I have recently reviewed the arrangements for the admission of United Kingdom passport holders, in the light of our special obligation to them—an obligation which has been accepted by successive Governments and which is acknowledged in all parts of the House—and of the hardship that some of them are currently suffering in Africa because of employment and other restrictions.
I have come to the conclusion that the annual allocation of special vouchers should be increased in this year from 3,500 to 5,000.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether this will have any side effects on applications for entry permits from non-United Kingdom passport holders?
No, Sir; I do not think it will have that effect. Our policy dealing with entry applications is extremely strict, except in relation to United Kingdom passport holders—to whom we have a clear obligation and where I judge it right to try to discharge the obligation in a disorderly way, at a good rate, as fast as can reasonably be done—and dependants, where we have an equal obligation. Virtually no new rights of entry going beyond those categories are created.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he and the Minister of State have shown this afternoon that they completely misunderstand the climate of opinion on this subject in the densely populated reception areas? With the worsening of the unemployment situation in the Midlands, and the shortage of resources available for education and housing services, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is growing concern about the accelerating rate of immigration under this administration, and that this concern will be much greater as a result of what he has said?
I must point out to the hon. Gentleman, with whom I share the representation of a city, that I am as aware of these problems as he is. In no way do I seek to discount the fact that problems are involved. I must point out that in my view it is overwhelmingly likely, at this stage, that the admissions for settlement from the Commonwealth in 1974 will be the lowest we have had for a decade. In these circumstances it is sensible to make a small contribution to dealing as expeditiously as we reasonably can with the problem of United Kingdom passport holders, to whom we have an obligation, which has not been seriously challenged in any part of the House and certainly not by the Opposition Front Bench. I am anxious to avoid the position in which my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Carr), found himself when he had to deal in an orderly way—and he did so courageously—with the problem of the sudden Ugandan exodus. I wish to deal with the problem so that we are not confronted with any repetition of that situation.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the entitlement of these people to come here has been challenged in the House not only by me but by the then Mr. Duncan Sandys, who was Secretary of State at the relevant time? Allowing for an average number of dependants, how many people will come in on the 5,000 vouchers? Will the right hon. Gentleman estimate the number of people who, in his view, are entitled to come to this country upon this line of argument, if it is persisted in?
I am aware that the hon. and learned Gentleman has sought to challenge this view and that he has not succeeded in persuading the House. I do not wish to get involved with Lord Sandys, who has now left us but who had a considerable responsibility for the fact that the commitment exists and has to be discharged, as is recognised. There are some dependants involved, perhaps about three per person. [An HON. MEMBER: "At least."] There is no indication that the figure is higher than that. The increase I have announced to deal with a commitment that we all have and which I inherited largely from Lord Sandys, might lead to an increase of about 5,000 in this year.
In arriving at this decision—which we shall want to study carefully—did the Home Secretary consider whether compensating cuts might be made in the number of foreign workers—I am not speaking of Commonwealth workers—who are admitted to this country for work which more and more British people are becoming available to do?
That is largely a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and I think he intends to make a statement on the matter in the fairly near future. I must not in any way anticipate that statement or indicate the lines it will follow. My policy and that of the Government is to maintain strict control over immigration but also to recognise that we have certain obligations—which are not seriously challenged—to United Kingdom passport holders and the dependants of those who are already here, and not to increase to any significant extent the number of those who have a right to come.
I welcome the information contained in that answer and recognise that there are circumstances in which my right hon. Friend's arbitrary powers of exclusion or expulsion must be retained, but will my right hon. Friend assure the House that in a case where there has been no recommendation by the court either he personally or the Minister of State considers the issue before action is taken and that it is not dealt with solely at official level?
I welcome what my hon. Friend said in the early part of his supplementary question. On the latter part, I give him without qualification the assurance for which he asks.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that the provisions of this section are wide-sweeping and have given rise to fears among the immigrant community? Will my right hon. Friend consider the appointment of independent tribunals or an amendment of the section to ensure that no one is excluded for political reasons?
I assure my hon. Friend and the House that I should never contemplate excluding someone by virtue of the opinions which he holds. To that extent the political consideration does not operate. Some objections to the procedure laid down in the 1971 Act were taken by the Labour Party when in opposition, but it is perhaps a little easier to criticise the procedure—I think there is some ground for criticism—than to suggest exactly the right procedure in the very rare cases in which matters of security arise. I should find it difficult to recommend the House to give up entirely executive authority in those rare cases. I hope that if any widespread dismay exists among the immigrant community ita will be dispelled, because it is not justified by what has happened. The power has been rarely used and in the case of Caprino the matter was not proceeded with.
Is the Home Secretary aware of the widespread belief that the order was not proceeded with because the information on which it was based was found to be false? Does he recognise that one crucial difficulty of the law as it stands is that of enabling the person to whom the order is being applied to challenge information which may prove to be false?
I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman without getting into the position of half disclosing to the House matters which it has never been the practice to disclose to the House. I do not regard the hon. Gentleman's premise as wholly accurate, but I assure him and the House that these matters are dealt with and will continue to be dealt with with the greatest care and with a respect for liberal values as well as the security of the State.
I keep immigration policy under continual review. Apart from the dependants of Commonwealth citizens settled here, who have a statutory right of entry, and United Kingdom passport holders to whom we have a special obligation which is acknowledged in all parts of the House, entry is on a very modest scale. In all but two of the last 11 years emigration from this country has exceeded immigration. For those who wish to return to their own countries assistance can be provided under Section 29 of the Immigration Act 1971, but there is no evidence of substantial demand.
Is the cause of family unity best served by adding to our own social and economic problems when we could give more help than we do to heads of families by reuniting them with their families in their native countries?
It was the Government that the right hon. and learned Gentleman supported that in 1971 gave the statutory right to any man who was settled here to bring in his wife and children. All that we are discussing in relation to the queue in the subcontinent is the fulfilment of that pledge. It does not apply to anyone who wants to return to the subcontinent. We can make arrangements for them if need be.
We regard the delay which we inherited as intolerable. The first steps that we have taken are to place five extra entry certificate officers at Dacca—where the delay was of the order of four years—to cope with appointments and an extra four entry certificate officers at Islamabad, where the delay was about two years. We are also hoping that the changes in the procedures will help to shorten the length of the queues.
Without implying any criticism of the voluntary body which is the Government's agency for the purposes of Section 29 of the 1971 Act, will the Government now consider whether it would not be more proper and efficient that these matters should now be directly administered by the Government?
No, I do not think so. The requests that come forward for such assistance are dealt with expeditiously by the body concerned. We have no reason to doubt its efficiency in carrying out its work. The difference lies in the right hon. Gentleman's estimate of how many people would want to avail themselves of the scheme.