HC Deb 24 May 1976 vol 912 cc33-104

3.40 p.m.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)

I beg to move, That this House notes with concern the changing demographic character of Great Britain, particularly the outflow of young people emigrating overseas and the continuing inflow of immigrants from the new Commonwealth; and calls on the Government, in the interests of improving race relations, to make a clear and accurate statement of its immigration policy. This debate takes place against a background of rising public anxiety about Commonwealth immigration into Britain, together with a more muted but nevertheless profound concern about the increasing number of talented young people who are voting with their feet, and emigrating from Britain.

I have, therefore, chosen these two subjects of emigration and immigration as the theme of this Private Member's motion because I believe that there is a real danger that Britain may be sleepwalking into a sea change of our national character.

Moreover, I fear that, while others have been doing the walking, Parliament has been doing the sleeping, for 26 years have elapsed since this House last debated emigration, and it is three years since we last had a full debate devoted exclusively to immigration.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, a reflective appraisal of the shifts and changes in the demographic make up of Britain is surely long overdue, and I hope that this debate will go some way towards fulfilling that purpose.

Beginning with emigration, I think the House may be surprised to learn that during the last two years, in round figures, 500,000 people have emigrated from Britain and gone to live overseas. In 1974, the emigration figure was 269,000. For 1975, the precise figures are not yet available, but we know that 175,000 people emigrated in the first nine months of last year, and that provisional estimates for the full year suggest an emigration total of around 230,000.

The source for these figures, incidentally, is the international passenger survey conducted by the Department of Trade's Office of Population Census, which is widely regarded as the most authentic source of information on external migration. I will not bore the House with a detailed analysis of these emigration statistics, but suffice it to say that the overwhelming majority of those leaving are indigenous United Kingdom citizens. Three-quarters of them are under 45, and of these a steadily rising proportion are people with professional and technological qualifications.

In 1974 alone, a record 61,000 professional men and women left Britain, and the remainder of the exodus contained a high percentage of executives, managers, technicians and highly skilled workers. By sheer weight of numbers, the brain drain of the 1960s has been transformed into the middle management drain of the 1970s, and it amounts to a haemorrhage of talent which Britain can ill afford.

I think the House should reflect for a moment on the motives behind this movement of middle management talent overseas. The reasons are rather devious. One is the combination of low salaries and high taxation. Another is the combination of high inflation and a pay retraint policy which together ensure that British managers cannot begin to maintain either their real incomes or the differentials which separate them from the shop floor.

But more important than any of these is the political mood of our present times. The politics of decline, the philosophy of levelling everyone down, the national habit of self-denigration and the politics of envy have all helped to drive these emigrants out.

Without being unduly partisan about it, I think the lesson of these immigration figures is that future Governments of Britain, whatever their political complexion, should not just confine their policies towards improving the lot of the average man. They should also provide policies which give incentives and encouragement for the exceptional man. If this is not done, the march of talented young emigrants may well become a stampede.

I turn now to immigration, and I should like to begin by paying tribute to the fine contribution so many members of the immigrant community have made to our society, particularly in the National Health Service, in many areas of public services, especially transport, and in the creation of enterprising small businesses and service industries.

But the only way we can hope to build on the foundations of good race relations which these immigrants have created, and the only way we can attain the totally desirable objective of complete equality for those already settled in this country, is if we have first succeeded in creating public confidence that the control of immigration is being as strictly enforced as is humanly possible. Immigration control is not the enemy of good race relations but its necessary complement.

This thought has been expressed many times by hon. Members in all parts of the House, not least by the Home Secretary. Speaking on the Second Reading of the Race Relations Bill on 4th March 1976, the right hon. Gentleman said it was an important principle of Government policy: That there is a clear limit to the amount of immigration which this country can absorb, and that it is in the interests of the racial minorities themselves to maintain a strict control over immigration."—[Official Report, 4th March 1976; Vol. 906, c. 1548.] Those were the right hon. Gentleman's words. But the unfortunate truth has to be faced that the Home Secretary's actions have been a lot less strict than his words, for during the last two years there has, in fact, been a substantial relaxation on immigration control.

Indeed, the former Home Office Minister responsible for immigration, the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), far from being strict in his operational control of immigration, was positively permissive, and it is this ministerial permissiveness which has sown the seeds for the seething public discontent with immigration policy which has now erupted.

In 1973, when the 1971 Immigration Act had come fully into effect, the figure of immigrants accepted for settlement from the new Commonwealth and Pakistan had fallen from around 68,000 in 1968 to 34,000 in 1973. This figure was continuing to decline, thanks also to the tight administrative controls operated at the Home Office under the direction of the noble Lord, Lord Carr, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), whose philosophy, though always a humane and fair one, could be sum- med up by the phrase "When in doubt, be firm and do not let them in. Do not let applicants flood in, because we always need to assure the white majority in this country that immigration will be controlled strictly at a tolerable level."

But from 1974 onwards, the new Commonwealth immigrant total started to rise again, due to a series of changes of policy and administrative practices by the new Government. First, the new Government accelerated the inflow of United Kingdom passport holding immigrants by increasing the annual quota of special vouchers for East African Asians from 3,500 a year to 5,000. This has meant an increase of around 6,000 Asian immigrants a year.

Then there was a Government decision to allow new Commonwealth fiancées to enter Britain and settle here permanently on marriage. Including husbands this has meant in 1975 an estimated increase of 7,750 immigrants entering for matrimonial reasons to start families here.

There has also been a noticeable relaxation in the numbers of dependants allowed to enter for settlement, including more parents, grandparents, distressed relatives, and the dependants of those pardoned in the recent amnesty for illegal immigrants. The increased numbers here are relatively small, but I think it is time to say that the growing awareness of these relaxations has had an adverse psychological impact on the indigenous population which has been detrimental to good race relations.

It cannot be said too often that good race relations can flourish only within a framework of public confidence. The real indictment of the policies of the Home Secretary and the hon. Member for York is that they have severely damaged that framework of public confidence by letting in, on the official figures alone, 20,000 new Commonwealth immigrants for settlement a year, at a time when our domestic problems of unemployment, homelessness and economic recession were already being strained to breaking point. To increase immigration at such an undesirable social and economic time was a most misguided policy.

I respect the sincertity of the hon. Member for York, and I think that, in particular, the work he tried to do in countering urban deprivation for immigrants was admirable in its intention, but when he pats himself on the back, as he did after his exit—to use a euphemistic word—from the Government for his efforts to get justice for the black man, I must ask him to consider whether by increasing immigration during the last two years, and thereby creating so much anxiety among the host population here, he did not, in fact, create a situation where the black man was likely to encounter greater prejudice and injustice.

But, whatever the rôle of the hon. Member for York may or may not have been, the position now is that the terrain of race relations in this country has been transformed in the last year or two from being a relatively tranquil pasture of tolerance and understanding into a dry and brittle scrubland of tension which could be set ablaze at any moment by a spark of fear, anger or misunderstanding.

As we all know, one such spark ignited a few weeks ago, when the West Sussex County Council installed two Asian families in a four-star hotel for several weeks at a cost to the taxpayer of £600 per week. That administrative decision made our immigration and welfare policies the laughing stock of the whole world. It caused enormous resentment among working people here, among homeless people and among taxpayers, and it has probably itself done great damage to race relations.

But, although I think an administrative error of judgment was made by the local authority officials concerned in this case, the fact remains that it is unreasonable to expect any local authority to bear the housing burdens of national immigration policy. A worrying vacuum of responsibility exists here, and I hope that the Home Secretary will tell the House today how he intends to till it.

I would also like to ask the Home Secretary whether he proposes to take any steps to ensure that entry vouchers are issued only to those immigrants who have some means of supporting and accommodating themselves. A passport to Britain should not be a passport to free loading on the Welfare State, and the loopholes which allow this to happen must be closed.

A second spark which recently ignited deep public concern over immigration was the decision of the Malawi Government to expel a number of Asian families holding British passports. The numbers of those expelled so far by that malevolent despot, Dr. Banda, have proved mercifully small—perhaps the Home Secretary will give us the exact figure—but the episode sharply reminded us that some 40,000 to 45,000 East African Asians holding British passports are living on borrowed time on the edge of political volcanoes.

I believe that we are under an obligation to these British passport holders, although the precise nature of that obligation must be carefully considered in the light of Lord Carr's statement following the Ugandan Asian problem, which was so humanely and honourable dealt with, when he said in this House on 21st February 1973 that any further influx of that order could not be handled by a British Government in the same way.

I believe that the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) had the right approach when he said in the House last week that diplomatic talks should be initiated with the Governments of Canada, India and Australia to see whether they would help us with the potential future burdens of this problem.

I would also like to ask the Home Secretary for clarification of the apparent differences of policy which have arisen between the Home Office and the Foreign Office on the issue of expelled East African Asians. As I understand it, successive Home Office Ministers have assured the House that if Malawi Asians or any other East African Asians are expelled, the numbers accepted here will be kept strictly within the voucher scheme on which there is an absolute limit of 5,000 vouchers per year.

However, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard), speaking from the Dispatch Box last Monday, said some ambiguous words, indicating that there might be circumstances in the future when the 5,000 voucher limit would need to be expanded. Well, whose policy is right? I hope that the Home Secretary can enlighten us on this important point. I hope also that the House recognises that when, speaking last week on this issue, the former Government Chief Whip cried out "Enough is enough", he was probably speaking for the overwhelming majority of the British people, and I agree with him.

Everything that I have said so far has been on the subject of what I would like to describe as 'front door" immigration, by which I mean the official statistics and estimates of those admitted for settlement with the ful authority of the Home Office for proper and legitimate reasons. But there is, of course, a twilight zone of mystery and doubt over some of the immigration figures, both actual and potential, and here I must turn to the subject of what I call "back door immigration".

I say at once that I am not one of those who believe that the Home Office or its Ministers deliberately mislead the public over immigration facts and statistics. But what I do think is that there are some factual aspects of this problem which "shambolically" and sloppily assessed that certain areas of immigration policy have now entered into an "Alice in Wonderland" world of make believe.

You may remember, Mr. Speaker, from your reading of Lewis Carroll, that at one moment in the story when Alice entertains some doubts, the Red Queen says sharply to her: I dare say you have not had any breakfast. I can sometimes believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. The trouble with accepting everything we are told about our immigration policy, whether before breakfast or at any other time, is that it simply involves believing one impossible thing after another. The first area of incredibility surrounds illegal immigration.

Last Friday, the Home Secretary very courteously arranged for me to be briefed by four of his officials in the Home Office. These officials, may I say in passing, could not have been more open, more frank or more cooperative in answering my inquiries. But when I asked them for the statistics on illegal immigration, the answer was that during the whole year of 1975, a total of 188 illegal immigrants were detected and detained. When I expressed surprise at the small size of this figure of 188, I was assured that, although no one could say that these arrests covered all illegal immigrants, nevertheless, the Home Office had no reason for suspecting that this figure of 188 was merely the tip of an iceberg of massive illegal immigration.

Well, I must say I was slightly sceptical about this, so later that same day, thanks to the courtesy of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, I was given a briefing by senior police officers from Scotland Yard's Illegal Immigration Squad. From these police sources, a very different and deeply disturbing picture of the illegal immigration situation emerged.

The police say that the small number of arrests only scratches the surface of what is now recognised to be a massive immigrant smuggling racket, cleverly organised at a price of around £1,500 per immigrant by sophisticated big-time criminals from Britain and the Continent. It is now well known that there exists an efficient and well organised pipeline system for passing illegal immigrants from Pakistan and India through Iran, Turkey and Southern Europe until they reach certain accommodation bases and hotels in France, Belgium or Germany in groups of about 50 a time.

In broad terms, the police estimate that at any one moment there are about 700 illegal immigrants in transit in this criminal pipeline, and that the number actually reaching Britain probably runs into thousands annually.

The question of course arises, how do these illegal immgrants move from their European accommodation bases and hotels across the Channel and remain here undetected? Although small boats, light aircraft and the boots of motor cars undoubtedly play a large part as methods of transportation, the two biggest methods of facilitating entry are false documentation and container lorries. There is a big racket, I am told, in forged passports and other identity documents. As for container lorries, it must be acknowledged that at the port of Dover alone 328,000 sealed container vehicles were admitted into Britain in 1975. The police simply do not have the manpower to inspect these. But the Chief Constable of Kent tells me that he suspects strongly that this is one major method of smuggling immigrants into Britain.

Once an illegal immigrant has crossed the Channel, or an Asian seaman has deserted his ship in a British port, as so many are now doing, and melted away into the immigrant underground, it is unfortunately a comparatively simple process for him to obtain real or forged documents—particularly social security cards—which thereby give him an identity, and give him certain fundamental rights, which include access to the benefits of our Welfare State, and may, in some cases, include the right subsequently to bring in his own dependants.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

And the vote.

Mr. Aitken

The point I am making is that the Home Office are guilty of terrifying complacency if they think that this illegal immigration traffic is insignificant in size and in any way related in quantity to the 1975 figures of 188 arrests or the 1974 figure of 157 arrests.

I hope that I have said enough to alert the House to the magnitude of the illegal immigration problem, and I now say to the Home Secretary that it is his duty to declare all-out war on this vicious crime of illegal immigration, to give the police the extra port security manpower they need, to start an urgent dialogue with the Continental authorities and Interpol, and, above all, to tighten up on the ease with which false documents, especially social security cards, are finding their way into the hands of illegal immigrants.

I said earlier that there were several aspects of immigration policy which strained credulity. I have dealt with the figures on illegal immigration, but, returning to the vexed subject of dependants, I find it hard to believe that the Home Office is unable to give a statistical breakdown for the number of parents, grandparents, distressed relatives, second and third wives and so on, who are being allowed to settle here on or after entry.

I also find it hard to believe that the Home Office cannot give any sort of estimate of the enormous over-staying problem, because the various over-staying manoeuvres used by students and others are among the most abused and effective methods of achieving permanent settlement in this country by deceitful means. Most important of all, I am baffled by the inability of the Home Office to give an estimate of the size of the queue of dependants waiting to come into Britain from the new Commonwealth and Pakistan.

On the one hand, we have the hon. Member for York blithely telling us in The Sunday Times yesterday that the queue is, as he puts it, "very limited"—by which he means 150,000 people, mainly from the Indian sub-continent, whom he wants to see admitted very speedily. On the other hand, a respected member of the Select Committee on Race Relations, my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith), reported to the House on 4th March on the Committee's visit to the West Indies, and he said: there are thousands of illegitimate children there who are anxious to come here. Many of them have a claim to do so, and the line of dependants is long and complicated. Far from trickling off, the dependants could still be coming to this country 100 years from now unless the rules are changed".—[Official Report, 4th March 1976; Vol. 906, c. 1594.] Caught in the crossfire of these and many other widely differing predictions, when the Home Secretary was asked last Thursday by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) for his estimate on the size of the dependants' queue, he gave the following answer of breathtakingly Delphic obscurity when he said: it is not the practice to publish estimates of this kind, and any forecasts of future immigration would neccessarily be speculative".—[Official Report, 20th May 1976; Vol. 911, c. 1694.] The Home Secretary must stop this kind of speculative double talk and start publishing the real facts.

There are so many areas of doubt and uncertainty about immigration that many people in the country fear that there is a conspiracy of silence on the true size or nature of the problem. In order to dispel such fears, I believe that the time has now come for a radical overhaul of the information-gathering system, for full and open disclosure of all the information so obtained, and for a complete crackdown to ensure genuinely strict and effective immigration control. The British people and the immigrant communities here are crying out for reassurance that this will be done, and I hope that the Home Secretary will give that reassurance today.

I should like finally to say a word about the changing demographic character a Britain. In his historical writings, Lord Macaulay frequently expounded his cyclical view of British history, and in its most striking form he expressed it in a famous essay in which he depicted the traveller from New Zealand standing on a broken arch of London Bridge sketching the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Of course, as every school boy knows, Macaulay was not infrequently over-opinionated and wrong in his judgments, and, as far as those particular edifices are concerned, there seems not the slightest threat to their stability. Yet we in the House are all blind and deaf if we fail to acknowledge that a cyclical change is sweeping through our national demographic character and our population. Migration is only one aspect of these changes, and it should clearly be said that the arrival of some new Commonwealth immigrants may well enrich Britain's future, for among them are individuals of great industry and talent, to whom we should readily extend the welcoming hand of friendship.

Other immigrants may contribute less, find it hard to become assimilated into the British way of life, and so remain alienated from it with depressing results for our future.

As far as talented emigrants are concerned, I can see their mass departures only as a national impoverishment. But whatever view we take of all these changes, we simply cannot go on ignoring them. Immigration and emigration should not be taboo subjects which Parliament only rarely discusses. Our silence on these issues contrasts strangely with the clamour of concern being voiced in the country. I hope that this debate will mark the beginning of the end of that silence.

For imagine our shame as parliamentarians if, when our grandchildren were to ask us, "What did you say in the House of Commons about the revolutionary demographic changes which began altering the face of Britain in the last quarter of the twentieth century?", we as retired old men had to reply, "We said nothing much".

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, may I say that I have an impossibly long list of those who wish to take part in the debate. I hope that those who are fortunate enough to be called will bear that fact in mind.

4.5 p.m.

Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)

I do not think that anyone can quarrel with the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken), either on the subject he has chosen for debate or on the way in which he has raised it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I say that frankly and firmly, and I have as much right to my point of view as anyone else. Towards the end of his speech, the hon. Member said one thing with which I wholeheartedly agree. For a long time, the subject has been taboo in this House. It has been something which must not be spoken about, and anyone who has done so has risked being called all sorts of things—racialist among them—for even having the temerity to say something.

One of the reasons I was upset last week was that I had seen that this country once again was the victim of outrageous behaviour by people abroad. Is there anyone on the Labour Benches who defends Banda? He is a Fascist black man of the worst order. He has taken over the dictatorship of his country and put the opposition in prison. Now he has decided to expel sections of his community such as the Goans, who have committed no crime. Are we not to be allowed to attack Banda? Is it improper to do so because he has a dark skin? Let us get things straight about Banda. What he has done and the way in which he has done it are an outrage to civilisation.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)

In making that point, is it not important for my right hon. Friend to recognise that it was not Dr. Banda who conferred upon these people the right to retain citizenship of United Kingdom and Colonies after independence? That was done by British Governments and the House of Commons. It was that action which gave rise to the present problems, not the actions of Dr. Banda.

Mr. Mellish

My hon. Friend can turn it which way he wants. I say only that it was Dr. Banda's action in expelling these people which created this problem for us—

Hon. Members


Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

Listen to him. He is correct. Tory Ministers granted the passports.

Mr. Mellish

Will my hon. Friend do me a favour and shut up? I already have enough difficulties.

The problem which we face has been created by other people. The burden falls upon our backs because we gave British passports to those being expelled. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will tell me when he winds up the debate whether I am right in assuming that we are liable to give Dr. Banda a suggested sum of £15 million to help him and his country. I have no doubt that they are in genuine need because his country is in great distress. It occurs to me that some of that money could well be spent in providing the people whom he now wishes to expel with homes in their own country back in India and Goa.

I want to get one thing clear. This is not the first time that I have intervened on this subject. I did it in 1965 and I was called everything that one could think of. Arising from that intervention, however, came the voucher system. Perhaps I had better tell the House the story about the voucher system. I was appointed to the sub-committee to examine whether there should be a voucher system. We were not getting very far.

As a junior Minister I went one day to the East End of London. The medical officer of health told me that he had visited a home where there were two nice Pakistanis. They were cousins and were of the Muslim faith. They were living here together and were doing a fine job for Britain. The man had problems because in a few weeks time both his wives were coming over here, with five children. One of his wives was expecting a baby. He had no home except for one room, and he asked for some extra room to be found for him. The MOH said to me, "You tell me the answer. You are a Minister". I said that although I was a Minister I would approach those who were brighter and more intelligent than I. I went to the sub-committee which was dealing with the problem. I will not mention names but I told the members of the sub-committee the story of the two wives and that one of them was to have a baby. A member of that committee, who is famous in the House, told me, "I do not think that you should let both wives in." I asked, "Which one do you keep out? Is the man to be asked which wife he loves the best or which one is to have the baby?"

Soon after that incident the voucher system was introduced. Everyone agrees with that system and agrees that there should be control. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has endorsed that system, and I am glad that he has done so. He has said firmly and frankly that immigration should be controlled.

We cannot go on like this. I do not care what those on this side of the House, or the Opposition side or anywhere else, say. Problems at local level will become worse and worse for our own people unless something is done. All hon. Members know that people come to their surgeries describing the most distressing conditions—terrifying conditions. People born and bred in their own constituencies have been on the housing waiting list for as long as six years. But, on the points system, one must give immigrants preference. How is the problem to be tackled unless we get the figures right and the dispersal right? We must try to let the British people see that we are alerted to the problem. If we do not—

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)


Mr. Mellish

Let me finish the sentence and then I shall give way. Unless we do that, our own people will take action which all of us here will regret.

Dr. Miller

I am listening carefully to my right hon. Friend. Would he consider extending the kind of restrictions that he has in mind to the people of Southern Ireland?

Mr. Mellish

Yes, I certainly would. Have no doubt about that. If my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) wants it straight from me I can give it. I am not talking about black, white or yellow. With 53 million of us, we cannot go on without strict control of immigration. People cannot come here just because they have a British passport—full stop.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we do not do something within the next few years and China decides not to renew her option on Hong Kong in 1990, we shall be faced with an invasion of Hong Kong Chinese?

Mr. Mellish

That is a nice thought. If that were to happen perhaps even those who criticise and curl up their lips about anybody saying anything now might become interested.

I certainly believe that the Southern Irish should be barred now. With a population of over 50 million this country cannot go on admitting everyone. It is as straight as that.

I urge my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to answer the questions put to him by the hon. Member for Thanet, East. We should know the figures on illegal immigration. In my area, certainly, it is known that there are a considerable number of people who are illegal immigrants. Why do not the police take action? Is there any check on the people who come here with work permits? What happens when those permits come to an end? Are Greeks and Italians—I do not care who they are—allowed to stay on? Does anybody care what happens?

We must convey to people outside the House that we are taking this matter seriously, that we shall have controls that are not broken, that we do have discussion with our Commonwealth friends, who are supposed to be our brothers in arms. Let us talk about whether we can share this burden and see whether it is possible to pay with the money we are giving to Dr. Banda the fares of people from Malawi so that they can be rehabilitated in India.

4.16 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitkin) not only on a distinguished speech but on having brought this matter before the House and resisted the pressures which were naturally brought to bear upon him to do no such thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Really?"] Is that a secret? I should not have thought that that should surprise anyone. However, the hon. Member for Thanet, East can speak for himself. As the hon. Member said, what sort of representative House would we be if, year after year, we were deliberately, first upon the option of one Opposition and then upon the option of another, to ensure that there was no proper debate in the House on the subject which, above all others, is of the most torturing concern to millions of people in this country?

That concern sometimes comes nearer to the surface and at other times it falls away. In the last few days an upsurge of concern has occurred—mainly promoted by the prospect that under present policies—that is the correct expression—we may expect from Malawi around 20,000 additional immigrants to this country. There is a tradition in the country of accepting and succouring those—

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

Before that figure gains currency, I must interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. There are between 6,000 and 7,000 British passport holders in Malawi.

Mr. Powell

The right hon. Gentleman knows that to that number of heads of families there is a corresponding number—

Mr. Jenkins

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong again.

Mr. Powell

if there are 6,500 British passport holders, they are entitled to be accommodated with a certain number of dependants.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

indicated assent.

Mr. Powell

I see that the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) is with me. I place the figure at a low point in speaking of about 20,000 in total.

I was saying that for a country with our traditions of accepting and succouring those driven out of their homes, particularly under political pressure, there would be no problem created by 20,000 refugees. But everybody knows what is the context of this anticipated, in itself relatively minor, influx. One element of that context is the limitless and continuing general influx, whether it is estimated at 50,000 a year—that is the Home Office figure for 1975—or whether it is based upon the more controversial figure of entry minus exit, which, for 1975, would come to some 100,000. Whichever it is—be it at the rate of 500,000 or a million in a decade—one of the elements in the background is that steady, large, inexorably continuing flow.

There are those who would have us believe that this is a terminal phenomenon, that we should not be anxious about these figures because we are exhausting a reservoir where the liquid is already not tar from the bottom. On the contrary, as I have recently said, we are bailing out an ocean. There is no limit under present policies to the rate and magnitude of the inflow—no limit, unless those policies are radically altered.

An Assistant Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr. Hawley, a holder of the CMG as well as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, paid a visit to posts in the Indian sub-continent a few months ago. His report is enlightening. I shall trouble the House with a number of extracts from it because they are of great importance, but I thought that the whole document was such that it should be placed in the hands of the Press, and that I have done. He says: current procedures and instructions are based on a Home Office assumption that the immigration problem in the sub-continent is finite and that we are in the last stages of clearing up a backlog of 'entitled' dependants. He always writes "entitled" in inverted commas, and rightly so—he knows his law. He continues: All the Heads of Mission and Posts are convinced that this assumption is wrong and I share their view. He gives reasons, with some of which I will trouble the House, for that opinion, which he shares with all our representatives in the Indian sub-continent. He says: Experience at the sub-continental posts shows that earlier Home Office estimates may be very low. For instance, the figure for 'entitled' dependants from Bangladesh was put in 1974 at 10,460 for the period up to 1985. However, the post will at the present rate have issued at least 12,000 Entry Certificates in the two years ending December 1976. alone. In fact, the Bangladesh Overseas Union quote a figure of 100,000 Bangalees in the UK, of whom a large percentage (perhaps, in Dacca's view, as high as 80 per cent.) may be unaccompanied. On average three dependants are covered by one Entry Certificate, and thus 80,000 sponsors could produce 240,000 dependants or more. Delhi estimates the Indian pool at 50,000–70,000 and there is no sign of the number of applications diminishing at any of the posts. He continues with other reasons for entirely discounting the notion that there is any bottom to the reservoir. The hon. Member for Thanet, East referred to illegal immigration; and I congratulate him on having brought to the attention of the House the advice which he received from the Metropolitan Police. Here is advice, as it were, from the other end: illegal immigration still continues on some scale and the dependants of illegal immigrants may be admitted either after the illegal immigrant's stay has been regularised or as a result of false documentation successfully presented to an ECO or the appellate authorities Again— 'entitled' dependants may include second or third wives, particularly in the case of Muslims, as at present Muslim men resident in the UK may have more than one wife provided that they retain their domicile in a country where polygamy is recognised. Once admitted for settlement, 'entitled' dependants may bring in fiancés, fiancées, husbands and wives, together in many cases with certain dependants of such persons. Again— apart from 'entitled' dependants, posts are also dealing with many applications from other dependants, viz. parents, grandparents and distressed relatives, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles". He adds further elements to the picture of the inexhaustible supply and the inexhaustible pressure of immigration into this country—and remember, this is dealing only with the Indian subcontinent. He says: The enormous and tragic graduate unemployment in India … also provides a great Incentive for young men and women to apply to enter the UK as students or as short-term visitors with the object of overstaying and being forgotten or later having their position regularised. The House may be interested to know—again some reference was made to this by the hon. Gentleman—that There is an established 'industry' for helping people to come to Britain. For instance, in Sylhet —I do not know how many hon. Members even know whereabouts on the map Sylhet is— there are over 200 travel agents and in Jullundur in the Punjab I met 80 personally. It is common knowledge that suitable documentation can nearly always be obtained for a price in the sub-continent and these agents are adept in providing whatever may be required. I ask the patience of the House for only one or two further quotations from what is the first real enlightenment on circumstances at the other end which the House and the country have ever been allowed to receive, except in terms of rumour. He says. Many of the immigrant community in the UK remain men of two worlds', retaining their original nationality and passports as well as their domicile of origin, even when they have been resident here for long periods. They make considerable remittances, both to support their families and also for investment in property and housebuilding in their original homes on a scale which makes the wealthier of them 'Petty Nabobs in Reverse'.… It was clear from the many people to whom I spoke that the vast majority of sub-continentals —those are what used to be "Indians" before 1947— still reckon to get their marriage partners from their own original areas rather than to marry within the UK, and this process is likely to continue. Dependants interviewed for settlement come in the main straight from villages where the culture is very different from our own and only in the rarest case have they any knowledge of English. There is also strong evidence that large numbers of sub-continentals—particularly Bangalees—have been practising tax frauds for many years by making false declarations about their dependants. Finally, Mr. Hawley departs from the scene, as it were, with the following hardly ironical but certainly bitter reflection. On the part of the Governments of India, Pakistan or Bangladesh there is, he says, no pressure on the UK to admit more immigrants, although all the posts concerned have representations made from time to time, particularly over students and visitors. Many influential Indians, Pakistanis and Bangalees expressed amazement to me at our immigration policies, wondering particularly why we still admitted so many immigrants with no knowledge of English or roots in the UK. Some even suggested that immigrants should only have been allowed in on temporary work permits, and many felt that the interests of bona fide business and other visitors were prejudiced by immigrants and their deceptions. Some senior officers in the Posts thought that respect for our law and procedures—and indeed acumen—were diminishing in the eyes of local governments because it was obvious that in so many cases we were 'being taken for a ride'. All this, however, is not the only element in the background to current immigration, which millions of people in this country understand perfectly well, although they do not know the precise figures and facts I have been quoting. There is also the constant increase in size of the new Commonwealth population which is already in this country—the continual increase towards that estimate of a former Home Secretary that one-third of major towns and cities and industrial areas in our country will be coloured.

A month or two ago, OPCS published, for the first time for five years, figures of the percentage of total births where the mothers were from the new Commonwealth. I shall trouble the House with only a few figures. In the London Borough of Brent, the 1974 figure was 36 per cent.—more than one-third of all births. In Ealing it was 34 per cent., in Hackney 33 per cent., in Haringey 34 per cent., in Lambeth 30 per cent., in Newham 30 per cent., in Tower Hamlets 27 per cent., and in Wandsworth 26 per cent. In Wolverhampton over the years 1969–74 the figures were 26 per cent., 25 per cent., 24 per cent., 25 per cent., 25 per cent. and 24 per cent., thus continuing the steady percentage of 25 per cent. since the beginning of the 1960s at the latest—for we have no indication before that of the proportion of births to new Commonwealth mothers. I end my quotations with the dramatic figures from Leicester which show that the percentages of total births where the mothers were from the new Commonwealth were 18 per cent. in 1969, 19 per cent. in 1970, 20 per cent. in 1971, 23 per cent. in 1972, 25 per cent. in 1973 and 26 per cent. in 1974.

The picture there is not of a single year but of the inexorable build-up of a whole generation, which will, in course of time, reproduce itself—I have never in any of my calculations, inside or outside the House, used the assumption of a higher birth rate among new Commonwealth immigrants than among the rest of the population—and eventually become the picture of the entire population in great areas of this country.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)


Mr. Powell

I suspect that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) is going to remind me that these figures are now increasingly an under-statement because they do not include births—which are going to occur in ever larger numbers—to mothers who, although born in this country, are in no other respect different from the mothers whose births are recorded in the statistics I have quoted.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Powell

I am under great necessity of time and the appeal from the Chair; and therefore, although I have often given way to the hon. Gentleman on this subject before and perhaps often will again, he will understand that, once one breaches a rule, one is bound to be guilty of unfairness to other hon. Members who wish to take part. Of course I gave way to the Home Secretary, but I do not wish to be unfair to other hon. Members.

We are already witnessing the physical consequences of this growing and—on present policies—inexorable transformation of some of the principal cities and industrial areas of this country. Of course, we do not read about them in the national newspapers. One must read the local newspapers and read them quite carefully to know what is actually happening.

There are cities and areas in this country, some not many miles from this House, where assaults upon the police are matters of daily occurrence and where in daylight, let alone after dark, ordinary citizens are unwilling and afraid to go abroad. Day by day and at a mounting rate this transformation in actual outward behaviour is taking place in these cities.

Occasionally there emerges something above the surface. I do not expect that hon. Members saw the headline 50 police constables injured in Birmingham as it appeared in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury of 16th May, although I understand that something was shown on television in that instance. For the most part, these cases go unreported except locally; but they are continuing and mounting and are very well known to those who live in the areas concerned and who see such areas being transformed beyond all recognition, from their own homes and their own country to places where it is a terror to be obliged to live.

Yet, even though that picture is dark and darkening, there is one factor which has not yet been injected. I do not know whether it will be tomorrow, or next year, or in five years; but it will come. That factor is firearms and explosives. With communities which are so divided nothing can prevent the injection of explosives and firearms with the escalating and self-augmenting consequences which we know perfectly well from experience in other parts of the United Kingdom and the world.

At first there will be horrified astonishment, and inquiry as to what we have done wrong that such things should be happening. Then there will be feverish endeavour to find methods to allay the supposed grievances which lie behind the violence. Then follows exploitation by those who use violence of the ascendancy they have thus gained over the majority and over authority. The thing goes forward, acting and reacting until a position is reached in which—Ishall dare to say it—compared to those areas, Belfast today will seem an enviable place.

Yet I shall not end upon that note.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Powell

No, I shall not. I am going to finish my speech.

Although it is right that the House should be forced to face the probable consequences of conditions as they exist today in Birmingham, Brixton and half a dozen other major cities and industrial areas, I do not wish to end what I have said upon the note of hopelessness which increasing numbers of our fellow citizens feel—hon. Members who do not know that, either do not live in or represent the areas concerned, or they are deaf to what those they represent write and say to them.

I am not accepting that there is no hope of escaping this fate, provided that we take two measures which this prospect necessarily requires. Both are within the power of a legal and humane Government and both are within the power of this House, if it can will them.

First, we should terminate net immigration into this country and say with the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) "Enough is enough".

There is nothing which obliges us, even in our statute law, to admit large numbers of those being admitted at present; and our statute law itself, which we are capable from time to time, as was done in 1962 and 1968, of revising and amending, is obsolete in the light of the facts as we know them and see them emerging.

But it would be cowardice to say no more than that net immigration must be brought to an end. It must be the resolve of all—of Government, Parliament and public authorities—in the interests of the future of all concerned, to ensure that, by every possible means, the emergence of these projections which everyone can see, which are not secret, is prevented. I do not believe that if Her Majesty's Government, with Parliament and overwhelming public opinion behind them, were convinced, and publicly convinced, that it was in the interest of all the people resident in this country—as it is—that the numbers of new Commonwealth population in this country should cease to increase, we should be unable to limit that element if only to approximately its present size. I do not believe that such a resolve or such a policy would be found impracticable. But at least the Muse of Commons, this afternoon, thanks to the hon. Member for Thanet, East, has been told to its face what millions of people in this country want it to be told. Those that have ears to hear, let them hear.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

I at least agree with the last sentence of the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). There is a sense in which those who have ears to hear ought to hear the full story and not the perversion of the statistics which takes place whenever the right hon. Gentleman opens his mouth. [Interruption.]

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for Labour Members, when some hon. Members leave the Chamber, to say "There go the Fascists"? We are not Fascists, and we resent that. I hope you will decree that to be entirely out of order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Yes. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I certainly did not hear the word, but if it was used it would definitely be unparliamentary in the present context.

Mr. Lyon

It does not matter whether Members of this House like coloured immigration or dislike it, whether they like coloured people in this country or dislike them. The fact is that there are now Li million coloured people in this country and that for all time to come this country will be a multi-racial and multicultural society. The House must face up to that. I do not complain of any hon. Members pointing to the problems that may arise as a result of that situation, but that is the fact that now exists. Where the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) talks in his motion about the changing demographic nature of this country, what he really means is that we are getting an increasing number of coloured people living here and that that may have certain consequences. I accept that.

For myself, I believe that there are great benefits accruing to us by the presence both of the people themselves and of the culture they have brought with them, and that there is a great deal to be gained in a society such as ours, which is tolerant and civilised, in gaining the benefit of a culture that is different from the host culture that we all enjoy. All of us, in addition to the host culture, have specifice cultures of our own. All of us share to some extent in the majority culture, which is our common birthright. It is true that in bringing in a substantial number of people from the new Commonwealth, the problem is not the problem of the pigmentation of the skin, except in the eye of the racially discriminatory. The problem is that of a different cultural standard and different cultural background which may come into conflict.

For myself, for reasons that I indicated yesterday in a newspaper article, I think that those cultural differences, where they may cause difficulty, may be overcome if a sensible Government apply their minds in sufficient time and overcome those difficulties within the first generation of new Commonwealth immigrants. If they are overcome, the kind of prospect that has just been painted to us in the lurid terms of the right hon. Member for Down, South will never take place in this country. It need not take place. There is no reason why we should follow the American experience, unless this House and the country do not face up to the consequences of the new population, who are now our citizens and whom we can never get rid of, whatever the feelings on the Opposition side of the House. The fact is that we face up to these problems or we have trouble.

What I have been seeking to do in the last few weeks, by extending the debate more than it has been extended previously, is to try to get the country to face up to the problems in a way that is different from, and I hope more constructive than, the solutions that have been put forward in the past by the right hon. Member for Down, South. But that is not what this debate is about. This debate is not about race relations, except for the oft-quoted aphorism that race relations are inexorably mixed up with immigration. To some extent they are, but not in the way that the hon. Member for Thanet, East meant.

One cannot say to a man who is black "We shall treat you as an equal member of this society, as a full citizen of our community", and say to him at the same time "We shall keep your wife and children waiting seven years before they can come and live with you". It is at the root of that matter that my objection to the present policies subsists. I shall come shortly to the Hawley Report that the right hon. Member for Down, South talked about, because it was on that final crunch that the differences of opinion between myself and the Home Department really came. If, however, that is the case, can we at the same time say to those who are aroused—and I do not doubt it—in the indigenous population about the scale of Commonwealth immigration that nevertheless we have to take it? The answer is "Yes"—irrespective of the views of Members of this House.

I turn, first, to the statement of principle, to which any good politician should go—to the party manifesto, the election manifesto. I quote: At the same time within this declining figure we are honouring our obligations to the two categories of people in the Commonwealth for whom we have special responsibilities—namely the close dependent relatives of immigrants settled here lawfully before the new Act came into force and those people who, because of our imperial past, possess citizenship of this country and no other. That was not a quotation from the Labour Party manifesto. It was from the Conservative Party manifesto in the General Election of February 1974. The reasons why that party had to accept those two inescapable commitments of this country are rooted in our past, and I have to refer to them briefly, although I hope that I shall be able to do so without too much deviation from the subject in hand.

The root of our present Commonwealth immigration story lies in the fact that in 1948, by the British Nationality Act, we did not take to ourselves a specific British citizenship similar to the citizenship of Canada, New Zealand or Australia. What we did was to persist with the illusion which had therefore always obtained that anyone anywhere in the British Empire was a British subject and could come to the mother country whenever he wanted. That illusion had gone on for 200 years of Empire, so it was no criticism of the Government of that day that it was thought that it could continue. It began to change when people began to come here from the West Indies, with consequent reservations from some of the indigenous population.

In 1962 the Conservative Government began to cut down the right of Commonwealth citizens to come here, but they did not go to the basic root cause, which was to define our own citizenship. We kept on with Commonwealth citizenship for all British subjects having the right of entry. We had for ourselves not citizenship of the United Kingdom but citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies. It was open to anyone who was not a citizen of an independent Commonwealth country anywhere in the Empire. Then, not having done the job, it came to 1968, when in the 1968 Act the rights of citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies were cut down so that, though they were not prevented from coming, vouchers had to be obtained in order that the flow could be controlled.

In 1971 again the chance was missed. What happened was that citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies became of two kinds—first-class and second-class citizens, those who were patrial and those who were not patrial. In international law all citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies are British nationals, and in the event of a State in the world putting out our British nationals, in international law we should have an obligation to take them as a consequence of our acceptance of them as citizens.

Therefore, in relation to the citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who have no other place to go—and for all practical purposes that means the 40,000 East African Asians at present living in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi—we have an irremovable legal obligation to take them, and anybody who thinks that we do not and quotes the Court of Appeal decision in Thakrar should look in due course—we seem to be having a few releases of reports and I hope we shall have the European Commission's Report—at the report of the European Commission on Human Rights which reports on the 1968 Act and finds that we were in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which we are signatories and which all parties in this House are now pledged somehow to bring into English statute law.

If that be the case, we are bound to take these people. The fact of the matter is that those 40,000 people can be taken within the next two years and the debate about the Malawan immigrants who were Goans—the 200 or so who precipitated all this great row—will be over and done with in two years if the House keeps its head and we realise that that part of the problem can be solved.

The other inescapable commitment comes about because, having those citizenship rights, people came from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the 1960s and settled here. I mean, of course, the men. In 1968, because the Government were worried about the prevalence of male households, particularly Pakistani households where the men were bringing over their sons and children but not their wives, they insisted that in future if immigrants wanted to bring their children, they would have to bring their wives. They had to bring the whole family, and they could come if they had an entry certificate from the High Commission in one of the territories of the sub-continent.

We have accepted into our community men who have given their labour and who have contributed to our society over the past 20 years. In my view we have a moral obligation at any rate to allow them to be reunited with their wives here. But we have more than that, because a great many of them have taken citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, which is the only citizenship that we have. They are equivalent to us in law in every way, and they are therefore entitled in international law to have their wives and families join them here.

If anyone were to test that in the European Commission and before the European Court, I have no doubt that we should be found in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by keeping out people who were the wives and children of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies settled in this country. Indeed, even the Court of Appeal in the recent Phansopkar case decided that patrial wives had a right to come here in any event.

I say to the House, even though hon. Members do not like it, that those two inescapable commitments, which both Governments have accepted, must be fulfilled, and the argument between the two sides relates to facts: how fast can one do it, and how fast should one do it. The 40,000 East African Asians will be here within the next two years and there is little dispute between the parties about the desirability of keeping up the vouchers for them.

There is much dispute about the queue of wives and children from the subcontinent. The dispute centres partly on the rate of flow, and partly on the numbers who might have to come in. Are we, as the right hon. Member for Down, South keeps saying, baling out an ocean, or is this, as I have said on numerous occasions, a finite pool of limited numbers who will be allowed to come in and the matter will finally be settled? The answer is that they are a finite pool. The right ought, in theory in any event, to be applied only to those who were settled here before 1st January 1973 and who have the statutory right under Section 1 of the Immigration Act to bring in their wives and children under the age of 18. In those circumstances it ought to be possible, if we had all the figures, to add up the number of men who were settled here with that right, deduct from that the number of families who have already come here, and in that way arrive at the balance that ought to be the finite pool.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm the report of 26th April in The Times in which he is reported as saying that the advice he was receiving from Home Office officials was that in their opinion the queue of dependants was never-ending?

Mr. Lyon

I shall come to that. My assessment of that balance is about 100,000, and it is interesting to note that it is not far away from the figure that was quoted by the right hon. Member for Down, South in a speech in January when he gave an estimate taken in 1967 of about 250,000 and knocked off 150,000 who have come since. It is indicative of the finiteness of that pool that there is already a slowing down in applications in India, in Delhi, where one would expect a slowing down to be met first. It is clear from those signs, which are not unmistakable—I accept that—that there may be something in the thesis that I have put to the House.

Against the day-to-day working of both the immigration department at Croydon and the High Commissions in the territories concerned that overwhelming fact does not necessarily appear from the statistics, because day in and day out they are dealing with applications that come before them and that seem to be never ending. It is significant that the Hawley Report says: All the Heads of Mission and Posts are convinced that this assumption is wrong and I share their view. It goes on: If they and the 70 odd United Kingdom-based officers engaged on immigration considered that there was an end in sight, there would be less uneasiness felt about pushing through dependants cases with increased despatch. The fact of the matter is that even the officials themselves recognise that if the pool is finite there is real sense in getting rid of that pool as quickly as possible.

Therefore, is it finite? As I have said, by definition it must be, because the man settled in this country with a right to bring in their wives and children—and very few new male heads of households are allowed in from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh—will, in the usual circumstances, have one wife and family. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) referred to the possibility of a Muslim bringing in two wives. Although that possibility exists, experience has shown that very few Pakistanis bring in more than one wife. Therefore, we are talking about one woman and one set of children for each of the people who have come in.

In Delhi the increase in the queue is already drying up. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, where the wave of immigrants was later than that from India and from where husbands began to bring in their wives and children later, the flow has not yet begun to show signs of drying up. But no wonder: each year since 1968, until I went out to the subcontinent last year, the number of applications has dropped. But the number of cases that were processed dropped even more. The 26,000 cases dealt with in 1969 dropped to about 13,000 in 1974 even though the number of officers increased in the meantime. As a result, the queue grew longer and longer even though fewer people were applying to come.

When I was there in 1975, there were 16,000 applications, representing about 32,000 dependants. Half of those have now been dealt with but, as a result of the publicity given to my visit, applications have increased both in Pakistan and Bangladesh because people now expect that they may get to their husbands rather more quickly than they thought they could before. By bringing down the delay time from seven years in Dacca to something like 18 months to two years, it is possible to give greater help to those who want to be reunited with their husbands.

Mr. Budgen

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Lyon

No, I am sorry. I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman.

In these circumstances, because applications have increased in 1975 and the early months of 1976, it looks as though the pool will have no end. But if one takes the figure as about 100,000, and compares it with the statistics, one finds that, even if the applications have increased as much as they have, they are still coming from a pool which is still no greater than about 100,000.

Mr. Bugden


Mr. Lyon

I am sorry; I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman.

What is deducible from the statistics contained in the census figures of 1971 is that this is about the right figure. If we have 100,000 wives and children under the age of 18 from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh there is no immediate increase in our unemployment queues although there may be a charge upon our schools. I should emphasise that there is not so much a charge upon our housing because, on the whole, Asians tend not to go on the local authority housing list, but to buy their own houses. These men normally have houses available for their wives and children. If that is the scale of the problem, is it not better to get it over and done with quickly, within the next few years, rather than have it drag on for years and years?

The number of people accepted last year, within the overall figure of about 35,000 admitted for settlement on arrival, was about 15,000 wives and children from the sub-continent. If we continue at that kind of rate it will be about eight or nine years before they have come in. If this debate is to be repeated every year for eight or nine years, who can doubt that the consequences for race relations in this country will be bad? It is better that we face up to the task now. If there is doubt about the pool, or the size or finiteness of it, let us end the doubt by opening a register for the sponsors.

We should say to those who want to bring in their wives and children from the sub-continent that they should put their names on that register if they have been admitted for settlement into this country before 1st January 1973. We should tell them they will be allowed to bring over their wives and children in due course. When that register has been assembled, and if the House thought the figure was too high, we could issue a quota, as we have with the United Kingdom passport holders, and allow them to bring their wives and children over according to that quota.

What we should not do is continue with the present system of entry certificate verification. Having looked at the system closely, I am left with no real confidence that the entry certificate officers manage to decide whether a person is a bogus applicant. Too many cases which I investigated with the people themselves, in the presence of the entry certificate officers, turned out to be genuine wives who had been turned down by the High Commission and who were still marooned out there while their husbands were working in this country.

In one case we actually arrived at a time when a man who had returned from England on a short holiday was building a house for his wife and children whom the British High Commission alleged not to be his wife and family. On another occasion I met a wife in a village who took me back to her home and showed me, printed in mosaic over the fireplace, the name of her husband, whom the Bri- tish High Commission alleged not to be her husband.

If the population of this country knew what went on in the cases which are dealt with by the British High Commission in the sub-continent, they would regard it as a national disgrace. It would never have been allowed to continue as long as it has but for the fact that these people are black rather than white. Just imagine the row there would have been if over 100,000 people waiting to come here had been the wives and children of husbands who were white! We know that there is the possibility in the near future that 150,000 white Rhodesians might want to come back to the United Kingdom. Does anyone think they would be kept waiting for seven years while we verify each case? Of course not. If we are to have justice, we should have it for blacks as well as whites.

I have almost used up my time but there are a number of issues I should like to mention before I sit down. The first is the question of the net balance. We calculate carefully the number of people who come into this country. In times past, immigration surveys have been preoccupied with the problem of those who manage to get in and have not been concerned so much with those going out. The net migration figures taken from landings and embarkations have been in existence for about 50 years—long before large-scale immigration into this country. They have been used simply as an indication of passage and movement for the purpose of organisation of the ports. No one has paid a great deal of attention to them. They are markedly unreliable in giving any kind of picture of net immigration into this country.

The only sensible way to get this figure is to count the number of people who have been accepted for settlement under any of the heads of those who are coming in. We have clear, detailed, reliable statistics for that. If anybody disagrees with that assumption and thinks that we are seeking to keep something from the prying eyes of the right hon. Member for Down, South, just let him do the sums for all Commonwealth migrants in the period between the census of 1971 and the beginning of 1975. It will be found that there 30,000 more white Commonwealth people left this country than existed here, according to the 1971 cen- sus. Of course that is ludicrous, because the statistics are unreliable.

However, if we look more closely at the figures on which the right hon. Member for Down, South focused attention, those for the black Commonwealth, we see that they show a sudden jump between 1972 and 1973. In 1972, there was an outward flow, according to the net migration figures, of 23,000. Curious that those overstayers and illegal immigrants should have gone out in such numbers! In the following year—the year for which the right hon. Gentleman always settles when there was a mistake in the count at London Airport—the increase under the revised estimate was 52,000 coming in.

Can it really be said that suddenly, in one year, there was a net inflow of about 50,000 overstayers—in that one year? Why that year? That was the year when the Conservative Government were being as strict and as rigid as the hon. Member for Thanet, East wanted them to be. It was the year before the "softie" Minister of State at the Home Office came in. Yet there were 53,000 overstayers in that year.

If we make the same kind of deductions as the right hon. Member for Down, South makes, in the last three years there would have been 150,000 overstayers from the new Commonwealth in this country. That is the size of a town like Bolton. We know, because the right hon. Gentleman is always telling us, that there are only a few areas of this country where these people settle. That is true—fewer than about 20 areas. If 150,000 people had suddenly, in three years, been distributed around 20 areas, our services would soon have known it.

The net migration figures are unreliable for any calculations of this kind. They could become reliable if we changed the system, as we have done, so that all non-patrials filled in a card when they came in and a card when they went out and we related the landing card to the embarkation card of the same person.

There are those who argue that we could gain even from the cold statistics if we could get some picture of net trends over a period, but if there was a sudden upsurge, as there was in 1973, of visitors and students, that would wipe out any apparent effect of the net migration figure. That number of visitors or of students is so unplanned that it cannot be related to the net migration figure unless one can find a specific card of a specific person showing whether he had entered or left. We could do that if we increased our checks and put all those cards on to a computer. There is no way of dealing with those cards other than by computerisation.

The next point which arose was the question of illegality itself. The number of people who come here illegally, not through immigration control, is extremely small. No one doubts that there are some. The figures that the hon. Member for Thanet, East suggested are not unknown to the Home Office Immigration Department, which works closely with the police in any event, but they must be speculative and no one knows for certain because no one can count the number of illegal immigrants.

But if it is really suggested that there is a great number, why is it that when we declared an amnesty which allowed those who came in before 1973 to come forward and regularise their position, so far only 2,200 people have come forward? The people in the communities concerned know that this is available to them and whether they can come forward or not. But only 2,200 have applied.

Then again, the Conservative Government decided in 1971 not to remove anyone who had been here for more than five years. The overstayer who has been here for more than five years can have his conditions removed. Nevertheless, the number of people who have come forward to have their conditions removed has never been more than 2,000 in any one of the last two years. Therefore, the suggestion that there is some great pool of illegals or overstayers in this country is unrealistic when one considers the total figures. It is unrealistic when one considers the calls on our social services or our housing queues by people from the new Commonwealth. Those statistics generally relate to the official figures of those who come in for resettlement and not to some hidden pool, which is the myth which has been sedulously put forward.

The last point that I wish to deal with is the revocation of conditions. It is true that immigration into this country for settlement has increased substantially in the last two years if one includes the figures for revocation, in addition to the figures for admission. The figures for admission have risen very little indeed—from about 25,000 to about 35,000. But the substantial increase came in 1974, when the revocation figure jumped by about 10,000. It did so for two reasons. The first is the one that I have described. People who had been here for more than five years, albeit illegally, could not be deported. Their conditions were simply extended and they did not count for settlement.

But that meant that their position was never regularised and that they were in some difficulties if they ever left the country. They could not be deported, yet in one sense they were not settled. In 1974 we abandoned that system and accepted that, because they could not be sent back, they should be allowed to settle so that they would come into the settlement figures. I stress that no more people were allowed in as a result of that change of policy then would have been if we had followed the policy of our predecessors. The people were here and they could not be sent back. All that happened was that there was a sudden quirk in the figures. That was part of the reason for the extra 10,000.

The other part of the reason was the decision about marriage. We have now allowed into this country people who are married to people settled here if those settled here are men. They always could bring in their wives, but women were not allowed to bring in their husbands if they had married outside this country. We were put under enormous pressure to make that change in the summer of 1974 by hon. Members on both sides, by the Press and by public opinion, who all thought that it was disgraceful that a man should not be allowed to live with his wife in the country in which she had been born.

I well remember our debate on that change, when no vote was forced by the Opposition and when every Opposition Member who spoke supported our view that the change should be made. But I warned them at the time that, inevitably, there would be some increase in the number of immigrants, particularly the number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, who would benefit as a result of the change.

Those figures are now available. They show, not surprisingly, that the num- ber of men who have come for marriage has increased, but no more than the number of women who were coming in for marriage before 1974. There has been a balancing mechanism. The number of men is roughly equivalent to the number of women coming in for settlement. Why should it not be so? Why should it be thought unrealistic that we should allow people to come here for marriage when someone who has settled here wants to be married? Every civilised immigration policy in the world allows people who are settled in their country to marry outside their borders and to bring their wives or husbands back into the country.

For that reason, we allowed it, but we knew that, unlike the two finite commitments to which I referred earlier, this commitment would continue for as long as people wanted to marry outside this country but that the numbers involved would always be relatively limited. There were about 12,000 in 1974, and there might be slightly more in 1975, but it is well within the capacity of this country to absorb them.

I end as I began. We have certain inescapable commitments which would have to be met by whatever Government ran this country and they would be better met in the near future so that those who must come can settle when their children are young so that the children can absorb more of the education of this country. When those two inescapable commitments have been met, the number coming in for permanent settlement will have been reduced to a very small trickle and will be well within the capacity of this country to manage.

5.21 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Whilst the question of the number of immigrants admitted to Britain, whether legally or illegally, is of crucial importance, I should like to focus on the special difficulties which face first generation children of immigrants now living in Britain, especially in the West Indian community. The problems which I shall mention are not only of concern to education and social service authorities but are of increasing anxiety to the whole West Indian population. Although these problems are shared by black children from other minority groups, it is appropriate to single out the West Indian community because there are more West Indian children here than children from other minority groups other than Asians.

Let us consider the educational standards of the West Indian child in school. Far too high a percentage of West Indian children are in the remedial departments in proportion to the West Indian population of the area. They are in the remedial departments because they are under-functioning and, not surprisingly, the number of them passing GCE O and A levels is miserably small. As a result of their under-functioning, West Indian children tend to hold themselves in low regard. There is also an abnormally high number of West Indian children in special schools for the educationally subnormal.

The reason for this under-performance is sometimes explained away by highlighting the serious behavioural problems which are evident in a high proportion of adolescent West Indians. The behaviour can sometimes result in expulsion from school and, as a result, many are out of school for long periods. Schools just do not want to take very difficult children any longer and schools for maladjusted children are short of places. The behavioural problems to which I refer may involve refusal to accept any discipline, senseless violence either to their peers or to staff, verbal or physical aggression, delinquency or truancy.

It is against this backcloth that one must be concerned with the abnormally high proportion of children living in local authority children's homes. These children are received into care for many reasons. They may have been abandoned by their mother, frequently on her own in this country and without help from her extended family back home. They may feel alienated, unable to come to terms with life in a new family unit with their parents remarried and with step-brothers and sisters. Inevitably, it is the adolescent child in the new Commonwealth country rather than the parent here who has initiated his coming to Britain, and he may not have seen his mother or father for 10 to 15 years.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

I know well my hon. Friend's concern for the poor, the ill and the disabled and those who are the casualties of life, not only among West Indians, but among his own compatriots. However, is it not a fact that the West Indian people are needed in their own country? Would it not be better for them and the children to return to the West Indies than to remain here?

Mr. Steen

I believe that greater incentives need to be given by the Government to help the skilled and qualified to go back to their own countries, but it should be based on a slightly different criterion. It should be based on the fact that they are needed in their country to maintain their independence. My hon. Friend has raised an important point, but probably the House has lost the thread of my argument.

I was referring to the number of children in care. Many of them may be flouting the rules imposed by their strict parent and find themselves in trouble at home. Rather than face the subsequent beatings, they run away. Termed "at risk" by the social services department, they are brought into care.

Many West Indian adolescents view children's homes as nice friendly places where the rules are lax and pocket money more regular than at home. For a good number of adolescents, reception into care is seen as a direct undermining of parental authority which, in many cases, is not unreasonable in its demands, though somewhat authoritarian by current British standards. The education welfare services tell us that there is now a wide West Indian sub-culture made up of girls who flout parental authority in the knowledge that they might enjoy a better life in a reception centre and children's home at considerable cost to the taxpayer.

Although the disciplinary pattern in West Indian families is more punitive, it does not necessarily denote either lack of caring or gross cruelty. Often the punishment is meted out by the parent in good faith. It is therefore doubtful whether by imposing our standards on the West Indian community with regard to child-rearing we are doing anything other than harm. It is my view that, by placing children into institutional care and not insisting that the West Indian community looks after its own, we are building up further problems which are exploding every time these children reach adulthood.

Some hon. Members may ask why the sociological, historical and cultural background of the West Indian is of any relevance when viewing the problems facing the West Indian community in Britain today. Those who ask the question fail to comprehend the differences in both culture and background between living in Britain and living in the West Indies. Until we start to appreciate that this is at the root of the problems, relations will not start to improve. The problems manifest today are the same as those in the 1960s. Yet the Government seem to be rigid in their attitude and there is little hope for children from alien cultures to rebalance their basic disadvantage.

Take, for example, the survey carried out by the Inner London Education Authority some years ago. What has happened since is discovered that black children's reading age was at least one year behind that of white children? Has ILEA reallocated its £400 million to help overcome language problems? For most West Indians, English is their second language and the English they speak is different from ours—different meaning in words, different syntax, different grammar. The Bengalese children in Tower Hamlets today suffer an enormous language disadvantage. In many Asian communities English is the first language and, with additional coaching, problems can be overcome, but for the West Indians and many other minority groups the whole structure of the curriculum, its content and materials, needs to be re-geared. We are dealing no longer with white Anglo-Saxon children but with black children with a different history and from a different culture.

The problem is deeply aggravated by the total absence of information about where extra help is needed and the nature of that help. Whereas formerly Form 71 asked schools to record the birth place of children or parents if they had been in Britain for less than 10 years—and this helped to give some indication as to where the problems were—when it was scrapped nothing took its place. The Department of Education and Science has taken up no alternative means of collecting information on the language needs of children and how well black/white youngsters perform. It is grossly negli- gent that when the DES dropped Form 71 it did not insist that local authorities provided alternative information. As a result, West Indian and other black minority groups are at a severe disadvantage as they are expected to compete with white children who come from an entirely different cultural background and who understand English in a different way.

There is no information about the literacy, numeracy or creative work of minority groups. We do not know the proportion of minority group children who, at the age of 12, have a reading age two years behind their chronological age. The Government have singularly failed to improve the quality of our information, and this in turn has allowed them to avoid taking action.

Should we not call a halt to the enthusiasm of social workers to place black children in care? Could not greater efforts be made to find black foster parents, and could not they try to get more people to adopt black children? Instead of advertising in The Times, I wonder how many local authorities advertise for foster parents in the West Indian World, and how many social workers go to the Pentecostal Church.

Local authorities fail to show any spark of imagination or originality. It is our approach to minorities in the community which needs a radical alteration. There are great resources in the minority groups. An example is the organisation known as Soul Kids, which tries to make black parents aware of the responsibility to adopt and foster. There are the Saturday schools and supplementary school programmes financed by West Indian parents themselves by which they pay teachers out of school to help their children gain a mastery of English. We should involve black mothers in infant welfare clinics and get black doctors to help them with their problems. We should make money available under the urban aid programme to involve black parents in playgroups.

The problems facing the teaching staff in schools will get worse and worse unless this is done; the number of children in care will increase; the social dislocation of the young adolescent will continue so long as the West Indian community and their cultural backgrounds are not acknowledged. No wonder there are such cries about the continued flow of dependants into this country, since each wave aggravates the already complex issues which I have tried to outline in this short speech.

Until we recognise the potential contribution each minority culture makes to our multi-racial society, and so long as we refuse to get the correct information, we cannot hope to get relationships with the black community right. Nor can we help each of the cultures develop until we adopt a self-help approach. Only in this way will a new kind of trust develop between minority groups and the British people. The continued flow of dependants year by year from the West Indies and other countries merely increases anxiety and apprehension and damages the prospects of better race relations.

5.32 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

Had this debate started in a different way, I should have been very happy to have followed some of the issues that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) has just raised. Unhappily, the debate started in a very different way and I want to take up one or two of the points which were made by the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Atiken) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish).

Two observations were very worrying. First, both said that the subjects of immigration and race were not raised in this country, that they were kept quiet in the House of Commons, and that pressure was put on the hon. Gentleman not to raise them. I was under the impression that the Race Relations Bill was in the process of going through the House—

Mr. Aitken

If I may put the hon. Lady's mind at rest, there has been no pressure from official or unofficial sources.

Miss Lestor

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has made that clear. It was a pity that he did not make it clear when the allegation was made earlier. However, I am very glad that he has made it dear now, and that is why I raised the matter.

It is true that we have a Race Relations Bill going through the House. I was not aware that that Bill was being kept quiet or that the public were being kept out of the deliberations in Committee. So the accusation that the House has deliberately avoided discussing the issue is nonsense, and everybody knows it.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey, who often speaks to us as a Christian, made certain comments that rather worried me. I know that his ancestors are Southern Irish. His point was that, even though the Southern Irish are his kith and kin, he would keep them out, too. This was rather like the statement made by the hon. Gentleman that many black immigrants take the same view—that we should have no more black immigrants here.

I do not want to get involved in the numbers game, but I am not convinced by anyone who attempts to argue "It is all right for me, but to the hell with the rest." My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey talked about the way people were coming into his constituency and the way that people there felt. The population of London is declining. If I may just make mention of the little difficulty that I had with my own Front Bench, its argument was to the effect that the population was falling and, therefore, we did not need more teachers. The statement that the difficulties in Bermondsey are caused by the influx of black people there when the population there is falling is a misrepresentation of the present position. I always find the question of numbers very difficult, because nobody is ever able to tell me how many people are actually leaving Britain of those who came here from abroad, whether they are leaving for the country of origin, or for other countries.

The hon. Member for Thanet, East said that qualified people were leaving Britain because of high taxation, immigration, and other factors. He said that that was disastrous because we needed such people. This is exactly what Britain has done to the countries from which she has taken immigrants. We have taken in the qualified people. The first restriction this country applied was to stop unqualified people from coming in.

When the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who is not here, of course, was Minister of Health, he brought into this country—I do not blame him for this or condemn it—black doctors and black nurses to sustain the National Health Service. The black children about whom the right hon. Gentleman complains as being born in this country are the children of the people whom he himself brought in. He cannot have it both ways. A person who at one time says "We need qualified people from abroad to help to sustain certain of our services" can hardly ask them to have themselves sterilised when they get here, or to promise never to produce children when they are here, because that is not the way that things work.

I wonder whether those who say that the numbers of people coming in make it worse for the black children who are here already stop to think of the effect of some of their words on the black children who have been born here and brought up in Britain but who are always regarded by them as non-belongers. A white immigrant is not recognised as an immigrant and is not seen as an immigrant. The people of whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey spoke as being in and around his constituency are identifiable because of their colour. Someone like myself who was born in Canada and who came here as a child is not identifiable as an immigrant and is not considered to be one.

Those who argue so much about immigration and talk about wanting to assimilate black children born here into our culture should remember that some of the emotive words spoken by some of their colleagues have just the opposite effect. After all, their colleagues tell those youngsters that they do not belong and that they are not wanted; they thus alienate them from the very processes of integration. We want to see such youngsters accepted in Britain and integrated.

At the very time that the House of Commons was debating the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill in 1962 London Transport was recruiting workers in Barbados. That was because we did not have sufficient people here to run London Transport. In view of that, it ill-behoves people to say 15 years later that there are too many such people here and that they and their children should be sent back.

My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) went into some detail about the number of people who are likely to come into Britain, about the number of relatives, and about the whole pattern of immigration. The right hon. Member for Down, South talked about the undesirability of relations coming in, of more people coming in. The case that my hon. Friend the Member for York has always tried to make has been that it adds to the stability of an immigrant community to have relations here, that it does not help the stability of an immigrant community if men have to wait, say, four to seven years for their wives and children to be admitted.

Some who have spoken in this debate have implied—I am told that the country feels this, too—that relatives are admitted into Britain with comparative ease. I invite anyone who takes that view to come to my advice bureau in a Friday afternoon and see what happens. I encounter people who, for a variety of reasons, cannot provide documentary evidence of their marriage or of the birth of their children, even though we know that the children were born to them, merely because in the years when their children were born or when they married there was no system of documentation in their country. The statement that it is so simple to allow one's family to come here is not true, and any Member who has an immigrant community in his constituency knows that it is not true.

I do not want to discuss illegal immigation because I do not have facts and figures. I accept that there is illegal immigration. I accept that some of the immigrant population exploit many coloured people who wish to come into this country, and that they behave in an undesirable manner. But never would I condemn the majority of immigrants because of the activities of a minority.

The language in which some of these arguments are advanced gives the impression to many people who do not have as many of the facts as some of us do that this is a condemnation of the immigrant community at large. Every time they see a face which is identifiable by colour, they say "Is he here legally or illegally?" Many people deliberately try to create and foster this feeling.

The subject of the Malawi Asians was raised a little earlier. It has been said that they sparked off some of the alleged feeling about immigration. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey said that it was not our fault and asked why we should get involved in this problem. Apart from international law, to which reference has already been made, and apart from guarantees which have been given, anybody who knows anything about the rôle of Britain in Africa and our connection with Asian immigration knows that we have an involvement with this situation. If we did not, we should not be discussing whether those people to whom we gave British passports in certain historical circumstances have the right to come here. It is because of history that this situation arose in the first place.

Many people have referred to the growing number of black people having children in this country. Many seem to fear this, and I have never understood why. Two out of every five black people in Britain were born in Britain.

Mr. Stokes

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss Lestor

No. I shall not give way for the moment. Before long, in terms of generations, the majority of black people in this country will have been born here. I believe that this fact is crucial to the manner in which we handle race relations and to how the situation is moulded in future.

When people argue about the number of black people born here and the alienation of culture, they are doing the very thing of which they complain. If one says to people who are born here "You do not belong. You should not be here. There are too many of you here. We should like to provide incentives for you to go back.", instead of encouraging integration and the assimilation of coloured Britons, one pushes them back into a situation in which they feel they do not belong, and when they feel that they do not belong and behave accordingly, people complain about that.

When people say "We need stricter control. Let us provide incentives for people to go back.", I wonder where this argument takes them. Some years ago we were discussing voluntary repatriation. Voluntary repatriation is a contradiction. If hon. Members want black people to return home—and I presume that by "home" they mean the country from which those people came, leaving out of account those who were born in this country—the incentives which would have to be offered to persuade those people to return would be very great indeed. In fact, I very much doubt whether the Government would entertain it or could afford it.

People who encourage voluntary repatriation really mean compulsory repatriation. They want to send people back. Then they talk about people who, having come to this country, will not assimilate themselves into our culture. Following the logic of that argument, where do we go from there? To talk about too many people being born in this country implies sterilisation.

I have always believed—indeed, I have said this before—that what went wrong with immigration was that the subject of immigration was only ever discussed in this House in the context of colour. It was never discussed within the context of immigration as a whole. Today the argument still takes place within the context of colour. Our connection with the EEC and mobility of labour has not been mentioned today. The subject is still discussed within the context of colour, and that has always been wrong.

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

The hon. Lady has come right back to the point on which I tried to interrupt her earlier. She said that she had come from an immigrant background.

Miss Lestor

I did not. I was born here.

Mr. Goodhew

At least the hon. Lady's family were immigrants. The hon. Lady has referred to the colour and pigmentation of skin. Surely she understands that this is one of the difficulties. If an area is inundated with people who are obviously from another ethnic origin, this is what causes discrimination where it did not occur before. Nobody has argued about Asians in Paddington—

Miss Lestor

Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Goodhew

I have the Floor. [Interruption.] I am trying to be brief, but with everybody interrupting me it is difficult. Where there are people who are identifiable as immigrants, it makes it much more difficult. That is where the control must be much more sensitive.

Miss Lestor

The hon. Gentleman has said exactly what many other people are saying. He has said that it is easier, better and more desirable to have white immigrants in this country than black immigrants. He said that the ethnic differences make it far harder for coloured people to assimilate. Yet in all the years when I have been involved in debates on immigration I have heard nothing said about black immigrants which was not said about the Welsh in Slough or the Jews in London.

When I say that the difference is one of colour, the point is that the identifying of immigrants with colour has led many people to believe that every black face belongs to an immigrant and that only immigrants are black. That is not true. I gave the Floor to the hon. Gentleman and I gave him time to make his point. What he said does not help the situation when we are dealing with the fact that large numbers of people in this country, including children born in this country, are black and their children will be black. That will be the cultural pattern of this island for as long as any of us and our children and their children are going to be here.

Whatever is behind the raising of this subject in the House today, whatever comes out of the debate in terms of immigration control, is an argument for another time. But I am convinced that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when people say that those who happen to have a skin of a different colour are not acceptable in this country: they fulfil their own prophecy.

I agree with one or two of the remarks of the hon. Member for Wavertree. When there is a problem about different cultures and deprivation which applies to black and white alike in this country, it is a question of money, of resources, and of ensuring that as far as possible we provide equal opportunities for all those involved. I thought that that was what the Conservative Party's manifesto was about; I thought that it was what the Race Relations Bill was about.

5.50 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

It is a pity that in this short debate the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) should have taken 41 minutes to address us—not, if I may say so, that he has been with us very much since then. I regret that the way the debate has gone means that so few hon. Members will be able to take part.

I can distil the speech of the hon. Member in two themes. First, he wanted to admit more immigrants faster than even the Home Secretary and the Home Office could stomach—and that is quite a reputation to have acquired—and he sought to give us the impression, in a constantly-recurring phrase, that the rate of immigration was well within the capacity of the country to absorb, although why it should be thought that we have some divine duty to absorb all kinds of streams of immigrants into the most crowded country in the world I do not know; secondly, I suppose his reason was that he thought that we ought to and had to. I want to address myself to those points.

I point out, in deference to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), that I have made many speeches and written many articles about this subject but I have never blamed the immigrants. I do not blame them at all—they have acted sensibly. I blame British Governments past and present for letting them in.

We do not debate this subject enough. We owe it to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) for bringing the subject before us on a Private Member's motion. When did we last have a debate on race relations? We used to have an annual debate under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, but it was taken out of there and since then we are dependent on a private Member's luck in the Ballot and his will to bring forward this not very popular subject in the House.

The hon. Member for York sought to justify his acceleration of immigration. It has been very marked—10,000 on those admitted for settlement per annum, 10,000 more with the removal of the time limit, pumping the figure up to an admitted 50,000 or more a year. But the hon. Gentleman says that that is all right because the figure is finite.

This subject was debated in the House in January of last year, although not at an hour which made it available to most of us. That debate took place at 5.30 a.m. on the Consolidated Fund Bill. The hon. Member for York answered the debate. His argument was: If it is said that the rate at which we are discharging our residual commitment … should be increased, that does not mean that any more people will come into the country. It simply means that the commitment will be extinguished more quickly. He was asked what was the extent of the commitment and how many people were involved. He replied: I cannot say anything about the numbers question. All kinds of possibilities may occur to change the extent of the commitments before it is actually undertaken. I do not intend to say anything about numbers. The hon. Gentleman repeated that later.

I therefore found it a little surprising that he was so confident in his speech today about numbers, considering that he had refused twice from the Dispatch Box a few months ago to say anything about numbers, emphasising that the nature of the commitment could change unpredictably before the discharge of it actually arose. That is not a very encouraging thought for someone who is asked to rely upon the finality of the commitment.

Of course, we have had other assurances on this subject from the hon. Gentleman. In that same debate he said: By and large, male immigration stopped when the 1965 White Paper considerably reduced the number of work vouchers."—[Official Report, 23rd January 1975; Vol. 884. c. 2010 and 2019.] Since 1965, at least 200,000 male immigrants from the new Commonwealth have come into this country. Apparently, that is what the hon. Member calls "stopping". Again, that does not exactly encourage us.

The truth is that all through the years we have had these watertight assurances about the decline in immigration, and how it was a finite commitment which was gradually being worked off. Right the way through we have been told that. I must not at this stage quote any more, but I have with me quotations to that effect. But no such thing has happened.

In the decade from 1961 to 1971, the average rate of immigrant inflow for settlement was 62,500—that is not going on the gross movement figure but working from the Home Office figures. That does not just mean that in those 10 years we had 625,000 extra immigrants, because, of course, we also had the natural increase for that period as well. It would be surprising if the immigrant population—using the term in its broadest sense—did not increase by a million in those 10 years; it must have done.

This is how we have gone on, and I understand why the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said that enough is enough. It is the numbers game. The hon. Member for Eton and Slough deprecates the numbers game, but it is all about numbers. We used to have Commonwealth immigration before the 1950s. It ran at about 200 or 300 a year, and no one cared or talked about it—indeed, one may say that no one knew about it. But when the hundreds became thousands and the thousands became tens of thousands, and those tens of thousands crept up to a hundred thousand and went up ultimately to 160,000, people began to say "You have to do something about immigration."

I do not know what the hon. Member for York was saying in 1961–62 but I remember what I said and what other people were saying.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

What did they say?

Mr. Bell

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has a clean slate in this respect—he was not here then. But I remember what the then Liberal Party spokesman said when he spoke on behalf of the Liberal Party when the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was going through the House. He said that every British subject in the world—all 600 million of them—had just as much right to come and live here as any hon. Member of this House or any other person in Britain. It was not a proposition in law—it was a moral and political proposition—and the Liberal Party voted against the Bill and thereafter against its annual renewal.

At one of those annual renewals, the Liberal spokesman called it the most evil Bill ever presented to Parliament. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed should not identify himself with that view. If he does, he will be very unwise. This was not then a matter of the so-called passport holders—it was the first attempt to control immigration at all.

I return now to the hon. Member for York and this business about British passports. He must know that that is a lot of rubbish. He said that in 1968 for the first time we established two kinds of United Kingdom and Colonies citizenship—first and second-class. Does not he know that that is wrong?

In 1961 our problem, as he rightly said, was immigration from the Crown colonies—Barbados, Jamaica and so on. That is where they were coming from. It would have been useless to pass an Act saying that those holding the citizenship of the independent Commonwealth countries could not come in. At that time, they were not particularly trying to do so.

The first thing that we did in this connection in the 1962 Act was to draw a distinguishing line through the single citizenship of United Kingdom and Colonies. That is what the Act is about. We made some citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies subject to immigration control, and that included all the East African Indians. We did it by definition, in Section 1, I think. There had to be a definition because we were all the same kind of citizen. Where would we get our passport—from Petty France—the London Government—or from a colonial Government? Anyone getting it from a colonial Government was subject to control. Anyone getting it in London was not subject to control. That was all.

That is how passports come into this question. Nobody was given British passports. It is a lot of absolute rhetorical rubbish to say so. That measure worked. The Liberals frothed at the mouth, and most Labour Members did so, too.

Then Kenya got its independence. People could not get their United Kingdom and Colonies passports from the colonial Government because there was not one any longer. They could only get them from the British High Commisioner, who represented the London Government.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyons

The hon. and learned Gentleman, as a Queen's Counsel, knows perfectly well that we did not give United Kingdom passports to non-citizens. They could only get a United Kingdom passport because they were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

Mr. Bell

I am not sure what was the purpose of that utterly fatuous intervention. Of course they got them because they were United Kingdom and Colonies citizens, but as United Kingdom and Colonies citizens they had been subject to immigration control from the time of the 1962 Act coming into force. The only way they came out of control was by going to the High Commissioner in Kampala or Nairobi who is an official of the home Government which let them through the definition in the 1962 Act. The hon. Member's right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister introduced a Bill in 1968 to plug that hole.

If the hon. Gentleman is worried about moral attitudes on this question, he should read the Second Reading speech of the present Prime Minister when introducing the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, in which he said that the Government were only putting back the 1962 arrangement. That was always the intention. They meant to exempt from immigration control only those who had a long connection residential or ancestral—that is a terrible word—with the United Kingdom.

It was therefore put back to where it was before, and they have been subject to immigration control ever since. What is all this nonsense about waving a United Kingdom passport and coming in? None of them can come in by right of simply waving a United Kingdom passport. It is absolute nonsense. They can only come in, in each and every case, by the permission of the Home Secretary, just as though they were aliens.

Mr. Powell

My hon. and learned Friend was about to help me in my speech, but it was not necessary. Perhaps he will permit me to interpolate into his speech the reminder that the then Conservative Prime Minister said: At the time of the independence of the former British East African Territories, no specific undertakings were made either about the entry of East African Asians into the United Kingdom or about retention of citizenship … The grant of a United Kingdom passport does not in itself confer a citizenship or other status on the holder."—[Official Report, 23rd October 1972; Vol. 843, c. 172.]

Mr. Bell

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. Everything he says is true. Although I already knew it I would not, through pressure of time, have felt entitled to say it, but since he has kindly done it for me, that makes it all right. It is absolutely true.

Lord Duncan Sandys, in the Second Reading debate on the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, said in express terms that no undertaking whatever was given to these people either in public or in private."—[Official Report, 27th February 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1274.] It is perfectly clear, from the debate on the Bill dealing with the independence of Kenya, that the only undertaking given was that if the white settlers in Kenya took local citizenship and later wanted to come home and go somewhere else, they could re-acquire their United Kingdom citizenship without a residential qualification.

Mr. Lane

May I remind the House of the contrary view taken not only by the late Mr. lain Macleod but by Lord Carr, Lord Hailsham and Lord Home?

Mr. Bell

Not, I think, Lord Home. As to the late Mr. lain Macleod, he wrote an open letter to Duncan Sandys in the Spectator. I have read it. The letter, with respect to him, is declamatory—he asserts things—but nowhere does he say what the undertaking was, or who gave it to whom. Nobody, when challenged, is able to tell us who gave it to whom, whether it was in writing or by word of mouth, or where or how it was done. It was a very funny undertaking. As for the Second Reading debate on the Kenya Independence Bill, exactly the opposite impression is conveyed to any person reading it.

There is no international law requiring us to take these people. This is not the home country of these East African traders. They have never been here. They cannot speak English. Their home country is India. India is willing to take them. India has never refused to take them.

One of my hon. Friends put down a Question to the Foreign Office. He asked whether any restriction is imposed on citizens of the United Kingdom of Indian descent who desire to settle in India."—[Official Report, 28th April 1976; Vol. 910, c. 113.] The Foreign Office Minister said that Her Majesty's Government were not aware of there being any difficulties in regard to such people settling in India.

Even if they are not technically citizens of India under the post-independence law, they can be admitted as residents, and after four years of good conduct they can be granted citizenship. Indian citizenship has not been refused by India. These people are not refugees. They come here because they like England better than India. We are incredible mutts to admit them on this scale, and it is time we stopped doing it.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)

I apologise to those hon. Gentlemen on both sides who have not been able to get into this short debate. I have given up some of the time that I felt I needed. I shall be brief, and I hope I may be allowed to say that, other than in very exceptional circumstances, it would be wrong for me to give way, in view of the time factor.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) on initiating an important and topical debate. He has been wise to base it on a non-controversial motion, because he has thereby enabled the House to debate some emotional issues in what I might describe as a comparatively calm atmosphere. As time is short, I shall start by dealing briefly with that part of his motion and his speech dealing with emigration.

No one can be in any doubt that, as a result of the Government's Socialist policies, many of those in our society who have worked hard to acquire professional qualifications or craft skills feel frustrated and deserted. They have seen their differentials eroded and their standard of life reduced compared with those far less qualified than themselves and with much less responsibility. As a result, in increasing numbers they are being attracted by better conditions overseas. I hope that this debate will impress upon the Government once again the sheer folly that it would be for us as a nation to ignore this potentially damaging situation.

But, naturally, most hon. Members have concentrated on the other part of my hon. Friend's motion concerning immigration. It is vital that we in this House discuss the closely-linked problems of immigration from the new Commonwealth and race relations, and I say quite unashamedly that they are closely linked. This debate—and others which, I hope, will follow it—gives us a chance to show that we appreciate genuine anxieties and that we shall not avoid the subject because it is delicate or difficult.

Perhaps I might say to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that he knows the position that I have taken consistently since assuming responsibility for these matters on behalf of the Opposition. During the Second Reading debate on the Race Relations Bill, I said that I believed that these matters should be debated. I believe that they should be debated continually. I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East every encouragement in putting forward the motion. I can assure the right hon. Member for Down, South that we in the Tory Party welcome the fact that this subject is being discussed and that, in view of the number of my hon. Friends who were unable to make their contributions to the debate, I shall recommend to my colleagues that we have an Opposition day on the subject at some future date.

Mr. Powell

That is very good. We have got him at last.

Mr. Whitelaw

In the long run, we have to take account of the very strong feelings in the country, so often based on that most damaging of all emotions—fear—which notably flourishes on uncertainty. Fear breeds resentment and bitterness. It leads to cruel attitudes and even to violence. Nor is it ever confined to one side of any argument or to one group of people. In the long run, fear can be overcome only by inspiring confidence.

I appreciate the feelings of the right hon. Member for Down, South on this subject. He feels that he has to shock this House and any Government into action. I hope that I may say to him that once he has shocked us—and, as he will be the first to understand, he shocks me when he talks about the violence in Belfast—we shall seek to deal with the fear and that he will help everyone seeking to overcome it by inspiring confidence. I do not think that there is any other way. If we continue to inspire fears, we shall be doing the reverse of what we should do for our people.

The task of inspiring confidence is one of leadership, and it is one which faces this House and any Government. It is a task which demands action as well as words. We shall not succeed if we try to dismiss the fears as irrational or if we merely sit back hoping that the problem will go away. Rather we have to face all the claims and counter-claims with complete honesty and frankness.

In that spirit, it is right to start by reasserting the basic objective, for the avoidance of any doubt or any misrepresentation, even if it means constant repetition. Our objective must be to combine the strictest control of immigration with the most complete determination to ensure that there is equal treatment—that goes both ways—for all our citizens, whatever their colour, race or creed. The Home Secretary has stated his commitment to this principle frequently. I am certain that it is one which is widely shared throughout this House and the country as a whole.

It is widely accepted that there is a strict limit to the amount of immigration that our country can absorb, especially in current circumstances. The argument centres on how strict that limit should be.

In the Daily Express of 19th May, we had two divergent views—and we have had them again today—from the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). The right hon. Member for Bermondsey makes the point bluntly that we have stretched the tolerance of the British people near to breaking point already and that, if we seek to absorb more people from the new Commonwealth quickly, we shall put at risk all our efforts to foster good race relations. In that connection, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) and with much of what the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) said.

The hon. Member for York argues for a policy which was stated in the Daily Express headline as being Let them all come and end the problem now. I respect the hon. Gentleman's sincerity and his considerable knowledge of race relations problems. But, as I see it, his proposition could be valid only if there was a clear and definite limit to the numbers entitled to come in under the current controls and if we were absorbing successfully those coming in now or those already here.

On the first point, I shall explain later in discussing the entry of the dependants of those already here why I do not believe there is a clear end to an entitlement to entry under the current rules.

On the second point, the hon. Member for York, in his Sunday Times article yesterday, appeared to me to destroy his case. If, through our failure to deal with the problems of urban deprivation which so particularly affect coloured immigrants, we are not successfully promoting good race relations for those already here, how can it be wise to bring in additional numbers quickly in our present economic circumstances? Surely it is common sense, as the right hon. Member for Bermondsey described so graphically, to solve the problems we have already instead of deliberately making yet more difficulties for ourselves.

Further, I believe that the policy advocated by the hon. Member for York is misguided because it is not in tune with the broad mass of public opinion and so would tend to exacerbate fears instead of calming them, which I consider to be the vital task.

I conclude, therefore, that we need to examine our present control arrangements so as to limit those gaining entry to the absolute minimum necessary to meet any firm promises that we have made or any obligations that we have clearly and unmistakably undertaken. Against that background, I wish to put various matters to the Home Secretary which I hope he will consider carefully in planning future immigration policy.

First, I must thank the right hon. Gentleman for responding positively to my request for the publication of the Moser Report on immigration statistics. I have the highest regard for Sir Claus Moser. There can be no question of casting any doubt on the independence and integrity of his report. But, unfortunately, we still need some means of promoting confidence in the settlement figures.

The Moser Report finding that reliable figures could be obtained only at considerable cost cannot be ignored, especially by those like me who believe that Government expenditure is already much too high. Nevertheless, I still hope that the Home Secretary will again consider my proposal for an independent inquiry into the best method of giving the public simple, easily understood figures which will command more widespread acceptance. The hon. Member for York spoke of reliable figures, and I must say that I agree with him. I hope that something along these lines can be done.

I listened carefully to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell). On the problem of the United Kingdom passport holders, I must stand by the position taken by the Cabinet of which I was a member, advised by the then Law Officers. Equally, I endorse strongly the view of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Carr, who made it clear at the time of acceptance of the Ugandan Asians that no British Government could accept a burden of that sort again. Although the numbers from Malawi are not all that large, I believe that we should leave all those concerned in no doubt that we take Lord Carr's view today. I hope that the Home Secretary will categorically confirm that there can be no question of increasing vouchers above the present limit of 5,000 heads of households.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Lord Carr dealt courageously and correctly with this problem. There is, however, one aspect of his statement on which I should like the right hon. Gentleman's confirmation. About five months after the statement, he said, as it were, "God protect us from a repetition of the Ugandan problem." He did not, however, say there that he was repudiating the commitment to the United Kingdom passport holders. Is that the position?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have made it clear that I stand by the commitments of the Cabinet of which / was a member. I am not in the habit of going back on Cabinet commitments which I undertook with joint responsibility.

I hope that the Home Secretary will give me the categorical assurance I require. There is a strong case for reducing the quota in current economic circumstances, back at least to the 3,500 which the Conservative Government allowed. In this connection, it is worth remembering that under the Common wealth Immigration Act 1968, introduced by the present Prime Minister, the quota was fixed at 1,500.

I accept, as the Home Secretary said recently at Question Time, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) says in his letter to The Times today, that there are arguments in favour of admitting quickly a comparatively small number of United Kingdom passport holders from East Africa, particularly if they are refugees. But there is an overriding consideration on the other side. By our actions we simply have to prove to all concerned, whether it be President Banda or anyone else, that Britain is not a soft touch to be exploited at will. The very fact that a case like that of the four-star hotel can arouse so much anger and concern proves that public opinion is in a very apprehensive state. I hear people say, as one hon. Member did today, that it is all because of the Press, but I have been long enough in politics to know that the Press will produce a story only if there is real public interest and anxiety about it. That is why these stories are coming forward. There is considerable public anxiety. I believe, therefore, that we should immediately reduce the quota in order to demonstrate our determination.

I hope, furthermore, that we shall ensure that our High Commissions in the countries concerned, particularly in Malawi, will give preference in granting vouchers to those who have somewhere to go in this country and funds with which to support themselves. I hope that we will seek Commonwealth and even international action to help us over this problem, particularly since some of the Commonwealth countries have clear obligations to the people concerned. We must convince all Commonwealth and world leaders that Britain will not take on a burden which is greater than it can carry without serious risk to its tolerant traditions.

I turn now to the problem of the dependants of those already here. In the Daily Express on 19th May, the hon. Member for York said: I am lambasted as some sort of crank because I want to reunite a man with his wife as quickly as possible. He came to the very fair point about uniting wives and children in his speech today. From his experience he knows, however, that this is not the whole story about dependants. If we could have, as he suggested, a register of dependants, including only one wife and the young children of those who came here before 1st January 1973 and who have been promised that close members of their families may enter, we should know exactly where we stood. The number entitled to entry would be a clear, and not an open-ended, commitment. But we are allowing in an unspecified number of distressed relatives, grandparents and, in some cases, second wives. We are told that the numbers involved are small. But they are coming in just the same.

Then there are the male and female fiancés of proposed partners already here. The hon. Member for York did not refer to that, yet it is this provision which makes the commitment open-ended and subject to considerable evasion of the controls. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud says in his letter to The Times today, girls or boys born in this country can seek a fiancé of their own ethnic group from the country from whence their parents originally came, and then have the right to bring them in. The right hon. Member for Down, South said that they would continue to do so, and he may very well be right.

Surely this is a process which could go on for ever. It is an open-ended commitment with considerable implications. I do not believe that we shall restore confidence to our people if under these circumstances we assert that our commitment is definite and strictly limited. Surely the facts show that it is not. We must, therefore, be clear and honest about the exact nature of this arrangement, and that is what I ask the Home Secretary to do.

There are the continuing problems of illegal immigration and overstaying. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East referred to them in some detail. Will the Home Secretary assure the House that all the stories appearing in the Press about the various rackets that unscrupulous people are operating to evade controls are ruthlessly probed? I believe that to be the wish of the House. From what my hon. Friend said, there seemed to be a difference of opinion between the Home Secretary's officials on the one hand and some of the police reports on the other. I can understand how the differences might arise, but it is important that these matters should be cleared up. Whatever arguments we may have about the nature and extent of the controls, we must all be united in our determination to ensure that the controls we impose are effective. Many of our people do not believe that they are, and so once again confidence is undermined and fears are increased.

We must convince many people in this country that their genuine fears of future racial difficulties caused by too lax an immigration policy now are unfounded or, if there is a risk of such difficulties, that we will make sure that they are dealt with. We have to prove to those with their origins in the new Commonwealth who are already here that we will treat them and their families as equal British citizens. We must prove to them that we will not undermine their position by allowing hostility to grow amongst their fellow citizens as a result of genuine fears created by too lax an immigration policy. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to reassure the House that the Government's immigration policy will be planned and adjusted in line with these basic requirements.

6.28 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

Let me make it clear in the beginning that I, like the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), welcome this debate. I think that the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) chose his subject well. I do not know what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) had in mind in congratulating the hon. Member for Thanet, East on resisting pressure. It certainly did not come from me and it did not sound as if it came from the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border.

It is reasonable that we should debate these matters in as calm and constructive a way as possible. On the whole, I think that that has been the note of the debate. I deplored one thing that the right hon. Member for Down, South said. Having built up a case about the danger of excessive Asian immigration—and the pressure on immigration is mainly from Asian countries at present—he then, by a slip of the hand, tried to equate the immigration problem with the growth of violence and crime and with a situation—a gross exaggeration, I thought—comparable with that of Belfast. Surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to know that there is no evidence that Asian immigrants are more than proportionately involved in crime, and that there is a good deal to suggest that they are less than proportionately involved in it. It is important that that point should be clearly made.

The motion begins by mentioning emigration as well as immigration. The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border made a token reference to that in order to make a glancing party point to which I take no exception, except to say that it seemed unsound. That is because in 1975 emigrants from the United Kingdom holding United Kingdom passports—which is more relevant than the total—added up to 164,000, whereas in the last glorious year of the Conservative Administration the figure was 176,000. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to have much statistical evidence.

The issue which has perhaps featured more in the Press recently than in the debate—although it was mentioned in passing by several hon. Members—is that of embarkation figures and the Moser Report. I must make it absolutely clear that there has never been any question of my wishing to suppress any figures or withhold any information from the House or the public. I agree entirely with the view that to attempt to conceal or suppress is to fan the flames of fear and apprehension which are particularly damaging on this issue.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

Since the right hon. Gentleman has said that he does not wish to suppress anything, will he explain why he gave orders that I should not be able to visit London Airport on Friday to examine procedures there?

Mr. Jenkins

Mainly because of the message which I received from the hon. Gentleman. One is never sure where confusion might arise. Any hon. Member can go whenever he wishes to London Airport and look at immigration procedures. The message I received was that the hon. Gentleman wished to discuss policy issues before the debate with immigration officers who are civil servants. That is not appropriate. There was perhaps misunderstanding, but that was the message I received. If the hon. Gentleman merely wanted to go there, he would have been welcome.

I turn back to the question of the Moser Report. I have never wished to withhold any figures. but the Moser Report tells me that the embarkation figures are very unreliable and, therefore, misleading, even now that the crude error of double counting which began under the previous Government in 1973 has been eliminated.

What, in these circumstances, is it desirable to do? I could go on publishing the embarkation figures and the net balance derived from them in the official immigration statistics. But I am not going to mix up unsound figures with sound ones in an official publication. I am not going to put my name to what I have been professionally told would be a bogus prospectus, telling nothing of value about the true level of immigration.

Then it may be said: "Do whatever is necessary to make sure that the embarkation figures are made accurate". What are the objections to that? They are substantial. The costs in money and manpower would be very considerable. In Sir Claus Moser's words, This would call for a considerable increase in the size of the Immigration Service, for immigration officers would need to collect additional information from all non patrials embarking from this country about their previous date or dates of entry, and recording at entry (presumably on passports) the category of entry so that it can later be entered on the embarkation card. Additional clerical and statistical analysis of the additional information would also be needed". With present public expenditure restraints, of which I am strongly in favour and the Opposition even more so, as I understand it, I simply have not got the money or the staff for that. Even if I had, I would not use them that way. Remember that the substantial new body of officials would be concerned exclusively with getting a more accurate count of the numbers leaving the country. They would not be preventing anyone coming in. They would not be dealing with the reality of the problem. They would merely, at some inconvenience and delay to all departing passengers, tourists and business men—everybody from all the countries of the world, Europe, America, Australia, everywhere, and not just India and Pakistan—be employed in giving us a more accurate retrospective measurement of the so-called net balance.

But what would be the value of a more accurate net balance figure? Even here Sir Claus Moser is sceptical. He points out that for a number of specified reasons it is far from being a good immediate guide to the number of immigrants settling in this country. There are other far better measurements of that, which we shall, of course, continue to publish in full. We would, therefore, be going to a great deal of trouble and expense for very little purpose. I must follow the rule that others have followed. I do not propose to be responsible for such an irrational diversion of public funds. If we had the money it would be more useful, as a check on our other figures, to spend it on more frequent censuses.

Therefore, in view of the most distinguished professional advice that I have received, I would regard it as wrong to go on publishing the embarkation and consequently the net balance, figures as part of the official immigration statistics. I may add that this is not a new view of Sir Claus Moser, provoked by the gross error of 1973. He pointed out in 1972 in an article in "Social Trends" that they were a very bad guide to immigrant settlement.

In an irrational world, however, made the more so by the right hon. Member for Down, South and a number of others, I am determined to do anything I can to avoid any suggestion of concealment. I am therefore perfectly willing to give the figures we have for 1975, but not to publish them in such a way as to give them the guise of proper statistics, which they are not. Indeed I shall give them now. The net balance for new Commonwealth and Pakistan for last year comes out at 67,110. That is somewhat nearer, probably by accident, to the settlement figures than for several years past.

This illustrates the ludicrous nature of the argument. These are figures which the right hon. Member for Down, South has always regarded as of great significance and importance. I, in common with my predecessors, have disagreed with him. But if he were right and I were wrong what they would show is that I have reduced the immigration rate by 20,000 a year compared with the last year of the Conservative Government. I do not claim that that is in fact the case, but it shows the inherently contradictory nature of the nonsensical argument into which the right hon. Gentleman and others have led us.

So much for 1975. What do we do in the future? Rationally we ought to stop collecting as well as publishing these faulty figures. I propose that we should continue to collect them for 1976, give them next year as I have done this year, and then consider, hopefully in a calmer climate, whether it makes any sense to go on further collecting them. Then I shall consider whether there should be a more general and reassuring inquiry which would be worth while and reasonable.

I turn to wider and more important aspects of this difficult subject. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Thanet, East for the way in which he introduced his motion. I welcome, too, the hon. Member's wish that the Government's attitude to immigration should be clearly stated and understood.

I am determined, and I shall be for as long as I am in my present office, to apply strict immigration control fairly, to uphold the rules, to root out illegal immigration and to deal with overstaying. Illegal immigration is a problem, but I do not believe that it is a huge problem. It must be bigger than the number of arrests we make each year, but I do not think that it is very much bigger. Information from the Metropolitan Police and the Kent Police was in a somewhat generalised form. We have close liaison with the West European police and immigration authorities at the staging points. We are doing everything we can to root out this highly undesirable traffic. The hon. Member for Thanet, East will not have failed to notice that the resources available to the police—not so much in London but in Kent, for instance—have grown substantially over the past year.

There are few issues on which passion, prejudice and misunderstanding are more easily aroused than immigration. We all—the Government and Opposition, Press and television, majorities and minorities, indigenous population and immigrants—have a heavy responsibility to see that the debate, not just in this House but the continuing discussion in the country, is sensible and that its result it not divisive. We must see that is is carried forward to a sense of unity among all who live here, whatever their race or colour, because it is such a sense which characterises a mature and healthy society. If we can agree on the facts and understand why our policies are as they are, we shall have made valuable progress.

If I had to summarise in one word what I think is bound to be our policy in this area, the word would be "balance". It is one of the most difficult areas in which to strike the right balance with which I have ever been concerned in a number of years as a Minister in a number of different offices: balance between our historical rôle as a place of refuge for the poor and oppressed, and our limited capacity to absorb further immigration in a small, primarily urban and densely-populated island with its own pressures on employment and other needs; balance, again, between the expectations which we understandably aroused in our imperial rôle that the United Kingdom could be turned to as a mother country, and the practical and economic impossibility of our becoming or remaining a country of large-scale immigration from the Commonwealth; balance between the understandable desire of those of other societies who have been accepted here to bring in their family and relations, and the need to regulate, in the interests of all, our absorption of people of different origins and cultures; balance between the need to apply equitably a clearly-stated set of rules for admission, and the need to show flexibility and compassion in the case which the rules do not quite fit; and balance between the need for a vigorous and effective enforcement of our immigration controls and the resources that we can spare for that task among the many other tasks that fall to us.

I stressed this need for balance on Second Reading of the Race Relations Bill on 4th March, in a speech to which the hon. Member for Thanet, East was kind enough to refer. I outlined then the general principle on which the Government's policy of race relations was based: an absolutely firm and determined front—I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman endorsed our policy in this respect—against any form of discrimination within our society, accompanied by the recognition that there is a clear limit to the amount of immigration this country can absorb. That being so, the maintenance of a strict control is very much in the interests not only of the majority but of the minorities. It is to the elaboration of this principle that I shall address my remaining remarks.

Mr. Stokes

Surely the main point is that we have already passed the limit which we can tolerate, and the vast mass of the country wants a complete stop to immigration now.

Mr. Jenkins

The vast mass of the country has varying views. I have told the hon. Gentleman before that he is always very free in attributing his views to the majority opinion. There is some concern about this matter. The former right hon. Member for Carshalton, now Lord Carr, had to deal with the problem of Uganda in 1972, and he certainly would not have had support for his action on a referendum if it had been held in August, but most of us recognise that he dealt with the situation as he should, as a responsible statesman. We must all take into account not only simple reactions but certain other factors.

I come first to the matter of the United Kingdom passport holders in East Africa. In February last year I announced the Government's intention to increase the annual quota of special vouchers for them from 3,500 to 5,000. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to reduce that number. That was part of his speech that I must disagree with. I do not think that it would be right to do that or helpful at the present time. I believe that it was a right decision. I did it specifically because I wanted to reduce the danger of a repetition of the traumatic experiences of 1972, and I think that so far the policy has worked reasonably well.

This step, taken in pursuance of obligations acknowledged by successive Governments, has made a significant impact on the waiting period for vouchers. Those deprived of their occupation in Kenya and Tanzania can now obtain them without delay. There is an inherent contradiction between wanting a reduction in the number of vouchers—I recognise that the hon. Member for Thanet, East did not call for that—and saying "Let us at all costs get people here when they can support themselves." If we make the queue longer, if we make people wait longer when they are deprived of their nationality in those countries, the chances of their being a public liability when they arrive here are much greater as a result. Now in Kenya and Tanzania vouchers can be obtained without delay, while there is a short waiting period in Malawi. This has been progressively reduced in recent months.

Since the exodus from Uganda, we have managed to regulate the admission of the United Kingdom passport holders in an orderly way. It remains my firm hope—indeed, I feel this still more strongly—that we shall now be able to see the end of this relic of our imperial history, without any repetition of 1972, during the course of this Parliament. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary that the number of United Kingdom passport holders and their dependants in Africa has been reduced to about 40,000, and on the present scale of issue of vouchers there is no reason why we should not be able to deal with that number, at the present rate of intake, within the lifetime of the present Parliament, bringing in all our passport holders in Africa who are heads of households and who wish to settle here with their families in that total. I am sure that our policy has been right.

I understand the disquiet caused by the publicity for some recent arrivals of families from Malawi, and I recognise that there are strong feelings about the matter. But I said last week that we must keep it in perspective. The total of 5,000 vouchers permits the admission for settlement of our passport holders and their dependants at the rate of about 20,000 a year, and there is nothing in any developments in Malawi that cannot be accommodated within the voucher scheme in its present form or which suggests that a mass expulsion is imminent.

The Government have no plans for an increase in the annual quota. But our handling of this delicate problem is not helped by inaccurate stories about the numbers arriving or expected to arrive and the spreading of rumours about the possibility of mass expulsions.

Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham and Crawley)


Mr. Jenkins

Nothing is better calculated to cause unnecessary alarm among the communities concerned in East Africa and to frustrate the objectives of the voucher scheme than scaremongering of that kind, nor does exaggeration of the help that some families need on arrival contribute to a sensible debate. I should not for a moment seek to defend or advocate the use of four-star accommodation. As I said last week, I think to the displeasure of the hon. Member for Horsham and Crawley (Mr. Hordern), in my view that incident was mismanged. The consequences have been bad for race relations. Let us remember, however, that such cases are only a tiny proportion of the total and that the elimination of the waiting period means that more applicants, having endured shorter periods of unemployment, can fend for themselves on arrival.

Mr. Hordern


Mr. Jenkins

I give way to the hon. Gentleman as I mentioned him.

Mr. Hordern

The Home Secretary will be aware that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said last week, in answer to a Question I put to him, that there were just under 66,000 United Kingdom passport holders in the various African countries and India who were entitled to come to this country. Are they, as I believe, entitled to come with their dependants? If so, does not this make the total with right of entry under present arrangements close to 250,000? If this is the case, how can they be absorbed under present immigration policy in less than 13 years?

Mr. Jenkins

I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I have been dealing with the particular problem of Asians in East Africa. I have given the total figures. There is some confusion—shared by the right hon. Member for Down, South—about whether dependants are passport holders. In many cases they are. When we talk about vouchers, we are referring to the heads of households. Passport holders include dependants, and in East Africa they total 40,000.

There may be, in the far distant future, problems with Hong Hong, but I think hon. Members will agree that they are of a quite distinct nature.

It is also important to remember in relation to these people that in their country of origin they have shown a high business sense and ability to stand on their own feet. They have the capacity to be a real asset to this country and they are people to whom successive Governments have accepted a duty. Their plight demands our sympathy and understanding. To lengthen the waiting time, especially in view of the policies being adopted in some African countries, would be not only to their disadvantage but to ours. The longer they wait, the more likely it is that families will arrive without their own means of support.

The only other main source of Commonwealth immigration arises from the right of wives and children to join Commonwealth citizens settled here when the Immigration Act came into force, a right which is contained in the 1971 Act itself. Essentially it has been a process of reuniting families and, although it may fairly be argued that the separation, often for economic or other reasons extending for years, is a matter of choice, the Government have been anxious, once an application to bring in a wife or children is made, to see that it is processed as quickly as resources and the essential checks on its good faith will allow.

The rate of processing of entry clearances for settlement in the Indian subcontinent has substantially increased in the last year as a result of strengthening the staffs at the posts and other measures, and this has been reflected in the number of arrivals. Taking the new Common. wealth and Pakistan together, the numbers of dependants admitted for settlement increased from 21,000 in 1974 to 29,000 in 1975, although some part of this increase must be attributable to the increase in the number of special vouchers.

I draw one clear distinction between our commitment to our passport holders and that to dependants of persons settled here. As I have said, the time when we shall have discharged our responsibility to our passport holders in Africa is well within sight. The obligation to dependants is in a somewhat different category.

The statutory right of Commonwealth citizens settled here when the Act came into force to have their families join them extends not only to those who left their families behind but also to those admitted before 1st January 1973 who have since visited their country of origin to marry.

There is a strong tendency, which may weaken in future, for people here from the new Commonwealth to seek spouses in their country of origin. Moreover, persons born here of new Commonwealth parents and those who have arrived after 1st January 1973 as dependants may themselves, as they become of marriageable age, frequently wish to bring in wives from overseas.

For these reasons it is not wholly valid to assert, as my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) is disposed to do, that there is a completely "finite" pool of dependants. [Interruption.] Hon. Members should listen seriously to a serious argument. The truth, I believe, is somewhere between the two opposing points of view. The pool would not fill up nearly as quickly as it emptied, but nor will it be possible to drain it completely and say "That is that."

My hon. Friend takes the view that, since the commitment is finite, we should concentrate all our resources on clearing the queues over the space of the next two or three years and discharge our obligation once and for all. I do not believe his premise is sound, but even if it were, the suggestion is, I am afraid, in its full form unsustaintable. Were we to try to achieve it, to have a cut-off after two years, I believe that we would altogether, counting both United Kingdom passport holders and dependants from the sub-continent, be talking of an arrival rate of at least 90,000 and possibly as many as 120,000 a year. This is too many and would, in my view, place an unacceptable burden on local authorities, particularly on schools, in areas which are already hard pressed.

To achieve such a rate of entry, we would also either have to increase sharply the rate of processing applications for the sub-continent or we would have to adopt a much slacker screening process. As to the first, there is no prospect, with present pressures on public expenditure, of allocating more resources to it. As to the second, I am sure that we have gone as far as we reasonably can in simplyfying the procedure.

We have to recognise that there is inevitably pressure from Asia to defeat some of the immigration controls. I do not think we need necessarily think it is morally reprehensible on the part of those who do it, but we must resist it. It is inevitable that where there is the great difference in the standard of living between the parts of families settled here and those who are not, we shall get pressure to admit people. The problem is that there is a lively sense of the extended family in Asian culture. It is not possible for us to accommodate extended families here. My hon. Friend the Member for York does not recognise the pressure from members of the extended family to pretend that they are members of the close family. We have to maintain effective controls at present.

I should like to say something before I conclude about the rôle of the Immigration Service. It is expected to exercise a strict control on immigration. It is, inescapably, a somewhat negative role. We look to the immigration officer to preserve our defences and exclude a person if he has no lawful entitlement to come here. I am afraid that all too often we abuse the officers for doing so. It is easy to subscribe to a general and necessary policy. It is less easy to be prepared to accept its application to a particular case.

I am not suggesting that immigration officers are infallible any more than anybody else, but let us acknowledge the professional skill which the service brings to its task and accept, in the individual case, the logic of the policies it is asked to enforce.

I have not sought to disguise the fact that immigration is one of the most intractable problems which successive Governments have had to face. Our policy must be a firm one, but it must be fair. It must be fairly and firmly applied. I agree with what has been the general view in the debate that good race relations policy marches hand in hand with a firm policy on immigration control. The absence of one can defeat the other.

Question put and agreed to

Resolved, That this House notes with concern the changing demographic character of Great Britain, particularly the outflow of young people emigrating overseas and the continuing inflow of immigrants from the new Commonwealth; and calls on the Government, in the interests of improving race relations, to make a clear and accurate statement of its immigration policy.