§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 7 and 8.
The Amendment is designed to delete from the Schedule the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919 and, consequently, the Orders made there under. The Amendment and debate enable us on this occasion, as we have done on previous occasions for many years, to review the administration by the Home Office of its conduct in regard to aliens and immigration, to consider whether the administration by the Home Office has been conducted on principles of humanity or inhumanity, with efficiency or inefficiency and with due regard to economy or with the absence of economy.
We must, as on previous occasions, protest at the repeated failure of the Government to put this aliens legislation in a satisfactory form by introducing permanent legislation. This method of 290 dealing with the supervision of aliens has existed for close on fifty years. The House notoriously dislikes emergency, delegated and temporary legislation, yet year after year the House has been confronted with the situation in which we have had to deal annually with a Measure, and Orders made under it, giving widespread and arbitrary powers to the Horns Secretary to decide which aliens are admitted to this country, the conditions under which they are entitled to remain here and in respect of which they can be deported. We must, therefore, register our protest and ask the Home Secretary what is his excuse this year for once again having put this Bill in the Schedule to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman has conceded, as have his predecessors time and again, that this method of legislation is thoroughly undesirable. However, each year when this matter comes up we are given one excuse after another. The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton), who was the spokesman for the Home Office two years ago, expressed hope that it would not be long before permanent legislation was introduced. He gave the excuse that the Government were entering negotiations to join the Common Market. The same subject came up again last year and the Home Secretary said that he also disliked this method of annually dealing with the matter. He said that it would be more desirable if Parliament got rid of this year-by-year procedure and put on to the Statute Book permanent legislation.
The reason which the Home Secretary gave last year—and he repeated it three times—was that the Government thought that they were going to enter the European Economic Community, which would produce a great change in the whole conditions in regard to the status of other members of the Community and their right to enter Great Britain. For this reason, he said, the right time for the Government to put forward proposals and for Parliament to examine them was when the Government and Parliament knew whether or not we would enter the E.E.C. A month or two later we knew, with President de Gaulle's action, that the negotiations 291 for entering the Common Market were at an end. This shows that for nearly a year the Government have been deprived of that excuse.
What is the excuse this year? It cannot be that negotiations to join the Common Market will be renewed. I do not know what excuse the Home Secretary will give, but it is obvious that the reason why no permanent legislation of this kind is being introduced this year is that the right hon. Gentleman knows that we are now in the last Session of a dying and feeble Parliament. He is taking the line of least resistance and is leaving this, like so many other measures of reform, to the new Government which will be formed after the next General Election.
The only consolation to the Committee—although the Home Secretary has failed to fulfil his promise, as the Government have failed to fulfil their other promises—is that we are given an opportunity of considering how the Home Secretary has been administering the Orders in Council made under the 1919 Act. It is desirable that the Committee should examine these matters in great detail before deciding whether the Government can be entrusted with these wide powers for another twelve months.
I remind the Committee that Parliament has never yet had an opportunity, since the aliens legislation was first introduced, of considering what the policy of this country should be towards the immigration of aliens. This subject is one of increasing importance because as a result of the increase in tourism—tourism which we are ail anxious to encourage—the number of visitors to our shores increases year by year. Last year, nearly 2 million aliens—an unfortunate expression and I prefer "non-British subjects"—of one kind and another came here for various purposes.
Some of them were bona fide visitors, here for social occasions, holidays, and so on, some were here with a view to taking up temporary employment—for three, six or twelve months—some arrived under the au pair system and some came for less reputable purposes. As I understand, the Government must consider what machinery is best devised to ensure that there is the maximum of welcome 292 and the minimum of fuss and interference with genuine visitors and at the same time to take steps to deal with undesirable aliens who wish to come here either for some nefarious, criminal or other purpose which we might regard as objectionable and for which they should be denied right of entry.
In addition to those cases there is the very limited, but not unimportant, number of persons who annually come to our country to obtain political asylum as a measure of relief for political persecution in their own country. In previous years we have had occasion nearly every year to discuss a specific case which has arisen during the preceding twelve months and in which we have had to deplore the completely inhuman treatment accorded to a visitor to our shores seeking political asylum.
Two or three years ago we had the case of Captain Galvao, who was refused permission only because it was thought that by doing so we would please the Government of Portugal, a member of N.A.T.O.
There was the notorious case last year of Dr. Soblen, which we canvassed at some length, and in which we were able to expose the fact that the Home Secretary had used an obscure Section in the Aliens Order to circumvent the quite definite provisions of the Extradition Act. Whether it has been in those cases of political asylum, or in the case of Carmen Bryan or of Chief Enahoro, who were Commonwealth subjects, experience has shown, unfortunately, that in almost every case where the question of giving humane and sympathetic treatment to an individual has arisen, whenever the country has expected a decision from this Home Secretary that would be in accordance with the cherished traditions of our country with regard to political asylum, the Home Secretary has almost inevitably and invariably taken the wrong decision. That is something we have come to expect, and something that will no doubt continue, unfortunately, while this Government are in office.
On this occasion, I do not propose to dwell on that particular aspect of the Home Secretary's administration of the aliens legislation. I think that today it would be more profitable to examine the machinery adopted by the Home 293 Secretary with regard to the whole subject of control of immigration into this country. Before I deal with that, I want to ask the Home Secretary three questions about cases of deportation.
Of course, apart from those, about 4,000 or 5,000 individuals a year are refused permission to land for one reason or another—sometimes on medical grounds, sometimes because they have not a visa, sometimes because it is thought that they cannot support themselves, and sometimes because it is thought that they are coming ostensibly for one purpose but actually for another. In regard to those cases in respect of which permission to land is refused, I would merely observe that under the present system it is inevitable that a great many of those personal decisions must be arbitrary, in the sense that there must be a number of borderline cases.
As the law stands, I observe that it results in the exercise of discretion by a particular immigration officer, and I know that all immigration officers do their duty with the greatest degree of conscientiousness and ability. Ultimately, the Home Secretary has to decide whether entry should be granted or refused. There must, inevitably, be some wrong decisions. Apart from those cases, there are the cases of deportation, and I have no doubt that, in a great many instances, persons who have committed criminal offences are quite rightly deported, but, in each case, it is the duty of this House to see that the individual recommended for deportation, or in respect of whom a deportation order is made, has the opportunities which elementary justice requires of being able to state his case before an order is made.
That being so, I want to ask the Home Secretary: how many orders for deportation were made during the last twelve months? In how many cases did the individual concerned exercise his right of having his case considered by the Chief Magistrate of Bow Street? In how many cases was the decision of the Chief Magistrate to support the Home Secretary's recommendation? In how many cases did the Home Secretary disregard the Chief Magistrate's recommendation? Finally, in how many cases was an order made on security grounds, or any other ground which 294 deprived the individual concerned of any opportunity of having his case reviewed by the Chief Magistrate?
It would be useful to have that information, if only because the House has a duty, as a civilised community, to see that the powers in this jurisdiction over aliens—which depends upon these Orders in Council under an Act passed in conditions of emergency—are exercised with a scrupulous sense of responsibility and humanity.
I want now to turn to the wider question of the general efficiency or inefficiency with which the Home Office conducts its administration of immigration. Fortunately, I am able to do that because the whole subject has recently been very carefully reviewed by the Estimates Committee, which has, during the last few months, published a very enlightening and elucidating Report, as a result of which I am sure that a great many hon. Members have learned for the first time what happens. Hon. Members may be interested if I summarise the procedure.
Every alien coming to the country has to fill in a landing card. Every alien leaving the country has to fill in an embarkation card. There are 2 million of them every year. These landing cards and embarkation cards, which are filled in at the ports or airports, are then sent to a centralised department of the Home Office at Princeton House, in Holborn—a very large place, staffed with a considerable staff—in which all the 2 million cards of those coining in and the 2 million cards of those going out—4 million in all—are carefully analysed, indexed, sorted and placed in alphabetical order so that there is a complete record of all those coming into the country and all those leaving it. That means that there are about as many names as there are in the London telephone directory. A large number of people are required to do that work.
The system is that the embarkation cards should be "married" with the landing cards, the theory being that by that means it can be seen whether everybody who has landed has eventually departed. Theoretically, that would be a very good system. The Estimates Committee asked the Home Secretary, 295 or his representative, in how many cases it was found that the person who was allowed to come in as a visitor did not go, and there was a card missing. To everyone's surprise, it was learned that that was never done; that there was no check. Those concerned go to all the trouble of collecting all these incoming and outgoing cards, but never check to see whether or not they are completely matched.
The Home Secretary, or his representative, was asked why the Department did not complete the job and do it properly if that was the object of the exercise. The answer was that it would cost too much. It was then pointed out that if it would cost too much to do the job properly, what was the object of going to all that trouble of collecting these cards and indexing them and not seeing what the result was? The reply was that it might be of use if the job was done properly, but that to do so would mean doubling the number of staff. The Home Office was asked whether it could not get a computer, or something like that. Apparently, it had not thought of that; or that a computer would work.
The Estimates Committee, which is an impartial, all-party Committee, presided over by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), stated that it was…greatly concerned at the immense amount of work involved.It appeared to the Committee that there might be some value in all this—that is, the preparation of the traffic index—if it were fully used.
The Committee went on:Your Committee feel that the inclusion in the index of an immense number of cards relating to visitors occupies an increasingly disproportionate amount of space, involves many people at Princeton House in much hard work, and, as has already been shown, occupies a considerable part of the time of immigration officers at the ports without achieving any of the purposes for which the system of control is designed.The Committee goes on, therefore, to recommend thatThe system of landing and embarkation cards for those classed as bona fide visitors should be abolished …Bearing in mind that of the 2 million who come in, 75 per cent. are bona fide visitors, there is yet all this elaborate bureaucratic system of collecting landing 296 and embarkation cards, having them filed by hordes of bureaucratic civil servants and, because it is said that it would cost too much to do this job completely, after the civil servants have done all this for two or three years, burning all cards. The Home Secretary apparently laughs, but I do not think that it is a laughing matter.
The Home Secretary not only laughs, but, with that sublime contempt for the recommendations of the Estimates Committee, which is one of his least pleasing characteristics, he dismisses the Committee's recommendations with these cavalier words, published only a few days ago:The Secretary of State has noted the Select Committee's recommendation that the system of landing and embarkation cards should be abolished for bona fide visitors This recommendation presents practical difficulties …Having admitted that the system is no use, that it is inefficient and expensive, the recommendation that it should be abolished presents practical difficulties.
The right hon. Gentleman goes on to comment that… it also has implications for Departments other than the Home Office. However, these questions, and the possibility of mechanising all central records, are being studied in the course of a thoroughgoing review of immigration questions…I do not know whether the matter could be simplified if there were some method of mechanisation. The Government are now preaching modernisation and mechanisation. If they are serious about that, here is an example where, employing hundreds of people doing unnecessary work and occupying expensive space in the middle of London all to no purpose, the Government are still considering whether some method of mechanisation would be of use.
Be it observed, however, that even if they did all this it is still doubtful whether it would be of the slightest use to the country. I do not blame the staff, because the Home Secretary has laid down what they should do, but the Home Secretary and his staff then gave one other curious explanation why they went to all this trouble and expense to no purpose. They said, in effect, "We do not rely on this at all. What we rely on are the immigration officers at the ports. We rely on them to keep out 297 the undesirables." The Estimates Committee therefore examined whether the work done by the immigration officers at the ports is effective for this purpose.
The object of the immigration officers is not to count the number of people coming in to see if that number tallies with the number going out, which does not seem to me a very profitable exercise anyhow. They have a perfectly laudable object. The Estimates Committee should be anxious to see that this work is properly done. If we are to spend money on Votes for the Home Secretary we should see that the work is done properly.
The immigration officers say that they have a black book for immigrants which contains about 7,500 names of people who are regarded as undesirable for one reason or another. It is said, and I agree, that the immigration officers have great experience in detecting and distinguishing undesirable immigrants from bona fide visitors. No doubt that is why they are able to turn away 4,000 to 5,000 people a year.
The real question on this aspect of the matter, which the Committee should examine, is whether this system is foolproof. It is notorious, and nobody denies it, that with all the skill and expertise in the world exercised by these officers no one who wants to come into the country for a nefarious purpose, for espionage or to escape Interpol or for any other purpose, has the slightest difficulty in doing so. The Home Office is candid enough to give a whole series of illustrations of how it can be done. A person can land from a yacht at some unfrequented port or get on a helicopter and land on a moorland somewhere, or, without going to that expense, come in through Ireland. [An Hon. Member: "M. Bidault."] Yes, there was the case of M. Bidault.
M. Bidault came into the country without any difficulty at all, immigration officer or no immigration officer. The Home Secretary surpassed himself on that occasion, because my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) on 5th March this year, in order to probe this sort of question and see how the system worked, asked the Home Secretary, by means of Private Notice Question, whether M. 298 Bidault was in the country. Everybody knew that he was, because he had been telephoning some of his friends and broadcasting, and so forth. I believe that his photograph appeared in the newspapers.
This is officialdom at its worst. The Home Secretary said:I have no ground for thinking that M. Bidault is now in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1963; Vol. 673, c. 205.]This was because he had not filled in a card. The Home Secretary, in his blithe innocence, in trying to prevent undesirables coming in and going through all this rigmarole, with all these people in Princeton House filling in millions of cards, ignores those people who come into the country without filling in a proper card or passing the immigration officer at all.
I wanted to test the efficacy of this wonderful system of immigration control the other day and see how it worked. I know that the Home Secretary admits that it is not foolproof. I wanted to see how ineffective it was. I arrived at London Airport from the Continent at 9.15 p.m. My plane was half an hour late. There was a Division in the House at 10 p.m., and there was a three-line Whip and I was, naturally, anxious to vote against the Government. I had, therefore, not much time to get to the House of Commons from London Airport. I had no time to talk to an immigration officer or a Customs officer. I therefore adopted the simple course. I left the queue and proceeded from my aeroplane to my car which I had left in the car park and I drove to the House of Commons.
I am perfectly entitled to do that. I am a British subject. I can land in this country whenever I like, regardless of the Home Secretary, the immigration officers or anybody else. I do not boast about that. It is a common law right of any British subject. I merely exercised the right of a British subject, but if I can do it without challenge so can M. Bidault or any of those people whom the Home Office are trying to keep out of the country. What comes, therefore, of this system of immigration control and all this expenditure? What does the Estimates Committee say about it? Tt realised that it was not foolproof and the Home Secretary had admitted that 299 not only M. Bidault, but certain others were able to come in and to dodge the immigration officer. They did not admit how many because they do not know how many.
The Committee, further examining the Home Office witnesses, said:… they regard as rather complacent the assertions of the Home Office that cases such as this are extremely few.'The Committee goes on:One of the justifications for the present system is that it is designed to prevent the entry of undesirables, but it is, in the view of your Committee, far more important to be able to stop resourceful criminals who have access to false documents than petty malefactors.The Committee also stated—I cannot read it all, but I beg hon. Members to believe that, couched in the Parliamentary language of a Report of a House of Commons Committee, it is one of the most withering, scathing condemnations of inefficient and wasteful administration by a Government Department that I have ever read. The Committee considered that economies should be made elsewhere in the immigration and nationality department. Goodness knows, there is plenty of room for that by the closing down of this system involving the use of 2 million cards. The Committee recommendsImmigration officers should be given much more extensive information about those people whom the Home Office does not wish to allow to land.The Committee is a responsible body. But what happens? Again, with that cavalier attitude which he adopts, the Home Secretary comments on this recommendation. I think that this really wants some beating for mere nonchalance and contempt of the House of Commons:Immigration officers are already furnished with as full information about unwanted aliens as experience has shown to be reasonable and practicable. No port control, however sophisticated, can be guaranteed proof against evasion in all circumstances. There is good reason to think that the individual case which appears to have given rise to this recommendation is quite exceptional.I can assure the Home Secretary that it is not exceptional at all. The right hon. Gentleman goes on, with a degree—I was going to say of effrontery—with a degree of arrogance almost unprece- 300 dented, to make some comment on the observations. The Home Secretary having dismissed this very sensible recommendation, arrived at after exhaustive inquiry, the Committee felt obliged to take the unusual step of commenting on the observations of the Home Secretary.
This is a matter which must be brought to the notice of this House, because these are the comments of the Committee on the attitude and behaviour of the Home Secretary:Your Committee feel bound to inform the House that in their opinion these observations"—the observations of the Home Secretary—are unsatisfactory…. In the view of your Committee, the undertakings to keep constantly under review the recommendations in the Report are not a substitute for the action which the Committee make clear is urgently needed. Both the manner and the substance of the observations confirm the view expressed in the Report about the lack of urgency in certain departments of the Home Office.The Committee referred to "certain departments," but I think that they mean nearly all the departments. They certainly meant, and included, the immigration department, the object of this exercise today.
Summing up the matter, having put this information before hon. Members, I think that I may say that the case for this Amendment may be put briefly as follows: I doubt whether the present Home Secretary may be trusted to administer any Act properly. But I am convinced that he ought not to be trusted for another twelve months to administer this Act.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) in his most valuable examination of the aliens law and its administration. It is quite remarkable that this vital part of the administration of our justice should depend upon legislation which needs the annual consideration of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill in order to give it validity.
The treament of aliens is one of the tests of how a country conducts itself, or, at least, it ought to be. The deportation of aliens, going as it does to the root 301 of individual liberty, is a matter of great concern to all those who have any interest in human rights. The law relating to aliens, as the House will know, is really a continuance of legislation which came into being at the time of the 1914–18 war, the Aliens Restriction Act of 1914 and the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act of 1919; and we are still operating under the hangover of the emergency provisions of those days. Under this parent legislation Orders in Council are promulgated from time to time, and the Orders now in force are the Aliens Orders of 1953 and 1960. But, as I say, all this legislation, in turn, depends upon this annual exercise on which we are now engaged.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary: is it the view of the Home Office that this is merely temporary legislation which it is hoped to dispense with in due course? If not, and if it is deemed to be permanent, as I suspect that it is—indeed, as I suppose inevitably it must be—is it not high time to put an end to this wholly unsatisfactory position of depending on legislation which was directed against the merely emergency conditions of the 1914–18 war?
In my view, there is a need for a fundamental review of the aliens law for many reasons. It is a basic principle of the administration of our justice and, indeed, of the rule of law itself, that the law should be certain and ascertain-able. Another basic principle of the fair administration of justice is that the administration of the law should be frank and impartial and should be seen to be frank and impartial. In my submission, the present aliens law infringes both those principles of the rule of law.
First, the law is certainly far from certain and ascertainable, as any lawyer will know who has had the burden of dealing with cases in the courts under the Aliens Orders. This matter has been referred to many times by judges of the High Court. I recollect, in particular, the case of Kuchenmeister v. the Home Office in 1958 where Mr. Justice Barry-was the judge. He had the advantage of enlightenment from most distinguished counsel. A High Court judge, now Mr. Justice Scarman, appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Speaker and Mr. Rodger Winn—now Mr. Justice Winn—appeared for the defendant. So the judge had the benefit of high-powered 302 legal assistance. He found that the obscurity of the law presented him with great difficulty.
The judge said this:The question which I have to consider is whether the senior immigration officer and his officials correctly interpreted their powers and duties under tie Aliens Order, 1953. If, in fact, they incorrectly interpreted them, it would not be surprising, as the exact effect of the Order upon circumstances of the kind now under consideration is by no means free from doubt. I have had the benefit of a full and elaborate argument as to the correct interpretation of the Order, but even with that advantage, I do not pretend that I have complete confidence in the interpretation which I propose to adopt. In these circumstances, I think that no possible blame can attach to the senior immigration officer for any misapprehension which he may have had as to the real meaning of the Order.The law as it now stands puts the immigration officers, whose duty it is to administer this law, in an intolerable position. I am sure that they do their duty conscientiously. But I have reason to believe that, they above all others, would welcome a complete overhaul of the law relating to aliens because its contradictions and obscurities puts them in an intolerable difficulty in enforcing it.
There is also, in my submission, a most unsatisfactory feature of the present law relating to aliens which goes to a profound matter of principle. The process of extraditing an alien from this country to a State on whose territory he is alleged to have committed a crime, or been convicted of a crime, is governed and hedged around with most careful restrictions. The extraditing Power, for instance, has to establish before the Bow Street magistrate the case justifying the extradition, so that an opportunity is given to the alien to justify himself, or, rather, a duty is imposed on the extraditing Power to prove its case.
Above all, in relation to extradition there is the rule that political criminals are not extradited and political crimes are not extraditable. This is elementary, one would have thought, but, alas, it is not a principle which in the practice of the application of the Aliens Orders is being honoured. Until 1830 political criminals were extradited from this country. In the early part of the nineteenth century, however, public opinion in free countries began to revolt against extradition of political offenders, and 303 indeed we were in the forefront of that campaign.
The fact that several political fugitives were surrendered by the Governor of Gibraltar to Spain created a great storm of indignation in this House in 1815, and it led James Mackintosh to proclaim the principle that no nation ought to refuse asylum to political fugitives. In 1816, Lord Castlereagh said:There could be no greater abuse of the law than to allow it to be the instrument of inflicting punishment on foreigners who had committed political crimes only.It was the effort and resistance of this country which in the nineteenth century resulted in the recognition throughout most of the world of the principle of non-extradition of political offenders.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ What has happened to that principle now and today? In my submission, unhappily, the principle of non-extradition of political criminals is being corroded, and is capable of being corroded, by virtue of the provisions in the Aliens Orders, the full significance, or potential significance, of which I cannot believe this House could have appreciated when it allowed them to operate as part of the law of the land.
§ Although the Home Secretary cannot, in terms, dictate the destination to which an alien who is to be deported should be sent—that has been the position ever since the case of the Duke of Chateau-Thierry—nevertheless, the end of sending him to a specified country that the Home Secretary wishes to send him to can be achieved by less formal means, by the simple means of selecting the carrier which is to take the alien, simply by putting him on an aeroplane going to the country where the Home Secretary wants him to go.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
I hesitate to mention the case of Soblen, as I was professionally involved in it, so I propose to make no comment about that particular case.
The use of the power of a Home Secretary to choose the carrier and to put an alien upon an aeroplane is a use which enables extradition to be accomplished by means which deprive the alien of the remedy, or the protection, of 304 reference to the court of his case. If it is desired that the Home Secretary should be given this power and that the principle of the non-extradition of political offenders should no longer be honoured by this House, let the law say so in terms, let not this immense power be given administratively, so to speak, through the back door.
The position that exists at the moment is this. The power of deportation is the power to say to an alien, "Get out and stay out." That is the limit and ought to be the limit of the power of deportation. As that power is at present exercised by the Home Secretary, it is not confined to that at all; it is not simply a case of "Get out and stay out", but, "Get out and go to the place I choose you should go to."
As I understand the position in the United States of America, where a deportee is able to say, "I have a country to which I can go", he is allowed to go there. But if, for overwhelming reasons of public security, the Government of the United States desire to specify the country to which he should go there is machinery where the State case has to be proved. It is machinery which enables the deportee to be heard in his defence in answer to this. We have no such machinery. It is, in my submission, a flagrant abuse of an elementary principle of natural justice that a person who is being deprived of his basic liberty is denied the right to have his case judicially or even quasi-judicially heard.
While making no reference to any particular case, in my submission the existence of this power under Article 20(2, b) of the Aliens Order, attractive as I know it must be to an Administration because of its cheapness, because of its swiftness and because an alien can be stowed away without the embarrassment of a Bow Street hearing—attractive though these considerations are to any Executive—they run contrary to the principles for which this House of Commons has stood for a very long time indeed. That is another strong reason for having a fundamental review of our aliens law.
Another serious flaw, which I think I have indicated by what I have said, is that we are in the presence of unchallengeable exercise of Executive 305 power. In general, the decisions of immigration officers are final. Occasionally, I understand superior officers in the service may reconsider decisions taken by inferiors. In particular cases the Home Secretary himself is from time to time obliged to make the actual decision. But what is clear in regard to all these decisions is that there is no form of judicial or quasi-judicial appeal.
The exercise of the Home Secretary's discretion in a fundamental field of human liberty is in effect unchallengeable. There may be more than one lawyer in the House today who has had experience in court itself of the sense of frustration, indeed almost shame, that some of our judges have felt about this wholly oppressive and unsatisfactory arrangement.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Is the hon. and learned Member saying that this House does not in fact possess the right to challenge the Executive in the circumstances he has mentioned?
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
The House has the right to criticise the Home Secretary and to call the Home Secretary to account for the exercise of his power. The House certainly has that right and of course it has done so on several occasions. Unfortunately, when that happens the Whips are on and sometimes these matters are charged with political undertones—I do not deny that—and the individual case is lost in the battle of the parties. That is one of the troubles of the Parliamentary method of supervision and control and protection.
When one is in the presence of an Administration which takes political attitudes on some of these problems and that Administration has a strong backing of willing back-benchers, of whom the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) is not one, there emerges the whole inadequacy of our present arrangements for the protection of aliens who so particularly need protection as they are not part of the community.
My conclusion, after a little experience of these matters in the courts and elsewhere, is that there is now a very strong case for one of two things. We could either appoint a Royal Commission to carry out a fundamental 306 reappraisal of our present alien law and its administration or, if it is felt that the facts are sufficiently notorious already to justify the introduction of immediate remedial legislation, I submit that the time is now ripe—indeed long overdue—to introduce fresh legislation to consolicate, amend and clarify our present obscure and uncertain law. In particular, we should create new machinery for the judicial or quasi-judicial review of Executive decisions going to the root of human liberty which are at present unchallengeable.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I intervene only because it was my fate, or good fortune, to be the Chairman of the Subcommittee of the Estimates Committee that went very thoroughly into the various matters which were contained in its Eleventh Report.
Perhaps, in view of an observation made by the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones), I should say that although it is well known that we were an all-party Committee and were investigating for the first time for quite a considerable time the affairs of the Home Office, we found the problems of immigration from a mechanical point of view more difficult than anything else we came across. We paid visits to London Airport and to Princeton House with a view to finding out how these matters were dealt with.
I frankly confess that I was disappointed at the way in which our recommendations were dealt with. There may be arguments, which no doubt may be extended during today's discussion, but we did not feel that we were working on the same wavelength, in the sense that we had gone into the matter very thoroughly yet the answers we got were of a superficial—I might almost say a brush-off—nature.
I shall deal quite shortly with the various points. Recommendation 3 was:Immigration officers should be given much more extensive information about those people whom the Home Office does not wish to allow to land.The immigration officers—to whom I should like to pay tribute, because theirs is very hard work; it is very difficult at rush hours to deal with all sorts of people from all sorts of countries—are entitled to pass through the bona fide visitor who 307 is reckoned to comprise about 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of all the aliens who come to this country.
That in itself is an immense responsibility. To help him to deal with those who are not visitors and who, in his view, are not likely to be coming here for a normal week's or fortnight's holiday, the officer has only a black book which contains 7,500 names. Only in Interpol cases has he photographs or fingerprints. That is quite inadequate. We tried to say so, but we were told that these officers were furnished with as full information as experience had shown to be reasonable and practicable.
We felt that we ought to go a little past what experience had shown and to do a little fresh thinking about this matter. We shall not get 100 per cent, stop of all undesirables. That is quite clear, but we can help our competent officers if we give them the sort of information which photographs, fingerprints and things of that kind provide.
The observation from the Home Office thatThere is good reason to think that the individual case which appears to have given rise to this recommendation was quite exceptionalprompts me to say that there was not one case. The Bidault case was exceptional in the sense that Bidault was a person whom people knew about, but we were perfectly satisfied that his was not the only case, or necessarily the most difficult class of case. It may well be that he came with a forged passport. It may well be that it would have been difficult in any event to have found him unless he was recognised on sight. That sort of thing does, on occasion, happen. That is one thing about which we are entitled to ask the Home Secretary.
I hope that it is clear that I am dealing with this matter only from the mechanics point of view and not from the policy point of view. But then we come to Princeton House where there is a system of landing and embarkation cards for all who come in. I have no comment of any kind to make about the way in which the matter is dealt with in respect of the aliens' register, which deals with people who come through the Ministry of Labour or through other ways, such as au pair, and who have to leave 308 the country. Their landing cards and their embarkation cards are married, but that is only 25 per cent, of the visitors who come here.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ What happens to the other visitors' cards They are recorded in the index and they are also recorded going out, but nobody checks them. It seems to me rather a useless procedure, unless it is a procedure in terrorem, and I venture to say that it is unlikely to terrify anybody. But these records are kept for three years. There is, it is fair to say, a spot check of about 10,000 of the I¾ million, and the spot check has apparently not disclosed a large number of people going through.
§ But one of the most amusing things, if it were not so serious, is that a microfilm is taken of all these cards—and kept for seven years—which are not checked against anything, unless it is a spot check. In those circumstances, we felt that something ought to be done. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) apparently thinks that it is amusing; but I think that it is a very serious matter, and that not sufficient consideration has been given to it—and I say that supported by hon. Members of my Sub-Committee from both sides of the House.
§ The question is: what can be done? The system of recording bona fide visitors could be dropped altogether. The other alternative is to record the comings and goings of everyone and if necessary do that with some form of mechanisation. It need not be by computer. It can be done by a less sophisticated method.
These were among the points which we tried to bring out in our Report and our recommendations, but we received an answer which did not seem to carry us very far. I will quote from the reply:
However, these questions, and the possibility of mechanising all central records, are being studied in the course of a thoroughgoing review of immigration questions and control procedures which was put in hand early this year and which will be completed in the near future.
We should like to know about this review. I suppose that like any reference to any living person, this is purely coincidental—purely coincidental that a review is going on. But we have no
information at all as to the lines on which it is going on.
We have had a similar reply to our Recommendation 7:
The organisation and staffing of the Immigration and Nationality Department are constantly under examination within the Home Office, and from time to time by the Treasury also.
We were told:
The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, will consider any further reorganisation which may be required in the light
of the review referred to in the observations to which I drew the attention of the Committee.
§ I think that I carry the Sub-Committee and the whole Committee with me when I say that I am bitterly disappointed that this matter has not been taken more seriously. It is not often that the doings of the Home Office are investigated. I have referred only to the matters which concern immigration. There are other matters, and I am afraid that the same sort of attitude has been taken. I regret it very much because we made a serious and determined effort to put the issues clearly so that consideration could have been given to them in detail and an answer given to the House.
§ This is admittedly a difficult matter, but the. measure of its difficulty is the measure of the necessity for it to be dealt with as soon as possible. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be much more forthcoming than the replies in this Report and will give us some indication that some new thinking is taking place on these matters.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I am sure that the Committee of which the hon. Baronet the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) was Chairman will be very grateful to him for the persuasiveness and moderation with which he has put the case which was contained in the Estimates Committee's Report, and I think that it would be of no value if I were to attempt in any way to emphasise or underline any of the points which he made.
We shall all listen with great interest to what the Home Secretary says in reply to the hon. Member. After all, the hon. Baronet was not speaking only for himself. He was speaking as the Chairman of an all-party Committee in which 310 the Government side of the House had the majority. I feel sure that all of us will listen with great interest to what the Home Secretary says in reply to the points which the hon. Baronet made.
This is the eighteenth or nineteenth annual occasion on which I have taken part in a debate of this kind. We have had one every year since 1945. On some occasions I have taken the initiative in it, but there has always been an initiative and there has always been a useful and temperate but nevertheless fundamental criticism of the state of the law in this country on these matters.
I should like to make it quite clear, once again, what the argument is not about. As far as I know, nobody has ever held that any sovereign country is obliged to admit everybody who presents himself at its gates and asks for admittance. That would be an impossible proposition and I know nobody who is in favour of it. That there must be an element of protection, I think we would all agree. That it is not always right to admit everybody, we would all agree. That somebody must assume the responsibility of exercising in the name of the community a prohibition in selected and appropriate cases, we would all agree.
That is not the issue between the two sides of the Committee. The issue between the two sides of the Committee is who shall exercise this right of our democratic community to control immigration or the compulsory emigration of aliens. This difference is quite simple. The Government maintain, and have always maintained, that this is a matter for the arbitrary exercise of a discretion by the Home Office. It is quite right that this can never be, and has never been, an absolute discretion. Of course, the Home Secretary is and always has been responsible to the House of Commons for his actions.
But the reality—or perhaps I should say the unreality—of that control is illustrated more effectively and eloquently than it has ever been illustrated in any of the debates in the last twenty years or so, by the speech which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Aldershot. If an all-party Committee of this House, dominated as it must inevitably be by a majority pledged to the support of the Government, feels as uneasy as the Estimates Committee felt 311 in its Report, and gets such unsatisfactory answers from the Home Secretary to its doubts and misgivings as to lead its Chairman, himself a notable supporter of the Government, to make a public protest on the Floor of the House of Commons, this surely demonstrates the complete lack of reality in this proposition that the Home Secretary is in fact, as apart from in theory, answerable to this House.
That is the issue. It is an issue of which the House of Commons, since 1918, has always been conscious. It sought to safeguard itself against that situation. It got the legislation through the House of Commons, I think late at night and without really adequate discussion, but on the basis that it was not legislating for all time, that it was dealing with a particular situation forty years ago or more which was expected to pass. Therefore, it did with this absolute power that it was giving to the Executive what this House has always done when absolute power is given to the Executive. It made it temporary. It subjected it to limitations.
In the not perhaps exactly parallel but analogous case of a standing army, the House has always refused for nearly 300 years to give the Executive the right to maintain a standing army for more than twelve months at a time. By the nature of the thing, if we have an army it must be allowed to operate, and the Executive must be allowed to control it and direct it. A totalitarian or tyrannous or oppressive Executive could misuse this absolute power for purposes for which the House of Commons never intended it should be used. Therefore, we have our Army Act every year. It is true that we have got round this safeguard. We have had alterations of Standing Orders and we have a territorial force which is held—I do not know why—not to be a standing army. Therefore, the effectiveness of this annual control has been whittled away. It may be doubted now whether it is an absolute control, but that was the origin of it.
It was an expression of the spirit that where the Executive is given anything which even approaches being an absolute administrative discretion, it shall exercise it subject only to the right of the House of Commons to terminate it at the end of some specified period.
312 This was an annual arrangement. For almost every year since that time, and certainly for every year since the end of the war, we have had this discussion. It has always been a very good and eloquent discussion. At the end of the debate everybody has always said what a great tribute the debate has been to the effectiveness of the House of Commons, how right it is that we should have the debate, that the matter should be subject to review every year, and that it should not be altered; and then the Act has been passed and we have all gone to sleep for another twelve months. I do not know whether that is the intention of my hon. Friends, but I think this principle is important. I think that the time has come when we ought to make a serious effort to alter it.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) has made two suggestions in the alternative. For my part, I think that his first suggestion is subject to his own criticism of it, that we already have enough facts to abandon this principle and to substitute a new one. It is claimed that one advantage of this system—I do not mean that my hon. Friend supported it, but he presented the argument for it fairly—is that it was quick and efficient and that it enabled things to work smoothly without too much controversy, and was, however doubtful academically, reasonably supportable in practice. Is it efficient? My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) told us about his own activities and said quite rightly that if he had been an alien he could not have done it—or perhaps he would; I am not quite sure.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
He could have done what my hon. Friend had the right to do, without having the right to do it. Therefore, it is not efficient.
I know of a case where a friend of mine, on an aeroplane, on being given one of these alien disembarkation cards to hand in to ensure that his visa would be honoured, decided to test the efficacy of the arrangement. In answer to the first question on the card, "Surname", he wrote in block capitals 313 "Hitler". In answer to the second question, "Christian names", he wrote also in block capitals "Adolf". To the third question which said "Born?" he answered "Yes". He proceeded to fill in the rest of the card in this highly flippant, irresponsible and mischievous fashion. But no immigration officer challenged him. It is not so efficient as all that.
I am not suggesting that Mr. Hitler could have entered after the war with that kind of card. The point is that it can easily be evaded and, as my hon. Friend said, the system is altogether unnecessary and too onerous a burden on the immigration officers who in the end, in spite of what is said about the ultimate responsibility of the Home Secretary, themselves carry out the administrative responsibilities of the law. But it is not efficient.
Is it just? Does it work effectively, apart from the practical administration, in order to do what the people of this country wish to do? I do not wish to deal with the rights or wrongs of individual decisions, because that is not our business tonight, but one can pick out individual cases which it is difficult to reconcile except by a principle which the House would almost unanimously reject. We have been proud of our record of political asylum, which is not a right in the alien to come but a right in the community here to allow him to come. It would be possible to argue with great force, however, that in recent years this principle of political asylum has been perverted. It is no longer an instrument of liberty. It is an instrument in the cold war.
I am not saying that the political opinions of an alien are not an element in what has to be considered when one decides whether he should come or not. They may well be a material factor, one of the matters which someone ought to consider, but they ought to be considered judicially and not administratively. If they are considered administratively, the principles on which one allows or refuses political asylum will change according to the political complexion of the Government in power at any given moment, and this, surely, would be regarded as undesirable by every Member of the House.
314 Why do I say that this has happened or may have happened? I take two recent cases. First, there was General Delgado. When I made a point about his case in a supplementary question the other day, the Home Secretary, quite rightly, reminded me that this was not a case of political asylum but only a case of the refusal of a visa to an alien to come here. I think that, on reflection, he will realise how inadequate that answer was.
If, for the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman gave, we are to reject a man's right to come here for a day or two, then a fortiori by parity of reasoning, we should have to refuse him leave to stay here permanently, and, therefore, what was involved in that case, not directly but by implication nevertheless, was the whole principle of political asylum.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we could not let General Delgado in because, the last time he came here, he made a speech, and his speech was an attack on tie Government of his country, that country being an ally of ours. Therefore, said the right hon. Gentleman, his speech was such an abuse of hospitality that it was right to refuse him passage, which was all he wanted on this occasion. Does that principle commend itself to anyone?
No doubt, Portugal is an ally. Many people in this country, the majority, I should think, would take the view that, while Portugal is an ally and we would like it to remain an ally, and while it is in many ways our oldest friend in Europe, it is at present guilty in its own territories of a series of tyrannous and murderous acts to which not only many people in this country object but to which many people in Portugal object.
What is wrong with that? If General Delgado thinks that his Government is wrong, who are we to say that that is a reason for preventing him from passing through our country? On that principle, Garibaldi would have been left to wander over the face of the earth. It is a completely false approach to what is involved here because, unless political asylum can be free from political influence, it is not political asylum at all. It depends on who are one's friends and whom one chooses to regard as enemies.
Over the weekend, there was held in London a meeting which was attended by 315 a great many people who hold opinions which the right hon. Gentleman abominates. I am not questioning his right to abominate them; he is perfectly entitled to form his own opinions. But what he is not entitled to do is to use those opinions as though they were the opinions of the overwhelming majority of people in this country or to deny a right of access merely because he rejects the opinions held by someone who wishes to come.
I refer here to the case of Mr. Korneichyk. Mr. Korneichyk is a Soviet writer and poet, and he is also, I think, though I am not quite sure of my facts on this, in his personal capacity a Vice-Premier of the Soviet Union, though he was not coming here in that capacity. He wanted to attend a meeting attended by a great many people from many parts of the world who wished to discuss means of disarmament. No doubt, he is associated with a Soviet committee which has certain opinions in that matter and which held a vast international meeting in Moscow a year ago.
Bertrand Russell sent a message to that Moscow meeting. Canon Collins attended and spoke at it. I attended and spoke at it. All three of us had things to say which were in no way acceptable to the Soviet Government and which were highly critical in a number of respects. No one in the Soviet Union, for that reason, thought that we should not go. No one tried to force conditions on what we said. No one stopped us addressing the congress, and every word we said was said in the presence of about 2,000 Russians and was printed in a daily journal.
I am not suggesting that there is any great merit in that. The demerit would have been if it had not happened. But the right hon. Gentleman's reason for refusing to allow Mr. Korneichyk to do in London what I did in Moscow was that he is associated with the policies of his Government.
Here is a pretty situation. General Delgado is refused admission because he is against his Government. Mr. Korneichyk is refused admission because he is in favour of his Government. The only difference is that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with the one and disagrees with the other. That is not politi- 316 cal asylum. That is not the judicial exercise of a discretion vested in him as trustee for the British democracy.
How can we get out of all this? We can get out of it in the way suggested by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South, by copying the United States system. In such a case, under that system, both Delgado and Korneichyk would have had the right to appeal to a tribunal which would have exercised some kind of third party judgment. They would have had the right to give evidence. They could have subjected themselves to cross-examination and would have been entitled to be represented. They could have called their evidence, made their case, and left it to the judicial discretion of a judicial body to determine whether the administrative reasons for exclusion were good reasons or bad.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I suppose that if one sets up a judicial tribunal to arrive at judicial decisions, it must be based on a Statute, or have some direction or principles on which to work. What would they be?
§ Mr. Silverman
I should have thought that we all agree that there are reasons—I will not define them, but it would not be difficult to do so—for deciding the principles on which any State is perfectly entitled to refuse admission to an alien or to expel any alien there already. It is for the Government to say what the sort of principles are and for the House to approve them, but once it is laid down and we have reached an agreement then whether in a particular case a man comes within the limits or is outside them ought to be determined judicially and not according to the convenience of the Government of the day. That is what we are saying
For the life of me, I cannot understand why any Government really want to resist that principle. I do not know why when we divide on this question we seem to divide on party lines. It is not a party question, or a matter of the general political or economic ideals which divide parties. It is not an ideal at all, unless freedom and democracy are themselves ideologies. I 317 think that we are all agreed on the protection of the individual, even an alien, against the arbitrary action of the Executive, and this is what Parliament had in mind when we said, "We will give these powers for one year at a time and no more."
That principle of one year at a time has extended over forty years or more and the time has come when we should take our courage in both hands and vote against the continuation of this Bill and compel the Government to review the situation in a light more acceptable to all of us.
§ Mr. W. Yates
We have had a very valuable speech from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in his analysis of the position of the House visàvis the Executive of the day. He has said that he wishes tonight to suggest that his hon. Friends should challenge the Government on this matter. I personally would not accept the hon. Gentleman's point of view until my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has had time to reply to the reasoned speech made by my hon. Friend and also to the very able speech made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) who was Chairman of the Committee which presented this Report. But it seems to me that there should not be a tendency in the Executive to feel that it is working against the general principles for which we all stand, because if it starts working on those lines we should have to come to the conclusion that it has adopted a new maxim of power: "power is delightful and absolute power is absolutely delightful". We are going to make quite certain that that cannot arise.
I do not wish to detain the House on these matters, but I think the suggestion that every immigration officer should in certain circumstances have the photographs available besides his book seems to me a perfectly sensible thing when he is looking for a face and when a man is most likely to come in on a forged passport. The fingerprinting would take rather a long time to administer, but if there was time to detain a person when going through the Customs or some other method, there might be time to get the fingerprinting checked—that is to say, if one is work- 318 ing on a day-to-day basis at London Airport or other places.
I was surprised to read the final comment of the Committee. It says:In the view of Your Committee, the undertakings to keep constantly under review the recommendations in the Report are not a substitute for the action which the Committee made clear is urgently needed.Knowing the Home Secretary and the Home Office I simply cannot believe that the Home Secretary, having this evening heard the speeches of hon. Members opposite and of the hon. Baronet and knowing that the majority of us wish to see this matter put right both in the; interests of the country and of security, will not wish when he replies to satisfy us completely that we should give him for another year the power which he desires from us.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Miss Mervyn Pike)
Unlike most hon. Members who have spoken, this is the first time that I have had the opportunity of intervening in this debate which takes place, of course, annually, and I will not on this occasion attempt to follow the eloquent analysis of the law which many hon. Members have undertaken for the interest and stimulation of the Committee. The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said in his opening remarks that every year a different reason was given why permanent legislation to control aliens was not written into the Statute Book and that he expected this year the reason given would be that the Parliamentary programme and the legislative programme were so full that there was not adequate time. To that extent, I would agree with him.
This year we have a particularly valuable series of legislation ahead of us—important legislation—and I can only say to the hon. Members that, of course, if they facilitate this legislation as much as possible and see that we get these Bills on to the Statute Book with the utmost facility and speed it may well be that by the end of the Session we can look again at the case for permanent legislation in connection with this matter. I would also add a word of comfort and say that this Government will be here for a number of years and will have ample opportunity to see that it is carried through.
319 Before I go on to the matter worrying the Committee I must answer the question which the hon. Gentleman asked about deportation. He asked some specific questions and I should like to give him the figures before I answer the main debate which has concerned us this evening. The hon. Gentleman asked me for quite a series of figures and I will, if I may, give him as adequate an answer as I can. During 1962 and the first nine months of 1963 the figures are as follows: recommended by criminal courts in 1962, 88; in 1963, 30; deported otherwise than on court recommendation, in 1962, 39; so far in 1963, 18; of the total of 18 deported in the first nine months of 1963 otherwise than on court recommendation, the number eligible to make representations to the Chief Magistrate was five; the number deciding to make representation to the Chief Magistrate was one; the number heard was one and the number in which the Chief Magistrate concurred was one. There is no separate record available for those who were refused on security grounds. I hope that these figures will answer the hon. Gentleman's question on that point. But the point that is concerning the Committee at this time is the recommendation of the Estimates Committee on certain specific points.
May I say at the outset that before the Estimates Committee started looking into the affairs of the Home Office my right hon. Friend initiated a very thorough-going inquiry into the methods of immigration control. Hon. Members have tended to take this not as seriously as my right hon. Friend. He accepts that it is very important that we look at the whole policy of our methods of immigration control at the present time. But this is a very large and complex question which must be looked at as a whole and not piecemeal.
This review is going on at present. I believe that the Estimates Committee was told of the review and of the thorough-going nature of it. But we have not yet had the results of the review, and, until my right hon. Friend gets them, he has not the full facts from which he can make decisions as to whether there should be wide-reaching policy changes.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
Who is conducting the review? Is it the very people whose activities are being scrutinised so carefully by the Committee, or is somebody else making the review for them?
§ Miss Pike
It is an internal review by people who have great experience in this field, and therefore they are, I believe, probably more competent than anybody else to provide the fullest possible information on which my right hon. Friend can make his independent assessment concerning any policy changes which may be required.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Will the hon. Lady tell us who are making the review, for how long they have been making it and when we may expect a report from them?
§ Miss Pike
As the hon. Member knows, it is not the practice in this House to disclose the names of civil servants. I said that it was an internal review carried on by the Home Office, and I also said that it was started in the early part of the year and that we hoped shortly to have the results. My hon. Friend will look at these matters in the light of what has been said today and with the degree of urgency which we all believe is essential.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Are the people making this review adopting the attitude indicated in the Home Secretary's observations about the Report of the Select Committee—that they do not think much of it; or are they taking seriously the recommendations of the Estimates Committee; or are they, as the Chairman of the Estimates Committee said, treating the Estimates Committee with a kind of brush-off?
§ Miss Pike
On the contrary, this is a very serious review, and, as my right hon. Friend said in his reply to the Estimates Committee, it is taking its views into account. However, I stress that until my right hon. Friend has the full details from this internal review he is not in a position to make policy decisions of this nature. This underlines the fact that it is quite wrong to interpret his answer to the Estimates Committee as a brush-off. In fact, it was a very serious statement of fact that a review is being carried out and that he is taking these things extremely seriously.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Is it not rather remarkable that, while we in the Estimates Committee were undertaking a review, to a large extent, as the result of a decision approved by the House, the Home Office, shortly after we started, should undertake a review of its own? Is that just a coincidence?
§ Mr. Rankin
Did not the hon. Lady a few minutes ago say that the review by the Home Office started at the beginning of this year?
§ Miss Pike
I meant in the early part of last Session. I apologise to the hon. Member. I did not wish to mislead the Committee in any way. What I had in mind was that quite soon after my right hon. Friend came to the Home Office he initiated this review which has been going on for a matter of twelve months—something of that order. I cannot without notice give the hon. Member the exact date when this review started, but it has not been going on for an interminable time. It is an important review and we expect to have the recommendations of those undertaking it very shortly, and on those recommendations my right hon. Friend will take his decision.
I am sure that the Committee would not wish me to go further on this point. What it really wants to know is the substance of the criticism of the methods as they are at present employed. I should like to justify, if I can, and, in the hope that I will carry the Committee with me, explain the foundation and, we think, the right treatment of the methods we are employing at present. As the Committee knows, there must be a very delicate balance between as effective control as possible, which we all wish to see, and the minimum of interference with the convenience and movement of people coming in and going out of this country.
It may be useful to hon. Members if they know the volume of traffic coming into the country at present. During the year ending 30th September last, the total number of passengers using United 322 Kingdom ports—that is, the aggregate number of "ins" and "outs"—increased from just over 12¾million during the: preceding twelve months to more than 14¼ million. Included in this figure are 2,123,609 foreigners who were granted leave to land, an increase of 219,747, or 11–5 per cent., over the corresponding period of 1961–62.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ This substantial increase illustrates the attraction which the United Kingdom has for tourists and other visitors, who accounted for over 11-million of the foreign travellers arriving in this country last year. The British Travel and Holidays Association said in its recent report that tourism remains the country's fourth largest export and the country's biggest single American dollar earner, and it is important that we do our utmost to facilitate the movement of these people and increase their comfort and convenience. When it comes to exports, we want businessmen coming into this country to come in with the greatest comfort and convenience.
§ We must therefore keep a very delicate balance between as effective control as possible and speedy control, and I think that hon. Members making a study of this matter would say that to a great extent we have succeeded in this. I am sure that they would agree about the speed and efficiency of the immigration officers. We can pay them with great sincerity a very real tribute for the part they play. I am sure that the Estimates Committee and all hon. Members who have had any experience of the ports and airports in this country would agree that, on the whole, our immigration officers treat people with incredible courtesy and humanity considering the volume of traffic going through the ports.
§ An analysis of the numbers does not give any indication of the pressure of the traffic and of how it comes in, particularly in the holiday period, in tremendous waves and always, it seems, at inconvenient hours, very often on night flights, and so on, when people are at their least agreeable and least patient. I think that we can claim that we act with as much speed and give as much consideration to people's convenience as 323 we can in trying to work an efficient system.
§ Hon. Members have criticised the fact that people coming into this country are asked to fill in landing cards. It has been said that people who are bona fide visitors do not need to fill in landing cards and that therefore this is wasted effort. I take a very different view. I do not know what hon. Members are like when travelling abroad, but personally if I had to go through an immigration control, as I have to do when I go on holiday, I would much rather fill in a landing card while sitting in the aeroplane or boat at my own convenience rather than be asked a series of questions which possibly fluster me and which, perhaps, I do not understand, when I get to the immigration control. I should say that the majority of people do not find it onerous to have to fill in the landing card before reaching the immigration control. Only at the time of arrival can the immigration officer assess whether the person concerned is a bona fide visitor, and in that sense the landing card facilitates the speed at which the traveller can go through the immigration control.
§ Hon. Members have asked about the other 25 per cent, who are not bona fide travellers. Here again, movement has been facilitated by so much of the work being done beforehand. Having stood at ports and watched immigration control, my assessment is that we should be ill advised to scrap the existing system.
§ What, then, about those people who try to evade control, who come in with false passports or names or who are undesirable for one reason or another and whom we want to catch at the ports? As hon. Members know, immigration officers have an index containing 7,500 names. It is a bulky book, but they can get through it fairly quickly. To put a passport-size photograph against every name in the book would mean increasing its weight and bulk five and a half times. That would make it very cumbersome and much more difficult for immigration officers. Certainly, none of the immigration officers to whom I have spoken wants a passport-size photograph included in the book.324
§ The people whom we are trying to catch at that time are, doubtless, coming in under assumed names and if one looked at photographs, one would not have to refer to the index merely to see whether the photograph of Mr. Brown was the photograph of the Mr. Brown who was arriving. One would have to look at a continuous series of photographs of undesirable people who for one reason or another were on the stop list.
§ I would explain, although it is self-evident, that it is not a question of one passport-size photograph in a screening of this type. It would mean an elaborate series of photographs and it would be a highly specialised job. We do not have available, nor has Interpol, the photographs that would be adequate in this context. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen some of the photographs that Interpol provides. Certainly, we have photographs of some people whom we wish to keep out of the country.
§ There again, however, a highly skilled person would be needed to recognise from a photograph taken, probably, in disadvantageous circumstances a man who comes in with the deliberate intention of evading immigration control. If this is a specialised job, the taking of fingerprints and their assessment is much more highly specialised even than this. All this would add enormously to the delay. The view taken by successive Home Secretaries in recent years is that this would be an entirely unnecessary delay and complication, because the people who come in do so, possibly, with forged documents or passports. It is to detect the forgeries that we must apply our attention.
§ Hon. Members who served on the Estimates Committee were, no doubt, impressed, as I was, by some of the evidence that was provided of ability to detect forged documents. Although one does not want to sound complacent, and although we know that people are getting more and more expertise in this direction, we can at the same time claim that our own officers are gaining in expertise and in their ability to detect these documents.
§ With people like M. Bidault, who use perfectly good passports which they have 325 been able to obtain because of their positions in Governments of other countries—they come with passports which are not forged, which are perfectly valid but are made out in different names—a difficult situation is created. Hon. Members have said that we do not know how many of these people come in. All we can say is that M. Bidault is the only one who has been picked up in any way. We have no proof that more of these people have entered the country on passports or documents of this type.
§ This is an argument that could last for ever. On the one side, it can be said that there must be more people who come in in this way. On the other side, we have to admit that there is no proof that they have done so and we certainly can give no proof that they have not.
§ Under the present system, we manage to screen very adequately the large number of people who come into this country. Because hon. Members are anxious to get on to other important topics, I will not weary the Committee with the numbers and the analysis of people who are refused admission. From the Report of the Estimates Committee it was interesting to learn of the efficiency with which these categories are dealt with by our port control.
§ So much for the so called "black book" or index. What of the fact that, although the landing card and the embarkation card are married, according to the judgment of hon. Members little use is made of these cards once we have them? These cards are, however, of great use to the police and to the security services should they need to use them. We would be doing a great disservice to our security services and our forces of law and order if we did not help to maintain this sort of record.
§ Sir E. Errington
Nobody is criticising the records of aliens who enter the country, but I cannot understand how it is suggested that there is any value to the police in the way in which the records of bona fide visitors are dealt with. There is no criticism whatever of the way in which the record of aliens is kept.
§ Miss Pike
I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend. I was, however, making the general point that these 326 records are valuable as a whole. We have a record of people coming into the country, and by means of the embarkation card we have a record of the people who leave. Although hon. Members may laugh, these records have a value.
§ Miss Pike
I was coming to that. The point which my hon. Friend wants to make is that we do not go through the whole file the whole time to see whether a person has left the country when he should. Although the cards are married, we do not check through them to see how many unmarried cards remain on the file.
§ Miss Pike
One hon. Member, however, criticised that they were microfilmed and. kept for some time.
The point has been put that only a spot check is made and criticism was made of the fact that we regard it as too expensive to do the job completely and thoroughly. That is not an argument that everybody would reject out of hand. These are the ordinary bona fide visitors coming into the country, and under the present system it would be extraordinarily expensive to check these things adequately.
At the same time, however, we are looking into the possibilities of mechanisation and the use of a computer system. These things are expensive in themselves, but it might well be that having got a type of mechanisation which is suitable for our records and for our purposes, to process these things either by computer or by other mechanical means would not necessarily be as expensive. It is because we are considering the possibilities of mechanisation and of using computers that our internal review is so long and complicated, because these are not easy matters to judge.
Many people talk of mechanisation and computers as if it is possible to decide in five minutes whether this expensive form of work should be undertaken, bat when considering the mechanisation of documents and paper work one must go into complicated problems. So this is no time to decide 327 whether to change our policy, whether these things should be scrapped, whether we should go in one direction or the other.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ I would point out to hon. Gentlemen that it is not that my right hon. Friend is brushing away their suggestions and ideas. It is that these things are of value. That is why we felt that at this particular point of time our system, which has served our policy, should not go till we know the full extent of our policy review. Till then decisions to scrap this could not be justified.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
It seems to me that the hon. Lady is telling us that this system works very satisfactorily, that there is no real trouble, and that these cards are not used; therefore, why try to think up some expensive mechanised method of using cards when this is quite satisfactory?
§ Miss Pike
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman did not follow me. The Chairman of the Committee knows these aliens who are coming in, who have come to work and are not bona fide visitors. We are looking into the possibility of mechanisation of that 25 per cent, of the work, and it may well be that, having found economical, speedy, efficient methods of mechanisation of that 25 per cent, of the work, these can be readily extended over the whole field. That was the theme of my argument.
I think that the Estimates Committee and all hon. Gentlemen who have looked into this will agree that it is done very efficiently at present, but necessarily it is being done by hand, and in present circumstances this is no time, while we are looking into suggestions, I would submit, to "change our policies. I may not have carried all hon. Gentlemen with me in this, but I would point out to hon. Gentlemen that if we thought that this system was 100 per cent, perfect, if we thought that this system did not need any change at all, my right hon. Friend would not have gone to the trouble and expense of initiating an inquiry into the whole field. It is because we want to make certain that we do get the most efficient system—as I 328 have said, an efficient system of keeping out the maximum number of undesirable people altogether with the greatest convenience and comfort of everyone concerned—and because we are determined to do this, that we have got this internal review. Does the hon. Member want to interrupt me?
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not mind interrupting, but I should prefer to await the hon. Lady's conclusion and then perhaps I may be able to make a comment.
§ Miss Pike
I am sorry. I thought the hon. Gentleman was trying to get in and that I was being discourteous in not giving way. I apologise.
The only other comment I would wish to make on this is on Recommendation No. 7 in which the Estimates Committee suggested that we should have an extensive reorganisation of the immigration and nationality department. I would just say that this department and its organisation has received a great deal of attention in recent times. In fact it has been reviewed as much as, and, indeed, more than, any other Home Office department in recent years, because the increase in staff needed to meet the increasing work means that the Home Office staff inspectors are constantly examining this department. In 1961 there was a thorough review by the Treasury staff inspectors of all sections of this department, and, of course, once again—I keep referring to this Committee—but once again, when we get any recommendations, then of course the Home Office and my right hon. Friend will immediately look at this particular department again.
I think that possibly what the hon. Gentleman had in mind was that the B.3 division which is the Commonwealth immigration division, is much smaller than B.1 and B.2 which is the aliens division, but I would point out that we do have a very different type of control in relation to aliens and in relation to Commonwealth immigrants and the amount of work involved is very different. It is desirable that the two should be kept completely separate, and it is for these reasons that the size and the work of the departments differ.
I should like to reassure hon. Gentlemen that we do not take this matter 329 complacently. My right hon. Friend, as I say, has looked at this. I can make a confession. I came to the Home Office from a background of industrial training outside this House. I came to the Home Office from an industrial Department, the Post Office. Like many another new broom going into a new department I said to myself, "I must look at this with a fresh eye to see if I can suggest any new ways of making ourselves more efficient and up to date. "So one of the first things I did was to send a minute to my right hon. Friend to say, would it be a good idea to have a review of the control of the immigration department. By return I got a reply telling me that this had been initiated several months before I came into the Department. At least I tried.
In fact, in the Home Office we can claim, despite any criticisms to the contrary, that our own personal attitude to this is one of great urgency. We recognise the importance of this work. We recognise the importance to the life of this country of an efficient system of immigration control. We are determined to listen to all comments, to listen to criticisms, but we are determined to make our policy decisions in the light of what is best for the needs of the country as a whole.
We should take into account the very great experience which the immigration officers themselves have in this field, and I should like to finish, as I started my remarks on this, by saying that we owe a great debt to the immigration officers. I think everyone would join me in acknowledging that debt for the work they do. The traffic is building up the whole time.
There is no doubt about it, that the impression which visitors to this country find the most lasting one is the first impression they get when they arrive at the ports, probably very tired and perhaps even ill after a difficult journey. It is this lasting impression that we want to maintain—of a country which welcomes people to its shores.
§ Mr. Rankin
I have no desire to reopen the debate, because I know that my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Estimates Committee has spoken, and so also, I believe, has the Chairman of Sub-Committee C. Therefore, if I refer to that vigorous editorial in The Times 330 of yesterday and many of the details in the Report, I realise that I shall be covering ground which has been covered already, and I do not want to do that.
I had intended being here from the beginning; and was present at the start, but by mistake the Chair advised me that the business I was interested in could not be dealt with on this Amendment and so I left. A message, however, reached me at 5.30 correcting that advice, and I promptly returned to the Chamber to discover, unfortunately, that most of the debate had already taken place on the matter I was especially interested in.
I want, as a Member of Sub-Committee C who spent a great deal of time on the Report before us today, to express my pleasure that the hon. Lady has told us that the Home Office is not complacent. I take it that she includes the Home Secretary himself, and perhaps before I leave he can find it convenient to assure us of the fact that he himself is not complacent and that he is filled with all the urgency which the hon. Lady said filled the Home Department.
Nevertheless, I do not feel in any way compelled, after listening to the hon. Lady, to forsake the unanimous verdict of the Estimates Committee that the substance of the observations confirms the view expressed about the lack of urgency in certain departments of the Home Office.
I want to deal with one matter on which I interrupted the hon. Lady. The date of commencement of the inquiry by the Home Office is important. When I intervened she seemed a litle vague about when the Home Office review actually started. I can tell her, quoting from the observations by the Secretary of State, thatthe thorough-going review of immigration questions and control procedures was put in hand early this year and will be completed in the near future.The Secretary of State should tell us exactly what he means by "in the near future"; he ought to define it a little more accurately than those words do. The review started early this year, but evidently he had been thinking about it a long while. Nevertheless, the commencement was this year.
Sub-Committee C had started in the November preceding to go into this whole matter. I submit that, as a 331 matter of information and also as a matter of courtesy, in the evidence which came from the Home Office we should have been told that the review was under way.
§ Mr. Rankin
That information ought to have been supplied in the evidence to the Committee, but it was not. Information about the review by the Home Office was elicited only as a result of a question by a member of the Committee. We are entitled to ask the Home Secretary to tell us why the Committee was treated in this somewhat highhanded fashion. In the view not merely of the Sub-Committee but of the whole Estimates Committee, the sort of treatment meted out to the work of the Sub-Committee is in keeping with the treatment meted out to the recommendations of the Committee. I hope that the Secretary of State will intervene to give us exact information on those two points and tell us why we were not informed in the evidence supplied as to what was happening.
Thirdly and lastly, with respect to the hon. Lady, I think that all she said about this review by highly placed inside officials is completely irrelevant to the charges which are made by the Committee. Telling us that there is another review going on is not an answer to the Committee criticisms. By saying that the Home Office was doing this while the Estimates Committee was reviewing the position, listening to evidence, putting questions, coming to conclusions and making very serious charges—if one likes to put it that way—or important recommendations, the hon. Lady evades the whole issue on immigration and control procedures presented by the Committee. She said "We started another review while the Committee was undertaking its review." After it had started the Home Office said nothing about it, and then that fact is used to evade the issues which we present to the Secretary of State. I hope that, in fairness to the House, the Secretary of State 332 will reply to the recommendations of the Sub-Committee before this debate finishes.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
Despite all the charm of my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State in her reply, I. too, share the regret of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) that the Home Secretary has not borne the brunt of this criticism. I hope that my hon. Friend will not take it amiss if I say that I fully accept that the review is not a myth but is a reality. But it is an awkward precedent for other Departments to adopt when the Estimates Committee starts investigating their organisation and practices then immediately to start a parallel review of their own and make the existence of that parallel review an excuse for telling the Committee to run away and play when it presents its own recommendations. That is not the way that a Committee of this House should be treated.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary read our recommendations carefully. I am sure that, even if he did not draft them, at any rate he completely approved of the Observations, and it is because of that that I very much regret that the has not spoken. I have one or two very plain things to say to him.
A Select Committee of this House is the House in microcosm. It is very difficult for a Committee to steer between the Scylla of pomposity and attaching too much importance to itself, and the Charybdis of neglecting the rights and dignity of this House. So it was only after mature thought that we on the Estimates Committee passed a comment on the observations of the Home Secretary which is almost without precedent. I hope that my right hon. Friend accepted it as we meant it, as a severe rebuke.
The efficacy of the Estimates Committee depends, of course, primarily upon our own wisdom or foolishness but, secondly, and almost as importantly, upon our relationships with Departments. There was a time when Departments regarded the Estimates Committee as their natural enemy and the Estimates Committee regarded 333 Departments as their natural enemy. That has all changed. By dint of hard work over many years we have now obtained the confidence of most of the Departments. Our relationships with the Treasury, for example, are ideal. The Treasury regards us as allies and not enemies. I had hoped that that relationship pervaded the whole of the Administration, but it is not so, apparently, with the Home Office. The Home Office calmly gives us what my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) called a "brush off". I said that it told us to "run away and play". If that happens, it makes nonsense of the efforts that this House makes through the Estimates Committee to fulfil it rôle of a watchdog on expenditure.
As the House knows, the Estimates Committee interprets its duty as being to recommend specific economies, and to try to recommend measures to increase efficiency and so to get better value for money spent. But that all turns into a farce and a nonsense if we are treated as the Home Secretary has treated us. I take a grave view of it. I can only put it down to ignorance on the part of the Home Office, whose affairs have not been investigated for many years. I am very sorry that my right hon. Friend has done this, and I hope that he will give us an explanation.
§ Mr. Paget
I want to preface what I have to say by expressing my personal thanks to the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary for the manner in which she has dealt with a series of individual aliens cases which I have raised with her throughout the year. They have been dealt with sympathically and with great care. The hon. Lady has always given me the impression of treating me not as a suppliant but as a responsible colleague in a humane task. I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for the manner in which she has treated me in these individual cases.
Having said that, however, I am bound to say that I am not in sympathy with the reply she has given today, although I very much regret that I was not able to be here for some of the earlier part of her speech. I do not want to deal with the mechanics of this system—the bona fide visitors, the marriage which takes place between the in-card and the 334 out-card, apparently a sterile marriage and a somewhat joyless one which comes to no result, together with the new suggestion that this marriage should now be consummated mechanically instead of manually.
Since there is no point to the end result that I can discover, I do not see why we should now go into this sophisticated research of the ways to bring it about. When the hon. Lady refers to the good impression which we desire to give visitors, I should have thought that there would have been no better impression than to have no cards at all.
There is another aspect with which I am more concerned, and that is the desire to keep people out. Surely the whole lesson of modern times and our own experience show that there is no greater asset to a country than people coming into it. The Flemish weavers and the Huguenots are examples in our own history. Such movements were a considerable cause of what I suppose in another century would have been called, had the term then been invented, the "British Miracle".
In point of fact, this has been the leading cause of what is referred to as the "German Miracle". The vast economic expansion and recovery of Germany has been the result of the free entry of immigrants in great quantities—the refugees. With the checking of the flow of refugees by the Berlin Wall, this process has been stopped.
I was recently in Hong Kong, where a similar miracle is taking place. I have never seen such prosperity. No one has ever seen a boom like it. It is founded on the inflow of immigrants. Very much the same has happened in France. The miracle one sees in France is very much a result of the inflow of immigrants from Algeria.
Since it seems to be so much to the advantage of a country that people should come into it, I am somewhat sorried by the attitude of the Home Office that anything is justified if only it will keep people out. From the political point of view, I find the Government apologising for the presence of M. Bidault. I would have expected them to apologise for keeping him out, not for letting him in.
Really! Are we reaching the stage where people are kept out because they 335 are in conflict with their Governments? We had another example the other day in the case of General Delgado, the Portuguese opposition leader. I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on doing well, even if he only did so by mistake, in the case of Bidault in the same way as I condemn him for doing ill in the case of General Delgado.
But the omission from the hon. Lady's speech which worried me most of all was the way in which she turned down almost casually the request put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) that at least a commission should be appointed to consider legislation in this matter, because I regard this as of very big and fundamental importance. It really is a question as to whether or not there should be rule of law, or whether it is right or wrong to deny people the law.
Here we have a body of people—the aliens—who are wholly without rights in our law. As to admission, we have heard of the famous "Black Book". There is no legal process for entering someone's name in it nor removing that name. Names are placed there, aliens are condemned, penalised, without any right of recourse to the courts.
When they do come into the country they are people without rights. They can be searched, they can be arrested, they can be imprisoned without trial. They can be held indefinitely in prison at the will of the Home Secretary. They can be sent away in any ship. They can be sent, even though they are unextraditable, to a country where they can be killed. And all this power is the Home Secretary's without recourse to the law.
I believe that these are powers which should not be put in any single man's or Government's hands. There should not be this absolute power—power over individuals who are denied any recourse to the courts. I refer for a moment to what the Declaration of Human Rights has to say on this. It states:Every one is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations….That we deny to every alien. Another Article of the Declaration states: 336No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.Yet all these things we provide for aliens.
Let us remember that one could have the case of an alien who has never, with conscious eye, seen another land, who came here as a baby, who speaks no other language than ours, whose wife and children are British. But that man can, at the arbitrary will of the Home Secretary, be arrested and deported, separated from his family, without any right of appeal or recourse to any court whatever.
Surely this is not right and it is not a sufficient answer to say, "But in practice we are most careful about this". Human beings are not just entitled to the care of a beneficent autocrat. They should live under the law. In addition, when we leave ourselves in such flagrant breach of the Declaration of Human Rights we are setting an extremely bad example to a world which contains many Governments—including many new ones—which tend to look to us for example but who, in their practises and traditions, are far less liberal and beneficent than we are.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Therefore, this brushing aside of a request that we should at least consider the machinery for bringing these people under the law is a great defect in the hon. Lady's reply. After all, if a man is refused admission, his inclusion in the "Black Book" may be a complete mistake. Why should not there be some form of tribunal to which he could appeal and to which he could say, "Before I am shut out and treated in this way, I ask for a trial."? On the question of deportation; we shall soon be considering the position of immigrants from the Commonwealth. They can be deported only on the recommendation of a court. Why should not the same rights under law be accorded to the foreigner?
I conclude by quoting what seems to me to be a very profound moral principle which I take from the Book of Exodus. I am not a fundamentalist, but I believe that one of the very marvellous things about the Bible is the way in which deep ethical principles there expressed have endured. What is said there is this:
One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you".
That is a guiding principle to which we should pay some attention.
§ Mr. Alan Hopkins (Bristol, North-East)
I do not wish to go into the broad principles raised by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), but. as a member of the Sub-Committee concerned, again to refer to matters raised by the Report of the Estimates Committee.
I listened with great interest to what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary had to say and I was convinced of her charm, which struck me as being in noticeable contrast to the tone of the observations addressed to the Estimates Committee. I do no', want to go over that ground, but I want to ask my hon. Friend one question. She referred to the inquiry which was set up some time ago and which, she said, is likely to report in the near future. As it is a Departmental inquiry, presumably consisting of civil servants, I assume that in the normal course its report will not be published. If that is the case, will my hon. Friend undertake to tell the Committee the nature of its findings, so that those of us on the Estimates Committee, with the knowledge which we have acquired, will be able to judge whether the new plans to be introduced are sensible.
§ Sir Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I have heard every word of this debate and wish to say just one thing about it. I have taken part in the debates in previous years and, although I would not hang a dead dog on my memory of these debates, I am fairly certain that in or towards the end of earlier debates on this topic since 1945 we have had quarter promises and near half promises and even rather more than half promises of serious consideration of whether this matter ought to go on resting on temporary legislation. I should not like this debate to end without Ministers being reminded that there have always been voices on this side of the House saying there there was a heavy onus of proof on anybody who thought that we ought to go on doing this job year by year.
I disagree almost completely with the three or four legal luminaries on the other side of the Committee whom we have heard debating today about asylum and political crime and much else, but I wish to place it on record that I am in agreement with them, and I believe that a good many other hon. Members 338 on this side of the Committee are, in saying that we are already overdue for serious consideration of whether there ought not to be not necessarily even a change in the law but a clarification in the law and the making of it into a permanent Statute.
§ Mr. Fletcher
The Home Secretary owes it to himself and the Committee to clear up the unsatisfactory position of what has been the central feature of the debate, namely, the recommendations of the Select Committee. The hon. Lady left me in a state of complete uncertainty about the present position. In one part of her speech she appeared to be justifying the present procedure of the Home Office for landing and embarkation cards. The Select Committee examined this matter at great length and made the specific recommendation that landing and embarkation cards for bona fide visitors should be abolished. It made that recommendation because it came to the conclusion that the whole of this complicated system of indexing and analysing nearly 2 million cards was not only very expensive and very extravagant and very wasteful but completely ineffective, a complete waste of time, a complete waste of public money and served no useful purpose.
Will the Home Secretary tell us whether he still attempts to justify this wasteful, extravagant, ineffective procedure, or whether the Home Office intends to abolish it and is having this review to consider the best means of doing so? As the Chairman of the Select Committee, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee and various other members of the Estimates Committee have said, they feel themselves affronted by what has been called a brush-off of their recommendations by the Home Secretary's observations. I think that the whole House of Commons is offended by the contemptuous manner in which the Committee's recommendations have been treated by the Home Office. In its leading article yesterday The Times said:… the Estimates Committee is the eyes and ears of the public, whose interests these departments are maintained to serve.The Home Office is the servant of the public and the Estimates Committee is the watchdog appointed by the House of Commons.
339 After the Select Committee has taken all its evidence and reached these conclusions and pointed out the scandalous and ineffective waste of public money, it is not good enough for the Home Secretary to brush off these recommendations with the contemptuous remark that they are being considered. Does he still justify this absurd useless waste of public money, or is he saying that he is urgently conducting a review m order to say that it will be abolished?
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I assure the Committee at the outset that there is no question of a brush-off, but before I come to the Estimates Committee, may I reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Sir K. Pickthorn)? I agree very substantially with what he said. It is not satisfactory that from year to year we should renew an Act which was passed in 1919. Had I not had some other legislation of some importance to bring before Parliament this Session, I would have liked to have taken some action on this. However, I considered that the Police Bill, to which the House gave a unanimous Second Reading yesterday, an essential Administration of Justice Bill, and another Bill concerned with the Court of Criminal Appeal, were urgent matters which I ought to present to Parliament in this Session. I am certainly not going to quarrel with my hon. Friend, and though it may not be in this Parliament, I hope that in the next one this annual continuance by 12 months of the 1919 Act will be overtaken by permanent legislation.
I cannot go as far as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) went, and I wonder whether he had fully thought out his idea of aliens who are refused admission at ports being able to put their case to some kind of judicial authority. A judicial authority must be given some terms of reference, some criteria to apply, and I must say to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and to the House, that, apart from relatively easy cases, very difficult security cases arise, and in my view it is the Home Secretary or some other one Minister who must take a decision on these matters. Ministers are responsible for the security of the 340 State, and I do not believe that it is possible for all the evidence to be put before the kind of judicial tribunal which the hon. and learned Gentleman advocated.
I am not going to claim that our administration of this control—my present administration, and the administration by previous Governments all the way back to 1919—is perfect. Nobody could claim that. It is certainly not 100 per cent, perfect. However, certainly over the period that I can remember, the number of cases of difficulty and disquiet in comparison with the enormous number of aliens now arriving at our ports—2 million a year—has been very small indeed, and, as the House knows, in every case of this kind the Home Secretary is answerable to the House.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
We welcome the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has approached this matter and his promise of legislation of a permanent character as soon as he is able to introduce it.
I wish to ask a question about this appeal to some judicial authority. We all recognise that there are difficulties. We all recognise that there is at any rate one category of case—the one which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned—which presents great difficulties, but surely the Home Secretary is aware that the United States, which is no less security-conscious than we are, manages to overcome these difficulties? Why should we not do so?
§ Mr. Brooke
Perhaps I was led away by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton into discussing the manner in which we could amend the law. The only question before the Committee is whether this Act, as it stands is to be continued for another year. Though many of us might think that certain Amendments are desirable, it is not possible in the context of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill to amend this Act or any others that we are seeking to continue.
I come now to the Report of the Estimates Committee. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson), who gives a great deal of his time to the work of this Committee, and to my hon. Friend the 341 Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Erring-ton) that I not only read the Report of the Estimates Committee on the Home Office but I read the whole of the evidence given before the Committee—250 pages of it—and I wrote part of the Home Office replies myself and approved every word of them, so I take full responsibility in this matter. I am sorry if any hon. Members thought it discourteous of me not to rise first but to invite my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State to speak. I was proposing to speak on a later Amendment to this Bill. I do not like hogging the Dispatch Box all day, and I know that my hon. Friend is a very capable spokesman at the Box. What I did—and I should like to put this on record—was to cancel an important engagement when I knew that this business was coming on at half-past three this afternoon so that I could be here, and I have been ready at all times to intervene in the debate if it seemed desirable.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ As to these recommendations, I do not know whether I can make my views more clear than my hon. Friend has already made them. I do not think that any member of the Estimates Committee could claim that, because that Committee was investigating a particular Department during a particular Session, it should be regarded as a bar to the Minister in charge of that Department setting up what further internal or other inquiries or reviews he thought fit.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
My right hon. Friend is mistaken. By all means set up internal inquiries. My right hon. Friend will find that other Departments do not use the existence of an inquiry—never mind when it was set up—as a bar to giving reasoned answers to the recommendations of the Estimates Committee. Our complaint arises from the absence of reasoned answers. We are not infallible, but we do not want to be put off by the Minister in charge of the Department saying it is not worth giving a reply because the Department itself is investigating the matter in question.
§ Mr. Brooke
I think that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) criticised me for setting up a review inside the Department during the 342 year when the Estimates Committee was examining the work of the Department.
There are two recommendations which have been chiefly under discussion. The first is Recommendation (3) which says:Immigration officers should be given much more extensive information about those people whom the Home Office does not wish to allow to land.That is a perfectly arguable point of view and I certainly would not dismiss it, but I think that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State was entitled to put to the Committee what the implications of this would be. At present an immigration officer has to have a book containing between 7,000 and 8,000 names. If no each of these names there is attached even a passport-sized photograph, it will immensely increase the bulk of the book, and I understand the suggestion is that there should be such passport photographs.
Apart from the bulk of the book, I think that one must consider what this will mean from the immigration officer's point of view. Presumably the photograph will be of value only if somebody is seeking to come in under a false name, because if his name is in the book he can be identified by it. It will be presumed that somebody is coming in under a false name and that he might be identified by a photograph or by fingerprints.
If hon. Members think about this, they will realise that if this check is to be effective the immigration officer will have to examine every single incoming alien by consulting his book of photographs and his set of fingerprints. As Home Secretary, I have to think not only of my duty of keeping undesirable people out of this country but of keeping up the good name of this country among foreign visitors. I believe that the incoming tourist trade is of immense value to this country. I have often heard hon. Members on both sides of the House say that we ought to make it as easy as possible for visitors to come in and that we ought to give them as friendly a welcome as possible.
If the recommendation that the immigration officer should refer to photographs and fingerprints were implemented, I find it impossible to see how it could be done without imposing a good deal of inconvenience and delay on 343 the 2 million aliens whom we handle each year at the ports. In all humility, I ask all those who suggest this method to take into account what I am saying now.
I certainly paid attention to what the Estimates Committee said, but I hope the Committee will feel that it is not wrong for a Minister, when he receives a report from the Estimates Committee, also to take account of what his own staff who are actually on the job say and feel.
I have not been made aware of any desire on the part of immigration officers who are charged with these great responsibilities that they should have these photographs and fingerprints in order to make their task easier. When in my reply I said thatImmigration officers are already furnished with as full information about unwanted aliens as experience has shown to be reasonable and practicablethat was neither my unadulterated view nor the unadulterated view of the immigration officers; it was a combination of both. This is founded both on experience and on my sense of responsibility as a Minister who wishes the great mass of friendly people who come to this country from abroad to be passed through the immigration control quickly.
§ Sir E. Errington
It does not seem to be clear to my right hon. Friend that 80 per cent, of the people who come through are bona fide visitors, and that the problems and difficulties that he has been indicating arise only in connection with a comparatively small number of people. If a system were established of getting the bona fide visitors through there would be more time and less cluttering up at the ports and airports. It depends entirely on the distinction between the two classes of immigrants.
§ Mr. Brooke
I follow my hon. Friend's argument, but the dangerous people are those who seek to conceal what they are, and if there is to be no control on anybody who calls himself a bona fide visitor I can imagine that the ranks of the so-called bona fide visitors will be swollen by people who are not bona fide visitors at all but who have discovered that if they describe themselves as such they will be passed through without any inquiry.
344 I now turn to the next recommendation, which is:The system of landing and embarkation cards for those classed as bona fide visitors should be abolished, and immediate consideration should be given to the possibility of mechanising the Traffic Index for the remaining aliens.It is true that the possibility of mechanising not only the Traffic Index but all central records is being examined. As to the question of landing and embarkation cards, I read the Select Committee's Report carefully, and I can say that if I could easily and safely get rid of this immense amount of paper nobody would be more pleased than I. But on reading the Report I was not able to detect an answer to the practical question to which this recommendation gives rise. That was why I said in my reply that the recommendation presents practical difficulties. The practical problem is this.
At present an alien is given a landing card to fill up on the aircraft or boat before he reaches the immigration control, and all aliens therefore approach the immigration control with cards. It appeared to me from this recommendation that on the boat or aircraft all aliens would have to be told that if they were bona fide visitors they need not fill up a card, but if they were not bona fide visitors—if they were the sort of people whose entry could be controlled—they must fill up a card. I know what my reaction would be if a stewardess on an aircraft said to that to me. I would not fill up a card. If that system were adopted we should be putting a considerable additional strain upon immigration officers. A great many aliens would come without cards, saying that they were bona fide visitors The immigration officer would know nothing about them at all. Unless his suspicions were particularly aroused by somebody he would have to pass them in. We would then have no record of their entry, as we do have at present. I am not saying that these difficulties are insuperable, but they are practical difficulties to which we have not yet found an answer.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Surely that is not the position. Surely it is not suggested that they should not have to fill up a card. The position is that when they reach the immigration officer he stamps the card. Some are stamped "Bona Fide 345 Visitor", and others are stamped "Au Pair", or "Permission to Work". What I understand the Select Committee to suggest is that having got the whole batch of hundreds of thousands of cards stamped "Bona Fide Visitor" there is no point in going to the effort of indexing, analysing and keeping them.
§ Mr. Brooke
With respect to the hon. Member, that is not what the Select Committee said. In paragraph 20, it recommendedthat the system of landing and embarkation cards for those classed as bona fide visitors should be abolished,I read that as meaning that the landing cards as well as the embarkation cards should be abolished. That brings us straight to the practical difficulties which I have just mentioned. There is tremendous gain to people coming to this country if they can fill up their cards beforehand and if they do net have to be asked to fill them up when they meet the immigration officer.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what information is provided on the card, wherever it is filled up, that is not already contained in the passport and, where a visa is necessary, in the visa? What purpose does the card serve?
§ Mr. Brooke
The card is a very convenient record. We do not have the man's passport. He keeps it. The card is a convenient record of the man's entry. It is true that we do not go through all the cards of bona fide visitors to see whether they have all gone back, but we do spot checks, and those have shown that virtually 100 per cent, do go back. Some hon. Members have asked whether there was any use in these cards, which are married up but not all checked. There is a use. From time to time it is useful to discover whether somebody has been paying visits to this country. We unfailingly discover that if, at a later date, we wish to know. They are not a waste of time. But if we could find the means of doing this which would be more economical and no more burdensome to the visitor, nobody would be more pleased to accept it than I. It may be that the review which is being carried out will produce an answer to the problem.
346 I am extremely sorry that my replies were not as full as the Estimates Committee wished. I thought that the practice of the House was that these replies should not be made at great length, or be substantially longer than the recommendations of the Committee. In this case I knew that a thorough-going review, covering a much wider field than the question of landing cards, was in process, and that when I got the report, as I hope to get it next year, it might take up not only the matter upon which the Estimates Committee has concentrated but the wider aspects of the whole system of control. When I get that report I shall be pleased to make a statement to the House. I give that undertaking.
It appeared to me—perhaps I was wrong—that it would be more practical to handle the matter in that way than to go into great detail at this stage on a specific recommendation, which was admittedly concerned with one part of the field of control and not the whole. I hope that what I have said will help to clarify the matter. The last thing that I wished to show was any discourtesy either to members of the Select Committee or to this Committee, as a whole. I trust that my reply has shown that I have a fairly close knowledge of the matter; that I have given it a good deal of thought; that I am certainly not complacent or lazy about it, and that I am greatly hoping that the outcome of the survey now in progress may lead us to financial economies that will be consistent with a system of control that will not be more burdensome to the visitors than the present one is.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
After what my right hon. Friend has said, it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge his courtesy in speaking, and the courteous manner with which he referred to the Select Committee. I am sorry that all this has happened, but it really is the fault of my right hon. Friend and I hope that he and his Department will consult the Treasury to try to see how relations between a big Government Department and the Estimates Committee should be conducted.
§ Sir E. Errington
I should like to echo what has been said by my hon. 347 Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) and to express the hope that when the review—now that its purpose has been explained to us—is followed by a Report we shall have an opportunity to debate the whole affair, because there are other matters which have not been raised today but which I consider worthy of careful consideration.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 9 and 10.
This Amendment concerns the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Act, 1949. As the date suggests, this Act was initiated by the then Labour Government. From time to time there have been arguments—and this was crystallised by the action of the then Secretary of State in 1957—that in fact the usefulness of this Act and the nature of the problem it sought to rectify had changed completely.
In order to find out the trend of events in relation to the Act, on 1st May of this year I asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications for renewal of tenancies were made under the Act in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962 respectively, For the record, the figures are 308, 232, 173, 133, 118 and 136. It follows that a fair presumption would be that the need for this legislation in its temporary form is passing and might be considered in another context. But I disagree. I think that the problem is deeper than would appear from a superficial argument that because applications to the sheriff have been declining over the years the need for the Act is also declining. I invite the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to tell us what is the position in 1963. My information is that there is a growing number of tenant shopkeepers who are obliged to seek refuge in the provisions of the Act in order to retain premises which in many cases they have occupied for a number of years.
I must here declare an interest—in fact, I have four interests. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Mary-hill (Mr. Hannan) hopes to raise a number of cases involving small shopkeepers in Glasgow. One is a near and dear relative of mine, although I have no 348 pecuniary interest. My second interest is that of a co-operative society member and so naturally I am concerned, as are the co-operative societies in Scotland, with the state of affairs in this regard. I wish to speak on behalf of many of the societies. Thirdly, I must, strangely enough, speak on behalf of some of the multiple traders in Scotland who are being subjected to the activities of property development companies, and in many cases because of the peculiarity of their leaseholds in relation to these shops are being obliged to pay extremely high rents for their premises.
My fourth interest is on behalf of the customer. We must all recognise that where pressure is exerted on shopkeepers which is not primarily concerned with eviction, but to get more rent, the shopkeeper, in order to stay in business and make a profit, must obviously make the charges higher for the goods and services which he provides. So, in the last analysis, this position affects the community as a whole. I do not wish to speak within the narrow confines of the first three interests but in the general interest of the community as a whole.
The Prime Minister, when he assumed office, appeared on television and told us that one of the functions of the Government—I assumed that it was a new function—would be to "come clean" with the people and take the people into their confidence. He was going to tell us what was happening in Whitehall. This, sadly, has not been the case in respect of this Act and the activities of the Secretary of State for Scotland. On 1st May, 1963, I asked the Secretary of State:what progress has been made in his present Departmental review of the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Act, 1949; and whether he will publish a White Paper when the review is completed".The Minister replied:I am not yet ready to make a statement about this. I shall consider, when my investigations have been completed, what may be the best way of informing the House of my conclusions."—[Official Report, 1st May, 1963; Vol. 676, c. 103.]So far the only way which the right hon. Gentleman has found to tell the House of his conclusions has been in answer to a Question which I can only describe as inspired—perhaps innocently inspired, who knows—from the hon. 349 Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour). Only last Thursday, when this Amendment had been tabled, we learned that some form of this temporary law would be made permanent. This comes as a surprise, and a not entirely welcome surprise, because any new permanent provision to replace this law would be very courageous and must be very complex.
If the Government wish to take the people of Scotland into their confidence, as the Prime Minister said, I suggest that we ought to be discussing the nature of this new provision now, in the public Press and in the various trading organisations existing in Scotland. We must be reasonable in this matter and remember that there are the landlords who are concerned. The organisations representing the landlords have as much right as anyone to know the terms of this projected new legislation. That is why I feel sad that the Government have not published a White Paper on the matter to afford the widest area for debate on the subject of what would be a reform of considerable standing.
I do not wish to go into the whole history of this matter or to refer to the Reports of the Taylor Committee and the Guthrie Committee, but I wish to refer to the latest Report on the subject, that of the Shearer Committee, dated July, 1958. The Chairman of this Committee is now the Lord Advocate. It is interesting to note that the Committee—to the surprise of many critics of the Conservative Government—came down on the side of carrying on this Act for another five years. This very important paragraph, paragraph 23, appeared in the Report:It is important to bear in mind that the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act,1956, has opened a period of transition in Scotland, the full effect of which cannot yet be ascertained.This is in 1958:Two changes, hitherto quite foreign to Scottish law and practice, have been introduced, the abolition of owners' rates and the quinquennial valuation of lands and heritages taking effect in 1961. It is conceivable that as that Act takes effect in practice there may be a marked change in the Scottish attitude towards leasehold tenures. It might be, in result, that Scottish practice would begin to approximate to what we understand to be the English practice in regard to leases for years. If this were so, it appears to us that the 1949 Act should certainly go. If it were 350 thought necessary or desirable to legislate in regard to the legal position of tenancies, and plainly that decision must await events, we consider that the whole question should be examined afresh.I agree with that wholeheartedly, I make one reservation about the statement… would begin to approximate to what we understand to be the English practice in regard to leases for years.You, Sir Robert, will know much more than I do about English leasehold law, but I am led to understand that it is extremely complex. It seems unfortunate that the phrase,"would begin to approximate toshould be used about what is in fact an extraordinarily complex position.
I gather from my experience in this House from English hon. Members that there is an urgent need for leasehold reform in England. If that is so, why should Scotland want to adopt a leasehold system which is already out of date in England? It would seem to me that this is a vastly appropriate subject for a debate on the kind of leasehold reform that we want to see in Scotland. My hon. Friends and I are dissatisfied with the present situation, and that is why we have taken this opportunity to raise the whole subject. It is, in a sense, the evolution of law which we are discussing, but it has also added to it a certain urgency because there seems to be evidence that there are property companies, some legitimate and some, I would suggest, otherwise, which are coming into Scotland and trying to buy up large blocks of shops in the centres of towns and cities, not to facilitate trade but to get the highest possible rent from those premises.
I suggest that with the Scottish law being so inadequate in relation even to the present English system, there ought to be a certain amount of urgency in the Scottish Office to try to get a permanent law on the Statute Book which has the consent of most people in Scotland. That can be done only if the Government come clean and, as the Prime Minister said, take people into their confidence.
That is why I hope that the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State, when she replies, will recognise the Herculean task which she has to perform—that is if she is not going to promise us a White Paper, which I should be very pleased 351 to hear was to be done—and, if we are not to have a White Paper, she should explain more clearly than has been done by Ministers so far the intentions of the Government at this stage. Shopkeepers are now facing these notices and, in some cases, have been given sheriffs' notices in relation to the expiring of their terms of lease, so there will be a great period of uncertainty between May of this year and the beginning of a new Parliament in October, or November next year. We have witnessed this during the summer when we did not know what was to happen regarding this law and whether it was to be included in the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill. It is not fair that these people should have to wait with bated breath for many months to know whether they will survive for another six months. There is no provision for compensation for many of them who have served for many years in small shops and who will lose their position entirely if, even under this law, with the provisions as they stand, they are faced with an adverse verdict in the courts.
The law in Scotland is not as strong as one would wish in relation to the position of many of these people. I concede that the law was not designed to meet the situation as it is today. It replaced a war-time Defence Regulation which was used quite out of context with the original intention of a Defence Regulation. This idea of using a law passed for one purpose to achieve another is all very well as a temporary equivalent, but it is not at all the right way of carrying out the proper Government administration of the country.
I shall be brief in view of the amount of business we have ahead of us, but I want to impress on the Under-Secretary the urgency of this problem, the fact that there are many small shopkeepers seriously affected by it, and that she may not have noticed the numbers that are affected. I want to impress on her that the activities of some of these companies considerably disturb us. There is no genuine attempt on the part of many of these new absentee landlords, with whom Scotland has been cursed for many years, to settle the tenant but, rather they wish to evict the tenant so that they can conduct a wholesale reorganisation of the area which the shops occupy. I hope 352 that the hon. Lady will give us a fair reply tonight because there are many shopkeepers in Scotland, small shopkeepers, co-operative shopkeepers and multiple trade shopkeepers who will anxiously await what she has to say.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Mary-hill)
I am very conscious of the important business which is to follow the discussion on this Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Act. Nevertheless, one of the attributes claimed by this House is that however small the number of people, or any one constituent who may feel himself or herself aggrieved or suffering from an injustice, their complaint should be aired in this House at whatever inconvenience to other business. Therefore, I make no complaint about turning to this proposition.
My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) has mentioned how important it is that the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Act should be not only continued but enshrined in some form of permanent legislation. I had cause on 26th October—I asked the Committee to pay attention to the trend of events—to write to the Secretary of State informing him that 11 shopkeepers in one part of my constituency had received notice to quit their premises by 28th May next. No offer was made to them to purchase their shops at whatever agreed figure nor even to rent them. One thinks of the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, but we have drysalter's, fruit shops, newsagents, dairies and so forth. It took the Secretary of State practically a month to reply to me on the 20th November, in which he apologised for the delay—I accept that—and said:I am sorry I have not been able to let you have an earlier reply to your letter. …You will have seen from this year's Expiring Laws (Continuance) Bill …that we propose to continue the 1949 Act for another year.I underline the next sentence:I shall shortly be making a statement about the future of the Act beyond the end of 1964.We await that statement, but it is curious that while that reply was sent to me on 20th November, not knowing or indicating what was going to happen, on 21st November, the next day, in HANSARD was reported a written reply to the hon. Member for Fife, East, (Sir J. 353 Gilmour) in which the Minister said that he proposed to enshrine it in terms of permanent legislation. I thought on the face of it this was a little unfair. He certainly knew on 26th October, the date of my letter, and he could have replied within two or three days, giving probably the same answer—but no doubt it is the new technique that every letter, every action of the Government from now on shall be framed with a view to an eye on the next election.
I leave that point to return to the story. Contrary to the spirit of the 1949 Act, the previous owners of this building of 11 shops, McKerracher's Trust, have done a deal over the shopkeepers' heads, with a new trust called the Glasgow Investment Trust. Consequently, the shopkeepers did not have the opportunity of saying which form of let, lease or purchase they would prefer to have. It is not a question of negotiating with the owner for this trust is a completely new set of owners who have come on the scene. Incidentally, I asked the Secretary of State in my letter if he could tell me who the new directors were. He replied that he did not know who were the directors of the development trust mentioned in my letter.
I should have thought that officials of the Secretary of State could have telephoned, as this place is almost next door, to find the names. I found the names within two days. They are five Glasgow gentlemen. I do not know, but I should be interested to know, whether they form a subsidiary of one of the London companies which for some time have been coming to Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland and muscling in on the lucrative market of city and town development. We want to know about this. This is all the more important when people in a small way of business such as my 11 constituents—some in business for 34 years and some for 25 years in the same job—have built up a business with goodwill and are to lose not only the capital value and the goodwill of their shops but their very livelihood. These are important reasons why this Act should be enshrined in permanent legislation.
As a result of letters coming to them last year, my constituents approached their solicitors and went to the sheriff, 354 as they are allowed to do under the 1949 Act, and were granted a year's extension. This also, however, is uncertain. The Guthrie and Taylor Reports and the 1958 Report all refer to the uncertainty of the year-to-year lease. The fact that the Act has to be renewed each year, as is being done tonight, makes the position even more uncertain.
A letter sent to one of my constituents said quite definitely:Although your tenancy is now secured for a further year we have no doubt but that the purchasers of the premises will serve a fresh notice on you to quit the premises at Whitsunday, 1964 since it is obvious from the communications which you have had from the purchasers' property agents, Messrs Healy & Baker, that it is the intention of the purchasers to develop the whole block and they will therefore be anxious to obtain possession of your premises as soon as they possibly can.Messrs. Healy & Baker have a head office address in London. The proposal is that once the shopkeepers have been swept out the whole block will be redeveloped as a supermarket.
My constituents keep in touch with their solicitors. These shopkeepers have the onus put on them to show that they have made exceptional efforts to find alternative accommodation. A notice has come from the sheriff's officers that they are to move on 28th May, 1964. This is proof of the procedure which will go on. One of my constituents has sought the assistance of valuers for premises further up the same street so that she may take them if they are available at a reasonable figure.
In a letter of 1st August this year the valuer wrote:These premises comprise a ground floor shop, with frontage of approximately 12 ft. and depth of 40 ft. We would be in a position to offer you a new 21 year full repairing and insuring lease, with Landlords' right to review the rent at the end of the 14th year,We should all hold our breath, for the letter goes on:at a commencing rental of £550 per annum exclusive, this being on the understanding that the ingoing tenant would be responsible for the Landlords' legal costs and disbursements incurred in the grant of the lease.The shopkeeper is to be responsible for the legal costs and disbursements in addition to being asked to pay £550 rent, plus, on a rough calculation, £670 10s. 0d. in rates, making 355 £1,220 10s. 0d. These people are not concerned about the shopkeepers' livelihood. All they want is the property. The sheriff has already sent the notice.
Glasgow Corporation has several development plans, but this move has nothing to do with those plans. I am informed that the corporation has no plans for this specific area for the next 20 years. No development permission has been sought. I am told that if planning permission were to be sought it would be very difficult for the corporation to refuse because no change of use would be involved. There has been a spread of corporation property in the area, houses and a new school, and it is a developing area. Some people with a nose for opportunities, particularly financial opportunities, have been nosing in.
Another shopkeeper produced receipts to me for £17 charges made to him by valuers to value other property as an alternative to the premises he has where the shops are situated. These 11 reputable citizens have been pursuing their business and trying to wrest a living from it, but they have been harried and harassed for years. This shows the importance of the Act becoming permanent legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock dealt with the Shearer Report, which came out in 1958. The Taylor Committee suggested that the Act should last only until 1950. The Guthrie Committee suggested that it should go on till 1955. The Shearer Committee, contrary to all the evidence, suggested that it should not become permanent legislation. That seems to run contrary to all the evidence produced in the Report itself. The Committee made some important admissions. One was that the Act had not operated in such a way as to cause great hardship to owners of shop premises, although it does restrict their rights. It went on to admit that since the Act landlord-tenant relations had been satisfactory. It went on to say that in the three years preceding the inquiry premises had changed hands at fair values, there had been no criticism of administration of the Act and there was complete confidence on both sides in the sheriffs if the Act were to be continued.
356 The Committee admits that the Act has served a useful purpose in the circumstances of its introduction and goes further and says that it continues to serve a useful purpose. Similarly, the Guthrie Committee admitted that it had a restraining influence and that in going to the sheriff courts those who felt that they were: suffering an injustice at least had an opportunity of expressing themselves and knew that there was an adviser who would make a decision which was fair in all the circumstances to both parties.
§ 7.30 p.m.
It is therefore difficult to understand the conclusions and the advice tendered to the Secretary of State. The Committee said in paragraph 19:
The bulk of the evidence, and this we accept, does not favour making the Act permanent in effect.
Unless I completely misunderstand the situation, this is most surprising. We are anxious for an assurance from the hon. Lady on this point. The Committees—the Guthrie Committee and even the Shearer Committee—accept that their figures do not reveal the total size of the problem. I believe that it is much more widespread than we are inclined to suggest. Even the figures in the appendices show that the incidents have not varied very much between 1952 and 1957. We have figures varying between 304 and 340. These are figures for five years, and out of a total of about 20,000 shops.
§ As hon. Members we are all aware of individuals who will not approach us about their problems because—and I do not use this term in a derogatory fashion—some of them, simply through lack of experience, will not use the telephone. Because of lack of experience they have to have someone else to write a letter for them. From my experience in the insurance world I know how many people for whom one had to write a letter; one put a pen in their hand, and said "Sign here". Out of this experience I am convinced that the figures do not show the scope of the problem.
§ Because of these factors, I ask the hon. Lady to mike it clear in any firm assurance which she gives tonight that some provision for permanent legislation will be made which will afford protection to the honest, decent citizens who are shopkeepers and who have been pushed about 357 too much. I will not develop other matters now because that would be out of order, but many years ago we should have dealt with the problem of warehouses and offices.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I rise as a one-time small shopkeeper who one day was faced with a "buy or quit" notice. I have great sympathy with persons who find themselves in that position, and I have some idea of the worries which they have and their difficulties in trying to make suitable arrangements to carry on their business.
I was one of the first, if not the first, to raise the matter in the House after the war—and the same arguments are relevant now as were relevant them. This applies particularly to Glasgow, where much evidence was collected. Property companies from England were going to Glasgow, buying up blocks of property in the centre of the City and serving notice on the shopkeepers either to pay an enormously increased rental or to get out. Now we have property companies coming to Scotland to buy property in the city centres not so much for the purpose of allowing shopkeepers to carry on business as for the purpose of redeveloping the area.
The shopkeepers' hardship is exactly the same. I was reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Mary-hill (Mr. Hannan) that when this problem first arose it was difficult to get evidence. The first Committee which inquired into it recommended that nothing should be done, because, the Committee said, there was no evidence. We, as Members of Parliament, then gathered together and supplied the evidence to the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) remembers this quite well. A second Committee examined all the evidence which hon. Members presented and decided that something should be done. Finally, after a great battle, we had the Act which we are discussing and which I believe has served a very useful function. I do not say that it is the best possible Act that we could have designed, but it has served a very important function, and the necessity for permanent legislation to protect shopkeepers is as important today as ever it was.
358 Every one knows what is going on today. One has only to observe what is happening to the shares of property companies and to look at the centres of cities and large burghs in Scotland to see how much property will be redeveloped in the next ten or twenty years. One has only to read the reports of local authorities and their concern about city centre development to know how real the problem is for the shopkeeper in the city centre, in particular. He will have many difficulties to face in future and he deserves some kind of legal protection.
I believe that this Act should be made permanent. Not only should we be told in a Written Answer what the Government feel but we ought to be told what the Government have in mind about when they will introduce this legislation. We have heard of other legislation which has been put back year after year. The fact that this legislation has had to be renewed each year has itself been a cause of uncertainty, because no one has known how long this protection would last. No one has known whether it would last until next year or the year after that. That in itself has led to some confusion and uncertainty.
I do not want to take much time but only to associate myself with my hon. Friends 'pleas and to ask the hon. Lady to give us more information than we have so far had about the nature of the legislation and when we are likely to get it. This is desperately important. The hon. Lady would not only be serving the House well if she gave that information but would be serving the shopkeepers in Scotland well, too, because I am sure that they would like to know something about this.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I hope that the hon. Lady is fully seized of the importance of this matter. We have had years of consideration of it, and not always has there been the same urgency and emphasis placed on it as has rightly been placed on it tonight by my hon. Friends the Members for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) and Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan).
There is no doubt that these incidents are happening in many parts of Scotland. It is not for us to go into the reasons why; we have to recognise the fact that 359 they are happening. They are happening in Kilmarnock, too. Shopkeepers have come to me asking me what can be done. They have suddenly had a notice saying that they are being offered a new lease to last three to five years. Immediately there is an increase in rent by three, four or five times with the threat that on the expiry of from three to five years there will be a further arrangement about the rent. This arises out of the Scottish lease system. It is the system of tacit relocation. It applies to occupant tenants of shops and it used to apply to houses as well. If nobody raised a question about the rent they carried on paying the same rent. We had this trouble immediately after the war, and we called it "buy or quit". This is one of the difficulties which stem from the failure of people to come forward and complain. It has come to be known as the "buy or quit Act", although there is now no question of buying at all.
§ Mr. Ross
I agree that sometimes there is some buying element. The Act states that if the tenant is unable to get a renewal of his lease on terms satisfactory to himself he has the right to approach the sheriff. The sheriff has to adjudicate hardship, to look into the circumstances, and he may grant up to one year's continuing tenancy with a rent fixed as reasonable by the sheriff.
The difficulty stems from the year-to-year nature of the lease and the type of new property owners. The protection is only from year to year. The very knowledge that it only from year to year and the fact that the tenants have to go back to the sheriff year after year—it may even be every two or three months—with the continued expense and threat, inevitably leads to the situation that the protection is completely eroded. We shall be hearing more and more about this situation. We ought to be taking action now instead of waiting for the deluge of complaints.
High streets and shopping centres are changing. The old shopkeepers, the people who have been there for generations, are being squeezed out. We must take action. Some of the names of the property companies concerned are not unknown. We have heard of them 360 coming into Kilmarnock indirectly, by taking over the interests of other firms which own blocks of shops. The small jeweller and grocer are being penalised because some of them look on this from the point of view of speculation, redevelopment and investment.
If we are concerned about hardship, we should show the same sense of urgency today as we showed in 1949. Indeed, we took action in those days. The fact is that people are afraid to approach Members of Parliament, and it is only when they do approach Members that we can raise the matter and get action taken. I sincerely hope that this will be done.
The Guthrie Committee which dealt with leases in Scotland has been mentioned, and I had the honour of serving on that Committee. We felt that the situation of the tacit relocation lease, the year-to-year lease, had been met, and this protection was absolutely essential. The need for this protection has proved not to be a temporary phase in the light of property development in Scotland. In view of this new influx of property developers, it has proved to be something which we must make permanent if we are to give the required protection.
I hope the Under-Secretary will give us a different outlook in the matter from the point of view of urgency of legislation. We on these benches will help all we can. If she can persuade one of those innocent hon. Members who put down stooge Questions to sponsor a Private Member's Bill we will support it in order to afford the protection that the Scottish shopkeepers need.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lady Tweedsmuir)
We are all indebted to the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) for raising this subject. Hon. Members who have spoken, notably the hon. Members for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) who quoted cases from his own constituency, for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) who himself has had personal experience of this matter and for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), have shown that the Act has served a useful purpose. Therefore, we must all be glad that my right hon. Friend has decided to have permanent legislation on this subject.
361 I am glad to have the opportunity to give a little more information on the reasons why my right hon. Friend has come to this decision. Various hon. Members have mentioned the three main committees which have considered this subject since 1947. I should like to refer briefly to the Shearer Committee. The use made of the Act has shown that it has served a useful purpose. As hon. Members know, it has been continued year by year by this procedure of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I accept that that in itself gives a little uncertainty.
The Committee which served under the chairmanship of Mr. Shearer—now our Lord Advocate—considered whether the Act should be kept in being after 1958. It concluded that it still served a useful purpose but thought that it should not become permanent in its present form. The Committee found that the Act was by then being used mainly to protect shop tenants against the ill effects of the short notice of termination of shop tenancy which is normal in Scotland. It thought it undesirable that an Act passed to deal with a temporary shortage of shop premises should come to be used for a different purpose. I think that is what was behind the Committee's reason for recommending that the Act should be continued for not more than five years from 31st December, 1958. That period would have come to an end this year.
When the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill was being discussed in Committee in 1962, my late colleague Mr. Leburn was asked to state the Government's intentions about the future of the 1949 Act. He replied that a review would take place on the basis of which we should consider whether or not the Act should be continued. That review has taken place. We invited all the persons and organisations who had given evidence to the Shearer Committee to say whether they thought the 1949 Act should be continued in being. Having examined their evidence and having taken account also of the number of applications to the sheriff over the years, we concluded that the Act should be made permanent.
It seems to us that there is still competition for shop premises. This was a point the Shearer Committee thought 362 might pass with the years; but we believe there is still competition, at any rate in the more populous areas, and that the number of shop premises is unlikely to increase. One or two hon. Members—indeed, I believe every Member who has spoken in the debate—have drawn attention to the problems and the effects of redevelopment in the cities and large towns, including redevelopment by local authorities. It may well be that this will reduce the number of shop premises available, although of course we all want to see the centres of our towns redeveloped. In those circumstances, it is possible that the tenant will be at some disadvantage in striking a reasonable bargain, and I think that experience of the working of the 1949 Act shows that it protects the tenant in such circumstances.
In the evidence submitted to us, it was suggested by one of the associations of shopkeepers that the Act would be particularly useful in protecting tenants of shops against property speculators, but it was not suggested in the same evidence that many tenants had suffered at the hands of property speculators. The Glasgow and West of Scotland Association of Licensed Grocers suggested that its members had been put in difficulty by both private development and local authority redevelopment, notably in Glasgow. However, we do not know how many of the applications to the sheriff arise from large-scale redevelopment.
The hon. Member for Greenock gave the figures for several years, and he asked me to give the latest available figures in this year, 1963. First, I recall to the Committee that, in 1950, there were 367 applications made to the courts. Last year, there were 136, and up to the end of September this year there were 85. Of these 85, 22 were successful, four were unsuccessful, and 54 were otherwise disposed of.
It is of interest also to see in what court districts these cases are considered. By far the largest number, of course, arises in Glasgow. In 1962, there were 36 in Glasgow itself, and in the first nine months of 1963 there were 47. Continuing with the large cities, in Edinburgh there were 16 in 1962 and seven in the first nine months of this year. In Dundee, there were nine last year, 363 six this year so far. In Aberdeen, there were seven last year, and five this year so far. Apart from the big cities, the largest number in any district is in Hamilton, with 10 in 1962 and four this year.
Among those who gave evidence, there were eight associations and one individual who were in favour of the Act being discontinued, and these included such organisations as the Law Society of Scotland, the National Federation of Property Owners and Factors and the Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet In favour of the Act being continued there were altogether 28 representations, including two from individuals, the organisations including, for example, the Scottish Branch of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Counties of Cities Associations—with reservations by Dundee—and the Multiple Shops Federation.
One hon. Member suggested that the protection afforded to tenants under the 1949 Act should be reinforced in any legislation which is introduced. I cannot say at this stage what form permanent legislation will take except that it will be no less than the provisions of the present Act. Any suggestions will, of course, be considered on their merits. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked when legislation would be introduced. I can give him no definite date. He will have noted that we have a very full programme of legislation before us. On the other hand, I think that the uncertainty to which he drew attention will be put to an end because we have undertaken to have permanent legislation the provisions of which will be no less than those of the 1949 Act, and if perchance we could not introduce legislation this Session the Act would be continued under the present procedure, as we are now doing.
It has been suggested that there should be a White Paper giving all the various pros and cons on this rather difficult problem. I had not thought that a White Paper would be a great deal of use because I had hoped to take the opportunity in this debate to give as much general information as I could. Various individuals and organisations have submitted evidence, and I shall now give some broad conclusions drawn from what was said on both sides.
364 The reasons given for discontinuing the Act were as follows. One, there is no longer a scarcity of shop premises. Two, the right of application to the sheriff conferred by the Act interferes with the normal freedom of contract between landlord and tenant. Three, it is a hardship to a landlord not to be able to obtain possession of his own property. Four, modernisation of premises and of business methods may be impeded by an unsatisfactory tenant. Finally, on this side of the case, it is said that the number of applications to the sheriff has declined, that this indicates that there is no longer a need for the Act and that most of the applications made are settled out of court.
The reasons given for continuing the Act were as follows. One, there is still a scarcity of shop premises, particularly in the cities and larger towns. I have already referred to this. Two, this scarcity is likely to become more pronounced in areas which are redeveloped by local authorities, where the number of shops tends to be reduced, particularly in Glasgow, where licensed premises are not allowed in certain areas of local authority development, and there is an acute problem for the licensed trade. Three, year-to-year tenancies are still normal arid the period of notice is still short. A tenant may suffer hardship if asked to leave at short notice. He may also have difficulty in disposing of his stock, and he may not be able to find other premises in the time available. Four, the existence of the Act in itself induces landlords to offer reasonable terms to their tenants. Five, it is maintained that the Act provides protection against the speculator who buys a property with the intention of selling at a quick profit. Finally, although the number of applications to the sheriff has fallen, the current number still indicates a need for the Act, and, in fact, there was a slight increase in 1962.
Because of all those factors, and because my right hon. Friend felt that the weight of evidence was in favour of continuing this legislation, after fourteen years of trial, we intend to make it permanent.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
In view of the assurances which have been given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.365
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out lines 13 and 14.
The Committee will recall that, when the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was introduced, we on this side strongly opposed its particular terms for three main reasons. We opposed it, first, because it was, in fact, based on race and colour discrimination, however much attempts were made to suggest otherwise. Second, it discriminated against the Commonwealth. Passed as it was during the Brussels negotiations, when the Government at that time were determined to enter the Common Market, its effect, if we had gone into the Common Market, would have been to exclude Commonwealth citizens while freely admitting citizens of Common Market countries. Our third reason for opposing the Bill was that it was not based on consultation, still less on agreement, with Commonwealth countries. In fact, it was unilaterally imposed by the United Kingdom.
Those three grounds which were the grounds of our opposition to the Bill are just as true today as they were then. In this week, I do not need to stress the feeling which, I am sure, is shared on both sides of the Committee about race and colour discrimination. At such a time, when perhaps the future of the free world or of the whole world depends on attitudes to colour questions inside individual Western countries, it is important that we should again repeat our view on this subject.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ We supported, and we do support, certain provisions of the Act. We supported then, and we support now, the health check on immigrants and the right to exclude or deport immigrants found guilty of certain criminal offences. The right to deport depends to a considerable extent on the attitude of the Home Secretary, and we have had to take issue very sharply with the right hon. Gentleman on one or two cases. There was a case last year in which we felt that irresponsibly he was agreeing to the deportation of a person for a first offence, a shoplifting offence, which we thought was quite unjustifiable. Therefore, we emphasise that the right to deport granted in the Commonwealth 366 Immigrants Act should be exercised with humanity.
§ Having said that, I must point out that we believe that there are loopholes in the Act, and we would favour a strengthening of the legal powers, provided always that the Home Secretary was responsible to the House of Commons in his exercise of the powers conferred. We believe that health checks should become more effective. There is evidence which suggests that in certain cases and certain countries health checks have not been sufficiently effective. We would be prepared to support a change in the law relating to deportation. At present the Act provides this limit of five years' residence in this country. If an individual found guilty of certain crimes has been in this country for more than five years, he is excluded from the operation of parts of the Act.
§ Mr. Brooke
On a point of order. The deportation provisions are permanent and are not included in the part of the Act which this Bill is designed to continue. I have no objection to anything that the right hon. Gentleman has been saying, but it would be helpful to the Committee, Mr. Arbuthnot, if you could give us some guidance as to whether it will be in order for us to discuss other parts of the Act.
§ Mr. Wilson
Further to that point of order. We are just dealing with the exclusion provisions in this Amendment, but I suggest that it is virtually impossible for the Committee to discuss the position on those exclusion provisions without making some brief reference to the rest. I was not intending to develop this point and certainly not to make it one of the main themes of this part of the debate, but I suggest that it is not possible to debate these exclusion provisions without referring to parts of the Act which remain.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Arbuthnot)
I thought that it was a passing reference that the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) was making, but, as the Home Secretary says, the provisions relating to deportation are permanent and should not be discussed in the debate.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Further to that point of order. Could you help us, Mr. Arbuthnot? As the Home Secretary said, we are being asked to continue a limited section of this Act. Would it not be right to say—and I ask for your guidance on this, Mr. Arbuthnot—that the way in which other parts of the Act operate very much affects our minds as to the merits of those sections of the Act which we are being asked to continue? Therefore, may I respectfully suggest that, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Arbuthnot, it is in order to deal with the operation of other parts of the Act which we are not asked to perpetuate in so far as we are considering the merits of continuing the first part of the Act?
§ The Temporary Chairman
I think that that is correct. The hon. Member may refer to other parts of the Act, but only in so far as they affect the merits of the part which we are specifically considering. That is what I thought the right hon. Member for Huyton was doing.
§ Mr. Wilson
I thank you for your Ruling, Mr. Arbuthnot. It has made the matter clear to us. I was making this brief reference to the deportation provisions against the background of whether the parts of the Act we are being asked to renew should be renewed or not. I think that one of the defects in the Act which must affect the views of many hon. Members about the Amendment which I have moved is that it is very heavy-handed, and there are some very revolting crimes in respect of which we should not mind seeing the Home Secretary given powers going beyond five years—not for life, but for seven, or ten years, or whatever it may be. But it is vital that any powers, whether already in the Act or in an amended Act, should be exercised with humanity because many of these cases, including the one to which I have just referred, the Carmen Bryan case, do not involve revolting crimes or anything we have in mind.
I come to the general issue about the control of immigration. We do not contest the need for control of immigration into this country, and I want to put forward a positive policy towards solving the problem arising from immigration as our alternative to the 368 continuance of this part of the Schedule. What we suggest should happen, and what the Labour Party would do if we were in power, is that we should enter into negotiations with Commonwealth countries for the purpose of working out agreed quotas and arrangements for their implementation by effective control over the numbers leaving each country. Pending these negotiations, we recognise, as all hon. Members will recognise, that a hiatus between the ending of British national control as covered by this part of the Act and the coming into force of the revised arrangements which would result from consultation would be likely to lead to an artificial stimulus to immigration through large numbers jumping the gun.
If it were known that this Act was coming to an end in this way and some months might be required to arrive at the alternative arrangements, there is a danger of an artificial increase in immigration through people jumping the gun. I am, therefore, prepared to say on behalf of my hon. Friends that, if the Government will announce now their willingness to open negotiations on these lines, we would, because of the realisation of the hiatus point, be prepared to accept the continuance of the Act for the period necessary to complete the negotiations with Commonwealth countries.
This was said two years ago. We said very plainly that there should be consultation and we asked the Government to withdraw the Bill in order to have these consultations. If the Home Secretary is prepared to accept this proposal now, we would be prepared to accept continuance of the Act for a limited period to avoid the hiatus and we should immediately ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that before the introduction of the Bill some attempt was made, in consultation with other Governments, to try to persuade them to introduce some sort of voluntary control over the movement of citizens but that it had no effect whatever?
§ Mr. Wilson
No. This was very fully debated at the time, and, although this point was made from the benches opposite, I remember that Hugh Gaitskell particularly and other Members from 369 this side were quite satisfied that there had not been adequate consultations. There had been some discussions, but there had been no general Commonwealth consultation, and in the end that was admitted by the Government in the course of the debate.
§ Mr. John Hall
There is some confusion. The consultation to which the right hon. Gentleman is referring and which was brought out in the Committee stage of the Bill was consultation about the operation of the Bill itself and the intention of the Government to introduce the Bill. I am referring to consultation which took place before we even contemplated introducing the Bill and which was designed to try to persuade Governments to limit their migration to this country.
§ Mr. Wilson
We were not satisfied that this consultation had taken place, and when Hugh Gaitskell suggested to the Government that they should withdraw the Bill and that they should have proper consultation to secure this kind of agreement there was no willingness to do so on the part of the Government. So far as I can see—perhaps the Home Secretary will correct me—there has been no attempt at consultation since the Bill became an Act. I have made our offer to the Government. If it is accepted in the spirit in which it is offered we shall be prepared to withdraw the Amendment forthwith. Only if this proposal about consultation is accepted by the Government can we on this side assent to the continuation of the Act by means of the Bill with which we are dealing.
The Committee will be aware that under our procedure we cannot move Amendments. It is not possible, for example, for us to move a reasoned Amendment, which we did on the last occasion, I think, on the continuance of this Act. We have either to vote for this part of the Schedule, which involves the continuance of the Act as it stands or that part of it covered in the Schedule, or we have to vote on our Amendment to delete from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill the reference to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. Therefore, if the Government refuse to base their policy on agreement with the Commonwealth—and we wait to hear about that from the Home Secretary—we shall have no choice but to oppose 370 the Act in its present form as, in effect, a permanent Measure. We regard it as essential to alter the basis of control of Commonwealth immigration.
I hope that I am not getting out of order if I support what I have been saying with one or two slightly more general propositions, because these must be in all our minds in deciding whether this national unilateral immigration control is to continue. We believe—and I am sure that the Government will agree with this—that immigration problems cannot be solved in terms of control alone, however or wherever that control may be exercised.
Even under the terms of the Act, there is the problem of immigrants already here and of those who will come here in the future. A much greater sense of urgency must be shown in dealing with the problems which exist and which impose serious strains upon certain areas of the country. We must also—and this affects the views of hon. Members on the continuance of the Act—take into account the problem of racial incitement and racial discrimination in this country. That would affect the views of many of my hon. Friends in connection with the continuance of the Act under any terms. The matter cannot, therefore, be considered without reference to that aspect. From that viewpoint, we feel that legislation should be introduced clearly making illegal incitement to race hatred and banning racial discrimination in public places.
The problem of assimilation of Commonwealth immigrants—those already here, those who would come in if the Government's wishes prevail tonight and the Act is perpetuated or those who would come in under the system of control which we propose—is one which every hon. Member knows to be extremely acute in certain parts of the country. It is a problem which is characterised mainly by housing and education. All of us agree about this. We have debated it in the housing and in the education context. Overcrowding is an evil whatever the cause of it, and local authorities need greater powers to remedy and prevent it. Again, the restoration of a measure of rent control would remove one of the causes which has led to overcrowding in those areas.
Clearly, therefore, we cannot come to a final decision in this matter unless we 371 have at least at the back of our minds—in the case of my hon. Friends and I, at the front of our minds—the measures that would be needed to deal with the problem of assimilation. This is why we feel that financial help should be given to local authority and voluntary efforts to ensure the integration of Commonwealth immigrants in local communities. In this connection, our party is setting up a working party to study these problems.
There are, of course, a number of vital issues. A number of other important steps have to be taken which I should be out of order to outline in detail tonight. [An Hon. Member: "Hear, hear."] They are relevant to whether the Act continues. I merely make passing reference to them. They should include, for example, the maximum facilities to provide for Commonwealth students to come here for university education and other courses, to understand our ways of living and to understand the solutions which we propose to the various social, political and economic problems facing the Commonwealth countries. There is great need to promote interchange of visits of Commonwealth citizens, especially through trade unions and co-operative and other organisations, to this country and of our own students to Commonwealth countries. All these are relevant to the decision which we have to take tonight.
Every one of us recognises—it was said from both sides in the earlier debate this evening—that this problem will not be solved purely, or even at all, by controls or by any action taken in this country. The large numbers who seek entry into Britain are an index of the poverty and of the lack of employment opportunity in so many areas of the Commonwealth. We are not discharging our duty to the Commonwealth until or unless we take adequate steps, directly and through the appropriate Commonwealth and United Nations organisations, to increase the flow of economic aid to those areas and to expand Commonwealth trade with them, to enable them to raise living standards to the point where emigration, whether to this country or elsewhere, under the whip of hunger and poverty ceases to be a feature of Commonwealth relations.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Those are the general considerations that should be urged as an alternative to what the Government propose, which is the simple continuance of the parts of the Act which we are debating tonight. I have given our proposals to the Government—I have had to sketch them briefly because one knows the difficulties of keeping in order—but the central proposal of all is that the Government, whether Conservative or Labour, should announce their decision now to enter into negotiations with Commonwealth countries to provide agreed measures and arrangements for handling this problem.
§ For the reason which I have given—the danger of the hiatus—I have said that if the Government will now announce their acceptance of this policy, we are prepared to allow the Act to continue for a little longer while the negotiations take place and to withdraw the Amendment. If, however, the Government are not prepared to accept this proposal, if they intend to go on as a permanent measure with an Act which was imposed unilaterally and which is still so open to the arguments which I have used and which were used two years age, we shall have no alternative to pressing our Amendment in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. Thorpe
On a point of order. I do not know whether this is a convenient time, Mr. Arbuthnot, to raise a matter relating to the Amendment which has been accepted by the Table Office. On 21st November, the original Amendment was) tabled by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues. On the following day, a similar Amendment was drafted by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party and his colleagues?. Those two Amendments were merged and the Amendment, therefore, subsequently appeared in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, the names of my hon. Friends being subsequently appended as if they had signed the original Amendment in support.
We have heard from the Leader of the Opposition the circumstances in which he would see fit to withdraw the Amendment. In so far as there has been a merger, does the wish of the first six 373 signatories to the Amendment act as a complete veto or can the Amendment still be put if it is so wished?
§ The Temporary Chairman
If the hon. Member wishes the Amendment to be voted upon, he has only to say, "No" at the appropriate time. The point which the hon. Member has made is borne in mind by the Chair. The additional names appeared on the Notice Paper, but the ruling is that only six names can appear on the day's Order Paper.
§ Mr. Brooke
This is an important matter. It is a human matter. It is of intense importance socially to the present and the future of this country of ours. It is of profound importance to the Commonwealth of which we are the centre, and therefore, so far as I can, I would like to go along in agreement with the right hon. Gentlemen.
I agree profundly with what he said about Commonwealth students coming here. Of course, he will be aware that the Act imposes no barrier on the passage of Commonwealth students. I look forward to the time when the movement of young people will be more intensive than it is now, both inwards, from the Commonwealth here, and outwards, from here to the Commonwealth, because I believe that the future of the Commonwealth depends to a great extent on cherishing and developing among the younger people of Britain and the Commonwealth lands the Commonwealth idea, and the best way of doing that is for us all to get to know one another.
If I do not follow up all the right hon. Gentleman's suggestions about aid and so forth it will not be because I am out of sympathy with them but because, Mr. Arbuthnot, I know you would wish me to direct myself first of all to the Amendment.
I am sorry to say that my brief answer to the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment has to be that there is not the smallest chance of achieving effective voluntary control of immigration from Commonwealth countries to Britain by agreement between Commonwealth Governments.
The history of this matter is important. India and Pakistan imposed control, fairly stringent control, over their emigrants to Britain for a number of 374 years. Nevertheless the flow from India and Pakistan began rising, and rising sharply, in 1961, as I will show, despite that control. The West Indian Governments had been asked by the British Government, and they replied that they were not prepared to impose any control on the issue of passports for emigration to Britain. They were not prepared to impose any control except in the case of old people or unaccompanied children or people with criminal records. Now this was the time before the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was in existence, when the prevailing immigration was from the West Indies and, as I have said, the suggestion of voluntary control at the other end was refused.
It was precisely against this background that we were forced in 1961 to legislate—forced to legislate. My predecessor, as the Committee knows, did this most reluctantly and only because by then it had become clear that control by voluntary agreement was not feasible, and experience since has shown how right he was. If any fault can be found it may be that he went on too long hoping against hope that the necessity for distasteful legislation could be avoided.
What are the figures for this period? The inward movement to this country from the West Indies was 16,000 in 1959; 50,000 in 1960 and 66,000 in 1961. From India and Pakistan together it was under 4,000 in 1959, still under 8,000 in 1960, but it leapt to 49,000 in 1961.
Now as the Committee knows the Act admits dependants, students and visitors in freely. During the first year of control, that is, the period from July, 1962, to June, 1963, 19,000 dependants. 18,000 students and over 180,000 visitors from Commonwealth arrived here quite freely. The only brake is on those coming here to work, and that is done by a system of vouchers. I invite the Committee to think over the figures I am going to give for the first sixteen months of the control, the most up-to-date figures we have, running from July, 1962, up to 25th October, 1963, just a month ago. In those sixteen months 319,000 vouchers were applied for from all parts of the Commonwealth and 284,000 of those applicants were from India and Pakistan. From the rest of the Commonwealth 35,000 vouchers have been applied for; 21,000 of the applicants have got their 375 vouchers and 14,000 are waiting for them. But as to India and Pakistan, 38,000 have got their vouchers and 246,000 are waiting for them.
I ask the Committee to consider these figures—260,000 people applying to come and work in this country and not yet issued with vouchers enabling them to come, 246,000 of those from India and Pakistan; and more applications for vouchers are coming in, now at the rate of nearly 10,000 a week, mostly from India and Pakistan.
In the light of these figures I must ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to say plainly and clearly whether or not they think there must be some effective control over the rate at which these people can be accepted here. There are a quarter of a million now applying to come to live and work here and fresh applications are coming in at the rate of half a million a year.
Is the solution to this to try to go back to a system of voluntary control at the other end, the emigration end, a system which proved unworkable even when the numbers, at any rate of Indians and Pakistanis, were tiny compared with what they are now? I ask the right hon. Gentleman on what basis he would suggest that we should ask the other Commonwealth Governments to exercise voluntary control? Would he suggest that the Indian and Pakistani Governments be asked to impose a far stricter limitation on their applicants than the rest of the Commonwealth was asked to do? What would India and Pakistan think of that? Or, as India and Pakistan are producing nine-tenths and more of the applicants, are they to have nine-tenths of the places and the rest of the Commonwealth only one-tenth? What would the West Indies or Nigeria think of that?
§ Mr. Thorpe
The right hon. Gentleman has asked what the Pakistanis and the Indians would think about this. May we ask him what he thinks about the present position with regard to C voucher applicants, which I understand are on a "first come, first served" basis? Is it true that no quota system at all is applied in regard to all the various countries in the Commonwealth, that it is simply a matter of "first come, first served" and that, 376 therefore, the Pakistanis and Indians, because there are more applications, have a better chance of coming here than the Jamaicans?
§ Mr. Brooke
It is a matter of "first come, first served", subject to the fact that we have made a rule that not more than 25 per cent, of all the vouchers shall go to any one country. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is prepared to intervene later in the debate to explain the voucher system, which, as the hon. Gentleman probably realises, is operated by his Department and not mine.
I have been seeking—I do not want to make a long speech—simply to present the problem to the Committee. Spread over the last seven or eight years, Britain has already accepted more than half a million Commonwealth immigrants. They are part of our community. Most of them are here to stay. At the time that the control started in the summer of 1962 there was a good deal of unemployment among them. It is now lens than half what it was then. Of course there are some idlers and law breakers among them—so there are in any community—but the overwhelming majority of these immigrants are hard working and keen to earn their living by doing their job well, and several essential services—transport and nursing in particular—would be in grave difficulty without them.
But it is perfectly obvious, particularly if one looks at the pressure on housing accommodation in those areas where most of the immigrants choose to congregate themselves of their own choice, that we cannot absorb unlimited numbers of immigrants from anywhere.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Brooke
I want to give a few more figures later.
This is a densely populated country. We simply have not the capacity to absorb unlimited numbers. There must be a reasonable rate. In everybody's interest—not least in the interest of the immigrants themselves—there must be some regulator, as it were, over the rate of immigration.
377 My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and I have the task of administering Part I of the Act, the part which we are asking the Committee to prolong. There was, of course, no previous experience of a control like this but it has proved entirely workable in practice. In the first twelve months of control—July, 1962, to June, 1963—the net inward movement from the whole Commonwealth was 34,000. Of these, 8,000 were men and 26,000 were women and children. Vouchers issued totalled 44,000 and 14,000 of these were presented on entry. Those are figures from the White Paper which was laid before Parliament. I thought, however, it might be helpful if I gave also the figures for the last four months.
Since the 1st July, 1963, the rate of entry has quickened and this was, I think, mainly because last year immediately after the control started immigration was for a time almost nonexistent. Those who had been wishing to come came in before the control started. The other cause of the quickening is clearly that the use of their vouchers by Indians and Pakistanis, which at first was very slow, is now much quicker. The total inflow from the Commonwealth in the last four months has been 30,000. In that time 14,000 vouchers have been presented as against 10,000* in the whole of the previous twelve months.
Now I come to the question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. In the first sixteen months of the control, 60,000 vouchers have been issued and 24,000 actually presented. One cannot simply substract 24,000 from 60,000 and say that 36,000 are outstanding for, of course, a considerable number of the vouchers will have lapsed because, after six months, if a voucher is not presented its validity expires.
Obviously, at first we could not be certain how many of the vouchers issued would be presented. We were feeling our way as one always does when one is administering new powers for the first time, and I want to stress that it is impossible under the Act to predetermine how many Commonwealth immigrants will arrive by how many vouchers one issues. Vouchers are only needed for those who want to come and live and* Note: See Mr. Brooke's correction in column 405.378 work here. There is no control over the number of dependants who may arrive.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
The right hon. Gentleman makes it clear that there are three sections. Two are not controlled and the third is controlled by the voucher system. But he says that the voucher system shows that it is impossible to control immigration by vouchers. What system of control does he say that we have?
§ Mr. Brooke
Evidently the hon. Gentleman misheard. I did not say that it was impossible to control immigrants by vouchers. I was addressing myself to the terms of the Act. The Act imposes control by voucher on those who wish to come and work here but, rightly, does not impose any control on those who wish to come as students or as temporary visitors or—perhaps most important—on those who are dependants of the people who have already come from the Commonwealth to settle here.
I hope that it will be agreed on both sides of the Committee that there should be no control of them. If a man is here he should have the right to have his wife and children here. The point I was making, because it is misunderstood, maybe not in this Committee but outside, is that we cannot say, "I am going to issue x vouchers in a certain time and it will follow that x or 2x or 3x Commonwealth immigrants will come in during that time".
§ Mr. Brooke
It works extremely effectively, as far as people who are coming here to work are concerned. All we are doing is to ask that the Act should be continued for another year as it stands. No question arises this evening of imposing control on dependants.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Is it not clear, from the big discrepancy which the Home Secretary has admitted to exist between applications for vouchers and the numbers taken up when granted, that the rather alarming figures which he gave us of the numbers waiting to come in are totally unrealistic? It merely means that many of the applicants have misunderstood the purpose of the voucher. They may have thought 379 that it meant a free passage. Clearly what matters is the figures of vouchers taken up. These are a much better indication of the kind of influx we should have even if the Act were withdrawn.
§ Mr. Brooke
With respect, the hon. Lady is mistaken. The ordinary person who applies for a voucher does so because he wishes to come to this country. There are over a quarter of a million applications for vouchers which have not yet been granted. Neither I nor anybody else would seek to argue that if control were lifted a quarter of a million people would immediately arrive in this country. Nevertheless, a very substantial percentage of them would do so. We must take that into account.
I am not claiming that the Act is perfect. We have to learn by experience. But the experience of its working during the first year has been far smoother than the critics foreshadowed. The only question before the Committee is whether it should be continued unamended for another twelve months.
I submit that the Opposition Amendment is based on a wholly unrealistic idea that an effective system of voluntary control at the other end by Commonwealth agreement is attainable. I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition can point to one country which thinks that it is or which is urging this on us now as a policy. We have received no suggestion from any part of the Commonwealth that this could be done better by effective control at the overseas end than at the British end.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
During the period the Act has been in operation have the Government consulted the Commonwealth on this question? Have they asked any Commonwealth country whether they would be prepared to have voluntary quotas? We know that they are not keen to have any control at all, and that is why they have not made this suggestion, but have the Government put this suggestion to them?
§ Mr. Brooke
We have kept in close touch with Commonwealth countries over the operation of the Act. We know that the West Indian Government informed us earlier that they were not prepared to impose any control at that 380 end. We know that, despite the efforts of the Indian and Pakistani Governments to effect control over the issue of passports, they were not productive in keeping immigration from Pakistan and India to this country down to the sort of numbers which we could absorb. The simple truth is that Britain has no choice; either we continue the Act or there will be no effective control at all. That means that if the Opposition vote against continuing the Act tonight they will be voting for no effective control at all.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The final words of the Home Secretary are indeed a very sad indictment of his view of the cohesion of the British Commonwealth. He is in effect saying about the chances of voluntary agreement, "It will not work. There is no possibility of doing so, so we will not try." If what the right hon. Gentleman is saying has not penetrated the minds of all hon. Gentlemen opposite, I shall paraphrase it and perhaps put it in simpler terms.
The right hon. Gentleman said that before the passage of this Act it had not been possible to get Commonwealth cooperation. He went on to say, "We have kept in close touch"—which is a Ministerial way of not answering the question—"but we are confident that no form of agreement can be arrived at". I would have thought that one was entitled at least to ask the Government to try before they conclude that our relationships with our equal partners in the Commonwealth are such that any discussions are doomed to failure in advance.
But perhaps the value that is attached to the Commonwealth is slightly greater in some parts of the House than in others. The bitter opposition to this Bill led to vigorous Amendments being moved and some carried with the assistance of some Conservative Members who, to their great credit, were prepared to fight the backwoodsmen on their own side. I think particularly of the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), who I am sure many hon. Members are delighted to see in the post he occupies in the Colonial Office. He and others were prepared to stand up and vote against the Government of the day, with the result that the Bill was considerably amended and improved.
381 There were three reasons for the bitter opposition. The first was that there had been no effective Commonwealth consultation about the Bill. Either a distinguished West Indian Prime Minister was a liar or he was to be trusted when he maintained that the first he knew of the Bill was when he read about it in his daily newspaper. That was the extent of Commonwealth consultation.
That did not establish a precedent for the party opposite. They do not consult the Commonwealth when they think it is unlikely to be pleased with what it is to be told. That is why the Prime Minister of Canada read about Suez in his daily newspaper, and why the Commonwealth countries were told in another connection that Britain had decided to apply to join the European Economic Community at the moment when it was most disadvantageous to the Commonwealth.
So there is a precedent of non-consultation for this great party of the Empire, a party to which my grandfather belonged. He sat on the benches opposite and was known as "Empire Jack", because in those days the Tory Party really minded about the Empire, as it was known then. Failure to consult creates no new precedent, and therefore must come as no surprise to hon. Members on this side.
That was the first reason for the bitter opposition to the Bill—the fact that a matter which was going to vitally affect the economy of many poor and developing territories in the Commonwealth was effected by a Bill the terms of which had never been discussed with them, and on which they had never bee
n asked for their views.
The second reason for the opposition was that the Bill when introduced bore all the hallmarks of racialism in its most blatant form. I say straight away that this was not the motive which prompted the present Foreign Secretary to introduce the Measure. He is a humane man. Perhaps in the Tory Party that has been his great drawback. He has been too humane for their liking. They prefer the wielder of the axe to the man with a human heart. [Laughter.] There may be some human hearts on the benches opposite, but there is very seldom much blood to be found coursing through the 382 veins of hon. Members opposite when an issue such as this is before the House of Commons.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Most surprising of all is when one hears the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) telling anybody in this House—not excluding the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black)—not to be sanctimonious. But if the Foreign Secretary was a humane man, the speeches of some hon. Members opposite and particularly the hon. Member for Louth—we all remember when, like some poor man's Hailsham, he appeared on television saying, "Do you want this to be a country of black men?" I remember that broadcast very well—
§ Mr. Thorpe
Pavlov's dog is still at work. Certainly the speeches by many hon. Members opposite which led up to the passage of this Measure reasonably led the Commonwealth to believe that there was an element of racialism in it.
The third reason for bitter opposition was that this was the first time in the history of the British Commonwealth that we were restricting entry into this country. We were the first colonial Power in Europe to restrict free entry. Not even Portugal has yet got round to that mechanism.
We are being asked whether we are prepared to renew Part I and Schedule 1 of the Act, which give certain powers to immigration officers. I do not share the pessimism of the Home Secretary about the possibilities of Commonwealth consultation.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Although I hear the word "rubbish" from the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) I am afraid that tonight, although he is in a coalition with the Home Secretary, he is in strange company, because the former Prime Minister had a high regard for the possibilities of Commonwealth consultation. That was why, after an event which directly touched 383 the Act, when there was another distressing incident, in respect of Chief Enaharo, and it was felt that the Fugitive Offenders Act, 1881, needed to be brought up to date, the former Prime Minister indicated that the law as it was must be carried out but that this was a case where there should obviously be Commonwealth consultation and discussions to see whether or not some suitable arrangement could be made concerning questions of extradition and deportation. However pessimistic the Home Secretary may be, it is fair to say that the former Prime Minister had a slightly more optimistic view of the possibilities of success of Commonwealth consultation, and a slightly greater enthusiasm for them.
I believe that there are many matters which could and should be discussed among Commonwealth Prime Ministers. We might discuss the whole question of immigration, exclusion, expulsion, political asylum and extradition. I shall answer the point raised by the Home Secretary about quotas, because I believe that even within the framework of the present immigration laws there should be a far greater degree of fairness as between one territory and another. He has said that under the present Act it is possible for 50 per cent, of all immigrants to come from Pakistan and India on the 25 per cent, plus 25 per cent, basis. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is thinking hard. May I refresh his memory? The Home Secretary said that at the most 25 per cent, of the total applications granted, that is the total vouchers granted, could go to one country. Therefore, if India and Pakistan are granted as many vouchers as are successfully applied for, it follows that 50 per cent, of the vouchers issued—in theory and almost in practice—could be awarded to those two countries. So I believe that even under the existing law there is unfairness as between, say, the West Indies on the one hand, which depends greatly on migration, and India and Pakistan on the other. Even within the framework of the present Act there is injustice and I hope that the Minister will say something about that.
I hope he will mention also a fact which is perhaps not generally known to hon. Members. It is that the number 384 of refusals at the ports has greatly increased in the past four months. I am informed that up to 30th June there had been a total of 246 exclusions at the ports. That is the total for the whole period since the passage of the Act. But in the four months subsequent to date there have been 216 refusals. So there have been very nearly as many refusals in the four months as in the whole of the preceding period. It would be interesting for the Committee to know why. Indeed, it would be an indication of how the present Act is being operated if we could be given an explanation for this staggering increase.
I believe that there is great inequality regarding deportation. In the operation of this Act there were inequalities. One court might order deportation for what was a minor matter whereas another court, perhaps for something more than a misdemeanour, might not order deportation. In this matter I think that the Home: Secretary has brought about some measure of uniformity and I pay tribute to him for that. But it is an extraordinary commentary that if one considers the deportation figures, the greatest—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Member must not go into detail about deportations. We are not considering deportation.
§ Mr. Thorpe
If you please, Mr. Arbuthnot Without going into figures, may I make a comment which turns very much on the merits of that half of the Act which -we are being asked to perpetuate? It is that the recommendations for deportation and the actual orders made in respect of deportations for citizens of the Irish Republic, who are of course specifically excluded from the operation of this Bill, are higher than the number of recommendations and deportations for the whole of the rest of the Commonwealth added together. This, clearly, is a very grave defect in the Act if it is to be allowed to continue. Here we have the position that there is no control at all with regard to aliens whose deportation rate is far greater—
§ Mr. Thorpe
I think that the point has been made and I will not press it. 385 As a result of the discussions during the Committee stage and many of the undertakings which were wrung out of the former Home Secretary—the present Foreign Secretary—because of representations made not only from this side of the Committee but by hon. Members opposite who were genuinely worried about the matter, I concede that in the period in which this Act has been in operation it has been enforced far more humanely than any of us would have dared to hope. I say that without any qualification. But what do we see if we consider the effect of the Act? We see, first, those who applied for vouchers under Category A, that is to say, those who have jobs to go to. The Home Secretary did not break down the figures and I fear that my figures are only up to the publication of the White Paper on 30th June. But I think that the percentages are comparable. There were 7,000 issued for the 10,000 applied for. I think it true to say, therefore, that a very high percentage of those applied for in this category were granted vouchers. If one is faced with the fact that this Act is in operation, I think it true to say that it has worked reasonably well in respect of that type of application.
Regarding category B vouchers, given to those with special skills which are needed, there has been little difficulty in securing a voucher. In Category C the percentage of those who have successfully applied for vouchers is the lowest of all. The Home Secretary has given the latest figures. In June the figures were 29,000 issued and 145,000 were applied for.
I wish to ask questions of the Home Secretary on the basis that the Act is to continue because in that event we shall want assurances. Then T wish to say what I think ought to happen regarding the Amendment under discussion. But it is right that subject to the 25 per cent, limit which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, that is to say, that no country can get more than 25 per cent, of the applications, the "first come, first served", principle applies.
Is it right that on the basis that 30,000 were issued under category C—or 29,000 to be exact—there are already enough applications in the pipeline for 386 the next three or four years without any fresh applicants coming forward? We know that 145,000 applications were made and 29,000 were awarded on the "first come, first served" basis. Are the remainder to keep their place in the queue, or does everyone reapply after a period? If the former is the case, Pakistan and India, who have got into the queue first, are to have the lion's share and it will be a very long time indeed before the West Indies, Cyprus and other countries will be able to catch up.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman if we can have a reply to this. Does he think that on the assumption that this Act is to continue there ought to be some more equitable distribution of vouchers than the "first come, first served" principle, possibly some sort of quota system for countries of the Commonwealth according to their needs and, perhaps, if a particular quota is not taken up by one country it can be distributed among other members of the Commonwealth who want to exceed their quota? I press that very hard.
It is true that in the first year 130,000 Pakistanis and Indians applied for vouchers and only 6,000 West Indians applied. In a sense it was the fault of the West Indies for not coming forward or not being aware of the "first come, first served" basis, but this has meant that the West Indies, who have always relied on migration for their economy, have been very much left out in the cold.
In regard to the question of free entry, which was the third reason why the Immigration Bill was passed, I concede straight away, although I was bitterly opposed to the Bill and am still bitterly opposed to the Act, that obviously there are certain limited benefits which have flowed from it. [Interruption.] I am not as ungenerous as the hon. Member for Louth and I shall say what I think those benefits are. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet will allow me to continue now, I shall give way in a moment, when I have elaborated this point.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ In so far as it is easier to obtain a category A voucher—that is to say, for a man who actually has a job—than it is to obtain a category C voucher—that 387 is, for a man who merely comes here without a job and joins the general labour pool—obviously it is preferable to encourage a Commonwealth migrant to fix up a specific job before he comes to this country. He should do that for his own sake and it is better than that he should come in on a category C basis. I accept straight away that this is a benefit, but I do not see that this Act is necessary to achieve that objective. Clearly it is a very great advantage and before the Ad: this was not possible. I do not think there was any representative from the Ministry of Labour here in Jamaica to help in regard to jobs. If there was he must have had a very skeleton type of staff.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
May we take it that the hon. Member is speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party on these matters and that this is the party's considered view and that this was not only its original opposition to the Measure, but continued opposition? In elaborating the remarks I think he is about to make, will the hon. Member say what the party's proposals are as to the way in which limited immigration, if at all, should be so provided?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I appreciate the anxiety of hon. Members opposite to know precisely what the views of both Opposition parties are because we know that this is a matter to which the party opposite attaches considerable electoral importance. We know some of the remarks which have been made in by-elections, no doubt not by hon. and right hon. Members opposite but by their supporters in areas where there happens to be a large coloured population sometimes suffering from a housing shortage which, strangely enough, is not of their creation but of the Government's. Therefore, I can understand that the hon. Member wants to probe and I shall be delighted to satisfy him. [Interruption.] Of course it is always difficult to give one's conclusions if one is continually interrupted.
Of the 45,000 vouchers which have been issued, only 15,000 have been taken up. The point which the late Hugh Gaitskell made in the Second Reading debate on the Immigration Bill, in what I thought one of the most brilliant speeches which in a very short period 388 in this House I ever heard him make, was that there is a precise correlation between the rate of migration from a Commonwealth country to this country and the rate of unemployment and availability of jobs in this country. I think it very interesting that only one-third—although the figures which the Home Secretary gave were 24,000 and 60,000—at any rate a small percentage,of those who have actually obtained vouchers came to this country.
The reason for this is that migration is controlled very largely by the employment prospects in this country. It is true that there was a massive bulge before the introduction of the Act, but there is no doubt that this was partly caused by a frenzied attempt to beat the ban. We are back, under control, to approximately the net migration rate of 1958 and 1957.
I have been asked, and I will make perfectly plain, what our position is. Two factors concern me about the Commonwealth. The first is that if we in this country have the benefit of a higher standard of living than have some of the less fortunate members of the Commonwealth, and if we are to continue to share it with them, as we have done; in the past and as we are trying to do now—hence, for example, turning the Colonial Development Corporation into CD. and W.—which is obviously the view of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, then I am anxious that those benefits should be shared among members of the Commonwealth as fairly as possible. Under the present Act that is not happening. The lion's share is going to the two main Asian members of the Commonwealth while other members, the African and West Indian, are clearly not getting a fair share.
The second consideration is that people coming to this country should be encouraged to come as what I might call category A migrants as opposed to category C migrants, that they shall be assisted in obtaining jobs. For example, the long-term agreement with Barbados whereby a specific number of migrants is taken annually from Barbados for work at the London Passenger Transport Board is a very good thing for Barbados, because it can give certainty 389 to a percentage of its employable population, and it also produces a vital source of labour for the London Passenger Transport Board.
Having said that, I believe that there is a case for some form of co-operation. [Interruption.] I do not see anything funny in co-operation between the London Passenger Transport Board and the Government of Barbados whereby that country provides a certain number of workers every year, and guarantees to provide them, for service on our buses and underground. However, I believe that in return we have the right to claim freer entry than at present exists into certain Commonwealth countries.
In some Commonwealth countries there are barriers which are wholly unreasonable, and we have the right to negotiate with them and to try to improve the position for migrants from this country. Migration from this country is very large and the number of 350,000 who have come into the country is only some 30,000 fewer than the number who have gone out. We must see whether we can apportion some form of quota system among various members of the Commonwealth.
One advantage of the Act is that prior to its passage there was great exploitation of Pakistanis and Indians who came here on what was virtually an indenture system. Their passages were paid for here and 30 or 40, and sometimes 50, per cent, of their income had to be paid to the person who had made their arrival here possible. It was for that reason that they had to lodge their return fare with the local magistrates. That abuse has been considerably checked. All of these are matters which are the subject of Commonwealth negotiations. The real question is this, and I ask it quite plainly. Do we say, on the one hand, that we dislike this Commonwealth Immigrants Act in principle and practice and that, therefore, we will scrap it tonight and start negotiations with the Commonwealth? Or do we say on the other hand—I face this quite frankly—that we object to this Act in principle; but we think that it has been more humanely administered than we had hoped it would be when it was introduced, but that we are not satisfied with it and we would prefer to put this problem on a Commonwealth basis?
390 I would say, and I accept what the Home Secretary said, that there has been difficulty in getting agreement from Jamaica and some of the other islands in the West Indies. I think that politically we may well be in a stronger position if we can say that we are prepared to give up this Act and merge it in some Commonwealth plan when there is an agreed plan by which all the members of the Commonwealth will agree to abide, and that we might have to reconsider the position if agreement is not arrived at. This seems to me to be a far more honourable approach than saying that we do not think the Commonwealth will agree with us, that we have had difficulty in getting agreement before and, therefore, we shall not even try.
If the Home Secretary is prepared to give an assurance that the explanation of this massive increase in refusals at the ports—
§ Mr. Brooke
Perhaps I may answer that point straight away. There is no mystery about it. The ratio of refusals to entrants has virtually unchanged in the last four months. There has been a much higher rate of entrants and, therefore, there has been a much higher rate of refusals.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I was quoting from a letter which his Department sent to somebody who had inquired. The implication in the letter was that the increase was thought to be somewhat surprising. If I heard the Home Secretary's figures aright, the rate of inflow in the last four months has not been proportionately greater than the rate of inflow in the preceding sixteen months of the Act.
We are now in this position, that whilst 246 have been refused entry over a period of, I think, 16 months—I am subject to correction—216 have been refused over a period of four months. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the rate of increased inflow is in direct ratio to the rate of increased refusals? Is he suggesting that the rate of inflow has increased four times? Unless he is, the logic of his argument cannot stand. There has been an enormous increase in the number of refusals at ports, and perhaps the 391 Minister will deal with this point when he replies.
We have asked about the quota system—the "first come, first served" system—and about refusals at the ports. I hope the Government will reconsider this question of Commonwealth consultation, because unless they are genuinely prepared to start discussions with the Commonwealth in order to achieve these two vital objects—first, a fair distribution amongst the Commonwealth, and secondly, the encouragement of voucher A category as opposed to voucher C—I for one will certainly vote for the Amendment.
§ Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)
May I put a direct question to the hon. Gentleman? Was he speaking for himself or for the Liberal Party? He has not made it clear. Will the hon. Gentleman give the House a direct answer to that question?
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) knows that my views on this subject do not exactly coincide with his. He based his objections to the renewal of the Act on two main grounds: first, that there should be consultation; second, that the Act was based on racialism. The first point has been effectively answered by the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am most anxious to correct any wrong impression. I did not suggest that the Act is operated on racial lines. I said that one of the reasons why the Bill was opposed initially was that it had come into being in such a way that it was thought to be anti-colour, and, if I may say so, the speeches of the hon. Gentleman gave credence to this. I am not suggesting that this is the way in which the Home Secretary is operating it.
§ Mr. Pannell
It seems that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make another speech. He certainly did mention that his objection to the Bill was based on an attitude to racialism. Obviously, as the figures which my right hon. Friend has given show, the vast majority of 392 applications for vouchers for entry into this country come from coloured people and, as a consequence, since most of the people concerned in the question are coloured, any restriction can be said to be colour bias by those who are prejudiced.
I entirely reject that point of view. The Act itself is entirely impartial; it covers all parts of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Pannell
Ireland is not in the Commonwealth.
The Bill was strenuously and bitterly opposed through all its stages by hon. and right hon. Members opposite in the Labour Party and in the Liberal Party. I think that many of them have modified their views during the operation of the Act. I believe that a great many of them have had pressure brought to bear on them in their constituencies regarding the problems which arise.
§ Mr. Pannell
I cannot keep on giving way. I vail give way in a moment or two when I have finished this passage.
§ The Temporary Chairman
If the hon. Member who has the Floor does not give way, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West must not persist.
§ Mr. Pannell
In this matter, sentiment is struggling with reason. Many people who would like the Bill continued have, I think, given way to sentiment. Sentiment has triumphed, and that is the reason for the Amendment. I give way to the hon. Gentleman now.
§ Mr. Pannell
If one hon. Member has not had pressure brought to bear upon him, that does not mean that others have not. I know of cases where such pressure has been brought.
If hon. and right hon. Members of the Opposition, the Opposition of either party, vote for the Amendment tonight, they should declare—this does not apply 393 to the Liberal Party because the possibility of its getting power does not exist—that, if they got power, they would repeal the Act. The Liberals should equally honestly say that they would support such a repeal if individual Liberal Members were returned. I, for my part, would freely accept that challenge at any General Election.
I depart from the views expressed by the Opposition in that I think that the Act was reluctantly and apologetically introduced into the House. [An Hon. Member: "How apologetic was the hon. Gentleman himself?"] I disagreed with the apologetic manner in which it was introduced. I consider that the Act has been timidly applied. We have been given figures, some of them most inaccurate, by the hon. Member for Devon, North. I hope to correct some of his mistakes in the course of my speech.
In the 18 months prior to the coming into force of the Act, immigration into this country totalled nearly 250,000.
§ Mr. Pannell
We know the reasons for it. I do not want to go into them. I am just giving the figures. The hon. Member may have the opportunity of making his own speech later. I do not think there is any inhibition this evening on anyone speaking.
There was, quite naturally, a dramatic change soon after the Act came into force. The figures given to me show that the net influx in the first six months was 2,503, a very small figure. For the next six months ended 30th June this year, the figure was over 30,000. Therefore, the tempo has been rising and, as my right hon. Friend said, it has continued to rise, so that the next influx in the four months ended 30th October was 30,000. If that rate continues, there will be an annual net influx of 90,000 immigrants from the Commonwealth.
In the eight years from 1955 to 1962, 500,000 immigrants came in, a figure which my right hon. Friend gave, which, despite the tremendous influx in the last 18 months, gives an average for the eight years of about 60,000 a year. I am gravely disappointed that the implementation of this Act seems to mean 394 that we are prepared to accept a figure for immigration of 90,000 a year, 50 per cent, more than the average for those years when the problem was giving great anxiety to my right hon. Friend's predecessor.
The hon. Member for Devon, North. spoke about vouchers. I want to put the record straight, because his figures are very out of date. As my right hon. Friend said, the number of applications was 319,000, and 60,000 vouchers were issued. Of those, 12,000 have lapsed, which means that 48,000 remain valid. Of those, according to the figures which I have received, 29,000 have been used, which means that there are roughly 20,000 valid vouchers outstanding.
It is pertinent to consider how these vouchers have been issued in the different categories. In category A—that is, those with jobs to come to—9,572 have been issued. In category B—those with special skills—13,393 have been issued. In category C—those with neither of those qualifications—37,084 have been issued. It is extraordinary that in a period of high unemployment vouchers should have been so freely issued to people who have no home or job to come to and no special skills to offer.
The hon. Member for Devon, North, said that there is a correlation between unemployment and immigration. Surely that theory is exploded when we realise that in a period of high unemployment, higher than for many years, applications to come to this country amounted to 319,000. The argument is that people would not want to come here if there were high unemployment in this country, yet in this period of much higher than average unemployment there were 319,000 applications. What would have happened if there had been no Commonwealth Immigrants Act? How many would have come in then? The figure would have been staggering, especially when we consider that for every immigrant who comes in at least one dependant arrives, and on the average last year one and a half dependants. Therefore, the figure of 319,000 would be inflated to something like 800,000.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Is not the hon. Member effectively proving that the institution of control has stimu- 395 lated applications, which is the result we suggested would happen, and does not the fact that when the vouchers were given on a much smaller scale than the number of applications even this small number of vouchers was not taken up, prove that by instituting control the Act has confused the people concerned and has ruined the natural regulator of which we on this side spoke?
§ Mr. Pannell
I consider that a specious argument. Clearly, if 319,000 people applied for vouchers, there were 319,000 people who wanted to come to this country. That is the point I was making.
§ Mrs. Castle
If that argument is correct, why did they not take up the vouchers when they came here?
§ Mr. Pannell
Hon. Members know, many of them better than I, the grave difficulties which are arising in housing with multi-occupation. There will be an opportunity of discussing this in the debate tomorrow on the Housing Bill. I have no desire to go into it in detail tonight. I do say, however, that the Housing Act, 1961, sought to make a contribution to the solution of that problem, but I do not think that it has done so. The problem still exists in acute form, causing great distress and difficulty in many parts of our great cities.
We hope that the new Bill will be more effective. It is, however, the height of foolishness to allow the position to be aggravated by the influx of tens of thousands more immigrants until that problem is solved. I feel this very strongly. Every 10,000 who come here make the problem worse.
Now, I shall say something that will create much controversy among hon. Members opposite. I am not shirking this fact, because it is the duty of the House of Commons to take all factors into consideration without prejudice and without fear or favour. I refer to the question of crime. Successive Home Secretaries have repeatedly stated that the incidence of crime among Commonwealth immigrants is no higher than among the indigenous population.
I have pointed out, and I think it has been accepted, that in regard to two 396 crimes that is not the case. In regard to living on immoral earnings, more than half of the convictions in the Metropolitan Police area are of Commonwealth immigrants. I have the figures if any hon. Member wishes to challenge me. Since these immigrants represent only a small proportion—1 or 2 per cent.—of the population, one must admit that a 50 per cent, figure for these crimes is disproportionate.
§ 9.30 p.m.
As to the drug traffic, in Cannabis or Indian hemp, or being in possession of dangerous drugs, more than 50 per cent, of the convictions have been of Commonwealth immigrants. Now, however, we have a book recently published by F. H. McClintock, Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and Assistant Director of Research in the Institute of Criminology, entitled Crimes of Violence, in which he points out that
It is quite clear that the broad proportion of such Irish and Commonwealth immigrants who are convicted of crimes of violence is far greater than that found in the indigenous population".
He gives figures and shows that over 30 per cent, of attacks on the police are attributable to Irish and Commonwealth immigrants in almost exactly equal proportions, 15 per cent, for Commonwealth immigrants and 15 per cent, for the Irish. That has risen in recent years. In 1950 Commonwealth immigrants were responsible for only 2½ per cent, of attacks on the police. That proportion had risen in 1960 to 15 per cent. Since the great influx of Commonwealth immigrants has been since 1960—half have come in since 1960—it is reasonable to assume that the number of crimes committed by them and its proportion to the total has substantially risen in the meantime. In fact 13 per cent, of all convictions in 1960 were of Commonwealth immigrants.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am excluding the Irish from that figure. The Irish do not come into this Bill. It would be out of order for me to mention them. I am sorely tempted to follow the hon. Member for Devon, North and go into the question of deportation, but I have expressed my views on that before, and I am inhibited from doing that this evening, 397 but obviously that question is very pertinent to the points I have just been discussing.
I know that many Members wish to speak and so I shall conclude by saying that never has any Act had greater justification, on the grounds of housing, on the grounds of unemployment, on the grounds of public order. So on all those grounds this Act has been essential. I. contrary to those who have spoken from the other side of the Committee, hope that this Act will not only be renewed, but that it will be more strictly implemented, and I confidently ask the Committee emphatically to reject this Amendment.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
I think that all on both sides of the Committee will agree that the problem we are discussing this evening is an extremely human one. Whether the question be the interest of the immigrant or the interest of the citizen of this country we are bound to feel that there is a profound human element to be considered. I believe that in giving consideration to the operation of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act and the wisdom of its continuation we must come back to the real issue involved. To my mind, it is whether we agree with a controlled immigration into this country; that is to say, whether we think that, in all the circumstances, it is wiser to regulate the flow of immigrants so that they can be absorbed into the industrial life of the nation.
I believe that controlled immigration is both in the interests of our country and of those wishing to come here from overseas. It is in the interest of the country, like that of other Commonwealth nations, in that it enables the country to regulate the intake according to the number and type required to meet our industrial needs. It is in the best interests of the immigrant for the very sound reason that it ensures that when he arrives in Britain he has a job to go to. I know of nothing more distressing than a person arriving in a strange land and finding no work available. Parliament surely has a clear duty to avoid such circumstances arising.
Australia in particular is taking a large number of emigrants from this country annually, and they have to be medically fit, of certain ages and 398 required for industry and agricultural development. While I believe it is good that people from Britain should go overseas—[An Hon. Member: "Black and white?"]—to seek new opportunities of reward for their labours, I believe it is regrettable that we in Britain are losing so many of our scientific and other skilled workers when they are so urgently needed at home. That is another matter to which, though not tonight, Parliament must give very urgent consideration.
I say with all sincerity that we can no longer apply the old policy of an open door to all who wish to come to this country. My hon. Friends have got to understand what this involves.
§ Mr. Diamond
Some of us understand it better than my hon. Friend does, and I hope to get an opportunity to explain why I say that.
§ Mr. McLeavy
Perhaps some do. At least I am prepared to concede that there may be a difference of opinion about the method of approach to the problem. I do not charge anyone with lack of sincerity about the points of view they put before the Committee. It is not very easy for me to speak tonight of this matter, but I am speaking because I believe that it is my duty to the people I represent in Bradford and also to the nation, and I intend to carry out that duty whatever the cost may be.
We must say clearly that, while we welcome Commonwealth citizens to our country—I want them as much as anyone else—they must be absorbed into our industrial requirements. In Bradford we have a large influx of immigrants from Pakistan and India—[Interruption.] My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will get his chance afterwards. I am making my speech now.
§ Mr. McLeavy
No, I will not give way at all.
The immigrants from Pakistan and India in Bradford now total about 10,000 and there are to be a further 2,000 immigrants from India, plus a few from West Africa. I want hon. Members to let these facts sink in. These immigrants now constitute about 10 per cent, of the male labour force in the city. The vast 399 majority have found suitable employment and are doing a very good job of work, but, unfortunately, we have in our midst a number who are still unemployed.
Hon. Members must recognise that there are a number of large cities like Bradford confronted with problems arising from large numbers of immigrants living in their midst. Parliament cannot ignore the growing social problems relating to housing, health and other matters which have been aggravated, and will continue to be aggravated, by the influx of Commonwealth workers.
The Government should urgently examine the special problems of cities like Bradford to see how far it is possible, financially and in other ways, to help the local authorities to grapple with this problem. I say to the Government quite frankly that they cannot just allow people to come to this country without taking some responsibility for their housing and for the social services. They must not put it all on the backs of the local authorities who are already hard pressed.
I suggest that the Government should carry out a national survey of the problem in large towns and cities where there are aggregations of immigrants. I say quite sincerely that I want as many Commonwealth citizens to come here as it is physically possible for the country to take. I share with my right hon. and hon. Friends the absolute feeling that the Commonwealth can be the greatest foundation of Britain's greatness in future. But we face a problem which also faces other Commonwealth countries. Other Commonwealth Governments apply these restrictions because of their economic position and my only argument is that we must control immigration for precisely the same reason.
We cannot afford to be the welfare State for the whole of the Commonwealth. We cannot do it, and hon. Members must recognise the fact. But they must also recognise that most of us who have worked in the Labour Movement from early ages and have made our sacrifices in building up that movement are not going to sell our principles on this question.
§ Mr. McLeavy
There are people in this Committee and in the country who have not had the experience in our industrial life that many older Members have had and, after all, we'have a responsibility to our people from the trade union point of view when they feel that they are being put into difficulty because of the danger to public health of overcrowding. We have a responsibility to our ordinary trade union members in our towns and cities who have been waiting for houses for many years because of the neglect of the Tory Government. [Interruption.] Yes. that is true.
There is, and everyone accepts the fact that there is, a very serious housing shortage in our large towns and cities, and it is therefore absolutely essential that the Government should urgently re-examine the position of the local authorities to see exactly what can be done to help places like Bradford carry out what they want to do—which is to give a really good service to their citizens, including the immigrants whom we welcome in our midst.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) will allow me to congratulate him on a most courageous speech. He faced up to the facts with a realism which it was most refreshing to listen to. I want to support him from my own experience in my own constituency where I have lived with this problem for a number of years. All of us will agree with him in saying that we wish to see as many Commonwealth citizens come to this country as we can properly absorb and assimilate into our population, but the problem is arising because of the rapid increase in the rate of migration to this country and the difficulty of assimilation, especially in comparatively small communities.
I have no great industrial centre in my constituency. The biggest town is High Wycombe with a population of about 45,000, but now about 8 per cent, of the population comes from Pakistan, India and the West Indies. This is a very high percentage for any town to absorb over a period of a few years.
It is true that to some extent the flow of immigrants into this country has some 401 relation to employment possibilities, as the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) said; but it is a rather limited relationship, because from some of the countries, notably Pakistan, those who come over here, even if they do not succeed in obtaining employment for some time, are still much better off materially in this country than in their own, and there is therefore a good deal of encouragement to them to come here.
If we are to help the countries of the Commonwealth which are economically backward, countries where there is a great deal of poverty and a great deal of unemployment, we cannot be expected to keep on receiving the whole of their surplus labour force unless in the first place they are prepared to do something about it themselves by restricting their population growth.
§ Mr. Hall
That shows the folly of giving way, but to reply to that intervention I point out that the type of migration into West Germany from East Germany was very different from that which we are receiving from the Commonwealth, for it was skilled labour and it enabled West Germany to go ahead on a vast surplus labour market, which is now drying up. In the examples of Hong Kong and Algeria, the size of the influx of migrants enabled the obtaining of a considerable labour cost advantage, That does not apply in this country where all immigrants are paid precisely the same trade union rates as are applied to the rest of the country.
The point I was making was that the flow of immigrants into this country, and particularly into places the size of Wycombe, creates a number of problems perhaps more for the Pakistanis, and perhaps the Indians, than for the West Indians, because the Pakistanis come over here with very few of them knowing any English and finding it much more difficult to get work than the West Indians do and mostly without their families, which creates serious problems 402 in their relationships with the community and in the development of diseases which spring from this fact. This creates great tensions in the communities into which they go.
In the Committee stage of this Act two years ago, I mentioned that my constituency is no stranger to this problem of the influx of populations from areas outside the country. We had it after the war from Yugoslavia and Poland as an aftermath of the war, and for a short time the same kind of stresses and strains were felt by the population of Wycombe as are felt now.
This problem has nothing to do with colour. I wish that we could get away from that. This is a question of people coming from countries with different cultures, different habits, different characteristics and completely different backgrounds. It does not mean that their habits and customs are any better or any worse than ours, but they are different. It takes time for them to be absorbed into a community. If they arrive in a reasonable flow they can be absorbed and there is no difficulty, but if too many come in at one time, if they congregate in certain areas in a town or district, and if they set up establishments of their own in which people of one particular race live, they create difficulties. To some extent the Act has tended to slow down the rate of migration until recently, and I think has helped very considerably in that direction.
The West Indians, and, indeed, the Pakistanis and most of the Commonwealth immigrants, who have come here have made a considerable contribution to this country. As has been said already, they have made a contribution to running transport services and staffing hospitals, and no doubt many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee could give examples of how these immigrants have helped the labour effort in this country. They have been a valuable acquisition, but there must be a limit to the number that we take at any one time.
Every other Commonwealth country, with the exception of India and Pakistan, for obvious reasons limits, and in some cases prohibits, the entry of migrants to their countries. Until the passing of this Act we were the only 403 country that allowed completely free entry, and I believe that the passing of it has not only lessened the strain on our housing and labour resources, but has benefited those immigrants already here.
What I would hate to see, and what I have been working in my constituency to avoid, is such a flood of immigrants into an area that there is angry reaction on the part of the indigenous population. I do not want to see Notting Hills created in different areas which become flooded with immigrants from one part of the Commonwealth or another. We shall get this kind of thing more and more unless we are sensible about the rate at which immigrants come in, and therefore I have no hesitation in recommending the Committee to reject the Amendment. I think that it would achieve no useful purpose.
I cannot see that the Opposition, or indeed the Liberal Party, has any workable alternative to put forward. We know that before this Bill was contemplated approaches were made to, and negotiations took place with, Commonwealth Governments in an endeavour to get them to operate voluntary schemes of restriction and control. To their credit the Governments of India and Pakistan attempted to impose restrictions and controls, but it is almost impossible for any Commonwealth Government to do this effectively. The controls can easily be evaded, and I am sure that it is impossible to operate a system of control while this country acts as a magnet to migrants from India, Pakistan, the West Indies, or indeed any other area where the standard of living is so much lower than our own.
There are probably long-term solutions to this problem. We must do much more to improve the economies of the countries from which these immigrants come. We must do what we can to help them to encourage family control in their countries so that there is not a constant increase in population. There are lots of things that we may be able to do as a long-term solution, but for the immediate future, and for the next few years, I think that we should keep this Act on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
First, although my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) is not in his place, I should say that I recognise that he spoke with complete sincerity, and that every hon. Member is entitled to say exactly what he feels on this topic, provided that he speaks with sincerity. I am sorry if he took my remarks as any reflection upon his sincerity. I take an entirely different point of view on this matter, arid I have as sincere convictions on the question as he has.
There need be no difficulty in dealing with the Amendment. The problem of principle hardly arises. The Government have made it clear—and the Home Secretary has repeated it tonight—that they brought in the Act with the greatest reluctance, and the pressure which was put upon them by several of their own back benchers over several years for this kind of restriction was resisted by them because they accepted the principle that this kind of legislated restriction was a matter which ought not to be entered upon owing to all the other difficulties involved.
The obvious fact was that they would be giving an appearance of introducing colour bars, and destroying the feeling in the Commonwealth that this is the mother country, and that the mother country keeps her doors open. Because these principles were well established the Government did not want to depart from them. Therefore, the only question that we are really considering is whether a certain form of control works.
I would remind the Committee that this Measure was introduced for one year. Why was that? It was to give everybody a chance to see whether or not it worked. It was not because of any other question. There was no question of principle. It was to give the Government and the House of Commons an opportunity of seeing whether it would work. Let us examine, coolly and free from prejudice, the question whether this part of the Act which the Government introduced for one year only—providing that it would cease to be in existence unless the House renewed it—is working well, or whether the automatic control which existed previously worked as well or better.
The Government would not have wanted to introduce this form of control, with all the difficulties that go with 405 it and all the overtones that are read into it, if they could have avoided it. The right hon. Gentleman has referred again to the reluctance with which the Government brought it in.
The right hon. Gentleman said, although not in exactly these words, that the control is not working. He explained how it was not working. He said that there were certain categories in respect of which there was no need for control and that there was only one category where there was control, in respect of which category vouchers were issued.
§ Mr. Brooke
What I said was that the control provided for in the Act was working very effectively. What we are asking the Committee to do is to extend the Act as it stands for another twelve months. In case, by any mischance, I have misled the hon. Member, I should like to tell the Committee that I realise that I made one slip in my speech. I referred, quite correctly, to the number of vouchers presented in the first twelve months as being 14,000. Later in my speech, by a slip, I quoted it mistakenly as 10,000. The correct figures are 14,000 for the first twelve months and 14,000 for the next four months, making a total of 28,000 out of 60,000 vouchers issued.
§ Mr. Diamond
The right hon. Gentleman may be of the opinion that this form of control is working, but the arguments and figures that he gave demonstrated that it was not. If he is patient I shall show why this is the lesson to be drawn from his own facts and arguments.
The Government say that we are controlling only those who need vouchers. The Government have therefore imposed certain criteria, which are not very easily understood. They are not based upon equity, or on comparative populations of the countries concerned. They are certainly not based on need, hunger or poverty. No such criteria have entered into Government thinking. The criterion which they have laid down is the rather simple one of "first come, first served". It does not need a lot of humanity to think of that criterion. The chap who pushes in first is at the head of the queue. That was the criterion adopted. The Government then said that they would issue vouchers. Presumably this was on the basis that the Government thought that they could accomplish—
§ It being Ten o'clock. The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.