HL Deb 22 July 1976 vol 373 cc945-7

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper and to thank the Minister for accepting the Question.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the apparent unreliability of available statistics, and the reported recommendation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, they will now consider suspension for a period, pending clarification, of the issue of entry vouchers for dependants of immigrants.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, the Government have no intention of suspending the grant of entry clearance for the dependants of people settled in this country who are lawfully entitled to come here. The reliability of the statistics of people who have been admitted and accepted for settlement is not in question: estimates of the numbers who might take up an entitlement to come here in future must necessarily be speculative and the Government do not intend to publish them. However, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary recently announced in another place that a group of three Members of Parliament—one from this House and two from the other place—is being appointed to study the feasibility and usefulness of a register of dependants as a guide to the scale of our future commitment.


My Lords, do I understand the Minister to say that there are grounds for hope that there will be an early review and revision of the grounds on which right of entry can be claimed and that dependants will be more narrowly defined?


No, my Lords; the position of the Government is that they are prepared—and indeed, as I have indicated, my right honourable friend has announced this—to set up this group of three Members of Parliament to study the feasibility and usefulness of a register. This has been pressed upon the Government by the right honourable gentleman the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others. We hope to announce the names of those concerned in the fairly near future.


My Lords, in view of the fact that the statistics are unreliable, is it not possible that the numbers are exaggerated, rather than the opposite being the case?


My Lords, as my noble friend will be aware, this is one of the arguments for the existence of a register. However, it is only fair for me to point out that a register was tried in 1965 and did not then work; but we are perfectly prepared to re-examine the situation, and that is the Government's position.


My Lords, as the most reverend Primate has been quoted on this occasion, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that the only request of the most reverend Primate was: … not in inveighing against the legislation. I was inveighing against the fudging of it—evasion of the legislation which I think sometimes takes place. Is the Minister aware of the true context of His Grace's remarks?


Yes, my Lords, I am.


My Lords, are the Government so without compassion for the possibility of an increase in unemployment that they would not give consideration to the plea of force majeure in invoking extraordinary measures with regard to a limitation of further entry?


No, my Lords. We considered very carefully the terms of this reply, and if the noble Lord examines it he will see that on this matter I have made the position of the Government quite clear.


My Lords, is it not a little unfortunate that the most reverend Primate should be quoted, or perhaps misquoted as has been suggested, in his absence through illness? Whether or not his remark was unfortunate, is my noble friend aware that he subsequently tried to explain what he meant so that his words could no longer be used or abused, as they have been, by racialists?


My Lords, the right reverend Prelate pointed out the views of the most reverend Primate on this matter, and I should prefer to leave the matter as it is.