§ 3.55 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE)
My Lords, my noble friend promised yesterday a Statement on the Uganda Asians, and I have been asked to make it on behalf of the Government.
Your Lordships will recall that immediately President Amin informed us of his decision to expel Asian holders of United Kingdom passports the Prime Minister sent him a personal message protesting strongly and urging him to reconsider it. He also made it clear that to expel tens of thousands of people was inhumane and unjust and bound to cause immense suffering and deprivation. But despite this and subsequent appeals, the President has refused to change his mind and has maintained the 90 days deadline that he had asserted. We have, therefore, since the beginning of the 488 Recess continued our vigorous diplomatic activity to reduce the scale of the problem.
In addition to the representations we have ourselves made we have asked a number of Governments, both Commonwealth and foreign, to press President Amin to think again.
We are keeping in close touch with the Secretary General of the United Nations. Mr. Godber flew to Austria at the end of last month to see the Secretary General Dr. Waldheim who has adopted a most positive and helpful attitude. He has sent Dr. Robert Gardiner as his personal representative to talk to President Amin. I cannot say anything yet about the content of his talks, but we intend to follow up this approach in the United Nations when the General Assembly reconvenes on September 19.
We are seeking to ensure that those who are expelled should be able to go to the country of their choice, and we are in touch with a number of governments to seek their assistance.
We are in particularly close touch with the Indian Government on this matter. Over a dozen other countries have responded favourably, and I mention with particular appreciation the generous offers by Canada, New Zealand and Sweden. Discussions have also been opened with the Inter-governmental Committee for European Migration, which it is hoped may be able to assist by organising movement to Latin American countries.
We have felt bound to ensure that transport can be made available for these people if, despite all the efforts that we and others are making, the President refuses to extend the deadline. The President's recent threat to put people who are still in Uganda after November 7 into camps makes this all the more necessary. The allegations being made in Kampala that we are dragging our feet are of course wholly unjustified. The situation is changing from day to day, but I am satisfied that airlines serving Uganda will be able to provide adequate capacity to deal with any increase of traffic if the rate of clearance is speeded up.
The Government have established the Uganda Resettlement Board, under the chairmanship of Sir Charles Cunningham, 489 to plan the smooth and orderly reception of those who need to come to Britain and to ensure the widest possible dispersal throughout the country. The Board is making information available to Asians in Uganda about the difficulties which would confront them in certain parts of the country. Reception teams are available where needed to help those arriving, and they will emphasise the advantages of settling in the parts of the country in which social facilities are under least pressure. Temporary accommodation is in use at the Kensington Students' Hostel and ready for use at Stradishall in Suffolk. Further accommodation is being prepared at Hemswell in Lincolnshire and Greenham Common, Newbury, to provide short-stay accommodation which can be used by the newcomers while they make up their minds where to settle.
The Board is making a register of offers of accommodation and employment. It is in touch with the Department of Employment in order to relate job opportunities in different parts of the country with the skills of the newcomers, about which information is being obtained from Uganda. The Board is discussing resettlement problems with local authorities with the aim of achieving the maximum dispersal.
The Government have undertaken to make extra money available through the Board to local authorities to help with the costs arising from receiving people expelled from Uganda. Discussions are in progress about the best means of implementing this undertaking and about arrangements for setting up the charitable fund to which the Government have promised to make a contribution.
The Government are determined to honour this country's obligation to accept those United Kingdom citizens who may be expelled from Uganda, but we are also determined to do all that is possible to reduce the scale of the problem to a minimum.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am certain that the whole House will be grateful to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack for making this Statement. I have no doubt that there are very strong feelings, particularly 490 those expressed by President Kaunda and President Nyerere, which we all share about the inhumane actions taken by General Amin, but in view of the delicate, and perhaps dangerous, situation that may confront British nationals in Uganda I think that we should exercise some caution. I, for one, although I believe there is ample justification, would not press for an urgent debate on this matter but would certainly reserve our position. We could have discussions through the usual channels for a debate, should it be necessary, when we return in October.
We must all applaud the Commonwealth, and some foreign countries who have offered assistance, and particularly Canada, who took a lead in this matter. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord and the Government would consider calling a Commonwealth Conference, not necessarily at Prime Minister level, to meet either in London or in some other capital, to see whether it would be possible to co-ordinate our efforts in dealing with this grave human problem. In relation to India, and perhaps Bangladesh, I accept from the Government that if persons wish to go to those countries they should be encouraged to do so; but they may need help and so may the Governments of India and Bangladesh. I wonder whether the Government would consider making further economic aid avilable to help those countries to absorb any persons who wish to go there. As to the exodus, I wonder, again in the international field, whether the Government would think it right to approach the Secretary-General of the United Nations to see whether the United Nations could not themselves help in making arrangements for the leaving of these United Kingdom citizens if, unfortunately, their expulsion is finally pressed.
My Lords, turning to the domestic side, may I, on behalf of my noble friends, applaud and give wholehearted support to Her Majesty's Government for their decision to admit these British citizens who are in Uganda. I would confirm in the clearest possible terms that we will support Her Majesty's Government in any positive act that they may take for the resettlement and integration of these citizens in our shores. I think we must recognise the deep concern and perhaps resentment that exists. We must face the 491 fact that we have one million unemployed, and it may be there will be more by the end of the year. We have a gross shortage of houses in areas to which these immigrants may go, and in those areas, too, the social services are very much over-stretched. I hope that the Government will make it absolutely clear that this is a national responsibility and that it would be utterly unfair and unjust that the major burden of dealing with what is a national responsibility should fall upon the local authorities concerned. Would the noble and learned Lord not also agree, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, recognising that there are many thousands of people who have waited on a housing list, that it would be unjust and unfair that their hopes and aspirations should be deferred because of this particular crisis; and would not Her Majesty's Government agree that there should be a major house-building project in those areas and some special assistance given to meet this need? In the field of employment, I think we must all applaud the statesmanlike declaration made by Mr. Victor Feather at the T.U.C. last week, when he pledged the support of the trade union movement in finding employment for these unfortunate people.
I have only two other points to make. Some of these Asians will have professional qualifications, qualifications which may not be recognised here. I hope that the Government will have consultations with the universities and other organisations for higher education to see whether this problem could not be overcome, either by crash programmes of education or some adjustment in standards. The second point is this. I hope that there is no weakening in the Government's resolve when one looks at the last paragraph but one of the Statement, in which the Government say that they are having talks with the Resettlement Board, and the Board with the local authorities, as to how the costs of receiving people expelled from Uganda can be covered. Mention is made of a charitable fund. My Lords, for these areas this is going to be a very long-term effort and long-term burden, and I hope that the words "charitable fund" do not mean that in the view of Her Majesty's Government this is of a temporary nature. This is 492 long-term, a national effort, and I hope the Government will give support.
My last words in some ways are addressed to Her Majesty's Government but also perhaps outside. We know that we have gone through difficult times on racial issues and we know that there are some people, very misguided, who because of concern are demonstrating and whipping up strong feelings. I hope that the public media—television and radio—will exercise great caution in this matter and will not, as one television service did the other day, give an indication through the screen that there was a major demonstration when in fact only 50 to 100 people were involved. This is the negation of freedom and freedom of expression. I hope and believe that this country, which has gained great wealth as a consequence of refugees over many hundreds of years, will recognise that these people when they come here will render us great service. And, my Lords, I hope and believe that the British people, with their innate good feeling in times of difficulty, will give these people a very warm welcome.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, on behalf of my Liberal colleagues I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for making this Statement. I do not think it would be an understatement on my part to say that General Amin has been guilty of blatant discrimination, aggravated by a display of callous inhumanity. I am glad to hear the sentence in the Lord Chancellor's Statement in which he explains that delays are not the fault of representatives of Her Majesty's Government in Uganda, and I think that is a point that should be emphasised. At the same time I hope that the diplomacy of Dr. Gardiner will be successful.
I should like to ask two questions. I hope that those engaged in collating the information from these expelled Uganda Asians, either in Kampala or in Stansted, will as far as possible ensure that the information obtained matches up with the many offers of help from individuals throughout the country. It may be a little difficult always to fit the right person into the right place, but I hope the effort will be made to accept these offers of help. Lastly, with regard to aid to Uganda, may I ask whether there 493 is any co-ordination of policy between Britain and other donor countries, not with a view to any combined threat against Uganda—because I doubt whether that would be very helpful—but in order to ensure that those who are expelled and have to leave their belongings behind will be compensated and that money intended for economic aid will be retained until either compensation is paid or assets are released?
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to answer these two welcome interventions first. I should like to thank both noble Lords, on behalf of their Parties, for the way in which this Statement has been received. I can assure them that leadership of the right kind from responsible organs of opinion, by which I mean particularly the political Parties—and in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said about Mr. Victor Feather, I do not except the trade union movement—is very much needed at the present time. It was said out of doors that if we are to lead a people we must show that we enter into their feelings. I think we do enter into the feelings of the people in this matter: all of us in this House belonging to all Parties do so. But it is of course necessary to lead and to govern honourably and to persuade our people, despite legitimate fears and anxieties, that they must act as behoves a great and generous nation. I am sure that what the two noble Lords have said about that will help us in our task.
Dealing now, so far as I can, with the successive particular points, of course any question of a debate either now or later is a matter for the House and not for the Government, and it should be discussed with the Leader rather than with me As regards the part which the Commonwealth and the United Nations can play in this problem, obviously this is very much in our minds and we should welcome any suggestions. I do not think I can add anything to my Statement about that to-day. I simply say that the suggestions are noted and are welcome, and so is the question which was raised concerning economic aid to countries who may absorb some of these unfortunate people. These matters are being considered and we shall have to return to them from time to time.
494 I agree absolutely with what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said about the concern and even resentment which is being felt by this country, which has other problems to deal with and other hardships for our people to endure. I feel that very strongly myself and I was very glad that the noble Lord made the point. I should like to associate myself with it. I agree absolutely with him that we have to treat this as a national problem, though obviously any particular financial arrangements must be the subject of discussion. This is a national problem, and indeed in a small sense it is a national emergency. I do not want to overstate it, but quite obviously it is. I also agree with what the noble Lord said about people already on the housing list. We have to consider their established need and the long wait which they have had to endure. I have taken note of the three points he raised finally about professional qualifications. I will take that particular point into account and pass it on.
The reference to a charitable fund did not of course mean that this problem will be finished with in a short time; but we have to take into account that there is some evidence—I am afraid it looks rather solid evidence—that some of these people are being deprived of their possessions and savings before they come here, and that is something which calls for private charity as well as public generosity. Certainly if a charitable fund is raised the Government are going to contribute to it, and so I hope will individuals. We cannot overlook the suffering of individual people who have been expatriated from a country to which they have contributed a great deal, and who are deprived of their possessions and driven away in circumstances of humiliation which they have done nothing to deserve. I think we must remember—and this rather ties in with what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was saying about demonstrations of a misguided kind—that whoever wanted to create this situation, the unfortunate people in Uganda who are being driven out did not want it and have done nothing to deserve it. The very worst thing that could happen would be to get the worst of both worlds: that is to say, for us to be driven to accept them and then to 495 treat them harshly, ungenerously and churlishly when they come.
I was also grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Wade, said. I think it is too soon to talk to-day about co-ordination of policy on aid to Uganda. The noble Lord will remember the exchanges which took place on the Question asked by my noble friend Lord Barnby, which was answered by my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir. Obviously these and other questions will have to be considered from time to time, because General Amin was told that a persistence in an attitude which we thought to be inhumane must affect relations and that perhaps a complete revision of relations may follow. Other countries must necessarily be affected in the same way.
I was also glad that the noble Lord made the point about matching the collation of information about individual Asians with offers from individuals in this country, which I am sure will be taken note of. I should like to thank both noble Lords.
§ LORD ALPORT
My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord what are the latest estimates of the numbers of British Asians involved in this particular problem?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is extremely difficult to give an estimate. I noticed that my right honourable friend gave a figure of 30,000 as a possible maximum which he thought were likely to settle here; but I have nothing new on that apart from what he is reported to have said.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that the statement that this is to be treated as a national problem and that there are to be national funds available to help the localities where the majority of these Ugandan Asians settle will be very welcome? I should like to ask my noble and learned friend whether he is also aware that the great majority of us feel that our Government have done extremely well in making a prompt response to provide a haven for these unfortunate people who have been so brutally expelled and who do carry British passports. This redounds to the honour of this country both in credit and 496 in humanity. But in the light of the recent allegations that have been made that our legal obligations scarcely exist, would my noble and learned friend make a Statement on what are our legal obligations?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am very glad that my noble friend said what he did, and I am grateful for the words of reassurance that he has given us about the attitude that he takes towards the policy we have adopted. I am also grateful to him for giving me an opportunity, in parallel with the Government's Statement, of saying a little about the legal position. This must necessarily be rather shorter than it otherwise would have been in the course of a debate. One or two statements that have been made ought to be corrected and put right because some of them were extremely misleading.
The first question which arises is under English law, our domestic or municipal law. It is true—and there has never been any secret on it—that prior to General Amin's action the entry of United Kingdom passport holders from Uganda was controlled by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968. In that sense, and in that sense only, there was no unqualified right of entry into the country. But at the time of the passage of that Act I heard with my own ears Mr. Callaghan saying in another place on behalf of the then Government that the purpose of the Act was not to deny the right of entry, but to control it, and that in the last resort Britain would have to accept those unfortunate people if they were compelled to flee from persecution. This was an admission of liability upon which all concerned were entitled to rely. The present Government were bound to honour it, and in international affairs in a sense it is an interpretation of the obligations we were accepting under our municipal law.
The second point I want to make concerns the suggestion which was made by somebody who ought to have known better, that negotiations with the European Economic Community somehow affected the status of the Uganda Asians in international law as British subjects of the United Kingdom. In my judgment I regard that as nonsense. Their status could not be altered by negotiations with the E.E.C. since their status 497 is a matter of law. Obviously their rights of free movement within the Community under the Treaty had to be negotiated as part of our Treaty of entry.
If I may now turn to the position in international law more generally, the Attorney General, acting in his capacity as the professional legal adviser to the Government, and not, as quite improperly suggested, instigated by his political colleagues, advised us that in international law a State is under a duty as between other States to accept in its territories those of its nationals who have nowhere else to go. If a citizen of the United Kingdom is expelled, as I think illegally from Uganda, and is not accepted for settlement elsewhere, we could be required by any State where he then was to accept him. I think that is good law; I also think it is part of the international facts of life.
Speaking for myself—and I hope that the House will forgive me for saying this—I read attacks on the professional integrity of my colleague and friend the Attorney General with very great personal resentment. They should never have been made. We lawyers are politicians, but we try to give the best legal advice independently of our political views. I have no doubt that my right honourable friend not merely gave the advice which was the best that his skill and cunning enabled him to give, but was the advice which any other skilled lawyer would have given. It does not do for people who do not understand these things to make unfounded representations about them. It does not reflect any credit on those who make the allegations, and it causes deep resentment among those; against whom they are made. My profession in all its branches is an honourable profession and we do our best to state what we believe to be the law.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, we have heard a very clear Statement from my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. We are indebted to the Government for the Statement they have made and, more particularly, for the embellishment of it which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has seen fit to give us. But there is great concern in the country about this matter. There is perplexity about the responsibilities for 498 it nationally as well as the obligations internationally. That concern is reflected in the Press, the media, and is also supported by the Gallup Poll which has been published. This is a matter which affects the country very deeply.
I came into the House feeling very strongly about this matter. That feeling has not been reduced by the lucid words of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. He gave a very good picture of the anxiety that there is in the country. Of course there is the basic side of it with regard to unemployment and housing, as he said. It is for that reason that I urge my noble friend the Leader of the House to give consideration to making time for a discussion, or a proper debate, at an early date not as far distant as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, suggested. Parliament is in Session. This House represents Parliament. This is a subject vitally affecting the country and one on which the country would look to Parliament for a discussion. What a tribute to the Whips of both Parties to have produced the attendance for the current important legislation, incidentally without claim for overtime! I realise that the timetable is tight, but in spite of that I hope that my noble friend the Leader of the House will see his way to give us time for a proper debate.
I, like a good many others, have questions of detail which I should like to ask, but I would first ask my noble friend the Leader of the House to give some reply about the possibility of a debate. I would support the Question of my noble friend Lord Alport. We are uncertain about the total numbers of people involved. What might be the additions to the present proposed numbers position? Perhaps there was unnecessary alacrity on the part of the Government in listening to the statement of the dictator with a disturbed mind who controls the country disregarding any constitutional government, as so many other Governments in Africa do. I recall the statement made and tabulation given by the then Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, on, I think, February 28, 1968, in discussion on the Immigration Act. Among about a million possible inflow only 30,000 were from Uganda. It is now suggested that there are 50,000—
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt my noble friend. I felt it right that on this issue, which deeply concerns many people, we should exceptionally let questions go widely, as we are the only House in Session at the present time. I think it would be desirable. There is no requirement in our revision of our Standing Orders (if I might point this out to noble Lords) for only questions to be asked in commenting on a Statement. That is no longer the position in your Lordships' House. Nevertheless, I think we should not allow questioning or statements following a Statement to go on too long.
I should like to say to my noble friend Lord Barnby—if my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack would permit this; it affects our timetable—that I have noted what he has said about our debating this matter; and I noted, too, of course, what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said. Quite frankly, in view of the exigencies of our timetable at the present time, which have not been made any less by the length of my noble friend's comments, it is quite clear to me that we could not fit in a debate on this vital issue if we are to get though our timetable on the Local Government Bill by the end of next week. This is perfectly clear to me. Therefore, while this is a matter for the House as a whole—it is not a matter for me as Leader—and while I should be very glad to enter into discussions, and will of course discuss this, through the usual channels, it would be disingenuous of me to say other than that, subject to the views of this House, I myself believe, quite apart from the delicacy of the issues at the present time, that if we are going to debate this subject it would be far better to debate it in the spillover in October than to rush into a debate now in our crowded timetable. But this is a matter within the discretion of your Lordships' House.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, I appreciate the courteous reply of the noble Earl my Leader to my suggestion. In view of what he said, I naturally would not attempt to extend this discussion. But may I finish the point I was dealing with? If that total mathematical increase is applied to all origins quoted, the number might then be very large. Furthermore, I am indebted to the Attorney General for 500 the verbatim transcript of his speech. If one can understand English, an obligation is not established to bring all these people immediately to the United Kingdom. Additionally, I would ask: Are they admitted only for temporary or for permanent residence?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend outlined again the anxiety and the concern which we all feel about this matter. I thought that a very real disservice was done by a speaker out of doors in suggesting that there was a yawning gulf between Parliament and its leaders and the people on this matter. I feel that everybody to whom I have spoken inside the House or outside feels the same way about it. This was not a situation we wished for. The British people did not wish for it; the British Government did not wish for it; the Opposition did not wish for it, and least of all did the Ugandans want it. No one wanted it, but it had been forced on us. I noted what my noble friend said about the head of State of Uganda and I do not comment upon it. But I must say to him that, while I cannot add to what my right honourable friend said about numbers, to which I referred my other noble friend a moment ago, one must remember that General Amin adopts his own definitions of what constitutes a British subject, what constitutes a Ugandan subject and what constitutes a stateless person; and unless one has a common definition one cannot establish numbers. On what he said about the Attorney General's speech I would say only this. All I said was that the obligations—I was asked about the legal obligations—are a matter of law. No lawyer in infallible but I would as soon take my legal opinions from the Attorney General as from any lay Member of either House.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, while accepting everything that the noble and learned Lord has said, and while welcoming his amplification of what has been said on the legal issues, which I think is extremely helpful, may I ask him whether he does not think it adds to the anxiety when expressions are used such as "national emergency" when we are talking about an addition to the population of the United Kingdom of one for each 501 1,800 persons already here? I ask that bearing in mind that most of those who come from Uganda, although they may be destitute because of the activities of General Amin and his regime in depriving them of all their personal property as the Lord Chancellor described, have skills and a character attribute of great pride which prevents them from depending on charity. That is going to make them assets to the United Kingdom. as the report of another place on Race Relations has described in regard to their fellow-Asians from other parts of East Africa. May I also ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether he does not think that, in emphasising the duty of other countries such as India and Canada to help us out, we are giving the impression of "dragging our feet" even though I accept that no such intention is present in our minds? Would he not agree that it would be wrong to press particularly the Indian Government to accept more than their share of the burden, bearing in mind that they have had to take in 10 million destitute refugees as a result of the recent conflict in Bangladesh?
As regards the Resettlement Board, the establishment of which I very much welcome, as did my noble friend, and the financial aid which has been given through it to the local authorities, is he aware that it is very difficult for the ordinary citizen who wants to proffer advice and help to get in touch with the Resettlement Board? The Home Office do not even know what their telephone number is, and their mail is being addressed to them through the House of Commons, where I saw it being collected when I went into the Post Office recently. If we do not even know what the address or telephone number of the Resettlement Board is, how can we offer our assistance?
Finally, may I ask why, in all the circumstances of these developments that have taken place while we have been away in Recess, it continues to be the practice of the immigration authorities to put British citizens from Uganda into detention in places like Harmondsworth instead of admitting them as residents of the United Kingdom immediately they are able to land? Is it not helpful to the policy of Her Majesty's Government to avoid the bunching of their arrivals 502 close to the deadline that has been set by General Amin, and therefore should we not welcome the arrival in advance of any of those who are deprived of their livelihood in Uganda who are able to get away?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Lord has raised a number of points which perhaps I should answer. I take note of his point about the address of the Resettlement Board and will pass it on to the appropriate authorities. I was not previously aware of it. I hope I did not add to any anxiety by describing the situation in a sense, as I think, in a small way, as a national emergency. I think the possible expulsion of anything up to 30,000 human beings is in a sense a national emergency. I do not think this country is noticeably under-populated at the moment. I note that we have a housing problem and an unemployment problem and in the short run it is bound to give rise to immense social pressures of which we are all very much aware, and it would be a great mistake to underestimate them. Indeed, I think that if we did underestimate them we should give rise to exactly the anxiety that the Government or the Opposition, or the political Parties, did not understand the way ordinary people are feeling. So I do not want to underestimate it at all.
As regards the potential assets to the community of these people, I have some rather interesting information about the way in which their occupations break down. It is certainly true that they break down to show that more than 50 per cent. of a selected hundred were persons who had obviously made something of a success in life; 26 per cent. were merchants and businessmen and 27 per cent. contained what are described as "professional skills". That is more than 50 per cent. All the same, if you take away from a middle-aged man everything that he has earned over his whole livelihood and put him down in a strange country without the means of earning his living or exercising his skills, I think it creates an emergency. At any rate, I think that is how he would regard it. That is what I should think if I were suddenly taken away and plumped down in Uganda. That is my own feeling about it. As regards the general policy towards Asian immigrants I do not want 503 to enlarge the debate by going into that question, but I would say that the fact that we are under these pressures does not really encourage me to think that we ought to relax controls. Indeed the only way in which I think we can stop things getting out of hand is to exercise controls.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that we are grateful to him for the clear statement he has made about our obligations; but would he also take seriously the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the practical guidance which is needed by the public? Many people do not know whether or not offers of accommodation are desirable or whether they would be simply a nuisance if they were suggested. Particularly in regard to temporary accommodation we should wish to know whether the Government would like to have offers. For example, many people have furnished accommodation in holiday resorts which is either empty or let at very low rents during the winter and which they would be happy to offer if they thought it would be of some use. I think there is considerable scope here for practical guidance to individuals. Also, there is the question of whether institutions should be encouraged to do what the Royal Commonwealth Society, for example, has done; namely, to offer bedrooms in its headquarters in Northumberland Avenue to the Resettlement Board. Some of us would like to have some practical guidance on these matters.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I agree with that and I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her remarks. Perhaps the way to handle it would be for her to put down a Question for Written Answer, and my noble friend Lord Colville has said that he would be happy to answer one. I should not like to go further on my present information. Obviously these people will have to go for a time to the places which I mentioned in my Statement, in order to be sorted out and given a chance to select a place to settle.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, I have a very short question which I should like to put. While congratulating the Prime Minister on his very prompt 504 and strong leadership, I would ask the noble and learned Lord whether he would not agree that it is just such strong leadership that prevents capitulation to those who inflame racial prejudice and play upon the fears of those of our citizens who are vulnerable in their jobs and in housing, and that it helps our own citizens as much as it helps the immigrants?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and I know my right honourable friend will be grateful to her when he reads what she has said, I think justly, about his leadership in this matter. Political leadership is not always a rewarding task, but we feel two things: the first is that we want to make it clear that we share the anxieties of other people in this country, and the second is that we are under an obligation to see that this country plays an honourable part in the world and not one of which we need be ashamed. Leadership consists in getting people to overcome their anxieties where they are in doubt about a situation.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, we must not under-rate the public's anxieties, which are widespread, and I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, could explain a matter which I believe is at the root of a great deal of worry in the minds of the public at large about this matter. Why did the present Government, when the problem of the Uganda Asians broke upon us, not take the same line as their predecessors, the Labour Government, when the problem of the Kenya Asians broke upon us, namely, to say that we recognise a duty to admit into this country every holder of a United Kingdom passport who is found to have nowhere else to go, but it is quite impossible for us to admit and absorb tens of thousands all at once?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I should have thought that, roughly speaking, that was the line I was trying to put forward in my answers, but I would say to my noble friend that the situation with which we are now faced is not identical. It arises out of the same problem but it is not identical with the problem which the Labour Government had to face. The Labour Government were 505 facing what was virtually a voluntary outflow in panic of the persons concerned; it was that with which they were trying to deal in 1968. Whether they dealt with it in the right way was a matter of controversy. It so happened that I agreed with them and supported them throughout. That was their problem. Our problem is an emergency which has been forced upon us by the act of a Government driving these people out when they do not want to go, and obviously the exact presentation must depend on the nature of the problem.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord a question on the important matter of housing. He said that it was a national emergency which must be treated nationally. That is one of the things which I think is worrying the British public a great deal, and I agree that we must play our full part in helping these unfortunate people. He has also told us that when these people arrive they will be penniless, and presumably they will not have any money with which to buy a house on mortgage. Therefore the housing must be dealt with as urgently as possible on a national basis, because the housing lists of local authorities are still fairly heavy. Coming particularly to my part of the world, Stradishall, I am glad to say that the rural district council is prepared to do all it can to help with a closed down aerodrome, but these people will not be able to stay there very long. The Member of Parliament for our area has said that there is only a limited number of jobs available for them there, so in my humble opinion the housing question is of paramount importance.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I absolutely agree that these are matters which we shall have to account for most carefully. We must consider the question of assistance for resettlement. I do not put it beyond the capacity of some of the Asians to purchase housing on mortgage, with assistance, but these are points which we must go into. We must consider assistance on resettlement, but these are matters which we shall have to work out as time goes on.
My Lords, it might be helpful if I were to try to put this in order. I think the noble Lord, Lord Soper, was in fact first on his feet, but I think it would be quite right for the House to hear what my noble friend Lord Barnby has to say thereafter, and then perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, may wish to say something. But I hope then that we may move on, since our score so far is four Questions, 1 P.N.Q., and three-quarters of a Statement. It might then be right for us to move on to the Local Government Bill, if possible, although I do not wish to curtail discussion on this Statement.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, all that I have to say I can say now. I should like to express gratitude to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, and also to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, not only for the way in which the replies have been given but for the generosity of the time which the noble Earl has made available to us. I only hope the noble Earl will bear in mind that if events were to change in any way the Government should be willing to come to this House next week with a Statement.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I should like to associate the Churches, as far as I can represent them, in expressing gratitude to the Government for the attitude they have taken and to offer what I believe to be a particularly appropriate form of temporary service in temporary accommodation which I believe the Churches would be ready to offer and which would serve two very important ends: one, to provide that kind of temporary accommodation which does not necessarily require economic backing and, secondly, to secure the dispersal of such people over a wider area. In that regard I wonder whether the Government are aware of the readiness of the Christian Churches so to act. Official statements have already been made, and indeed one was made by the Methodist Church yesterday. It has been argued, I think without contradiction, that if one person were taken by every 507 church in the country this would instantly alleviate the problem as it now stands. I, for one, am ready to-morrow, in the church for which I am responsible, to take a family and look after them for the time being. I believe that this is the kind of voluntary action which would meet some of the demands which have already been made for temporary accommodation, and that is why I ventured to intervene.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for those remarks, and I am sure that the Churches can and will play a great part in what they do, say and think.
§ LORD NAPIER AND ETTRICK
My Lords, about half an hour ago my noble and learned friend mentioned the general figure of about 30,000. Does that include or exclude dependants?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, that figure was given by my right honourable friend as the number of people which at that time he thought might be the number likely to settle here permanently, and that would be the number of human heads and not heads of families. Nor would it be the total number of Uganda Asians with British nationality, because some of them would settle elsewhere. That is what the figure was and I have no means of doubting or reinforcing it. I simply gave the figure which my right honourable friend has given.