National Assistance (Immigrants)

Oral Answers to Questions — Pensions and National Insurance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th May 1965.

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Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak 12:00 am, 24th May 1965

asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how many immigrants claim National Assistance immediately upon arrival.

Photo of Mr Norman Pentland Mr Norman Pentland , Chester-le-Street

I regret that the information is not available.

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Does not the hon. Member feel that these figures ought to be given to the House, since the number of immigrants coming into the country has risen this year as compared with last year?

Photo of Mr Norman Pentland Mr Norman Pentland , Chester-le-Street

No, Sir. It has always been our policy—and I understand it has been the policy of the previous Government—that the National Assistance Board should not make separate records or distinguish in any way between immigrants and others receiving National Assistance. The Board does not collect any information about the number of Commonwealth immigrants or aliens who are in receipt of National Assistance. We think that this is right.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

Will my hon. Friend recognise that hon. Members on this side of the House very much welcome that reply? Will he continue not to show any form of discrimination in any figures that his Department gives, and treat all citizens on an equal basis, as they are entitled to be treated?

Photo of Mr Norman Pentland Mr Norman Pentland , Chester-le-Street

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. That is our firm policy.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

Will my hon. Friend consider obtaining these figures? Will he also consider obtaining figures showing how many immigrants do not claim National Assistance—either on their arrival or at any other time during their stay in this country?

Photo of Mr Norman Pentland Mr Norman Pentland , Chester-le-Street

This is most difficult—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in view of our policy, of course it is difficult. The Ministry of Labour collects at intervals information about Commonwealth immigrants registered at the employment exchanges. This is analysed to show the numbers of those receiving unemployment benefit, those receiving supplementation and those receiving National Assistance, but these figures are for able-bodied Commonwealth immigrants coming into the country. On the second part of the supplementary question, I cannot see how we could make provision for seeking the figures asked for.

Photo of Sir Rolf Williams Sir Rolf Williams , Exeter

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that if he replied to the Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) the people of this country would be gravely shocked to hear of the burden they are carrying regarding immigrants coming in and immediately seeking National Assistance?

Photo of Mr Norman Pentland Mr Norman Pentland , Chester-le-Street

The hon. Member is basing his supplementary question on an assumption which is not true.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Then tell us the figures."]—The figures are not being brought forward because we are not prepared—and I understand the previous Government were not prepared—to discriminate in any way among people receiving National Assistance.