§ 8.2 p.m.
§ House again in Committee on Clause 3.
§ BARONESS WHITE moved Amendment No. 37:
§ Page 3, line 34, leave out (" with the police ") and insert (" in the manner provided by rules ").
§ The noble Baroness said: I think from what was said before we went into retreat at 7 o'clock that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we considered now Amendments Nos. 37, 38, 39 and 40 together. Some of these are Liberal Amendments, some are from the Cross Benches, but they are all concerned with the same point at issue. We had a more general discussion earlier this evening on whether there should be registration of any kind. These Amendments in this particular group admit the principle of registration of some kind, but in each case wish to delete the reference to the police and to insert something else.1066
§ The Amendment in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, my noble friend Lord Shepherd and myself is a little different in some respects from the others in so far as our suggestion is that the reference to the police should be deleted from the Bill, but it would leave open the form the registration might take to be provided by the rules or it could be dealt with when we come to Clause 4 (I think it is) by regulation. I do not know that we would quibble about that necessarily. But we are all at one with the objection to using the police as the vehicle for registration. I would put it to your Lordships that this is the issue within the Bill on which we have had more representations than on any other single subject. As your Lordships know, various people are not happy about the Bill as a whole. But, leaving that aside, within the principles of the Bill I must say that we have had very, very strong representations from three groups of people all of whom are concerned with this matter. First of all, there are the immigrant organisations themselves, there are those who are working in community relations, and then there are the police. There are those three groups.
§ From the immigrant organisations we have received, as I am sure other noble Lords have received, very strong representations that the procedure proposed might be all right for aliens but that they do not consider themselves aliens. They are not aliens; they are Commonwealth citizens. They may be citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. They are British subjects, whatever else they are. They feel that what is appropriate for aliens is not appropriate for British subjects. They feel this is something which breaks in a most vivid and emotive way the kind of connection that exists—it may sound sentimental if one says"family connection ", but there is that element in it. When they come here they have a feeling that they should be at home, that they should be within the family circle. This idea that they have to go to the police they find utterly repugnant.
§ I have spoken to various representatives of the most responsible immigrant community organisations in the country and they are absolutely at one on that. They say,"We feel that this very action 1067 of saying that we must go and register with the police at once puts us at arm's length. Right from the outset it makes us feel that we are suspect, although we recognise of course that we are not regarded as criminals as such." And, let us be honest, for most working-class people the police and criminal activity are inextricably joined. Let us also be quite frank about this. The way in which some members of some police forces behave—I would not generalise too far, but it is certainly true for some—when they are dealing with people who are socially rather different from most Members of your Lordships' House leaves something to be desired. There is no point in glossing over this because experience shows that it is true. There are therefore real apprehensions on the part of those who are already working in this field that the whole idea of having to register with the police is something which they intensely dislike.
§ May I say that this intense dislike—and it has to be felt for it to be believed how intense it is—extends to having to carry around with them the kind of documentation which was described by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and which aliens carry around. It might be said that this attitude is irrational, but any of us who have had any connection at all with Commonwealth affairs will know the absolute detestation that coloured citizens of the Commonwealth feel for pass laws and passes. This is an element in their intense dislike for this proposed procedure. It extends not only to those who may be coming here but to the people we have been discussing, those who are already here, although they themselves will he exempt from this rule. What they say is,"We are conspicuous citizens of this country. We apprehend that if this system is to be imposed upon Commonwealth immigrants coming here, and if they have to carry these passes, which is in effect what is meant, if anything goes wrong or is in the least bit suspicious the police will turn to us and say, ' Where is your pass? Where is your document?' and they will do that to a coloured person a hundred times for every time they do it to a white person." It means that even though one is in fact exempt from the requirement to register, and consequently to have the necessary 1068 documentation one will not be immune from possible unpleasantness and harassment.
§ It might be said that this view is exaggerated. All I am saying to your Lordship is that, after the most careful consideration and investigation with those concerned, this is what they tell us with absolute conviction. I am not speaking now of just anybody to whom one might speak on the subject; I am speaking now of responsible leaders of the immigrant organisations on whom. I would beg your Lordships to remember, we so largely depend for peaceable communal relations in this country.
§ This is not a one-sided thing; it is not just our general benevolence that can secure such an atmosphere. We depend very largely on those who run the organisations of immigrants—the Indian workers, the West Indian Association, and so on. Therefore I think their views on this matter should carry weight with us. I will return in a moment to the subject of what they themselves have suggested to us, but meanwhile I would draw the attention of the Committee to the opinions of what I might call the indigenous organisations in this country who are also concerned in these matters. I speak of the British Council of Churches and the Community Relations Commission, both of whom have made it quite clear to us that they strongly disapprove of the proposal that Commonwealth immigrants—British subjects—should be required to register with the police.
The British Council of Churches believe that such an arrangement would jeopardise the endeavours of the police to develop good relations with the non-white populations. The Community Relations Commission, which after all is an official body, has stated, in notes (which I think some of your Lordships will have seen) dated July 12 of this year:
If there is one matter on which all who work in community relations are agreed it is that relations between minorities and the police are of crucial importance; that they are not as good as they should be and that they need to be improved. Concern about this is universal. To introduce in the Bill "—
that is, of course, the Bill we are discussing—
a clause which compels immigrants to register with the police can only make this difficult situation more difficult.
§ Finally we have the police themselves. We have already been referred to the views of the Police Federation, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is well aware of their apprehensions. Among their apprehensions not only is there the general one that they do not wish to have this job of registering Commonwealth immigrants, because they themselves think it will impede good relations, but they have also a particular worry in that there are police community relations officers in various areas where there are community problems. In most places these officers are doing a good and useful job. The Police Federation are of the view that if the police are made responsible for this kind of administration it will make their work more difficult and less successful. They are also, incidentally, concerned lest the community liaison officers themselves might he used for checking up on immigration registration, which would put them into the category of—not exactly enemies of the community, but, at any rate, somebody on the other side. Obviously, this would not be the intention, but this is the opinion of the Police Federation. I understand also that two of the other major organisations, of superintendents and chief officers of police, while they do not take as strong a view as the Police Federation (I must make that quite clear) would nevertheless be perfectly content that this particular task should be laid on some other authority than the police.
§ It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said, that if somebody is found to be in breach of whatever regulations may be made the police at that point will have to come in, as they do for any other breach of the law or regulations. But in such circumstances they come in, obviously, in a different capacity. They are then concerned only with those who are suspected of being somehow in dereliction. It does not mean that everybody, quite regardless, has to have this relationship with the police.
§ If not with the police, then how else, on the assumption that some form of registration is desirable? It will be observed that Amendment No. 37 leaves this open, by saying that it should be decided and put in the rules but that at all costs the statutory obligation to register with the police should be removed. We have had further discussions with some of those concerned, and I would advise 1070 my noble friends, who naturally would wish to listen to the arguments put forward by the Liberal Peers and by the Peers on the Cross Benches, that we are advised by those who are most closely in contact with the immigrant organisations that what they would much prefer is for the Department of Employment to be responsible for this, because, they say,"After all, we come here to seek work ".
§ Some people have been speaking about the Department of Education but that is really not relevant because students are not concerned: the people with whom we are really concerned, and the noble Lord referred to this in an earlier intervention, are those coming here to seek employment. After all, approved employment is part of the conditions. Therefore they say"We would regard it as perfectly right and proper if you said that we should keep in touch with the Department of Employment. We have to do that anyway because it is they who decide whether or not we can change our jobs. They have the vetting of employment. We have to have our National Insurance card. There is a number for each one of us when we are registered as workers, so that we can all be traced. That we do not object to because everybody else in the country also has a number and can be identified in that way."
§ So it was put to us very firmly that if there is to be registration at all the Department of Employment is very much the preferred vehicle for registration. This would not be resented in anything like the same way; it would not have the same psychological overtones or undertones. As I understand it, this would be acceptable, and the immigrant organisations to whom I have spoken, who are responsible people, would be willing to"sell"this, so to speak, to their constituents. The police they will not have; the police they resent; the police they will oppose all along the line. They left us in no doubt at all about that. This is something that they regard as insulting and they all feel passionately about it, although it will not affect the persons about whom we have been speaking as individuals, but they feel the whole concept is quite wrong. They say"We are British subjects and we feel we ought not to be treated as aliens. We would resent this bitterly. If you want to keep some check on us for employment purposes, that we 1071 can understand." They come here on certain conditions, and the noble Lord himself mentioned, in an earlier intervention, that we have to be concerned about the state of employment in various occupations in this country, and therefore it is a logical thing.
§ What real difference would it make from an administrative point of view? The noble Lord has said that if they are in London they will go to the office in Lambs Conduit Street and they will not see a policeman. He made that very clear, so there is no question of getting to know the police. All they would see would be a clerical officer, so what possible difficulty would there be in attaching those clerical officers to the Department of Employment instead of to the police? It would make no difference whatever, physically or financially; it is a purely administrative thing.
§ We are talking of a total number of some 20,000 persons at a maximum, because there are only 20,000 all told within any period of five years, taking account of those coming in and those going out. It will build up over the first five years, but at the maximum it will be 20,000 people over the country as a whole. Forty per cent. of these, I understand, are in the Metropolitan area and therefore go to this place in Lambs Conduit Street. Another 10,000 are in the West Midlands; it should not be beyond the wit of man to organise something there. The others are scattered in Yorkshire and one or two other areas. But wherever they go there would be an office of the Department of Employment; it is not a question of having to set up new offices. This, I know, would make an enormous difference to the attitude of people who, after all, it is in our own interest to help and to make them feel as contented and secure as possible.
§ LORD ABERDARE
Is the noble Baroness suggesting that only Commonwealth immigrants should register with the Department of Employment and that aliens should continue to register with the police; or that aliens and Commonwealth immigrants should in future register with the Department of Employment?
§ BARONESS WHITE
The number of aliens is very much larger; we were given a figure of 179,000. They are in a different 1072 relationship to us than Commonwealth immigrants. At least we regard them so. The Government seems to be rather doubtful about this. We believe that there is a real difference between people who are British subjects, whatever their actual status; they are all British subjects ex-hypothesi. I am not necessarily pressing that aliens should be included in this. If the Government thought it easier to have joint administration it is up to them to propose it. But on behalf of myself, and I think I am speaking for my noble friends, I am not pressing the case of aliens one way or the other. If the Government wish to make a change for administrative convenience, I am sure we would not object. But this is not the burden of our argument at the moment. We are speaking for this group of people who do not at the moment have to register with anyone and are now being required to register with the police.
We regard this as a very unsatisfactory way of dealing with this particular group of persons, and they are bitterly resentful about this. Anyone who has had any contact with any of these organisations over the last few months knows that this is something which really sticks. I would therefore hope, in spite of all the reasons the noble Lord gave in his reply on the earlier more general Amendment, that he will reconsider this point because it is one of the most important psychological things in this whole Bill. We may differ on the general philosophy, but this is not something within the philosophy of the Government; it is not a matter of high principle; this is a matter of sensibility. I very much hope, therefore, that the Government will look at this again. We are discussing this whole group of Amendments. We shall be very much interested to hear any arguments put forward for any other authority, but at the moment I would advise my noble friends, if we go to a vote at the end of the group of Amendments, that our disposition at the moment is to support Amendment No. 38.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
In dealing with Amendment No. 40, which would substitute for the police the Department of Health and Social Security, and which stands in my name and the names of the noble Earl, Lord Perth and 1073 the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I should like to make it absolutely clear that I am not attacking the police. Indeed it is hardly likely that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the Chairman of the Parole Board (who cannot be here tonight because he is engaged with Parole Board activities), would associate himself with me in an attack on the police. I feel that this series of Amendments that we are dealing with now is perhaps the most important series left in the rest of the Bill, as I shall explain later. I should like also to make it clear at the outset that I am not—and I understand that the same is equally true of the noble Earl, Lord Perth—wedded to the idea of substituting the Department of Health and Social Security for the police. We are keen that something should be substituted, and we shall, we hope, encourage the Government to use their ingenuity in devising whatever alternative may seem to them best. As I say, I am not moving this Amendment in a spirit of hostility towards the police, and I am not using this provision of the Bill to have a go at our splendid police force; in fact, I am doing quite the reverse. I think that, given a fair chance, our police make every effort to behave well towards the coloured immigrant community. What I object to in the Bill as it is at present is that under it the police will not be given a fair chance. By imposing this duty upon them Her Majesty's Government are undermining one of the most important areas of community relations and handicapping the police.
Your Lordships may think: has not the alien system worked very well for many years? Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, asked a question about this. You may think: what is wrong with extending that system to people from the Commonwealth? You may think that these Amendments are asking for special privileges for the Commonwealth, particularly the Black Commonwealth. I will leave aside the question whether it is right for us to treat people from the Commonwealth as if they are aliens. Let me stick to the logical point. If all these people are to register, it may be sensible for them to register in the same way. But why should they all have to register with the police? What has registration got to do with law and order? As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, 1074 himself has said, it is a clerical function; and as the Government have said repeatedly, this clerical function will involve only 15 or so new staff. Why not 15 or so new staff attached to the Department of Employment or of Social Security?
Let me make another logical point. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in the most lightning reply to a Written Question I have ever heard of in your Lordships' House, gave me the other day some figures which showed there were approximately 179,000 aliens registered with the police at the end of last year. These include about 14,000 from Italy, 13,000 from France and 11,000 from Germany, besides many more from present and applicant members of the European Economic Community. If we go into Europe, all these aliens will cease to be aliens; they will be E.E.C. nationals. They will no longer have to report to the police. So the number of aliens involved in registration will drop dramatically. Again, the Government do not foresee a large increase in the number of Commonwealth people coming here for work. So the total number of those having to register will, if anything, so far as one can foresee at present, shrink. So administratively you will add 20,000, and, as my calculations make it, take away 40,000-plus. You will be adding 20,000 Commonwealth people and taking away 40,000-plus E.E.C. nationals. So the size of the problem is smaller rather than larger, and I should have thought that, from a purely administrative point of view, it would be easier for this whole administrative exercise to be carried out by somebody other than the police.
This Amendment is about fear—all these Amendments, in my view, are about fear. I hope your Lordships will let me explain why I say that they are about fear. If the Government make the police do this job it is giving a present to every rabble-rouser, every tinpot revolutionary, who wishes to stir up real and unreal, sensible and fantastic, fears among the coloured immigrant community. It means handing it to them on a plate. All newcomers need to feel that they belong, because obviously they do not yet belong; they need to tune themselves in to our way of life. The way the police behave in this country is not the same as elsewhere, but this is not realised by the 1075 people who come here. You cannot convince a man intellectually that our police accept him as one of the members of our country; you cannot prove it in the same way as you can prove Pythagorus's theorum. These people must be introduced to our police in the best possible way: we all accept that. Let them do it as they become part of the community in their daily life, as they see the police going about their normal duties, rather than by going to see some clerical officer in the early, uneasy, moments of arrival when anxiety is at its highest.
I have nearly finished, but I should like to say something directly to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who is in charge of the Bill. When he was answering the first Amendment we dealt with, the noble Lord said:…I believe that those who are opposed to this Bill are opposed to it root and branch and in principle. If one makes a concession of this sort for a reason of this sort one is hoodwinking oneself.—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 19/7/71; c. 682.]I suppose that by"this sort"the noble Lord was referring to a remark a few sentences before, when he said (col. 681):This would be an act to reassure those who are worried, to reassure immigrant opinion.I do not like this Bill: I oppose it in principle. But it is here; and we must endeavour to improve it. That is the point of the Committee stage in your Lordships' House. There are many outside this House actively involved in community relations who oppose this Bill in principle, all deeply. But it is here; and it must be improved.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said:If one makes a concession of this sort for a reason of this sort one is hoodwinking oneself.I do not want to lecture him, but I must say that one does not have to be a bigot to disapprove of the record of both major Parties in this field. The noble Lord has to triumph over a lot of recent history if he is to make an impact; but I appeal to him to try—or is he, so soon in his experience of Government, utterly pessimistic about the future of community relations? Surely he must believe that some of those working in community relations, 1076 some of the immigrant leaders, some of the black children in our schools, are responsible and eager to contribute. Even the actions of Governments can touch off a spark of hope in human hearts. I say this to the noble Lord. I do not believe that it is the job of Government to aim for popularity or to expect gratitude, but if they can concede this point—and I say this with all the sincerity and moderation that I can muster—they will be making a notable improvement to this Bill; they will give heart to all those who honestly work for good community relations, and they will begin to still the fears of the black immigrant that this country wants him only for his labour and not as a human being.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BOYD OF MERTON
I am glad immediately to follow the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. This is in no sense his maiden speech for he has made a number of most valuable contributions to our debates. I am sure that we were all of us deeply moved by all he said, not least by his concluding words. To those who, like me, are very old and have spent a long time in considering overseas problems, it is a particular joy and encouragement to find someone of the noble Lord's age taking such a passionate but restrained and sensible approach to the problems that confront us all, not least his own generation and those who follow after. The Committee has already decided in its wisdom—and I hope it will not be considered offensive if I say"also with an eye on the clock "—to agree with Her Majesty's Government that post-entry registration is, according to different views, desirable or inevitable or unavoidable, whichever plain English word is most appropriate to the particular point of view. May I just say in passing in regard to plain English that I was sorry the noble Lord from the Liberal Benches did not pursue his intention to try to substitute the word"unlimited"for"indefinite "?
The Committee having so decided, the question is now: registration with whom? Of course, all conventional arguments are for tidiness—the same people, of course, as the aliens have to go to, the police. I am not impressed in the least by this argument. Tidiness in human affairs and tidiness in legislation often mean great unhappiness; and, anyway, why should 1077 not Commonwealth citizens have a different form of registration? There are not very many of them. There is not much left for Commonwealth citizens, alas! to-day in some people's minds. Why should they not have this almost trivial, from the administrative point of view, concession made on their behalf? Of course, logic points in favour of one registration for all. But logic in human affairs is no sure guide.
The truth is, as a number of noble Lords have already said, that however many different views there may be about different aspects of the Bill, all outside Westminster who are daily concerned with race relations, however much they may differ on different clauses of the Bill, are unanimously of the view that registration must not be with the police. I share my noble friend Lord O'Hagan's view that this is no reflection on the police, who, incidentally, do not want this particular privilege.
It is because we feel—as those in this House or outside and nearly everyone that I have spoken to who is engaged outside feel—that it is very unwise that the first contact of a puzzled and often frightened immigrant coming to the heart of the Commonwealth and proud to accept the same Queen as ourselves as head of it, should be with the police, especially the police exercising a regulatory role. It may be an unreasonable feeling, but it is very strongly felt. I am bound to say to my noble friend that I am not impressed by the argument that whoever does the interviewing will be in plain clothes. The interview is at the police station. This is what matters. Of course, to all of us the policeman is a friend, and to the overwhelming number of immigrants, after a time, he is a friend, too. But they have been brought up under different circumstances, and when an immigrant arrives here I can even imagine that the fact that the policeman interviewing him is in plain clothes is more alarming than if he were in uniform. Plain clothes in Europe to-day have a certain significance as far as inquisitorial roles are concerned. This is no reflection on the police here.
I urge my former colleagues and noble friends to think again and to take note of the fact that a number of noble Lords who have had direct administrative responsibility for immigrants in the 1078 Colonial Office and elsewhere, and also noble Lords who have had high administrative roles in Government Departments dealing with immigrants, feel the same in regard to the suggestion that the police should be the registering authority.
My noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor said lately, and rightly, that anyone who stirred up unnecessary alarm among immigrants about the Bill was to be condemned, and that a heavy responsibility rested on them. I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend's view. A great deal of exaggerated language has been used about this Bill, but in this particular case even the most temperate people are unanimous in what they feel should be done. I would accept gladly the proposal that registration should be with the Department of Employment, with whom the large majority of the people will have their first real contact. I really cannot believe that, whatever was said in another place, in dealing with what is about the most sensitive side of life that any of us are likely to know, it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government not to have a change of heart. With very considerable experience in this field, I, with many other noble Lords, do beg them to think again.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
That was a most impressive speech that we have just heard from my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton, and it certainly shows that in the House there is going to be a good deal of difference of opinion on this subject. We have already heard from many noble Lords with distinguished public records and long experience of administration in the service of the country. I am glad that I chanced to be in the Chamber when I heard the appeal so graciously and persuasively made by the noble Baroness, Lady White. With all respect to my noble friend Lord Boyd, I am going to venture to be one of those who take a different view. I should have thought that, from all angles of administrative logic, the obvious thing would be that this should be done by the police.
Before hearing the speech of my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton I thought there was not much necessity to say very much about this, and that we might be sure that the Government view would be 1079 decisive in standing by what is proposed in the Bill, and that if a Division was pressed that would be confirmed by the result. But we have heard many statements that this is a bad Bill, an unnecessary Bill, and some lengthy and quite impassioned appeals have been made on some of the other Amendments in the earlier part.
Why this sensitivity about registering with the police? I should have thought that it was the obvious organisation to deal with newcomers to our country. Aliens who come here do not object to having this relationship with the police. They respect the police. This is the obvious thing to do. What is this feeling that what an alien would be ready to do—and I include among"aliens"people from sophisticated countries in the world—they should not do? I cannot help thinking of one remark of the noble Baroness. She said most emphatically."Well, of course, it will affect so few in the country why will the Government not agree to it? ".
My mind goes back to a similar discussion about the role of the police in this country when we discussed the abolition of hanging for murder. The argument was pressed that one person being wrongly hanged was the strongest reason why it should be abolished. The argument was exactly the reverse to what it is here. Something was then done which did as much to discourage the police as could have been done. That has been a misfortune for our police service, and no wonder we have a police force understaffed, underpaid, and overworked.
To come back to this particular matter, there has been emphasis on the sensitivity of people being addressed by the police. Well, we have all seen these marches and parades of aliens by birth to our country through the streets, thereby making themselves emphatically subject to the marshalling of the police. That is an additional reason for using the police as the instrument that should be used in this case. While I am talking about that, there has been a great reluctance to accord people from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa any position of greater consideration than newcomers from other countries. The Government have already emphasised that administratively 1080 it is not possible to do anything which would permit that, and that has to be accepted.
I repeat, we have heard many expressions of this being a bad Bill, and most eminent Members of this House have said it is an unnecessary Bill, and here we have a very impassioned appeal by a noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, which was, as the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd, has said, a tribute to his sincerity in this matter. But what is our position if we go into other countries? I spent a large part of my early life in the States, and I remember what the position was on several occasions. After all, there is a security angle. Why one earth should there be a reluctance to impose upon people who come here, and are not born here, the necessity to have that relationship with the police? It is in that feeling that I personally most emphatically hope that the Government will stand to their proposals, and use the police for this purpose.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
I am afraid that I am quite unable to go along with the views expressed by my noble friend Lord Barnby. I have often discussed Commonwealth matters with him outside this Chamber, and I know of his great experience, but there was nothing of any substance in what he has just said—and I say this with respect to his views—with which I could possibly go along. My noble friend Lord Windlesham knows my views on this statutory requirement in Clause 3 of this Bill, because before we had this Committee stage I discussed it with him.
I am not happy about this statutory requirement for several reasons. The persons who would be compelled to register under it would, in the main, be those who come from overseas and from the Commonwealth, with whom we have a very warm relationship. From my service overseas I have always been aware, throughout the years in which I served there, that there is an endemic fear of the police which persists, and will continue to persist for many years. It is no good blinking our eyes in the face of this. This is a fact; the fear exists, and it will continue to exist in this country. It was even a fear which persisted when I was overseas.
1081 Never for one moment would I level any criticism against the police forces of our overseas administrations, but superstitions die hard and I am convinced that it will be many years before that superstition dies here, eminently fair though our police force is in this country. When we get fears and superstition we also get tension, and if there is one thing we want to remove at the present time, it is tension. This is a basic problem with our community relations committees. I would conclude by saying that I would support whichever one of these Amendments goes to a vote.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER
In a very few words I should like to speak from these Benches in support of Amendment No. 38. I would urge the Government very strongly to reconsider this matter. It is, I think, one of the most objectionable features of this Bill. There is certainly no single point on which Councils of Churches and community relations committees up and down the country have expressed themselves so strongly or find so objectionable. The noble Baroness, Lady White, mentioned that in many places the police forces have appointed community relations officers, who are concerned to strengthen understanding and cooperation between the police and every kind of group within their local community. Their aim is to strengthen the contribution of the police as a positive social force in our Welfare State. This is a hard enough task anyway, especially among immigrant communities. It will be virtually impossible if the police are to have the sort of regulatory role at present laid down in this Bill. I would support the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, most strongly in asking the Government urgently to reconsider this matter.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
Most of the arguments have already been used on this matter, but I venture to intervene partly because of my general view on the Bill and partly because I may be able to throw one graphic light on the point we are discussing. I am not against the Bill, because I believe it to be necessary. I am not anti-police, and I resent the activities of the anti-police lobbies. I am also not one who reacts favourably to every act of pressure, vocal or otherwise, from immigrant community organisations: 1082 I try to use my judgment on this. But I have lived for many years in one of the countries from which many of our immigrants come. If, in that country, there is a minor accident, say on the road, is the instinct of the simple person to send for or talk to the police? No; it is to run as fast as he can go towards the horizon. That is not a comment on people's natural timidity or courage. It is simply an example of the deeply ingrained feeling built up over centuries, which as one noble Lord said, will not die overnight simply because people have come here.
That is why, with the greatest respect, I say that this is not a matter of administrative logic. I am not a worshipper of administrative untidiness. I have tried to help in merging two Government Departments, and if I had been a worshipper of untidiness I could not have attempted to do that. But I implore the Ministers to accept that this is not a matter of administrative tidiness. The way in which we can approach it has been amply explained by speakers in this debate. It is a matter of public relations of the most fundamental kind, and I would ask the Ministers to bethink themselves—their public relations have not always been of the most felicitous—that this is one of the most sensitive with which they have been faced. If they do, I feel sure that they will on this occasion come to a change of mind which will do them credit.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
May I intervene here, briefly, because there are Amendments on the Order Paper which concern two Departments, with one of which I am intimately concerned. May I begin by making the point that under this Bill we are introducing one single system of work permits for aliens and Commonwealth workers? We have already been through this on Clause 1 of the Bill. It has been agreed, and it seems to me a little odd that we are now considering two separate forms of enforcing this work permit system. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, has argued forcefully that we should introduce different forms of treatment for aliens and for Commonwealth citizens. We have included various special provisions for Commonwealth citizens throughout the 1083 Bill, but in relation to the administration of the work permit system, where there is to be no distinction between the work permits issued to aliens and to Commonwealth citizens, I do not see much alternative to keeping the system as it is—and at the moment it works perfectly satisfactorily with aliens.
I see the initial attraction of saying that the Department of Employment or the Department of Health and Social Security might do the registration instead of the police. But there are several points on this. The first is that the actual registration is of a purely clerical function and can be carried out by anybody. The police do it extremely well, and so could anybody else. At the moment, 175,000 aliens are dealt with by the police, and if they were to have the additional responsibility of a maximum of 20,000 Commonwealth immigrants, it would mean that 15 new staff would have to be employed. But if this responsibility were thrown on one of the other Departments, it would certainly involve their employing many more staff than 15. The local offices of my Department and the local employment exchanges are already fully occupied with their normal duties without having to take on additional registration duties which are not the least bit akin to their function.
§ LORD SEGAL
Is it not a fact that the Department of Employment now do outside work in the granting of forms and facilities for passports which has nothing to do with employment? That is undertaking a type of work outside the normal scope of their duties. Surely the police would be relieved to an enormous extent of extra burdensome work in having to receive registration of aliens and leave them free for far more important work.
§ LORD ABERDARE
Of course we can take it away from one Department and give it to another. But there are other arguments for the Government's view that it is better done by the police than by putting an extra burden on the employment exchanges and on the social security offices.
The second point which I would make and which has been made admirably by my noble friend Lord Windlesham is that it is really essential they should 1084 register with the same people who have the responsibility of enforcement. It really is very difficult to expect the police—
§ LORD ABERDARE
The police have to make their inquiries, and it is very difficult for them to find out the details from a quite different Department.
§ LORD BYERS
Will the noble Lord help the Committee? He gave the impression that registration with the police was something to do with the work permit. Surely the police do not issue a work permit. Which Department does issue it?
§ LORD ABERDARE
The work permit is issued by the Department of Employment, but the registration is with the police. The police check up and know where a man is living, and this is a function of the police which I should have thought was much better done by them than by the Department of Employment. The third point that I would make, which is to me the most important of all, is that the local Social Security offices and the local employment exchanges are places where we want immigrants to go for help with their personal problems, and we do not want them to be associated with the control of immigration regulations. It seems to me that this is a function of the police and not of the Department of Employment or of the Department of Health and Social Security.
§ VISCOUNT BOYD OF MERTON
Presumably, we also want the police to be their friends in subsequent life, and is it really possible to say that they must approach the police in the first instance, and not the employment people, without regard to what effect it has on their subsequent relations with the police?
§ LORD ABERDARE
If we are going to have a registration system the registration must be with somebody, and all I am arguing is that it is better with the police. I have the same admiration as everybody else for the way in which the police discharge their duties at present. They deal perfectly satisfactorily with 175,000 aliens and I believe, and hope, that in the future, with proper administrative arrangements, they could equally well deal with understanding and good 1085 will with the new system that is introduced in this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
Would it be possible for Commonwealth migrants to register with their local post offices if they have this fear of the police? I should have thought that the police could easily check up.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I want to put only one point. We have had a remarkable debate, and the most remarkable feature has been that Members of this House who have had responsibility for colonial administration, such as the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, have all contributed the conception that in their experience those who come from Commonwealth countries will have an instinctive fear of the police, because of the circumstances in those territories. They have contributed from a point of view that is different from mine. They have contributed as colonial administrators—and during their period of administration I have been in conflict with all of them—but I want to contribute from the other side.
A large number of the colonial territories, particularly in Africa, have now gained their political freedom. It is one of my great disappointments that, after gaining political freedom, they have become Police States and the instinctive opposition to the police force which arose during colonial days has even been intensified by the Police States which now exist. We therefore have this quite extraordinary situation. Here are former colonial administrators arguing against this proposal from their experience in colonial administration, and here are some of us who have opposed their colonial administration also opposing this proposal, because we say that those who are now coming from those territories have a similar instinctive opposition to police administration, because of the Police States which have been established. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has a very acute consciousness of this situation. Those of us in this country and most visitors from America and other parts of the world who come to this country, appreciate tremendously our police. But, because of the circumstances that I have described, the people who come from the Commonwealth 1086 countries come with a mind which is apprehensive of the police.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is very concerned about this situation. There is even the fact that the Police Federation do not want this responsibility. He knows—and I need not go into details—that there are three areas in the London Metropolitan District where the relationship between the police and the coloured community is now very difficult indeed. He knows what those areas are. He also knows that in Liverpool there is a similar area where the psychology is dangerous; that there is an area in Birmingham where the psychology is similar. He knows that there is an area in Manchester where the psychology is similar, and where the danger of some conflict between the immigrant community and the police makes those of us who have knowledge of it very apprehensive indeed. I know (because the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is aware of these problems, just as I am, and is sympathetic to the position, as I am) that in this situation, where the great majority of the police wish the best possible relations with the Commonwealth community, he will not want to place this duty upon them, in conflict with their own leaders and with their Federation, when alternative possibilities are available. I beg the Minister, because of my desire to see good community relations in this country, to reconsider this proposal, which will be so dangerous for community relations here.
§ LORD BARNBY
Will the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, help the Committee by expanding a little as to why there is more dislike by those who come to our shores from the Commonwealth than by those who come from foreign countries? The aliens who come here from the United States should surely be considered just as much as others. Could the noble Lord help the Committee a little on that?
§ LORD BROCKWAY
No, I do not propose to develop this point. It has been made by three ex-colonial administrators, and I have contributed—
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
For the sake of accuracy, may I say that I spoke from the point of view of a diplomatic observer.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I agree, but it has already been stated. I put it from another point of view. I think this feeling is very real.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am chary of speaking again, for my previous two interventions in this Committee stage have both been treated rather light-heartedly by the Government, but I have some experience in this and I think I ought to say what I believe about it. I am not carried away by the argument that a system which works satisfactorily for aliens should ipso facto be applied to Commonwealth citizens; but, equally, the fact that it applies successfully to aliens is not a reason against applying it to Commonwealth citizens. We must always bear in mind the difference in approach. I have never forgotten a girl from Trinidad saying to me, when she first came to this country as a law student, that she felt from the moment she was here that she was in a different and better position than those who did not belong to the Commonwealth. She spoke from her heart, and it is exceedingly important that feelings of that kind should be preserved and not damaged.
At the same time, it is very undesirable that we should in any way accept that it is reasonable for people to think of the British police as enemies. I cannot speak from colonial experience, but those who come to this country from the Commonwealth must realise that in this country the police are regarded as friends by all except law-breakers, and that there is nothing insulting or offensive in asking people to register with the police. It has never been felt insulting or offensive by aliens that they have to register with the police, so far as I am aware, and it should not be so in the case of Commonwealth citizens. I am not for a moment denying what has been said in the debate, and I am not denying what leaders of immigrant opinion, and others, have said. Nevertheless, it is very undesirable to give any encouragement to the idea that the police in this country can be looked upon as enemies; and one wonders whether people who come with that feeling are likely to integrate themselves quickly enough in the British community.
I said on Second Reading that I thought that this was the most difficult 1088 and delicate point in the Bill, and that if a practical alternative to registration with the police could be devised I should welcome it. Since then, I have thought this out as far as I can, with the benefit of such experience as I have, and I am inclined to the opinion that, even allowing for all the psychological and Commonwealth arguments that have been adduced, the case for registration with the police is overwhelming. But it has not yet been stated to your Lordships' Committee, and the reason why I am on my feet is to make a fresh plea to the Government Front Bench that they will explain why the Home Secretary has in his own mind seemingly come down firmly on the side of retaining this provision in the Bill. He said at an early stage of the debates on the Bill in another place that he had an open mind about this. We all know the present Home Secretary, and we all know that when he says he has an open mind he speaks the truth. I have no doubt whatever that he was speaking the truth then, and that he has gone into the matter most thoroughly and objectively since, and has come down seemingly decisively on the side of the argument that the reasons for retaining registration with the police are overwhelming. But this has not yet been stated by the Government to your Lordships' House.
We know the objections of the Police Federation. We have not been told by the Government the views of the chief constables; and the views of the chief constables, who I presume have been consulted, must be important in this matter. While I have many friends in the Police Federation, and great respect for them, it must be in the last resort the chief constables by whom the Home Secretary is guided in these matters. My main request to the Government is to explain why the Home Secretary has, as he appears to have, come down decisively on the side of registration with the police. He must be aware of the strong doubts and apprehensions and fears if this finally gets incorporated in the Bill. But Mr. Maudling is a scrupulously honest and open-minded man. I think your Lordships in all quarters of the House will accept that. I should like to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, the reasons which have convinced the Home Secretary.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ LORD WADE
There are occasions which arise both in this House and in another place where the issue is a psychological one, and so often the answer by the Government is, perhaps understandably, one of administrative convenience. It is very difficult for us to say what is most convenient from the point of view of the Government, but I am quite sure this is one of the issues that should not be decided solely on grounds of administrative convenience.
It is almost inevitable that there should be some repetition in a debate such as this, and I hope that the opinion from all sides will have some effect on the mind of the Government, but may I limit myself to such experience as I have? I referred to this on Second Reading. It is perfectly true, as has been stated, that there are those who come to this country from Commonwealth countries who have towards the police a different attitude, a traditionally different attitude, from our own. There are historical reasons for that, and I think we have to accept it. Realising that, there are people engaged in community relations work and representatives of the police—I should like to commend the work of some of the representatives of the police—who are helping in trying to bring about a change of image, in trying to explain what the police here are for, in trying to get across the idea that the police are the friends of anyone who is not actually breaking the law. That is going to take time; it cannot be done quickly. I am not talking about those who are never satisfied. I recollect the words of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, but it is not true that concessions do no good. That perhaps is an unfair paraphrase of what he said in reply to the first Amendment. Concessions can help, and the overwhelming opinion of those who are engaged in this kind of work is that this provision for registration with the police, even if it is administratively convenient, would be a set-back.
As to whether ultimately we can work out some kind of administrative machinery whereby aliens could be registered otherwise than at present, I should not like to say. It might take time to work that out. I should be pleased to see the police relieved of some of their duties; but whether the aliens and these newcomers 1090 are treated differently or not, I am quite sure that the Government would be wise to accept the proposals, or at any rate one of the proposals, that are put forward in this group of Amendments.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
I still have not made up my mind on this issue. When the question of whether registration at all was necessary was first raised I was extremely doubtful and I felt rather as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, did, that maybe with registration that has to occur at the airport and with the Department of Employment and Productivity this further registration was not necessary. If, on the other hand, it is—and it may well be that the Government, knowing the facts, have reasons which they are not prepared to state in this House—there are one or two arguments one could put on the contrary side for asking the police to do it.
We have heard—and this I entirely believe—of the respect and awe in which the police are held by those coming over here. If there is, for example, some difficulty in ensuring that these people keep to the terms, it may be wisest that they should register with the police, where because of this respect there is a sanction against breaking the terms. I do not know the facts, and I suspect that the Government would not wish to disclose them from the Front Bench. However, I put forward that point of view.
There is also this counter-argument. Sooner or later the people who come in will have to realise that our police are rather different from what they are thought to be. I wonder how far personal contact might not be a good thing at an early stage in getting this over; and how far our police, if they are as good as we think they are, could help and possibly avoid the troubles which these people might otherwise get into. I am merely putting forward that other side. What I am really saying is that I have not made up my mind on this issue, but I strongly suspect that the Government have other reasons than pure administrative convenience for their attitude tonight.
§ 9.22 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken is doubtful as to whether the police are the proper authority or whether some other authority 1091 should do the registering. I should like to put this additional plea to the Government. The police themselves obviously know best how to create good relationships between the immigrants and themselves. It is a very different thing for an alien coming over from the Continent, and knowing all about our police. Mind you, my Lords, there were some people who were extremely worried about having to register, particularly those who came from States which were Police States, even in Europe. But be that as it may, the average person who comes over here from the Continent has some idea about the police in this country; he forms an opinion accordingly, and is not really affected in the same way as people coming from the Commonwealth.
Why do the police themselves want this? I do not think it is because they want to shirk any duty. There is no doubt that they have plenty on their plate, and that they are a remarkable set of people. But they themselves feel that there is a different method of getting under the skin of the people who come in from the Commonwealth. That is really what it amounts to. They believe, and I think rightly, that there are other ways in which they can help to create good relations between the people who come from the Commonwealth and their neighbours. The police can, and do in certain instances, ingratiate themselves in their own particular way with the immigrants, giving them to understand that good relations can exist in that way.
I myself heard a large number of immigrants in the Committee that was set up in the other place, and I should like to say this. If the police are given their proper role in this matter—and they can serve a very proper role—in time they can remove the tension. But there is no doubt at all in my mind that people coming from the Commonwealth to this country, as we have heard from those who have had vast experience, are suspicious, not particularly of the British policemen but of all policemen. They fear policemen. Supposing an individual feels that way and he goes to register—in other words, he is putting down particulars of himself on a register—what will his reaction be? That he is being watched by the police while he 1092 is staying here. That is really the point to be faced. He will feel not that the policeman is his friend but that the policeman is spying on his actions, with a view to ascertaining whether he is a desirable person or whether action might be taken against him, or something of that kind. That is all right for the police if the person is not registered with the police. We understand that certain precautions have to be taken, but the policeman's role can be of such a nature that he can reduce the tensions. I hope that the Government will look at the matter from that point of view. They are dealing with a peculiar problem and a different type of immigrant from that which came before, and each case has to be considered from its own particular point of view.
I appreciate that the Home Secretary is a man with a sympathetic heart, and I believe that he sincerely believes that this is a job that the police ought to be doing. But if the police, who are dealing with 120,000 (or whatever the number may be), are themselves convinced that, in spite of the fact that they are dealing with aliens who are coming in in large numbers, the smaller numbers would best be dealt with otherwise, in my view they are the authorities who are really able to guide us. In these circumstances, I hope that the Government will change their mind on this matter and will at least try out some other system for the time being and see how it works.
May I just make one short plea to my noble friends on the Front Bench? It is that they should take this away and have some further consultations with the Home Secretary. I believe that all of us in this House are deeply disturbed about this one factor in this Bill. What we feel so deeply about is that there is some element of fear in this matter which could, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, said, produce violence. I hope that my noble friends will be able to do this, and then come back with some strong evidence one way or the other. I am sure that we should be prepared in the meantime to think this one out. I am a little nervous because we have four Amendments here, and I have a feeling that one of them might be passed and that it might be the wrong one. I am not certain in my own mind which is the right one, but I 1093 am absolutely certain that more thought needs to be given to this, and I hope that the Government will feel themselves able to accede to this request.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
I was brought up as a boy in a British Colony and I know, like the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, the present feeling amongst colonial people. I am inclined to support the Government in this matter. My purpose in speaking is to ask this question: why do the police not want this job? If they are dealing with 175,000 registrations, it can mean nothing at all to handle another 20,000. It seems to me quite absurd to register 175,000 persons in one place and 20,000 in another. Put the whole lot with the police or somewhere else, but do not divide it up, for that would be ridiculous.
§ LORD GARNER
May I attempt to answer a question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby? He asked why, if aliens have been quite happy with the procedure of registration with the police for so many years, there may be difficulties so far as Commonwealth citizens are concerned. The answer is: because they are not aliens. It is quite natural for a foreigner to expect that when he goes to a foreign country he will have to submit to all sorts of rules and regulations that apply to foreigners. This has never been the case in the Commonwealth. At least until this Bill came forward. Commonwealth citizens were welcomed into this country as fellow members of the Commonwealth, and were given every indication that they would be regarded as welcome members in the community. This Bill puts them in a totally different category.
I urge the Government, with all the power at my command, to pay serious attention to what has been said from all parts of this Committee. There are deep concerns about a number of provisions in this Bill, and there are many that I am worried about, but none causes more apprehension than the implication of this one—unreasonable as the fear may he. We are dealing here with a question of psychology, and I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to the representations that have been made by people who feel deeply about our relations with the Commonwealth, about community relations in this country and about so many things that matter.
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
May I be allowed one observation upon the remarks of the noble Lord who has just sat down? I am known to be a South African. The South Africans are now aliens; that does not worry them at all. The point made by the noble Lord was that a Commonwealth immigrant would expect to be treated differently. It may be that the first time a South African came here as an alien the situation surprised him, but he found the police friendly, and the situation did not worry him at all; so I do not think there is much in that point.
§ LORD BARNBY
May I thank the noble Lord, Lord Garner, for what he has said? May I remind him that the emphasis was that here was one of the characteristics; but if the immigrants are going to be well-behaved why should there be more fear on the part of those who are other than aliens than there is among aliens? The situation is the same in other countries.
§ LORD SEGAL
For what it is worth, I wonder whether I may be allowed to recount to the House a personal experience which I had as a visitor to a country in North Africa. There I had to register at the local police office. The official by whom I was seen could not have been more kindly and friendly, yet I vividly recall the feelings of relief when I emerged afterwards into the freedom of the open street. A week later, when re-registration was due, I was visited by the same officer in plain clothes at the private house where I was staying. Again, his visit could not have been more kindly or courteous, but I well remember the relief with which I finally saw him leave.
I wonder if the police realise that it would make all the difference in the world to an immigrant in this country, if, instead of his being compelled to register with the police, the police, as they so often do, were enabled to pay a private visit to the immigrant to ascertain the circumstances in which he is placed. I think that would do far more to promote good relations than compelling an immigrant to register at a police station. Especially I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to consider what his feelings would be like if he, not necessarily as an immigrant but even as a visitor to this country, had 1095 to register with the police under conditions that were naturally alien to him. However kindly and courteous they might be towards him when he goes to register with them, I ask him to imagine what his feelings of relief would be once he had been able to complete this registration at the police station.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I think I understood the position rightly from the very well modulated arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. He said that one of the reasons for registration was the fact that we should be able to send immigrants to approved jobs. Are we really afraid that immigrants are going to take the jobs of our own inhabitants? I simply cannot believe that. Surely we have not come to that stage at all. Surely we need the immigrant labour here, and I should like to give noble Lords an illustration of why we do.
A couple of years ago I saw a television programme in which a number of our unemployed engineers were being interviewed. Their earnings were from £35 to £40 a week. The interviewer asked each one of them in turn,"Would you take a job at less than £35 a week? ", and each one of them said,"No ". This will illustrate why I do not believe that there is any danger of immigrants taking jobs of inhabitants of this country, British people. I do not know why we are afraid of this, and I think the whole idea of approved labour jobs is utterly repulsive to those of us on this side of the Committee.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
Nearly all the speakers on this Amendment have raised the same point, the fear and anxiety that this particular reference to the police will give to those who come into this country. We heard the eloquent words of my some-time chief, Lord Boyd, and your Lordships would not expect me to be other than with him on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has referred to the Amendment which is in our name, but, as your Lordships know, we are not trying to argue in favour of one Amendment or the other; we wish to remove the words"registration with the police ". I will not go over the arguments which others have expressed much more eloquently than I could, except to say that I am in entire agreement with 1096 them. If these words are left in, then what is of the greatest importance, namely, that those who come into this country now should look on the police as their friends, will not happen.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when explaining matters rather earlier in this debate, made the point that an employer, having originally arranged through the Department of Employment that a particular person should come here to work, has the duty when that person has arrived of presenting to the Department of Health and Social Security the insurance card, with all registration particulars. It occurs to me that perhaps one of the ways the Government might consider dealing with this problem, which concerns the police, to achieve unity of administration which so many of your Lordships are asking for, is as follows—and let me say that this idea is not one for which I take credit; it has been suggested to me by somebody else. The idea is that, rather than having the immigrant compelled to register with the police, it should be arranged that the employer, who already has to do this job in relation to the insurance card, should send the particulars also to the police.
Just let us think what that would achieve. It would avoid the immigrant having to go to the police station, with the enormous importance implied in that from the psychological point of view. At the same time we would have the tidiness of administration, for which so many of your Lordships have asked. Personally I do not care too much about tidiness, but never mind. Would it not be an easy thing for the employer to do just this? As he has to do with the insurance card, so he would do with the police. I know this does not follow from any of the Amendments we are discussing. It nearly follows an earlier Amendment tabled by the Liberal Party which was defeated, but I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, would give most serious consideration to this suggestion.
Obviously he cannot do it now, because it does not follow any of the arguments, but if the noble Lord said that he would give consideration to this I would be inclined to say,"Let us see what comes out of it"and not go ahead with one or other of the suggestions we have made. If the noble Lord cannot do this, I suggest there is only one course 1097 open to all those who have felt and spoken so strongly about this, namely to go into the Lobby against the Government.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ LORD MACPHERSON OF DRUMOCHTER
I have to work closely with the police as a magistrate, and I would like to make the point quite clear that most of the criticisms this evening are not levelled at the police force in this country but at the possible police action in other countries.
§ LORD MACPHERSON OF DRUMOCHTER
I think this has been an extraordinarily good debate. I find myself in great agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—with whom I am not normally in agreement—but may I follow the plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, that if this Amendment could be withdrawn and if we could get an assurance from my noble friends on the Front Bench that this question would be referred back to the Home Secretary, who I am sure all members of this House will agree is a very fair and reasonable man, it would not then be necessary to press this matter to a Division.
As someone who is unfortunately of necessity a very infrequent attender at your Lordships' debates I very much welcome the fact that we should have been discussing this important matter for an hour and three quarters this evening. I promise to be brief, but I can assure your Lordships that if my own experience in Leeds and the West Riding of Yorkshire is anything to go by, everybody I know who is involved in the world of community relations in the Leeds and Bradford area is deeply concerned about this matter. I am myself the chairman of the local Race Relations Board conciliation committee. The local Community Relations Committee asked particularly if they could come and see me, knowing that I might be able to take part in this debate.
I take very seriously the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, at the start of the Committee stage, that one must beware of those who stir up this problem of community relations in an unhelpful manner. But I can 1098 assure the noble Lord and the Committee that the people I am thinking of do not come into that category. They include, for example, the chairman of the housing committee of a large local authority—someone with whom, I know well from past experience, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, would himself have particularly liked to deal during the days when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government. A very wide range of opinion among those engaged in community relations is concerned about this matter. On the objective merits of the case I cannot improve on the moving words that the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan have already used.
May I say what a pleasure I think it must have been to everyone to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, speaking on this matter. I remember the days when surely no Minister in our history had more relationships with a wider range of communities all over the world than he did. I would say one thing in addition to what he said. I think we should remember here not only the anxiety he expressed—the anxiety that the first contact that members of immigrant communities have with the police should be when the police are exercising a regulatory role—but also the sustained concern of the Police Federation themselves; I was very much impressed by the sustained concern which Mr. Reg Gale and the Police Federation have shown over this matter.
It is, of course, true that we are dealing here with a relatively small number of people, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, very fairly pointed out, but to that I would simply say two things. First of all, like the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd, I think it is right that we should want to treat generously those with whom we have a special link, many of whom look on the Queen as their Queen, and those with whom at the very least we have a historic link which I hope we shall never forget in this country. May I say something else to your Lordships? I have no doubt that in making an Amendment here, a change in what is now proposed, the benefits will rub off on the whole of community relationships in this country. If we take the right decision, the benefits will be felt much more widely; they will not only concern 1099 those who come subsequently to this country on work permits.
The last thing I would say is this. I join in all the tributes that have been paid to the open-mindedness of the present Home Secretary, someone I have been privileged to know for a great many years, one of the most civilised friends I have ever known. I hope that he and the Government will most seriously consider all possible alternatives, including the interesting alternative the noble Earl, Lord Perth, mentioned just now. I must say that this is a matter of judgment, and I hope that the House will forgive my speaking frankly about it. But my own feeling, after the debate we have had, is that those of us who are most anxious about this matter would be justified in voting for the Amendment No. 37 which leaves out the words"with the police"and inserts the words"in the manner provided by rules ". After the debate we have had, I think this Committee would be justified in voting for that Amendment; but we realise there are other stages and other opportunities for the Home Secretary to consider alternative courses. I am sure that, in the light of the debate we have had, we are overwhelmingly justified in begging the Government to think again.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
The noble Lord, Lord Boyle, speaks on this subject with great experience and a high reputation. He said that he hoped that the Government could treat Commonwealth citizens in this Bill more generously than aliens, and related it to the Amendment which is before your Lordships now. There are other places in the Bill—we were discussing one earlier this afternoon—where, as regards the entry of people from the Commonwealth, more favourable treatment is granted; and I justified the provision on those grounds. Here I would say to the noble Lord that the question we should ask ourselves is not whether Commonwealth citizens should be treated more favourably, but whether they should be treated differently. Let us try to analyse for a moment some of the fears that have been expressed, some of the reasons why—and they are symbolised in that sentence of the noble Lord, Lord Boyle—it is thought that in some way registration of Commonwealth 1100 citizens with the police is less favourable than with some other agency. We have the figures in our minds. There will be something of the order of 175,000 aliens and perhaps 20,000 Commonwealth citizens in four years' time who will be registered. Nearly all the aliens will be white, a number of the Commonwealth citizens will be white. The requirement will apply to Commonwealth citizens, white and black. It is likely that something of the order of 10 per cent. of those registered with the police will be coloured people—about 10 per cent.
Let us keep that figure in mind when we think of the fear that has been expressed that the immigrant community in this country may be asked to produce documents, may be"leaned on"by the police and asked to show their registration cards. That should not really be so, because 90 per cent. of those whom the police would expect to be registered will not be coloured immigrants; on the statistics which we have and which have been mentioned in the course of the debate they will be white people. Documents are not a new feature, alas! in the life of Commonwealth immigrants to this country. Since 1963, when Parliament first imposed controls, immigrants from the Commonwealth, if they come here for the purpose of work, have required a voucher. For the last two or three years if a dependant comes he has needed an entry certificate issued by the British High Commission abroad. I do not think that claims have been made by representatives of immigrant organisations that these documents have been demanded by the police to show that the man is here legally, to show that he has a document of entitlement.
The question has run through this debate, the very radical question that we debated before dinner: why registration should be necessary at all. The answer is: to ensure that the work permit holder goes to the job for which the work permit was issued and only changes his job for some other approved employment for which there is no local labour. I cannot say it more clearly than that. The present situation is hardly satisfactory. The"A"and"B"voucher holders can go to any job once they have been admitted, even if it is not in the category for which the voucher is issued. 1101 Not only are there the cases of the people who take low-paid work, risking the exploitation to which I referred at the beginning of the debate, but also the reverse. There are the cases of professionally qualified men who take semiskilled or unskilled jobs. A junior hospital doctor earns very much less than (shall we say?) a worker in the motor industry who will work for long hours and put in a good deal of overtime. He can earn considerably more than the junior hospital doctor. Perhaps it is a commentary on our society that this should be so.
If there is no system of registration there is no effective control. If there is no control the system of work permits is useless. We must fall back on one of two alternatives: the first is unrestricted entry, and I do not think that anyone in this House would feel that that is a realistic alternative. The second is the quota: quotas to individual Commonwealth countries; tiny numbers in relation to the population of their country. I wonder if noble Lords know what the system looks like at the moment. Let us consider a country the size of India, with 550 million people. Of those, some 780 people in all were admitted with category"A"and"B"vouchers last year. That is what the quota system looks like. If it is accepted that there should be a work permit system and a system of registration—and the Committee agreed to that proposition on the Amendment carried just before supper—what is the most effective system? Is it likely to be the police? Is it likely to be the Department of Health and Social Security? The Department of Employment? Local authorities? Noble Lords must ask themselves these questions, and must consider the alternatives. Which is likely to be the most effective? Which is likely to be administratively the most economical in financial terms? Which is likely to be the one most convenient to the individual? We must remember that employment exchanges are open for relatively short hours for somebody who is in employment to go along there. It may be a great deal more difficult than calling at a local police station, which is open 24 hours a day. These are factors not to be ruled out of account.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, told us of the fears expressed by the immigrant 1102 communities, and I listened with close attention to what he had to say, because I know of his interest and contact with this subject. He referred to the views of the Police Federation. I was also asked by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, about the police. We must recall that when we use the word"police"we do not refer only to the views of the Police Federation. The chief constables were consulted about this proposal, and have raised no objections to it in principle. Those of your Lordships who are interested in the views of the police (who will, after all, be closely associated with this proposal) might like to hear what one chief constable had to say on the record in Cambridge in March. He welcomed the proposal to register coloured immigrants. He said:If coloured immigrants come to this country now they do not have to register, and the first time that they meet the police is when they are concerned in some offence. If they have to go to a police station as soon as they arrive in the country to register, I think we can make a different impression on them. They will go away not having met the police only when they have committed an offence. They will he properly met and treated at the police station.This is a point of view from a chief constable which I think we need to take into account.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
On that point I understood that it was not to be the police anyhow, but that it was going to be people in civilian clothes and all the rest of it. Therefore, I think this is a poor argument of this particular police officer.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I do not think it is a poor argument. Perhaps I may explain what is envisaged, in case the noble Earl did not follow what I said in my opening speech. I explained in some detail that the initial registration in the case of the Metropolitan Police District is carried out in the Aliens Registration Office, which is staffed by civilian staff. That is where the card is issued. When some registered person then changes his work or his employment, he does that at the local police station, so the subsequent changes are carried out at the police station.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
It will depend. In some districts it will be the first. It 1103 will not be the first in the Metropolitan Police District, or in those areas where civilian staffs are employed. The noble Earl shakes his head, but outside London he will find that generally that will be the pattern. We have studied the matter very closely, and I hope that noble Lords will be willing to hear the results (whether they agree with them or not is a different matter), of the consideration that has been given to this particular matter.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
The Minister has said that the chief constables have not, as a body, objected. He has read the statement by one chief constable. Is it not a fact that other chief constables expressed a different view?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KNIGHTSBRIDGE
Before the noble Lord answers this question, may I give some evidence on this? I took the trouble to speak to both the senior associations of police officers. Both are quite prepared to carry out the task of registration, but both express clearly that they have no desire to do so and would be perfectly happy if it were taken away.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I do not think that we shall reach agreement on that. I thought that I read out an interesting comment from a senior police officer, and one, as it happens, with a good deal of personal experience in community relations.
My noble friends and I have listened with close attention to what has been said in this debate. I made a full statement of the Government's position at the outset. I was slightly taken to task for it, but I thought it right to do so because comment had been made (I put it no higher than that) about the Government's not having made a full and comprehensive statement on this important issue in the course of the debates in another place. It was said that it had come up on a number of occasions and replies had been given by different Ministers, but there had not been a full and comprehensive statement. Therefore I thought it right to give that to your Lordships at the start of the debate.
Clearly, as a Government we must pay attention to what noble Lords say, particularly when they have had the experience of noble Lords like the noble 1104 Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, a former distinguished member of the Government, with responsibility for the Colonial Office, and the noble Earl, Lord Perth, also a former Colonial Minister We should be extremely foolish, if we refused to listen to what they said. What I would say in reply to them, and in reply to my noble friend Lord Grenfell, who I think put his finger on the feeling of the House in this matter, is that I will consider this very seriously with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I will suggest a meeting at my Department, at which some of the noble Lords who have spoken so strongly on this might be willing to join us to discuss various suggestions—the noble Earl, Lord Perth, made one in particular. Your Lordships will appreciate that it is not for me, standing at this Box, smartly to reverse the policy of the Government with a wave of the hand. I am not in that position, and not able to give any specific undertaking. But if noble Lords would like an assurance, we will certainly consider this matter very carefully indeed, in the course of the Recess, with those who have shown such keen interest in it. If they feel that we have not been able to meet them, there will still be an opportunity at Report stage for the matter to be discussed, and if there is still discontent with the point of view we may have come up with by way of a compromise, it will still be open to noble Lords to put down another Amendment.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
I think we all appreciate the position of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. As a former Minister of State, I thoroughly appreciate his position. He has indicated that he has been impressed by the arguments put forward from every side of the House. There has been no question of Party on this issue. All who have taken part have discussed it with their own experience in mind. I think it is particularly notable that some of the most emphatic speeches have come from those, like the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton, who have had great responsibilities in relation to the Commonwealth territories from which the immigrants will be coming. With the utmost respect, I think that the Ministers who intervened in the debate have not shared that experience.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I do not want to interrupt the noble Baroness, but she will appreciate that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary himself held the same office as did the noble Viscount, Lord Boyd of Merton.
§ BARONESS WHITE
The noble Lord took the words out of my mouth. I would ask him, when consulting with his right honourable friend, if he would bear in mind that some of the strongest arguments have come from noble Lords who have had experience of immigrant communities, both in this country and also in the countries from which they come. It is their attitude when they arrive that is so important. This is one of the strongest arguments in the minds of all of us who have contributed to this debate. I cannot speak for other noble Lords who are concerned with this group of Amendments but, speaking for my noble friends and myself, in the light of the assurances that we have been given—while we reserve our position: of course that will be clearly understood—we should like to give the Government an opportunity to think again after the pleas which have been made from every quarter of your Lordships' House.
§ LORD BYERS
On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I should like to endorse what the noble Baroness has said. We appreciate the difficulties the Minister is in, but there has been a most impressive, almost overwhelming, weight of opinion against the Government. In agreeing to this course, we should like to say that we feel we shall get a better atmosphere for discussion and consultation if we do not press this matter to a vote. But, like the noble Baroness, we wish to reserve our position on Report stage.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
I should like to echo the words of the noble Baroness and of the noble Lord, Lord Byers. I very much hope that, as a result of the generous offer of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when we get to the Report stage he himself will be able to put down an Amendment suggesting an alternative to the police. If he is not, some others of us will do so. But let us hope that the consultations during the summer will be fruitful.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY moved Amendment No. 43:
Page 4, line 3, leave out from beginning to (" the ") in line 8, and insert—
(" ( ) A statement laid before Parliament under subsection (2) above shall cease to have effect at the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which it was made unless during that period it is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament:
Provided that, if a statement ceases to have effect in pursuance of this subsection—
§ The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is to convert a Negative Resolution procedure into a positive procedure in connection with the rules that should be laid before Parliament in the form of a statement by the Secretary of State. As the Bill is drafted, the rules can be disapproved by either House of Parliament, in which case they become of no effect and the Secretary of State will be called upon to think again. This seems to me a signally ineffectual way of dealing with a matter of enormous importance.
§ What we have at stake here in the drawing up of these rules is the whole life and welfare of an individual coming to this country, multiplied many times over. It seems to be a mistake that this matter should not be closely under the control of Parliament; that the Secretary of State should have it left entirely to his discretion to make what rules he likes; and that there should be a possibility that they may—I do not say they will—go through Parliament almost without notice and without discussion. Something far more positive is required and, in my submission, what is required is an Affirmative Resolution procedure.
§ This proposal is not, I confess, one to which I am deeply wedded. There are two Amendments that follow it, which are set down in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, the noble and' learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and the 1107 noble Baroness, Lady White. They are Amendments Nos. 44 and 45, which are, I think, alternative to each other. They provide a different approach to the subject. It is not my business to speak on those Amendments, but I think I should say now (and perhaps if I had seen the point a little earlier I would have made it earlier, and matters would have stood differently upon the Marshalled List) that I in fact prefer their Amendments to mine, for this reason. I hope I am in order in speaking in this way about another Amendment, and that noble Lords opposite will not object.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
I am much obliged. The other Amendments refer to the rules, whereas my Amendment refers to the statement. There is a very considerable difference. Unless I misunderstand the matter, the rules will in fact have the force of a Statutory Instrument: the statement in which the rules are embodied by the Secretary of State is simply that—a statement. It has no statutory force at all; it is simply an announcement of what he intends to do, and if Parliament does not approve it he can take it away and change it and then bring back another one. In the meantime, the rules go on running. For that reason, I do not wish to speak with any strength on my own Amendment, but I shall listen with the greatest possible interest to those put forward by noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite. Technically, I think I am required to move this Amendment, but I shall await the outcome with an unprejudiced mind. I beg to move.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
If in my reply to the noble Earl I cover some of the ground which is likely to come up on the next two Amendments, I hope the Committee will forgive me, and perhaps my doing so will enable us to abbreviate our discussion on the later Amendments. This Amendment seeks to provide that the Immigration Rules required to be laid before Parliament under Clause 3(2) shall cease to have effect at the end of 28 days unless during that period they have been approved by Resolution of each House, and that if rules do so cease to have effect this is not to invalidate things 1108 done or omitted to be done under them before they ceased to have that effect. The Secretary of State would be under obligation, in the event of the rules ceasing to have effect, to change the rules as necessary and to lay fresh rules before Parliament. In the past, immigration rules have not been subject to any Parliamentary control, but by virtue of a Government Amendment put down in another place following pressure from Members of the Party opposite and others, my right honourable friend agreed that they should become subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, and this is what is now contained in Clause 3(2) of the Bill. If they are negatived by Resolution, the rules continue in being; but the Secretary of State is required, as soon as may be, to make such changes or further changes as appear to him to be required, and to lay a further statement before Parliament.
When, in another place, the suggestion was made that this did not go far enough and that the more appropriate form of Parliamentary control would be the Affirmative Resolution procedure, the Home Secretary explained that the Government did not feel able to agree to the Affirmative Resolution procedure's applying to the rules since this would mean that they could not be changed promptly if the need for change should arise when Parliament was in Recess. It would be unacceptable if no change could be made in the rules, perhaps to deal with an unexpected breach in the control, until Parliament could sit again.
The noble Earl has sought to meet the objection to the rules being subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure by providing that the rules are to take immediate effect when made by the Home Secretary but are to cease to have effect at the end of 28 days unless by then approved by a Resolution of each House. This proposal, however, does not meet the objection we saw in the original proposal to make the rules subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure since, if the rules are not approved by the end of the period of 28 days, whether by an adverse Resolution or because there have not been two Affirmative Resolutions, there would then be no rules in being until the Home Secretary was able to make fresh rules. This is an arrangement that in practice could not be 1109 accepted since it would mean that during the interregnum there would be no effective immigration control in operation at all and there would be no guide lines for the determination of appeals by the immigration appeal system arising from decisions taken by immigration officers during this period.
This seems to us a strong objection to the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and it would remain so whatever period laid down for the passage of the Affirmative Resolutions, whether 28 days or a longer period, was chosen. I hope that with that explanation of the significance of having effective immigration rules in existence in order to guide the appeal system and to guide immigration officers in the discharge of their duties, the noble Earl might feel inclined to withdraw the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
I understand the point of the objection which my noble friend has put forward and, as I have said, I am not keenly wedded to the form in which my Amendment has been drafted, and I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER had given notice of intention to move Amendment No. 44:
Page 4, leave out lines 3 to 11 and insert—
(" Rules referred to in this subsection shall be of no effect until a draft thereof has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.")
§ The noble and learned Lord said: I am not sure what is the most convenient course for everyone. This is a most important subject. I understand that some have taken the view that it would be convenient to stop where we are now.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord would like to say a word or two about his Amendment. I think that then those concerned with the usual channels may be able to give us some guidance.
§ LORD GARDINER
I agree of course with the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, how very important this whole question of the control of the rules is because of the vital importance of the 1110 rules and because a number of things which used to be statutory are not now in the rules. It is said that the negative procedure under the Bill is applicable to the rules, but this, with great respect, simply is not so. If I should develop this at another time perhaps it would be convenient.
EARL ST. ALDWYN
I think perhaps it might be better if the noble and learned Lord developed this matter on another day and, on behalf of my noble friend, I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ House resumed.