Immigration

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th March 1965.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton 12:00 am, 9th March 1965

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.

On 25th February I said in answer to the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) that the Government were urgently reviewing various aspects of immigration.

The Government believe that the problems this country is facing in connection with immigration require an attack on three broad fronts.

First, it is accepted in all parts of the House that once immigrants are here they should be treated for all purposes as citizens of the United Kingdom, without discrimination. The Government are not satisfied with progress in integrating Commonwealth immigrants into the community, particularly in some of our big towns and cities. This affects a number of Government Departments and I have invited the Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Economic Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley), to make himself especially responsible, in a personal capacity, for co-ordinating Government action in the field and for promoting through the Departments concerned the efforts of the local authorities and of voluntary bodies.

Secondly, we all agree that we cannot have first and second-class citizens in this country. We must, therefore, take vigorous measures to prevent racial discrimination. The Government intend to introduce in the very near future a Bill to deal with racial discrimination in public places and with the evil of incitement to racial hatred.

Thirdly, the House will recall the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on 4th February about evasion of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act by people coming from certain Commonwealth countries. My right hon. and learned Friend then indicated that the degree of evasion of existing controls was almost fatally eroding the Act. This situation arises from the use of false passports, impersonation, false statements about the purpose of travel to this country, and so on.

Since the Act is not working as was intended, a fresh examination of the whole problem of control is necessary. The Government therefore propose shortly to send a high-level mission, which will include experts in the field of immigration, to consider with certain Commonwealth Governments the problems that have arisen. The function of the mission will be to establish the facts, to examine what can be done to stamp out evasion at source, and to discuss whether new methods are needed to regulate the flow of migrants to the United Kingdom.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

We know that it is not the right hon. Gentleman's fault that we have had this statement in our possession for only a few moments.

I have three comments to make on it. First, the right hon. Gentleman said that it is accepted in all parts of the House that once immigrants are here they should be treated for all purposes as citizens of the United Kingdom, without discrimination. We agree with that, and the Prime Minister concludes from that that an inquiry is necessary by his hon. Friend to establish the facts to try to see how we can proceed with more successful integration, and this, too, we support.

Secondly, the Prime Minister says that we cannot have first and second-class citizens in this country, and, therefore, he proposes legislation against racial discrimination. Again, in principle, we agree with this, and when the legislation comes forward we shall examine it with the greatest care.

I think that the Prime Minister's statement is very fair and sensible, in that it deals with integration, on the one hand, and control, on the other. It deals with them in the same document, and this is sensible, and indeed right. We therefore welcome the fact that, as well as an inquiry into integration to establish the facts and see how we can better proceed with that, there is to be an examination to see whether further control over numbers is necessary. We think that all these things are sensible, and, therefore, I agree with the Prime Minister, and we will help him as far as we can.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I regret that it was not possible to observe the usual courtesy and send the right hon. Gentleman a copy of the statement, but he has indicated that he realises why.

When I said, and the right hon. Gentleman picked it up, that it is accepted in all parts of the House that once immigrants are here they should be treated for all purposes as citizens of the United Kingdom". I was quoting the exact words used by both the right hon. Gentleman and myself at various times in the past, and I know that all parties take the same view in this respect.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to ask whether I would agree that, as there was this feeling on both sides of the House, and I am sure in all parts of the country, with some exceptions which stand out, and which none of us would support, it was right to have an inquiry. I want to make it quite clear that what we are proposing in respect of integration is not simply an inquiry. It is the coordination of effective executive government action with, and through, local authorities and voluntary bodies to see that much speedier action is taken on integration, in the widest sense of the word, in terms of housing, health, education, and everything that needs to be done to minimise the possible social disturbance arising from this problem, and from the exploitation of the problem by people who ought to know better.

Thirdly, I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he supported the principle of our proposal to introduce a Bill to deal with racial discrimination and racial incitement. Obviously he, and, indeed, all hon. Members, will want to study the Bill carefully. It marks a new departure in our laws, and, of course, when there is a Bill of this kind it is important to see that while it deals effectively with those responsible for racial incitement, it deals carefully with some of the marginal problems, particularly where religious controversy is concerned.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Can the Prime Minister say whether this action is simply concerned to stop evasion, or whether it is intended that there shall be a cut in the quota of immigrants coming to this country, and, if so, what the effect of this may be on certain types of employment in which they play an important part?

Secondly, with regard to the help which may be offered to local authorities, is it intended that the local authorities which have a particular problem of immigration are to be given extra monetary assistance to build schools or houses, or is this to be merely a co-ordination of the present grants and powers?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

First, the purpose of the mission, as I said in my original statement, is to establish the facts. It will be better if we have more knowledge of the facts and less of the suppositions which come from certain quarters. Secondly, it is to stamp out evasion at source. It is clear that with evasion running at the rate it has been running during the past year, it will not only reduce the number of immigrants coming here illegally or improperly, but will also give greater fairness as between those who have made out a fair case for coming to this country and have been held back and other people, with a far less good case from our point of view, who are jumping the queue and getting ahead of them.

When I referred to my third point, concerned with the discussion of what new methods are needed, I had in mind what has been discussed in the House in previous debates—how immigration can be controlled at source rather than by using the blunt methods that we have at London Airport today.

As for local authorities, we shall, first, see what is needed most to deal with these problems. In many areas the problem is not so much a question of vast expenditure as of education, tolerance and understanding. But if money is needed it will, no doubt, be reported as a result of this committee's work. In certain towns and cities where there is a heavy rate of immigration the problem has been solved by the wisdom and statesmanship of local communities. We want to see exactly what lessons we can learn from those communities and spread them more widely.

Photo of Mrs Bessie Braddock Mrs Bessie Braddock , Liverpool Exchange

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be very well accepted in Liverpool? If he sends his committee to Liverpool, it will see that we have solved the problem of coloured people living together. Although there has been difficulty in other parts of the country, we have never had any racial difficulty in Liverpool. We have a solution to the problem if my right hon. Friend will send his committee to Liverpool to look at it.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is a fact that in some areas, particularly seaport towns, where this problem has been familiar not for a year or two, but for generations, it has been taken by the local community in its stride. As to whether I shall send the committee to Liverpool, as my hon. Friend asks, or take it there personally, I have not yet decided.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

What do the Government intend to do, in relation to this very difficult matter, about the many thousands of immigrants, mostly Indians and Pakistanis, who do not wish to be integrated?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I do not think that it is very helpful to start identifying particular communities or countries. As I have said—and I am sure that it is right—there are certain areas, in big cities, where there has been great success in this process of integration, certainly with Indians and Pakistanis. I want to make that clear. We can learn from their experience, and spread the knowledge more widely.

Photo of Mr Donald Chapman Mr Donald Chapman , Birmingham, Northfield

Will the promised legislation contain Clauses to cover discrimination in the granting of leases of houses and tenancies to coloured people? Secondly, with regard to discrimination in employment, will my right hon. Friend consider asking his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to call a top-level conference with trade unions and employers to encourage a climate of acceptance of immigrants in jobs and professions on merit? This is a ready way in which we can improve the lot of immigrants who are already here.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

My hon. Friend had better await the publication of the Bill before he pursues this point. It is a very important one, and we are still considering it.

As for employment problems, I very much agree with his suggestion. We are all aware that those who come here with a particular kind of skill—not least, for example, in the National Health Service—contribute something to the life of this country which we could not replace by any other means under present circumstances. Many people living today owe their lives to this fact.

But in the matter of employment we must ensure that we do not add to the anxieties of those who fear for their own livelihoods. It is important to examine the situation to see how far within the Commonwealth, outside this country, we can intensify the work of training schemes, one result of which would be to provide trained people to come to this country, but much more to provide training for the local communities' requirements in terms of skill and for migration generally within the Commonwealth.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept the sincere appreciation of many hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as on his own, for the very constructive step of appointing a co-ordinating Minister? Will he also accept that many hon. Members on both sides—most hon. Members, I hope—very much desire to take this awkward and difficult problem out of party politics altogether. Lastly, will he think seriously about the possibility of providing extra funds to local authorities for housing? Housing is a source of jealousy between races. Extra houses for this specific purpose will be required, and therefore, extra cash needs to be provided.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I very much appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said, and not least the fact that it was he who said it, because the House recognises that the proposal in relation to effective action to co-ordinate the work of executive action on integration is something which was urged by the British Caribbean Association, of which the hon. Member was—I am not sure whether he still is—for a long time the joint chairman. This attitude was put up in an entirely bipartisan way by the hon. Member and my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I appreciate what the hon. Member has said.

As for the monetary question, there is some argument about whether this is the right way. We had better wait to see what the committee says about it.

Photo of Mr Marcus Lipton Mr Marcus Lipton , Lambeth Brixton

I thank my right hon. Friend for putting into effect something which the Lambeth Borough Council, in principle, suggested to the previous Administration about 10 years ago, but may I ask him whether the duties of the Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs will include the co-ordination of all the Government Departments involved, namely, Health, Education, Labour, Housing, the Home Office and Commonwealth Relations—because they all have an interest in this matter, together with the various voluntary organisations and local authorities which are involved? It is only by actions through all these Departments that a satisfactory solution can be found, on a non-party basis, to this difficult problem.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I am glad that this statement commends itself to the Lambeth Borough Council. It convinces me that this will be genuinely bipartisan. The committee, in dealing with this matter, will certainly represent, and speak with authority for, all the Departments which are concerned, whether on the home or the overseas aspects of the problem. The House will be aware that most Governments proceed through the appointment of committees of senior Ministers. We do not always announce what they are, but the House will be aware from previous Answers that I have given that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and other senior Ministers have been working very hard looking at the broad problems presented by immigration. It will be to that committee of senior Ministers that my hon. Friend's committee will be reporting.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

We should pass on to other matters now. Unless the right hon. Gentleman is raising something which is wholly disconnected with this discussion, I shall have to call the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Peter Thorneycroft Mr Peter Thorneycroft , Monmouth

I wish to raise a technical question on the subject which we have been discussing, Sir.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I am sorry. All this business with statements is very difficult for the House and the Chair. Seeking to see what is the balance of convenience for the House, I have to bring Questions on statements to an end at some moment.