like as serious or as damaging as we all feared. Certainly, the reaction was keen at the time, I remember well, but, looking back, it is fair to say that it was ephemeral and that in the result it has not really done serious or lasting damage to Commonwealth relations.
As to race relations, I believe now that a larger and an uncontrolled influx of coloured immigrants would be more damaging to race relations in this country and, therefore, in the end, to Commonwealth relations, too, than the smaller and controlled influx that we have under the Act. We must face the fact that a larger and uncontrolled entry now would create such feeling among our own people here that there might be serious repercussions. There might be very strong anti-colour feeling, and possibly race riots and incidents of that kind, which would not only be prejudicial to the immigrants who are already here, but would have the worst possible effect upon race relations, both in Britain and outside it. Therefore, whereas I opposed the Bill because I thought that it would be bad for Commonwealth relations and also for race relations, paradoxically I now support the Act for the same reasons, because I think that, without it, the position would be worse.
I had a third reason, I remember, for opposing the original Bill, one touched upon by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon, North. I am myself devoted to the West Indies, and I know the islands very well. I know the very real need for West Indians to emigrate in order to find employment elsewhere. In 1962 other doors were already shut. Until then ours had been open, and I knew the need of the West Indies that it should remain open, so I looked at the Bill as a Bill which was damaging potentially to the West Indies and their people. I was not thinking so much then—I probably should have been—of the much larger Asian countries of the Commonwealth and what would happen here if literally hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth citizens from India and Pakistan wanted to come to Britain. I probably ought to have thought about that more at the time, but, in fairness to myself and others who took the same view at that time, the truth is that at the time of the Act most of the immigrants came from the West Indies.
I took the view at the time—indeed, I take it still—that we could absorb the numbers coming from the West Indies, because they are relatively small islands with relatively small populations, and, therefore, the demand of the number of people wanting to come here at any one time would not be so great that we could not absorb it. I still adhere to that view about the West Indies; but the trouble is that it is not so much a West Indian problem now but, as we all know, it is mainly an Asian problem.
Faced with that position, I think we have to admit that we have a very difficult problem. For some years before the original Act was passed India and Pakistan had imposed their own controls upon their own emigrants, but as time went on those controls weakened and the numbers of immigrants began to rise, at first gradually and rather slowly, and then very steeply, and applications lately for vouchers from the Asian countries of the Commonwealth have so grown that, as the Home Secretary told us today, there is a backlog of something like 300, 000 applications. This is so great that, if there had not been an Act, we could not possibly have absorbed, either in housing or in employment, the numbers who would have arrived here. That is a fact, and we all know it.
There is a further problem. I do not know that it has been touched upon today. Most Indians and Pakistanis cannot speak our language, and it may be that control under the Act should now be extended to language control as well, because it is so much more difficult to assimilate people who cannot speak the language of their adopted country.
I think the whole Committee now agrees that we have got to have some control of some sort. It has either to be control by Britain—in other words, by continuing the Act; or it can theoretically be voluntary, self-imposed control by the exporting countries of the Commonwealth. I am not very optimistic myself that we could get effective voluntary control. We could try, but we must certainly renew the Act pending the attempt. I think the only hope of securing voluntary control will be by having the alternative of compulsion in the background, by the Act remaining on the Statute Book.
The Government, I understand, favour an attempt to negotiate a voluntary agreement. I am not at all clear what their approach is going to be. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be able to help us on this when he replies. Do right hon. Gentlemen have it in mind simply to go on with bilateral talks between Britain and other individual Commonwealth Governments, which, I gathered from the Home Secretary, was the Government's probable line? Or do the Government propose to hold a Commonwealth migration conference? I rather favour this approach. If an attempt is to be made, I should like it to be made by means of a Commonwealth migration conference; not a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference, because at such a conference there is never time to discuss this sort of subject; but a special Commonwealth migration conference attended by the appropriate Ministers in charge of immigration and emigration in the various Commonwealth countries.
The attraction of that idea is that it would go much wider than bilateral arrangements simply with the United Kingdom. It would be a Commonwealth conference to deal with a Commonwealth problem. It would be designed to see whether the exporting countries of the Commonwealth, like India, Pakistan, and the West Indies, could come to some voluntary arrangement not only with Britain, but with the other importing countries of the Commonwealth like Australia and Canada, and perhaps to a lesser extent New Zealand. Frankly, I fear that it would fail, but it could be tried, and meanwhile, of course, the Act would continue in force, and if the conference failed we should all have to acknowledge that the Act had come to stay, and that we might as well take; it out of the expiring laws and make it a permanent part of our statutes.
Lastly, if hon. Members believe in and want good race relations, which I am persuaded that we all do in this House, let us get away from the atmosphere generated by Smethwick. All that one can say about Smethwick is that it has exposed a problem which all of us, in our heart of hearts, know exists. It is an unfortunate problem. It is the problem really—and I think that we might as well admit it—of racial prejudice.
It is unfortunate. In my view it is un-Christian; and it is always denied by those who feel it; but it exists. I believe that it is our duty here not to allow it to become worse by taking up strong political attitudes ourselves, because if race once becomes an issue of party politics in this country, we are going to embark on a very dangerous and slippery slope.
I have no idea whether the Smeth-wick campaign was a dirty campaign or not, whether it was fought on racial lines or not. I do not even want to know. If it was, it was deplorable, and I hope that it will never happen again, but let us forget about it now if we can, because I cannot help feeling that in the interests of the integration of immigrants in this country there has already been too much talk, too much conflict, and too many recriminations on this subject. It is bad for race relations, and for the integration of the Commonwealth citizens who are already here.
In the same way, I wish very much that the Prime Minister had not mentioned it, deliberately, in his first speech as Prime Minister from that Box and in the way that he did, because I felt that it was below the level and the dignity of his great office. I am sure that he regrets it now, but even if he does not. I hope that we shall all forget it and not recriminate about his speech, and not recriminate about my hon. Friend's campaign, whatever it was. I hope that we shall get away from it all, and that it will not continue.
The main thing of importance is to prevent the colour of people's skins becoming, directly or indirectly, for any reason, a party political issue in this country. I believe that, having renewed this Act as we shall tonight, we should direct our minds and efforts to the constructive and immensely important task of integrating the Commonwealth citizens who are already here into our society.
They are doing a very fine job for us, as hon. Members have repeatedly said, in staffing the transport systems, in nursing, and in other occupations where they are a real help to us. We for our part ought to be a little more tolerant. We should befriend them and make them feel as welcome as we can. We should try to provide them—God knows it is difficult with a waiting list for our own people as well—with more homes to live in, and we should ensure a much closer liaison between the Ministry of Labour, which issues the permits, and the local authorities who have to cope with the housing shortage in those areas where the West Indians or Pakistanis or Indians concentrate. We ought, somehow, to get a better liaison between the two so that we do not send too many people to the areas where it is already difficult and where there are already concentrations.
If we fail to do the sort of things about which we have all been talking today, if we allow racial bitterness to develop in Britain, which God forbid, we shall be creating not only a terrible and insoluble problem for our children and our grandchildren in this country but we shall be failing to make our contribution to the solution of the problem of race relations in the world.
Except for a few minutes at the beginning of the speech of the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), I have listened to the whole of this debate and I would say that it has been an extremely fascinating discussion. I should like to say that I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) I agree very largely with what he stated was his attitude to the Act. It is not a much better Act than when it was first introduced. It is, in my opinion, a detestable thing which I should like to see removed altogether from the Statute Book.
One of the proudest things in the whole record of the Commonwealth was that people of that Commonwealth should be able to come to this country without any impediment whatever, and it is indeed a melancholy state of affairs to know that that right has been abolished. We are asked to renew this Act in very different circumstances from those in which the opposing party originally introduced it. The proposition of the Government today is surrounded with many other proposals, and if the party opposite had introduced the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill accompanied with a proposal for the abolition of racial discrimination and incitement of various kinds to race hatred, there would have been a great difference.
If the party which is today the Opposition had introduced the original Bill and accompanied it—or, better still, had preceded it—with proposals for discussions with the Commonwealth countries, there would have been a very considerable difference. It would have removed a great deal of the bitterness felt, for example, by the Prime Minister of Jamaica, to whom reference has very rightly been made during this debate. It would have removed some of the bitterness felt in Pakistan and other parts of the Commonwealth, and so that is a second factor which makes the circumstances different.
The Government have given us the detailed figures about what has happened and given them frankly so that the whole atmosphere in which they ask us to renew this Act is different from what it was when we, on this side of the Committee, originally voted against it. Yet, even so, I hope that it is the undoubted determination of this Government to try to get rid of this Act altogether and to do so as soon as they possibly can. I hope that they will then substitute for it some arrangement which can be derived from full discussions with Commonwealth countries, and I repeat that I hope that they will do so as swiftly as they can.
I come now to what has just been said by the hon. Member for Surbiton and several other hon. Members on that side of the Committee, about party politics being removed altogether from this question. What they say is that if racial incitement becomes a party matter in this country, then it will make only for damage to this country as a whole. I so fully agree with them, but hon. Members opposite who make that claim should really try to discover how the issue has been turned into a party issue at all. The hon. Member has already given me half of my case by saying that he does not even want to discover how it arose; but I say to him and to his hon. Friends that it is the duty of the Conservative Party to discover it—to discover what really happened at Smethwick.
I was trying to say that if the important thing—and I think we are all agreed that it is the most important—is to integrate these people and have no more bitterness, then we ought all to forget these recriminations and not seek to hinge on some one fault, because that is only making for bitterness again.
We are dealing with the situation that exists, which we have been asked to do. There is a contrast between the way in which the party leaders have dealt with this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, I will explain exactly how different. A case was revealed in the last few days of an act of racial discrimination being practised in Smethwick by a club which is indirectly associated with the Labour Party. Within a matter of days the Prime Minister—the leader of the Labour Party—condemned that racial discrimination. We are still waiting to discover whether the leader of the Conservative Party condemns what happened in Smethwick in the election campaign. We were waiting to hear whether the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) condemned what happened in Smethwick. He has not done so.
The hon. Member says that I know nothing about it. I will give him some of the facts, and we will see which hon. Members opposite agree with what I say took place and which of them do not. We can make some guesses already. It is no use hon. Members opposite trying to pretend that they are all in agreement on this subject, and that their attitudes are all the same. We had a remarkable speech from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones). The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle) was complimented by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in one of the most remarkable maiden speeches that I have heard.
My hon. Friend talked about the dangers from lunatic groups. I have always regarded the right hon. Member for Hall Green and the right hon. Member for Handsworth as members of what I would call the sane fringe of the Conservative Party. We thought at one time that the hon. Member for Surbiton was a member of the same fringe, but now we are not quite so sure—and we never supposed that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise), who moved the Amendment at the beginning of the debate, belonged to that fringe. There has never been any mistake about that.
I am glad to see the Leader of the Opposition here, because he still has to discharge his responsibility in this matter. We want to know, particularly in view of all the statements made from hon. Members opposite condemning racial incitement and saying how much they deplore any action which has caused racial discrimination or hatred, what his attitude is, as leader of the Conservative Party, to what went on in Smethwick. We want as clear a statement from him on this matter as we have had from the leader of the Labour Party about the club in Smethwick.
Some hon. Members opposite say that they do not know what happened in Smethwick. If they had been listening to what was said by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) I am not surprised. In his maiden speech he said:
I want to make it quite clear to the House that there is no resentment at all in Smethwick on the grounds of race or colour. I can assure hon. Members that the people in my constituency are as warm and as welcoming toward; strangers as are those of any other community in the British Isles.
In the following column he said—
In the following column the hon. Member said:
It is seeking to solve these problems, and I have, on every occasion, called for the most active co-operation between the members of all races in the town."[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1964: Vol. 701, c. 557-8.]
Some hon. Members may have believed what was said. Let us look at the independent evidence.
I have been here eight hours and, to do him credit, the hon. Member for Smethwick has been here most of the time. If he is not here now it is not my fault. I am perfectly entitled to deal with this matter. In any case I am not interested in what the hon. Member for Smethwick has to say. I am not concerned with the hon. Member. I am concerned with the attitude of the leader of the Conservative Party here and the leader of the Conservative Party in Birmingham. I am not interested in what the hon. Member for Smethwick has to say now.
Let us look at the report by The Times correspondent of what happened in Smethwick. The hon. Member for Surbiton has said he does not want to hear, but if he will be good enough to listen he will know the reasons why he should hear. This is what The Times correspondent wrote on 12th October, which appeared in that newspaper on 13th October:
Three of the rumours picked up at Smethwick within the last few days by Liberal canvassers are 'Patrick Gordon Walker's daughters married black men.' Patrick Gordon Walker sold his house at Smethwick to the blacks.' Because most of the blacks have leprosy, they are building two secret leper hospitals in the town.' Although these rumours do not contain one word of truth, some people believe them implicitly. Stickers bearing the words, If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour' have been posted in the town. … The words 'Nigger Lover' have been daubed over some of Mr. Gordon Walker's posters. A disturbance began at a Conservative meeting last week a few moments after an apparent Conservative supporter had said 'If you black your face and go into a pub Gordon Walker will buy you a drink.' And Smethwick has at last come to this, that the great issues of the day are all twisted and perverted by the question of colour.
That is a report from an independent source of what happened in Smethwick. I do not know whether any member of the Conservative Party is proud of it.
I am very grateful that the hon. Member has asked that question, because if he reads a little further on in the same report in The Times he will see what
this question has to do with the Conservative Party. The Times correspondent continues:
In the creation of this electoral atmosphere the Conservative Party at Smethwick has played a leading role. The evidence is there in black and white in the files of the local newspaper. It is plain and undeniable.
That is the situation. [An HON. MEMBER:"Rubbish."] But this is an independent source of evidence—
Does the hon. Member think that these rumours which he has read out justify the Prime Minister in suggesting that on his arrival here the Whip should be withdrawn from my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) and that his character should therefore be blackened before he ever opened his mouth in the House of Commons? As a strong supporter of the rights of the individual, does the hon. Member think that that is fair and just, based on rumour?
What the Prime Minister said on that occasion was absolutely right to say. I think that it was absolutely right to condemn in the strongest possible terms a Member who had got back to the House by an attempt to stir up racial hatred. The matter could have been dealt with earlier if the Leader of the Opposition had lived up to his responsibilities. The Leader of the Opposition, who prides himself on straight talk, is such a political coward that he dare not say what he thinks. He dared not say it before the election, and, apparently, he dare not say it now. The reason is that he knows that he has a few more racialists behind him and he will have trouble with them. It looks as though he has another in Leyton, if he lets him carry on with his campaign.
Might I suggest, Sir Samuel, that if you wish to call a Member to order on such a matter, you might have called upon the right hon. Member for Handsworth when he put a question to me about something said by the Prime Minister the other day. I was replying to his intervention, saying that the matter of the hon. Member for Smethwick could have been fully dealt with if the Leader of the Opposition had responded to the statement made by the Prime Minister and had said whether he condemned the provocation of racial hatred in the Smethwick campaign. If the right hon. Gentleman had said that, the whole matter could have been dealt with differently; but he has completely failed to deal with it.
It is no good hon. Gentlemen opposite saying in this debate that they think that the word "Smethwick" should not be mentioned again and that it would be very agreeable if no one ever referred to it. Of course, it would be very agreeable for the hon. Member for Smethwick and for the Leader of the Opposition. Then they would be able to go out of this building and continue making the same kind of speeches. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield said that there was a very different temperature in this debate from some of the previous ones we had had on this subject. Of course, there is a different temperature and tone in what he and many of his hon. Friends say here from what they say outside.
Referring again to the particular case of Smethwick, my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook has already referred to the organisation in Birmingham which has been campaigning for many years in stirring up racial hatred, supposedly condemned by all hon. Members opposite. According to the evidence given by my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, this organisation has been campaigning in stirring up bitter racial hatred at every opportunity, and it has been led by a gentleman whose name is Mr. Finney. Mr. Finney has now become a member of the Conservative Party in Smethwick. He is on the council in Smethwick. He was brought into the Conservative Party in Smethwick at the invitation of the hon. Member for Smethwick. All this is revealed in an article in the Sun today, written by a person called Paul Foot—why he is not in the Government already, I cannot understand—and the evidence is there in complete detail.
Let me quote what is said by this chief associate of the hon. Member for Smethwick and illustrate the kind of propaganda which he has been conducting. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite from Birmingham will approve of this kind of thing.
On a point of order, Sir Samuel. The hon. Gentleman has been addressing the Committee for quite a time now and scarcely any of his remarks have been devoted to the question whether the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, should be included in the Schedule to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. Is it not time that the hon. Gentleman addressed his mind to that point?
Sir Samuel, the Amendment says that we should vote against the continuation of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Therefore, I should have thought I was perfectly entitled to question the claims frequently made by some hon. Gentlemen during the debate that they are as much opposed to racial hatred or provocation as we are and that they have a clean record in this respect.
What we have been seeking to do during the debate, and what I am seeking to do now, is to discover what is the attitude of, first, the Leader of the Opposition and, secondly, the leader of the Conservative Party in Birmingham to some of the most flagrant campaigns of racial hatred carried out by some members of their party throughout that part of the country. In order to show the kind of statements they are making I was proposing to quote from an article which appeared yesterday in the Northern Echo, which gives evidence of the kind of propaganda which is being conducted in that area about the Act by a leading member of the Conservative Party.
This is what is said by a Conservative councillor, Donald Finney, and if the Leader of the Opposition has not the courage to repudiate the hon. Member for Smethwick, let us see whether he will repudiate the Conservative councillor in Smethwick. Let hon. Members remember that we have been told throughout the debate that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not believe in stirring up racial hatred. This is what Councillor Finney says:
Having a huge number of children, West Indians could in less than half a century outnumber us English, and with one-man-one-vote they could do something that Hitler couldn't do—take over this country, as we have seen happen in so many other Commonwealth countries. This is what we can expect from a Labour Government, a party with a policy to destroy the English race and the English way of life. To do this they have Fenner Brockway's infamous antidiscrimination Bill. It will hit at every Englishman and Englishwoman's right to speak his or her own mind. This Bill will also take away everyone's right to accept or reject any coloured man or woman who may call at a boarding house. All coloured people must be taken or else there is a £100 fine or three months' imprisonment. The Labour Party has also been learning from Hitler, but we also learned how to kick out dictators. The voters at the General Election will vote to keep out dictators as they did to Smethwick's Labour Council.
I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite think that that is stirring up racial hatred or not, or do they think it is promoting racial harmony? [Interruption.]
If hon. Gentlemen opposite want some further examples, I have one from an article written by the hon. Member for Smethwick himself. We have been told about the need to build a multi-racial society. It has been suggested that it would be a great thing if this country could be the first. We had a remarkable maiden speech from the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who said that if this country could build the first multi-racial society we should have every right to be extremely proud. But this is the view of the hon. Member for Smethwick who says that he has never in any circumstances said anything which could possibly promote racial hatred in his constituency:
Smethwick rejects the idea of being a multi-racial society.…Surely if more houses are built they should go to British people first.…In any case"—
we have been told that hon. Members opposite are very deeply concerned about the housing problem—
would more houses end the nuisance an d filth? Would more houses end the knife fights. Would more houses make the streets safe for young women and girls?
Does the Leader of the Opposition think that that is desirable propaganda?
I find the hon. Gentleman's references to me so completely offensive, suggesting that I am in any way concerned with racial discrimination of any kind, that I shall treat them with the contempt which they deserve. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) will wind up the debate, and he will deal with them.
The Leader of the Opposition has had another opportunity to say whether or not he agrees with what was done in Smethwick. He does not think he has any duty to discourage or encourage it. He thinks that it has nothing to do with him that, for the first time perhaps in the history of this country, a Member has been elected to this House primarily on conducting a most bitter racialist campaign. The Leader of the Opposition does not think it is any of his business.
I hate those who stir up racial hatred. I think we have a duty to hate them. Are we in this Committee—and the Conservative Party, for it is more the business of that party—to say, "We do not care if such a campaign as that in Smethwick is mounted"? If he is challenged by the Prime Minister to say whether or not he is in favour of such campaigning or against, is the Leader of the Opposition to say, "I will say nothing"? He has been challenged by me to say something after I have quoted some of the things said by the hon. Member for Smethwick during his campaign, but we have heard the right hon. Gentleman say that it is nothing to do with him. He does not feel called upon to make any comment on it whatsoever.
I know, and the Committee knows, that the result of the right hon. Gentleman's refusal to condemn the kind of methods employed in Smethwick will be to encourage other Conservative candidates in future to engage in the same kind of campaigning. It has already been indicated by hon. Members opposite that a similar campaign may be starting in a by-election which is to take place in a few weeks' time. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition will take the same attitude to that.
It is not that the Conservative Central Office was not warned about what was happening. The party leaders could have got out of this matter more easily for themselves and more honourably. Many months ago there was an organisation in Birmingham for co-ordinating the activities of those opposed to racial discrimination. On numerous occasions in the last two years it communicated with the Conservative Central Office—with the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) when he was party chairman, and with his successor. It sent letters and cuttings from the newspapers reporting the kind of campaign being conducted in Smethwick and asked the Conservative Party to say what it thought of it.
One or two right hon. and hon. Members opposite have indicated clearly what they thought of it. The right hon. Member for Hall Green and the right hon. Member for Handsworth did so. The right hon. Member for Handsworth had letters from some of these neoFascist organisations which have been supporting the hon. Member for Smethwick in his constituency. He was asked what his attitude was and, to his great credit, he condemned racial discrimination and the stirring up of racial hatred in the most positive and deliberate manner.
All I ask is that the Leader of the Opposition should have the same courage as the right hon. Member for Handsworth. I hope that one day the Leader of the Opposition will have the nerve to take his courage in both hands and condemn racial hatred and apartheid, not merely in far away Africa but right here at home, where members of his own party are seeking political advantage by stirring up racial hatred in the most bestial manner.
I do not think that, despite his efforts, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has really raised the temperature in the Committee all that much during the past 20 minutes. But before coming to what the hon. Gentleman said, I will start my speech in the customary manner on these occasions by congratulating the hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches and also by referring to one swansong that we have heard.
We had a most thoughtful maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) who had a considerable reputation as a political thinker and writer before he entered the House, and I am sure that the very thoughtful way in which he spoke today will encourage us very much to hear him on other occasions. Then, secondly, we had the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr), who spoke, if I may say so, in the most genial, if thrusting, manner. The third maiden speech which we had was from the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), and I should like to say that I regretted the necessity to raise the point I did towards the end of his speech and to assure him that the House will always listen with interest to a speech which is both a hard-hitting, debating speech and one based on deep feeling, and that my remarks were no reflection on the quality of his speech, which impressed us all considerably.
I am sorry that I missed the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) which, I am told, was of outstanding quality. This is a point on which the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and I can agree. The hon. Member for Spark-brook mentioned the social work being done on the immigrant question in Spark-brook. I am sure that the Committee would like me to make reference to the fact that we heard what may well be the last speech in this Chamber by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). I must say that I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. John Harvey) paid him a fair compliment when he quoted a most apposite passage from the first speech made by the hon. Member for Leyton in the House.
There was a passage in the speech of the Home Secretary on which I should like to comment. At the very end of his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that effective control of immigration was indispensable. I think that, without any desire to raise undue controversy on this point, I must from this Box express satisfaction that we are at long last united on this point. I must say that I could not help contrasting the conclusion of the Home Secretary's speech with the atmosphere at the conclusion of the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill in 1961. I can well remember on that occasion not only the Opposition's spokesman ending with a reference to "this miserable, shameful, shabby Bill", but also the strong attempt that was made to deny a hearing to my colleague, Mr. John Hare as he then was, when he rose to wind up for the Government. None of us welcomed the Bill for its own sake. I think all of us recognised the Bill as an unpleasant necessity. However, we are now agreed at last that effective control is indispensable.
The other point I wish to mention in the Home Secretary's speech is that he said that we are faced with a problem with which we have to deal, and I very much commend that approach to the Committee.
I was struck with an article which I read in The Guardian on, I think, Monday of this week which said that the position now reached encourages "caution rather than generosity and, as some Labour Members believe, frankness rather than idealism." I hope that none of us in the Committee will think that there is any necessary inconsistency between frankness and idealism, because I think that idealism must be based always on a frank recognition of a difficult problem and the realities of the situation that has brought it about. It is very easy when discussing this subject of race relations, or race hatred, or any other subject of this kind, to talk in general terms and block phrases, but, speaking as I do as a Member for a multi-racial constituency, I could not help reflecting on the contrast in the atmosphere when we are discussing this subject in this Committee and when it is being discussed in my constituency.
As the Committee knows, I did not attempt to raise any undue heat on this subject during the election in my constituency. Neither, as some people have asserted, did I try to sweep it under the carpet. However, I have known few other topics about which there has been more intense feeling among individual people. I have known few topics on which there has been a more clamant desire to feel that one's Member of Parliament was identified with one's own personal point of view. This is a subject about which there is strong feeling among individuals, particularly in the older parts of our big cities where people have lived all their lives and where they have seen the character of the neighbourhood change very rapidly. We always need to bear that personal aspect in mind when we are discussing this question.
We must be very careful not to confuse racialism with realism. I hope that I will always condemn racialism as much as anyone. I can think of very few meaner actions than publicly identifying some vice, or disease, or bad social conditions with a particular racial group in the community. I hope that all of us in this Committee will agree on that. However, at the same time let us be realistic about this subject. Here I should like to quote a sentence which has impressed me and which is from a book by Mrs. Elspeth Huxley called "Back Street New Worlds". She says:
While race discrimination is out of fashion nowadays, quite a lot of citizens harbour doubts, fears and resentments they are, in the present climate of opinion, ashamed to admit.
Those are the realities of the present situation.
It is a most encouraging feature of our national life today that so few people are prepared to say that they favour race discrimination. But doubts, fears and resentments are very strongly felt among many people. Many people are conscious of a difference between how they feel and how they feel they ought to feel. Doubts and fears of this sort are widely felt in this country, and I am sure that we ought to approach this subject with sympathy and in a constructive spirit.
That leads me to say something about the attitude of my party to this question. Here I should like to answer the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, because the attitude of the Conservative Party was expressed quite clearly in a letter from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to the present Foreign Secretary. My right hon. Friend said:
As you know, I made my views on racial discrimination abundantly clear on the television last Thursday. I said, first, that any immigrant and his family who are accepted into this country will be treated exactly like one of our own citizens.
My right hon. Friend went on to make it clear that a Conservative Government believed in keeping strict control over the number of immigrants so as to make sure that no undesirable social problems arose for the future.
Those remain our views on the question. My right hon. Friend made them absolutely clear in his letter to the present Foreign Secretary, and I distinctly recall that the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) expressed his concurrence and agreement with my right hon. Friend's letter. I must say that I could not help noticing that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale went on with his catalogue for nearly 20 minutes before reaching a single quotation from the hon. Member for Smethwick himself. If we in the House of Commons are to judge party policies by the remarks of individual councillors, there is a great deal that can be said in future at some time from this side of the Committee. Let us not start playing that game, Sir Samuel, or your patience and that of your successors in the Chair will, I suspect, soon be put to a strain.
I will enlarge on what I have said about the policy of my party. My hon. Friends and I will always set our faces against making any difference between one citizen and another on the ground of his racial origin. The Conservative Party—and, I believe, the overwhelming majority of people in this country—want to see the assimilation of immigrants, including what the Home Secretary rather happily called immigrants from the new Commonwealth, into our life and society; the life and society of what is now their home country. I dare say that a number of them will wish to retain some of their distinct customs and beliefs, but the idea of any racial group which must remain, as a group, for ever unassimilated is obviously not tolerable.
This cannot be a quick or easy task because there are already at least 800, 000 of them in this country, as the Home Secretary told us, and many of them are concentrated in certain regions. I believe that many generations must pass before we have fully tackled this problem successfully.
It is against this background that one must look at the question of numbers. I would like, on behalf of the whole Committee, to thank the Home Secretary for the full details he gave earlier. It is not the easiest technical operation to deploy a table of figures to the Committee, but the details which he gave will be of the greatest value to the world outside and all hon. Members will be obliged to him for that detailed information.
I will make two comments on those figures. First, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, having talked about dependants and evasion—I will return to this subject shortly—said that the existing scale of voucher holders should be maintained. I admit that my calculations are only approximate, but the maintenance of the existing scale of voucher holders means—not, I think, 100, 000 immigrants a year—but at least 50, 000 to 60, 000 a year of the total immigrant intake, of whom, as the right hon. Gentleman said, a very high proportion will be from the new Commonwealth.
Frankly, I think the figure implied by the right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely the maximum figure we can manage in this country at present. Indeed, many people would say that it is more than the maximum. I say that because I am convinced that strict control of immigration, is indeed vital to the pursuit of racial harmony in this country.
The Home Secretary then said, referring to the question of evasion, that the Government must take steps about it if it got beyond a certain point but that, naturally, the Government were hesitant to take measures which made one think in terms of the more stringent kind of control applicable to aliens. One of the things public opinion is most concerned with at present—and this applies not only to extremists but also to moderates on this question—is the issue of evasion, and I hope, however painful it may be, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not hesitate to take steps about evasion if he thinks this is right. From what he said, it is clear that the level of evasion is becoming a serious matter.
Having spoken of numbers, I will devote the remainder of my remarks to the positive aspects of our policy and to how we can ensure that we do the best thing for the immigrants and for the country. I am sure that we all agreed with the Home Secretary when he said that we could not have any division between, as it were, first- and second-class citizens.
I must, in this context, say something about housing and education. I am sure that the Housing Act, which we passed in the last Session of the last Parliament, will be of value in the context of enabling local authorities to operate more strongly against multi-occupation when this is a danger to health. On the education side, as the Committee knows, during my period as Minister I devoted a good deal of attention to this aspect of the matter.
Now that the level of expenditure on educational research is rising and we are looking forward, as we were in the last Parliament, to something like £½million a year on research by 1968, I hope that it will be possible to do more research projects on the subject of what is the threshold of danger in the proportion of immigrants in any one school. I have heard it said by many experienced and knowledgeable head teachers that when there is a concentration of about 30 per cent. of immigrants in a school, the educational problems rapidly multiply. Furthermore, the older inhabitants no longer want to send their children to those schools and the problem intensifies itself rapidly. I suggest to the Government that this is a matter on which a research project would be valuable.
Again, I was struck very much with what has been said in this and the earlier debate about the importance of more social workers in this context. I cannot help wondering whether it might not be possible to get help from the University Grants Committee and the universities. Only recently, one of the universities has undertaken work in a department which will result in more educational researchers, and at a time of university expansion it may be possible to get help here.
Then there is the question of advice and information on teaching methods—I would draw attention here to the pamphlet that we have already produced on English for Immigrants and, finally, the question of adding to the administrative strength of the section of the Department of Education which is responsible for the schools. I mention these matters because I am sure that the time is soon coming when the problems of the schools will arise acutely. We have heard only today of the conference recently held in West Bromwich, where it looks very much as though, by 1968, 16 per cent. of children in junior schools and 20 per cent. in secondary modern schools will be coloured members of the new Commonwealth. It is against this background that, I believe, rapid planning will be needed.
The right hon. Gentleman has said "finally", but I hope that he will say something to the Minister of Labour about his own views on the connection between the education service, the youth employment service and the follow-up of training in the jobs taken by those who leave school early.
In view of the considerably larger number of Ministers who have been appointed in those fields, this should be an easier task for the present Government to undertake. As the hon. Member says, however, close liaison here between the Department of Education and the Ministry of Labour is extremely important.
In conclusion, I should like to say only this—
The hon. Member says that encouragingly, but my impression is that after midnight hon. Members are best not indulging themselves too much.
In our whole approach to this matter, we should avoid the errors both of excessive optimism and of excessive pessimism. I have no patience whatever with those who say that the problem of assimilating immigrants can never be solved to any appreciable extent and that, therefore, the only course of action is try to eliminate the problem. Let us recognise that in many parts of the country we are already today a multi-racial society.
I will not go over again all that has been said about the services performed by many of the immigrants. Those services are of real economic importance. It is, however, nothing new in politics to have to draw a balance between economic advantage and social advantage. This leads me to those who. as I see it, take too easy and too optimistic a view of this question.
Let us have no doubt about it. This matter of immigration, even at its present level, is causing a great deal of extreme unhappiness and a considerable amount of tension and difficulty. That is why I ask the Home Secretary, as I am sure he will, on this matter not to think in terms just of ideas and principles, but to realise that for the sake of social harmony and for the sake of solving our problems, bearing in mind the heavy level of concentration of immigration that we already have, it is bound to be necessary to continue strict control of immigration for the future. It is for that reason that my party greatly welcomes the fact that we are today more agreed on this principle than we might have dared to hope two or three years ago.
I would in the first place join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) in extending congratulations on what I think has been a number of remarkable maiden speeches this afternoon. I think the debate, after the first two principal speakers had spoken, had its context given by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in what I thought was a remarkable contribution to this debate. Then there was my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr), who can speak with such authority on this matter, and then there was also the perhaps unusual speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), which I am sure we all enjoyed, although, as I say, it was a little unusual. Then there was the first-class speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley).
As the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, there was also a speech which was not a maiden but which must be mentioned, the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who may well have spoken for the last time in this Chamber. Remembering his remarkable services, not only to his constituency but also to this Committee and the House, and the contribution he has made in lifting the standards of public life over the last 30 years, I am sure we shall miss him, and that we wish him well in whatever place he is likely to go.
This debate has, I believe, on the whole been a very helpful debate. I am quite sure that there is not a great deal of purpose in arousing any further acrimony. Answers have to be given for what we say in public life and during elections. There is no reason for any politician in this Committee to shrink from controversy. I would submit to the Committee, however, that the problem we are facing in this country, which, as we have all admitted in today's debate, is a very big one, is but a facet of a much greater problem which besets the whole world. It would be as well if we reminded ourselves that perhaps the greatest contribution which the British people have made has been that we have been able to embrace changes of many kinds, whether resulting from wars, revolution, warring classes, or religious differences; that we have been able to embrace them and have uniquely remained in this world a free society. That free society, after all its ups and downs, has been based upon a broad tolerance.
That is what the world is in most need of—a broad and sweeping tolerance, whether in religion or between nations, and in what may well prove to be the greatest problem of the last 40 years of this century, the clash of colour. Therefore, I would say to this Committee that if we can, with our opportunity and with our experience and with our tolerance, show to the world that we can not only embrace changes, not only embrace clash of classes, but also come to terms with the problem of colour and all it means, we may yet again give to the nations of the world an example which they may seek to follow in solving this very deep and biting problem.
We are all sinners. Do not anyone assume a holier than thou attitude. Let us conclude that no public man or woman in this country ought to do other than be most careful in the choice of his or her words about this problem. Everyone of us ought to have a proper regard not only for local interests or electoral interests but for the fact that any exacerbation of feeling in this country can very well have its repercussions elsewhere. I therefore suggest that we should all view this matter with the seriousness that it deserves, for I believe that if we can solve this problem there is great hope. As the right hon. Gentleman said, it will be a long time before we really get to the solution of it.
There are two kinds of people who I think are very foolish in this controversy—not only foolish, but in some cases criminal. There are those who meet it with words which have been used tonight, "Nigger for a neighbour", with contempt for some other section of the Creation, and with the attitude that there is something better in being white than in being black, when it is all an accident of birth. These are the people who do great damage in this war of intolerance, but almost equally daft are those who believe that no problem exists, people who seem to think that this problem can be swept under the carpet.
All history proves that when people are faced with this problem there are social tensions. There are, inevitably, the problems which arise from different customs and different habits, and it is no good anybody saying that they do not exist. The problem is there, and all that I can say is that those who do not happen to live in those communities most affected ought to keep very quiet, because some of us know from experience in our constituencies the difficulties and the tensions which arise when people are crowded on top of one another. Let us be very careful before we take any "holier than thou" attitude.
The problem does not arise only from the difference in social habits. Some of our social habits are just as daft to the other people as theirs are to us. I remember serving with a unit in the Persian Gulf. To my astonishment, I found that with a unit of 180 mixed Indian troops, five latrines had to be dug in the desert. Eventually I discovered that it was not really that the Indians objected to using my latrine. It was just that they thought that the habits of the English people were a little unclean in these matters, so they had a latrine of their own. Let us, therefore, be very careful.
I think that our language should be very reserved and very careful. The problems which have been raised during this debate are principally those of social habits and of housing and education. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that one of the greatest of these problems arises from housing. It is no use any hon. Member arguing about it. if one of our coloured brethren gets a council house, however much he may be entitled to it, one can depend on there being a row. It is therefore the duty of this Government, and I hope that we shall fulfil it, to do what we can to ease the housing situation, which is at the root of so many of our problems.
Let us not shrink from the problems of education. The right hon. Gentleman used a figure which we have come to accept as true. He said that when there are more than 30 per cent. the problems in the schools mount. Let no one in this Committee shrink from the fact that, if our own children's education is going to be affected because there are more than 30 per cent., we do something. We feel that this is unwise in the interests of our children. Inevitably, therefore, great priority must be given to these remedial measures which are necessary at the present time.
Many questions have been asked today, most of them in quite constructive speeches. With respect to those hon. Members who have spoken today, I thought that the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) summarised quite a number of the questions which were asked. He was quite right in pointing out that they did not, in the first place, want to come to this country. It is a fact that they would much rather live in their own countries. Here I might say that one of the great adventures before this country of ours in the future—I hope the near future—could be to see how we could increase our sense of responsibility to those countries; to see what capital investment could be made towards more employment in those countries. That, however, is a long-term job and, as I have said, many of the immigrants do not want to come here. I might say that I speak with some feeling, for most of the Welsh people who are here did not want to come. They would rather have stayed at home, but in their case as in that of the Commonwealth people, they came because of economic circumstances.
I should now say something about the suggested special Commonwealth conference. Those hon. Members who have spoken of it would ask, I think, for a clear and concise answer tonight, but all I can say is that the idea will be very carefully looked at to see if it would be a wise move.
So far as the activities of the Home Office Advisory Committee are concerned I would remind the House that three reports have been issued, one only seven or eight weeks ago. Hon. Members may have missed that because of the general election. So far as labour attachés are concerned, I have to report that we are looking at the situation. We have not been there very long, and we are trying to pick up the threads. We are doing so as quickly as we can.
Generally, I do not want to enter into controversy now. Many scoring points could be made. There is the attitude of the Conservative Party during the election and, without raising any storm, I think that it is the duty of the leader of the Opposition to take his stand in this matter and let both parties be clear for the future.
I will respond to that now. I treated the intervention of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M.Foot) with the contempt that I thought it deserved and I have made my position, and the position of my party quite clear. I wrote to Mr. Gordon Walker, and I said on television during the election that in no circumstances is racial discrimination tolerated by my party, and I went on to read the letter, which the hon. Gentleman chose to ignore. I have made my own position quite clear throughout my five years at the Commonwealth Relations Office, as leader of the Conservative Government, and as Leader of the Opposition; that there should be no racial discrimination in any circumstances, and that it is not tolerated in my party nor, I hope, in any other.
Perhaps I may turn to the continuation of this Act. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I repeat some of the figures which have already been given by the Home Secretary, but I do so in order to emphasise the difficulty. I am responsible for the issue of the vouchers prescribed in the Act for the people who wish to come here to work. There is, and always has been, a limit on the total number of vouchers given in any one period. During this year, they have been given at the rate of just over twenty thousand a year, and we have been issuing them at about that rate between 19th October and 13th November. About 1, 600 were issued in that period.
I think it is known that not all the people who get the vouchers use them. Only about 75 per cent. are actually taken up, and it is also very difficult to arrive at any precise figure about the number of dependants. We must assume, and can certainly reckon, that it is larger than the number of voucher holders. I am not saying whether that is the right rate or not. We will have to take a very careful look at all the factors involved before we decide whether this rate is right or not. Many of those factors have been mentioned in the debate, but for the present we propose to continue the issue of vouchers at the same rate as they have been issued in recent months, until we have had an opportunity of examining the working of the Act.
My right hon. and learned Friend has already told the Committee about categories A, B and C, and I want to emphasise at this point that we have issued no vouchers to applicants in category C. The present position—and this has been more or less the position for several months—is that the number of applications in categories A and B has completely crowded out the applications in category C.
I must point out that the backlog of category C vouchers is now in the region of 300, 000. One hon. Member rightly said that this problem is now largely an Asian rather than an African one, because out of those category C vouchers, involving 300, 000 applicants, no fewer than 290, 000 are from Pakistan and India. This is a very unsatisfactory situation. It is clear to me, at least, that the existing rules, which allow category C applications to be accepted, give some measure of hope to those who make the applications. If they are then to be dealt with on the simple basis of "first come first served" we cannot really cope with the situation. We must carefully consider what we are to do about the operation of the voucher system.
Mention has been made of the need for closer control and a more careful look at what happens after persons pass through the immigration control. These are very complex matters. We must take into account all the factors, and all the views of the Commonwealth Governments, always bearing in mind, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, that if we are to let these people in as Commonwealth citizens and then impose upon them a tight control that is completely alien to the free society in which we live, we will create a dangerous situation. The rule for granting priority in category A has been that an employer in this country must satisfy the Ministry of Labour that he has a genuine vacancy for a named Commonwealth citizen and that that named citizen is intending to come here to take up that job.
That sounds all right, but the rules are very difficult to administer. It is sometimes difficult to say whether a vacancy is genuine or not. There are opportunities for abuse, and here and there we find that an unfair advantage is given to a Commonwealth citizen who has a friend or relative who is willing to find or offer him a job. Furthermore, there is no requirement that the person who is given the voucher to come to a specific job must go to that job, or, if he does go, that he must remain in that job for a certain time. It will be appreciated by the Committee that grave difficulties exist in the present situation.
The number of applicants who can successfully establish a claim to priority in categories A and B is now greater than the total number of vouchers available for issue. This means that there is a delay in issuing vouchers in those categories.
An employer who has a genuine job waiting and who has a Commonwealth citizen abroad lined up for it must be told at present that he will have to wait some weeks before a voucher can be issued. If the number of applications increase at the present rate this delay will automatically increase. This recent development is clearly unsatisfactory.
I have talked firstly in this matter about the issue of vouchers because this is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour under the Act. However, I must remind the Committee that, as the Home Secretary has already said, voucher holders themselves form only a small proportion of the Commonwealth citizens who come here. In addition, there are the dependants not only of the voucher holders coming in but of Commonwealth citizens already resident here. The number of dependants coming in therefore is not necessarily related to the number of voucher holders who come here during any one period, although of course the number will be affected by that factor.
As the Home Secretary has said, a number of people who clearly come here for purposes other than employment eventually stay and take work. To sum up, neither the voucher scheme nor the general system of control under the Act has been working completely satisfactorily. The rules governing the issue of vouchers are no longer applicable to the true facts of the situation, and the provisions of the Act have been unable to prevent a larger number of people coming here to stay and to take work than we intended.
Could the right hon. Gentleman assist the Committee in relation to C vouchers? It was made clear in the 1963 debate by the then Minister that although vouchers were awarded on the "first come, first served" basis, a 25 per cent. quota applied so that there was some apportionment as between the competing claims of different countries. There was, that is to say, a built-in number on which each country could draw so that we did not have the position of having 99 per cent. of C vouchers going to one country and 1 per cent. to the others. Is that roughly the position now?
We have not issued any C vouchers for a very long time and therefore the question is academic, but the principle is still there. Therefore it is for these reasons that we think that we must have a careful look at the whole system of control, including the voucher scheme. As the Home Secretary has said, we are already in touch with Commonwealth Governments about consultations with them on this subject. I do not underestimate the difficulties of the task. We must evolve a scheme which is workable and fair. We have to take account of the relevant factors and let us never forget, for heaven's sake, the valuable contribution which so many of our immigrants are making to our economy, in transport, and as nurses and doctors.
I believe that a sound scheme can be evolved, based on how many this country can assimilate properly and adequately, thus avoiding so many of the bitter problems which arise if too many are taken. I believe that in the best interests of the Commonwealth countries and their citizens as well as ourselves it would be as well that we continue this Act at present and review the whole situation to meet this great problem and challenge. I believe that the debate has been helpful. Whatever our previous positions, and whatever they are now, I ask the Committee that we should face the situation in the light of our traditions in this country of great tolerance and understanding of people who perhaps do not conform to our way of life.
I was profoundly relieved when, at almost literally the eleventh hour, the Chair saw and called my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), who, I thought, very effectively demolished the atmosphere of cosy gentility which had overhung the entire debate until then. Of course, there were certain difficulties for the Chair, as for all of us. There were several maiden speeches, many of them brilliant, such as the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and the speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas); but one of the difficulties about maiden speeches, as everyone knows, is that they are supposed to be relatively non-controversial. Not only were there several maiden speeches but there were several speeches by backbench Privy Councillors, whom the Chair might feel obliged to call, and, of course, if maiden speakers are not yet controversial, Privy Councillors are above controversy.
The general effect of the debate, therefore, until the moment at which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale spoke, was rather too cosy. It was the sort of debate in which Members of Parliament often flatter themselves, boasting that the House is "at its best"—which almost always means that the House is at its most sanctimonious, smug, soporific and stifling.
The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), who has a good record in these matters and who means well—we all grant him that—said how disastrous it would be if this became a matter of party controversy. But it is a matter of party controversy. Inevitably, it is a matter of party controversy until, or unless, the Leader of the Opposition has the courage to respond to the challenge of the Prime Minister and the challenge of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, which again tonight he dodged with characteristic political cowardice.
The Leader of the Opposition got up in a great state of indignation and interrupted my right hon. Friend who was winding up and referred to the letter to which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) had already referred. Of course, that letter to our right hon. colleague the Foreign Secretary was impeccable in terms as a general expression of pious regret at any suggestion that there could be such a thing as racial discrimination. It reminded me of what our late friend Aneurin Bevan, the predecessor of my hon. Friend at Ebbw Vale, used to say about the Tory Party—that it is always in favour of reform in general and against every reform in particular.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition makes the correct noises about racial discrimination and so on, but when he is asked specifically to repudiate a Member of Parliament who has got into the House on the basis of one of the dirtiest and filthiest racialist campaigns ever conducted anywhere, even in Nazi Germany, he is too cowardly to do so.
Neither of them is here now, in fact. I remind hon. Members of a famous fragment of dialogue, which I took the precaution of looking up for the purpose of greater accuracy:
'Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?'
'To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time'.
'The dog did nothing in the night-time.'
'That was the curious incident', remarked Sherlock Holmes.
The dog in this night-time was the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths). There were dozens of references to Smethwick during the debate. Hon. Members have said, rightly, that Smethwick is a disgrace to British democracy, and so on. They have attacked the electoral tactics pursued at Smethwick on the basis of which the hon. Member got in. Yet the hon. Member sat there throughout most of the debate and did not once rise to try to catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair. I do not know why that was. I should have thought that he would have felt obliged to speak in this debate of all debates.
The fault may partly be mine. I did not expect the debate to go on as long as this. I advised my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) that it would be very injudicious to allow an expert in black-guarding to follow him—and that was the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg).
One cannot win when one is up against racialists apparently. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was bitterly criticised because he attacked the new Member without having given him notice that he was going to do so. I took the trouble to follow the customary courteous practice of the House, and I dropped a note to the hon. Member—I am sorry; I should not have used the word"honourable"—to the Member for Smethwick, warning or advising him that if I spoke in the debate I might be making some references to him. The note was handed to the Member for Smethwick. I gather from what the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) has just said that he advised the Member for Smethwick not to speak. It is a very curious form of guardianship or trusteeship.
That is the fault of those of them who voted for the Member for Smethwick—I beg your pardon, Mr. Hynd—the hon. Member for Smethwick. They asked for it by behaving as they did on polling day. I am afraid that we, for the time being, have got to continue rubbing in the fact. After all, the Smethwick Labour Club, so called, has confirmed that Smethwick at the moment is on the roll of dishonour of place names like Sharpeville, Hola and the rest of them—and Perry Barr also, come to that.
I think it was the right hon. Member for Handsworth who said, rightly, that there is intense feeling about this whole subject of the racial tensions that may arise as a result of immigration.
One ought, of course, to discuss these matters—or so we are told—in an unemotional, objective way but it is extremely difficult to do so. There are intense feelings on both sides. It is an issue from which one cannot exclude emotion altogether. There are the intense feelings of the racialists who organised the campaign for the hon. Member for Smethwick and who supported him—the intense feelings of hatred for someone whom they think congenitally inferior to themselves. Those feelings arise, I think, very largely from psychological insecurity.
But there are also, if I may say so to the right hon. Member for Hands-worth, intense feelings on the other side. Maybe we should not feel them. I do not altogether blame the hon. Member for Smethwick. He is young. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is not so young."] I understand that he is 33. He was only a baby of two years when Hitler came to power and still only a school boy at the end of the Second World War.
As a teacher no doubt he should have some knowledge of modern history but it is impossible, however vivid one's imagination, to know fully what is meant by racialism unless one has really lived through or seen for oneself something of its beastliness.
There are a few hon. Members—my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) and I among them—who had the terrible experience of going in April, 1954, in a Parliamentary delegation, to the newly-uncovered Buchenwald concentration camp. There were also, of course, members of the Conservative Party in the delegation, most of whom, alas, are no longer alive. This was a searing and unforgettably horrible experience and it drove into one's mind and one's heart what racialism to the Nth degree, as under Hitler, can mean, with the murder of 6 million Jews and all the other crimes.
Those of us who were here in the war can also remember that racialism—this alien Nazi horror—even crept into this honourable House. There was one Member, Captain Ramsay, who was detained under Regulation 18b because he was a potential traitor and collaborator with the enemy in time of war, a man who had abused the machinery of the House in order to bring aid and comfort to the enemy. This was a terrible thing to the rest of us in the House, on whichever side we sat; at the time there was a coalition Government under Sir Winston Churchill.
I say this—and I am sorry if I have taken up too much time—to try to explain the bitterness that so many of us have when a Member is brought here largely—not entirely, of course—on racialist votes and a racialist campaign. This is an appalling danger and I really do feel, with the Prime Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, that the Leader of the Opposition is not doing his duty unless he applies those admirable general sentiments of his to the particular case of Smethwick and explicitly, in terms, repudiates the hon. Member for Smethwick and the campaign that got him here.
I feel rather diffident in intervening at this late hour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] One never knows whether one should let one's friends go home or try to repay to oneself for the eight hours of sitting through the debate. I shall seek to detain the Committee only a few minutes, but I hope that my hon. Friend's will forgive me if I do not follow the important contributions of my hon. Friends the Members for Barking (Mr. Driberg) and Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). The debate is extremely important for those of us who represent constituencies where this problem is a live issue all the time and has been for many years.
I want, briefly, to address myself to two points which have arisen, and, first, to the national issues raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary when he outlined three conditions whereby it would be possible for this Act to continue for a further 12 months in the hope that in the meantime action could be taken which would help us to reach a solution that would, perhaps, be more favourable to those of us who have had to deal with some of the backwash which has since occurred.
My right hon. and learned Friend outlined three propositions. First, that we should have the Racial Discrimination Bill. As Mr. Fenner Brockway, the Member for Eton and Slough in the last Parliament, put this forward on no fewer than nine occasions, this is the right moment, even at five minutes to one in the morning, to pay tribute to the hard work which he did in that respect. When that Measure goes on to the Statute Book it will be our tribute to him for the hard and continuous work he did to this end throughout many years.
The second point mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend was that to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour addressed himself, the question of how the Commonwealth was to be consulted. I hope that it will not be merely consultation but a combined operation. The essential job to be carried out should not be just by us as the recipient country of those immigrants from the Commonwealth countries who are able today to help us with our economy by sending us workers, but should be tackled by the whole Commonwealth as a mutual problem. The huge shift of population which has been taking place since 1945 is not only a problem which affects the home country; it affects all countries. The solution should be sought in that manner.
I hope, therefore, that this matter will not be, as many have suggested, just an item on the agenda of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference or merely consultation with the Commonwealth countries but will be a fully-fledged common operation. I hope that a special conference will be convened from which some positive results may accrue.
The last point raised by my right hon. Friend—for national action—was concerned with the working of the Overseas Development Department, and were it not 1 o'clock in the morning I would have liked to go further into that. I would say to the Committee that the other matter which is most important against the background of these social problems which this situation creates is the general plan outlined in the Gracious Speech. It is that there will be planning in the regions to alleviate the pressure on housing.
As far as my constituency is concerned, it does not matter how many people are moved out into new towns because we are a magnet of employment. As soon as one person moves out another comes in to take the job vacated. There is the Park Royal Estate and the factories on the North Circular Road which represent a great concentration of industry. While we have this industry there we shall have a housing problem. We have had it ever since the Welsh came in 1926 and the Irish in 1939. In recent years, one in nine of the immigrants from the Commonwealth, according to the last census, came to my constituency. In the same census there was a slight majority of Irish over Commonwealth immigrants, but that was in 1961.
To come to my last point, there has been talk throughout the debate on the question of integration. It is like the negro spiritual—many who talk about Heaven are never going there—there is a lot of talk about integration by people who do nothing about it.
I can recall that in Willesden, following Notting Hill, the Smethwick of 1958, when there were scandals and riots, we faced an important social problem because we were the neighbouring area. The only way in which to meet it was by having the kind of committee which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) mentioned as having in his area. What we did set the pattern for many areas. One has the local authority, the mayor and other important citizens of the community, taking the initiative and having funds supplied by the borough to provide a welfare officer, in our case a Jamaican. We made a constant day-to-day effort to relieve the tensions, taking action when there was a flash point to prevent the flash from breaking out into an explosion. Hon. Members have spoken about conciliation where immigrants and locals, with differing traditions, come into conflict. In my constituency it is not a matter of friction between neighbours, but of the families upstairs and downstairs, for nearly every house in my constituency is multi-occupied. The only way in which this kind of thing can be successfully handled is by having someone experienced in social case work and we are grateful to the London Council for Social Service and the National Council for Social Service for the help and training they have given our committee members of various races to do case work where friction has broken out.
I should like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to issue a directive so that it is clear to an immigrant going to an employment exchange that any colour bar is placed by the employer and not the employment exchange. When a colour bar is operated, it should be clearly seen where it is operated and not made to appear to operate through a Government Department.
I have spoken for my five minutes. If I had managed to catch your eye four and a half hours ago, Mr. Hynd, I would have hoped for another 15. I want to say finally that when hon. Members talk about integration, I hope that they will appreciate that it is not just talk but work and finding the time and effort and a good deal of research. In my area a survey of advertisements for lodgings showed that 10 per cent of 2, 647 examined said "No coloureds" or "European only". As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary deployed the facts and figures when outlining the national problem, so we have to have the facts when dealing with these matters at local level. If we are to tackle this problem successfully in our communities, we have had precisely the same factual background, not only for people undertaking social research work, but so that the immigrants can take their full part in that kind of activity.
I am confident that if we can have this kind of approach in the community, when we get to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill next year it will not be necessary to renew this Act which, whatever hon. Members may say about it, has the overtone of a colour bar in that some people have to get through three gates because their skin is of one colour while others can come in without going through all the voucher procedures and work permits because their skin is another colour.
Unless we can make it clear to our friends in the Commonwealth that action is being taken internationally and nationally to relieve pressures, and if we have to come back to this Act in this form next year, there will be far more resistance from hon. Members on both sides of the Committee than there has been tonight. I hope that the result of the debate will be constructive and that we will see a new approach and a different solution to a real problem as a result of this eight hours' stretch.