HC Deb 28 February 1968 vol 759 cc1603-48
Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, South-East)

I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 2, line 26, leave out from ' that ' to end of line 38 and insert: ' he can satisfy a qualified medical authority in the country of his previous domicile appointed by the local British High Commission that no public health hazard might reasonably be expected to arise should he be admitted '.

The Chairman

It will be convenient for the Committee to consider at the same time Amendment No. 19, in page 2, line 38, at end insert— Except that if a person produces evidence of having passed a medical examination under arrangements approved by the Ministry of Health in the country of origin, the medical inspector shall not normally examine him again.

Mrs. Short

This Amendment takes the Committee to a rather different area of the problem and indicates a practical way by which we can help both those who seek to come to this country and a section of people who have been forgotten during the last part of the debate, namely, the receiving population.

As a supporter of the Bill and as Member for a constituency which has had a great deal of experience of the problem, I have been aghast at some of the irresponsible speeches which have been made, notably by the leader of the Liberal Party and by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), both of whom are in a position to receive entrants into this country in their constituencies but who, I gather, do not wish to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Liberal Party is Member for Devon, North. I understand that, last year, his local authority refused to accept London overspill partly because it was afraid that there would be immigrants among them. He is in no position to lecture the Committee about what we should do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian says that some of his hon. Friends should be willing to take another 1,000 or 2,000 immigrants into their constituencies. I wonder whether he realises what this means. That is the increase in immigrant children that my constituency received from 1966 to 1967. That means an additional class per week entering the constituency, and we must find over 50 teachers a year to meet the increase. It is irresponsible to say that a constituency in the position of mine should have to shoulder that additional burden.

Cmnd. 3552, recently issued by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, contains the instructions which he intends to give immigration officers on the exercise of their functions under Section 2 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, as amended by the Bill. If approved, they will supersede part of the instructions issued in August, 1966. They include instructions on medical examinations. The immigration officer is normally required to arrange with the medical inspector at the port of entry for the examination of holders of Ministry of Labour vouchers and other Commonwealth citizens entering the country for the first time. Visitors, students and other people intending to remain for six months or more should also be referred to the medical inspector of the port of entry. If the entrant can produce a certificate that he has passed a medical examination under approved arrangements in his country of origin the port doctor will not normally need to examine him again.

This means that all Commonwealth citizens coming into the country for the first time can be referred to the port doctor for medical examination. With large numbers of entrants, we would have a queue waiting to see the port doctor. Inconvenience and difficulty would arise, and one can imagine the chaos at Heathrow, for example—the large numbers of families, with many young children among them, who would have to wait with no facilities for their reception and no means of achieving the minimum of comfort during their waiting time, which might be very considerable.

If the medical inspector believes that an entrant should not be admitted because he is suffering from a mental disorder or some other disease he can refuse to admit him and send him back home. All the arguments in today's long debate about immigrants who would not be acceptable and would have to be sent back apply equally where people are refused entry on medical grounds. I shall not repeat the arguments and bore the Committee to tears, but where would the immigrant be sent back to?

If the immigration officer or medical inspector decides that an immigrant can be admitted because his disability is not such as to require him to be sent back home, the only recommendation they can make is for the immigrant to report to a designated medical officer of health.

1.30 a.m.

One assumes that this would mean the medical officer of health in the town to which the immigrant intends to go. There is no means of ensuring that the immigrant does report to that officer, so that one can see that quite a large number of people could be admitted on the understanding that they would report to a doctor, but who do not do so, and would not therefore get the treatment that they need. This means that whole families of immigrants could arrive and be required to return, involving a great deal of expense, inconvenience and unhappiness, unless my Amendment is accepted.

The other factor that concerns me, and will concern other Midlands and Yorkshire Members with experience of the problem, is that the number of those in general practice in our part of the country is low. There is no doubt that the Midlands is under-doctored, and has difficulty in getting doctors to work in the Midlands, in general practice and in hospitals, despite financial incentives which the Minister of Health has given to encourage them to settle in these areas.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Smethwick)

I come from the same sort of area as my hon. Friend. We know that there is a shortage of doctors. Is she really suggesting in this Amendment that there is a plenitude of doctors in the countries of origin of these people?

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Brewis)

Order. I would prefer that the hon. Lady related her remarks a bit more closely to the Amendment.

Mrs. Short

If my hon. Friend would have a little patience I would explain how our Amendment deals with this. Under the present regulations there is a considerable burden thrown upon the hospitals and general practitioner services in the reception areas. We know that tuberculosis is a particular problem with immigrants. Our Amendment suggests that, instead of permitting immigrants to come to this country, to ports of entry and be examined there, we should require all those wishing to enter, who come within the purview of the Bill, to acquire a medical certificate given by a qualified medical authority in the country of the immigrant's previous domicile—a doctor appointed by the High Commissioner.

We have in mind that, as my right hon. Friend is proposing to send peripatatic lawyers to work as an Appeals Commission, attached to the High Commission, we should also send doctors from this country to carry out medical examinations and issue certificates, which would then be shown at the port of entry, together with an entry permit, ensuring that those people entering the country had a reasonable bill of health. We are not insisting that the immigrant should be absolutely free from all disabilities, but certain disabilities, which my right hon. Friend would indicate. This would make sure that no one arrived here only to be turned back, with all the inconvenience and expense that I have mentioned. It would also ensure that there would not be additional pressure on the hospital and medical services of the country. I hope that the Committee will accept the principle of the Amendment. Possibly its drafting is not as expert as it might be, but I hope that my right hon. Friend understands the spirit behind it and will accept it.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)

I give general support to the Amendment. It is essentially a probing Amendment, and I would not pretend that the words of it are perfect, but it suggests a certain administrative procedure. I should be interested to hear what my right hon. Friend has to say about it. Every hon. Member accepts that there must be control which should be administered with compassion. Speaking as one with a large immigrant population in his constituency, I have found that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues administer the control which exists with considerable compassion.

However, we are familiar with the problems which arise when immigrants arrive at London Airport, are subjected to health checks—I have tuberculosis particularly in mind—doubts are raised, and they are returned to their country of origin. That is sensible for all concerned, but it causes considerable disappointment to the people involved and their families. If by an alteration of our administrative procedures something can be done to alleviate this, then it should be done. I ask the Government to accept what we have in mind, which is to ensure as far as possible that the health check, when necessary, is done in the Commonwealth territory concerned and not at London Airport.

This is not anything very revolutionary from the administrative point of view because when emigrants go from this country to the United States, Canada or Australia, it is common form for the medical examination to be carried out in this country so that when the emigrant goes overseas he has, not the absolute surety, but the comparative surety that he will be admitted to the country of his choice.

It may be argued that from a distance there are problems about being sure of the validity of medical evidence and testimonials obtained from overseas, and that this is one of the reasons for having the medical check in this country. Sometimes, too, written medical evidence from overseas is not accepted. This is why we have carefully put words in the Amendment to the effect that the medical authority which examines the immigrant in the country of origin should be appointed by the High Commissioner. Who that medical authority is is to be left open. If there were a heavy demand on resources, and difficulties in having doctors resident in the country concerned available, since the Home Secretary has indicated that lawyers can be sent out, I should have thought that doctors could be sent out I do not put that forward rigidly. One could have doctors on the spot.

This is a practical, simple proposition and, if accepted, it would alleviate quite a lot of the inconvenience and overstrain on the resources of the airports and reception areas.

Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)

I hope that in considering these Amendments we can for a moment detach ourselves from the more emotive considerations of the Bill. We must accept that, whatever is done in this Bill, there will be people coming in, and I hope continuing to come in, and it will be necessary for us to exert certain checks and controls. This is not in order to exclude certain people so much as in order to practise medicine in an enlightened and efficient fashion.

It is impossible for the public health authorities to take the necessary steps unless they have the necessary information, much of which must be gathered by them personally and by means of examinations conducted at ports of entry. But there is no doubt that substantial advantage could be obtained if certain examinations were conducted at the point of embarkation.

As the Under-Secretary will know, this matter has been raised, not once, but over and over again in recent years in many other connections. It has been pressed by the British Medical Association that many of the public health regulations applying to immigrants and travellers, including British nationals who come back from abroad, should be modified and new provisions introduced concerning examinations, special investigations, X-rays and the like at the point of embarkation.

The reason for that is not to erect additional obstacles in the way of people's normal progress about the world but to make public health measures operate more effectively and frequently to save people trouble. It is distressing to travel large distances and find on arrival in a strange place that certain conditions exist and, not necessarily to be turned away, but at least sometimes have to be hospitalised or to have courses of treatment in a strange place when one might prefer it to be done at another place. Therefore, there is much merit in the general ideas behind this group of Amendments.

It is important to realise that this kind of consideration cannot be spelt out in detail in a Bill, because the information that is required from time to time varies according to the conditions operating in different parts of the world at different times. This is one of the services operated so efficiently by the World Health Organisation, which runs an early-warning service about epidemics and diseases which are endemic in certain parts of the world. Therefore, the kind of information required at our ports or airports varies from time to time. If we were to spell it out in detail in the Bill, constant changes would be necessary in regulations.

There are, however, certain basic requirements with regard, for example, to infectious diseases. The hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) referred to tuber culosis, and in certain areas this is a condition about which information is wanted. Therefore, in some cases we require X-rays. There is nothing wrong with this. It is in no sense obstructive or punitive. It is a sensible public health precaution. Sometimes, however, it is an advantage if the X-rays can be obtained elsewhere or before a person starts a long and sometimes difficult journey.

There may be difficulties in the wording of Amendment No. 17 and I see disadvantages in the Amendment to which the Under-Secretary will, no doubt, refer. It is restrictive in many ways and, possibly, affects certain other provisions which we want to retain. Amendment No. 19, however, seems merely to allow an additional procedure without in any way restricting what otherwise takes place.

Amendment No. 19 states: Except that if a person produces evidence of having passed a medical examination under arrangements approved by the Ministry of Health in the country of origin, the medical inspector shall not normally examine him again. That is sensible.

As the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) said, in many areas the pressure on medical resources is intense. There is an acute shortage of doctors. Therefore, Amendment No. 19 does not make a requirement. It does not say that it must be done in all circumstances but it provides that where it can be done, it shall be permitted under this legislation. That is extremely sensible.

Nevertheless, having said that I regard Amendment No. 19 as a useful addition to the Bill, on which I would like to hear the Under-Secretary's comments, I would appreciate his general comments also on the whole situation, because I am sure that it would be in the interests of the country and of people coming here, from wherever they come, and in the in-interests of the world community as a whole, if we could establish a regular and integrated system of health checks at various points, on which everybody could rely, so that we smooth the arrangements for all concerned. I realise, of course, that we would not establish wholly satisfactory arrangements everywhere by writing this provision into the Bill, but the hon. Gentleman knows that this is the kind of arrangement which the World Health Organisation is working out and recommending to other countries to make.

1.45 a.m.

I think it is a pity that we have to discuss an important public health measure in the midst of discussing a matter of a quite different character—not of a less important character but still a totally different one, which has, I think, produced the wrong kind of atmosphere for the consideration of the important public health matter.

Mr. Hooley

I am in no way unsympathetic to the proposals which have been made by my hon. Friend; in fact, I am only anxious that control of health shall be absolutely adequate and secure. The only administrative experience I have had of this kind of arrangement was in the university where I was working, and where there was provision in the regulations for such medical examination, in particular for students from overseas, but for British students as well. There was argument for some time whether a certificate from the country of origin of an overseas student could be accepted. It was found in practice that, by relying on evidence from overseas, there were dangers on occasion of students with such a dangerous disease as tuberculosis slipping through, and that the only real and safe medical check was a medical check carried out by the university's medical officer, and that that check should be accepted only as an authentic check on the student's health.

It seems to me that the danger in my hon. Friend's proposals is this. The potential immigrant may in all good faith have his examination in the country from which he is to come here, but then there may be a delay before he arrives here. It would not follow that he would set off for this country the day following his examination. During the delay he could pick up some disease. Also there is the journey itself. We are inclined to assume that people will make the journey by aircraft in a matter of hours, but I take it that some immigrants come by sea and that the ships they come in call at foreign ports on the way here, and so there is a possibility of an immigrant's contracting disease in that way, in the time, which may be a period of weeks, between his satisfying the legal requirement of examination in the overseas country and his arrival here. In that time he may make a contact injurious to his health. The only watertight safeguard is to insist he should have a medical check when he arrives in this country.

I am wholly sympathetic to the objectives of the Amendment, but I am rather doubtful whether any check other than a check at the time of arrival here will achieve the foolproof system we would like.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

One always listens with great respect to the medical expertise of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), and one has listened to his views this evening with that respect. I wish I could say the same thing about the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), but I am afraid I cannot, but, despite her sponsorship of this Amendment, it is in fact not totally unreasonable. I think the principle behind this Amendment is right, because the principle, as I see it, is that as far as possible the conditions which govern entry into this country should be determined at the earliest possible moment.

One of the most distressing parts of this whole process of immigration control is the disappointment and heartbreak which can result from a person making a long journey and then finding, at the end of his journey, that his hopes are disappointed. Anything which can contribute to the lessening of that likelihood is an improvement.

While one can say that in principle, one wonders whether it is workable in practice. The shortage of doctors in countries of origin has already been pointed out. Equally difficult is the problem of getting a uniform medical standard in those countries. It is true that the Amendment makes provision for the appointment of a qualified medical authority by the local British High Commission, but that does not get over the shortage of doctors, because it may be difficult to find such qualified medical authorities.

Unless we have an accepted standard of practice, it may be that, on arrival at the British port of entry, another form of medical examination will be necessary, and that would result in duplication. As it is, by taking out the provisions for medical examination, Amendment No. 17 does not allow for that. As a result, if one has to choose between the two Amendments, No. 19 is the more desirable.

Then one asks oneself what would be the concrete effect of Amendment No. 19 if it were added to the Bill. It would not be very much. It would be purely declaratory and would leave the issue to be decided by the health authority on the spot here. Not a great deal would be gained.

The reason why the Amendments are useful is that they are exploratory and will give the Committee an opportunity to hear the views of the Minister on these very important provisions, which command general assent.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)

I want to buttress the submission of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mrs. Renée Short). I do it on the basis of an argument which is very important and which I am sure she would have advanced herself had there been sufficient time. She concentrated on the medical problems of immigrants.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was in my town three or four weeks ago, and he will remember a conversation with the officers of the local authority in which the medical officer of health played a conspicuous part. I will not disclose the details of what was a confidential meeting, but I can say that the port officers made contributions on the lines which have been indicated tonight.

One administrative difficulty is that, all too frequently, people are late in arriving at the town in which eventually they settle. Often, some weeks elapse, and a great deal of time is wasted by the administrative staff of the medical officer of health's department in trying to locate them, because, in the case of persons who have entered the country illegally, as soon as inquiries of any kind begin in my part of the world, there is a good deal of movement across into Yorkshire. These people move about a great deal. Having located them, there are then language problems. There are real administrative difficulties, as many medical officers of health will confirm.

The object of the Amendment is both humane and administratively desirable. Though I prefer the words of my hon. Friend's Amendment, if the Parliamentary Secretary does not agree, I hope at least that he will adopt the principle behind them.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I support the idea behind the Amendment, if not the actual wording of it.

The Under-Secretary may remember that we have been trying in the Council of Europe to draw up a convention forau pairgirls who come to this country. It has been thought quite practical there to have a medical examination of these girls before they come. Norway has already signed an agreement with the local employment agencies of this country that they will not send any girls until they have had a medical examination.

Therefore, if he cannot accept the exact wording of these two Amendments, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider seriously that this is a real possibility and will say that something is being done for the people from tropical countries such as we are thinking of, and trying to get done, in Europe itself. In the Common Market countries action has already been taken, so this time the Under-Secretary has a real basis on which to work, and it cannot in any way be said to be colour prejudice.

I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to say there is an analogy between these cases, and that we may have an Amendment which will be suitable.

Sir D. Renton

I have listened to this discussion with great interest, because when the 1962 Act was going through the House I had to reply to the arguments put forward when various Amendments were moved dealing with medical inspection. May I say in passing how much I envy the Under-Secretary the support he is getting from both sides of the Committee, compared with what we had then?

I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) has made a most valuable contribution in putting forward her Amendment. There is experience, of course, especially the Australian experience where they have so many immigrants moving from this country to theirs; as I understand it they have a double medical check. One will not get an assisted passage, at any rate to Australia, unless one is medically cleared here, and if one is not medically sound on arrival at the other end one may be either put in quarantine, so to speak, or may not be given leave to land at all.

I remember very well from my own experience of the immigration service how very difficult medical inspection is, in practice and in administration—much more difficult than the many members of the public who insist upon medical checks for immigrants generally realise. But a great deal of experience has been gained by the Government through the administration of the 1962 Act, and the hon. Gentleman's reply will no doubt contain the benefit of that experience. Would he be so good as to explain that part of the Bill which the hon. Lady for Wolverhampton, North-East wishes to leave out? I think it needs an explanation. I foresee a slightly confusing situation arising if we are not careful, because on my reading of the two new subsections, and especially of the words to be left out, the position appears to be that the immigration officer, on the advice of a medical inspector, or, if no inspector is available, of another duly qualified medical practitioner, may make it a condition of granting admission to this country that the immigrant concerned shall report his arrival to a medical officer of health, and submit to examination. So far, so good.

But suppose that the medical officer of health says "You are a person with an incurable disease, you should never have attempted to come here at all". What is to happen then? The person has already been granted admission subject to that condition. The condition has been fulfilled because he has submitted himself to examination, but the examination shows that he is a person who, on health grounds, should not have been admitted. This is why I say that this could be a somewhat confusing situation, and one which should be explained.

2.0 a.m.

In itself, I think that the Amendment has a great deal to commend it, but I would have preferred it as an addition to the Bill, rather than as an alternative to what is in the Bill, confusing though I find that. In other words, I think that we have to envisage the possibility of people having the opportunity of getting cleared before they leave their own countries, at the time that they apply for an entry certificate, as well as the possibility that a condition should be attached that they get medically inspected in case they have a disease which may be curable or incurable, but otherwise are people who should be admitted. I think that the hon. Lady—and she may see this point—has put us in a difficulty by asking that these words be left out.

I think that the spirit of the Liberal Amendment is sound enough, but I confess that had I been in the position of the hon. Gentleman I would have found the wording of it creating such uncertainty in the mind of an immigration officer that I would have been inclined to advise the Committee not to accept it. However, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt give us his views.

Mr. Ennals

I am grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) for having raised this matter. I think it is an important subject, and she knows, and the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) points out, too, that inevitably the Government have gained some experience of this matter over the past few years. This was in part reflected in the White Paper published in 1965, which this Clause really tries to bring into application.

I have great sympathy with what is in my hon. Friend's mind, and also with what is in the mind of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), but I shall resist both Amendments, because they are unnecessary, and, as I shall seek to prove. would be difficult to apply, and would be unnecessarily restrictive. To do this I must show what the purpose of the Clause is, and how it will be carried out.

I think the Committee will recognise that as the law stands there is no power to arrange for the medical examination of a Commonwealth citizen who qualifies for admission as a returning resident, or as a wife or husband, or as a dependant of someone already in this country. It was because of this that we decided and announced in the White Paper that power would be taken to require, if need be, a medical examination to be held, and the necessary powers are written into the Bill.

The way in which the new power will be taken is explained in Cmnd. 3552. My hon. Friend read only part of paragraph 5. It is the second half of the paragraph to which I want to draw my hon. Friend's attention and I shall therefore read the whole of it. It says: The Immigration Officer should normally arrange with the Medical Inspector for the examination of holders of Ministry of Labour vouchers and other Commonwealth citizens who are coming for the first time to settle in the United Kingdom. Visitors, students and others who intend to remain in the country for six months or more should normally also be referred to the Medical Inspector. Any person who produces a medical certificate should be advised to hand it to the Medical Inspector. That is the medical certificate which the person brings from the country from which he came. If a person produces evidence of having passed a medical examination under approved arrangements in his country of origin, the Medical Inspector will not normally need to examine him again. If, instead of holding a certificate from a recognised authority, he appears to be seriously ill, or suffering from mental disorder, or whatever it may be, the immigration officer will have the right to require there to be a medical examination.

Mrs. Renée Short

The paragraph to which my hon. Friend has referred mentions approved arrangements in the country of origin". Does that mean that they are approved by the Government of the country of origin, or by my hon. Friend's Department?

Mr. Ennals

It means approved by the British Government—on the advice of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and also my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Commonwealth in so far as it applies to Commonwealth countries.

I was going to deal with that point, because most hon. Members would recognise that there is everything to be said for a medical check being held first in the country from which the person comes. This was recognised in the 1965 White Paper. But it was also said in that White Paper that Medical tests abroad will take time to organise in collaboration with the other Governments concerned, and legislation is needed before new conditions can be attached to entry. We have attached new conditions to entry, and there are still problems, but we are making progress with them.

There are now 30 independent Commonwealth countries and dependent territories for which the medical examination of prospective immigrants has already been arranged and approved by my right hon. Friends. Progress is being made and negotiations are being carried on with some other parts of the Commonwealth and independent territories in order eventually, we hope, that medical checks can be arranged everywhere before immigrants arrive here. It has already been pointed out by one hon. Member that on occasions this can be difficult in some territories, where there may be a shortage of doctors and where arrangements are not easy to make. As soon as we can we shall proceed with medical arrangements in other countries.

I submit that, under the circumstances that I have described, to make the possession of a medical certificate, a statutory requirement would be very restrictive. I would also point out—and this deals in part with the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—that in the 1965 White Paper there is a sentence to which I should draw his attention. It says: There will however be no question of refusing entry on medical grounds to entitled dependants and powers will not be taken to do this. That means that a dependant could arrive with a disease which carried with it some dangers. It is for this reason that we make it a condition of entry that if a medical inspection shows this to be the case the person concerned must report to an appointed medical officer. If that person does not report to an appointed medical officer he or she is committing an offence, because that is a failure to comply with a condition of of entry. But to say that the child—if child it be—or wife—if wife it be—because of sickness that he or she has, must return to the country of origin in spite of the fact that the father and other members of the family are here would be a restriction which this Government would not wish to introduce, and which I think the Committee would not wish to approve. These cases are likely to be minority cases, but they could be the sort of circumstances in which family reunification is essential.

There are defects in the Amendments. I do not want to go into them in detail, but I would point out to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) that his Amendment would have no greater binding force than the sentence which is already contained in the draft instructions to immigration officers which have been laid before Parliament and which will be approved by Parliament.

I hope that, with that explanation and the indication that we are making progress in the general direction in which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee wish us to progress, the Amendment will not be pressed to a Division.

Sir D. Renton

Paragraph 6 of the instructions says that the power to refuse admission on medical grounds does not apply to wives, returning residents or children under 16. However, it may be a condition of their landing that they submit to examination. Why has not that been included in the instructions?

Mr. Ennals

If an immigration officer does not have a certificate presented to him by a would-be immigrant, he is entitled to ask for there to be a medical examination, and it is quite right that he should have this power.

Mrs. Renée Short

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his reply. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Dame Joan Vickers

I beg to move Amendment No. 21, in page 3, line 2, after wife ', insert or widow '.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Brewis)

With this we are to take the following two Amendments:

Amendment No. 22, in page 3, line 2, after second is ', insert or was '.

Amendment No. 23, in line 5, leave out ' with her '.

Dame Joan Vickers

On Second Reading, the Home Secretary said: It has been widely reported and assumed that because 1,500 vouchers will be issued, 1,500 people a year will be coming here. That is not true. There will be 1,500 vouchers for heads of households. Every head of a household can bring his entitled dependants—wife, children under the age of 16. aged parents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February. 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1255.] The purpose of the Amendment is to know whether a widow is to be considered to be the head of a household, which does not appear from the Bill to be the case. The hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) and I have put forward these Amendments so as to allow the widow of a resident in the United Kingdom, or other Commonwealth citizen, to enter on her own right. Nowadays, women are not just appendages of and do not necessarily have to travel with their husbands.

I hope that this simple proposal will receive sympathetic consideration from the Government. Although I am thinking particularly of Asians, there are plenty of other widows living in other countries in the Commonwealth who may wish to return to their relations for company, or for care, or perhaps for financial help. Article 2 of the Fourth Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights makes a specific reference to the right of citizens to enter States of which they are nationals. Although the United Kingdom has not ratified the Convention, I hope that the Under-Secretary will agree that these widows ought to be able to come here in their own right.

2.15 a.m.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

It would be absolutely outrageous if the Committee were to refuse to accept the Amendment. It raises the whole issue of the status of women, although I must be bound by the rules of order. I strongly support the case so well made out by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dame Joan Vickers). It must be unacceptable that widows should be deprived of the privileges of this part of the Bill. It is not our fault if our husbands die, and a woman should not be deprived, because her husband is dead, of rights which she would have if he were still alive. This is unacceptable in terms of human rights and women's status. So many things in this Bill, which is sodden with racialism, are sodden with anti-feminism. Discrimination is indivisible: discrimination in one direction leads to discrimination in another.

I thought that the Government paid more attention to the Declaration of Human Rights. Article 2 says: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion… The Clause discriminates on grounds of sex because it says that a woman must be married and accompanied by her husband when she seeks to enter the United Kingdom.

There might be a hundred reasons why a woman does not travel with her husband. which is why Amendment No. 23 would leave out the words "with her." Why should a woman have to arrive on the same aeroplane or ship as her husband? Many married couples prefer to travel separately for reasons of safety. A woman might be expecting a baby and decide to wait until it is born, while her husband has to arrive in the new country by a certain date to take up a job.

A couple might not even live together because they do not like each other, and certainly would not travel together. They might be separated. It is intolerable that a woman's right to arrive here should depend on her physical "togetherness" with her husband at the time. I cannot think what is in my right hon. Friends' minds. I do not know how they think ordinary people live. Nothing is more common than that a man and wife should occasionally want to travel separately, and a condition that people should travel together is completely unacceptable. This is treating women like mere appendages.

Many women, like doctors and teachers, who wish to come here should not be obliged to accompany their husbands. This is a completely offensive provision which, in this year of human rights, should not be allowed to remain in the Bill. I hope that my right hon. Friend has sufficient common sense, compassion and lack of prejudice to accept this modest Amendment.

Sir D. Glover

I support the Amendment. Had the Bill not been so rushed, I am sure that the Government would not have proposed a provision which discriminated against women in this way. Consider the plight of an Asian woman living in Kenya whose husband has died and whose only relatives, perhaps distant relatives like cousins, are in this country, having been able to get into the quota to come here. Having lost her husband, she must stay in Kenya without friends, perhaps without a job and unable to obtain work. Under the Bill, she will not be able to proceed to this country on her United Kingdom passport because, in drawing up the Bill in a hurry, the Government have made a mistake. This would be a poor way to treat women, particularly widows, in Human Rights Year and is no way to tackle the problem of human relations between male and female.

I am surprised that, in their haste to get the Bill drafted, the Government have omitted to realise that not only wives but widows will be included in this categorisation. Why should a woman have to arrive with her husband? That is one of the most idiotic statements in this idiotic Measure. People often deliberately travel separately. Lord Shawcross once said that he and his wife never travel together in the same aeroplane. Many families who are not faced with the problems created by the Bill do not proceed in the same aeroplane for safety reasons. If anything should happen to one parent, the other can look after the children.

Instead of taking this common sense attitude, the Government are saying that if a wife arrives at London Airport, Southampton or elsewhere and is not in the company of her husband, she will be barred and sent back to Kenya. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to give the Committee some reasonable explanation, because what we are saying is so sensible and the alternative so idiotic that there really must be some such explanation that will remove these crazy fears from our minds. As the Bill is now drawn, the whole thing is so incomprehensible and so foolish that, even with the present Government, I cannot believe that it is true.

Mr. Ennals

What has been said just shows how necessary it is to have a debate like this in order to correct both the impression of the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) about the alleged confusion of the Bill and the impression of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) that the Bill is somehow sexually discriminating. To deal with that point. I must first explain what the original Act did, its consequences, why we have introduced this amending Bill, and the effect of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers).

Section 2(2,b) of the 1962 Act precludes an immigration officer from imposing conditions of admission on a Commonwealth citizen who qualifies for admission as wife or husband, or is the child under 16 of a parent who is in this country. The intention behind the provision was to assure the immigrant wives and children of an unfettered right to join the head of the family here. But another consequence of the provision, which was presumably unintended or thought unimportant in 1962, was that if the head of the family is admitted for a limited period on conditions—perhaps as a student for six months or so—there is no power to impose the same limit on the stay of his wife and children whether they enter the country with him or join him later.

Therefore, as the original Measure stood, the man could arrive, be admitted as a student for a period of, say, six months conditionally, and then send for his wife and children to join him. His wife and children could then come in without conditions. At the end of the six months, the man could be required to return to his country of origin, but his wife, because she was the wife, and because of that alone, gained a right which the man did not have. That was sexually discriminatory, if anything was. Since the hon. Lady is fair, if anything—and she is fair—she would not want us to retain provisions which were discriminatory in favour of women any more than in favour of men.

Let us now look at what the Amendments seek to do, with the misguided support of the hon. Gentleman. The effect of Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 would be that the widow of a Commonwealth citizen who had been resident here could not be refused admission by the immigration officer. Suppose, therefore, that the Commonwealth citizen is dead—maybe his ashes are buried here, but he is not here himself. He has died—

Mrs. Lena Jeger

It is not her fault.

Mr. Ennals

It might have been her fault—one cannot tell whether it was her fault or not—that is not the question. He has died. There seems to be no good reason why, because of that fact alone, because she is a widow of a man who may once have lived here, she should have the right of entry. That would not apply if the situation were the other way round: a man would not have the right of entry just because his wife, before she died, had been for some reason or other resident in this country. If the woman was not widowed she would be able to join her husband so, again, the position is the same as it affects men and women.

There are many circumstances in which a woman whose husband was not a Commonwealth citizen living here could be admitted; for example, whether she was a widow or a mother she could come to join parents, she could come here to join children who were here, or she could come here in certain compassionate circumstances. It does not seem right to us to give such a woman a statutory right of entry just because, in a sense, the ashes of her husband are in this country. So far as is known, the existing provisions have not caused any hardship. Existing instructions to immigration officers provide for the admission of a widow in certain compassionate circumstances, provided that the relative in this country has adequate accommodation. There are many occasions when this discretion is used.

2.30 a.m.

Reference has been made to Amendment No. 23, which provides that a woman shall be admitted notwithstanding that her husband is not resident in this country and does not seek to enter this country with her. There is no obligation upon the husband and wife to travel together. One understands that for all sorts of reasons, for safety or happiness, they may prefer to travel separately. But there is no provision now for a woman who has no right of entry to be admitted just because her husband hopes to come to this country, any more than there is a right for a man to come here with no right of entry and to be admitted because his wife may be a voucher holder coming to this country.

A woman who herself is the holder of an employment voucher would be admitted on precisely the same terms as a man. There is no question of sex discrimination, but one must realise that this would apply to a man as well as to a woman. Under this Amendment if a woman who arrived at a port satisfied the immigration officer that her husband was soon to arrive, she could be admitted. It may be that even though he held an entry certificate he might have been responsible for a fraud or some other offence which would exclude him from admission. Because she travelled on a plane before him, even though she had no right of entry, she would gain admission and her husband would not. The husband could claim to come in as a dependant husband.

These Amendments are quite unnecessary. There is no element of sexual discrimination at all. Were we to start making these changes, we might put women at an advantage over men. I am afraid that in this assembly that is unlikely to be accepted.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

Surely the logic of what my hon. Friend has said must mean that he accepts the Amendment. He has said it is not essential for a woman to arrive with her husband, but in page 3, line 5 the Bill makes it obligatory for the husband and wife to arrive together. It says "with her".

Mr. Ennals

He can either arrive with her or after, but not before.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

What my hon. Friend has said is not in the Bill. The Bill says that the husband must arrive with the wife. My hon. Friend says that he can arrive after or before her. Will he not accept an Amendment that she may arrive with, after, before, or behind?

Mr. Ennals

There is no need for an Amendment which permits her to arrive afterwards. The immigration officer cannot refuse to admit a wife whose husband already has arrived here. Neither will he refuse a wife who arrives with her husband. These Amendments would add confusion to what is an eminently sensible Clause.

Dame Joan Vickers

The words in the new subsection (1) are who enters or seeks to enter the United Kingdom". There has been no explanation of that phrase. What does it mean? Does he write from the country where he is and seek to enter? It must mean something, or it is not necessary at all. I cannot see what "seeks to enter" means.

The hon. Gentleman did not answer the question about the widow at all satisfactorily. Is she now to be allowed to come in as head of a household? If she is to have a voucher in her own right as head of a household, I do not mind so much, but the hon. Gentleman's explanation still has not made clear whether she is to be allowed in.

Mr. Ennals

I am trying to understand what the words "seeks to enter" mean. It is a reference to someone who arrives and requests the right to enter. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, who is sitting beside me on the Front Bench, knows that the reference is to someone arriving with the intention of entering who asks for the opportunity to enter. That is a fairly clear interpretation.

The hon. Lady has asked about a widow who was a head of a household. If a woman receives an employment voucher under the system as now operated, she will come in as the head of a household, just as a man would come in as head of a household. Vouchers are issued to women as they are to men, if they apply for them, according to their qualifications. Under the new type of voucher to which we have been referring in this connection, a woman who is the head of a household is as much entitled as a man to apply if her circumstances are such that the High Commissioner considers that she should be one of those who would be granted a voucher.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

I find this quite unacceptable, and I deeply resent my hon. Friend's facetious attitude to the position of widows. In his earlier remarks, he seemed to be joking about ashes and widows. I find this very offensive.

A woman might be widowed a few days before she expected to come to this country. She may not be the head of the household at the time when the application is made. Men die suddenly sometimes. Because her husband has died, she would be deprived of the right to come here. This is quite unacceptable. The Committee would not want that to happen. I shall not press the matter to a Division, but I felt that the attitude of the Front Bench was quite unacceptable and really most offensive.

Mr. Ennals

Quite obviously, I have offended my hon. Friend. I assure her that it was absolutely unintentional. I did not for a moment intend to be facetious on this matter.

I have already made the case against including this as a statutory right. Where, however, there are compassionate considerations, there is a well known procedure. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have paid tribute to immigration officers and to what is done in cases which are referred to Ministers. There are countless cases referred to Ministers which fall outside the heading of right of entry. I assure my hon. Friend that Ministers show every sort of sympathy for compassionate considerations. I am not thinking so much of myself as of my right hon. Friend and

Division No. 75.] AYES [2.40 a.m.
Anderson, Donald Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Oakes, Gordon
Awdry, Daniel Henig, Stanley Orbach, Maurice
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Heseltine, Michael Orme, Stanley
Bessell, Peter Hooley, Frank Paget, R. T.
Bidwell, Sydney Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Pardoe, John
Biggs-Davison, John Hunt, John Perry, George H (Nottingham, S.)
Brooks, Edwin Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Ryan, John
Crawshaw, Richard Jopling, Michael Scott, Nicholas
Davidson. James(Aberdeenshire,W.) Judd, Frank Sinclair, Sir George
Dickens, James Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Ellis John Lane, David Taylor, Edward M.(G' gow,Catheart)
Emery, Peter Lestor, Miss Joan Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
English, Michael Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Vickers, Dame Joan
Faulds, Andrew Lubbock, Eric Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Fletcher, Raymond (likeston) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Whitaker, Ben
Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Macdonald, A. H. Winnick, David
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) McNamara, J. Kevin Winstamley, Dr. M. P.
Fortescue, Tim Maddan, Martin Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Glover, Sir Douglas Marten, Neil TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Goodhart, Philip Mendelson, J. J. Mr David Steel and
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Mikardo, lan Mr Emlvn Hooson
Allen, Schoiefield Carter-Jones, Lewis Ford, Ben
Archer, Peter Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Forrester, John
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Chapman, Donald Fowler, Gerry
Bacon, Rt. Hn, Alice Coe, Denis Ginsburg, David
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Coleman, Donald Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Concannon, J. D. Gourlay, Harry
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Dalyell, Tam Grant-Ferris, R
Bishop, E. S. Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Gregory, Arnold
Blackburn, F. Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Grey, Charles (Durham)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Davits, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Harper, Joseph
Body, Richard Davies, Harold (Leek) Haseldine, Norman
Bradley, Tom Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Hattersley, Roy
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Dobson, Ray Hazel!, Bert
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Doig, Peter Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Dunnett, Jack Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Brown, Sob (N'c't!e-upon-Tyne,W.) Eadie, Alex Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Buchan, Norman Edwards. William (Merioneth) Hoy, James
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Ennals, David Huckfield, Leslie
Cant, R B. Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm Yardley) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Carlisle, Mark Farr, John Hunter, Adam
Carmichacl, Neil Fernyhough, E. Irvine, Sir Arthur

colleagues who have been in office before me. They would never think of rejecting a person who had a powerful compassionate claim in circumstances such as those to which my hon. Friend has referred. I hope that she will withhold her resentment.

Amendment negatived.

The Chairman

I undertook to call a Division on Amendment No. 24 if desired.

Amendment proposed:In page 3, line 5, at end, insert:

(c) any person who being a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies has no right of re-entry to his country of domicile.—[Mr. David Steel.]

Question put,That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided:Ayes 60, Noes 138.

Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Mitchell, R, C. (S'th'pton, Test) Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton.N.E.)
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Montgomery, Fergus Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Jones, Rt. Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,.S.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Small, William
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Morris, John (Aberavon) Snow, Julian
Lawson, George Moyle, Roland Stainton, Keith
Leadbitter, Ted Murray, Albert Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Neal, Harold Swingler, Stephen
Loughlin, Charles Ogden, Eric Taverne, Dick
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) O'Malley, Brian Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Oswald, Thomas Thornton, Ernest
McBride, Neil Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Tinn, James
McCann, John Palmer, Arthur Urwin, T. W.
MacColl, James Pentland, Norman Varley, Eric G.
McGuire, Michael Price, William (Rugby) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Probert, Arthur Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mackie, John Roes, Merlyn Wallace, George
Maclennan, Robert Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Whitlock, William
MacPherson, Malcolm Robinson, Rt.Hn. Kenneth(St. P'c' as) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rodgers, William (Stockton) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Manuel, Archie Ross, Rt. Hn. William Yates, Victor
Mapp, Charles Russell, Sir Ronald TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Marks, Kenneth Sharpies, Richard Mr Ernest G. Perry and
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Mr Ernest Armstrong.

2.45 a.m.

Mr. David Steel

I beg to move Amendment No. 26, in page 3, line 13, leave out ' both ' and insert ' one '.

The Chairman

With this we can also discuss the consequential Amendments: Amendment No. 27, in line 13, leave out ' are ' and insert ' is '.

Amendment No. 28, in line 14. leave out ' both ' and insert ' one '.

Amendment No. 29, in line 14, leave out ' are ' and insert ' is '.

Amendment No. 30, leave out lines 16 to 18.

Mr. Steel

We come to quite a separate subject with this Amendment. One of the provisions of the Bill is to change the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act, and the provisions in that which enable a dependant to enter as of right if he had one parent resident in this country. On Second Reading, the Home Secretary indicated that the Government had decided to change this aspect of the Act because 'there was evidence that this Section was being misused and was a loophole to bring people into all-male households who undertook employment. The purpose of the Amendment is to probe the Government on this new restriction.

It is possible to argue that this provision is a contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights which maintains the sanctity of family life and which therefore presumably entitles dependants to join one or other parent of their choosing. That is a point which the Government should have considered. Secondly, I should like to know what happens to the dependants of divorced parents. How will they be treated if this new provision is passed'? What applies to divorced parents applies when there is only one remaining parent. Thirdly, what happens in the case of one parent who is ill and, therefore, is not able to fulfil the condition contained in subsection (2A,c) which provides that dependants are exempt if both parents seek to enter the United Kingdom with a dependant? The Amendment, plus the consequential Amendments, changes it to one parent.

These are practical problems, and we should like to explore the Government's mind on them.

Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)

It might be wise to refer the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) to the debate on 15th November, when the point was made by a number of Members, including myself, that many of the problems arising in constituencies which have large numbers of immigrants are caused by the arrival of young people alleged to be about 14 years of age who usually join their father and who present a terrible problem to the schools, certainly in constituencies like mine. It is expected that they will be taught English—they are usually non-English-speaking people from India or Pakistan—and receive an education, all within the space of 12 months, and then will go on to the labour market. Here we have the beginning of a permanently depressed group of coloured youngsters who will be educated only to the level of being able to do the most menial tasks.

It is obvious from what the hon. Gentleman has said that he has no conception of the problems which exist in some constituencies. I assure him that, if we allowed this situation to continue, we should be laying the basis for the problems which exist in other countries in which the menial tasks are done by coloured people, which is accepted by members of the indigenous population.

Mr. David Steel

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is outlining the problems of boys of 14 years of age coming to our schools. But what has it to do with whether they have one parent or both parents here?

Mr. Howarth

I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. I understood that the intention in allowing dependants to come to join those already settled here was to re-establish family life. Clearly, the problem is that that is, we believe, being abused in the sense that fathers are not bringing over the mother and the rest of the family but are deliberately bringing perhaps the eldest boy, who within a year will be a wage earner.

We have the problem of trying to educate those youngsters from scratch in a short time. This is one of the greatest worries of many teachers in my constituency. Here is one way in which the Government have met the points that were made in the debate on 15th November.

Sir D. Glover

I rise to oppose the Amendments and, at last, to get away from the unholy alliance with the Liberal Party on the Bill. The basic purpose of the Bill, when it does not apply to the Kenyan problem, is that the Home Secretary is trying to remove some of the evils or unsatisfactory features which have grown up since 1962 in the working of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.

The Home Secretary is doing that with five years' experience of the working of the Act. This is not a theoretical alteration. It is an alteration which, I think, the Home Secretary has decided is necessary for the health of the community.

The basis of our immigration policy has been that the head of the household comes here and gets established and is allowed to bring his family. The idea of bringing his family was to establish a normal family household. We cannot prove it, but there is a good deal of worry in many people's minds about whether they are all genuine households which have been created under the 1962 Act.

In putting down the Amendments, hon. Members in the Liberal Party said that they wanted to inquire into the Government's mind, but I think that the Government would be ill advised to give way on this matter because what they have done in the Bill in this respect is an improvement on what went on before.

Mr. Ennals

I hope that after I have given an explanation, the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) will agree to withdraw the Amendment. What hon. Members, on both sides, recognised in the debate on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) has said, that the problem is a very real one.

It is, I think, recognised in many constituencies that there has been a growing tendency for youngsters aged, perhaps, 14 or 15, or older in some cases but satisfying the immigration officers that they are only 15, to come into this country for employment. Many of them go straight on to the labour market, often without being able to speak our language. They come in with a right because their father is here and because the 1962 Act gave them entitlement to join either parent here.

Not only do they come on to the labour market at that stage without going to school, without necessarily any obligation to learn English, but in most cases they join all-male households. The mother is left behind and they go often into a house which may be overcrowded, in which there may be up to 10 people, perhaps two or three fathers and two or three sons, without any female presence. The circumstances often may be that the father is on night shift and the boy on a different shift, so that the question of parental responsibility is difficult, but certainly integration into our society is extremely difficult in the circumstances.

3.0 a.m.

While it was originally intended by the 1962 Act, I have no doubt, that the granting of this right to a dependant to join either parent should bring families together, it has sometimes served not to bring families together but to divide them in a way which can be disadvantageous not only to society here but especially to the boys themselves. There are numbers to be mentioned, and I will come to them in a moment, but the motive of the Government in bringing forward this part of the Clause is to help to resolve social problems. It was not simply that we said, "How can we find a way of reducing the numbers?" It will reduce the numbers, but that is not the purpose of it. I ought to mention that the social problems were drawn sharply to the attention of my right hon. Friend by International Social Service, a social work body which made a study at London Airport and subsequently in different parts of the country and came up with a report expressing great concern about these social problems which concern Parliament itself.

During 1967 the number of children under 16 arriving from Commonwealth countries, other than Canada, Australia and New Zealand, was 34,677. Of those, 12,664 were citizens of Pakistan. A special check was made during December, 1967, when 1,553 child dependants arrived from Pakistan, and showed that about one-third of them were boys of 14 and under 16 and that virtually all the boys were coming to join the father alone. The increase in the number of dependants and dependant children recorded in 1967 is very substantially due to this dramatic increase in boys in this age range, mainly coming from Pakistan, coming usually into an all-male household. We felt, therefore, that it was essential that we should put in this provision. If it had been thought it would divide a family, then we would not have come forward with this proposal, because we believe very strongly that family unity is an important thing for immigrants who have settled in this country.

It must be made clear that the Act, as amended, will permit the admission to one parent if that is the only remaining parent if the other parent has died. It is important that this should be provided. Also, in the Draft Instructions to Immigration Officers, which have been laid before Parliament, provision is made for admission of legitimate children whose parents' marriage is dissolved, and of illegitimate children for whom one parent has had sole responsibility, and this has particular application to the West Indian situation. On the admission of children aged 16 to 17, on terms similar to those for children under 16—I must make this important point—there is discretionary admission for children to join a single parent or some other close relative where this is warranted by special circumstances.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

Would my hon. Friend explain how those instructions to immigration officers which he mentioned square with the Bill as worded? I am speaking in relation to divorced persons.

Mr. Ennals

I do not seem to have the Instructions to Immigration Officers at hand. Which clause was the hon. Gentleman referring to—about discretion?

Mr. English

The one the Under-Secretary was speaking to.

Mr. Ennals

I was asking which section my hon. Friend was referring to in the Instructions to Immigration Officers? In the first, dealing with children, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 deal with the problem to which I have referred. Paragraph 2 refers to a legitimate child whose parents' marriage has been dissolved and one parent here has legal custody, and to an illegitimate child where one parent here is responsible for his upbringing.

The Draft Instructions to Immigration Officers give the discretionary right to admit children where there are special circumstances. Where it is clear either to the entry certificate officer or the immigration officer that there are special compassionate circumstances outside the heads of policy contained in the Bill or, as it will be, the Act, those circumstances can be taken into consideration.

With that explanation, I hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn.

Mr. Nicholas Scott (Paddington, South)

The hon. Gentleman has made out the case against the Amendments as far as they concern the boys from Asia who come to join all-male households. But another problem which he referred to in passing is the impact of the Bill and the Draft Instructions to Immigration Officers about dependants coming here from the West Indies.

As drafted, the Bill insists that both parents should be here, except in certain circumstances which the Under-Secretary of State has outlined. The Amendment suggests either parent. However, I would have preferred to see a provision that the mother alone would be sufficient. My hon. Friends the Members for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) and St. Ives (Mr. Nott) and I put down an Amendment on those lines which, unfortunately, was not selected. This would have been the middle way which would have met the Government's point and met the different patterns of life—

The Deputy Chairman

Order. If the hon. Gentleman is discussing an Amendment which has not been selected, it is not covered by these Amendments.

Mr. Scott

It is to these Amendments that I am speaking. If the Government could see their way clear at the next stage of the Bill to adopt a middle way—

The Deputy Chairman

Order. I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman cannot plead for a middle way on these Amendments.

Mr. Scott

I regret that these Amendments do not take into account the different pattern of life of the West Indian immigrant.

In my constituency, there are a number of female immigrants from the West Indies who, having come here themselves, then send for their dependants. At the moment, the dependants are able to come to join their mothers. The Bill will put a stop to it.

The Draft Instructions to Immigration Officers might just cover the position where, in paragraph 2 (b), they refer to a parent here who has had sole responsibility for a child's upbringing. In the case of West Indians, it depends how that is interpreted. Probably the mother came here from the West Indies, leaving behind a child in the care of a grandparent. She could be said to have ceased to have sole responsibility for that child's upbringing. But she comes to this country and, perhaps years later, sends for her child.

I can see the point about discretion residing with the immigration officers and, ultimately with the Minister, but I would have preferred to see this made clear in the Bill. This exception should have been covered. I do not think that it would have upset the Government's point, but it would have avoided the possibility of a less than humane Statute affecting a number of West Indian immigrants.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I understand that this is a probing Amendment. Perhaps I might be allowed to probe a little further. I wish to ask also about the point the hon. Gentleman has just raised. I should like to ask my hon. Friend why, if the reason for this Amendment is to prevent a male child who is about to become a wage earner from entering an all-male household—and I quite follow the substance of the point he has made—the Bill is so framed as to prevent a child from joining his mother alone.

The second question I wish to raise is why, if it is concerned with all-male households, with boys coming to this country to join their fathers, the Bill is so framed as to embrace girls as well? Why cannot the Clause be so framed as to ensure that it catches those it is intended to catch, and not a variety of others?

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

I have every sympathy with the intention of the Government to try to do something about this problem of boys joining male households. At this time of the morning I may be seeing a difficulty which does not exist, but I think the difficulty is that if we say that a boy cannot join his father if he has a mother living in his country of origin, unless his mother comes as well, this will mean that unless the mother comes before the child is aged 16 he will not be able to come to this country except under the system of work vouchers which applies to everyone else. This would mean that his mother could come, and the boy of 16 or 17 could be left at home.

Rather than have this situation it would be better, it seems to me, to consider the possibility of giving priority in work vouchers to those boys so affected by any Amendment. In this way one would avoid the distinction of the dependants over the age of 16, 17 or 18 who present a problem to many of us in constituencies which have immigrant populations. It would also have the effect of seeing that we have families coming in, rather than scattered dependants of a very large number of families.

Mr. Ennals

Perhaps I could deal with one or two of the points raised. If the mother has come over here and the boy is under the age of 18 then, according to the Instructions to Immigration Officers, he will be able to join his mother and father here. If he is over the age of 18 it would still be possible for him to come if he was dependent and was not so working that he was looking after himself or if, for instance, he was the only son and therefore, even though he may be 19, 20 or even 21, if he was in fact dependent on them and was not a wage-earner and had been used to being dependent on them—could still be brought over.

There are plenty of provisions which would help to ensure family reunification, provided the mother either comes with him or is already here, or if the mother is dead, or if the marriage has broken up.

The West Indian situation I have, I think, dealt with in part. I recognise that the family relationship in the West Indies is a different one, and it is only right that we should recognise this when looking at family problems. If hon. Gentlemen will look at Cmnd. 3552—Draft Instructions to Immigration Officers—they will see that paragraph I says: If one parent is dead it is sufficient that the other parent is already resident here, or is accompanying the child. Children aged 16 and under 18 may also be readily admitted in similar circumstances. Parent ' includes a stepfather or stepmother, an adoptive parent, and the father as well as the mother of an illegitimate child. The rôle of the mother is recognised here, and this is also recognised in paragraph 2, which says: A child under the age of 18 may be admitted in company with or to join only one parent, although the other is resident outside the United Kingdom, if

  1. (a) in the case of a legitimate child, the parents' marriage has been dissolved and the parent here has legal custody, or
  2. 1638
  3. (b) in the case of an illegitimate child, the parent here has had sole responsibility for his upbringing."
There may be circumstances in which it cannot be proved that he has had sole responsibility for the upbringing, and these are precisely the circumstances at which an entry certificate officer looks.

3.15 a.m.

There may be compassionate reasons why, even if the father or mother has not had sole responsibility, the other part of the relationship is unable to maintain his or her share of that responsibility, and therefore there is virtually no link with the other part of the partnership. These are the sort of circumstances with which an entry certificate officer inevitably must deal in the light of the individual case.

Mr. Scott

Many West Indian mothers here are drawing regular sums of money from the fathers of their children in the West Indies. Will this prevent an immigration officer judging that the mother had sole responsibility for the upbringing of the child?

Mr. Ennals

I should not like to give a definitive answer to the hon. Gentleman now. Perhaps he will allow me to answer him in writing. If I give an answer now, it might be added as a new instruction to immigration officers. I should need to consider it.

Mr. Jopling

I heard what the Minister said about the Draft Instructions to Immigration Officers, that a legitimate child could be allowed in if the marriage had been dissolved. Surely it must often be the case that the marriage has not been dissolved—there has been a separation, but no formal divorce—but the mother has come here to try to form a base and make a little money. She leaves the child with a grandparent, and when she thinks that she can cope with the child, she sends for him. Although the marriage has not been formally dissolved, the child will be precluded from coming. This is the nub of the problem. This is very important, particularly for children under 16. There is nothing more important than that the child should be under the care of the mother. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree with that. This is one of the biggest and most glaring inhumanities which arise from the Bill as drafted, and I plead with the hon. Gentleman to see whether he can find a way to accommodate the child of a marriage which has not been formally dissolved.

Mr. Ennals

I have a great deal of sympathy with the sort of case referred to by the hon. Gentleman, but there is the problem of setting out, either in terms of an Act, or in terms of instructions to immigration officers, every set of circumstances in which compassionate considerations will apply. This is why we must leave a substantial measure of discretion not only to the entry certificate officers, the immigration officers, but to my right hon. Friend and myself when I am acting on his behalf. The sort of considerations put forward by the hon. Gentleman are borne in mind when looking at particularly difficult cases.

Mr. David Steel

I do not think that I need apologise to the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), or to anybody else, for having tabled the Amendment. It has fulfilled the purpose that we intended, and we have been able to probe the Government's thinking on this difficult question.

As we have been so hard on the Front Bench, I ought to take the opportunity of thanking the hon. Gentleman for what was a model Ministerial reply to the questions which I put to him. Our opposition to the Bill is not bludgeoning or destructive, but constructive. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply, which I think covered most of the points about which we were anxious, and in the circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sir D. Renton

I beg to move Amendment No. 35, in page 3, line 43, at end insert: (2D) Entry certificates may be issues for the purposes of this section by United Kingdom diplomatic agents in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State. (2E) An entry certificate may not be issued under subsection (2A) of this section to any person not described as a ' registered dependant' in a current voucher issued by or on behalf of the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Labour and National Insurance for Northern Ireland for the purposes of subsection 3(a) of section 2 of this Act. When the entry certificate procedure was inserted at the Report stage in the proceedings on the 1962 Act, Mr. R. A. Butler—as he then was—said that he hoped that it would save uncertainty in the minds of would-be immigrants; that it would save them unnecessary journeys, and would have other advantages, the principal of which was that it would enable applications to come here to settle to be checked more easily, for the obvious reason that it is easier to do so in the countries of origin than at London Airport.

Everyone would probably agree about those advantages. But even now the fullest use is not being made of the entry certificate procedure—hence the Amendment. If hon. Members will look at the proposed new subsection (2D) they will see that it will enable the Government to enlist the help of our High Commissioners, consuls and other diplomatic agents overseas so that they can receive applications by intending immigrants, scrutinise them, check the claims made and generally provide an easy and reliable opportunity of extending the entry certificate procedure. The proposal has the advantage of flexibility and of unlimited scope. The Regulations made by the Secretary of State would be laid before the House and, as I understand it, could be prayed against.

The proposed new subsection (2E) would require that dependants should not be issued with entry certificates unless they had already been included as registered dependants in a current employment voucher. The purpose is to strengthen the Bill. Speaking for myself and many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, although I think that the Bill has come too late I welcome it now that it has come. But it does not go far enough.

The main anxiety—and in many ways the main difficulty—that has been caused by the increasingly large numbers of immigrants coming in in the last two or three years has been due to the large numbers of dependants coming in. The figures speak for themselves. In 1966 there was a net increase of 51,000 immigrants from all Commonwealth countries taken together, and of that 51,000 no less than 45,000 were dependants. Although we have not yet had a White Paper on the subject, my recollection, from Answers to Questions, is that in 1967 the figures were even larger—a total net increase from all Commonwealth countries of 61,000, of whom about 55,000 were dependants. If those figures are not right I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will correct me. I understand that to be the position.

As we heard from the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) earlier, the large numbers of children under 16 years of age coming in create an acute educational problem, especially in the Midlands. From the evidence which has come forward from time to time—admittedly in rather scrappy form, because it necessarily comes forward in that way—it is clear that the provisions about dependants have been abused. I do not want to repeat statements made in earlier debates, but surely we can accept that there is a problem. The Government recognise that there is and in the Bill they have done something to reduce its size.

The new subsection (2A) makes certain requirements about dependants. It is not proposed to reduce the age, although that may be necessary in two or three years unless the Bill has a greater effect than I personally expect. A child must have at least one parent who is a Commonwealth citizen and both parents have to be resident in the United Kingdom, or entering or seeking to enter with the child. Although that is an improvement, I doubt whether it will have more than a marginal effect on the number of dependent children coming in. Even that provision can fairly easily lend itself to abuse, because many of the people coming in do not have marriage certificates and it is not always easy to check whether a wife really is a wife.

Our Amendment will enable a much closer check to be kept on the number of dependent children coming in. I am not sure how far the Government have gone with their administrative arrangements for asking applicants for employment vouchers to declare the number of children who would follow them, but I envisage that that will eventually be the normal practice, and certainly it should be. From that it would follow easily and properly that entry certificates should be granted in respect of children registered as dependants on the employment vouchers, but not normally—there would be exceptions—to those who had not been so entered.

The Amendment provides an opportunity to strengthen the Bill and to deal with one of the problems which the Government must have had in mind when they decided at short notice to introduce the Bill. I well remember that it was difficult to anticipate exactly what the effect of the 1962 legislation would be. Since then we have had an average net increase of 50,000 a year. I hope that the Bill will reduce that average number to a modest total, bearing in mind our present housing and education problems and the fact that we have 600,000 unemployed, quite apart from the important consideration which the Home Secretary mentioned on Second Reading, namely, the need to avoid racial tension. It is hard to estimate the Bill's effect. I doubt whether it will reduce the intake by as much as 10,000 a year, but, if it does not reduce it by more than that, another such Bill will have to be introduced by another Government in two or three years.

3.30 a.m.

Therefore, the Amendment would enable the Government to strengthen the Bill to avoid trouble in future. I do not claim that the drafting is perfect or even satisfactory. The Bill came at very short notice, those who drafted Amendments had a rush job and we did our best to frame Amendments on complicated points. But if the Government accept either half of the Amendment, there is no reason why this matter should not be dealt with when the Bill goes to the Lords tomorrow, as I hope it will.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The Government do not yet realise the strain which the Instructions to Immigration Officers will impose at ports and airports. The number of immigration officers at London Airport who speak any of the languages of the Indian sub-continent is very small. The facilities for interrogating the immigrants are inadequate for investigating more than a handful. Now that the right hon. Gentleman has issued much tougher instructions—I do not disagree with most of them—the interrogation will be much more intensive and much longer and travellers will face greater delays.

Meanwhile, officers will face strong pressure to reach a hasty decision, which will lead to hard cases such as the Press has described in recent months. There is always an outcry when children who have travelled thousands of miles are sent back with no certainty that anyone will meet them at the other end. This always arouses protest.

It is obviously best if the problem can be met by the introduction of as wide as possible a system of entry certificates. I am glad that in paragraph 3 of the instructions at least lip-service is paid to the wider use of this system. However, in many parts of the world adequate machinery does not exist to issue these certificates. People cannot get them and. until adequate machinery does exist, bottle necks will occur and there will be the possibility of harsh decisions at London Airport.

The Amendment shows the Government the way to the introduction of a proper system of issuing entry certificates. If this is not done there will be a sharp increase in the number of hard cases, the immigration service will become the target of abuse and the Government will bring down on their heads odium which they need not suffer if they tackled the problem with more forethought.

Mr. Gurden

A great strain is placed on the staff who must decide whether or not some of these dependants are truly dependants. There is considerable suspicion, certainly in the Midlands, that some of the children may not really be the children of people who have come here. It is almost impossible to obtain satisfactory proof that they are the genuine children of immigrants and one hears many stories of how, when it has been necessary for an affidavit to be provided from the country of origin, these documents have been only too easily forthcoming. I cannot be sure about the truth of these stories. Certainly in a few cases an exceptionally large number of children have been claimed to be dependants. This places a tremendous strain on the education service. Some schools in the Midlands cannot take many children who should be at school, with the result that not only are the children of immigrants excluded from schooling, but so are the children of the indigenous population. too,

Since it is so difficult to ensure that dependants are genuine, anything which can be written into the Bill to make the task of the immigration officers easier will be of advantage and I should have thought that the Government would welcome this attempt to strengthen the Bill. For the sake of housing and education in, for example, Birmingham, I hope that something along the lines of the Amendment will be accepted and, in the meantime, I will listen with interest to the Minister's comments on the subject.

Mr. Ennals

I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) for raising this question. I shall not be able to agree with the method suggested in the Amendment, but my sympathies are with him in the sense of trying to make the entry certificate far more widely used. There is everything to be said for unravelling all the uncertainties of whether a dependant is of a suitable age, whether the relationship is what he claims it to be, etc. All such uncertainties can often be better settled in the country of origin than here, and settled far more effectively than at London Airport, or at other ports where the immigration officer may have felt obliged to refuse admission.

There may have been representatives, a Member of Parliament may have been involved on behalf of an immigrant, and representations have to be made and questions have to be asked. In the meantime, the immigrant may have to be held in detention and later, perhaps, in a prison. All these difficulties are unpleasant and unsatisfactory, and they are also expensive. They also impose very heavy burdens on the immigration officers.

Some kindly things have been said by hon. Members about the Home Office—and some unkind things as well, but never mind—in relation to the handling of these problems. But those who carry the heaviest burdens are the immigration officers, who have the extremely difficult job of trying to make a fair assessment, when ascertaining the facts.

The Government are most anxious that the entry certificate should be used. That is why we wrote into the Draft Instructions to Immigration Officers: Resort to the entry certificate procedure in such cases will enable the decision to be reached in advance. If nevertheless a Commonwealth citizen who claims admission under that paragraph arrives without an entry certificate, strict proof of the relevant facts should he required, and if this is not available refusal of admission will be appropriate. It is only fair to say here that while we are not prepared, for reasons I shall come to, to make an entry certificate obligatory—to make it, as it were, a visa, an essential prerequisite for admission—the absence of an entry certificate for a would-be immigrant about whom there is uncertainty will inevitably count against him. That is why these instructions have gone to immigration officers. If people who wish to come to this country do not apply for entry certificates, arrive here and are refused entry, it inevitably means that the refusal rate will grow. I have not the details to hand, but last year there was an increase of about 50 per cent. in the number of people who were refused entry at ports because they were unable to satisfy the immigration officers.

It would be natural to think that an entry certificate ought to be made obligatory. That, I gather, was the view of the party opposite expressed in the statement issued on 21st February, which said: The entry certificate procedure for non-voucher holders should be mandatory so that their credentials can be checked in their country of origin. The Wilson Committee, which looked at the whole question very carefully, said: After careful consideration we have come to the conclusion that it would not be right to make the use of entry certificates compulsory. As the great majority of aliens who come to the United Kingdom are free from the visa requirement, we consider that it would be out of the question to impose on Commonwealth citizens the same requirement under another name. It must be admitted that if we said that an entry certificate was obligatory it would become a visa, and when we recognise that we have increasingly, by arrangements with foreign countries, successfully removed the visa requirement, leaving it basically to countries with whom we have a rather more distant relationship, to put the Commonwealth countries in that category would be an affront, and would not be acceptable.

We have sought to do two things. The first is to encourage the use of entry certificates by making it as near as it can be certain that the holder of an entry certificate will be admitted. That is almost a guarantee. We cannot say that it is a total guarantee, because it is quite possible that a person may have acquired a certificate by false pretences which become known to the immigration officers at the time of the person's arrival at the port.

3.45 a.m.

On the one hand we have strengthened the power of the certificate as a guarantee of admission and on the other hand we have said to would-be immigrants," If you come without a certificate and there is uncertainty, the fact that you have not a certificate must count against you." In the White Paper, Cmnd. 2739, there was this paragraph, which was quoted by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) in November: An entry certificate will not be issued unless the head of the household, whether resident in this country or intending to come in the future, has furnished to the Home Office or, as the case may be, the British post in his country of origin, particulars of his dependants in time to enable the information he has given to be confirmed before the entry certificate is needed. We tried to bring about this recommendation, but unfortunately it was a scheme based on very shaky foundations. People being registered are by definition entitled to come here under Section 2(2,b) of the Act. This entitlement cannot be qualified by an administrative requirement to obtain an entry certificate or to register names of dependants. Unless we said it was a requirement, we could not refuse the right of entry.

In India and Pakistan there are no reliable public records, and no means of knowing whether the information is accurate. There is no reason to suppose that it is necessarily conclusive proof. Since the scheme affects only those who apply for certificates, it cannot give more than a partial picture of the situation. We asked all those who applied for entry certificates and all those who applied for vouchers and we have a great deal of information as a result, but we find that it is not possible to make this a requirement.

The Amendment would put the issue of entry certificates on a statutory basis and restrict their issue to persons who had been registered as dependants of voucher holders. This would lead to many difficulties. Most of the dependants who now come into the country are dependants of those who arrived before the 1962 Act was passed. This is why, even though since 1965 the present Government have greatly reduced the number of labour voucher holders, we still have a large number of dependants. When some newspapers say that with every voucher holder come nine dependants, they have got it wrong. Most of those coming in now are dependants of those who came in when there was no control. We find that they come seven, eight, or nine years after.

To require, as the Amendment would, the issue of entry certificates to those who had been registered as dependants of voucher holders might solve some immediate problems, but certainly not for most of those coming in at present.

Mr. Robert Howarth

This seems a reasonable theory for explaining why there is still this very large number of dependants coming in. Can the Department indicate when it is expected that the number of dependants will start tailing off quickly?

Mr. Ennals

It is always difficult to look ahead. I disagree somewhat with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). I think that the decision taken on the earlier subsection affecting the right of dependent boys to join one parent will bite on numbers—not dramatically, but it will bite. It had been my expectation that the number of dependants this year would have been only marginally above last year, and it would be my expectation that the number next year will start to be marginally less. But we shall know only when the figures come in.

There is no doubt that the decision taken in relation to dependent boys, through the figures I gave earlier in regard to a growing section of the dependent tail—if I may put it in that way—and also the harder line taken on the importance of the use of the entry certificate will have an effect on reducing the number of dependants.

There are several other reasons which one might give to show why the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment would be an unsatisfactory way of dealing with the problem. In the circumstances, I hope that he will be prepared to withdraw it.

Sir D. Renton

I shall not press the Amendment to a Division, and I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for the explanation which he has given, but I feel rather unhappy that the Government seem to have set in their mind a limitation upon an extension of the entry certificate system. There is a far bigger problem to be dealt with than the Bill as drafted will touch. Administrative methods of one kind and another are most important and will have to be pursued—an extension of the entry certificate system, the development of the voucher system in the way envisaged in the White Paper, and so on.

I follow the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) about the work of immigration officers. Quite apart from immigration, international travel is increasing at a tremendous rate. I do not know whether the numbers in the immigration service are able to keep up with it. As aeroplanes get larger, as they will, their task will be enormously increased. The Government should be thinking of every possible way of reducing the load, especially at London Airport. This was one of the purposes of the Amendment. Although we shall not press it, I hope that the Government will keep these matters in mind.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The CHAIRMAN, being of the opinion that the principle of the Clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the Amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question pursuant to Standing Order No. 47 (Debate on Clause or Schedule standing part),That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Question agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill