Orders of the Day — Immigration

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1968.

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Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire 12:00 am, 24th July 1968

My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has performed a valuable service by challenging the Government's immigration policy on this occasion. That challenge seemed all the more effective for its studied moderation. My right hon. Friend showed beyond dispute that the present control is not effective, that the formidable numbers which still come in are greater than our people can absorb without aggravating the shortage of houses and the position in schools, hospitals and maternity homes. Above all, my right hon. Friend has pointed out that the Government have failed to carry out even their own policy as set out in the White Paper of August, 1965, which he quoted.

I suggest that in this, as in all other matters our first duty is to our present constituents, wherever they may have come from. Our aim, I hope, is to help all of them to obtain an ever-improving standard of living. But, with the best will in the world, that is made more difficult if considerable unspecified net increases in the number of immigrants are to take place each year. Especially is it made more difficult in those towns and cities which already have large numbers of immigrants.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman) seemed to me to go to one of the most crucial parts of the problem when he referred to the need for the registration of dependants of those already here. If such registration were to take place, we could at least measure the size of this large and so far open ended commitment without departing from any principle. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will on this occasion give a sympathetic hearing to that suggestion.

My right hon. Friend has already shown that the 1968 Act has had only marginal effect on the numbers coming in. By the time we have the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill in the late autumn we shall have an even clearer picture of what is happening; we shall by then have had at least six months experience of control under the new Act. We shall also have a clearer picture of the need for further legislation and of more effective administration. Meanwhile, I hope that the Under-Secretary will assure the House and the country that the Government will accept and implement their own White Paper of nearly three years ago, and will do us the courtesy of considering the Conservative Party's detailed policy on immigration control.

My hon. Friend the Member for Strat-ford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) said so rightly that we, that is Parliament, must secure the confidence of the people. I suggest in all seriousness that we are more likely to do so if the Government steal the Conservative Party's policy on immigration than if they reject it. Above all, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell us that he, too, is grateful to my right hon. Friend, and that after this debate, whatever he may find himself able or unable to say during it, he will get busy on the valuable suggestions made by my right hon. and hon. Friends.